Tisha B’Av and Tips for an Easy Fast

Cartoon of two men discussing Tisha Be'Av. Credit: Drybones.

Courtesy of Yaakov Kirschen.

Tonight is Erev Tisha B’Av, the eve of the 9th Day of Av, one of the most solemn days in the Jewish calendar. Tisha B’Av is the anniversary of numerous tragedies in Jewish history. For example,

  • The report of the 12 spies.
  • The destruction of King Solomon’s Holy Temple by the Babylonians (422 BCE).
  • The destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans (68 CE).
  • The defeat of the Bar Kochba revolt (132 CE).
  • The declaration by Pope Urban II of the First Crusade (1095 CE).
  • The expulsion of English Jews (1290 CE).
  • The expulsion of Spanish Jews (1492 CE),
  • The start of World War I (1914 CE).
  • The beginning of mass deportation from the Warsaw Ghetto (1942 CE), and
  • The bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires (1994 CE).

To commemorate these events, Jews fast for 25 hours and refrain from bathing, wearing leather shoes and engaging in marital relations. This fast is probably the most difficult of the year: The sun sets so late making the fast seem longer. The summer heat can dehydrate you. But most of all, unlike Yom Kippur, when you are surrounded by fellow Jews who are also fasting and busy with the liturgy, most Jews continue their daily routines on Tisha B’Av and are confronted with reminders of food.

According to Ira Milner:

While some people fast with little difficulty, most of us expect to feel more or less bedraggled after only a few hours. If fasting means headaches and assorted misery for you, it might be the fault of what you eat or drink beforehand. A few simple precautions in planning your pre-taanit menu could make all the difference.

Here is a summary of Ira Milner’s recommendations:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. 8-10 glasses of water (or other non-caffeinated beverage).
  • Small portions of animal proteins.
  • Increase starch and carbohydrates: Whole grain-bread, cereals, pasta, potatoes, legumes, unsalted popcorn.
  • Increase fiber: Vegetables and fruits with edible skins or seeds.
  • Decrease salt.
  • Avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, sodas)
  • Avoid fried or spicy foods.

When is the Media Going to Treat Israel as an Indigenous First Nation? When Jews Act Like It Is!

KotelBirkatHacohanimThe Jews are a people and Judaism is their religion. The Land of Israel is their ancestral homeland, with an unbroken history of 3,500 years. The Jews in Israel are a modern nation, having gained their independence from Great Briton in 1948.

Israeli Jews as indigenous people have native rights which they should assert. Israel has the deepest, most abundant roots of any people in the land, whether the mainstream media, UN, EU, NGOs, Arabs, Muslims, Anti-Zionists or Anti-Semites want to believe it or not.

So, where do Jews get their title deed to the Land of Israel? From the Bible, archeological proof, and even the Qu’ran. And from modern international law via the San Remo Conference in 1920, and subsequently the United Nations in 1947. Many Arab nations were also created around this time to give expression to their indigenous rights.

Interestingly, the Supreme Muslim Council — led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husayni, Hitler’s ally and one of the Arab world’s most vicious anti-Semites — published yearly guide books from 1924 to 1950 stating that the Temple Mount’s al-Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) “identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which David built there an altar unto the Lord and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings.”

Despite being persecuted, tormented, conquered and dispersed from their nation-state numerous times throughout history by many, including Greeks, Romans and Ottoman Turks, there were always Jews living in the land of Israel. Israel was never ruled even one day by an Arab state.

In January 2012, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed the Levy Commission to study the legal status of Israeli building in Judea and Samaria (i.e., “the West Bank”). In sum, it found: “Our basic conclusion is that from the point of view of international law, the classical laws of ‘occupation’ as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades.”

However, this Commission’s work has been marginalized by the Israeli government in an appeasement to the sensitivities of the “international community” who do not recognize the sovereignty of Israel over the land. This, of course, includes the areas to which Jews are told they have no rightful claim and yet are in the cradle of Jewish history: the Old City of Jerusalem, The Temple Mount and Kotel; Hebron, where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is located; Shilo, where the Tabernacle stood; Joseph’s Tomb; and Rachel’s Tomb among many other sites.

Who are the “Palestinian Arabs?” The vast majority are not native to the land, and in fact cannot even trace their lineage back more than four or five generations. Most came from foreign regions only when the Jews started to rebuild and reclaim the land and make it flourish as an economic powerhouse starting at the turn of the 20th century. Until the formation of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) in 1964, those Arabs who lived in Israel, Gaza and Judea and Samaria (i.e., the “West Bank” which was illegally annexed by Jordan in 1950) referred to themselves not as “Palestinians” but as Syrians or merely Arabs. These Arabs are little different in culture, religion and language than those from neighboring Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. The term “Palestinian” to them and the world, before the re-establishment of the State of Israel, meant “Jews.” In fact, the Arabs of the Palestine Mandate already have a state: Jordan. Jordan comprises 78% of the Palestine Mandate, which was designated by the international community to be the nation-state of the Jewish People. Jordan has a population which is 2/3 Palestinian Arab. Moreover, the Arabs have rejected a state of their own, with a capital in eastern Jerusalem, the “West Bank” and Gaza six times since 1937.

Ryan Bellerose Native Canadian Zionist

Ryan Bellerose, Native Canadian Zionist.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to see things which should be evident to us. Ryan Bellerose is a gentile from Canada. He is of mixed Native and European ancestry. He is an advocate for indigenous people, including the original inhabitants of Canada from whom he is descended. And he is also an advocate for Jewish Israelis, the indigenous people of Israel. He is the co-founder of Calgary United with Israel. According to him: “Everything that makes Jews Jewish — their spirituality, their traditions, their culture, their language, everything — it stems from Israel.” He elaborated further (“Unassailable” in Israellycool, Feb 14, 2016):

The reason Jewish identity is so integral to this struggle is simple – the other side is claiming that Israelis are not indigenous, that they are “white colonizers” who stole “Arab ancestral lands.” Now this claim is patently ridiculous to anyone with a 3rd grade education and a commensurate reading level, but sadly often the Jewish people’s own actions and reactions suggest that they themselves are not quite decolonized enough to claim their birthright and heritage. Many of them still see their identity through a white European lens, rather than a Middle Eastern lens, and this leads not only to massive confusion but lost opportunities such as at the Temple Mount and now in Judea and Samaria.

I have documented Jewish indigenous status beyond any reasonable doubt. I have given you the language and hopefully the knowledge to defend the position, but YOU must internalize your identity. YOU must decide to decolonize and then YOU must decide what that means to YOU and your people.

It’s really simple – you are Jews, your culture is ancient, your traditions date back three thousand years and your spirituality is intertwined with both. Only you can decide what you should be keeping and what you need to lose, but ask yourself, what would my ancestors say? Would they say ‘You needed those things in diaspora, but now you are home again and it’s time to evolve and become who you are meant to be’ or would they say ‘Stay as the diaspora made you out of necessity?’ I believe you are meant to be a ‘Light unto the Nations,’ to show us the way that indigenous people are supposed to evolve while maintaining the core of your identity. You have fought so hard to stay Jewish – literally hundreds of generations have lived and died to bring you to this point. Your ancestors fought, bled and died for you to remain Jews and even more recently for you to be able to go home as Jews to your ancestral lands. They didn’t do that so that you could be the end of it. They did it so that you could be the beginning, the beginning of a brave new world, one that is unassailable.

Now be invulnerable in your identity, then be invincible. THAT is your birthright. Unassailable.

As Ryan has noted, this is about our very identity, not merely about religion and spirituality. And it is a powerful story and example to all indigenous people.

We should be proud and act proud of the nation-state of the Jewish People and all its accomplishments, as it shares with the world its humanitarianism and high-tech know-how in medicine, biotechnology, agriculture and water reclamation. Israel is our ancestral homeland. We do ourselves no favors if we don’t treat ourselves with respect and instead, act wishy-washy and laissez-faire with regard to our rights. If we forfeit the language, we forfeit our heritage and our history—and deserve to.

Note: Ryan Bellerose will be speaking in Philadelphia on June 20.

Book Review: The Great Partnership

Perhaps Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is prescient or maybe he simply recognizes truths that are self-evident. Either way, his book, The Great Partnership: Science, Religion and the Search for Meaning, is as relevant today as it was when his work was first published five years ago. The timeliness and timelessness of issues presented by Rabbi Sacks and the manner in which he examines them bear the hallmark of a classic.

Although Rabbi Sacks is a man of the cloth, the tapestry of his writing is not all black and white; it is color rich. His thesis throughout the book is that science and religion are not opposing pursuits but complementary ones. He proposes that science is the search for an explanation of how things work; religion is the search for what they mean. To support his point of view he derives proofs from both science and religion.

He points out that science teaches us that there are two hemispheres to the brain the left and right and each half specializes in certain functions. The left brain deals with things, objects, and details while the right brain is concerned with subtlety, nuance, and meaning. According to Sacks, one side without the other would produce laws without mercy, technology without morality, and knowledge without wisdom.

As for God, Sacks states that whether or not we believe in Him, He believes in us. He asserts that creation is as wondrous as it is paradoxical, for what God would create a creature which can choose to disobey Him or not believe in Him at all? That is something science has failed to explain but religion has. For the Abrahamic religions teach us that we are created in the image of God, which enables us to discern between right and wrong and possess the free will to choose one over the other. Without free will coupled with the ability to ask ‘why,’ we would not be human; we would be like the animals, neither good nor bad and accountable to no one.

With the art of a poet and courage of an explorer, Sacks embarks upon discrediting moral relativism. He points out that secular morality was unable to withstand the onslaught of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia. But neither can society survive ruthless religious extremism. There are many ways to order society but the Judeo-Christian ethic has been the only one to succeed in the West. Its secret is that you must believe freedom is a right granted by God if you expect to wrest it from those who would deny it to you. To believe otherwise you would be at the mercy of capricious tyrants, heartless despots, and errant government bureaucrats.

Rabbi Sacks raises the question can an atheist be moral. His answer is yes. He contends that you need not believe in God to be good nor does being religious make you righteous. On the other hand, those societies that have adopted the secular state as their moral authority have spawned some of the worst of the worst genocidal tyrants in history such as Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. The problem with man defining absolutes in moral conduct is it depends on the whims of the moment. According to Sacks, the way to achieve continuity and sustainability of moral behavior from one generation to another is to follow the teachings of the eternal and immutable authority, God.

Rabbi Sacks does not shy away from presenting a variety of differing and even opposing opinions on the matter of the source of morality and the meaning in our lives. He presents the opinions of those with whom he agrees and those with whom he does not. He is eclectic in his citations; he provides a diversity of sources: Plato, Maimonides, Darwin, Nietzsche, Soloveitchik, Jung, Einstein and a host of others. Using that strange mix of minds, Sacks makes the case for the unique place the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) hold in world history. Much good and more than enough evil have been done in its name. Regrettably having God-given instructions of how man should treat his fellow man is not a guarantee those directives will be followed.

Rabbi Sacks believes that God created both the physical world and placed in it the spiritual man. As such we humans are made from the same stuff as the rest of creation. But we are the only life form which has been endowed with spirituality, for it was man who was bestowed with God’s gift of the breath of life.

Therefore, according to Rabbi Sacks, we have a special role to play in this imperfect world. Our charge in this life is to make the world, not only a better place, but a world as it should be, according to its Creator. Our search for meaning is our mission, and it can be achieved through “the great partnership” of science and religion working in concert to make the world complete, as God intended.

“The Archive Thief” Saved Rare Jewish Books During WWII

On Thursday, I attended a fascinating lecture at Drexel’s Judaic Studies department. The guest speaker was Lisa Moses Leff, whose new book, The Archive Thief: The Man Who Salvaged French Jewish History in the Wake of the Holocaust, is about Zosa Szajkowski, who single-mindedly rescued Jewish books and documents from Germany and France, as an immigrant American GI paratrooper during WWII.

Szajkowski brazenly used the U.S. Army free courier service to ship his parcels back — some two or three in a day — to New York, the last remaining branch of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. He continued to steal Jewish documents after the war and he financed his own scholarship by selling them piecemeal to Jewish institutions in the United States and Israel; the two top buyers were the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Hebrew Union College. He was eventually caught red-handed and he committed suicide in 1978.

When Dr. Leff, Associate Professor at American University, interviewed the elderly librarians who’d acquired the documents, knowing of their sketchy provenance, she found that they were proud of helping to rescue Jewish written material from the Nazis. However, some of the items were taken from institutions that survived the war, and there remain big gaps in the European archives. Everyone knew of Szajkowski in the library and archive community, but he was never publically named.

Ironically, the stolen documents have gained better care, having been catalogued and made available for scholarship. Indeed, when one librarian was asked about giving back the documents, he retorted that they — the European institutions — should pay for all the years of care and storage! Zosa Szajkowski, with his looting and his scholarship, singlehandedly established the field of Jewish historical research, using documents of ordinary Jews. So, do you think the end justifies the means?

Book Review: Pope Francis and Rabbi Skorka’s Interfaith Dialogue

— by Jonathan Kremer

Interfaith dialogue is often a challenge. A participant may feel a need to be “politically correct,” to pull punches, or to make every effort to present their own religion in the best light possible. True dialogue enables participants to “lower the defenses, to open the doors of one’s home and to offer warmth,” in the words of Pope Francis, without compromising one’s identity.

The book On Heaven and Earth is a collection of uncompromising dialogues between then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a community rabbi and rector of the Conservative Jewish center Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires.

The conversations between Cardinal Bergoglio and Rabbi Skorka covered a wide range of subjects, including God, religious leadership, prayer, same-sex marriage, science and Argentine political history. They agreed on much: the arrogance of the atheist and the unquestioning believer, religious leaders as teachers and guides, and the dangers of fundamentalism. They even concurred — after a charged exchange — that the Vatican must open its archives, so that lingering questions about the Church’s actions during the Holocaust might be answered.
[Read more…]

Jewish Renewal Movement Founder Dies at 89

— by Rivkah Walton

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Alliance for Jewish Renewal, passed away peacefully in his sleep the morning of July 3, 2014, at his home in Boulder, Colorado.

Growing up in Vienna, Schachter-Shalomi partook of numerous Jewish movements flourishing at the time — secular, Zionist, intellectual — well beyond his family’s Belzer Hassidic roots. Fleeing the Nazi onslaught, his family eventually made their way to New York in 1941. There, he studied to become an Orthodox rabbi and was ordained by the Lubavitch Hassidic (Chabad) yeshiva in 1947. The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, made him an emissary to college campuses.

Reb Zalman earned an MA in the psychology of religion from Boston University and a doctorate from the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College. His major academic work, Spiritual Intimacy: A Study of Counseling in Hasidism, was based on his doctoral research into the system of spiritual direction practiced in Chabad.After turning 60, he also pioneered the practice of “spiritual eldering,” working with fellow seniors on coming to spiritual terms with aging and becoming mentors for younger adults, as described in his book, From Age-Ing to Sage-Ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older (written with Ronald Miller).

Reb Zalman is widely considered the zaide, “grandfather” of the Havurah movement throughout North America. In 1968, he was instrumental in the founding of Havurat Shalom in Somerville, MA, an experimental rabbinical yeshiva that grew into a collective egalitarian spiritual community. The First Jewish Catalog, written by Havurat Shalom members Richard Siegel, Michael Strassfeld and Sharon Strassfeld (1973), helped popularize Reb Zalman’s eclectic, do-it-yourself, meaning-making approach to Jewish practice.

In 1978, he founded B’nai Or, “sons of light,” a name he took from the Dead Sea Scrolls, as both a local Philadelphia Jewish Renewal congregation and a national organization. The widely-worn rainbow prayer shawl he designed according tokabbalistic principles is still known as the “B’nai Or Tallit.” Both the congregation and the organization later changed their names to the more gender-neutral P’nai Or, “faces of Light.” In 1993, the national P’nai Or organization merged with Arthur Waskow’s Shalom Center, to form ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal.

Reb Zalman encouraged the use of arts in liturgy: music, movement, drumming and chant. He introduced practices from the Human Potential Movement into the service, and used American folk tunes to re-enliven ancient hymns (for example, singing the well-worn “Adon Olam” to the tune of “Amazing Grace”).

Conversely, Reb Zalman innovated English translations of liturgy and Torah text that can be chanted to the traditional melodies. Similarly, he encouraged the growth of new interpretations of biblical text through the practice of contemporarymidrash, “interpretation” through the literary, performing, and visual arts. Aleph has been called the “R&D department of the Jewish world,” and many of Reb Zalman’s innovations have been widely integrated into the progressive Jewish denominations.

In 1990, Schachter-Shalomi was among the diverse group of Jewish leaders who traveled together to Dharamsala, India, at the request of the Dalai Lama, to discuss with him how a people can survive in diaspora. That meeting of East and West was chronicled in Rodger Kamenetz’s “The Jew in the Lotus,” and inspired the flowering of Jewish approaches to meditation.

Schachter-Shalomi held academic posts at the University of Manitoba (Winnipeg) and Temple University (Philadelphia), and in his later years, held the World Wisdom Chair at the Naropa University (Boulder). He also served on the faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Omega, and many other major institutions.

After numerous “private ordinations,” Schachter-Shalomi founded ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal’s Ordination Program, which has ordained over 80 rabbis, cantors and rabbinic pastors, and provides post-graduate training as a mashpia ruchani, “spiritual director.”

In 2005, the Yesod Foundation created The Reb Zalman Legacy Project “to preserve, develop and disseminate” his teachings, which led to the 2011 donation of the Zalman M. Schachter-Shalomi Collection to the University of Colorado at Boulder, and the 2013 creation, with the Program in Jewish Studies, of the Post-Holocaust American Judaism Archives.

In 2012, Schachter-Shalomi’s book, Davening: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Prayer, won the National Jewish Book Award in Contemporary Jewish Life and Practice. The last book printed before his death is Psalms in a Translation for Praying.

Memorial donations may be made to the Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Endowment Fund for Jewish Renewal.

Book Review: The Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History

In his new book, Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M. Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking facts, as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, popularly referred to as the “Rebbe” by his followers and admirers worldwide.

In a span of 92 years the Rebbe traveled from his birthplace, the city of Nikolayev, Ukraine, studied in the cosmopolitan cities of Berlin and Paris, where he earned degrees in mechanical and electrical engineering, and finally settled in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. It was there he reluctantly donned the mantel as the Seventh Lubavitcher Rabbi and humbly assumed the title of the Rebbe.

Prior to his “coronation” he had already attained the stature of a spiritual magnet who attracted into his sphere of influence a warren of world leaders, as well as ordinary people who sought his wise counsel and blessings. More than a biography, this book relates historic events bonded with personal insights and coupled with private moments, which bring the reader to yichudusim, private moments of consultation, with the Rebbe.

[Read more…]

JSPAN Supports Providing Contraceptives to Workers


A package of birth control pills.

Earlier this year, the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN) filed an amicus curiae brief, urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that private, for-profit corporations provide employees with coverage that includes all FDA-approved contraceptive methods.

The key issue in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, now before the Court, is whether for-profit corporations have a right to deny contraceptive coverage to women workers based on religious objections of the corporation’s owners. JSPAN argues that it would not be proper to treat the religious views of the corporation’s shareholders as an exercise of religion by the corporation.

More after the jump.
In the fall of 2013, JSPAN filed an amicus brief in Town of Greece v. Galloway, which is also now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. JSPAN therein urges the Court to reverse its prior opinion and ban government sanctioned legislative prayer.

Additionally, earlier this year JSPAN has joined with the Anti-Defamation League and other groups in briefs to federal courts of appeals in challenges to state same sex marriage bans in Utah, Virginia, and most recently, Oklahoma.  

Book Review: Relational Judaism

Relational Judaism: Using the Power of Relationships to Transform the Jewish Community by Ron Wolfson primarily reasserts a core principle of life, business and community organizing: “It’s all about relationships.”

This was also essentially the theme of his 2006 volume, The Spirituality of Welcoming: How to Transform Your Congregation into a Sacred Community.

His patience and willingness to restate his message is impressive, given how slow the uptake among congregations worldwide seems to be, at least in this reviewer’s experience. And as times are changing, the direction of relationship-building is changing, as Wolfson indicates in a telling quote from a congregational leader:

We thought Shabbat would be a doorway to relationships. We learned that relationships are a doorway to Shabbat.

More after the jump.
Or as in the famous quote from Martin Buber that Wolfson will quote further on: “All real living is meeting.”

Another powerful reversal is the story of Rabbi Zoe Klein, upon becoming senior rabbi at Temple Isaiah, Los Angeles:

[S]he was advised by the board to “tell her story to the congregation.” She felt differently:

“The way people feel really connected to you is not if they know your story, but if they feel you know their story. If the rabbi knows your story you feel like you are seen, you matter, you are in relationship.

“So I set up small groups in my study — six to eight people — to share a ‘Sacred Stories Haggadah’ experience; we had a little Kiddush, karpas, appetizer; we told the story of the congregation, and then I would invite people to add their own stories by answering the question: ‘What was your own journey that brought you to this place?’ We concluded with a blessing.

“Some 250 people shared their stories with me and with each other. It was powerful.”

Wolfson’s examples are solid and instructive applications of what those who have participated in support groups of any kind are well aware of: the sharing of personal narratives, stories from our lives’ joys, traumas, challenges, innovations and more, often supports the creation of sustainable communities.

He also offers encouragement to adopt the kind of volunteerism that engages participants in meaningful ways. As this reviewer is involved, she is aware that this area is being developed at Bar/Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution, and in the emerging Jewish Spiritual Education as well.

Wolfson further takes note of the ascendancy of Jewish interest in social justice efforts, and the relational opportunities and challenges of social media.

For anyone who is already trained in social work, group work, chaplaincy, or providing psychotherapy of almost any kind, it is initially bemusing to read of a leader in the field of Jewish education writing something that has been known and skillfully practiced in social service organizations since at least the days of the settlement houses:

Working with others on a project can bind people together, but only if attention is paid to relationship building. We learned this lesson in Synagogue 2000 when we insisted that the leadership team begin every session with “check-in,” a brief opportunity for every person in the room to share something about her or his personal life.

I am reminded of the power of the quilting bee, when groups of women would join together to craft beautiful quilts, but through sharing the stories of their lives as they worked, they crafted deeper relationships among themselves.

How is it possible that most clergy and educators do not have the core skill repertoire of social work, and seem to be trying to reinvent it from scratch?

This reviewer is a rabbi and a Master of Social Work (MSW) — a recipient of the Jewish Federation’s scholarship for such training. From this vantage point, the problem would seem to be that of an unfortunate split, almost a conceptual wall, between the domain of training for Jewish social service and that for synagogues, religious education, and religious-movement youth groups.

Wolfson is a PhD academic, and highly accomplished Jewish educator. His American Jewish University bio does not show evidence of Jewish communal service’s core — relational training, most of which is woven within MSW programs.

Here are a few possible examples: (Most other schools of Jewish communal service seem more oriented toward management than actual human services at this time.)

At the 2013 Biennial of the Union for Reform Judaism, President Rick Jacobs lectured on the importance of creating welcoming communities, and Wolfson gave a seminar on the topic too.

Friends walking out, MSWs walked over to me equally surprised at the obvious nature of the content and full of ideas for how to take it deeper.

It made me wonder, might a ready approach to effective change be to leverage the thousands of retired Jewish social workers to serve as community building, or welcome-training volunteers, as well as to increase relational social work-skills training throughout the field of Jewish education and clergy training?

The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College has recently begun to do so in their curriculum. This has also long been the case at The Academy for Jewish Religion.

The restoration of relational communities and consciousness is clearly emerging again as desirable. Consumer consciousness fades in recognition that welcoming communities and relationships that go more satisfyingly deeper require more of an investment of self than dollars.

As Wolfson points out, programming skills are substantial among leaders of all ages in Jewish life. Relationship-building skills and relational program components are needed.

In the age of social media, the pendulum of yearning for meaningful face-to-face relationships is already returning. We need to build upon and use our skillful professionals to deepen the many insights provided in Relational Judaism.