The Antidote to Idol Worship

Photo Credit to the Office of Rabbi Sacks.

Photo Credit to the Office of Rabbi Sacks.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks recently returned for another visit to Kohelet Yeshiva, the Modern Orthodox high school in Merion Station, for Shabbat services, and gave a drasha (sermon) entitled “The Idols in Our Lives: Contemporary Echoes of the Golden Calf.” The legendary British rabbi served in London for over 20 years as the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He has received numerous awards and honors — including the prestigious Templeton Prize — and has written more than 30 books. [Read more…]

Shabbat and a Show

Congregation Hesed Shel Emet presents “Shabbat and a Show” on Friday, May 13, 2016 for opening night of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

Please join us at Steel River Playhouse for Shabbat Service, followed by the show, and a private Oneg during Intermission.  Steel River Playhouse is located at 245 E. High Street, Pottstown, PA  19464.  The playhouse is fully handicapped accessible.

After the show, there will be a discussion during which director Michael Licata, Rabbi Flax and the cast will answer questions.

Funds raised support Congregation Hesed Shel Emet in Pottstown, PA.

 

Book Chat: Get Real, Get Married

— by Hannah Lee

Aleeza Ben Shalom has always happily served as a networker or a “connector,” bringing together people whether it was about housing, cars or furniture. Her successful connections, made through her Shabbat hospitality at her family’s table and her volunteer work for the SawYouAtSinai dating website, have led her to launch her business, “Marriage Minded Mentor,” in February 2012. To date, she has brought 14 clients to the wedding chuppah and another eight are engaged.

Her 132-page book, Get Real Get Married, hit the stores today (Tuesday). With clients from the observant community, her shortest match took four months from introduction to marriage (Those two really knew what they wanted!), while the longest match took about nine months. Her clients in the general public need more time.

More after the jump.
Raised Conservative and formerly known as Lisa Caplan, Ben Shalom studied Jewish studies, children’s literature, and environmental studies at the University of Pittsburgh. While attending a retreat with IsraLight, a kiruv (outreach) organization founded by Rabbi David Aaron, she found both meaning and purpose in a life structured by Torah and mitzvot (commandments). Overnight, she began to observe Shabbat, swapped out her trendy wardrobe for modest clothing covering her collarbones, shoulders and elbows, and already a vegan, she started keeping kosher.

Also attending the same retreat was Gershom Ben Shalom, although they were both dating other people. They dated for three weeks, got engaged, and were wed in four months. This is not what she recommends for anyone else, but as her mother noted to her, “You’re not flaky, but this [rapid transformation] is flaky.” Her parents nonetheless supported her decision and they are delighted in their four grandchildren (and another on the way). The Ben-Shaloms have been married for 10 years.

Ben Shalom says a matchmaker has to work in three levels: in fact, in act, and intact. The first goal is the one that’s most familiar to us, but a successful matchmaker has to also walk the client through the process — “in act,” as well as support the client through the inevitable ups and downs of relationships — “intact,” to keep them together. Even after the wedding, she fields calls from former clients asking if some particular issue or conflict is typical to other marriages. She is even planning a sequel to be titled “Stay Real, Stay Married,” for a society where 50% of marriages end in divorce, as do 20% of Orthodox Jewish commitments.

Recently, Ben Shalom spoke at a non-Jewish event attended by women aged 18-65, and she saw that her message, that you have to be marriage-minded to get married and stay married, resonated with the audience. She realized that her message is universal: that marriage is a lifelong process of growth and connection.

She offers her clients a pithy lesson of one, five, and ten. One: you have to pick one goal to focus on. If marriage is your goal, then choose no more than five mentors to assist you. Who qualifies as a mentor? Ben Shalom advises to choose someone who has been married for more than five years and who has shown wisdom and a history of good decisions. Then, choose ten or fewer people to date until you pick your spouse. This directs dating in a healthier way, so that one thinks carefully about whether a person is worthy of dating for marriage.

Older singles can be particularly fragile, but they usually hide their vulnerability: They present themselves as accomplished, financially stable, and able to live independently. How do we, who are not matchmakers, help these people?  “Engage in open dialogue,” counsels Ben Shalom, “and ask what does the person need at that moment.” Check back each time, because the emotional terrain is very volatile and someone who’s ready to meet people one month may be exhausted emotionally the next one, so that person may wish to simply join your family for a Shabbat or Yom Tov meal, with no expectations for a shidduch.

Successful clients are stable: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Some clients have met with Ben Shalom’s refusal to arrange meetings during a period of transition. She also readily refers clients to other professionals for therapy, diet counseling, or personal organization (clutter management).

What does she think of speed dating (a phenomenon that’s not so popular in the Philadelphia area, where singles have the opportunity to sit and engage with each other individually in a focused, limited time — usually several minutes)? This may work for some people, but Ben Shalom finds it emotionally challenging, and it is not amongst her top techniques. She is more a proponent of “inspect what you expect,” and her clients do not go on blind dates without evaluating the particulars of a prospective date.

The dating scene in Philadelphia is unlike those of New York and Los Angeles, where there are so many singles, that they don’t feel the need to get married. “They are practicing to be single,” said Ben Shalom, “not practicing to get married.” Moreover, people tend to leave New York once they do get married for more affordable communities, in order to be able to raise children.

Are the rabbis doing enough for singles? The times are changing fast, so while individual rabbis may be helpful, they are not unified in their efforts. In earlier times, all Jews in any particular area knew each other, and so it was easier to facilitate with matches. In our times, Ben Shalom advocates the use of a “dating resume,” or dating profile. In addition to personal statistics and biographical data, she asks her clients to reflect on who they are and what they are looking for.

A crucial advice by Ben Shalom is not to look for what the mentors want instead of what you want, because that could lead to shaky relationships. As for highly-specific documented demands such as the dress size of the kallah (or mother-in-law!) or the color of the tablecloths, Ben Shalom asks, “are their head and heart in line? The color of the tablecloth may be a surrogate for family minhagim (customs), but is the person marriage-minded? Can he or she stay married?”

Ben Shalom hosts a weekly radio show at Jewish Talk Radio, and blogs at the Marriage Minded Mentor website.

A Fabulous Feast

— by Dakota Marine

This past Friday I had the opportunity to do something very special on campus. A couple of friends in my sorority house asked if I was interested in helping to cook a dinner for the organization Aish on campus. The normal hosts of Aish were out of town, but they still wanted to provide students with the weekly Friday night Shabbat dinner, so they needed help from us, the active members of Aish.

We arrived at the house at 1 and instantly jumped into Challah preparation — the hefty bag of Spelt (non-wheat) Flour was carried up from the downstairs and lifted onto the counter, along with the other ingredients. We cracked eggs, poured Spelt flour, dripped honey, sprinkled salt, scooped dry yeast, drizzled vegetable oil and began to mix the ingredients in a large bowl. After kneading the Challah with our hands, we let it sit for about 2 hours so it had time to rise. Next, came the “Thai Slaw” salad.

Making the salads after the jump.
This is one of my favorite salads because of the sweet and salty tastes from the dressing combined with the crunchiness of the cabbage, cucumbers and leaves of Cilantro. The rainbow array of cabbage was placed on the bottom of a large purple bowl, it was used as a base for the remainder of the salad. Then we chopped up long green English Cucumbers and tossed them into the mix of cabbage. I sneakily munched on the leftover pieces of Cucumber while no one was looking. Then it was time for dressing preparation: Olive Oil, Rice Wine Vinegar, Soy Sauce and Sesame seeds. Then I slowly drizzled the dressing over the salad. In an effort to spread it out throughout the entire bowl, I took the large salad tongs and scooped the cabbage from the bottom up, so every last piece was dressed.

For a crowd pleaser salad, we decided on a corn, avocado and tomato salad. About 20 miniature cobbs of corn were lined up in a tin-foil container and placed in the oven to defrost. As the corn was softening in the oven, I took on the liberty of slicing the tomatoes. Tomatoes are a difficult vegetable to cut and I struggled a bit as the juice poured out from the inside. After the four tomatoes were cut, the corn was taken out of the oven. I cut the kernels off the ears of corn and spooned both the tomatoes and corn into the large container. And it was time for the last ingredient… avocado! The brown and green circular vegetables were sliced in half and cut into small chunks for the salad. The bright yellow, red and green colors of the vegetables made the salad a sight to see. The salad was covered in a lime juice, salt and pepper dressing with a drop of olive oil.

Although it was a tiring day, the long hours of preparation were worth every second. I love to cook and this was the perfect opportunity.

Dakota Marine is the creator of Eat My Tailgate, where she takes us into her sorority’s kitchen.

Are Shabbat and Kashrut Bad For Business?

As a founding member of the National Museum of American Jewish History I was troubled to learn of the museum’s decision regarding the discarding of time honored Shabbat observances. The museum’s administration has decided to sell tickets on Shabbat, keep the café open and rent space for Friday night events. Also the café will no longer be kosher and non-kosher catering will be allowed. As if all those changes were not enough, it was decided to change the annual marketing label “Being Jewish on Christmas” to “Being __ on Christmas”. They deleted the word ‘Jewish’ from their slogan but kept ‘Christmas’.
[Read more…]

March 23-24: The Evolving Shabbat Manifesto

— by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

What a happy coincidence. As author of What Is Shabbat: A Time Manifesto, I’m thrilled to learn that Reboot, “a New York-based nonprofit that reinvents Jewish rituals and traditions for a new generation, has developed an annual tech detox as a modern day Sabbath to encourage young, hyper-connected, and frequently frantic people to take a respite from all things digital.” Reboot is offering an Unplugging Pledge that asks people to take a tech detox for the 2012 National Day of Unplugging. Those who take the pledge on Causes.com can easily share it with friends and family through Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. Reboot reports they root their support for the National Day of Unplugging, March 23-24, in their Sabbath Manifesto.

The Time Manifesto and the 10 Principles of the Sabbath Manifesto follow the jump.



The Ten Principles

1. Avoid technology.
2. Connect with loved ones.
3. Nurture your health.
4. Get outside.
5. Avoid commerce.
6. Light candles.
7. Drink wine.
8. Eat bread.
9. Find silence.
10. Give back.

What is Shabbat? A Time Manifesto
by Rabbi Dr. Goldie Milgram as first published in Reclaiming Judaism as a Spiritual Practice: Holy Days and Shabbat.

Once normal to civilizations,
The observance of holy days
Has become a radical spiritual act of self care.
Sacred time is shareware.
It’s free.
The only condition is you have to use it before you go,
There’s no refund at the finish line.

Are you willing to say to employers,
schools,
partners
and politicians:

“Today is set aside as holy,
Not to be diluted away by overdoses of work,
Paying bills,
politics,
homework,
telephone solicitations,
television commercials.
This time is my birth right! You can’t have it!”

And what if they say:
“Take ownership of your own time?
You can’t have it!
We must use your life to feed our bottom lines!”

Can you imagine yourself joining in leading
the spiritual (r)evolution with a response
that might sound something like:

“Oh, no, I won’t give all my precious time to you.
We Jews build beautiful meaning-making
experiences in time,
we savor festival meals,
engage in soul refining rituals,
in order to live consciously,
we take time to reflect and refine how we act,
how we live,
how we love
and how we work.

I am writing the Torah of my life with each lived day!
I want to ripen deliciously in the sun of life,
Not race whipped to the finish line.

I have every right to experience these Jewish holidays
in their deepest intentions:
nurturing my relationships,
celebrating the journey,
rejoicing in and respecting the power and diversity of Creation.”

And if they say:

“No reason to think, no need to reflect.
Feel your feelings?

You look up at the stars and express the awe you feel?
You stop to question the ethics of your own actions?
You say you’re not coming in tomorrow
so you can sit with your children or friends
in a sukkah and meditate on the fragility of life,
the beauty of nature?

You’re late because you stopped to
say a memorial prayer for your parents?

The work ethic is your spiritual model!
Our company is your family.
What’s all this about freedom and Jews?”

And you’ll say?

The Eternal Power of Torah to Awaken and Transform

Whether Reboot, or Milgram, the important source is Torah. Do we ever need Shabbat now! It is our stimulus and solace for facing the pharaohs of contemporary life – the corporations, employers, work-a-holism, e-mail addiction, lifestyles beyond one’s means, this is pure teshuvah, the Jewish mitzvah of returning to healthy and holy alignment. However this precious Torah of awareness comes to you, may you be blessed to go for it! Unplug this Shabbat and, as the Talmud teaches, experience 1/60 of paradise. I’m thrilled at Reboot’s many creative programs. Let’s take the pledge!  

You Can Play Ball… And Keep Shabbat Too

Yesterday Annette Powers wrote about the Robert M. Beren Academy’s basketball team which had qualified for the semifinals but could not participate because the  Texas Asscociation of Private and Parochial Schools refused to accomodate their observance of the Jewish Sabbath.

This story has a happy ending. Not only did it serve to unify the Jewish people as the Union for Reform Judaism petitioned the TAPPS to reschedule the game, but this petition along with a chorus of other voices prevailed upon the TAPPS who reversed course and will start the semi-final early to allow the Orthodox Jewish Beren Stars to compete.

A statement from the Beren Academy follows the jump.
Robert M. Beren Academy (RMBA) is pleased to announce that the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) has informed us that they will reschedule the Class 2A basketball schedule to permit the RMBA team to play this Friday without violating our Sabbath.

We are thankful to the TAPPS for ultimately making the right decision. The school administration and board was not involved in any legal action and we regret that it took a law suit filed parents to bring about this decision.

We greatly appreciate the strong outpouring of support from so many. We thank Mayor Anise Parker, Senator John Cornyn and others from throughout the city of Houston, the great state of Texas, the United States, and around the world. We particularly want to acknowledge the many member schools in TAPPS who supported efforts to change the schedule to enable our boys to play. Special thanks to Our Lady of the Hills Catholic High School, for allowing us to reschedule the start time of the regional finals round game on Friday, February 24th.

We are very proud of our basketball team, the Beren Stars.  Not only have the boys demonstrated considerable skill on the court this season, they have handled the stress of the past week with extraordinary maturity and composure.  We also thank Coach Cole, the RMBA Athletic Director, for his outstanding leadership.

The Beren Stars look forward to competing in the state semi-final round tomorrow afternoon.

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul “Concerned” Over Nevada Kosher Caucus

Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational CampusWe recently broke the news about a special caucus being organized in Las Vegas, Nevada after sundown so that observant Jews could participate in Nevada’s Republican Caucus.

According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, approximately 500 voters — most of whom are Jewish — are expected to attend the event, which will be held at a Jewish day school.

While there had been mixed reporting previously surrounding the campaign’s reactions, the San Francisco Chronicle most recently reported that “officials in the campaigns of both former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Representative Ron Paul are privately expressing concern about the decision” to hold the Saturday night caucus that will enfranchise a large number of observant Jewish Republicans.

Mah Nishtana: Observant Jews Can Now Vote In Nevada


Why is the caucus at the Adelson Educational Campus different from all of the other caucus?

In all of Nevada’s other caucuses, results must be reported by 1pm, but in this caucus, voting will be held in the evening.

This caucus’s special hours will allow Sabbath-observant Jews to help select the Repubican Presidential Candidate.

Among the county’s voters is casino and resort mogul Sheldon Adelson, who with his wife recently donated $10 million to a super PAC formed to help GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.

The caucus will be held at the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus, an Adelson-funded private [Jewish day] school in Las Vegas, according to Politico.

More than half the state’s Republican voters live in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.

Some 500 Republican voters are expected to attend the additional caucus. An absentee balloting system is in place for Nevada caucuses, according to Politico.

The Traveling Mitzvah Bear


— by Annette Powers

Twelve adorable stuffed bears departed from the Union for Reform Judaism’s (URJ) New York offices on a journey to over 100 early childhood centers in Reform congregations throughout the United States and Canada.

Izzy is looking at the Torah with some Ganon Gil Preschool friends while we were learning about Simchat Torah (Beachwood, Ohio).

Each of the bears — Bernie, Benny, Goldie, Hannah, Herbie, Izzy, Lily, Moishe, Rose, Sadie, Saul and Sylvia — will visit these centers over the 2011-2012 school year to teach young children about the importance of doing mitzvot (good deeds) and the value of hachnasat orchim (hospitality/welcoming the guest.) Each bear comes with a journal, the book Bim and Bom: A Shabbat Tale and ideas about what to do with the bears.

More after the jump.


Rose arrived at Glasser Preschool in Oak Park, IL just in time to make challah for Shabbat!

Some of the suggestions on the list include: preparing the students ahead of time by teaching them about mitzvot and hachnasat orchim, taking pictures of the bear doing good deeds with the students and making cards for the students who will meet the bear next on his travels.

The journal can be used for recording any photos, drawings, or writings related to the bears’ experiences while visiting. Participants can also share on the URJ Traveling Mitzvah Bears Facebook event page.

The book Bim and Bom by Daniel Swartz, donated by The PJ Library, illustrates the importance of mitzvot. The story tells of Bim and her brother Bom who work hard all week, and then spend Fridays doing good deeds. At sundown, they joyfully meet to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath together.

“The Traveling Mitzvah Bear program is a creative and fun way to instill young children with some of the most essential Jewish values,” said Cathy Rolland, URJ’s director of early childhood education, “We look forward to seeing the many creative ways early childhood educators will find to use these bears and the reactions of the children who get to enjoy them.”

Hannah came to B’nai Jehudah Preschool in Kansas. She helped us celebrate Shabbat!

“Our bear just arrived and we are anxious to introduce him to our students and start taking pictures and making memories,” said Arlene Kaufman, director of Temple Trager Early Childhood Education Center in Louisville, Kentucky. “This is such an exciting and innovative program. What a wonderful way to bring our Jewish schools together.”

The bears will gather at the Early Childhood Educators of Reform Judaism (ECE-RJ) booth at the 2011 URJ Biennial convention in December as a stop-over during their extensive travels.