Mourning girl

We Are All Mourners Now and Again by Rabbi Janet Madden


During the burning heat of summer, between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av— the saddest day of the Jewish calendar—Jews remember and mourn the Romans’ breach of the walls of Jerusalem, the sacking of the city and the destruction of the Second Temple. And we remember so much more: throughout history, the 9th of Av is the date on which we commemorate a series of profound Jewish losses.

 

We Are All Mourners

We Are All Mourners

This time of set mourning on the Hebrew calendar makes the Three Weeks a period of communal observance that is both specific and inclusive. It’s different from personal observances of Yahrzeits, the anniversaries of the deaths of beloved family members, or the four Yizkor services that provide public opportunities each year for mourning by those in our communities who have experienced bereavements. The Three Weeks, and especially their culmination, Tisha B’Av, mark specific traumatic experiences that resonate deeply within our collective Jewish historical consciousness. For me, moving mindfully through the Three Weeks is an annual reliving of mourning that tethers my mind and heart to Judaism in very particular ways.

 

I find deep comfort and meaning in communal mourning. When I am observing a Yarzheit, I feel set apart; my heart aches with the reminder of my personal loss even though I am saying Kaddish within the embrace of a loving community. It’s not that my heart aches less when we chant the Book of Lamentations—it’s that I am experiencing a different kind of loss. My heart aches differently. When we sit together on the floor and chant a text that is illuminated by a flashlight, we establish a special, intimate bond of shared grief with those who sit with us and with the entire Jewish community, past and present. For me, collectively connecting to our shared sadness reminds me that I am never alone.

Rabbi Janet Madden PhD was ordained by The Academy for Jewish Religion-California. She serves as the rabbi of Temple Havurat Emet and Providence Saint John’s Health Center and has been a student of the Gamliel Institute.

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden

[Ed. Note: Rabbi Janet Madden has agreed to submit a series of entries for Expired And Inspired – watch for them to appear fairly regularly. — JB]

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GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES

LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE

The Gamliel Institute will be offering course 2, Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah, online, afternoons/evenings, in the Fall semester, starting September 5th, 2017. This is the core course focusing on Taharah and Shmirah ritual, liturgy, practical matters, how-to, and what it means.

CLASS SESSIONS

The course will meet online for twelve Tuesdays (the day will be adjusted in any weeks with Jewish holidays during this course).

There is a Free preview/overview of the course being offered on Monday August 14th at 5 pm PDST/8 pm EDST. You are welcome to join us to decide if this course is one in which you would like to enroll. Contact info@jewish-funerals.org or  j.blair@jewish-funerals.org for information on how to connect to the preview webinar.

There will be an orientation session on how to use the platform and access the materials on Monday, September 4th, 2017, at 5 pm PDST/8 pm EDST online. Register or contact us for more information.

Information on attending the online orientation and course will be sent to those registered.

REGISTRATION

You can register for any Gamliel Institute course online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or at the Kavod v’Nichum website. Please contact us for information or assistance by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or phone at 410-733-3700.

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DONATIONS:

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Gracuates courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

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MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

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SUBMISSIONS ALWAYS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

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Letters


Ordinary Child
Dear Rabbi Feinstein: Thank you for your article on “Perfectly Imperfect” (May 5). As educators, we wholeheartedly appreciate your position on making space for the ordinary child.

In our experience as day school educators, we struggle with balancing the parents’ desires for their child’s academic excellence, while supporting each student’s individual capabilities. We make space for our students to be three-dimensional, recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, and encouraging them to stretch where they can.

As you so eloquently say, “God offers a process of repair and renewal and return.” One of the challenges we encounter with perfection is encouraging students to make their next best choice and to reflect on the lessons of their mistakes. As students acknowledge their mistakes and make choices that increase their wisdom, they are making meaning from their experiences that will enhance their lives.

Kedushah and menschlikheit reside very closely in our hearts and in our teachings with both students and parents. We want our students to hear the voices of empathy, generosity and curiosity as they make positive and healthy choices throughout their lives.

Amy Bryman
Cheryl Hersh, Middle School Principal
Inez Tiger, Middle School Counselor Pressman Academy

Jew-by-Choice
As a convert to Judaism, it was reassuring to read your series of articles on those like me who chose to become Jews (“Did It Stick?” June 2). As a lapsed Catholic with many Jewish friends growing up on Long Island, early on, I was attracted to the ethics and worldly focus of Judaism. Following a course of study at Temple Emanuel in New York City, I converted in 1967, and my first wife and I raised our three children in the Jewish tradition.

In 1992 on the eve of her bat mitzvah, my youngest daughter asked if I would be bar mitzvahed with her. That glorious day came to pass at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, with Rabbi Harvey Fields observing that in the 130-year history of the temple, there was no record of a father and daughter having a b’nai mitzvah. At the party afterward, when Tessa and I greeted everyone, I said that I had checked around the room, and I was the only person who had had a first holy communion and a bar mitzvah.

In my life in Los Angeles with my wife, Wendy, inspired by Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller at UCLA and through my work with the Progressive Jewish Alliance, enriched by interfaith activities, Judaism has strengthened and complimented my struggle for civil liberties, human rights, peace and justice.

Stephen F Rohde
Los Angeles

John Fishel
I read with interest recently your column reported by Marc Ballon, concerning John Fishel (“A Private Man,” May 26). What he left out in his analysis is John Fischel’s relationship with his professional staff.

For me, he was both a role model and a mentor. He provided an opportunity for me to learn a great deal about Jewish communal service, about leadership and dedication to the Jewish people. He was forceful in his ability to set forward a vision for those of us who worked with him concerning his expectations of our performance and his commitment to excellence.

We strived together to work toward a better Los Angeles Jewish community, and we did so under the guiding leadership of a man who dedicated himself toward not only building a stronger Los Angeles community but a stronger Jewish community worldwide.

From these very important core values we took a tremendous amount of inspiration in carrying out our daily activities. He should be commended for all that he has done on behalf of the Jewish community and continues to do.

I know that I would not be in the place that I am today without John Fischel’s interest in who I was, what I wanted to achieve and how I could create a path toward my own professional leadership. I am proud to say that I served for eight years as a senior executive under his tutelage, and that today with his help, I am able to serve as a large city executive in the Jewish community of South Palm Beach County.

William S. Bernstein
Boca Raton, Fla.

Mischaracterizations
[Raphael J.] Sonenshein’s logic and mischaracterizations undermine his arguments (“Israel: Between Iraq and a Hard Place,” May 26). Sonenshein writes, “Wars often start because of such mutual misperceptions.”

The first such misperception that could lead to war is that the Bush administration “might even believe that confrontation [with Iran] would increase their public support.” Yet he also writes that the Bush administration is “capable of taking action with or without public support.”

The second such misperception that could lead to war is that the Iranians “have concluded that the [Bush] administration is so weakened that it can be challenged easily.” This may be true, but it’s not due to the actions of the Bush administration (no matter how incompetent). Rather, it is due to the constant bombardment by the media (including Sonenshein) attacking the Bush administration as being incompetent.

Israel is facing real dangers. The Journal could be a valuable contributor to real solutions by publishing more articles with serious ideas for debate and less articles for Bush-bashing.

Kenny Laitin
Los Angeles

Pearl Foundation
The fact that the Daniel Pearl Foundation is — as stated in your June 2 article (“Quartet of Movies to Tell Pearl’s Story” — trying “to address the root causes of his murder” by promoting “cross-cultural understanding” between the Western and Muslim worlds is very sad. Sad because those of us who haven’t suffered such a loss cannot imagine the grief suffered by Pearl’s parents and how they’re trying to deal with it, and equally sad because people of good will in the Western world still haven’t grasped that one cannot address the “root causes” of jihadist Islam (meaning to make them stop hating and killing Jews and other infidels) by “journalism, music and innovative communication,” any more than Nazism’s desire to slaughter Jews and enslave humanity could have been addressed by such means.

Chaim Sisman
Los Angeles

Correction
In the June 2 issue, “Quartet of Movies to Tell Pearl’s Story,” the Daniel Pearl photo should have been credited to the Daniel Pearl Foundation.

Wandering Jew misquoted Irving Brecher in the story, “A Man for All Seasonings,” by Hank Rosenfeld (June 2). Brecher did not say he loved Langer’s deli “for their double-baked rye” bread. He said he loved the deli for its pastrami. We regret the error.

 

The Art of Giving


Call me short-sighted and atavistic, but I believe one of the most encouraging bits of news I heard last week was the decision by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to suspend its renovation.

The bad news is Los Angeles will have to wait indefinitely to have a splashier namesake art museum, a Getty-by-the-Tar Pits. The good news is the major donors, many of whom are Jewish, now might be swayed to move some of that museum money over into other communal needs.

Just over one year ago, the museum unveiled a bold plan to overhaul and expand the Wilshire Boulevard institution, according to an architectural design by Rem Koolhaas of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The renovation, which would have involved a downstairs plaza and redesigned upstairs galleries under a tent-like roof, was expected to cost upwards of $400 million.

This is not to take joy in LACMA’s disappointment. I am all in favor of visionary new buildings — that’s one of the benefits of living in a great city — and I am very much pro-LACMA. I’ve spent many hours there, meandering through the galleries, attending special programs, concerts and screenings.

Not long ago, I wandered off through an upstairs gallery and came face to face with Magritte’s "Le Trahaison des Images," the renowned image of a pipe with, "Ceci n’est pas un pipe," (This is not a pipe) inscribed below. Anywhere else, I would have fought crowds for a glance at the landmark work. At LACMA, there it was, with no hoopla, no line, just great art.

That has always been my experience at the museum, so I was among those who questioned why donors, along with L.A. taxpayers through last November’s ballot Measure A, needed to cough up close to a half-billion dollars to renew buildings that were, at most, 37 years old.

Evidently, I wasn’t alone. As the economy wended its way south, people smarter and far, far wealthier than myself came to the same conclusion. I am speaking of the people in a position to make a lead gift to the museum project of $5 million-$50 million. It wasn’t that their portfolios dipped below the poverty line, just that they came to the assessment that the crowd of donors behind them had shrunk, along with the Dow.

But if LACMA’s big plans have disappeared for now, much of the money that was eager to back it hasn’t. And the fact is, many of LACMA’s potential lead donors are Jewish. That’s hardly surprising. The art world in Los Angeles has been funded by Jewish Angelenos out of all proportion to their numbers in this city.

Jewish artists escaping Nazi persecution invigorated the postwar art scene. Jewish donors, looking to take a place among the non-Jewish elite and committed to creating a cultural center, contributed large sums to everything from the UCLA Hammer Museum to the Norton Simon to MOCA to the Music Center to the new Disney Concert Hall.

And LACMA.

But with the Koolhaas expansion on hold, is it right to hope that the millions of Jewish donor dollars ready to fund that project could now flow elsewhere? Are our Jewish leaders scanning the list of LACMA donors and preparing their appeals? I hope so.

I hope so, because I can think of several areas where millions would make a big difference in our part of the L.A. community.

Take health and human services. Facing state and federal budget cuts, agencies that reach out to elderly or indigent Jews and non-Jews will need significant increases in private donations over the coming year. Otherwise, the people who suffer most in a weak economy will suffer even more.

Then there’s Jewish Community Centers. As Marc Ballon reported last week, the system that serves as a gateway for so many into Jewish life is in dire need of fixing. The Westside JCC, which serves a middle-class and immigrant community, could rebuild and flourish with a lot less than $300 million. JCC services in less populated Jewish areas and new campuses in growing areas can ensure a steady flow of new families and new energy into L.A. Jewish life for decades to come.

Jewish camps, religious schools and day schools are other effective ways of promoting meaningful values and traditions for the next generation, but these institutions are becoming unaffordable to an increasing number of families. Other cities have far-reaching scholarship programs for Jewish schools and camps, often started by just one donor. We need it, too.

These are just a few examples of places where the Jewish community could greatly benefit from the kind of largesse slated for LACMA. Smart money goes where it’s most needed. If a half-billion dollar, tent-covered museum were a pressing necessity, it would be under construction this very moment. Now it’s time for advocates to make their pitch that, while a museum’s expansion can be put on indefinite hold, Jewish communal needs can’t be.

All of us, big and small donors alike, speak of the importance of Jewish community. But unless we give — give as much as possible — what we end up with is, like Magritte’s pipe, not real community, but only its unreal image.

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