“How Can I See You, Love” – A Poem for Yom Hashoah

How can I see you, love,
Standing alone
Amid storms of grief
Without feeling my heart shake?

A deep night,
Blacker than the blackness of your eyes,
Has fallen silently
On the world.

And is touching your curls.

My hand will clasp your dreaming
And I shall lead you between the nights.

Through the pale mists of childhood,
As my father once guided me
To the house of prayer.

by David Vogel, Translated by A.C. Jacobs. Holocaust Poetry, compiled and introduced by Hilda Schiff, publ. St. Martin’s Griffin, 1996, p. 14

Biography – David Vogel was born on May 15, 1891 in the town of Satanov in the Podolia region in the Russian Pale of Settlement. The family spoke Yiddish. In 1909-1910, he arrived in Vilnius as a yeshiva student. He worked as the caretaker of a synagogue and studied Hebrew. In 1925, he settled in Paris, where he wrote prose and poetry. In 1929, he and his wife, Nada Adler, immigrated to Palestine, where their daughter, Tamar, was born. After spending time in Poland and Berlin, the family returned to Paris. When World War II erupted, Vogel and his daughter fled to southeastern France where Nada was recuperating in a sanatorium. He was interned as an Austrian citizen and freed in 1940 when the Nazis occupied France.

Various stories circulated about his life after that. In 1944-45, the Hebrew newspapers in Palestine reported his “disappearance.”  He was presumed to have died in the Holocaust.

Israeli literary scholar Dan Pagis discovered that he returned to Hauteville after his release from internment camp. In 1944, he was arrested by the Gestapo, imprisoned in Lyon, and sent to Drancy, a transit camp for French Jews. Four days later, he was murdered in Auschwitz.

Temple Israel of Hollywood will commemorate Yom Hashoah on Wednesday evening, May 4 at 7 PM with the showing of the Academy Award Nominated Short Documentary “Spectres of the Shoah” about Claude Lanzmann, the director of the seminal 10-hour film “Shoah” commemorating the 25th anniversary of the film.

See http://oscar.go.com/nominees/documentary-short/claude-lanzmann-spectres-of-the-shoah

Yes to “Red Button” Restaurants

My son spent four hours in a Korean restaurant in LA’s Korea Town recently with two friends. They ate, drank and talked uninterrupted by waiters, bus-boys and everyone else who worked for the restaurant. No one came to ask “How is everything?” “Is there anything I can do for you?” “Would you like dessert, coffee, anything at all?” No one came to fill water glasses that didn’t need filling in the first place. Nor did they pick up used or unused plates or cutlery. They didn’t clear  bread-baskets, butter plates or condiments.

My son told me that being in that Korean restaurant was next to perfect for him and his friends. When they wanted something, there was a red button on the table. They hit the button and within 15 seconds someone came to ask what they needed. Within a couple of minutes their request was fulfilled. Then they were left alone.

My son knows that the constant interruptions of restaurant workers is one of my major pet peeves, which is why he told me about this Korea-Town restaurant experience.

I often meet congregants for breakfast and lunch in restaurants in order to talk about challenges they face. They speak to me about problems with parents, children, spouses, siblings, friends, health, and work. Sometimes they want to talk with me about the death of loved ones and faith – big issues. At one such lunch recently, we were disturbed every couple of minutes by restaurant workers until I turned to our waiter and asked him to tell everyone to simply leave us alone. I told him that when we wanted something, we’d ask for it,

My wife and I have a favorite Italian restaurant in our neighborhood at which we’ve dined for more than 25 years. One waitress knows us fairly well, and whenever we come she tells every bus person, every waiter, bread-basket filler, water-glass pourer, everyone to leave us alone – completely. We love her for it, and we won’t sit at anyone else’s table except hers. We always give her a particularly generous gratuity when we leave.

My wife and I remember fondly our trip to Paris a few years ago. Around 1 pm one day, we wandered into a sidewalk café filled with a lunch-time crowd. We sat down at an empty table and were given a menu. When we were ready, we called our waiter and ordered. First came the wine, almost immediately, and then ten minutes later the food arrived. We drank, ate, talked, relaxed, and enjoyed each other’s company. In the ninety minutes we were in the restaurant, we were left completely alone. If we wanted something, we asked for it. No worker came to fill our water glasses. No one came to clear our dishes. No one interrupted us at any time. No one hurried us to finish our food so as to open our table to someone else.

When we were ready to go, we asked for our bill, got it quickly, paid it, and left. That was one of the most relaxing and leisurely meals I’ve had in a restaurant in quite some time. It now represents my “gold standard” of restaurant service.

What’s the problem in America today? In my opinion, it’s simply this – The idea of “service” has come to represent unrestrained attention to customers which, from our point of view as customers, constitutes a constant barrage of interruptions. Restaurant workers have become so specialized in what they do, and it seems to me that they are watched closely by their bosses to appear always busy, that if they should, God forbid, stand still, they worry that they will be reprimanded. And so, if we customers go to the restroom, we’ll return to the table and our napkins will have been folded. Our water glasses are refilled when only 2 or 3 sips are taken – same with coffee cups, even when we don’t want it or ask for it. Waiters clear our dishes while others at the table are still eating. Recently, my wife’s dish was picked up with food still on it and a fork in her hand!

I don’t blame restaurant workers (well – sometimes!). They are just doing their jobs. Rather, I blame their bosses who, in my view, have got it all wrong about what “service” ought to mean.

I love the “red button” service at my son’s Korean restaurant. Perhaps, I ought to carry my own red light button, put it on my table and tell our waiters, bus-boys and everyone who works in the restaurant that I don’t wish to be disturbed unless I turn on that red light.

Better yet – perhaps restauranteurs will read this and institute a new policy in their establishments to leave diners alone unless they ask for service. That would make my day and every day like that one in Paris. In the meantime, I’m going to visit that Korean Restaurant in Korea Town.


Obama’s Economic Legacy – Naomi Chazan on Israeli Democracy – A 24 Year-Old Feminist on Hillary

These are three articles I recommend you read right now!!!!!!

  1. President Obama Weighs His Economic Legacy – Andrew Ross Sorkin, NY Times, April 28, 2016

Eight years after the financial crisis, unemployment is at 5 percent, deficits are down and G.D.P. is growing. Why do so many voters feel left behind? The president has a theory.

“I actually compare our economic performance to how, historically, countries that have wrenching financial crises perform. By that measure, we probably managed this better than any large economy on Earth in modern history….Anybody who says we are not absolutely better off today than we were just seven years ago, they’re not leveling with you. They’re not telling the truth.”


  1. How to build a better Israeli democracy – Naomi Chazan – Times of Israel Blog – April 25, 2016, 1:00 pm

Professor Naomi Chazan, former Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, is Dean of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo

“Three ideas, each addressing a different aspect of the problem of governability in the country, might together provide just such a formula to re-energize Israel’s lackadaisical public arena…. The first, and ostensibly the most simple, relates to leadership rotation… The establishment of term limits, so common in the democratic world, distinguishes working democracies from present-day autocracies and from past and contemporary monarchies…. A second, allied, reform, concerns the enhancement of public performance through the enlargement of the Knesset. An increase in the size of Israel’s parliament — one of the smallest per capita in the democratic world — is essential for the effective conduct of its legislative and oversight functions…. A third possible measure for the rejuvenation of Israeli politics centers on the improvement of checks and balances. One of the oft-discussed steps in this direction is to consider the establishment of a second, upper chamber, which would serve not only to review governmental actions and prevent flagrant abuses, but also to enable inclusive representation that would cut across increasingly intractable social divisions.”


  1. Not Just Any Woman: I’m Voting for Hillary Clinton, and It’s Personal – By Laura Donney on April 28th, 2016 – She wins We Win blog

I’m a 24-year-old feminist who is loudly supporting Hillary Clinton for President.

Note on my relationship with the author of this blog:

I love Laura Donney – she is like a daughter to me, a member of my family, and this blog is among the most moving statements I have read anywhere about why Hillary Clinton needs to be elected President of the United States! Read it – and you will understand not only why this is true, but why I love Laura!



Video clip of “Women of the Wall” – Fighting for the right to pray at the holiest site in Judaism

Per Anat Hoffman this morning to me:

“John – The prayer service was the culmination of an exhausting few days, yet we were reinvigorated by the good energy brought by the participants who were so thrilled to be at the Wall with WOW.  Many had never experienced a women’s prayer service like this before.

We pulled off the Birkat Kohanot to the degree that was “permitted” by the police and the Israeli government. The movie points out how absurd were the restrictions placed on WOW. This is what we need to show the world.

Please watch … Scroll down a bit until you see the box with the arrow: https://www.facebook.com/womenofthewall.

As ever,

Note about Leonard Nimoy’s belief in the state of Israel as a democratic Jewish state

I had helped facilitate the gift by the Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy (z”l) Estate to support this Women of the Wall event at the holiest site in Judaism. Susan is my first cousin (her father and my mother were brother and sister) and Leonard was very dear to me and my family. He would have been proud to have helped this noble and important cause.

Leonard cared deeply about the people and state of Israel and about its democratic tradition. He shared with me that when he played Golda Meir’s husband, Morris Meyerson, in the 1982 film “A Woman Called Golda” opposite Ingrid Bergman as Golda, for which he received an Emmy nomination, it was one of the most important and moving roles in his career. They filmed the scene of dancing in the streets immediately after David ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel in May, 1948 on the very day that President Anwar Sadat arrived in Israel to speak to the Knesset. Leonard believed in Israel, was proud of its achievements and its democracy, and he frequently bemoaned to me the growing right-wing fanatic nationalism and ultra-Orthodoxy that he witnessed taking over the spirit and soul of a growing number of Israelis and American Jews.

I am grateful to Susan for honoring Leonard’s memory in this manner. He would most certainly have emphasized to the Jewish people “Live long and prosper.”

Only men can bless the people of Israel at the Western Wall – Press Release Today from WOW

This letter came to me this morning from Anat Hoffman, Chair of Women of the Wall and Executive Director of the Reform movement’s Israel Religious Action Center.

Dear John, Haver:

The Birkat Kohanot was a success – with buses bringing women and men from all of the corners of Israel. Young, old, Orthodox, Reform…you name it, they joined with Women of the Wall to pray for peace.

But I don’t mean to make the picture so rosy. There was a lot of turmoil over the past couple of days which brought stress to our staff and Board right before Passover began. I am sharing with you the Press Release which was sent out after today’s event:

Only men can bless the people of Israel at the Western Wall. The Minister of Religion and the Rabbi of the Wall have decreed that “women may not raise their palms to the sky“ or “place their prayer shawl on their head” or say out loud the three lines of the Priestly Blessing.

The Jerusalem Police enforced a ban this morning on Women of the Wall raising their hands, placing a tallit on their heads and reciting the Priestly Blessing.

These absurd demands originated from the Minister of Religion David Azulai (Shas) and Rabbi of the Wall Shmuel Rabinowitz. Tomorrow the two of them will participate in the Priestly Blessing for men. There will be no bans of any kind there. The Rabbi of the Wall, in his press release this morning, accused Women of the Wall of making the Wall a scene of clash and conflict. Anat Hoffman said, “The Wall will remain an arena of clashes as long as the government does not implement its own decision to provide Jewish people with two distinctly separate plazas: one under the jurisdiction of the Rabbi of the Wall and the other which is operated under the principles of gender equality, pluralism and egalitarian prayer.”

When Women of the Wall arrived at the Wall this morning, they were herded into a pen made of police barriers and surrounded by policemen. Even though the women’s section was nearly empty, the police preferred to separate and segregate the group. A police cameraman filmed our prayer and made sure that no woman raised her palms in the air, covered her head with a prayer shawl.

Police commander Doron Turgeman demanded that no Torah would be brought in or read and that the prayer will last no longer than 60 minutes and the number of participants would not exceed 200. Throughout his dialogue with Women of the Wall, he called us “girls.”

Despite the hard conditions, Women of the Wall conducted a halachic, festive Shacharit and Musaf prayer. Hundreds of women and men who came from all over Israel to participate felt that it was a worthwhile experience to wake up at 4AM to attend. Buses came from Karmiel, Haifa, Beer Sheva, Nazareth Illit and Tel Aviv in a show of solidarity and partnership in prayer. The transportation to and from these cities and others was provided by a generous grant from the Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy Estate.

Every participant received a Priestly Blessing pin commemorating today’s prayer. The pin was derived from the hand symbol employed in Star Trek by Mr. Spock, a role played by the Jewish actor Leonard Nimoy (z”l). Nimoy made the Blessing, “Live long and prosper” an international symbol.

Women of the Wall believe that even though the Priestly Blessing is an unusual custom at the Wall, in due time, it will become local custom. We believe that the nature of local custom changes as time passes- in the past, wearing a tallit, blowing a shofar, and lighting a Chanukah candle were all considered contrary to local custom, and it is through our persistence that these are now local custom.

Sign Petition to get Safety and Rehabilitation Act on the November Ballot

What’s the problem that the Safety and Rehabilitation Act is meant to address?

Answer: Currently California’s prison population is exploding. We spend more than 10% of our general fund on prisons. This Act would provide for substantial savings and reduction of our non-violent population. For Governor Brown, it provides him a personal opportunity to reverse the harms of the mandatory sentencing bill he had passed in his previous term in the 1970s. This is not an action that will gain Governor Brown political favors. He told 25 of us rabbis 10 days ago that this measure is a matter of “prophetic justice.”

What can we do to significantly protect public safety, reduce California’s prison population of non-violent criminals, reduce tax payer expense, and help convicts rehabilitate?

Answer: Help get one million signatures by May 1st to get this measure on the November ballot.

What does “The Safety and Rehabilitation Act” specifically do?

For a complete answer, see http://safetyandrehabilitation.com/.

Also, see my blog “The Public Safety & Rehabilitation Act of 2016”  https://rabbijohnrosove.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/the-public-safety-rehabilitation-act-of-2016/

Quick answer: There are three main points to this bill:

1. Provides for discretionary parole of non-violent criminals after the main determinate sentence is served. California has a system of “determinate sentencing” that mandates minimum sentences for many crimes and mandates additional years (called “enhancements”) to sentences if the main offense involved such circumstances as, but not limited to, prior crimes, guns, gangs, great bodily injury, or carjacking. The Act would (It is important to note that parole would be determined by the State Parole Board, made up exclusively of law enforcement so no violent criminals and threats to public safety would be released.)

2. Requires judges, rather than prosecutors to determine if youth as young as 14 should be tried as adults. The bill mandates a process whereby the judge will take into consideration the youth’s prior record, life circumstances and facts of the crime. Currently this is solely up to the prosecutor who makes the decision in 48 hours.

3. Reinstates funding for rehabilitation and other educational programs within prisons. The change in sentencing would incentivize the enrollment and completion of these programs, as well as other “good behaviors.” Those who have undergone rehabilitation have a 1% recidivism rate!

My synagogue’s Social Justice Committee Task Force, as part of Reform California (the statewide partnership between Just Congregations, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis), has made a commitment to gather a mere 500 signatures!

At our synagogue (Temple Israel of Hollywood) we will have a table designated once our full time schools are back in session after Passover break for people to sign petitions. We will also have a table for signatures set up next Friday evening, April 29 before Kabbalat Shabbat for you to sign.

What do you need in order to collect signatures?

Answer: We can mail to you an official petition page – please contact RA@tioh.org

Time is short. Please help! This is not only for the good of the state of California, but it is a core Jewish value to effect t’shuvah (repentance) and rehabilitation. This bill will serve this grand purpose, and that is why we as a Jewish community ought to support it and do everything we can to put it before the voters of California in November.

8 Articles Worth Reading

If you are like me, you are overwhelmed by the commentary and news on the US Presidential election, Jewish affairs in the United States, and events taking place in Israel. I read a great deal (usually between 5 and 7 AM)– and as a “service” to you, I offer the following 8 highlights of items I have read in the last week.

The first two are by Deborah Lipstadt and Tom Hayden respectively. They explain why they are supporting Hillary Clinton. I have known both for 35 and 25 years, respectively, and though I’m not surprised by Deborah’s position, I am by Tom’s – he explains why, though he respects Bernie, he must support Hillary.

The next piece (#3), by Uri Avnery, a 90+ veteran left-wing Israeli journalist and a guru to those of us who want his clear-headed thinking, explains why he likes the right-wing President of Israel Ruby Rivlin (my 2nd cousin once removed), and specifically, why he thinks there are possibilities in Ruby’s confederation idea embracing both a Jewish state and an Arab state.

Item #4 is  about the Women of the Wall and a novel action planned for April 24 that will help keep the pressure on the government to stick to its agreement to create an egalitarian prayer space at the Southern Wall of the Kotel.

The remainder of the articles include a NY Times report on Joe Biden’s speech yesterday at the J Street National Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C. , as well as two pieces by left-wing American and Israeli journalists (Peter Beinart and Chemi Shalev) on the controversy surrounding Simone Zimmerman, an outstanding young pro-Israel activist who was hired and then fired within two days by the Sanders Presidential campaign.

Happy reading!

1) Why I’m for Hillary (and Not for Him), by Deborah Lipstadt, The Forward, April 17


2) I Used to Support Bernie, but Then I Changed My Mind – Tom Hayden, The Nation, April 12, 2016 – “I have a variety of concerns about both candidates’ campaigns. But I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in the California primary for one fundamental reason.”


3) Squaring the Circle, by Uri Avnery, April 15, 2016 – Jewish Business News – “I like the President of the State of Israel, Reuven (“Rubi”) Rivlin. I like him very much…he is a very humane person. He is kind and unassuming. His family has been rooted in Palestine for many generations. He sees himself as the president of all Israelis, including the Arab citizens…This week, President Rivlin published a peace plan…based on a federation of two ‘entities’ – a Zionist-Jewish entity and an Arab-Palestinian one…In present-day Israel, ideas are frozen…a (con)federation can …allow both peoples to be free in their own states, with their own identities, national flags and anthems, governments and soccer teams, while at the same time saving the unity of the country and solving their joint problems in unity and close cooperation…”


4) Israel Public Radio Rejects Women of the Wall Ad, April 13, 2016 – Israel public radio rejected a Women of the Wall ad that included a woman chanting parts of the priestly blessing for being “controversial.” Read more here. http://forward.com/video/338622/israel-public-radio-rejects-women-of-the-wall-ad/#ixzz46D8Kqfvt

5) US feels ‘overwhelming frustration’ with Israeli government: Biden, The New York Times, April 19 – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Monday acknowledged ‘overwhelming frustration’ with the Israeli government and said the systemic expansion of Jewish settlements was moving Israel toward a dangerous ‘one-state reality’ and in the wrong direction.”


6) As Dems Push Boundaries of Israel Debate, J Street Exults, and Worries, Forward, Nathan Guttman, April 19 – “J Street was born just as Barack Obama took over the White House and has since positioned itself as a group willing to give the administration, as well as members of Congress and candidates, the backing they need in order to take positions on Israel that may be unpopular among the more established American Israel Public Affairs Committee. J Street, through its political action committee, endorsed candidates for the House and Senate willing to voice liberal views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and recently pushed back forcefully against AIPAC’s massive drive to defeat President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Now, the administration is returning the favor with a series of public gestures meant to send a clear signal to supporters of the lobby, and to AIPAC. President Obama invited a group of J Street student leaders to a meeting in the Oval Office on April 15. Then he sent Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry to deliver remarks at the group’s April 18 gala dinner. AIPAC, by contrast, got a detailed, and at times critical, speech by Biden, but no other senior administration officials.”


7) If You Lose Simone Zimmerman, You Lose the Best of Jewish Millennials, Peter Beinart, Haaretz, April 18 – “Simone Zimmerman cares about Israel. She cares about the Jewish people. She even cares about American Jewish organizations. And she believes there should be a space in those organizations for moral opposition to Israeli policies, the kind of moral opposition once offered by communal leaders like Nahum Goldmann, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg and Rabbi Arthur Schindler. Treat people like her as the enemy and you make enemies of the best of the younger American Jewish generation. Exile those progressive young American Jews who genuinely care about the American Jewish community and watch who follows in their wake. I’m not worried about Simone Zimmerman. She’ll do fine. I’m worried about a community that punishes its children for challenging its lies.”


8) Sorry: As Presidential Contender, Sanders Was Right to Dismiss Simone Zimmerman, Chemi Shalev, Haaretz, April 18 – “Sometimes one suspects that mainstream Jewish leaders would prefer to see the many thousands of J Street supporters and other critics of the occupation get sucked in by BDS and turn into anti-Zionists. That would justify their pigheaded refusal to look at the Jewish community in the mirror and would leave the occupation-denying, Israel-is-always-right crowd of yesteryear in their splendid isolation. Nor does Zimmerman’s dismissal detract from the validity of her views on the occupation, on Netanyahu and on the Gaza war. These are shared by many thousands around the world, including, I assume, the vast majority of Sanders’ own supporters. Running for president, however, involves compromise, a concept that sometimes seems alien to many of Sanders’ and Zimmerman’s fans. To quote a famous Israeli slogan, they would rather be right than smart, but that’s not the way one wins the presidency.”


Returning the hearts of parents and children to each other

“Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet
before the coming of the great and awe-inspiring day of God;
And he [Elijah] will return the hearts of parents to children
and the hearts of children to their parents.” 
(Malachi 3:23-24)

These two verses were read yesterday on Shabbat Hagadol (“The Great Sabbath”) that comes immediately before Pesach. They have touched and moved me since I was young in a number of ways.

As a congregational rabbi, so often I encounter parents and grown children who are alienated from each other, and though every situation is different and the sources of rupture in families are as varied as there are people, I wonder what it would take for most of these estrangements to be healed and for families to draw closer to one another. It’s my conviction that in most families, if there’s a strong enough will the breach can be healed.

In this season of Pesach, inspired by the Prophet Malachi, if this is your situation why not seize the opportunity today, now, this week, and reach out to the person or people from whom you feel  distance and seek a way back to each other?

Reconciliation with the most important people in our lives (our parents and children) may tragically be too late for some families after years of alienation. It’s been my experience that unless a child or a parent suffers from mental illness or addiction disorders, it is usually a parent who provoked and/or allowed the alienation to occur with his or her child(ren) to fester over the years. Most children want positive relationships with their parents, but old injuries, accumulated anger, resentment, hatred, and calcification of negative feelings and attitudes towards the other have been allowed to make reconciliation difficult, but not impossible.

Judaism affirms the power of s’lichah (forgiveness) and t’shuvah (repentance – return) to transform our lives. These are themes not only of the High Holiday season but of Pesach too, as both are required for g’ulah (“redemption”). Judaism affirms as well that it’s possible to free ourselves from injuries born in the past and to transform them in the present so as to chart a new, different and positive future. That is the essence of the Exodus and Passover story.

What’s required may be the most difficult challenge we ever face; that parents and children look within themselves, acknowledge their own culpability for the breach, avoid blaming the other, approach the other with humility and an open heart, and then forgive both themselves and the other for whatever occurred in the past. After so long a period, it no longer really matters who caused the rupture in the beginning. Either side, and hopefully both, can and ought to reach out.

Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. It means “letting go” of the slights inflicted and experienced so long ago, and setting aside the aggravating and annoying quirks of personality that justify, in our minds and hearts, the distance we’ve each perpetuated and sustained.

When we forgive we heal the hurts of the past and the injuries we believe we never deserved. By forgiving, we reverse the flow of our own history. This is the meaning of redemption – that we redress grievances and restore ourselves first to ourselves and then to those nearest to us.

In another way, these Malachi verses have moved me since I was young because they stimulate my memories of my father who died so long ago, but whose voice, smell, touch, and love for me, my brother, my mother, and our family remain alive in me and all of us who he loved and who loved him. This year, these verses evoke memories of my mother too, whose soul passed from this life a few months ago. I imagine my parents’ souls communing together again, as they did with so much love and joy once upon a time, and I imagine my mother restored to her parents and siblings also, people whom she so adored in the 98+ years of her long life.

This coming Shabbat eve, families and friends will gather around the Seder table and Elijah’s empty chair will, hopefully, remind us of our parents and their parents, our sages and teachers, prophets, mystics, and tzadikim, as our people celebrates liberation and the promise of redemption. We’ll recommit ourselves to right the wrongs and injustices in our communities, among our people, in our nation and world, to reaffirm that justice must exist everywhere for us to be truly free ourselves, and that the virtues of compassion, empathy and loving-kindness are the means to affirm and concretize Judaism’s ideals of a world healed of its many breaches.

May this season be one of meaning and joyful reunion for each of us, for everyone we love, for the Jewish people, for the oppressed among the nations, and for all the inhabitants of the earth.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Israeli Public Radio Refuses to Broadcast ‘Controversial’ Women of the Wall Ad – Letter from Anat Hoffman

Below is a letter Anat Hoffman sent me this morning updating me on an action during the intermediate days of Pesach, on April 24, that Women of the Wall is planning in Jerusalem at the Kotel (Western Wall).

This action is a follow-up to the historic decision taken by the government of Israel, led by PM Netanyahu and coordinated by Natan Sharansky several months ago, that will establish a new egalitarian prayer space in the Southern Kotel Plaza. Women of the Wall is gathering hundreds of women descended from the priestly class (Kohanut) to bless the community at the Kotel.

The ultra-Orthodox political parties United Torah Judaism and Shas, along with the “Chief Rabbi of the Wall,” are demanding that this agreement not be implemented on threat of withdrawal from the government coalition and the collapse of the government that consists of only 61 votes. PM Netanyahu is now trying to manage his anti-democratic coalition partners by promising to take a second look at the agreement that would surely doom its future. This was a negotiated compromise between the parties that included the Chief Rabbi at the Wall. Every detail was negotiated. It was a compromise agreement. To open it up again means that the agreement will fail. Doing this has much larger implications for the state of democracy and religious pluralism in Israel. Surely, the Prime Minister knows this – but maintaining power seems to be more important to him than the honor of his word to the non-Orthodox movements in Israel and worldwide and the cause of democracy and equal rights for all religious streams of Judaism in the Jewish state.

Anat Hoffman, chair of the Women of the Wall and the Executive Director of the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, has been a lightning rod on this issue for more than 27 years in her role as a founding member of WOW and now as its chair.

Anat had asked me to make contact with my cousin, Susan Bay Nimoy, to support this effort financially, which Susan did without hesitation and with full heart. She did so in memory of Leonard, who would have supported this effort with an equally full heart. Anat thought of them as supporters because Leonard made the priestly sign world famous in the character of Spock. When developing the greeting in his role, he remembered the blessing of the priests when he attended synagogue as a young boy with his grandfather in South Boston.

The article from Haaretz below notes:

“Funding [has been] provided by the Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy estate [and] was meant to help Women of the Wall advertise the event as well as bus in women from around the country so that they can attend at no cost.”

Here is Anat’s letter (see the two articles in Haaretz):

Shalom, John, dear friend,

It was a challenging week for Women of the Wall. Kol Yisrael, the Israeli public radio body, determined that it would not play our paid voice ads for the Birkat Kohanot. Please click this link to an article in the Forward so you can hear how simply beautiful it is: http://forward.com/video/338622/israel-public-radio-rejects-women-of-the-wall-ad/?attribution=home-video-1. We petitioned to force them to play the ads and will appeal the decision on Sunday – all the way to the [Israeli] Supreme Court.

Next, Haaretz gave us plenty of press. One article is Public Radio Refuses to Broadcast ‘Controversial’ Women of the Wall Ad and the other is Western Wall Rabbi Attempting to Prevent ‘Women’s Priestly Blessing’ During Passover. Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, has even gone so far as to call Women of the Wall “Satan Incarnate.” He said that we need to be committed to an asylum, YET he went on – for the first time – to devote his whole sermon on Pesach to the importance of women in Judaism.

Here are the links to the articles:


But, we keep persevering. The number of participants continues to grow, and we are confident that we will fill the Kotel plaza on April 24.

Shabbat Shalom,

The Public Safety & Rehabilitation Act of 2016

Yesterday (April 13), 25 rabbis from San Diego to Sacramento met with Governor Jerry Brown in Los Angeles who presented The Public Safety & Rehabilitation Act of 2016 (see – http://safetyandrehabilitation.com/) as an important advance in the criminal justice system. Governor Brown has been approaching all citizen groups and religious leaders to promote this initiative and acquire one million signatures by the middle of May to get this initiative on the ballot.

He was persuasive as he argued that this bill offers not only an advancement in public safety, but also an incentive to non-violent criminals to retrain in prison and reform their behavior so that they can return to society and be productive citizens thereby reducing prison populations and saving tax payer money.

The Governor appealed to us not only on the basis of the merits of the initiative, but on the religious truth that people can and do change when they have incentives and choose to do so. People can repent and live more productive lives.

What specifically does the Public Safety & Rehabilitation Act of 2016 do?

  • Invests in proven public safety strategies that work.
  • Authorizes parole consideration for people with non-violent convictions who complete the full sentence for their primary offense.
  • Incentives people in prison to complete rehabilitation and education programs.
  • Requires the Secretary of Corrections to certify that the regulations implementing these policies protect and enhance public safety.
  • Requires judges rather than prosecutors to decide whether a youth as young as 14-years-old should be tried as an adult.
  • Mandates that a judge carefully reviews all of the circumstances of a youth’s crime and life before making a decision on whether that young person should be charged as an adult.
  • Saves taxpayer dollars by reducing wasteful spending within our correctional system.
  • Keeps the most dangerous offenders locked up.



http://safetyandrehabilitation.com/images/The_Public_Safety_and_Rehabilitation_Act_of_2016_%2800266261xAEB03%29.pdf\ Why does California need this Initiative?

The following is taken from the initiative’s website:

“Over the last several decades, California’s jail and prison populations have exploded, and California now spends nearly 10% of its general fund on our prison system. We are simply spending too much taxpayer money locking up nonviolent offenders, when we know that rehabilitation actually keeps our communities safer. Today, California’s prisons are under a court-ordered population cap. Without a common sense, fiscally responsible plan, the court will order the arbitrary release of prisoners. This is an unacceptable outcome that puts Californians in danger.

The Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016 stops the arbitrary prisoner release and improves public safety. Countless studies have shown that the more people are rehabilitated, the less likely they are to re-offend. By investing in strategic rehabilitation, the initiative will protect California communities and ensure the most dangerous criminals stay locked up.”

I ask you to sign the petition and circulate it to all your friends. 1 million signatures need to be collected by the middle of May to qualify as an initiative on the California ballot. Please help. This is in everyone’s best interest.



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