Monday, May 28, 2007

Look what's going on at the Temple!

Hard to believe how fast the construction has begun to move...we have signs, fences, and even our own construction equipment! It's very exciting and fun to see:

We have an incredibly beautiful stone relief carving that is a part of the front entrance of the building. It illustrates a quote from Micah: Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. This relief is going to be in the front entrance of our building when the construction is complete, as well, so to protect it and preserve it, it was removed from the wall and will be stored. I missed the moment of extraction (which I bet would have been awesome to see...) but here is the relief being prepared for storage as well as the hole in the wall where it used to be!

There's also a lot of packing and moving going on. Here are some images of what the temple looks like right now, full of boxes and with the lobby filled with various items...

Come by and see how the packing is going and walk through the halls one last time before construction begins in mid-June!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Breaking Ranks" on Circumcision? Really?

In the Chicago Tribune this week, there was an interesting article, on the front page, no less, about how Jewish parents are "breaking ranks" and choosing not to circumcise their children.

This follows in the wake of some interesting medical news that circumcision actually prevents HIV, not to mention that it's been one of those on-going traditions for thousands of years.

But I found the article itself strange and confusing. I, as a rabbi, have done many a "bloodless bris," but I've never had a family who didn't choose circumcision -- most choose to do it in the hospital instead of in their home or synagogue ceremony. While I personally find this troubling (both of my boys had a mohel perform their brit milah in the synagogue), I understand the desire to do it in the hospital.

But the article made it seem like a real "movement." I haven't heard a lot of "movement" towards this. I'm always open to new traditions. But I'm not sure about this....what do you think?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Social Justice & Kashrut

I read an article many years ago in Moment Magazine (I believe by Dennis Prager, but I've never been able to find it again) that suggested that we need a new "brand" of Kashrut -- a hechsher (symbol of kosher certification) that indicated that the product was more than just merely adhering to one rabbi's (or one organization's) approval system. Instead, this article proposed a kind of kashrut that took into consideration the company's ethical behavior -- are they environmentally friendly? do they treat their workers well and with respect? do they make contributions to worthy causes? do they have a sense of community responsibility? All these questions would lead to some kind of "certification" that would be an indicator for those consumers who wanted their food and other products to fit with the very essence of "kosher" -- in its strictest sense meaning "fit or acceptable." What is acceptable and fit to me is very different than what was fit or acceptable in medieval times or even fifty years ago. I am very concerned about the kind of companies from which I buy and the kinds of food that my family eats. Is buying organic enough? There are even questions about this as the market for organics opens up -- do organic foods from Wal-Mart, a company whose practices and political beliefs I don't believe in, really fit the bill? Or do I need one more step, one more "kashering" of my food and other products?

An article in Saturday's New York Times explores these questions as it tells the story of Rabbi Allen of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Rabbi Allen is a conservative rabbi who has pushed the Rabbinic Assembly (the rabbinic organization for Conservative rabbis) to approve a "Conservative movement hechsher" under the term "hechsher tzedek" or "just certification." What a fabulous name for it! And what a fabulous idea.

Aside from the issues I wrote about above, I have also objected in principle to the hechsher system. The system is political and in many ways about money -- companies have to pay a mashgiach to come in and certify their production as kosher. Let's point out that these mashgichim are Orthodox rabbis who, for the most part, would not recognize my rabbinate as valid. With all this in mind, I am far more likely to read labels and buy organic or natural products that say "Vegetarian" or whatever else I'm looking for than to buy a hechshered item. I must also point out that I don't buy meat, partly because of all this. (oh, and by the way, the Orthodox kosher system is very much opposed to the Conservative movement's plan, go figure.)
So the idea of a Conservative hechsher is somewhat exciting to me because there are very few Conservative rabbis who wouldn't recognize me and my rabbinate! And while there are many ideological differences between me and the Conservative movement, we are far closer in our beliefs about this particular matter than I am to an Orthodox mashgiach who is certifying a factory without a care for how it treats its workers, only how it treats the cows it is slaughtering (ew).

I am proud of the Rabbinic Assembly for approving and Rabbi Allen for bringing this issue to them! I look forward to seeing the results as their plan moves forward.
What do you think? Would you buy a product if it were hechsher tzedek?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

New Way to Find a Date?!

Check out this YouTube guy -- he really wants to meet a Jewish girl, and so he's posting it on YouTube to get a date!?

Just goes to show how hard the dating scene is. He's going to an awful lot of trouble...JDate might be simpler. Still, check it out.

Back to work!

Happy Mother's Day!

...and I'm back in the office starting Sunday, May 13th!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Great Jewish Children's Books

There's a wonderful organization called the PJ Library, which provides Jewish children's books on a monthly basis to children. It's not national yet, but working on it. The idea, however, is fantastic for parents and grandparents. One way to encourage Jewish life is to encourage Jewish reading.

This is a great way for long-distance grandparents to stay active in the Jewish lives of their grandchildren too. One idea is to buy 12 books, one per month, and send them out monthly with a little note to your grandchildren. Feeling ambitious? Record yourself reading them onto a CD (use your computer for this one) and tuck the CD into the book. Now you have a personalized audio book perfect for your grandchildren, and what a great heirloom for them to hold onto -- Bubbie or Grandpa's voice recorded!

Not sure where to start? Check out the PJ Library's websitefor their list, or see this Listmania List I put together on Amazon (you can just add the whole list to your shopping cart, and no, don't get any kickbacks).

Happy Reading!
(cross-posted on

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Women Rabbis

I was honored this week to attend my first Women's Rabbinic Network Convention, held here in Chicago at the Allerton Hotel downtown. I say honored because it truly seemed like an honor to be able to share a few days with a whole group of my female colleagues. Although I was a little bit distracted by the presence of my baby, I still felt like I was a part of something incredible -- an opportunity to be with all those women who share not only my passions but my profession!

The Chicago Tribune covered the event (as did NPR, the week before, but I can't find the story online anywhere), with the following story:

As Rabbi Andrea Weiss discussed the book of Exodus, the female rabbis listening were captivated by the new lessons being taught.The Israelites' flight from Egypt is told using masculine imagery, Weiss said, with God as a manly warrior defeating the enemies of Israel. But after the Israelites cross the sea, Exodus tells miraculous stories of God feeding his people, raining manna from the heavens."This can be seen as the female image of God, providing food and drink," said Weiss, assistant professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

The provocative theological discussion, held this week at the Allerton Hotel in Chicago, offered a sneak peek into a new women's commentary on the Torah, the first comprehensive commentary written entirely by female rabbis and Jewish scholars."The Torah: A Women's Commentary," which URJ Press will publish in the fall, took more than a decade to produce and includes essays, commentaries and interpretations from more than 80 of the world's leading Jewish female Bible scholars, rabbis, historians, philosophers and archeologists." This commentary is likely to open up a whole new conversation about gender," said Rabbi Hara Person, editor in chief of URJ Press. "With this, gender becomes another lens through which we can study the text."

"I think for a long time we've been left out," said Rachel Havrelock, professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a contributor to the groundbreaking project. "The purpose of this is to help women feel at home in our own faith."

The preview of the commentary was presented to more than 100 women from the United States and Israel at a conference of female rabbis. Judaism's Reform movement began ordaining women in 1972, and since then some 400 women have been ordained.

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Today is....

May the FOURTH be with you always!

(get it?)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Earth Day Thoughts...a tiny bit late

My husband is always on me to recycle batteries. I know it's out there, he says, a way to recycle these chemically-laden bits of garbage. And he's right. Just today, we finally figured it out (without too much research, which probably would have been a quicker way to do it!) -- we saw an add for, which you should go to because their site is cute and a little bit funny. I entered my zipcode and found the address for Interstate All Battery Center in Libertyville, IL, near where I live. They will take all kinds of batteries and things. Hooray! Our little piece of tikkun olam is possible.

Other great places for earthy-type ideas:
Going Green 101 from Oprah
Coalition on Environment in Jewish Life
Jewish National Fund (plant trees in Israel)
The Green Book
The Green Guide from National Geographic

Happy Earth Day! (only a few weeks late. Hey, I have a new baby.)