Israel’s Reform Watershed Moment is Now!!!!

Rabbi Josh Weinberg (President of ARZA) and Rabbi John Rosove (National Board Chair of ARZA) hold a first edition of Theodor Herzl’s Der Judenstaat

When I was a first-year rabbinic student at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem (1973- 1974), I did not tell my Israeli family what I was doing there. I was studying to be a Reform Rabbi, and at that time the Reform movement in the Jewish state was seen as an American transplant and wasn’t at all understood. Some Israelis dismissed it, while others went so far as to accuse it of being a Christian-Jewish movement meant to destroy Judaism.

In those years, Israelis were either Orthodox, traditional (i.e. they weren’t necessarily observant themselves but believed that Orthodox Judaism was the only legitimate practice), or they were secular.

All that changed in 2017. According to the Dialogue Company, a leading public opinion research firm headed by respected researcher Professor Camil Fuchs, Israel has never been as open to Reform Judaism as it is today.

Dr. Fuchs conducted a comprehensive survey assessing the status of the Reform Movement and religious pluralism in the State of Israel. The survey found the following:

  • The rate of self-identification with Reform Judaism is at an historic high in Israel;
  • More than half (56%) of the secular Israeli public say they have attended a lifecycle ceremony officiated by a Reform or Conservative rabbi, up about 10% from 2010;
  • There is overwhelming support (81%) among the secular public for giving full equality to non-Orthodox religious streams;
  • There is wide support (49%) among the traditional public for Reform and Conservative Judaism;
  • A vast majority (90%) of all respondents recognized the importance of the relationship with Diaspora Jewry for the State of Israel;
  • The number of Israelis who identify as Reform Jews has doubled since 2011 (3.5%). Today it is 7%. When added to the 4% of the Jewish population of Israel that identifies with Conservative Judaism, there are now nearly 700,000 Israelis that identify with either Reform or Conservative Judaism in Israel. That number is equal to the number of Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox Jews).

The Israeli Reform movement has succeeded in establishing itself without any government financial support. Substantial accomplishments include:

  • 50 Reform congregations around the country;
  • A full Rabbinic seminary – Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem;
  • 100 ordained Israeli Reform Rabbis;
  • 2 Reform Kibbutzim (Lotan and Yahel in the south);
  • The Leo Baeck High School in Haifa;
  • A Reform public elementary school in Holon;
  • An active Reform youth movement, Noar Telem;
  • MASA pre-army programs for high school graduates;
  • An Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC) that advocates against racism and misogyny, and on behalf of equal justice and religious pluralism before the Knesset and the courts;
  • Dozens of local social action projects conducted by Reform congregations fighting hunger and poverty, on behalf of women’s and LGBTQ rights, African refugee asylum, economic justice, and a shared society with Arab Israeli citizens;
  • Thousands of life-cycle events (baby namings and britot milah, bnai mitzvah, conversions, weddings, and funerals) all performed by Israeli Reform Rabbis.

The Israeli Reform movement is winning battle after battle in the courts, and it is winning the hearts and minds of large numbers of Israelis. Many are attracted to egalitarian prayer and holiday celebrations, Jewish liberal values, and a place to raise their children according to their own values.

The Israeli Reform movement does not receive funds from the Israeli government due to the stranglehold on the budget by the Ultra-Orthodox political parties that hold exclusive control over funds for religious activity. Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox rabbis, synagogues, and schools receive millions of Israeli shekels annually from the Israeli tax-payer.

While our movement fights for equal rights and religious pluralism, we continue to expand with the help of North American Jews and the international Reform Zionist movement called ARZENU.

The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) led by President Rabbi Josh Weinberg and me as the national Board Chair, is launching the “Campaign for Religious Equality.”

We do with the full support of the Union for Reform Judaism, representing the North American Reform movement. The campaign goal is to double down the investment of our movement in Israel in the coming year. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, made that announcement in his d’var Torah on Shabbat morning at the Biennial Convention of the URJ.

Our goal is for every American Reform congregation (i.e. about 900 Reform synagogues in North America) to contribute an average of $3600 in each of the next three years to the “Campaign for Religious Equality.” Money can be raised from individuals in our congregations, from our congregational budgets, from special campaigns, and from Rabbinic and Cantorial discretionary funds.

We ask that you make checks out to ARZA, with “Campaign for Religious Equality” in the memo line, and send them to the ARZA office at 633 3rd Avenue (7th Floor), NY, NY 10017. We will forward your contributions to the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ).

This money will be used to build Israeli Reform congregations, support legal advocacy in the courts on behalf of religious pluralism, democracy, and human rights, and sustain a public relations campaign to promote our shared values and expand the base of our movement in Israel.

The Israeli Reform movement is a positive way for North American Reform Jews to participate in the building of our national home and in advocating for Israeli religious equality and democracy in the Jewish state.

Visit our ARZA website – www.arza.org.

 

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Hanukah – A Major Battleground for the Heart and Soul of the Jewish People

Hanukiya- Besht - Ukraine 1809

[The photo is of a Hanukiya from Ukraine (circa 1809) that is crafted in the style of the Baal Shem Tov. It is part of the Judith and Bernard Briskin Fine Judaica Collection at Temple Israel of Hollywood, Los Angeles.]

Without the success of the Maccabean Revolt in 165 BCE, there would be no Judaism, no Christianity, and no Islam today. That being said, what is the real story of Hanukah as opposed to the traditional story we teach our children?

The traditional story tells of the heroic battle of the Maccabean family against the Greeks, the Greek desecration of the Temple Mount, the miracle of the oil lasting eight days instead of one, the lighting of the Hanukiyah (the 8-branch Hanukah Menorah), eating latkes, and spinning dreidels, but this isn’t the true history of this holiday. The real history is more interesting and even more important for us in 21st century America and Israel (based on the 1st and 2nd Books of Maccabees).

The Maccabean Revolt was a battle for the heart and soul of Judaism and the Jewish people. That revolt affirmed Jewish self-identity and survival, themes that are applicable to every ethnicity, religion, and nation in the modern world.

A few years ago Dr. Noam Zion of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, spoke to the Board of Rabbis of Southern California on the theme: “The Reinvention of Hanukkah in the 20th Century as A Jewish Cultural Civil War between Zionists, Liberal American Judaism, and Chabad.”

He offered a comprehensive view of Hanukah from its beginnings 2200 years ago (165 BCE), and how it is understood and celebrated today by Israelis, American liberal non-Haredi Jews, and Chabad Lubavitch. Based on Hanukah’s history and the corpus of sermons written by rabbis throughout the centuries, Dr. Zion noted that three questions have been asked consistently through the ages:

‘Who are the children of light and darkness?’

‘Who are our people’s earliest heroes and what made them heroic?’

‘What relevance can we find in Hanukah today?’

Jewish tradition considers Hanukah a “minor holiday,” but Hanukah occupies an important place in the ideologies of the State of Israel, American liberal Judaism, and Chabad.

Before and after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Maccabees served as a potent symbol for “Political Zionism,” for those laboring to create a modern Jewish state as a response to anti-Semitism and as a refuge for oppressed Jews the world over. The early Zionists rejected God’s role in bringing about the miracle of Jewish victory during Hasmonean times. Rather, they emphasized that Jews themselves are the central actors in our people’s restoration of Jewish sovereignty on the ancient land, not God.

For 20th century liberal American Jews Hanukah came to represent Judaism’s aspirations for religious freedom consistent with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Even as Hanukah reflects universal aspirations, the Hanukiyah remains a particular symbol of Jewish pride and identity for American Jews living in a dominant Christian culture.

For Chabad, Hanukah embodies the essence of religious identity on the one hand and the mission of Jews on the other. Each Hassid is to be “a streetlamp lighter” who ventures into the public square and kindles the nearly extinguished flame of individual Jewish souls, one soul at a time (per Rebbe Sholom Dov-Ber). This is why Chabad strives to place a Hanukiyah in public places. Every fulfilled mitzvah kindles the flame of a soul and restores it to God.

Dr. Zion concluded his talk to us rabbis by noting that the cultural war being played out in contemporary Jewish life is based in the different responses to the central and historical question that has always given context to Hanukah – ‘Which Jews are destroying Jewish life and threatening Judaism itself?’

The Maccabean war was not a war between the Jews and the Greeks, but rather a violent civil war between the established radically Hellenized Jews and the besieged village priests outside major urban centers in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel). The Maccabees won that war only because moderately Hellenized Jews recognized that they would lose their Jewish identity if the radical Hellenizers were victorious. They joined in coalition with the village priests and together retook the Temple and dedicated it (The Hebrew Hanukah means “dedication”). That historic struggle has a parallel today in a raging cultural civil war for the heart and soul of the Jewish people and for the nature of Judaism itself in the State of Israel.

The takeaway? There is something of the zealot in each of us, regardless of our Jewish camp. If we hope to avoid the sin of sinat chinam (baseless hatred between one Jew and another) that the Talmud teaches was the cause of the destruction of the 2nd Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E. (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 9b), we need to prepare ourselves to be candles without knives, to bring the love of God and our love for the Jewish people back into our homes and communities. To be successful will take much courage, compassion, knowledge, understanding, faith, and grit. The stakes are high – the future of Israel and the Jewish people.

Is it any wonder that Hanukah, though defined by Judaism as a “minor holiday,” is in truth a major battle-ground for the heart and soul of Judaism and the Jewish people?

Chag Hanukah Sameach!

In the Black Night – A Poem for Vayishlach

In the black night / the river runs cold / slowly passing me by / over formerly sharp edged stones / worn smooth by centuries of churning  / as if through earthy veins / and I Jacob, alone / shiver and wait / to meet my brother / and daylight.

Will there be war? / And will the angels carry my soul / up the ladder / leaving my blood / to soak the ground?

A presence!? / And I struggle / as if in my mother’s womb / and my dreams.

We played together as children / my brother Esau and me / as innocents / and I confess tonight / how I wronged him / and wrenched from him his birthright / as this Being has done to me / between my thighs.

I was so young / driven by ego and need / blinded by ambition / my mother’s dreams / and my father’s silence.

I so craved to be first born / adored by my father / to assume his place when he died / that my name be remembered / and define a people.

How Esau suffered and wailed / and I didn’t care; / Whatever his dreams / they were nothing to me / my heart was hard / his life be damned!

I’ve learned that Esau and I / each alone / is a palga gufa / half a soul / without the other / torn away / as two souls separated at creation / seeking reunification in a great spiritual sea / the yin missing the yang / the dark and light never touching / the mind divorced from body / the soul in exile / without a beating bleating heart / and no access to the thirty-two paths / to carry us up the ladder / and through the spheres.

It’s come to this / To struggle again / To live or die.

Tonight / I’m ready for death / or submission.

Compassionate One / protect Esau and your servant / my brother and me / as one  / and return us to each other.

El na r’fa na lanu! / Grant us peace and rest / I’m very tired.

 

This poem was composed by Rabbi John L. Rosove and was originally published in the CCAR Journal: Reform Jewish Quarterly, Spring, 2010, pages 113-115

 

 

 

November 29, 1947 – The UN Partition of Palestine – 70th Anniversary

Seventy years ago today, November 29, 1947, the newly formed United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish state and one Arab state. The Jewish people led by David Ben Gurion accepted the Partition Plan but it was rejected by all Arab States.

Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, a leading American Reform Rabbi and Zionist from Cleveland, and the Director of the Jewish Agency for Israel, spoke to the United Nations. Among other things he said eloquently the following:

“… it is of course appropriate that it be clear – and I am sorry that messages delivered in recent days by certain representatives may confused what ought to be clear – that when we speak of a Jewish state we do not mean a racist or theocratic state; but a state which will be based upon full equality and full rights for all if its inhabitants, without any discrimination between religions or races, and without a take-over or enslavement …”

Rabbi Silver also spoke about the moral and practical necessity in the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) following the horrors of the Holocaust that had ended only two years before. At the same time, he emphasized the human lesson from those years:

“… We are an ancient people, and even though we frequently experienced disappointment in the long and hard road we’ve traveled, our hearts have never dissolved. We have never lost our belief in the superiority and victory of grand moral principles. In the recent tragic years, when the entire house of Israel turned into one big house of torment, we could not build what we have built if we had not placed our safety in true victory…”

Here, Rabbi Silver speaks about the role of American Jewry in the building of the future Jewish state:

“American Jewry is obligated – to itself and to the entire nation – to completely accept upon itself the burden of scripture and the historic future of Judaism. This grand responsibility will have to gain strength from within itself. It cannot once again depend on the table of the old world… to our satisfaction, American Jewry holds great human material, filled with belief and pride and a sense of responsibility… with which we can strengthen the foundation of the central and necessary institution in Jewish community life – the synagogue, which also a school. It is our duty to strongly emphasize the importance of Hebrew language and literature education. Without the study of the Hebrew language, American Jewry will be destined to spiritual infertility…

If Jewish destiny is placed in the hands of Jews for which Judaism is only a result of persecution, chance or a random gesture of kindness, it will surely sink into ignorance and indifference… if the steering wheel is left in the hands of Jews whose Judaism is an inner necessity, a covenant in their soul, who wish to continue to path of Jewish glory – both people and culture – only then can we be sure that the necessary institutions to enrich our lives, most importantly the synagogue and school – and particularly the school – will be established.

This link includes a speech given by Rabbi Silver before the United Nations on November 29, 1947 beginning at two minutes and thirty seconds to nine minutes and forty seconds. You can hear, as well, the roll call vote of the nations voting on the Partition plan beginning at eleven minutes and fifty seconds.

The final vote was 33 to 13 with 10 abstentions in favor. The map as determined by the partition plan can be seen here and there is also a link to what countries voted for, against, and abstained.

Watch here http://www.reform.org.il/Eng/About/NewsItem.asp?ContentID=2341

A Book Gift for Hanukah – “Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi for His Children and the Millennial Generation”

My new book (“Why Judaism matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to His Children and the Millennial Generation”) is a quick read and addresses most of the most significant issues confronting young liberal Jews in America and Canada. Though the title indicates that I wrote this book for my millennial children (Daniel and David), Jews and non-Jews alike who are older have told me that this book is for every age group.

My sons, Daniel and David, offer their reactions to the book and growing up with me as their father in a touching Afterword.

You can order this book for your children and friends at https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/1683367057

See the endorsements below as well as the twelve 5-star endorsements on the Amazon.com site above

“John Rosove does what so many of us have struggled to do, and does it brilliantly:  He makes the case for liberal Judaism to his children. As Rosove shows, liberal Judaism is choice-driven, messy, and always evolving, “traditional” in some ways and “radical” in others. It is also optimistic, spiritual, and progressive in both personal and political ethics. Without avoiding the hard stuff, such as intermarriage and Israel, Rabbi Rosove weaves all of these strands together to show the deep satisfactions of living and believing as a liberal Jew. All serious Jews, liberal or otherwise, should read this book.” —- Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism and a regular columnist for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. 

“Rabbi Rosove’s letters to his sons are full of Talmudic tales and practical parables, ancient wisdom with modern relevance, spiritual comfort, and intellectual provocation. Whether his subject is faith, love, intermarriage, success, Jewish continuity or the creation of a meaningful legacy, you’ll find yourself quoting lines from this beautiful book long after you’ve reached its final blessing.” —- Letty Cottin Pogrebin is a writer, speaker, social justice activist, and author of eleven books including Deborah, Golda, and Me: Being Female & Jewish in America and Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate. She is also a founding editor of Ms. Magazine, is a regular columnist for Moment Magazine, and has written op-eds in The New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, L.A. Times, Toronto Star, The Nation, Harpers Bazaar, Travel & Leisure, Family Circle, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications.

“Rabbi John Rosove gets it. Here is a religious leader not afraid to tell it like it is, encapsulating for his audience the profound disaffection so many young Jews feel towards their heritage. But instead of letting them walk away, he makes a powerful case for the relevance of tradition in creating meaningful lives. In our technology-saturated, attention-absorbing age, Rosove offers religion-as-reprieve, his fresh vision of a thoroughly modern, politically-engaged and inclusive Judaism.” Danielle Berrin is a columnist and cover-story journalist for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. She is known for her Hollywood Jew blog, has appeared as a commentator on CNN and MSNBC, and published work for The Guardian, British Esquire, and The Atlantic. 

“Rabbi John Rosove addresses his intellectual and well-reasoned investigation of faith to his own sons, which sets this book apart for its candor and its ability to penetrate not only the mind but also the heart.” Matthew Weiner is a writer, director, producer, and the creator of the AMC television drama series Mad Men and he is noted for his work as a writer and producer on the HBO drama series The Sopranos and earned nine Primetime Emmy Awards Matthew has received nine Primetime Emmy Awards.

“Rabbi Rosove has written a wonderful book, a love letter to his children, and through them, to all our children. Prodigiously knowledgeable, exceedingly wise, and refreshingly honest, Rabbi Rosove has described why Judaism matters. It should serve as a touching testament of faith, spanning the generations for generations to come.” —- Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch is Senior Rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, New York City and is the co-author of One People, Two Worlds: A Reform rabbi and an Orthodox rabbi explore the issues that divide them with Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Reinman.

“Rabbi John Rosove has given a gift to all of us who care about engaging the next generation in Jewish life. The letters to his sons are really love-letters from countless voices of Jewish wisdom across history to all those young people who are seeking purpose in their lives.  From wrestling with God, to advocating for peace and justice in Israel and at home, and living a life of purpose, this book is a compelling case for the joy of being Jewish.” — Rabbi Jonah Pesner is the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C and is Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, he is an inspirational leader, creative entrepreneur and tireless advocate for social justice.

“If you’re a fellow Reform millennial, give yourself the gift of John’s insights. This book is written in a breezy, gentle, readable style that is welcoming without losing sharp insight. It makes an even better case for Judaism than challah. It was so enjoyable and refreshing to read and persuasive without ever being pushy. Rosove managed to do what only a truly worthy slice of kugel or chance viewing of Fiddler has done for me: reactivate my sense of wonder and gratitude about being Jewish. I am a huge WJM fan.” —- Jen Spyra is a staff comedy writer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and formerly was a senior writer for The Onion. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, and The Daily Beast, and she has been featured by The Laugh Factory Chicago’s Best Standup Show Case.

“John Rosove’s letters to his sons based on his life, philosophy, and rabbinic work address what it means to be a liberal and ethical Jew and a lover of Israel in an era when none are automatic. He writes in an unassuming personal style steeped in traditional texts as he confronts conflicts of faith and objectivity, Zionist pride and loving criticism of the Jewish state, traditional observance and religious innovation. He is never gratuitous and invites his readers into his family conversation because what he says is applicable to us all.”  Susan Freudenheim is the Executive Director of Jewish World Watch, was formerly the Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and an editor at the Los Angeles Times.

“Rabbi John Rosove has written a book of the utmost importance for our time. It is an imperative read for all those who struggle with the changing and evolving attitudes towards belonging, behavior and belief. His analysis, stemming from deeply personal contemplation and decades of rabbinic experience, offers clear yet sophisticated approaches to tackling the challenges facing this generation and those to come. This book offers a treasure of wisdom through the lens of Jewish texts – both ancient and modern – which help to frame life’s major issues taking the reader from the particular to the universal.  Israel is one of the most complicated of issues tackled in this volume and his chapter on Israel bridges the divide between Israel’s critics and staunch supporters offering a comforting approach to those who are deeply at odds with Israel and offers and important opportunity for a shift in our basic narrative.  Moving beyond the conversation of crisis is critical for the millennial generation.” Rabbi Josh Weinberg is President of the Association of Reform Zionists of America and is a leading young voice in world-wide Zionist politics and affairs.

 

 

“Take Our Tired Our Poor Our Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free” – TLV1 The Promised Podcast

Eritrean and Sudanese Refugees in TA - AP photo
Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel – 2013 – AP Photo

This week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a solution to the Eritrean and Sudanese refugee challenge in Israel. These people had come to Israel between 2003 and 2010 as part of a great northward migration of Africans who were en mass escaping brutal dictatorships and instability of their respective countries.

In 2010, to stop the flow of refugees coming into Israel at the rate of about 3000 people per month, Israel built a fence. These refugees had walked from Africa into Israel. Many had died along the way from a variety of causes.

In 2010, 37,000 refugees were living in South Tel Aviv where Israeli soldiers, who had picked them up upon their entry into Israel, dropped them to fend for themselves. They had come, of course, without work permits. There was massive overcrowding in small tenement apartments, and local Israeli residents were fearful of the large numbers of black African men who had concentrated there (85% of the Refugees are men).

The Israeli NGO “Hot Line for Refugees,” based in Tel Aviv, was helping these people get jobs and make application for political asylum. To date, however, not one Eritrean or Sudanese refugee has been granted asylum. Though many Israelis feared a rise in the crime rate due to the growth of this refugee population, the Hot Line notes that the crime rate among the refugee population is far lower than the national Israeli crime rate.

The challenge before the government of Israel was what to do with these refugees. There have always been options – accept them as seekers of political asylum, offer them permanent settlement with work permits, offer them a pathway to become citizens, or treat them as interlopers and economic migrants and expel them?

The Prime Minister finally announced his solution this week. In cooperation with Rwanda, Israel will deport 20,000 Africans, give Rwanda $5000 per refugee to help settle them, and give $3500 as a “gift” to each refugee who is deported. If the refugees refuse to be deported, then they will be sent to a real prison.

This option has been condemned by the United Nations Commission for Refugees and other human rights groups.

Traditional Jewish values of welcoming the stranger and our own Jewish historical experience has led many of us to hope that Israel would welcome these people and grant them political asylum. 37,000 people in a nation of 7.5 million is a very small percentage of the total population. Welcoming them clearly has not happened.

The host of the Israeli TV1 Broadcast “The Promised,” Noah Efron, and his fellow journalists Don Futterman (the Director of the Moriah Fund and Haaretz columnist), and Charlotte Halle (the Haaretz International Director) this week discuss this challenging issue thoughtfully, critically, and with liberal Jewish values in mind. I urge you to listen to their discussion. The segment “Take Our Tired Our Poor Our Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free” begins at 15 minutes and 40 seconds and concludes at 29 minutes and 40 seconds.

Click here https://tlv1.fm/full-show/promised-podcast/2017/11/23/the-take-our-tired-our-poor-our-huddled-masses-yearning-to-breathe-free-edition/

 

“Hamas Murdered Yuval Roth’s Brother. Now He Helps Sick Palestinians” – Tablet Magazine Headline

handshaking-at-the-barrier-2

Photo – Handshake at an Israeli-Palestinian Crossing Checkpoint

When I was in Israel last month, I learned of a non-profit organization that is doing extraordinary transformative work called “Road to Recovery –RtR.” RtR’s sole aim is to provide free-of-charge transportation to Palestinians who need medical treatment in Israel.

Every day, RtR Israeli Jewish volunteers pick up West Bank Palestinian patients from various crossing points between Israel and the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, drive them in their private cars to hospitals in Israel, and then return these patients back to the checkpoints to be picked up on the Palestinian side by their relatives and friends.

Begun in 2010, in the past seven years, 3,280 Palestinian patients have been driven to Israeli hospitals by 3,300 Israeli Jewish volunteers in 43,300 patient trips covering 4.38 million miles in 50,000 hours of volunteerism.

The idea for this project grew out of tragedy.

Yuval Roth (60) lost his brother Udi to a Hamas terrorist in 1993 when Udi was returning home from reserve service in Gaza, then controlled by Israel.

Yuval said: “I lost a brother but not my head, and didn’t want revenge. Yes, I was angry, but my anger was directed not at the terrorists that killed my brother but at our leaders, that for generations were unable to solve the conflict.” (see Tablet Magazine – “Hamas Murdered Yuval Roth’s Brother. Now He Helps Sick Palestinians” by Tal Miller and Yoav Sivan, http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/192659/yuval-roth-derech-hachlama). Tablet reports:

Roth joined a pro-peace Israeli-Palestinian organization of families who lost a family member in the conflict called “The Parents Circle Families Forum.” He met Mohamed Kabah, a Palestinian from the village Yaabez near Jenin who also lost a brother. Kabah approached Roth with an unlikely request. He had a sick brother in medical care in Haifa who couldn’t get to the hospital. “So I drove him thinking this was no different from what I’d do for a neighbor in Pardes Hanna. Then this friend referred another family from his village who needed help to reach Hadassah Hospital…” One referral followed another, and soon there was too much traffic for one person to handle. “So, I reached out to my circles of friends.”

Mohamed Kabah told Tablet: “Yuval and I met 15 years ago…We both lost brothers in war and shared the conviction that we must do something to bring people closer together…We met with leaders of the PA, and we kept them informed…I think our contribution to peace is greater than that of many leaders. Today, there’s no Palestinian in the Territories who isn’t grateful to Yuval. This organization made us heroes. Still, many say that it’d be too hard to achieve peace. But this is our way to say that the pain of peace is better than the pain of war.”

Yuval Roth said: “The Israeli public doesn’t understand how deep is the Palestinian will for peace. It’s not the reasonable minority but the reasonable majority. The majority of the Palestinian public wants a two-state solution and supports the nonviolent path of Abu Mazen. It will take time for the Israeli public to process this picture, but I have no doubt that is the reality. And although I don’t think Netanyahu has the will to and courage for peace, I believe some processes are greater than any person.”

Yuval acknowledges that the image of Israelis in Palestinian eyes is negative and frightening just as the image of Palestinians in Israeli eyes is rejectionist and unyielding. Palestinians see all Israelis as settlers and soldiers with weapons, just as Israelis see Palestinians as unwilling to compromise. For peace to come both sides must change and evolve.

Yuval said: “We offer a different horizon and help change consciousness…I don’t know to what extent our actions help bring peace but I do know that in the chaos, this is the biggest small step I can make.”

See Road to Recovery website at http://www.roadtorecovery.org.il/

See three videos at https://projectrozana.org/video/ entitled “Road to Recovery,” “Zubin Mehta,” and “Transportation.”

 

 

 

Jacob’s Dream and His Emergence into a Man of Faith

Marc Chagall’s Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s destiny was set from birth and would come at a price. As his mother Rebekah’s troubled twin pregnancy came to an end and the babies were born, Jacob holding Esau’s heel suggested a strong pre-natal desire to be born first and become the future leader of the tribe. In a clever commentary, Rashi (11th century, France) says that the scene reflects a primogeniture truth, that Jacob was actually conceived first, though he came out second, much as a pebble dropped into a tube first will come out second when the tube is inverted.

Despite being second-born, Jewish tradition asserts that Jacob’s spiritual potential merited his assuming first-born rights, and it also suggests that Rebecca knew that her other son Esau, a hunter, lacked the requisite sensitivity, gentility, vision, and prophetic capacity to lead the tribe, whereas Jacob possessed all those virtues.

Jacob’s dream event that opens this week’s portion Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-22) signals the beginning of a new stage in Jacob’s life. He had just fled in fear from an enraged Esau, was alone in the mountains, unsure of himself and exhausted. He fell asleep and dreamed of ladders and angels.

This dream sequence is filled with powerful religious imagery, suggestion and mythic archetypes. The stones Jacob placed under his head are symbolic of what Carl Jung called the Ego, the limited “I” of Jacob, a man still unaware of the implicate order in the universe that links the material and metaphysical worlds.

The top of the ladder represents what Jung called the integrated Self which unifies the conscious and unconscious into a non-dualistic cosmos.

When Jacob went to sleep using stones as a pillow, we suspect that something unusual is about to happen, that he’s on the cusp of new self-consciousness. Lo and behold, he sees angels ascending (representing his yearning for something greater than himself) and angels descending (representing God’s outreach towards him), Rabbi Heschel’s idea of prophetic empathy and God’s pathos.

When Jacob awoke from the dream and opened his eyes, he was astonished: “Surely God is in this place, va’anochi lo yadati, and I did not know it! … How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and this is the gateway to heaven.” (28:16-17)

The beginning of any religious experience requires us to understand that we know nothing at all. In Hebrew “I” is ani (anochi is a variant form), and when we rearrange the letters – aleph, nun, yod – we spell ain, which means “nothing”). The religious person must transform the “I” of the  ego into a great Self in which we become part of God’s Oneness. Jacob’s sudden awareness results in his newfound humility and is a prerequisite to the development of his faith.

Despite the spiritual potency of this experience, Jacob remains unaware (i.e. he lacks access to his full unconscious) and his faith is conditional. He says, “If God remains with me, if God protects me…, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe … the Eternal shall be my God.” (28:20-21)

One of the consistent themes throughout the Genesis narrative is that in order for the Biblical figures to grow in faith they had to suffer trials. As a protected child of his mother, Jacob had been pampered. However, in being forced to flee for his life from the brother he wronged, Jacob became aware of the shadow (Jung’s term denoting that part of the unconscious consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings and instincts) in which he lived and which would envelop him for the next twenty years. Then he met a being divine and human at the river Jabbok and emerged with a new name, Yisrael – the one who perseveres with God.

From Jacob’s birth to next week’s encounter at the river we witness the patriarch’s evolution from the unconsciousness of his childhood to greater awareness, from a self-centered trickster to the bearer of the covenant. As he progressed he learned to view the world through the eyes of faith as he stood at heaven’s gate.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

President Trump’s Order Discriminates Against Muslims and Harms Members of all Faiths

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I have signed again on with 60 interfaith leaders and religious organizations as part of Amici Curiae, an interfaith group of religious and inter-religious organizations and clergy, who are supporting the plaintiffs-appellees against President Donald Trump to affirm the district court’s injunction restricting implementation of Proclamation No. 9645: “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public Safety Threats,” 82 Fed. Reg. 45, 161 (September 24, 2017).

I have joined with 9 rabbis, the Union for Reform Judaism (representing 900 Reform synagogues in America), the Central Conference of American Rabbis (representing 2000 Reform Rabbis), Women of Reform Judaism (representing 65,000 women), the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, The New Israel Fund, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, The American Jewish World Service, the National Council of Jewish Women (representing 90,000 women) individual synagogues, churches, and a variety of Christian and Muslim Organizations as “Friends of the Plaintiffs against President Donald Trump” because we believe that his misguided order to increase vetting of immigrants to the United States is “intended to target Muslims in particular,” “to harm Muslims,” and “to violate the core Constitutional principle that is critical to the free exercise of all faith traditions in the United States” according to the First Amendment of the Constitution.

This Amici Curiae brief was filed in the Federal Fourth Circuit Court on November 17, 2017.

The following is language written in the brief:

“This order offends the fundamental tenets of all three monotheistic faith traditions including the Golden Rule, the imperative to welcome the stranger, and the belief that every individual has inherent value and dignity by virtue of being created in the divine image. Our faith traditions compel us to assist immigrants, particularly immigrants fleeing unjust persecution.

All our religious traditions have experienced prejudice against us and persecution, and it is out of our historic experience and our moral and religious values and our perception that Trump’s order is deliberately targeting the entire Muslim community that we shout “We protest….

This order recalls the infamous event in 1939 when a ship carrying 900 Jewish men, women and children fleeing Nazi Germany was turned away from our shores. This ship was forced to return to Europe  and more than 25% of its passengers perished in the Holocaust….

All of our Amici understand exactly what the Trump Order is about – an official act of discrimination on the basis of religion. Trump said during the Presidential Campaign of 2016 that there ought to be “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our representatives can figure out what is going on.”  He also said “Islam hate us” and that “we’re having problems with the Muslims….

Trump’s order also has ostracized those who simply want to practice their faith freely and live peacefully as neighbors, students, colleagues, families, and members of their community. It has contributed to an environment in which Muslims are increasingly subject to violence, harassment, and discrimination because of their faith. An FBI report has discovered that while hate crimes have risen by 6% overall in the United States, anti-Islamic bias has increased by 26.5% in 2012….

The Order’s near-absolute ban on entry by citizens of the seven countries it names is entirely contrary to the Golden Rule as well as the religious calling to welcome the stranger. Amici understand that the people barred by the Order are mothers and fathers, children and grandparents; they are clerics, congregants, shopkeepers, and students. Each one’s life is sacred-each a unique expression of the divine and a common member of humanity.”

 

“Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to His children and the Millennial Generation” – Reading and Book Signing – November 27 at 7 PM – Chevaliers Bookstore, Los Angeles

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Chevaliers Books is the oldest independent book store in Los Angeles and is located at 126 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004 in Hancock Park.

I would love to see you there!

“Why Judaism Matter – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to His Children and the Millennial Generation” with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove is now available for purchase on Amazon.com (publishing date – October 10). This book is a collection of thirteen letters offering a common sense guide and roadmap for a new generation of young men and women who find Jewish orthodoxy, tradition, issues, and beliefs impenetrable in 21st Century society. It is published by Jewish Lights Publishing, a division of Turner Publishing.

Endorsements

“Rabbi Rosove’s letters to his sons are full of Talmudic tales and practical parables, ancient wisdom with modern relevance, spiritual comfort, and intellectual provocation. Whether his subject is faith, love, intermarriage, success, Jewish continuity or the creation of a meaningful legacy, you’ll find yourself quoting lines from this beautiful book long after you’ve reached its final blessing.” – Letty Cottin Pogrebin, writer, speaker, social justice activist, author of eleven books including Debora, Gold, and Me: Being Female & Jewish in America, a founding editor of  Ms. Magazine, a regular columnist for Moment Magazine, and a contributor of op-eds in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Toronto Star, and LA Times, among other publications.

 “John Rosove does what so many of us have struggled to do, and does it brilliantly: He makes the case for liberal Judaism to his children. As Rosove shows, liberal Judaism is choice-driven, messy, and always evolving, “traditional” in some ways and “radical” in others. It is also optimistic, spiritual, and progressive in both personal and political ethics. Without avoiding the hard stuff, such as intermarriage and Israel, Rabbi Rosove weaves all of these strands together to show the deep satisfactions of living and believing as a liberal Jew. All serious Jews, liberal or otherwise, should read this book.” Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism and a regular columnist for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.

“Rabbi John Rosove has given a gift to all of us who care about engaging the next generation in Jewish life. The letters to his sons are really love-letters from countless voices of Jewish wisdom across history to all those young people who are seeking purpose in their lives. From wrestling with God, to advocating for peace and justice in Israel and at home, and living a life of purpose, this book is a compelling case for the joy of being Jewish.” – Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.

“Rabbi John Rosove gets it. Here is a religious leader not afraid to tell it like it is, encapsulating for his audience the profound disaffection so many young Jews feel towards their heritage. But instead of letting them walk away, he makes a powerful case for the relevance of tradition in creating meaningful lives. In our technology-saturated, attention-absorbing age, Rosove offers religion-as-reprieve, his fresh vision of a thoroughly modern, politically-engaged and inclusive Judaism.” – Danielle Berrin, columnist and cover-story journalist for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, commentator on CNN and MSNBC, and published work for The Guardian, British Esquire, and The Atlantic.

 “If you’re a fellow Reform millennial, give yourself the gift of John’s insights. This book is written in a breezy, gentle, readable style that is welcoming without losing sharp insight. It was so enjoyable and refreshing to read and persuasive without ever being pushy. Rosove managed to do what only a truly worthy slice of kugel or chance viewing of Fiddler has done for me; reactivate my sense of wonder and gratitude about being Jewish. I’m a huge fan of WJM.” – Jen Spyra, staff comedy writer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS), former senior writer for The Onion, actress, and stand-up comedian. Jen’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Daily News, and The Daily Beast, and has been featured by The Laugh Factory Chicago’s Best Standup Show Case.

“Rabbi Rosove has written a wonderful book, a love letter to his children, and through them, to all our children. Prodigiously knowledgeable, exceedingly wise, and refreshingly honest, Rabbi Rosove has described why Judaism Matters. It should serve as a touching testament of faith, spanning the generations for generations to come.” – Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Senior Rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in NYC, former Executive Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America-World Union for Progressive Judaism, author of One People, Two Worlds: A Reform rabbi and an Orthodox rabbi explore the issues that divide them with Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Reinman.

“Rabbi Rosove has written a book of the utmost importance for our time. It is an imperative read for all those who struggle with the changing and evolving attitudes towards belonging, behavior and belief.  His analysis, stemming from deeply personal contemplation and decades of rabbinic experience, offers clear yet sophisticated approaches to tackling the challenges facing this generation and those to come. This book offers a treasure of wisdom through the lens of Jewish texts – both ancient and modern – which help to frame life’s major issues taking the reader from the particular to the universal. Israel is one of the most complicated of issues and he bridges the divide between Israel’s critics and staunch supporters and moves beyond the conversation of crisis for the millennial generation.” – Rabbi Joshua Weinberg, President of the Association of Reform Zionists of America

“John Rosove’s letters to his sons based on his life, philosophy, and rabbinic work address what it means to be a liberal and ethical Jew and a lover of Israel in an era when none are automatic. He writes in an unassuming personal style steeped in traditional texts as he confronts conflicts of faith and objectivity, Zionist pride and loving criticism of the Jewish state, traditional observance and religious innovation. He is never gratuitous and invites his readers into his family conversation because what he says is applicable to us all.” – Susan Freudenheim, Executive Director of Jewish World Watch,  journalist, former managing Editor of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, and a former editor at the Los Angeles Times.

See 11 Reader 5 Star Reviews at Amazon.com