Guest Post

It’s Not My Typical Wednesday

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. This week’s blog is written by Elisha Frumkin, Beth El’s education director, while chaperoning the inaugural Sorkin Youth Trip to Israel.

Yesterday was not my typical Wednesday.

Making pita on an open fire does not usually happen in Montgomery County but today I found myself avoiding the smoke of a fire and enjoying a  lunch of pita, hummus, a variety of salads, and spaghetti, sitting at the base of a giant sand dune. We, or I should say the 18 teen participants on the Sorkin Israel Youth Trip, Matthew Jacobson, a BERS alum and Rabbi Harris, sand surfed down the dune at occasional breakneck speeds.  The entire day was outdoors. We began at Machtesh Ramon, the massive crater in the middle of the Negev desert. Then this afternoon at a dune we reached after turning off the highway at a completely unmarked location, driving through the desert over bumpy landscape, and arriving at a food truck, a Jeep, and a sign inscribed with “Welcome to the Middle of Nowhere.” Continue reading →

Posted by Elisha Frumkin in Guest Post, 1 comment

Hanukkah in Green

Military service members lighting Chanukah candles while deployed

The fifth week of the month is a wildcard in our blog schedule.  As Hanukkah begins this Sunday night, let’s think about the holiday from a new angle.  Jewish service members are deployed around the globe this Hanukkah.  Hopefully they will be able to enjoy a jelly donut, light the candles and appreciate their role in securing our freedoms… including the freedom to be proudly Jewish as the ancient Maccabees did long ago.

 

 

How the U.S. military‏ got a taste of Hanukkah miracles

By David Geffen

11/28/2018

Jerusalem Post

When Dov Peretz Elkins was ordained a rabbi at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1964, he entered the US Army as a chaplain and was assigned to Fort Gordon, just outside of Augusta, Georgia. Elkins, who made aliyah with his wife Maxine several years ago, recently reminisced about developing a Hanukkah program for 18- and 19-year-old trainees from New York who were the majority of the Jewish personnel at his installation.

“These young men, drafted just after they finished high school, were away from home for the first time in their lives. This was a half a century ago, long before most Jewish high schoolers traveled extensively in their teens as they do now. The Jewish chaplain had his work cut out for him. Since these soldiers were searching for something to fill their lives, I was presented with an opportunity to touch them Jewishly.”

Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 0 comments

Thankful Traditions

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

Judaism is filled with traditions.  Some are public events in synagogues while many more are family focused activities at home.  Thanksgiving is an American holiday filled with bountiful opportunities to create ‘Jewish’ moments at home.  As American Jews, we have many reasons to be grateful.  A Jewish moment may be reciting motzei over the crescent rolls thus marking the special meal but we can also be intentional in creating family experiences of thankfulness. Click here for a prayer written by Rabbi Debra Cantor which you can use at your table.  Below is also a blog by Cambria Bold about setting new rituals for Thanksgiving.  While it is not explicitly Jewish, many of the moments she writes about are exactly how we can use Shabbat each week.

Let’s cherish our time with family and friends this Thanksgiving and Shabbat the next evening. Whatever your plans are for the holiday, be grateful, be generous, and be proud to be living in America. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 0 comments

Seeing Beyond God’s Gender

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

I am bringing a blog by Dr. Joy Ladin who is the Gottesman Professor of English at Yeshiva University.  Reflecting on her own journey with gender, she invites us to see God in an expanded way – beyond the language of He or Him.  As I read this, I am reminded how people are continually able to find themselves reflected in the Tanach.   Our sacred texts can inspire, comfort, and nurture a sense of belonging when we invest ourselves in our ancient verses.

Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 0 comments

It Didn’t Always Rain on Sukkot

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

This year feels like a Sukkah Wash-Out… but it didn’t always rain.  Below is a 2014 Sukkot reflection from Rabbi Rachel Barenblat who has been blogging as the Velveteen Rabbi since 2003.  Her blog takes on many current issues.  She lives in western Massachusetts.

Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 2 comments

Unicorns in the Hebraic Section of the Library of Congress

The Reading Room at the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress

One of my favorite places in all of Washington, D.C. is the Library of Congress.  My first visit was in 1981 and it has been a recurring joy and fascination for me ever since.  While on sabbatical a number of years ago, I chose to immerse myself within the riches of the Library’s Hebraic Section.  Below is a fascinating blog by Dr. Anchi Hoh, about unicorns (seriously) hidden within the library stacks.

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter.

Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 1 comment

“Soul-Searching After a Rabbi Was Detained in Israel” by Rabbi Daniel Gordis

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

I have spoken many times about the intertwined and complicated relationship American Jews have with Israel.  As Conservative Jews, it is no less so.  Conservative and Reform expressions of Judaism are not officially sanctioned in Israel and non-Orthodox rituals are recognized but not given official legal status.  As we continue to focus on Israel throughout the year, we will explore the internal struggles of Israel’s Jewish and national identities.  Rabbi Daniel Gordis, ordained a Conservative rabbi, is senior vice president and Koret distinguished fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. Author of 11 books, his latest is “Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn.”  — Rabbi Harris

 

Soul-Searching After a Rabbi Was Detained in Israel:

Is this the sort of nation Israelis want?

Rabbi Daniel Gordis

July 23, 2018 in Bloomberg

Almost a decade ago, shortly before their wedding, my daughter and her fiancé decided that the ceremony would not be performed by a rabbi associated with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. Both religiously observant, they found the Chief Rabbinate’s attitude to women and to non-Orthodox streams of Judaism reprehensible; they were determined to use the occasion of their wedding, at which numerous politically and socially prominent Israelis would be present, to make that point.

They asked me to perform the wedding. As a Conservative rabbi ordained in the U.S. (and thus not recognized by the Israeli Rabbinate), I technically violated Israel’s 1953 Marriage and Divorce Law. This can be punished with a two-year prison sentence. We made the occasional quip about my getting arrested for performing my own daughter’s wedding, but we were never worried. Many rabbis had done this before, and none had ever been arrested. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris, 1 comment

Is the Constitution Judeo-Christian?

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

ConstitutionThis week, all eyes have been focused on the US Constitution.  Not only did we hold primary elections this week (refer to Article 1 of the Constitution) but we began to absorb the implications of Chief Justice John Roberts majority opinion on upholding President Trump’s travel ban.  Further, we learned of the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court.

Opinions about the severe consequences of all these matters is pervasive but I thought it would be good to step back and look at the Constitution itself. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 0 comments

Remembering on Memorial Day

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend.  Memorial Day should not be just another day for hot dogs and barbecues though.  Memorial Day originated following the Civil War and was called Decoration Day.  Some claim it began in Waterloo, NY on May 5, 1866.  In 1971, Memorial Day became an official national holiday.  Too often, we are not sensitive enough to the true sacrifice men and women in uniform make in the name of our country.  Memorial Day is an opportunity as a nation to honor those who have died in the service of our country.  Jewish soldiers are among them. Below is a blog post from the National Museum of American Jewish History.  The museum is located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.

Cpl Roger Briskin

Cpl Roger Briskin

I hope you are touched by these letters and remember the deeper meaning of Memorial Day.  Many Jewish men and women have been moved by core Jewish values to service within the military. As Corporal Roger Briskin wrote below, we’re going to play quite a significant role in bringing this world to a place of peace.

May the memories of all the fallen ones bring humility, gratitude and an appreciation for the demands of a free nation.

Excerpt from “Friendship stronger than bullets”:

A small position, but put us all together and we’re going to play quite a significant role in bringing this world to a place of peace; knowing this I don’t mind the war so much, although I don’t really like being shot at… Click here to continue reading “Friendship stronger than bullets and bombs: the message of Cpl Roger Briskin.”

 

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 3 comments

Donating Life

This week is the fourth week of the month.  For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world.  These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

Organ donation saves lives and Jewish law allows us to donate.  Currently, 3 people in our community are waiting for kidney transplants and you might be able to help.  Evan Sultan, Jan Maxwell, and Dan Yastrov all suffer from Chronic Kidney Disease and require a transplant.  The special nature of kidney transplants is that ‘live donors’ are possible.  Since we are born with two kidneys, but only require one for healthy living, we have the opportunity to give a kidney to another.

It is a profound gift. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, 4 comments