Guest Post

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.

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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.

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“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 →

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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 →

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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, 3 comments

Unpacking Fault Lines in Israel

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.  These outside pieces are brought because their ideas are worth struggling with even as they might challenge us.

Since we are about to say, “Next year in Jerusalem” and our congregational theme is Israel, I want to point our attention towards Israel.  I am proud Beth El is a community which is unwavering in its love and commitment to Israel as it also recognizes Israel’s complexities.  In that vein, I want to offer a thought-provoking podcast produced by The Forward called “Fault Lines.”  The series is an on-going conversation between Daniel Gordis and Peter Beinart.  Respectively, Gordis and Beinart have come to represent the Right and Left political streams of American Jewry regarding Israel.

Gordis and Beinart state in the podcast they want to model a relationship which may be energized by disagreement but grounded in respect for the other.  They are united in their mutual commitment to a strong and secure Jewish State though they disagree on how that is actualized.

Here is a link to their first Podcast: Fault Lines with Daniel Gordis and Peter Beinart  (Click on this link or the graphic above.)

At Beth El, let us never shy from expressing our love of the Jewish State, voicing our opinions on policies as needed, and never forget or become indifferent towards Israel and Jerusalem.

Le’shanah ha’ba’a b’Yerushalayim — Next year in Jerusalem,
Rabbi Greg Harris

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