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April 24, 2014 / 24 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Reform Temple’

Promised Land? Earn $50,000 and Be a Jew in Rural Alabama

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Jews are not a common sight in many southern rural towns, such as Dothan, Alabama, but a local businessman Larry Blumberg has a solution.

He has been offering Jews elsewhere $50,000 to move to Dothan to help keep the Jewish community alive. His condition for the grant is that families stay for five years.

His $1 million fund has brought six families with 18 people from New York, Florida and elsewhere, and the once-dying Jewish community now is alive and vibrant.

Now that $900,000 has been paid out to bring Jews to the rural south, the community soon will be on its own to draw more families or reproduce quickly, unless Blumberg has more money to invest in the project.

One of the newcomers is the small city’s new Reform congregational leader, Lynne Goldsmith. She moved from Connecticut to Alabama to lead the reform Temple Emanu-El about a year before the program began and thinks the idea could spread to other towns.

But Dothan is special.

Its name is the Hebrew word in the Book of Genesis (Bereisheit). It is the area where  Joseph’s brothers heeded their sheep before they kidnapped him and threw him into as pit, the event that put into gear the 400-plus year process that resulted in the aliyah of Jews from Egypt to Israel, with a 40-year layover in the Sinai Desert.

What does Dothan have to offer Jews?

It is the peanut capital of Alabama and hosted the National Peanut Festival every year, complete with beauty pageants, agricultural displays, and an arts and crafts show, amusement rides and plenty of non-kosher food stands.

There also is the Press Thornton Future Masters Golf Tournament in Jul and the annual Tri-State Barbecue Festival, pork ribs and all.

Goldsmith told CNN soon after she moved to Dothan “If you need a robust Orthodox community, we don’t have it. But if you want a community where your neighbors are friendly; where people smile at you in the grocery store even if they don’t know you, then Dothan’s for you.

That sounds like Israel.

Maybe Dothan, Alabama is the American Jews “Joseph’s pit,” 400 years before they move to Israel and live in the original Dothan, located in the area of the Jezreel Valley between Beit She’an and Afula

Didn’t Blumberg every think about moving to Israel and offer Jews $50,000 to make aliyah?

WoW, Charedim, and Learning from History

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

 Once again we are going to witness an event this Sunday that may become violent. Innocent people may be hurt. And the negative press for religious Jews could not be much worse.

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same experiment twice and expecting different results.

I am not going to accuse anyone of being insane. But I have to wonder how rabbis who many consider to be the greatest leaders of our generation can ask their adherents to protest the next appearance at the Kotel by the Women of the Wall (WoW) and not expect it to turn violent. Even if the chances are low – is it worth the chance?

Nor can I understand the stridency by which WoW insists on making their point. Two stubborn groups at odds with each other in matters of religion is a sure prescription for confrontation. The history from which we are supposed to learn will be ignored.

As most people who have been following these events know, WoW shows up at the Kotel every Rosh Chodesh to pray by using male modalities such as wearing a Talis and Teffillin; and bringing a Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) to read from. Although last month they avoided reading from the Torah in acquiescence to a request by Religious Services Minister, Naftali Bennett – they plan to resume doing so this Sunday.

As much as I believe that many members of WoW are sincere in their desire to pray at the Kotel in this manner, I don’t think there can be any doubt that this is more about asserting feminist rights than it is about prayer (especially by WoW leaders like Anat Hoffman).  They have found a clever way of doing this by technically not violating Halacha.

But I am hard pressed to believe WoW’s leaders did not think this would upset the sensibilities of the vast majority of Jews who do come there to pray in traditional ways. If they were truly sincere only about prayer and did not want to be provocative they would have respected tradition and found an area of the Kotel that was out of the way and not as disruptive.

It is indeed provocative for WoW to act in this manner in any traditional environment. This is certainly true at the Kotel, which is so near to the place where the holy of holies existed in the Temple era.  Does their right to wear a Talis and Teffilin override  the almost certain violence it will bring to this holy place? Do they really need this ‘Mexican standoff’? Is it worth it? Do they think their stridency is what God desires of them?

I understand that some women need to do more than simply pray. They need to wrap themselves in something tangible – like a Talis and Teffilin  to boost their sense of holiness. But in the end – using a male modality to generate that feeling is not what God intends for women… or He would have mandated those artifacts for them too.

How sadly lacking are these women in their Jewish education if they cannot generate the proper feelings for prayer that millions of women over the millennia have had without those artifacts.

I can’t predict the future. But my guess is that this type of thing is so out of the mainstream that it will not stand the test of time and eventually go the way of the Dodo Bird. I have to ask, how many religious women of any denomination would opt for this method of prayer?

Which is why I have been saying that we should just ignore them. Yes they are somewhat disruptive and annoying in their once a month appearance. But it is my true belief that this monthly occurrence will not last in perpetuity. It will fizzle out.

If the Charedi world will let it.

But they apparently refuse to let it happen. They have instead declared war on these women… and insist on making a public spectacle out of it. They are going to once again show up in massive numbers at the Kotel this Sunday to pray. The claim is that they just want to show how many people do not approve of WoW’s behavior and also to physically crowd them out. The JerusalemPost quotes the Yated Ne’eman who put it this way:

“A mass prayer service will be conducted at the Western Wall in order to express the outcry of faithful Judaism against the severe injury to the holiest and most beloved place of all of the Jewish people, and in so doing to declare… that the Jewish world will not be quiet and will not be reconciled to the humiliating conspiracy to turn the remnant of our holy sanctuary into a Reform temple and a media spectacle, God forbid,”

And then they said the following:

“(Worshipers) are requested not to be dragged along after the provocations whose only purpose is to harm the community of worshipers, and to behave according to the path of the holy Torah and to sanctify God’s name.

First they approve of theYated making a provocative statement  like calling WoW’s actions a ‘humiliating conspiracy’ and then they expect protesters not to get violent. They have even asked that only married Yeshiva students should come in order to minimize the potential for physical conflict.

Sure… That’ll work! The same way it did last time they called for peaceful prayer. Which was last month.  Need I remind anyone how well that turned out for them?
I hope I’m wrong. I hope that this will turn out to be as peaceful as the organizers hope it will be. Perhaps there will even be members of WoW that will be inspired by such a massive turnout for prayer and join them. Perhaps there will be no violence or shouting names at the Women of the Wall. But I am not going to hold my breath. I tend to look at history and learn from it.

Bomb Threats Close Classes at Two Houston Synagogues

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Bomb threats on two Houston synagogues Wednesday closed classes, one day after a similar threat on a court forced a quick evacuation.

The synagogue bomb threats were called in to called in to Congregation Beth Israel, a Reform temple, and the Conservative Congregation Or Ami on Wednesday afternoon.

Both synagogues canceled Hebrew school classes for Thursday but said they would reopen Friday with more security. Officials searched the buildings and did not find anything suspicious.

The Houston Police Department, Anti-Defamation League, FBI and Department of Homeland Security all were notified about the threats, Congregation Beth Israel told the Houston Chronicle.

A message on the Beth Israel website said that a congregational dinner scheduled for Friday night was canceled; it did not say if the cancellation was related to the bomb threat.

Tuesday’s bomb threat on the HoustonMunicipalCourtsBuilding resulted in the evacuation of several courtrooms.

No explosive device was found.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/bomb-threats-close-classes-at-two-houston-synagogues/2013/05/02/

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