Monday, July 31, 2006

Quote of the Day

Daphnie Cohen, Tel Aviv university student union spokeswoman - when asked if her support of the war had changed following the Qana bombing:

"I feel the same. I am proud of our army. I am proud of the state of Israel. I feel the same, because it is a war. "

She was interviewed on BBC Newshour, which I heard today on Chicago Public Radio. I couldn't figure out how to give you the whole interview here, but I was impressed with the conviction of the two Israeli university students who spoke eloquently about their support of their own country. They also spoke, as so many are doing verbally and in writing, mostly on the Internet, of how Hezbollah is attacking innocent civilians in Israel, yet world opinion often seems to forget that fact.

Only in Israel....

Check out this story from Naomi Ragen about what's on Israeli TV. (You must know that I actually love the American version of this TV show. But I'll never watch it the same way again...)

This is what you would see on television if you lived inIsrael. An Israeli version of The Biggest Loser, theAmerican weight-loss game show, except with an Israeli twist. Tonight, they explored how it was these past twoweeks for contestant Chani, mother of two, who lives inHaifa. They showed Chani and her two little girls and heraging parents as the sirens went off in Haifa, howfrightened the children were, huddling in fear against thewalls of their apartment, waiting for the bombs to fall."They can fall anywhere," Chani pointed out. "And you hearthem, and the whole apartment shakes."

So, how is Chanidoing with her diet during all of this? "Well, it really puts that piece of chocolate into perspective. I've learnedthis about myself: That I want to live. I really want tolive. Sometimes, I speak to friends in Tel Aviv, and theysay:'Oh, be strong. We are really sorry you have to gothrough this... ' And I realize that they just don't get it.It's the way I felt when I used to hear about rocketsfalling in Sderot. I just didn't get it. Those sirens...the wailing, the horrible wait, not knowing. And having it happen eight, nine times a day, and each time thinking: Am I going to die? And worst of all, you areresponsible for these children. They are yourresponsibility. You have to keep them safe."

Chani admitted she hadn't been able to exercise for the lasttwo weeks because of the bombs. But "Nasrallah won't stopme from losing weight."Chani is right. In the great weigh-in she managed to loseweight anyhow.

Only in Israel.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Extra Extra -- the News You Haven't Seen

These are the pictures of Hezbollah that everyone's talking about. We know it's true -- they're using civilians as human shields.

And on the same subject...Naomi Ragen, an American-born Israeli writer, sends out a regular email. Here's an excerpt from a recent column:

My son is in the army. He is not the type at all, believe me. Quiet, studious, a writer, a lover of Jewish history,Talmud, ethics. He spent two years in a pre-army program inthe Galilee called Karmei Chayil. He made many good friendsthere from all over the country, and now he and all his friends are in the army. One of them I know well. A bit chubby, with payot, and a great laugh. He and my son havebecome like brothers. While both of them tried out for the elite paratroopers unit, only he made it in. He and his unit are the ones in Lebanon.

They were there over a week, fighting under horrific conditions, running out of food andwater. Even though the Israeli airforce dropped tons ofleaflets warning civilians to flee because they were interrorist territory and likely to be injured, they still encountered civilians. My son spoke to his friendyesterday,and this is how he described it:

"The village looked empty, and then we heard noises comingfrom one of the houses, so we opened fire. But when wewent inside, we found two women and a child huddled in thecorner of the room. We were so relieved we hadn't hurtthem. We took up base in one of the empty houses. And thenall of a sudden, we came under intense fire. Three rocketswere fired at the house we were in. Only one managed todestroy a wall, which fell on one of us, covering him inwhite dust, but otherwise not hurting him. I spent thewhole time feeding bullets to my friend who was shootingnon-stop. We managed to killed 26 terrorists. Not one ofus was hurt.

Our commanding officer kept walking around,touching everybody on the shoulder, smiling and encouragingus: "We're are better than they are. Don't worry." Itcalmed us all down.

And really, we were much better thenthem. They are a lousy army. They only win when they hidebehind baby carriages."

Please remember this when you hear about the "atrocity" ofthe Israeli bomb dropped on Kfar Cana, killing manycivilians, a place from which Hezbollah has fired hundredsof rockets at Israel. Unlike previous administrations, Mr.Olmert has my respect when he says: "They were warned toleave. It is the responsibility of Hezbollah for firingrockets amidst civilians." Terrorists and their supporters have lost the right tocomplain about civilian casualties, since all they have donethis entire war is target civilians. Every single one of themore than 2,500 rockets launched into Israel, is launchedinto populated towns filled with women and children. Justtoday, another suicide belt meant to kill civilians inIsrael was detonated harmlessly by our forces in Nablus. So don't cry to me about civilian casualties. Cry to those using your babies and wives and mothers; cry to those whostore weapons in mosques, ambulances, hospitals, and privatehomes. Cry to those launching deadly rockets from the backyards of your kindergartens and schools. Cry to the heartless men who love death, and however many of theirtroops or civilians die, consider themselves victorious aslong as they can keep on firing rockets at our women and children. Save your sympathy for the mothers and sisters andgirlfriends of our young soldiers who would rather besitting in study halls learning Torah, but have no choicebut to risk their precious lives full of hope, goodness andendless potential, to wipe out the cancerous terrorist cellsthat threaten their people and all mankind. Make yourchoice, and save your tears. That terrorists have been unsuccessful in killing more ofour women and children is due to our army, God and prayers,not to any lack of motivation or intention on their part.

If you hide behind your baby to shoot at my baby, you are responsible for getting children killed. You and you alone.

We are all Israel

Kol Yisrael aravim zeh b'zeh. All Israel is responsible for one another.

You know, all over the world, Jews support Israel. But we in the Diaspora, while intensely invested and deeply connected to the State of Israel, do not have say in what happens there. We do not vote, and frankly, I don't think that the government of Israel would change their minds based on the opinions of Diaspora Jewry.

But we are so often held responsible anyway.

When a Muslim-American man forced his way into the Seattle Federation office, he was holding random Jewish people responsible for what is happening on the other side of the world, in Israel. Rational? Not so much. But it happened nevertheless. And frankly, I'm just waiting for the first person to "justify" this man's actions in response to Israel's.

It's amazing to me how for a short while, this was the head story on all the Israeli newspapers' sites, as well as made headlines in the print editions (see this story in Seattle's paper). As much as we are held responsible for what happens in Israel, I believe that Israelis also feel responsibility for us, the Diaspora, as well. Their shock at what happened is perhaps equivalent to our shock at a bomb that falls in downtown Haifa or a young IDF soldier killed by a terrorist raid.

To both communities, it is a Jewish life risked or lost. Each carry immense weight to our people, both those in Eretz Yisrael and those in the Diaspora.

May the day come swiftly when Jews of all nations are safe in their homes, workplaces, streets, synagogues, kibbutzim...when all shall sit under their vines and fig trees, and none shall make them afraid. In our days? With God's help, for our children and their children.

Friday, July 28, 2006

What do you call the husband of a rabbi?

The Christian Science Monitor ran this story about women in the clergy that I found really interesting (some excerpts, click for the full story)...

Women clergy bring a new sensibility to an old calling

Some Christian and Jewish clergywomen with years of experience - and who've reached the challenging and often-elusive post of senior pastor- say they still encounter resistance. They point to frontiers thatremain, but are also encouraged by the strides already made.

"I wanted to be a rabbi long before women could, but I didn't think itwould happen in my lifetime," says Rabbi Susan Grossman, who leads Beth Shalom, a Conservative Jewish congregation in Columbia, Md. "There's been more change in women's role in Judaism in the last 30 years than probably all of Jewish history!" Women of both faiths share the experiences of difficulty in findingjobs, being shunted into smaller, often remote congregations, andreceiving lower pay and fewer benefits than their male counterparts, as shown by studies of both Protestant clergy and Conservative Jewish rabbis.

Partly out of necessity and partly out of inclination, women have extended the boundaries of ministry beyond the congregation to serve as both military and hospital chaplains, educators, and counselors for social service agencies, according to a major 1998 study, "ClergyWomen: An Uphill Calling."Studies also show that clergywomen experience more stress than theirmale counterparts in a demanding occupation. As a result, a number are leaving the pulpit.

At the same time, clergywomen have been credited with being less interested in hierarchy and more in collegiality. They've brought newperspectives into the theological discussion, a more inclusive style, and opened the doors to worshippers who've felt disengaged from institutional religion.

"My mother often said that if there had been women rabbis when she was young, she wouldn't have been alienated from Judaism," says Ms. Grossman.


Jaqueline Ellenson, director of the Women's Rabbinic Network in the Reform Jewish movement, also points to progress. The more liberal Reform denomination was the first, in 1972, to ordain a woman rabbi -the recently retired Sally Priesand. Now 450 women constitute about aquarter of the 1,800 Reform rabbis.

"The walls are down in terms of attitudes toward women rabbis in themovement - getting jobs is no longer an issue," she says. But otherchallenges remain, particularly bringing about pay and benefit equity.

"And women are not moving up in the congregational hierarchy atthe same speed as men," she says. Only about a dozen women serve assenior rabbis in large congregations.

Yet women are having an impact on "conversations about prayer andspirituality, interpretations of text, and recovering of history," she adds. For instance, the project to produce the soon-to-be published revision of the Reform prayer book was headed by a woman.
Don't you find it a little disturbing that Rabbi Grossman is referred to as Ms. Grossman when quoted, instead of using her title, Rabbi? Do you think a man would have had his title equally changed? Hmm...

The age-old question...If the wife of a rabbi is known as a rebbetzin, what do you call the husband of a rabbi? The usual answer: Lucky!

(But in my house, we call him Rabbi, too!)


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Leo Baeck Education Center in HAIFA

The Leo Baeck Education Center in Haifa is an incredible institution -- a school, an absorption center, an early childhood center, and now, a shelter for so many who have nowhere to go in Haifa. I remember visiting the school and seeing hundreds of Israeli children receiving a Progressive Jewish education in an incredible environment.

Up until a few days ago, the facility was closed.

Recently, Leo Baeck opened its underground parking garage (safer underground, of course) as a community center. This is from a member of their staff, Rebecca Kristovsky:

My two joined eighty other Haifa children and some of their parents six floors below me, in what was yesterday the lowest level of the Leo Baeck parking garage, and has today become an indoor play and activity area. Leo Baeck was approved by the Home Command of the IDF and the Haifa Municipality to run an emergency children's center in the safety of our subterranean parking garage.

Leo Baeck Community Center has again opened its doors and opened its
arms to populations in need.

Leo Baeck Community Center staff, together with volunteer reinforcements from the City of Haifa, have created a play area with board games, arts and crafts, foosball and air hockey, giant inflatable 'jolly jumpers' and climbing equipment, a clown performing magic tricks and making balloon animals, and an underground movie theater showing cartoons. Seven soldiers from the educational branch of the IDF and Home Command units are doing their service protecting, and entertaining, the children of Haifa.

The Director of Development at Leo Baeck explains the following:

Never before have we found ourselves on the front line of battle.

Never before have we witnessed this level of trauma.

In order to continue and to expand the emergency day camp we require $40,000.
Multipurpose mattresses for longer term occupation of our bomb shelters will cost $7,500. Emergency lighting, almost $1,300. Appropriate stocks of dry goods, over $10,000. Games, puzzles, toys - $2,500.

In the darkest days of the Jewish People on the eve of World War II, Albert Einstein said, "The power of resistance which has enabled the Jewish People to survive for thousands of years has been based, to a large extent, on traditions of mutual helpfulness. In these years of affliction, our readiness to help one another is being put to an especially severe test. May we stand this test as well as did our fathers before us."

May it be His will, and may the soldiers of Israel be crowned with victory.

Aharon Pulver
Director of Development

What I think is most incredible about all this -- what makes me so proud to be a Jew, so proud to support a country that is MY country, that holds the values and ideals and beliefs that I hold so dear -- is the following from Rabbi Ron Symons:

Despite this, the Board of Directors has made a commitment to pay salaries even though all tuition payments and fees are being returned. Over thecourse of the first 9 days of the war, we estimate that are initial loss isover $185,000. With each day of the war, we estimate our losses mounting by$18,000.

Staring on July 25, at the request of the Haifa Municipality, we will convert the 3rd level of our subterranean garage (already outfitted as a shelter) into a 'Gymboree' gymnasium for young children throughout Western Haifa. Of course, we agreed to provide these services even before we knew from where the $37,000 to provide the gymnasium equipment will come.

During a normal week, over 4,500 single-use individuals walk through the doors of Leo Baeck in order to explore Jewish living. Now, no one is walking through our doors, but we must maintain our commitments and we are fully committed to the safety of those on our campuses.

It is a Jewish obligation to support our workers, even in the face of a war. But somehow this institution needs to be supported as well.

To send tax-deductible donations to Leo Baeck: The Leo Baeck Education Center Foundation3555 Timmons Lane, Suite 1440Houston, TX 77027

There are thousands of stories and thousands of people affected by the current war situation. This is just one institution doing its part. Let's help them out.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Following the War

Friday night at services, I spoke about the need to keep track of what's going on in Israel, and to do whatever we can. While I get most of my Israel news directly from two Israeli websites: and, two English language versions of Israeli newspapers, I also find so much information and inspiration in the form of the blogosphere -- what you're reading right now! Here are a few great blogs that I think are so useful for getting the real pulse of what's going on in Israel...

An Unsealed Room
The View from Here
This Normal Life
Jerusalem Diaries

Most of them have links to other blogs. Find the ones that you think are interesting. There are so many out there. Some people are really regular about updating, and others are a bit slower. Either way, you can gain a great insight into the general feeling in Israel right now.

Also, I wanted to give you two other important links, organizations through which you can make donations to assist in whatever is needed in the state of Israel:

The Union for Reform Judaism's Israel Emergency Fund
The Jewish Agency for Israel

Now is the time not to lose our faith in the State of Israel.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Do you feel like the world is ignoring Gilad Shalit?

Sometimes I think there's just so much news out there today... stuff just gets lost. Remember Baby Jessica? She completely dominated the newsmedia for the few days of her entrapment in that that kind of news domination just doesn't happen.

But check out this blog entry ....

Tie a blue ribbon for Gilad. Don't let him be forgotten. Then FOR SURE Hamas is winning this battle.