Knesset OK of Pluralistic Prayer Ban Has Far Reaching Consequences

The Western Wall, with crowd in front and Jerusalem Skyline beyond.

The Western Wall

Imagine being invited to a party. Of course, you knew that you would be invited since you are related to the celebrants. In fact, you helped pay for the party. Even though you are an out of town guest, you have been in touch with the hometown family, following their lives, investing in their businesses, and supporting their decisions. Whether or not you agree with them, you have been there for them and with them – always with unwavering devotion. That is what you expect of yourself as a member of this large extended family.

After entering the dance hall, you approach a table with place-cards arranged alphabetically. It is strange that your place at a table is not listed. As the band plays, the celebrants dance the hora. You, however, are told to stand to the side. [Read more…]

The Rabbi walked out on the Shiva

The Minyan by Nancy Schon

“The Minyan” by sculptor Nancy Schon

I recently went to pay a Shiva call. Among the small group was an orthodox rabbi. We chatted and waited for a minyan to arrive. We made a couple of phone calls as the minyan was not materializing. To the surprise of some people in the room, the rabbi announced he was leaving.

Someone demanded to know how that rabbi could do something so outrageous; so disrespectful. Just who does he think he is anyway?

On the contrary, I answered. The rabbi is acting with respect for the mourners. How can you say that? Because I continued, the rabbi cannot share certain prayers absent a minyan and he cannot be counted in a minyan unless it includes only men. We will only have a minyan if we count the women, so the rabbi did the only thing he thought he could do under the circumstances, he left and essentially gave us permission to proceed. It might seem strange to some, but he was being respectful of his beliefs and the beliefs of those who were in mourning. In that moment, he found a way to uphold both.

minyanThere is room here to reflect on whether the decision was the correct one. Could not the rabbi have permitted himself to be counted for our purposes, never considering for himself that he has fulfilled his obligation? Wouldn’t the comfort of his presence as a close family friend override his interpretation of his obligation to his particular personal practice?

The important point is he found a workaround that in his mind upheld his competing duties as he understood them. Then it was up to me to be respectful of the decision whether I agreed or not. Here was a moment that could have created separation as easily as it could create community. It required both “sides” of the conversation to decide which one it was.

Putting the High Back into the High Holidays at P’nai Or

— by Tobie Hoffman

This fall, in Summit Church’s Fellowship Hall, a High Holiday gathering unlike anything you may have ever experienced will unfold again, as P’nai Or – the Mt. Airy Jewish renewal congregation whose name means “Faces of Light” – offers High Holiday services of a different stripe to seekers of all backgrounds.

The High Holidays at P’nai Or are Jewish renewal at its best,” said Rabbi Marcia Prager who has been co-leading these festive gatherings, along with many talented P’nai Or members, for eighteen years. “We blend traditional liturgy with uplifting heart-opening poetic translations so that Hebrew and English prayers flow intertwined with each other. The music is profound – deep, high and sweet in a way that caresses your soul. And of course, everyone is included. There is passionate prayer, quiet meditation, opportunities to reflect and do some pretty deep inner work, and also time to share, to be creative and even make some new friends.”

More after the jump.
P’nai Or High Holidays are a great introduction to the themes of this season in the Jewish year, and to different styles and approaches to these themes that can make them even more powerful and personally relevant. “If you have grown past thinking of God as a judgmental King on a throne, and are ready for some of the more potent imagery that grows out of the Jewish mystical tradition, P’nai Or will be a refreshing change for you too,” said Abby Michaleski who came to P’nai Or after trying many different congregations.  

“I needed a more dynamic, more integrated way of understanding the creative life-force that I experience in the world and in my life. P’nai Or High Holidays takes the traditional liturgy and imagery and makes it soar in a way that is resonant with my experience. Boy was this a wow.”

“I wanted an informal, really friendly environment where I could have a spiritual experience, and also bring my kids” said Sam Steinig and his wife Rodi, who come with their daughters. The P’nai Or Children’s Program runs through the holiday, offering a blend of childcare and High Holiday activities and projects for children. We can bring our kids into the service to be with us, and also let them be with other kids and have educational fun.”

The themes of celebrating life and re-aligning with the Power that promotes goodness are strong currents at these gatherings.  The High Holidays invite us to work together for forgiveness, compassion, and shalom – which means wholeness, fulfillment and perfection, as well as peace. All the songs, all the prayers and all the inner work we do helps us heal our inner hurts and rededicate ourselves to be the best we can be, internally, in our relationships, and in the world.

Would you like to come? We would love to meet you! Because the sustainability of the P’nai Or community is dependent on dues and contributions, there is a suggested donation for attending. However, if this is your first experience with P’nai Or we invite you to make the donation that feels right to you. No one is ever turned away from a P’nai Or gathering for financial reasons.

Erev Rosh Hashana:  
WEDNESDAY evening, Sept. 28,  6 – 7:30 PM.
A short festive gathering: singing, davenen’, candle-lighting and apples & honey.

Rosh Hashana morning services:
THURSDAY morning, Sept. 29,  10 AM – 2 PM !
FRIDAY morning, Sept. 30,  10 AM – 2 PM  

A vegetarian dairy potluck lunch follows the service each day – please bring food to share.

Yom Kippur:
FRIDAY evening, Oct. 7,  6 – 9 PM.
Evening Service.  Kol Nidre – 6:15 Sharp!

SATURDAY Oct. 8,  10 AM – 9 PM.
Day service:  All day and evening including  Havdala  and  N’eila.
A vegetarian/dairy break-fast follows.  Please bring food to share.

Check our website for more info on P’nai Or, our community, our services,  and High Holiday registration. Or email: pnaiorrabbi@aol.com

Summit Church is on Greene and Westview in West Mt. Airy, one block from Lincoln Drive, and one block from Weaver’s Way Co-op. Services are in Fellowship Hall. Come in through the Greene St. Entrance and up the stairs! We look forward to meeting you!