Monday, November 29, 2004

Historic Decision for Same-Sex Benefits

Israeli Courts recently decided that Same-Sex partners have the right to inherit their deceased partner's estates. Excerpts from the beginning and end of the full article

The Nazareth District Court on Sunday handed down a landmark decision declaring that the survivor of a homosexual partner is entitled to inherit his or her estate as long as the deceased has not willed it to someone else....
According to Maman, the High Court handed down a landmark decision on equal rights for homosexual couples in the workplace in 1994, when it ruled that the benefits offered to the common-law partners of El Al employees should include same-sex, as well as heterosexual, couples.
Maman also said that Article 55 of the Inheritance Law, which granted common-law partners the same inheritance rights as married partners, was primarily aimed at helping common-law couples who could not marry because of religious law.
Although the law at the time was clearly aimed at heterosexual couples, it did not rule out homosexual couples. In fact, homosexual couples belong to the category of those who are prevented by matrimonial law from marrying.
Mike Hamel, chairman of the Association of Homosexuals and Lesbians, hailed the decision as "highly significant" and said he hoped that it would be the springboard for recognizing homosexual rights in other spheres of matrimonial law.

May all peoples live in countries with equal rights and privledges.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Central Holocaust Victims Database

Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority) recently launched The Central Holocaust Victims Database. This database lists about 3 million names of the 6 million Jews (and 11 million total) murdered by the Nazis. You can search for information about friends and family members or submit information about friends/family for the database. I put in the parents and siblings of a dear friend, rabbi and teacher of mine (who is the only person who grew up and lived in the town during the time the Nazis made it a ghetto to have survived - the rest of the town was mass murdered) and found his family. This is a valuable resource for remembering, honoring and educating.

May we learn the price of hatred and strive to remove hatred from the world.

Israeli Viewpoint on Divestment

Recent actions by the PC USA and various Universities (like Columbia) on the question of divestment from Israel led some at the recent General Assembly of United Jewish Communities to speak with Israeli officials for their viewpoint on the attempt of many to (falsely and biasly) equate Israel with Aparthaid South Africa. The resulting conversation is covered in a recent Ha'aretz article. Some excerpts from the article are,

A senior Israeli official who deals with the subject explained last week that the approach of the government was to try to keep the affair out of the headlines as much as possible. The Israeli assumption is that the threats of divestment are only of marginal practical importance, and that the American Jewish community can use its influence to moderate the harsh decisions. In this case, there is no point in providing free advertising for an anti-Israel approach. The burden of the struggle is therefore being borne by American Jews, and they can point for now to a certain degree of success.

...from the end of the article,

Supporters of the approach of the Israeli government, which prefers to ignore the issue, can point to the fact that during the four years since the start of the intifada, not a single dollar has been withdrawn from investments in Israel. But the American Jewish community sees a more worrisome picture, of which there are many examples - from annual conventions of students who support divestment, to discussions in the institutions of the Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Anglican churches in the United States, to the bitter battle against Caterpillar, manufacturer of the bulldozers used by the Israel Defense Forces to destroy homes and crops in the territories.

The success of the Jewish community in halting these initiatives for the time being is what enables Israel to treat the question of divestment as a curiosity, or as an internal American issue. But the very fact that discussion of the subject continues, and that the Christian churches belonging to the centrist denominations in the United States are moving away from support for Israel, is a warning signal, not only for the American Jewish community, but for Israeli decision-makers as well.

Read the entire article.

New Link - RAC Blog

I've added a new link to the list of Jewish Blogs on the left, RAC Blog. The RAC stand for the Religious Action Center. What is it? "The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) has been the hub of Jewish social justice and legislative activity in the nation's capital for over 40 years. It has educated and mobilized the American Jewish community on legislative and social concerns as an advocate in the Congress of the United States on issues ranging from Israel and international religious freedom to economic justice and civil rights, to international peace and religious liberty."

Read their blog to stay currrent on how events in Washington impact us as Jews.
Go, learn, be active and change the world!

Resources for Chanukkah

In under two weeks we will begin to celebrate Chanukkah. As you prepare to celebrate with your community, family and friends here is a website with a variety of programs and resources for all ages, Chaunkkah Resources Page.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

A Prayer for Thanksgiving

As we gather with friends and family for Thanksgiving, I invite you to add an payer to the Divine at the beginning of your meal. (Source is On the Doorposts of Your House, publsihed by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.)

Creative Source of all being, from You come our blessings from day to day and from year to year. The towering mountains and the shaded forests, the abundant streams and fruitful earth are Your gift to us. May we preserve this gift for our children, our grandchildren and all God's children, that they, too, may give thanks for the blessings that will be theirs.

For this land so richly blessed, we raise our voice in thanks. Your children have come to these shores from many lands in quest of liberty and new life. Many have been pilgrims to this western world. Here they found a safe haven, soil on which to prosper, and the opportunity to outgrow old fears and superstitions. For our country for its freedom promised, attained, and yet to be enlarged, for the richness of its natural blessings, and for a growing harmony that we pray will ever increase among its citizens, we give thanks.

God of justice and right, inspire all who dwell in our land with loyalty to the ideals of its founders. Give us wisdom and strength to labor for its well-being, on the firm foundation of justice and truth. Fill us with the spirit of kindness, generosity, and peace, that this land may be a beacon of light to many peoples. Return home our nation's sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, speedily and safely.

We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, for You cause bread to come forth from the earth.
Ba-ruch ata Adonai Ehloheinu mehlech haolam, hamotzi lehchem min haaretz. Amen.

What does Judaism say about Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Today citizens across the U.S.A. gather with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving. The roots of the holiday are told to extend back to the colonial period of this country and a peaceful meal shared between the Native Americans (whose diverse and vibrant society and culture lived across this land for centuries before the Europeans came) and the early colonists. There is some historical evidence that the first Thanksgiving in early October of 1621 around the time of Succot, our fall harvest festival. The consumption of fall foods, at a table filled with family, friends and guests both echo Succot. (A harevest festival in which we sit in booths decorated from the harvest, consuming harvest foods with ushpizin, guests joining us.)

A number of articles by colleagues and scholars detail these similarities.
Thanksgiving and Its Jewish Roots by Rabbi Alfredo
The first Jew to come to North America
Finding a Jewish Thanksgiving (Resources for all ages)
UPDATED link - Thanksgiving Roots in Jewish Holiday

What does Judaism say about celebrating secular holidays?
Overview to Secular Holidays
Is Thanksgiving Kosher? A Look at Jewish Law

Now for some Kosher Recipes for Thanksgiving
Recipes from
UPDATED link - Give Thanksgiving a Jewish Flavor

May your celebration of this day be filled with love, joy, good food and friendship.
(see the next post for a prayer to share at your table)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Condemning Threats Against the Presbyterian Church USA

On October 22nd, I posted about the problematic nature of the Presbyterian Church (USA) divestiture of funds from Israel and meeting with the known terrorist organization Hizbollah. Recently there were some arson threats against Presbyterian Churches presumably in response to the Church's actions. Such arson threats are inexcusable. Violence and the threat of violence is not an appropriate response to this kind of intolerance on the part of the leadership of the PC USA. Yesterday leaders of the Reform movement issued a statement about these threats.

Reform Jewish Movement Condemns Threats Against the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Yoffie and Saperstein: We are disgusted and outraged by those who have threatened to use violence and arson against Presbyterian churches to protest the Presbyterian Church's (USA) recent steps toward divestment from Israel.

New York, November 14, 2004: In response to threats of violence and arson against Presbyterian churches in protest the Presbyterian Church's (USA) recent steps toward divestment from Israel, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:

We are disgusted and outraged by those who have threatened to use violence and arson against Presbyterian churches to protest the Presbyterian Church's (USA) recent steps toward divestment from Israel. The thugs who have made these reprehensible threats are far outside the mainstream of American Jewry, and we, the largest branch of American Judaism, condemn them forcibly, vigorously, and unequivocally.

We will, of course, continue to raise concerns about the Presbyterian Church's (USA) policy, but, at the same time, we stand with the Presbyterian community in denouncing these threats. They have no place, no place, in public debate.

Link for the full text of the Press Release.

May the day come soon when all peoples and faiths respect each other and may God bring peace to Israel and the Palestinian people.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Preview of this week's Torah Commentary

Shalom to everyone. Thanks for being here.

This week's Torah portion is Toldot, a word which here means "generations". This week's parashah is filled with disfunctional family elements in multiple generations. Please check back in coming days for a full commentary of my take on this aspect of the portion.

Wishing you a day of shalom (peace) and sheleimut (wholeness)

Monday, November 01, 2004

A Prayerful Context to Voting

Many of us will be praying for election results to be as we hope! The choices we make will have consequences on local, state, national and international arenas.

Velveteen Rabbi has a wonderful posting on the sacred potential of voting. I strongly encourage you to read it. She ends with a prayer by Rabbi David Seidenberg. I will be taking it with me to the polls tomorrow morning and will recite it between voting and working the morning shift at my polling place. (For a local issue, although I will also keep my eyes open for people who are being disenfrachised from voting in this swing state.)

Here is a link to the prayer on Velveteen Rabbi's site. Or, if you'd rather have a link to a PDF of the prayer click here.


Happy blogiversary

Happy blogiversary to Islamicate.
One of the joys of the rabbinate is engaging in Interfaith dialogue, discussion and learning. By learning from each other we break down stereotypes and foster understanding.

May we learn from each other and add to peace in the world.

More Terror

It has happened again. A young Palestinian has been a "martyr" for his people and murdered at least 3 Israelis, killed himself and wounded 32.

You can read a Ha'aretz news report.

There is so much I could say, but mostly I feel sad and like so much of it has been said before.

May G-d help us find a true and lasting peace.

With prayers for the souls of the departed, for their families and for all those who have been injured.

UPDATE: The pain of the bombing is added to, for it was a place of co-existance as explained in this Jerusalem Post article which includes the comment,

"Jews and Arabs have been working at the market for over forty years, and there has never been an instance of hatred between us," storeowner Ofer Shmueli also said.