December 15, 2018

Jewish Latina’s Unique Perspective on Local News

Photo courtesy of Giselle Fernandez

Television journalist, producer and five-time Emmy Award-winner Giselle Fernandez brings three decades of experience to her new anchor job at Spectrum News 1, the cable provider’s hyper-local news channel. A Latina and a Jewish woman born in Mexico to a Jewish mother (née Eisner) and a Spanish-Catholic father, she also brings a unique perspective when covering the diverse communities and people of Southern California.

“I think my greatest contribution to Spectrum comes from my multiethnic, multicultural background,” Fernandez said. She grew up all over the Southland, in East L.A., Hollywood, Northridge and Westlake Village. “I see things from a much broader lens and have a great appreciation what our collection of communities have to offer. I’m not covering communities of ‘the other.’ I am the other.”

Fernandez is on the air daily from 5 until 9 a.m., which means rising at 1 a.m. to arrive at work by 2:30. Taking on such a daunting schedule at the age of 57, Fernandez said it gives her more time to spend with her 12-year-old daughter but she also really wanted the job. 

Fernandez, who previously worked for CBS, NBC and KTLA, said she missed reporting. “I’m actively involved in many boards and charities that specifically deal with underserved communities, health care and education — that has been my life off the air,” she said. “This was a chance to go back to basics and tell community stories, get people engaged in stories that affect them personally and build trust and unity at a time when we really need it. It’s so in my passion zone. I really feel that I won the lottery.”

 “I was not quite Mexican enough to be Mexican and not Jewish enough because I wasn’t raised in a Jewish household. I always felt like I was on the outskirts until I created my own identity.” ­

— Giselle Fernandez

Spectrum News 1 has been covering the rise in hate crimes and vandalism against Jews in the Southland. “Synagogues have had to beef up their security because of threats and vandalism. Orthodox women in Hancock Park have had their wigs pulled off. These are stories I advocate for,” Fernandez said. “Local is global. If we can address the ills of our own community and shine a light on them, we have a chance to activate community interest and engagement. That is our mandate and it’s certainly mine.”

Fernandez also hosts Spectrum News 1’s weekly primetime interview show “L.A. Story,” airing Mondays at 8 p.m. “We focus on impact-makers in business, the arts, innovation, the sciences,” she said. Guests have included Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, actress-choreographer Debbie Allen and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, with whom she shares cultural similarities.

“I talked with him about being a fellow ‘kosher burrito,’ his immigrant background and why he feels he should potentially throw his hat in the ring for a run in 2020,” she said. “He spoke very boldly against President [Donald] Trump and why he felt California would be best served with someone like him at the helm.”

Of her own Jewish background, Fernandez said, “I was not quite Mexican enough to be Mexican and not Jewish enough because I wasn’t raised in a Jewish household. I always felt like I was on the outskirts until I created my own identity.” 

Her DNA test results showed she is 49 percent Ashkenazi Jewish and 51 percent Spanish. But she believes that her father’s ancestors may have been Jews who converted to Catholicism but secretly practiced Judaism. She has always had Jewish friends and was drawn to Jewish culture. But it wasn’t till CBS News sent her to Israel to cover the Gulf War in 1991, that she found a deeper connection to her roots. She studied with an Orthodox rabbi upon her return. Ultimately, she realized that she wasn’t cut out for that level of observance. “But I always credit my Halachic training for my interviewing skills,” she said. 

Today, she is a member of Wilshire Boulevard Temple, where she had her bat mitzvah at age 50, and her daughter Talei will have hers next June. Fernandez adopted Talei at birth from Guatemala. “I want to be a voice for the voiceless and stand up for victims of oppression and those who are less fortunate,” Fernandez said. “I identify those as Jewish values and teach them to my daughter. ‘You are here to make this world a better place.’”

Taking inspiration from the fictional Nancy Drew and real-life peripatetic journalists Nellie Bly and Margaret Bourke-White, Fernandez set her sights on a journalism career at the age of 7. “I wanted to travel the world and live a life telling stories of human beings, how we managed and triumphed,” she said.

Fernandez has been to Somalia, Panama and Haiti covering crises, but Israel, where she’s returned many times since the Gulf War, stands out in her memory, and she hopes to return with her daughter. 

Another memorable experience was competing on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2006, despite her elimination in the third round. “I was devastated because I didn’t get the chance to do the Paso Doble (dance step) and honor my father. But I loved the experience,” she said.

Owning a bed-and-breakfast and visiting India are on her bucket list, but not in the near future. “I think it’s really remarkable that I get the opportunity to work in my dream profession at this stage of my life,” she said. “As Jews know, how we tell our stories can inform our history. So of all the things I’ve done in life, this is one of the most important jobs I’ve done.”    

Religion and The Poetry of Order

The evening before I watched the new film “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” — a dialogue between religion critics Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz — our Yemenite neighbor, Saya, came to our apartment to light our seventh-night Hanukkah candles. I told her how the menorah had been in our family for more than 100 years and that the Hebraic script on it spelled out “Israel.” My 9-year-old son, Alexander, taught her how to use the shamash. “Everything has an order,” he told her rabbinically.

Having lived through a strict Muslim upbringing that included two arranged marriages, Saya now calls herself an atheist — as does Harris, who was born to a Jewish mother. In many ways I feel closer to Nawaz, who calls himself a liberal Muslim and sees no contradiction between maintaining a tough, rational mind and having a love for the poetry of religion.

At its core, that’s what the film, based on Harris and Nawaz’s 2015 book of the same name, is about: How to move forward so that both Muslims and non-Muslims can see that there doesn’t have to be a contradiction between the two. Saya rejected much of what she was taught as a child, including a fierce hatred of Jews, and therefore can come to our home to light our candles with an open mind and heart. Nawaz got to his place of understanding via a stint as an Islamist and his near-execution in an Egyptian jail. 

But instead of rejecting Islam flat-out, he seeks to reform it. How? First, by distinguishing between Muslims and Islam (conflation leads to bigotry); second, by distinguishing between the four types of Muslims: jihadis, who seek to create an Islamic caliphate through violence; Islamists, who seek to impose a caliphate through nonviolence; strict religious Muslims, who believe in following the Quran but don’t want to impose Sharia law on others; and secular Muslims. Most of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, Nawaz says, fall into the third group.

It is when the conversation turns to scripture that things get dicey. “Words are not infinitely elastic,” Harris says. You cannot simply ignore or reinterpret the more barbaric parts of the texts. “There will always be a temptation toward literalism, as well as a link between belief and behavior.”

“Dialogue is the only remedy. Without conversation we become more and more entrenched in our views.”

— Maajid Nawaz

Nawaz, who started the group Quilliam in 2008 to help make Islam compatible with liberal democracy, counters that Islamic texts should not be read literally: “I don’t accept that there’s a ‘correct’ reading of scripture; it’s open to myriad interpretations.” In some ways, Nawaz is trying to do for the Quran what the Talmud did for the Torah: show, for example, that some passages are metaphorical, not to be followed literally. 

“Nawaz is borrowing the very ancient (and very Jewish) tradition of interpretation,” said Rabbi Eli Fink, adding that Talmudic interpretation did not begin in earnest until 200 BCE and continues today. Still, though I am rooting for Nawaz wholeheartedly, he clearly faces an uphill battle.

Sadly, the battle is not just from Islamists and jihadis. “I was expecting pushback from Islamists,” Nawaz says. “But most disappointing is the opposition from those who call themselves liberal.” Nawaz coined the term “regressive leftist” to describe liberals who are so mired in identity politics that they end up losing all sense of morality, let alone rationality. 

Nawaz talks about how Islamists, when he was among them, would purposefully exploit the multiculturalism of the left. They once put up a poster on a campus in the UK that read: “Women of the West: Cover Up or Shut Up.” They snuffed out all opposition to the poster by calling university administrators “racist.” The poster stayed up — and spurred a murder. 

That tale alone makes this documentary worthwhile, although neither Nawaz nor Harris is under any illusion that it will solve every problem. But it provides a much-needed beginning. Their hope is to inspire nuanced dialogue.

“Dialogue is the only remedy,” Nawaz says. “Without conversation we become more and more entrenched in our views. And we need to give people permission to talk across ‘identity’ lines — you don’t need to be Muslim to challenge Islamist theocracy. That alone will lead to a less identity-driven — a more rational — conversation.”


Karen Lehrman Bloch is an author and cultural critic living in New York City.

Brave Students Oppose Anti-Semitism

Photo from Flickr.

Most of us never have to deal with anti-Zionist activists protesting outside our homes or harassing us at our jobs. We can make a conscious decision to face our opponents at rallies or protests or in other public settings, but we almost never enter into in-person encounters unless we deliberately choose to do so. 

But brave pro-Israel students at UCLA and other universities face that challenge every day. Last week, I wrote about the threat of anti-Semitism on our college campuses and praised those students for the work they do and the risks they take to confront that threat. But even while we support and applaud those courageous young people, many in the Jewish community have come to view the campus battle lines as something far removed from our own lives. 

What happens on college campuses, though, rarely stays on college campuses. And the thing to remember about college students is that they often graduate. After they receive their diplomas, they take with them into the real world the lessons they learned both inside and outside the classroom. A cultural attitude or policy preference that a young person develops as an undergraduate doesn’t disappear when they finish college; it accompanies them for many years afterward.

Once they complete their education, these young people grow up to stay at Airbnbs when they travel. They buy music from Lana del Rey and Lorde. They join the National Women’s March, even if the March’s leaders are consorting with Louis Farrakhan. 

None of these ideological or consumer choices make someone anti-Semitic, of course. But our biggest danger as a community doesn’t come from a small number of haters as much as from a much larger group that ignores or tolerates or minimizes hate. The more difficult challenge is not from those few individuals who learned during their college years that they should despise us, but rather the much larger group that learned they just shouldn’t care very much one way or the other.

This ambivalence manifests itself in every corner of society. The owners of Airbnb aren’t anti-Semites. It just never occurred to them that discriminating against Jewish settlers on the West Bank was anything more than a politically correct concession. Most of the singers who refuse to perform in Israel aren’t intentionally malicious, but rather simply oblivious to the security necessities of a nation that must protect its people against terrorism. And those Women’s Marchers who choose to excuse the behavior of their leaders aren’t haters themselves, they’ve just decided that the March’s other goals are higher priorities than standing up against hate directed toward the Jewish community and homeland.

Until now.

With the notable exception of courageous leaders like Amanda Berman and her colleagues at the Zioness Movement, too many Women’s March participants and supporters have been willing to overlook the close relationship that March leaders Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory maintain with a notorious anti-Semite like Farrakhan. It was only after Farrakhan’s most recent invectives against the Jewish people that broader pressure began to build on Sarsour and Mallory to distance themselves from him. (Women’s March Founder Teresa Shook, actor Alyssa Milano and several regional March leaders deserve special credit for their efforts to bring necessary attention to the controversy.) 

Sarsour and Mallory have issued defiant and unsatisfactory responses to this pressure, creating a dilemma for all the women and men who support the March’s goals. Is it better to pretend that Farrakhan’s allies in the March leadership have satisfied our concerns about their relationship with him and their support of his agenda? Or does it make more sense to continue to push for their ouster, even at the risk of potentially weakening the broader impact of the March scheduled for Jan. 19?

The answer can be determined by how troubled each of us is when anti-Zionism oozes into anti-Semitism, and where this particularly noxious brand of hatred ranks on the list of outrages to decide how much that disagreement matters to each of us.


Dan Schnur is a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, and at UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. He is the founder of the USC-L.A. Times statewide political survey and the former director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles region.

Get The Gift Of Music From Nashuva for Chanukah

 

Buy the Nashuva Band CD: Heaven on EarthBring the Nashuva band into your home with their new album, “Heaven on Earth – Songs of the Soul!” Click here to purchase a copy for yourself and one as a Chanukah gift!

Nashuva’s new album is produced by Don Was. The music is full of light to lift your soul! This is a special limited edition of 500 copies —
Make sure to get yours now!

Video:

Sing With The Nashuva Band: Heaven On Earth Songs Of The Soul

Thank you to the amazing band including: Jared Stein, Justin Stein, Jamie Papish, Ed Lemus, Fino Roverato, Bernadette Mauban, Andrea Kay and Alula Tzadik.
At Nashuva, we believe that prayer can heal our souls and help us find personal peace. But it also leads us to action. It reminds us that we are here to heal this broken world.
Celebrate with the Nashuva Band

“Music has the power to elevate one to prophetic inspiration.

With song, we can open the gates of heaven.”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liady

More from Rabbi Naomi and Nashuva:

I wrote about Rabbi Naomi’s book for my 50th birthday: Click here to read From Terrified to Blessed (about when I went sky diving!) Buy her book: “Einstein and the Rabbi

Celebrate with the Nashuva Band 3

I wrote about another book by Rabbi Naomi in this article, Spirit of Adventure in 2010:

As Rabbi Naomi Levy says in Hope will Find You, “By far the most human condition I learned to guide people through is this: an overwhelming feeling that life hasn’t begun yet. They would say to me, “My life will begin when…when I lose weight, when I fall in love, when I get a job, when I get married, when I have a baby, when I buy a home, when I get divorced, when I quit my job.”

Video: Join Nashuva at Santa Monica Beach for Tashlich

Tashlich on the Beach with Nashuva 5777

Join in Shabbat services once a month: “Our Shabbat services offer an opportunity to take a break from the daily stresses of life.  Come nourish your soul, connect with community and experience the beauty and joy of Shabbat.  All are welcome, no tickets, membership or advanced reservations required.   We look forward to seeing your there!”

Happy Reading! Happy Singing, Happy Chanukah and Happy Shabbanica!

 

Celebrate with the Nashuva Band group photo

Taharah And Gender by Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

Geder Yin & Yang

[Ed. Note: The opinions expressed in posts reflect those of the author, and do not necessarily represent Kavod v’Nichum.]

 

My response to a previous essay:

Many chevre, including ours, believe in anonymity.  Anonymity for ourselves…and also for the maita.  99% of the time…our chevre knows little if anything about the maita.  It is my opinion – the identity of the maita is none of our business and totally unnecessary.   We are caring for the body and from a traditional perspective…helping the nehsama on its final journey.  To learn who this person was or what they did – might influence the degree of respect being shown.

It would not be a surprise to learn that the maitas we serve  – might have had an illness or disability – but, unless there is some marked obvious issue…we wouldn’t know.  Unless it affects our fulfilling our role…what difference would knowing make? Likely, nothing positive.  Additionally, since we don’t talk during tahara, there is NO discussion so there is no need to curb curiosity.  Thus, preparing a body for burial – a most awesome AND spiritual experience –  is not the forum for discussing the maita’s personhood, or personal preferences.

In the previous essay it was mentioned that we do not deserve to know more about a trans person’s gender than about a cis person’s gender.  DESERVE?  What an odd choice of words.  To date, the tahara group called upon IS determined by the gender of the nifta – nothing else.

The writer of the earlier essay also brought up the topic of Transgender.  Assuming the maita’s body – from the waist down – has female genitalia … a women’s chevre would be called upon.  To perform Tahara….what else is needed to know?  Nothing.  A big dilemma, conundrum, question could confuse things if the maita’s name is Joan…but, from the waist down  – it is a John.  The funeral director might go ONLY by the name…and have no clue…and call the women.

In another statement of that essay, the writer wrote “In light of the fact that trans and GNC people are deserving of recognition and affirmation…”.   I find that faulty.  “Deserving of recognition and affirmation…” are NOT part of a tahara.  “DESERVING” assumes we are making a judgement call.  That is not in our job description.

IF the body has male genital organs…we, the women’s chevre  would not be called.  IF the body has female organs, the men’s  chevre would not be called.   To suggest that the women’s chevre MUST accept, be comfortable with and perform a tahara on a body that appears male – is a mistaken assumption.  The premise that the men’s chevre MUST be comfortable with caring for a body that appears female is also misguided.  While there may be a chevre member comfortable with doing so…after polling many chevre members…the majority would not be comfortable nor would they participate if the maita did NOT resemble them!

One can hold a position that to them makes a world of sense…but realistically – you cannot legislate what makes sense to you – to be required of others.

1) Unless a community is prepared to support a 3rd &/or 4h tahara team…it is highly unlikely that anytime soon every chevre will be willing to participate in taharas where the nifta is not similar to the chevre members.

2) Assuming the call that comes to a chevre…is to care for a mait that matches the chevre members…there would be no issue.  If a person was transgendered – which gender their body reflects BELOW THE WAIST, would determine which of the 2 chevre’s is called – the men’s chevre or the women’s chevre.  To date-the only two choices.   As per the maita, who they were, and who they loved, and how they felt, and what they wore…is of no consequence to the chevre…the role of the chevre is not to judge,  but carry out the sacred work of preparing the body.

Whatever the social, personal, religious or political views of the maita were…what difference does it make during a Tahara?

The issue of “genderqueer” people was raised in that essay.   While this is certainly a relatively new issue in terms of Tahara, what is not an issue is the reluctance of many to get involved in the “politics” of it and just want to do what they signed up for.  WOMEN signed up to care for women.  Men signed up to take care of men.

In my view, this is exactly the prevailing view: Women care for women  and men for men.  Given new developments…new groups may be needed……..a third choice, possibly a 4th …and the writer seems to suggest this already exists.

They wrote: “This is why the Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston is so critical– it allows Jews from all walks of life to care for the dead of our own communities rather than outsourcing this holy task to folks from only one strand of Judaism”.  I am a tad surprised by this statement as I am unaware of any Tahara group that would refuse to care for a fellow Jew due to their degree of observance.

The writer of the prior essay wrote, “It is important to me to be cared for in death by people who would have shared my community in life”.  I fail to see the rationale for this line of thinking.  If the maita was an artist…did I have to hang in an artist’ colony?  If the maita was an athlete…do I have to commit to running in the marathon?  The role of the chevre is merely to care for a dead body in a traditional Jewish way…not get involved in the politics or private life of the maita.  The body presented in front of the chevre is the ONLY consideration.  The chevre will take care of the body with sacred kavod without knowing any details, as they do for ALL .

A concern was postulated in that essay that we as chevre MUST consider how the Maita’s family accepts the maita’s sexuality.   As a chevre member, I do not agree with the comment WE MUST uphold anything. Why and how would members of a chevre KNOW what the family thinks? And even if we did….why would what the family thinks – affect tahara???

The previous writer penned: “The Chevrah’s role is to reflect the meyt’s understanding of themselves with dignity, love, and complete acceptance”.  I disagree;   I counter that statement with: The chevres role is solely to show utmost respect to the maita throughout the process of  performing the tahara.    We don’t reflect anything, we don’t question family, we ONLY care for the body.

I  am well aware that one can be passionate about their belief…but, I also do believe other perspectives must be considered as well.  Fortunately – in the tahara room, everyone is equal-no questions asked.

 

Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs hails from Brooklyn, currently living in NJ.  Having originally learned about Taharah as a yeshiva student, I knew I would participate as soon as the opportunity presented itself.  I have participated in doing Taharah for almost 30 years.  I am currently the ROSHA of our chevrah.  When not doing Taharah, I taught school – up until I retired and went back to school and became a chaplain.  I held the Federation position of County (Mercer) Chaplain for 15 years.   My two children have blessed us with grandchildren.

 

 

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Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. It will be offered live online during the Winter from January 8th to March 26th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructor will be Rick Light, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

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Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is December 20th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you miss a Gamliel Café and wish access to the recording (if one is made) please send a request to receive it after the date of the session.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

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Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next live course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, with a focus on the Idra Rabbah mateials, taught by Beth Huppin. This is a stand-alone course – you do not need to have taken the prior course to register for this one.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.

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Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them via recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

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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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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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SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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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Open Letters to Melvin Oliver, President of Pitzer College

From Rabbi John Moscowitz in Toronto

President Oliver,

I write you as a Pitzer graduate (1975) and as a Jew. I do so in sadness and disappointment— in response to the Pitzer faculty voting to cut off the college’s program in Haifa.

My two most important teachers at Pitzer were Lucian Marquis and Tom Hayden. I was close to both, not just while in Claremont, but to the end of each of their lives. I would speak with each about my love of Israel, including with Tom as he was dying two years ago.

Interestingly, Tom, the Irish Catholic radical, was a good deal more knowledgeable about Israel than Lucian, the German Jewish refugee.

That said, no professor was more memorable and influential than Lucian— in part because he provided his students a window into the fascism from which he fled. He cautioned us, his wide-eyed and idealistic American students, that fascism was possible anywhere. We were clueless but curious. Lucian made us both less clueless and more curious—smarter, in fact. Come to think of it, so did Tom.

Tom Hayden, much like Lucian Marquis, would become allergic to the kind of herd-like mentality that consumed Lucian’s mid-century Germany. It was one of the reasons the hard left eventually bore Hayden much ill will.

In any case, I strongly suspect both men, were they alive today, would share my deep disappointment. Both saw Pitzer as different from other colleges and universities: more free of dogma; more wedded to fairness; more inclined toward principle. Not perfect, but worthy of significant esteem. I learned the virtue of independent thinking from these two men. I’ve been grateful ever since.

This was the Pitzer that Lucian and Tom knew— indeed, the college I experienced and have since been proud to include on my resume.

No longer. The Pitzer faculty’s Haifa vote is illiberal— and betrays a knee-jerk animosity towards Israel as ignorant as it is disguised as principled. This is the kind of animus that often proves infectious, even dangerous, as it can turn individuals into crowds. It’s hardly what the Pitzer College I once knew was about.

I suspect you don’t share the Faculty’s views on the Haifa program. Even more, I’m gratified that your students (the official student council,  in any case) are prepared to buck their teachers.

Nonetheless, the vote badly tarnishes the college— and leaves a foul wind in its wake that won’t easily dissipate.

Yours sincerely,

Rabbi John Moscowitz, ‘75


From Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz in Los Angeles 

Dear President Oliver,

As a rabbi in Los Angeles, and as a current student at Claremont Graduate University, I find the decisions made by the Pitzer College faculty regarding its relationship with the State of Israel deeply troubling. In a time of complex social and political issues, in which institutions of higher education should be encouraging their students to engage across political boundaries and create learning opportunities from different perspectives, Pitzer College faculty has voted to suspend its study abroad program with the University of Haifa. While I would oppose any boycott against Israel, since Haifa is well within the internationally recognized borders of the State of Israel, the only message this sends Pitzer students and the broader community is that the Pitzer faculty believes their students should distance themselves from all of Israel and all Israelis. The second faculty vote to dissent from the Board of Trustees’ decision to protect the college from the dangerous forces of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against the only Jewish State in the world and the only democracy in the Middle East cements a clear agenda of racism.

These tactics by the faculty punish Israel and isolate its academia without helping the Palestinians at all. Having lived in Israel for a year, I can attest that Haifa, the third largest city in Israel, is home to populations of Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Druze, the Bahai World Center, and others. Haifa is often celebrated as an example of beautiful co-existence in the region. What part of this offends the Pitzer faculty? These decisions seem to announce that Israel is solely to blame for the situation in the region, when in fact the Palestinians have formally rejected statehood a handful of times and the Palestinians continue today to foster a culture of hatred and hostility. How many other study abroad programs have the Pitzer faculty opposed to this extent? How should this kind of extreme political agenda on the part of the faculty toward the Jewish State be addressed by the administration? There is no doubt that this type of censorship of academic opportunities in the form of this boycott effort against Israel by the Pitzer faculty should be met by the harshest criticism.

All Jewish families should reconsider sending our children to be “taught” by the faculty at Pitzer. Connection to Israel is one of the key elements of Jewish Identity in the twenty-first century. If I would have to choose at this point for my own children to learn according to a worldview between the faculty of Pitzer and the faculty of the University of Haifa, there is no doubt I would prefer my children adopt the open welcoming academic outlook of Haifa. I hope and pray you are able to guide your institution back to a position of open-minded rational thought. I look forward to receiving a response.

Sincerely,

Rabbi Nolan Lebovitz

Jews and Intermarriage: A Love-Fate Relationship

It’s becoming the great unspoken yet perennial source of anguish haunting the Jewish world. It’s that nerve pressing on the blue-and-white or red-white-and-blue spine, inflaming the anguish fueling most Jewish arguments today. It’s American Jewry’s great divider, pitting the Orthodox and a dwindling handful of conservative Conservatives against everyone else while distinguishing most Israelis from most American Jews. It used to be considered a threat. Now, some are trying to give it a makeover as an “opportunity” — even a pluralistic, humanistic, universalizing blessing — as we evolve beyond our “racist,” particularist sins. “It” is intermarriage.

Think about it. No Jewish community could ever survive a 70-percent intermarriage rate (higher if you only count non-Orthodox marriages). No community can sustain itself with negative population growth. And no community, theoretically or practically, can exist without red lines: A community needs unity about something.

Yet, every intermarriage is a love story. In a broken world where so many are so lonely, who dares mourn when people find caring partners for life? Every intermarriage is a success story — only in America would Jews emerge as the most admired religious community. Only in America and some other Americanized democracies could we coin that deliciously neurotic, oh-so-Jewish lament: “Once they killed us with their hate; now they’re killing us with their love.” And every intermarriage is a story making the American dream come true. From “The Jazz Singer” to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” to “Today’s Special,” Hollywood treats parents who oppose intermarriage as the heavies, who usually see the red-white-and-blue light by the time the story reaches its happy ending.

In today’s overheated politics, as he’s doing with nationalism, President Donald Trump is giving the notion of any borders a bad name. But boundaries don’t just keep people out. They also build meaning, solidarity and pride inside. For states, nations, communities and families, lines separating those from within and without foster internal bonds. True, rigid boundaries can become nooses, choking off the oxygen flow that healthy groups need to grow and thrive; but no community can survive without some frameworks. As Momma Troy warned, if you’re too open-minded, your brains fall out.

Intermarriage looms underneath all the Jewish identity-building, educating, Birthrighting and Hebrew schooling. Intermarriage shrinks the Jewish-peoplehood power that needs Israel, relies on Israel and loves Israel. Most Israelis can’t understand this modern Masada, this mass act of communal suicide. As one nonreligious Israeli friend said: “We do everything — we take out the Jewish people’s garbage. We fight. We pay taxes. We sacrifice sometimes with our lives. American Jews just have to do one thing — stay Jewish. But they can’t even do that right.”

Clearly, this hair-trigger issue requires more conversation, not less; less political correctness, not more; braver thinkers, not cowards. Yet, intermarriage has become the third rail of Jewish politics. Non-Orthodox rabbis risk repudiation from colleagues if they endorse it; non-Orthodox non-rabbis risk ostracism if they oppose it — condemned as racist, judgmental or mean.

This issue of issues is so complex, the stakes so high, that we need capacious, creative and courageous thinkers to help.

Fortunately, one ace thinker has arrived — Robert Mnookin. He has a superlawyer’s parsing skills and elegance. He has a mediator’s decency and out-of-the-box insights. And he need not be brave: He has tenure at Harvard Law School, a position guaranteed to intimidate most Jewish American success junkies.

In his ambitious, thought-provoking, dazzling and, yes, sometimes frustrating book — “The Jewish American Paradox: Embracing Choice in a Changing World” — Mnookin deftly tackles this volatile intermarriage issue. The Samuel Williston Professor of Law, the chair of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, and the director of the Harvard Negotiation Research Project, Mnookin finds Jews’ traditional matrilineal standard too exclusive yet too inclusive. Why should someone who wants to be Jewish not be welcomed? he wonders. And why should somebody who doesn’t care, yet has a Jewish mother, merit lifetime membership?

This question is not simply theoretical for him. In this deeply personal book, Mnookin tells his family’s story as a modern Jewish American parable. Raised as assimilated Reform Jews in the 1940s and ’50s, he and his wife were thoroughly ambivalent, take-it-for-granted Jews. “The idea wasn’t to deny being Jewish,” he recalls, “but rather to fit in.” They mimicked many other successful Jews, “accepting my Jewish heritage, if not exactly embracing it, and then thinking about it as little as possible.” Then, while Mnookin was on an Oxford sabbatical, their 11-year-old daughter, Jennifer, asked, “When are we actually going to become Jewish?” She also demanded a bat mitzvah.

Jennifer’s challenge jump-started a process that accelerated decades later when Mnookin became Grandpa Mnookin. “Continuity suddenly mattered to me,” he writes.Today, he’s activated his Jewish identity and he laments that some of his grandchildren are dismissed as “half-Jewish” because one of his two daughters intermarried, even though all his grandchildren are halachically Jewish.

Such bizarre, seemingly arbitrary categorizing offends his legal and liberal sense of fairness. The result is his thoughtful compromise rejecting the traditional approaches of matrilineal descent or Orthodox conversion as the only two entrees into Judaism. If you want to call yourself Jewish, you’re Jewish, he insists, embracing a big-tent approach. But let each institution and each denomination define its own membership rules, he says. Belonging to the Jewish people should have a low, voluntary bar, while belonging to an Orthodox or Conservative synagogue could still follow tradition.

Mnookin’s proposal is genuinely lovely, acknowledging the pain people feel when rejected. It expresses a welcoming spirit difficult to dislike. And to a people so obsessed with our fate that the scholar Simon Rawidowicz, a half-century ago, christened Jews “the ever-dying people,” it says, logically: Let ’em in!

The modern me, the American me, the academic me, the liberal me and especially the nice-guy me want to high-five Mnookin and thank him for solving this painful dilemma. Yet, the Jewish, Zionist and Israeli in me resist — especially because I just finished reading Jonathan Haidt’s majestic “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.” Haidt recalls living in India, where he learned to appreciate other values beyond his, ahem, orthodox liberalism, individualism and openness. Beyond liberal “autonomy,” he discovered what his fellow cultural psychologist Richard Shweder calls “community” and “divinity,” let alone authority.

“Liberals hate the idea of exclusion,” Haidt writes, as if he were writing a memo to Mnookin — but then notes how inconsistent that perspective is. When one of his students condemned Catholics for rejecting doctrinal rebels, Haidt noted how many applicants are rejected by their own University of Virginia department (let alone Harvard Law). Haidt urges liberals to appreciate values such as community, authority and sanctity (he urges conservatives to respect liberals’ commitment to caring and fairness, too). 

Mnookin’s openness sacrifices the authority, the sanctity and the mystical powers that sustain Judaism. The moats the rabbis dug around Judaism worked. And they reflected sincere beliefs, not just anthropological appreciation, for cultural props. Such faith can bring out the best in people, speaking to their most spiritual, altruistic and communal selves.

Mnookin’s welcome mat invites the critique that the feminist writer Anne Roiphe offered of her similarly universalist parenting in her 1981 book, “Generation Without Memory.”

“Judaism and Jewishness in America (with some exceptions) appear to be thinning,” Roiphe wrote. “I appreciate our Thanksgiving and Christmas. I know that I will make beautiful weddings for our daughters and that our funerals will serve well enough. But I do believe that the tensions of the ancient ways, the closeness of primitive magic, the patina of the ages and the sense of connection to past and future that are lacking in our lives are serious losses.”

Mnookin’s criteria lack the “primitive magic, the patina of the ages” that reinforce much of Jewish tradition. Tolerating it on denominational sublevels isn’t enough.

Moreover, as a Zionist, while loving his outreach, I fear the fragmentation occurring as boundaries collapse and demarcations of Jewish peoplehood proliferate. Clearly, Mnookin is not responsible for this condition and is trying to help Jews cope. But we need more centripetal forces — pushing us inward toward one another, not centrifugal forces flinging us outward in multiple directions.

Finally, as an Israeli, I appreciate the need for uniformity. While cheering Mnookin’s marvelously crisp, clear chapter about Israel’s “who is a Jew” controversy, I believe states need consistent rules. A Jewish state defined aptly by the novelist A.B. Yehoshua as a state for all its citizens as well as for the Jewish people needs certain standards for determining who can immigrate under the Law of Return.

My skepticism about his proposal didn’t detract from my delight in reading this wonderful book. Mnookin jumps off the pages as a master teacher, a charming intellectual companion. He knows how to challenge substantively, disagree agreeably and spark discussion amicably.

His book beautifully summarizes modern Judaism — and the modern Jewish American condition. He identifies four causes of modern Jewish American drift: Most American Jews don’t practice the religion; Jews aren’t persecuted in America; Israeli policies cause bitter conflict instead of unity; and intermarriage. He addresses the anomaly — still true after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting — that anti-Semitism rarely occurs yet constantly dominates the Jewish American psyche. He writes passionately about the “Jewish spark” that his Americanizing, assimilating, globetrotting and career-ladder climbing couldn’t extinguish. He identifies many Jewish American challenges, including how to fit in yet stand out; how to navigate the slipperiness of individual identity and the solidity of collective loyalty; how to explain this shared sense of destiny; and the need so many of his peers have to see their grandchildren somehow stay Jewish.

And he’s practical, not just theoretical. A chapter on raising a Jewish child offers valuable relationship advice on how intermarried parents should navigate their differences and nurture their children’s Jewish identities. He identifies four critical elements: Jewish activities in the home, Jewish education, Jewish social networks and exposure to Israel. He coaches grandparents on how to help. And in the spirit of his core belief — that being Jewish should be a choice, a mission, not merely a “status” — he identifies three categories of activities he integrates into his week, which others can follow: study, have a Jewish experience, and engage communally with other Jews.

Most profoundly, his book will help non-Jewish readers explore their own values and identities — or lack thereof — while Jewish readers consider his core areas of concern: “Why I am choosing to be Jewish, why being a part of our diverse tribe is meaningful for me, and how being Jewish does make a difference in how I am living my life.”

Unfortunately, this clearly thoughtful guy doesn’t fully appreciate Judaism’s metaphysical depth or countercultural power. His graceful summary of the “smorgasbord of Jewish values, music, food, traditions, rituals, spirituality, language, philanthropic causes and connections with Israel” needed to add that enchanting, weighty word — philosophy.

But even where I disagree, or feel he fell short, I remain grateful for the categories he developed and the tone he set.

I recently met a proper British Jewish banker, who every Monday unintentionally makes his non-Jewish colleagues envious. He simply describes all his weekend Jewish communal and spiritual activities, from Shabbat dinners to charity events. Mnookin’s book reminded me of my friend. None of us would be arrogant enough to brand Judaism the best way or the only way. But we all value Judaism as our way. To anyone, Jewish or non-Jewish, who can’t imagine “why bother,” this book is a must read.

Ultimately, even those of us skeptical about Mnookin’s anti-matrilinealism can appreciate his celebration of his “re-Jew-venation” as his even greater contribution to the intermarriage debate. “Thou shalt nots” won’t prevent intermarriage or assimilation. Only smart, compelling and welcoming visions of what Judaism was, is and can be — like his — will work. And the more Jews are challenged and charmed by Mnookin’s excellent primer, the more likely they will be to make an “I” statement, namely, “I choose to be Jewish, not because it’s important to my parents or grandparents but because it’s important to me.” 

That renewed Jewish journey, not some hoary guilt trip, is the key to a dynamic Jewish future — and the reason to hail publication of this important, accessible, stimulating contribution to our 3,500-year-old debate about who we are, who we have been, and who we can be.


Gil Troy, a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, is the author of “The Zionist Ideas: Visions for the Jewish Homeland — Then, Now, Tomorrow.”

The Bookends of Life by Jean B. Berman

Washing the body, purifying the deceased

The call came from a woman I liked and had learned from: would I consider participating in a Taharah – a what? Someone had died and she was spearheading a new initiative to offer the traditional Jewish ceremony of purification. I was hesitant but open, and after more conversation decided I would give it a try. I felt unsure – what would it be like to cleanse a dead body? Would there be a smell? Could I handle it or would I want to leave?

The woman who had called me led the team as we met together in a room of a local funeral home. She asked for questions and feelings, which we discussed. When we were ready, our leader set a sacred tone into which I relaxed. Praying to the soul of the deceased woman, we let her know our intention of offering honor, respect and comfort, and asking forgiveness in advance for anything we did or didn’t do that missed the mark. That was reassuring.

The sights and smells of the funeral home were unfamiliar and felt challenging. What was I doing there? As one woman was directed to begin reading the prayers for the ceremony, the rest of us gently, and with reverence began to prepare the body of the deceased. The liturgy was mostly unfamiliar to me. We were all learning. We debriefed afterwards, talking about and giving thanks for the opportunity. I left with deep gratitude for the sacredness of the experience.

During my second Taharah, I found myself feeling how much this was like welcoming a newborn baby with tenderness and care. I imagined and wished that all those in the process of dying and everyone on Earth could have this experience. I sent wishes of peace and blessing out to those in the dying process everywhere, that they might feel held, comforted and honored. I had a deep sense within that I was born to do this work.

Over time the spiritual experience of Taharah and Shmirah have deepened for me. I have immersed myself in learning and sharing aspects of these sacred traditions with others.


Jean Berman speaks and leads workshops on Honor and Comfort: The Jewish Way of Death and Mourning, Care of the Newly Dead – An Inquiry into Intuition and Tradition, and How Death Enhances Life: Heightening our Awareness. She enjoys walks in nature, kayaking and playing ukulele, and lives on Peaks Island, Maine. She is a student of the Gamliel Institute

Jean B. Berman

jean B. Berman

[Ed.Note: All of us at Kavod v’Nichum wish you (those who are celebrating it now) a happy Thanksgiving holiday.] 

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Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. It will be offered live online during the Winter from January 8th to March 26th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructor will be Rick Light, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

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Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is December 20th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you miss a Gamliel Café and wish access to the recording (if one is made) please send a request to receive it after the date of the session.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

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Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next live course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, with a focus on the Idra Rabbah mateials, taught by Beth Huppin. This is a stand-alone course – you do not need to have taken the prior course to register for this one.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.

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Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them via recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

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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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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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SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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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It’s Getting Personal

Just moments before I started writing this, I saw a post on Twitter about a shooting at a Chicago hospital with multiple people wounded. Immediately, my mind went to two doctors I know who work in Chicago, a husband and wife, one of whom is an emergency room physician. Both are Jewish.

It’s not surprising that the “Jewish doctor” is a bit of a cliché. Of course, most human cultures hold human life in high esteem; it’s a survival instinct for the species. Jewish tradition, however, makes it abundantly clear how important it is to save a life. Not only are we allowed to break almost any Jewish law in order to save a life, we are often commanded to do so. For instance, if a person’s health would be put in danger by fasting, they are not allowed to fast, even on Yom Kippur.

In addition, we are told that when we save one human life, it is as if we saved an entire world, presumably because one person, such as Adam or Eve, could be the ancestor of an entire world full of people. So no, it is not surprising that many Jews would become a doctor, a profession in which they would expect to be able to save precious lives.

As far as I know, and at this point I know very little, this shooting had nothing to do with anti-Semitism. I suspect that any Jewish people who were harmed in this particular shooting were just in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time, even though the chances that at least one of them was Jewish is probably higher than the approximately 2 percent of the nation who identify as Jewish. My two friends are fine. The friends and relatives of many others are not.

Just a couple of weeks ago the largest anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue in this country was carried out. Many people were commenting about how small the Jewish community is. Many of the Jews here in California know or are related to at least someone associated with the shooting in Pittsburgh.

And while the Jewish community may be small, the chevra kadisha community – the volunteers within the Jewish community that take care of the dead and their mourners – is even smaller. So I, here in California, know at least one person who travelled to Pennsylvania to help respond to the tragedy in the way that only we know how. And one of the two doctors I know in Chicago was quoted in the Jewish media in regard to the chevra kadisha response in Pittsburgh.

Now here I am, breathing in the smoke from the wildfires still burning north of me, knowing several Jewish institutions have burned down in California wildfires in the last couple of years, wondering when tragedy will strike next in the Jewish community. Will it be a wildfire, perhaps caused by humans, on purpose or inadvertently; or will it be another mass shooting, which seem to be happening with ever-increasing frequency?

When will I be the one called to support a chevra kadisha in my area as they struggle to cope with a mass tragedy in their community, or will they, perhaps, be the ones helping my community to ritually wash and bury me? It seems it will only be a matter of time, so yes, it’s beginning to feel very personal.


Susan Esther Barnes writes about Jewish life from her perspective as a religious Reform Jew in Northern California. Follow her on Twitter at @SusanBarnesRnR.

My Jewish Mid-Life Crisis

By definition, a mid-life crisis is an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age. I am 52 years old, so likely past middle age, but I think I am having a crisis of some kind. I am questioning everything, and while I am confident I am clear on who I am, I am struggling to figure out what it is that I want, specifically in my personal life. I should know, but I don’t.

 

I used to think I wanted to get married again, but the older I get, and frankly the longer I am divorced, I’m not sure I want to. It has been 22 years since I was married and so it could be that I have just given up on the idea. I simply don’t think about it anymore, and I used to. I can barely muster the strength to go on a second date, which makes the chances of my getting married quite slim.

 

I have always been a woman of faith, and define myself as a Jew, but I am feeling a heightened sensitivity to everything Jewish. Ever since the murders in the Pittsburgh I have been on edge. I make a concerted effort every day to shake the uneasiness I feel, but I can’t. I got upset about something stupid someone I care about said about being Jewish, and I completely overreacted. Or did I?

 

I am not questioning my faith, but I am questioning how I view it and if I want it to be public versus private. It is bizarre. I had a bout of anxiety last week when I said Good Shabbos to someone, worried I had said out loud where people could hear me. The feeling I had then made me feel not only more anxious, but ashamed that I panicked about something to do with my faith.

 

Ugh. I am boring myself with this already and need to figure it out because it is effecting how I live my life. I am struggling. My life is markedly different with this crisis hanging over my head. I am questioning everything about myself, which is unfair to me, and I really need to be kinder to me. It can sometimes be easier to be kinder to others than to ourselves, and that is a real shame.

 

I need to cut myself some slack and I need to sort this all out. I have changed and I am sad about it. I hate that I second guess myself on things that shouldn’t be given any thought or attention. The back and forth in my own head is exhausting. Is anyone else going through something similar? I imagine there is, but I feel alone and am suffocating from all the questions with no answers.

 

My mother is coming to visit next week, and will surely provide clarity and comfort, but I am really the only person who can answer my questions. The most important question I have is when will I feel safe? When will I freely embrace my faith without fear? When will I stop second guessing everything? When will I date with an open mind to match my open heart?

 

I am going into Shabbat today with a real desire for peace. I want to quiet my mind and stop overthinking. I want to be free of worry. Impossible for a Jewish mother to be worry free of course, but you know what I mean. I am a good person and a proud Jew and I know this uneasy feeling will pass. I am blessed, and a little crazy, but everything will be okay as long as I am keeping the faith.

Legume Vase Floral Arrangement

Legumes, including beans, peas and lentils, have a storied association with Jewish history. In the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” historian and food writer Gil Marks notes that “the longstanding significance of beans to Sephardim may be seen from their Spanish name, judia.” He even adds that “purportedly, the favorite food of the Baal Shem Tov, Israel ben Eliezer, founder of the Chasidism, was black bean soup.” In appreciation of their history in Jewish food, I decided to create a floral arrangement featuring a legume-filled vase.

By using a vase-in-vase technique, we’re able to fill the space between the two vases with legumes of different colors, creating a lovely foundation to add flowers. They actually look like pebbles. I layered split peas, white northern beans and pink beans (that’s actually what they’re called), but you can also use any legumes that strike your fancy. These vases are perfect for fall because of the legume’s natural colors, which lend a rustic, homey feel to your décor. 

What You’ll Need:
Large vase
Small vase or drinking glass
Legumes
Flowers

1. To create the vase-in-vase arrangement, gather two vases — one of a large diameter and one of a smaller diameter. A short drinking glass can work as the smaller vase. Fill the small vase half way with water.

2. Place the small vase inside the larger one. The rim of the smaller vase should not extend too far above the larger one. 

3. In the gap between the vases, place your first layer of legumes. My bottom layer was green split peas. 

4. Continue adding layers of legumes until they reach the rim of the vases. It’s perfectly fine to only use one element instead of several. It just depends on what you have on hand. Then place cut flowers in the inner vase to complete the arrangement.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

Rethinking Jews’ Place in America

Photo from Twitter.

Unlike any other anti-Semitic incident, the Tree of Life Congregation tragedy has destroyed American Jews’ assumptions about our place in American society. We believed that deadly acts of anti-Semitism had been relegated to another era, only to see the rebirth of violent hate in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood and beyond. Now, caught up in a suddenly tense and hostile political climate, America’s Jewish community is struggling to find its political voice. 

As a community, we hold to a series of core beliefs. We envision our Judaism and our Americanism to be in consort with each other. We believe each generation builds upon the last. And we see the pursuit of these value propositions advancing the perfectibility of humankind. 

Following World War II, globalism would redefine America’s place in the world. As a central player in promoting regional models of collective action, the United States would form military alliances and economic trade arrangements designed to connect this nation with the world. The genius of the Marshall Plan and the success of NATO had symbolized the post-war American model of global engagement. Many of us also became globalists. We asserted our role in advocating for human rights on the world stage, beginning with Soviet Jewry and extending to endangered communities well beyond the Jewish world.

Because of our economic and social standing, and the individual and collective achievements of Jews, we have taken pride that Jewish Americans disproportionately contribute to this nation’s cultural messaging, imprinting its social behaviors and helping to frame its political conversations.

The Trump presidency has brought about a fundamentally disruptive moment in this nation’s political culture. Not only are we experiencing strikingly different policy options and directions, but the current cultural artifacts of politics — namely how this president operates — dramatically challenge the existing norms of political behavior and action. As our society is shifting from a period of American liberalism to political populism, deep fissures are dividing Americans in general and Jews in particular. Jewish political differences may never have been more pronounced than they are today, as Jews debate and disagree over how to define their vision for America and their own self-interests.

Amid this fundamental political sea change that appears to be underway, with new strains of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism emerging to test America’s social fabric, America’s Jews are experiencing a new type of angst. After decades of being seen as political outsiders, Jews in recent times have become defined as part of the United States’ power class — or, within some circles, the “oppressor class.” On the left, political forces embrace the “intersectionality” movement and interject their anti-Zionist convictions as they dismiss Jews as privileged white political actors. By embracing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the political left has targeted Israel as a strategic gateway to its war on the Jews. On the political right, we see patterns of both blatant and subtle anti-Semitism. The liberal Jewish establishment is blamed for promoting “anti-white policies” such as immigration and diversity. The alt-right and others see egalitarianism, globalism and multiculturalism as Jewish-inspired, liberal initiatives that run counter to American nationalist norms and values. 

“With new strains of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism emerging to test America’s social fabric, America’s Jews are experiencing a new type of angst.”

A debate has arisen within the Jewish community over which of these political assaults, from the right or the left, should be considered more potentially damaging to America’s Jews and our interests. In arguing such questions, advocates seek to minimize the impact of one side over the other, suggesting that there are degrees to the new politics of hate, as if anti-Jewish behavior is somehow less threatening or damaging from one political extreme than another.

Are the political climate and social fabric of this society coming undone, and in the process are Jews finding themselves increasingly disconnected from the changing mores and values that define the changing American character? What are the contributing ingredients to this new condition?

Pittsburgh may have awakened us to this new and uncomfortable reality. The loss of historic memory and a devaluing of the past give credence to our opponents. The radicalization of our nation’s politics and the invention of political myths are contributing to this new political order. In an age when the rhetoric of hate has taken center stage, this must be seen as problematic to the Jewish condition. 

Today, there is a growing political uncertainty among some of us. The impact of the Pittsburgh attack represented more than an assault on individual Jews. It brought to light the question of our collective well-being. Many Jewish voters entered their voting booths on Nov. 6 still dealing with the aftermath of the most deadly anti-Semitic shooting in American history.

We need to remind ourselves that, historically, Jews have not fared well in political regimes built around extreme nationalism and hate rhetoric. Identity politics, which has become the mantra for some, may produce some short-term victories; but ultimately it must be seen as highly problematic for the Jewish community. 

The biggest potential story of 2018 may still be unfolding. In the aftermath of Trump’s remake of the Republican Party, where will prominent conservative thought leaders and writers such as Bret Stephens and Max Boot find a political home? Unhappy with their party’s white nationalistic rhetoric and anti-immigrant focus, what political pathways are ahead for Jewish Republicans who differ with the president? 

One needs to ask a similar question to Jewish Democrats who, in some cases, are increasingly concerned about the progressive wing of their party and, more pointedly, its anti-Israel, pro-BDS sentiments.

 Over time, are we likely to see a fundamental, political realignment involving disillusioned Jewish Republicans and Democrats? Where do American Jewish activists find a new political base in this uncertain climate?

In both real and symbolic ways, has Pittsburgh distorted and destroyed our assumptions about ourselves and our beliefs about America? We had understood this nation to represent a different proposition: here, anti-Semitism would have no space and we envisioned our Judaism in consort with our Americanism.

At this moment, we are a people in search of our political identity.

There is a heightened awareness among Jews of the growth of extremist expressions challenging not only the existing democratic norms of the nation but also how minority communities, including Jewish Americans, are being categorized and threatened. As we have seen, the fallout from this type of politics has also invaded today’s Jewish public space, where Jews are battling against one another.

Who today can speak to the collective priorities of American Jewry? A new and dangerous divide seems to have replaced the once robust voices of an energized polity. As this American Jewish journey unfolds, how we manage this moment represents a critical test about our character and credibility and our future roles as Americans.


Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR, Los Angeles. 

Pittsburgh Tragedy: Azerbaijan Extends Solidarity and Hope

Signs of support are being shown throughout Pittsburgh following last week’s deadly synagogue shooting. Photo by Alan Freed/Reuters

When I learned about the tragedy in Pittsburgh, I felt profoundly sad. Eleven Jews had just been murdered by a depraved anti-Semite; their lives ripped away in a sacred space, a synagogue, on the Jewish day of rest and prayer. For those lives taken, and for the mourners reeling from this tragedy, that Shabbat is truly eternal, and one man’s act of hateful violence is unconscionable and unforgivable. 

In my homeland of Azerbaijan, messages and sentiments of solidarity and prayers for the victims and their loved ones have been pouring out from every corner. In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev wrote: “I was deeply saddened by the news of casualties as a result of an armed attack at a synagogue in the city of Pittsburgh. On the occasion of this tragic event, on my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Azerbaijan, I extend my deepest condolences to you, the families and loved ones of those who died, and all the people of the United States.”

As consul general of Azerbaijan to the Western United States, I join my nation — a majority-Muslim country with thriving Jewish and Christian communities — in an outcry of support, solidarity and the most heartfelt condolences. As someone who has made Los Angeles a new home and has been privileged to become close friends with many Jewish leaders and organizations across California and throughout the United States, I reach out in total devastation as a friend and as a neighbor. To all of my Jewish brothers and sisters, my heart breaks for your loss and pain. I think of the many synagogues across Los Angeles where I have enjoyed celebrating Shabbat, and I think of the pain everyone is in, of how this tragedy is far too close to home.

“What happened in Pittsburgh is truly an assault on all people who believe in peace, because our values and our hopes are undeniably intertwined. “

Over the past six years, I have spoken to many shuls and organizations about the concept of multifaith harmony and respect, how it works in Azerbaijan, and how critical it is for communities across the United States and beyond; and how so many of us have shared this vision of peace that we know is possible. Clearly, our work is far from complete. We have so much yet to achieve together. 

My thoughts go out to my Jewish friends, colleagues and neighbors in Azerbaijan. I think of the synagogues and the hundreds of children of the Orthodox Jewish day school in our capital city of Baku, and I am thankful knowing that they are safe, that our national values and policies guarantee that safety every day. I am grateful that educating every child about the evil of anti-Semitism is part of the mandatory curriculum in Azerbaijan’s public schools, and that our society shuns it in its many forms. I think of the all-Jewish Red Town of Quba, where Jewish children walk proudly wearing kippahs, attending daily minyan and studying at one of the several shuls. 

I think of Jews across the world, and really all people of every religion, ethnicity or creed, and the blessing of each day that we walk safely through this tumultuous world. What happened in Pittsburgh is truly an assault on all people who believe in peace, because our values and our hopes are undeniably intertwined. 

The hatred of Jews hurts everyone, just as the hatred of any group of people is a sickness that affects our entire world; a revolving phenomenon of bigotry, racism and xenophobia that comes in many forms and leaves the same lasting mark wherever it exists. My condolences also extend to every victim of terror, to the many Muslims and Christians who were murdered by terrorists because of their faith. I think of the hundreds of lives lost in Khojaly in Azerbaijan, and how Jews and Muslims were killed side by side by invading forces in Karabakh, simply for being Azerbaijani. 

The loss of 11 precious lives on Oct. 27 signifies the same prejudice that has plagued our world for millennia. Whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or a member of any other group found under the sun, we all deserve a world that is free from such destructive and inhumane tendencies. We all deserve a world that is free from anti-Semitism or any other version of hatred.

I hope that with our collective perseverance and an ever-increasing measure of time, the movements of hope, peace, respect and love for each and every fellow human being will outshine and overwhelm the forces of hatred and evil. And I believe we must do more than hope. We must act boldly and exhaustively in our policy, our schools, our daily practice and in how we treat one another. We must unambiguously stand against all forces of prejudice in the world, so that we can one day know a world without hate. A world that truly embodies “never again.”


Nasimi Aghayev, based in Los Angeles, is consul general of Azerbaijan to the Western United States and dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps.

Fear: A Poem

I am different
I am unique
I am Jewish
People think of me as an outsider
People want to kill me
Because of my religion
Because of who I am
Hiding in the back of my house
Afraid and lonely
Terrified that the Nazis will break down the door
Horrible and vicious people
They killed my friends
Tortured them
They took their belongings
Fearing that they will steal my identity
Grasp my belief in God and shatter it
Like plucking all the feathers off a chicken
They will strip me of my religion
Taking my away from me
Who had dreams
Who once had dreams to travel the world
My is the town’s rabbi
A stout man with a silver beard that drops down to his chest
Passionate about Judaism and angry at the world
Praying every night
Praying that our family will be safe
A sacred, meaningful scroll to us
A piece of junk to them
The Torah
Hiding in a secret compartment in the back of our house
Guarding it with all of our lives
A scroll constructed ages ago
The Torah defines us
I am Jewish


Paul Kurgan is an eighth grader at Mirman School.

The Trump Factor: Now What?

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump gestures at a campaign rally on the eve of the U.S. mid-term elections at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, U.S., November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

Usually, I love Election Day. Watching people vote gives me a kick in the patriotic adrenals. But in this year’s Scrooge election, too many people looked grim, too many people confessed how anxious they were.

President Donald Trump pulled it off: He made these elections compelling. Midterms are the PBS documentaries of American politics — necessary, boring and upstaged by their Netflix rivals, meaning presidential contests. But Trump’s polarizing presidency GOTVed America — he got out the vote. Turnout spiked from an anemic 36.4 percent in 2014 to record levels.

Indeed, this election, like so much else in his life — and ours! — was all about Trump. But he over-Scrooged. His vitriol parlayed booming markets and unemployment lows into a 39-percent job approval and a repudiation in the House of Representatives.

Two years ago, Trump was The Miracle Maker. This year he was an electoral computer virus, weakening most candidates in his network.

Of course, he remains president. And the Republicans held the Senate — partially because of a different backlash: Millions watching the Brett Kavanaugh hearings feared being held accountable for their teenage sins — even without corroborating evidence.

The elections thereby produced characteristically mixed results — for both parties and for American Jews, too, who may have shaped the Nov. 6 results more than any midterm ever, albeit as victims not actors.

First, the great news: The system worked. Tens of millions of Americans voted, peacefully. This everyday miracle should not be taken for granted, given the premature eulogizing about our dead democracy. Doom-and-gloom Democrats don’t like to admit that America-the-functional usually prevails and the Constitution works.

Donald Trump is the evil genie of American politics, mischievously outing inner demons among friends and foes. His refusal to act presidential has made many opponents act hysterical. His hyper-partisan, playing-to-the-base, tweet-fueled, wedge-making, presidency rejects the president’s role as the nation’s secular high priest.

Those who support him should nevertheless acknowledge his twisted priorities — and pathologizing proclivities. Similarly, his detractors must condemn their allies who turn thuggish. The right has no monopoly on shrillness or violence — remember the antifa riots.

Yet, day to day, America functions impressively for most. The checkers and balancers check and balance: from the obscure judges who defied Trump after his first Muslim-immigration-ban decree, to this week’s electoral-slap-in-the-presidential face.

Next, the less-great news: The Democratic House victory will block some Trumpian outrages. And former President Bill Clinton’s 1994 midterm loss produced presidential humility, congressional compromise, even national prosperity. But today’s atmosphere is too toxic. The fury seems bound to intensify; a Blue House and Red Senate seem destined for gridlock.

Finally, the Jews. As usual, Jews can delight in striking electoral success: A disproportionate number of Jews were elected. On the other hand, at least three new Blame-Israeli-Firsters entered Congress, all Democrats. Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — represent warning signals (not yet funeral bells) for the bipartisan pro-Israel alliance.

“Jews must unite against the left’s new anti-Semitism and the right’s renewed anti-Semitism. Political rivals are siblings who disagree with us, not enemies who betrayed us.”

Most disturbing: Most Democrats’ refusal to be furious about these three indicates how many Americans have become political contortionists: liberal Jews silly-putty themselves into rationalizing former President Barack Obama’s Iran deal, and downplaying the risks of progressive anti-Zionists Corbynizing the party. Those who complain that Israelis vote statehood issues not peoplehood issues, should admit that American Jews vote pro-choice or anti-Trump not pro-Israel.

Similarly, Jewish Trumpistas — Trumpistowitzes? — cannot tolerate any criticism of an amoral, bellicose, race-baiting demagogue — even though he was right to scotch the Iran deal and move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

Fanatics on both sides are importing pro-Trump or anti-Trump my-way-or-the-highway litmus tests into synagogues, federations, schools — let alone Shabbat dinners. Jews must unite against the left’s new anti-Semitism and the right’s renewed anti-Semitism. Political rivals are siblings who disagree with us, not enemies who betrayed us.

Of course, to Americans, this is all internal Jewish stuff. The only Jewish story that counted was the Pittsburgh slaughter. Elections, like people, are complex, contradictory, not easily reduced to monocausal explanations. Still, it’s hard not to connect the dots between the Oct. 27 massacre and the anti-Trump vote on Nov. 6.

The Jewish vote rarely has determined electoral outcomes, unless you count the thousands of elderly Jews who wanted to vote for Al Gore in 2000 and mistakenly butterfly-balloted their way to voting for Pat Buchanan. But the Pittsburgh massacre mattered. It’s timeliness and bloodthirstiness alarmed Americans. It warned everyone where the nation could go if the polarization grows, if the hate festers, if Theodore Roosevelt’s bully pulpit only becomes Trump’s bullying pulpit.

The anti-Trump vote voted “no” to demagoguery as a presidential leadership strategy. Along with millions of moments of outreach after the shooting, this vote affirmed America-the-functional and America-the-good. It’s a decent America, an America that appreciates nationalism as a pathway to liberal democracy not xenophobia, or white nationalism. It’s a purple America that doesn’t reduce every issue to black and white, red versus blue.

I repudiated radicals who blamed Trump for the killings, who rejected Trump’s condemnation of anti-Semitism or his consoling visit to Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, I heard this election answer the Charlottesville, Va., Jew-haters’ yell: “Jews will not replace us.” I heard: The shooter does not represent us, haters will not define us, toxic partisans who cannot see a fellow American behind a political rival will not replace us.

I’m not naïve. I see the hate festering left and right, on campus and online. I understand the fears that Jews are canarying in America’s coal mines — the bully’s first targets.

But since Oct. 27, the unprecedented embrace of Jews, in churches and in synagogues, on streets and online, is the rainbow after the flood. These group-hugs affirm the American covenant uniting us, defining this exceptional nation, this exceptionally accepting nation, the last, best hope on earth. Those moving voices and millions of votes cast in free, safe elections created a mandate for all our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, to break the gridlock, mute the partisanship, and help us heal.

How ironic that in this Scrooge election, the exceptional American response to a far-too-familiar Jewish trauma — except in America — generated a rare ray of light.


Gil Troy is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University in Toronto and author of the recently released “The Zionist Ideas.”

Taharah & Gender by Emily Fishman (EmFish)

Gender in the Taharah Room?

Tahara[1] is sometimes done with little information except names– that of the meyt[2] and those of our fellow team members.  Some who perform Taharah find that reading the meyt’s obituary  gives us more context to bring the person into the room in their fullness; others prefer to leave out the details and bring pure appreciation of the meyt’s humanity.  We often do not know much about the people we serve on the Chevrah kadisha[3] with either, spending hours in a room together working in silence.

From my work in the disability community, I have a strong aversion to people’s need to know more about marginalized people than they do about more centered identities.  Asking about a disabled person’s medical history or where a person of color is from, while on the surface may sound like curiosity, are in fact inappropriate questions.  Curiosity in this case is cover for gawking and sensationalization, showing the asker’s feeling that they are entitled to information.

You do not deserve to know more about a trans[4] person’s gender than about a cis[5] person’s gender.  Knowing about a trans person’s gender does not tell you any more about who they are as a person than does a cis person’s gender.

In light of the fact that trans and GNC people are deserving of recognition and affirmation and that creating a gender, a body, and a presentation is a life’s journey, I ask:  How do we respect this journey yet not make it the central focus of the preparation and tahara? 

As I grapple with an answer to this question, I make explicit the assumption that the composition of the Taharah team must be about bodies and/or identities that are similar to the meyt.  The goal here is to minimize any curiosity or exotification of the body.

Each trans and GNC person has a different relationship to their gender, though there are some narratives that cluster together. Trans men are to serve on a men’s team and be prepared by a men’s team when they die. Trans women are to serve on a women’s team and be prepared by a women’s team when they die.

Questions arise when it comes to genderqueer[6] people: are they to be prepared by a men’s team?  A women’s team?  Do they feel most comfortable thinking of their bodies at their most vulnerable only with other genderqueer people?

It is important to me to be cared for in death by people who would have shared my community in life. This is why the Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston is so critical– it allows Jews from all walks of life to care for the dead of our own communities rather than outsourcing this holy task to folks from only one strand of Judaism.  Similarly, I do not want to be cared for in death by people who would have been uncomfortable with or curious about my life.  In order to care for trans and GNC people in death, they need to be included in your life while they are alive.  Knowing that my existence was included and valued during my lifetime is the only way I can feel certain you will look at my body with love and kavod in death.

The affirmation of the body’s holiness and ultimate beauty is key to every tahara. By the time of tahara, the human body is no longer at its most beautiful in our everyday understanding of the word. In the case of a trans person– someone who has likely spent a lot of life feeling their body to be confusing, abnormal or not worthy, someone who has worked so hard to get the world to reflect back the image they see of themselves– it is truly the greatest kindness we can offer.  We must commit ourselves to our ideal of Hesed Shel Emet, which here I will translate as the Kindness of Affirming Their Truth.  We must uphold this even if the family does not accept the person’s gender identity.  The family’s mourning and process around understanding of their loved one’s path is to be respected and supported, and this is managed by chaplains, rabbis, and therapists.  The Chevrah’s role is to reflect the meyt’s understanding of themselves with dignity, love, and complete acceptance.

I identify as GNC, not as trans.  Still,  the Taharah room is the only all-women’s space I feel comfortable in– and I have given a lot of thought as to why.  Perhaps it is because all the gendering has been done beforehand.  Once I am called, once I am at the funeral home, no one is emphasizing the fact that I am a woman; the fact of the meyta being a woman is also not brought up over and over again and being thrown in my face, contrary to the messaging in many other single-gender spaces..

But I think my comfort goes beyond that.  The Taharah room is a place of ultimate body positivity.  There is no judgment about body size or shape, medical conditions and devices, the state of the skin or hair or lack thereof.  It’s just all not a big deal.  Our task is fundamentally and crucially nonjudgmental in nature. No physical condition, or manifestation, or identity is cause for discomfort in the face of death.  And it seems to me that a natural extension of this acceptance would be making gender less of a topic of discussion than it is among the living, where people constantly want to categorize trans bodies and shoehorn them into structures they were never created for.  Our ability to care for trans people in death and to include trans people in our teams in life is something we are well-trained for as Chevrah members: to meet each body where it is, recognizing that we know so little about the life that it has led until we intersect at this very moment.

Emily Fishman (often known by her moniker EmFish) is a fourth generation Bostonian and works professionally as a speech-language pathologist in a public school.  She is a torah leyner, gemara learner, and public transit and bike enthusiast who spends a lot of time thinking about gender, class, and disability.  EmFish coordinated a blog post series by chevra kadisha members from around the country last February in advance of Zayin Adar which can be found at http://www.jewschool.com/tag/death.

 

Emily Fishman

Emily Fishman

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Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. It will be offered live online during the Winter from January 8th to March 26th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructor will be Rick Light, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Spring 2019 is Course 6. Watch for more information agout it.

For Summer 2019 we will offer Course 1 – Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, & Evolution. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

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Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is November 15th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

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Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next live course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin. This is a stand-alone course – you do not need to have taken the prior course to register for this one.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.

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Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them via recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

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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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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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SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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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[1] Hebrew for purity, the ritual cleansing of a dead body in preparation for burial. (Definition from MyJewishLearning.com)

[2] I use “meyt” in this essay to signify the body of a person of any gender.

[3] Jewish burial society, a group of volunteers who prepare the body for burial. (Definition from My JewishLearning.com)

[4] Trans (transgender) adjective: An umbrella term for anyone who knows themselves to be a gender that is different than the gender they were assigned at birth. Some trans people may have an alternate gender identity that is neither male nor female, and for some people their gender identity may vary at different points in their lives. Some transgender people modify their bodies through medical means, and some do not. (Definition from Keshet: https://www.keshetonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Keshet-Terminology-Sheet-2016.pdf)

[5] Cis (cisgender) adjective: A person who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth.  (Definition from Keshet)

[6] Genderqueer, adjective:  A gender identity used by a person that self-defines their gender as queer or non-normative. Someone whose chosen gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond gender, rejects binary gender, is some combination of genders. (Definition from Keshet)

How Jewish do I want to be?

I was born in Israel to two Jewish parents. I speak Hebrew. I sent my son to conservative Jewish Day School for ten years. He had a Bar Mitzvah. I light candles every Friday night. I go to temple regularly. I observe high holidays. I make what can only be described as the world’s best matzo ball soup. I am divorced and made sure I also received a gett. I not only consider myself to be a practicing Jew, but define myself as a Jew. I am Jewish in my soul. I am Jewish by birth and by choice. I spent a large chunk of my adult life working in the Jewish community. I write for a Jewish newspaper. All that said, I woke up this morning and wondered, how Jewish do I want to be?

 

I’m not sure what inspired the question, but I can’t shake it from my mind. It’s all I can think about and do not know what the answer is. Perhaps it is the murders in Pittsburgh that have left me with this painful question. I have been unsettled since the horrific attack and can’t seem to quiet my brain. I live my Jewish life out loud so there is part of me that wonders if I need to change that. There is another part of me that wants to scream from the rafters that I’m Jewish and defy anyone to say anything. I am stuck between wondering how Jewish I am, and if I am Jewish enough, and that is a very odd feeling.

 

I am scared by what happened, but also angry. I spent many years working in Holocaust education and to have people killed this way, in 2018, is frankly debilitating. I feel sick about what happened in Pittsburgh. I am stuck and unsure what to do or how to feel. I was not alive during the Holocaust, but I heard countless firsthand stories during the years I worked at Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, so for people to be killed again, just for being Jewish, is terrifying. I have personally experienced anti-Semitism, but this is different. This is murder of Jews for being Jewish and I simply cannot comprehend it.

 

I am a hockey fan and this week when the Pittsburgh Penguins put “stronger than hate” patches on their uniforms, I thought it was a wonderfulI display of solidarity. I was also offended that the Jewish star on the patch was done partially in yellow.  I get that black and yellow are their colors, but the Jewish star should not have been yellow in my opinion. Important to note I understand how ridiculous that will sound to some people, but it bothered me. It was a custom made patch and easily could have been another color. I sound like a crazy person but like I said, these killings are debilitating and all my senses are heightened when it comes to my religion.

 

I watched President Trump visiting Pittsburgh with his wife and I was enraged. I am offended by everything lately, which is not who I am as a human being. I want so much to understand, but am not sure what it is I am expecting to understand. If someone asks me if I am Jewish, do I say yes? If someone says something unkind about my faith, do I speak up? If someone writes me an anti-Semitic comment on my blog, do I report them? Am I supposed to just accept that people hate Jews and that is the world we live in? I am struggling not only with how to define myself within my faith, but whether to share it with the world or keep it private. I am educated and awards this shouldn’t be a struggle, but I am struggling.

 

It will pass of course, but I don’t want it to pass without understanding my feelings. I do not want to be afraid. I want my anger to become action. I want my disgust to empower me. I want to be free to live my Jewish life in whatever way I want. At the end of the day I am proudly Jewish. I am comfortable in my practice and nobody can judge me on how much or little Judaism I practice. I am Jewish enough and God knows me. I will not allow fear to make me question my faith, but it has been a stressful week.

 

As I read back what I have written I am not sure it will make sense to anyone but me. I am questioning whether or not to even publish it, which is crazy. I have written my truth here for almost a decade and have never regretted anything I write, so to be questioning myself now is very sad. I have openly and honestly shared all aspects of my life here and have been blessed with loyal and wonderful readers. There are haters of course, which is always fun, but I have never been stuck like this. I will publish this because that is what I do, but today just feels off. I am hoping someone will read it and share their own experience, which always happens and always helps.

 

I am thinking about all Jews around the world today and know we will get through this. We are united. Orthodox, conservative, or reform, Jews are the same and together we are strong. There are enough good people in the world to help lift us up when darkness comes, so while it is of course important to be careful, fear does not need to control us.  I am one day closer to understanding, so am taking it one day at a time. I am trying to be brave and hope to go into Shabbat today with some peace. I may never understand the world we live in, but I am still keeping the faith.

Giving Back – Taharah by Joyce Kendall Friedman, Ph.D.

Paying kindness forward

I waited a year after my mother, z”l, passed away, before I was able to think about doing for others what the Chevrah Kadisha had done for my mother.

I read the manual which they gave me. My friend, Helene, suggested that I watch the first time and read the prayers in English as she read them in Hebrew. Having worked in hospitals and nursing homes I was not a stranger to illness and death, but this was not medical. This was spiritual and kind and gentle. It was easier for me than I had expected, it was even a relief.

The meitah, deceased woman, was cold. We covered her body and her face modestly. We called her by her Hebrew name as we apologized for any unintended disrespect. We noted that we were going to do the “best we could.” We quietly prepared the implements, assigned duties and began checking her for bandages, medical devices, nail polish, areas that needed special cleansing. We prayed the prayers in the manual and were comforted by the excerpts from the Song of Songs describing her beauty. We were reminded not to pass items over her, as her neshamah hovered just above her. We tried to remember not to stand at her head as the Shechinah hovered there. Occasionally we spoke to her in comforting tones, as we had read that the sense of hearing was the last to go. We knew she was listening. We reminded her that we intended only respect and kindness.

We cleaned her, combed her hair and then we ritually purified her with the 3 buckets of continuous flowing water and more prayer. We dressed her as the kohanim, the priests in the Temple, were dressed, with pure white garments. We lifted her into the plain pine box, wrapped her in a white cloth, after sprinkling her with earth from Israel’s Mount of Olives. We faced her feet towards the door, beginning her journey to Gan Eden, the garden of Eden. Again we addressed her and asked for her forgiveness.

The other women had done this many times before and still were moved and impressed with the significance of the moment.

I felt quietness envelope me as I had been privileged to participate in a transition from one level of existence to the next. What an honor it was to be there with her.

I saw and felt what these women had done for my mother. I felt reassured that this had been done for my mother, and one day would be done for me. I was so grateful. I was comforted and felt my mother must have felt comforted, too. These women, this Chevrah, was the embodiment (no pun intended) of Hashem’s feminine aspects: compassion, kindness, nurturing. In a way it was like I was a voyeur, sneaking a glimpse into the next world. I came away reassured.


Joyce Friedman, Ph. D. is a hospital neuropsychologist working in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She is a professor and the first Jewish chaplain (non-military) in the state of Oklahoma. She is a longtime member of the 110 year old Oklahoma City Emanuel Synagogue Chevrah Kadisha. She is the new mother of 5 Brahma chickens. She davens with Chabad. She has taken multiple courses at the Gamliel Institute

_____________________

Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is October 18th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them in recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_____________________

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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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.

Murder in Pittsburgh – My Jewish Family

Whenever there is a mass shooting in America, I watch the news in horror and cry, unable to turn off the television, naively hoping the number of dead will somehow go down instead of up. I wait for the names to be released. I want to say their names out loud and learn who they are so I won’t forget them. Whether they are Black, White, young, old, Jewish, Catholic, gay or straight, I want to know who they are. They are important to me. Sadly, we live in a country where there but for the grace of God go I. We never know when senseless killings will happen, or if they will touch close to home, to people we know.

The murders at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 28 hit close to home. As a Jewish woman of faith, when the 11 people in Squirrel Hill died, they died in my home. Synagogue is where I worship, so to me all synagogues are my home. A house of worship is a wonderful place. It does not matter what religion is being observed, because I respect all houses of worship the same. I am at peace whether I am in a synagogue or a church. We pray to the same God, so voices united in prayer are very powerful. For anyone to be attacked while in prayer is something I will never be able to understand.

As we learn about those who died, my heart aches so deeply I feel a physical pain. I keep thinking about the victims: 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, a vivacious regular at the temple; Cecil and David Rosenthal, inseparable brothers who had worshiped at Tree of Life since they were children; Bernice and Sylvan Simon, who married more than 60 years earlier in the same temple where they were murdered; Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who helped AIDS patients when the disease first appeared in America; Daniel Stein, president of New Light Congregation; Joyce Feinberg, a fellow Canadian; Richard Gottfried, who respected faith and was to retire soon; Melvin Wax, always the first to arrive at temple and the last to leave; and Irving Younger, who always spoke about his daughter and grandson. I also think about Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who heard his congregants being slaughtered as he rushed others out of the sanctuary.

I didn’t know any of the victims personally, but as Jews they are my family and I mourn their passing. 

There are fewer than 15 million Jews in the world, and we are all connected. This was an act of hate against my people, and therefore against me. When I think of the 11 people killed in Pittsburgh, I think about the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. I think about how it is possible for one human being to try to erase another one, just because they are different. We cannot allow anyone to be erased. We must speak up. We must say their names because these lives cannot and must not be erased. As human beings we must be outraged by this hate and look out for each other.

I am scared, but not so scared that I will be quiet. This is a time for action. These lovely people were executed because of hate, and this kind of hate — whether directed at people of a different religion, color or sexual orientation — runs deep. So deep that I can feel the shooter’s hate in my soul. But I must not think about that now. Instead, I must turn my fear into strength and fight for gun reform. I must say their names and continue to practice the religion I was not only born into, but choose for myself and share with my child. I am Jewish and these people were my family. It is in times of pain and sorrow that we must focus on keeping the faith.


Ilana Angel writes the Keeping the Faith blog on jewishjournal.com

These I Remember…. by Isaac Pollak

These I Remember

I have done many taharot in the last 36 years, but there are a handful that stand out, and come back to me again and again, especially during days of Yizkor (remembrance) and Zayin Adar (7th of the month of Aar, when many Chevrai Kadisha choose to acknowledge their members), when my custom is to fast, ask forgiveness, and remember those for whom I have performed this mitzvah.

At those times I particularly recall:

–      a 16 year old who drowned

–      a 30 year old who died of AIDS

–      a 40 year old heir to a Sephardic Rabbinic Dynasty who came to the States for treatment for a blood disease,

–      and just a short time ago, an 8 month old little boy who had been abandoned by both parents.

When I think of them, all I can say is that one’s heart goes out, one has no words or explanations, one cries with the families, and one feels G-d’s pain – as G-d says in Psalm 91 “I am with him in distress.”  Ps. 91:15.

But at the same time, it makes us appreciate life all that much more, and we – all of us doing G-d’s work, all who serve as part of the Chevrah Kadisha – are better off for it. Despite the pain and sadness we may encounter, we get so much more than we give.

Isaac Pollak is President and CEO of an international marketing business for almost 4 decades at this point. He holds graduate degrees in Marketing, Industrial Psychology, Art History, and Jewish Material Culture from City College, LIU, JTS, and Columbia University. He has been a student in the Gamliel Institute, and serves as a consultant to the institution. He has been the rosh/head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC, for over 3 decades, and is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, having several hundred in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC. Born and raised in NYC, married, with 3 children and 3 grandchildren. He has written multiple articles for Expired And Inspired over the years.

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

_____________________

Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is October 18th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them in recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_____________________

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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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.

 

Guarding the Body of a Friend by Kohenet Ellie Barbarash

Shomer/et - Guarding

I left for the airport as soon as I got the call. My friend Yosefa, a brilliant tattoo artist, educator, and fellow Kohenet, was on her deathbed, dying of a brain tumor. I booked the next flight from Philadelphia to Seattle in time to do shemirah, to guard her body and soul after her death.

Hours later, after a long plane ride and a taxi ride that felt even longer, I came to a suburban house with candles softly glowing on the porch, and a mezuzah on the door. It was past four in the morning.

I removed my shoes and went upstairs to Yosefa’s bedroom, where two other women we knew through the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute were reading psalms aloud, wrapped head to toe in blankets to warm themselves against the cold air flowing in to keep Yosefa’s body cold. The two had been waiting all night, and had given up hope of my coming. We shared joyful whispered hellos, and then they left to take a break before the ritual purification, or taharah, and the funeral. They instructed me to wake Yosefa’s husband around 6 a.m., then I heard the door close and was alone with Yosefa.

A small bedside lamp lit her face. Yosefa lay covered by a light blanket, peaceful, one leg bent, with an enigmatic smile, and her scalp bare from chemo. Her arms were still warm. I wrapped myself in quilts, and read psalms aloud. The psalms were too somber, so I switched to songs and prayers from Jewish Renewal and the Kohenet siddur, quietly singing my favorite songs and prayers, walking around the room as the curtains billowed in the brisk November breeze.

I felt Yosefa’s spirit in that dark room, a sense of her energy and sweetness. She looked greatly at ease. My friends had been praying, and I felt their energy, and that of peaceful prayers and psalms. All I witnessed before me was peace, and release, and a sense of flying joy that was not my own. I stood, and prayed, and sang.

Soon after 6 I woke her husband, and I left as he went to her side. It was so hard to leave Yosefa’s side. Hard to leave that palpable energy, the growing light, the flowing curtains, my soft sung psalms and prayers. But if anyone deserved to be bathed in Yosefa’s love it was her husband, and so I woke him, and left as he entered their bedroom one last time, and shut the door quietly behind me.

I went downstairs and lay on their living room couch, warming up, waiting for a ride back to the hotel. I had worked all day and been up all night, and it was well past dawn. I floated, tired, feeling hollow and surprised and connected, held in love and mystery and gratefulness.


Kohenet Ellie Barbarash, MS, CPEA, lives and works in Philadelphia as an occupational safety specialist and educator. She is a member of the Philadelphia Jewish Reconstructionist Chevrah Kaddisha, and a Gamliel Institute student.

Kohenet Elie Barbarash

Kohenet Ellie Barbarash

_____________________

Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is October 18th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them in recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_____________________

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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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.

 

Decomposing Bodies, Congealing Carcasses, Corpse Dust, and Other Rabbinic Interests by Isaac Pollak

A dead or decayed body

Questions of Ritual purity and Impurity, Tahor and Tamei, received a great deal of attention in the Talmud – much more so then the Laws of Shabbat or Kashrut Laws. The Rabbis developed intricate systems of rules of purity with no practical usefulness. Questions of purity were an issue during temple times but when the Talmud was redacted the Temple had been destroyed for around 500 years or so (as much time as separates us from Columbus); a subject studied diligently with a great deal of intricacy was, and still is useless. There were no Red Heifers and most Jews were living in the Diaspora and all Jews were ritually impure.

To explore this, let’s take a walk thru Chapter 7 of the Tractate Nazir, which I was recently studying, and see the mindset of the Rabbis.

It was known that touching a corpse (dead body) caused one to become ritually impure (Tamei). However, actually touching a corpse isn’t necessary to became impure; just being under the same roof, or in certain cases under an overhanging branch or a projecting wall is enough. It’s as if the impurity of the corpse permeates the area all around it, and taints all with which it comes into ‘contact’.

So the Talmud questions,” How much of a corpse does it take to transmit impurity?” Here is where the text gets into queasy graphic descriptions of various forms of putrefaction.

Say that a dead body has begun to liquefy: Does the fluid from a decayed corpse also transmit impurity? How can one tell that the fluid is actually flesh, and not the remains of spittle or phlegm, which do not transmit Tamei? The answer, Rabbi Yirmeya says in the Talmud, has to do with whether the liquid subsequently congeals. If it does, it is from the corpse, and thus unclean; if it doesn’t, it is probably a bodily fluid, and thus clean.

Animal corpses follow a different protocol. An animal carcass imparts “severe impurity” only while it’s still considered fit for human consumption. Once it has decayed to the point of being inedible for people but still be appetizing to dogs, it imparts “light impurity.” And when dogs would not touch it, the carcass ceases to transmit impurity at all. Then the Talmud starts discussing animals that have putrefied, animal fat that has turned to liquid in the sun, and much more – not for those with queasy stomachs.

The Rabbis ask what happens with a dead body that has turned entirely to dust. According to the Mishnah, a “full ladle of dust” is the amount required to transmit impurity – tumah; the Talmud defined this as the amount you can hold in your two cupped hands. However the Talmud continues, by the time a corpse has turned to dust, it is hard to tell whether the dust contains just the body, or whether matter from other sources has gotten mixed in – for instance, the clothes it was buried in, or wood from its coffin, and the Talmud informs us of a principle “that mixtures do not transmit Tumah.” As a result, the Talmud concludes that dust is Tamei only if it comes from a corpse that was “buried naked in a marble coffin or on a stone floor,” so there is no other source of dust in its vicinity.

The question of mixtures raises a number of other theoretical issues. What exactly constitutes a mixture when it comes to corpse dust? What if you bury two people in the same grave? You might think that this would be twice as unclean as a single corpse, but the Talmud rules otherwise: because mixtures do not transmit Tumah, a mixture of the dust of two bodies therefore does not transmit impurity.

Pushing the question further, the Rabbis ask about borderline cases. Ordinarily, the hair and nails of a corpse are impure as long as they are attached to the body. What if you cut off a corpse’s hair and buried it alongside the body- , would this then constitute a mixture? What about a woman who dies while pregnant, do she and her fetus constitute two separate corpses, or is the fetus considered part of the mother, like an internal organ?

This question, raised in BT Nazir 51:B, would seem to have major implications for our own debates about when a fetus is considered a living being. The Rabbis of the Talmud dig and push the boundaries to attempt to get to the ultimate truth of the penultimate principle of an issue, and its exacting, precise regulation. Ever more complex scenarios and legal conundrums quite removed from reality are elaborated in the process of elucidating precise detailed legal definitions.

The logic of the Talmud often seems convoluted and intimidating, every page alludes to customs and political arrangements which are terribly obscure and have little relevance to our world. But what fun to study its intricacies. The people represented in it were intelligent, articulate and dedicated to the remarkable project of helping an ancient tradition survive and thrive. The arguments stimulate, the logic and disciplined sharpness is at times breathtaking, their language and wit gives pleasure, and the immensity of their achievement provokes awe.

It has been instrumental in our survival over the millennia.

Isaac Pollak is the Rosh/Head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC, and has been doing Taharot for about 4 decades. He is fascinated by and a student of customs and history concerning the Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish burial and mourning ritual. He is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, with over 300 historical artifacts in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC, and is CEO of an International Marketing Company. He is a student, participant, and lecturer in Gamliel Institute courses.

 

 

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

[Ed. Note: another article by the same author is to be found HERE.  You can also search for other articles in this blog HERE. — JB]

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Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is October 18th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them in recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_____________________

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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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.

_____________________

 

 

 

My Magical Jewish Morocco Mystery Tour

With a camel on the Casablanca beach. Photos by Kylie Ora Lobell and Daniel Lobell

My husband, God bless him, has many crazy ideas. But unlike most people with lofty dreams, he actually follows through with them.

Own a rooster? Check. Have a comedy festival in our backyard? Yup. Reside off a dirt road in Florida for three weeks and live like old people who dine exclusively on buffets and watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” before falling asleep at 9 p.m.? That was us.

So earlier this year, Daniel and I decided we’d go to Morocco after his monthlong stint performing stand-up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. 

To prepare for our trip, we watched “Casablanca,” (which was filmed in Burbank), and connected with our Moroccan-Jewish friends to learn about life there, including Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa.

After arriving in Casablanca, we headed to our hotel by the beach, passing Moroccan McDonald’s, Muslim women in head coverings and huge white mansions owned by kings. We went to the beach, where a camel growled at Daniel. We hung out in a hammam — a Turkish bath and steam room. I lasted about five minutes, because being hot and claustrophobic is not my thing. 

We visited Rick’s Café, a tourist spot made to look like Rick’s Café Américain from the film “Casablanca,” went to Hassan II Mosque — the second largest mosque in Africa that can hold up to 25,000 worshippers, and hired a tour guide to take us around Jewish Casablanca. 

With the Argan tree goats

Although our guide was Muslim, he worked with other Jewish tour guides and knew where to take us. Our first visit was to a small Jewish museum, which contains a shul no longer in use. Then it was on to a kosher bakery in a hidden alleyway to buy treats for Shabbat. We then made our way to Temple Beth-El synagogue, which today is used for special occasions including weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs. 

We learned that before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, Morocco had an estimated 350,000 Jews. Today, there are only a thousand or so who remain in Casablanca. Nonetheless, the city still boasts 22 synagogues, at least four kosher restaurants, 10 kosher butchers and a few bakeries. We went to one of those 22 synagogues at 5 a.m. to say Selichot, and the men (and one woman) there offered us coffee and tea. 

Shabbat dinner was spent with a family friend’s cousin, Armand, where we ate his mother-in-law’s tuna casserole and talked with his son about why he didn’t like visiting Los Angeles. “Hollywood Boulevard sucks,” he said. “I agree,” I said. 

From Casablanca, we flew to Marrakech, where there are about 500 or so Jews. When we arrived, I immediately noticed three things: How beautiful and colorful it is; how entire families whiz through town on motorbikes; and how old the city felt. When we arrived at our riad (hostel), we realized we were in the old part of town full of tiny, historic alleyways and scores of cats. 

“Returning home, I felt incredibly sad. No more culture shock. No more donkeys. No more beautiful lamps and colorful doors and kind, French-speaking cabdrivers.”

Our first stop in Marrakech was the vast, historic souk, Djemaa el-Fna. The indoor section is a huge maze and it’s easy to get lost. We certainly did. Many times. Wares are cheap by American standards and haggling is de rigueur. We quickly purchased a variety of trinkets including a Moroccan tea set, lamps, tagines, pashminas and jewelry. Over the course of the next four days, we returned to the market because it’s impossible to see everything in one day. 

We were, however, two of the very few white people in the market, and every few minutes, someone would try to get us to sign up for a tour, buy a souvenir or ask us for money. 

We saw the famous performing monkeys on chains, the snake charmers, who apparently sew their snakes’ mouths shut, and a sad owl chained to a cage filled with small squirrels. There were hundreds of chickens in cages, waiting to be slaughtered, and sheep’s heads being roasted on the street. As an animal lover, it was certainly painful to see, but there was nothing I could do except remind myself that I treat my own dogs, chickens and tortoise like family. The sad owl, though, still haunts me.

We took a dirt bike tour of the Marrakech desert. It was bumpy, dusty and magnificent. Our ride took us to a Berber hut, where the family there made us Moroccan tea, and as is custom, tried to pour the tea from the highest height possible. 

In the Marrakech synagogue

We also visited Essaouira, a port town about three hours from Marrakech. 

I Googled “Jewish Essaouria,” and there was an article about the only Jew  — a man named Joseph Sebag, who owned a store called Galérie Aida. It took several attempts with different guides to finally find Sebag and his antiques store. We said, “Shalom” and bought a wood piece from Senegal from him. Sebag ordered us orange juice and offered for us to stay in his flat the next time we were in town. 

Other highlights in Marrakech included a meal at the city’s only kosher restaurant, which had a picture of the Rebbe — the late Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson — on the wall; visiting the graves of tzadikim and meeting the Muslim man whose family has guarded the cemetery for three generations; and purchasing our first shofar, which we blew on Rosh Hashanah.  

Returning home, I felt incredibly sad. I was back to reality. No more culture shock. No more donkeys. No more beautiful lamps and colorful doors and kind, French-speaking cabdrivers. Besides Israel, Morocco is the most enchanted place I’ve ever visited. I miss it every day. I understand now why Jews were there for so long, and why there are a few who choose to stay to this day. 

We may miss that beautiful magical country, but by golly, we’ll always have Morocco.

Dating 101

I went on a date this week with a man I met online. While speaking on the phone before meeting, we talked about religion. He referred to himself as spiritual, but not at all religious. He also said if forced to label himself, it would be agnostic. I told him I believe in God and was a practicing Jew. He said there were things about Judaism he thought were interesting, but was not a fan of organized religion as a whole.

 

I shared I would never have a Christmas tree, and he shared he hadn’t had one in over twenty years. I told him I like to go to temple for Shabbat services and celebrated Jewish holidays. He said he’d accompany me if he was there as simply someone to have by my side, and not to convert. It was an easy and open conversation. I’m trying to think outside the box, so we made a plan to meet for drinks. He is 55, divorced with one adult child, has a dog and a cat.

 

A Jew and an agnostic walk into a bar. They say hello, order drinks, and sit down for a chat. After five minutes of small talk about traffic and weather, the agnostic asks the Jew what she thinks about Jesus. The Jew replies that she doesn’t often think about Jesus. The agnostic then tells the Jew he “thinks about Jesus often and how he died for his sins”. The Jew reminds the agnostic that he said he was agnostic, and the agnostic tells the Jew religion and Jesus are not synonymous and can be separated from each other.

 

The Jew, also being a lady, then spends the next 30 minutes listening to the agnostic talk about Jesus. By talk of course he speaks of his hair, clothes, sacrifice, and most importantly, how Jesus didn’t want to ever be considered a Jew. The Jew tells the agnostic it was lovely to meet him and she enjoyed the drink, but she was going to have to head out. The parting words of the Jew are “take care’. The parting words of the agnostic are “Jesus loves you.”

 

I am a woman who gains strength through faith, so I would never judge someone based on what they believe. To each their own and I feel strongly that religion is personal and everyone can worship in whatever way brings them comfort. I am Jewish and I take comfort in private prayer and being with my tribe at services. That’s how I roll. I am not an expert on Jesus, but I am quite certain that even Jesus was confused by this guy and was shaking his head while watching our date..

 

My dating life has always been interesting, but lately it has taken a bizarre turn. You can’t make this stuff up, so I have to wonder what it is about me that attracts such dating. I would like to think it is because I am kind so perhaps these people simply need kindness. I asked Jesus about it, since he was clearly on my date with me, and he just laughed. He actually laughed out loud, told me he was sorry, then laughed some more. Sweet Jesus is awesome. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Friday. Be safe out there and remember to keep the faith.

Kol Nidre LIVE 2018

Worshippers will come together September 18 at 6:30 p.m. for a Yom Kippur service led by Rabbi Naomi Levy of Nashuva.

The service will be broadcast worldwide and later archived at kolnidrelive.com. Viewers will be able to follow the service in a downloadable prayer book, and connect via commenting with fellow “congregants” around the world.

Kol Nidre is the evening service of Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, will fast and/or will attend services on this day.

Sign up for Kol Nidre LIVE updates!

 

[Support this program by donating to Nashuva]

Levy, a rabbi and best-selling author, whose latest book is Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul, was ordained in the first class of women at Jewish Theological Seminary. She founded and leads Nashuva, Hebrew for, “We Will Return.” Nashuva is a post-denominational, non-membership community open to all that meshes spirituality with social action.

You can also preorder the new CD: Heaven on Earth – Songs of the Soul

Tribe Media Corp. is dedicated to improving the world through media. Our brands include Jewish Journal, jewishjournal.com, and the Daily Roundtable.

Check back on this page for updates!

 

 

A Most Remarkable Miracle by Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

Hope - Magic, Miracles, and Health

[Ed. Note: As we approach Rosh HaShanah, here is an entry that offers hope and a positive story. All of us at Kavod v’Nichum offer you wishes for a Shenah Tovah Umetukah! May you be inscribed and sealed for a year of blessings. — JB]

Once upon a time, on a most average, ordinary day, I received a call from a local Rabbi asking if I was available to go immediately to the ER at a local hospital as an elderly Jewish woman was imminently expected to die… and her husband of 60 years was distraught as he stood near her gurney.

In that brief phone call … minus many details … I was informed that this very day was their anniversary. The plan had been that they would renew their vows later this evening. But as we know, often we make plans and G-D laughs.

As I changed from my jeans to more appropriate “clergy/chaplain” clothes my hubby gathered some flowers from our yard, a small glass and a little bottle of grape juice. With these items in hand, off I went to the ER.

Security guards ushered me to the correct bay, and upon my entering this cubicle, the two non-Jewish chaplains left.

So, there I was with the distraught husband, and his wife who was as white as the sheet she was laying on. I held the wife’s hand as I asked the husband to repeat a very very very condensed version of a renewal ceremony – made up on the spot!!

Concluding this ceremony with the shehechiyanu prayer, expressing thanks that they DID reach THIS day, I began to ask him about his years with her. I asked, “what was the most memorable moment that you can recall?” He responded that it was their trip to Israel the year before.

We talked about the various cities and towns where they stayed, and I asked if they had any relatives in Israel. Nope – not a one. My follow-up question was, “What in Israel moved your wife the most?” He quickly responded, “the Kotel.”

With that answer he was moved to obvious emotion. But this obvious emotion paled compared to the emotion he demonstrated when SHE responded, “the Kotel!”

This sick, frail, and dying woman somehow gathered the inner strength to say, though admittedly in a whisper, “The Kotel.”

The fact that this woman had heard us, could respond and defy the odds was strange enough. The devoted, loyal, distraught, husband NEARLY had his own medical emergency when he heard her speak. He had to catch himself from falling!

With that one unbelievable phrase – “the Kotel” – one has to wonder what the powers that be – let be. Why would THIS conversation have the power to elicit strength that was just moments before absent? How is it that she must have  heard all the previous discussions, prayers, and her husband’s pleas for her to get better, but all that for naught, and yet she heard THIS question?

The doctors were sure that death was a certainty, the chaplains were offering comfort and words of early condolence, and the husband was told to call the funeral home and “make necessary plans.” I am the Roshah of the Chevrah Kadisha in this community, and I would put out the call at news of a death.

And yet, the mention of the Kotel stirred her, emotionally and physically. Slowly, color returned to her face, and ever so slowly she began to “look” less at deaths door.

Her husband recounted to her that they had just had a Renewal of Vows, that it was in fact the day of their anniversary, and he was moved to tears that she appeared better.

With that I left the cubicle.

Outside the cubicle, several feet away, the two Christian chaplains were nonplussed and flummoxed, to say the least. Having overheard that she spoke, they wanted to know the Jewish Secret – what had I done? I simply told them “Kotel,” and left!

I did learn that the elderly, imminently going-to-die woman was released to home after 3 days – showing the power of Hashem, miracles, good luck, coincidence.

Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs hails from Brooklyn, currently living in NJ.  Having originally learned about Taharah as a yeshiva student, I knew I would participate as soon as the opportunity presented itself.  I have participated in doing Taharah for almost 30 years.  I am currently the ROSHAH of our chevrah.  When not doing Taharah, I taught school – up until I retired and went back to school and became a chaplain.  I held the Federation position of County (Mercer) Chaplain for 15 years.   My two children have blessed us with grandchildren.

Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

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Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead!

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is September 20th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them in recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_____________________

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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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.

_____________________

 

Richard Greene: How One or Two Words Can Change Your Life

One of the world’s leading experts on public speaking, Richard Greene, explains why people fear public speaking more than death, and discusses the abuse of language in the era of Trump. Visit his website.

Follow David Suissa on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Check out this episode!

Critical Care by Rabbi Janet Madden

hospital waiting area

I spend my days as a hospital rabbi-chaplain sitting with patients and families who are dealing with the unimaginable: an 18 year old college student-athlete and cancer patient who believes that she has done something to deserve her illness, a 33 year old whose wife died hours after giving birth to their first child, an 80-something member of a prominent show business family who attempted suicide because, for her, life has no meaning now that she is no longer active in the world of the arts.

One of the benefits of my professional life is that I have many opportunities to acknowledge and affirm that life is not fair. I have learned to see life as a mashup of the most wonderful and beautiful and the most terrifying and horrific, as the exquisitely heartbreaking combination of love and pain. I’ve come to see every ordinary and mundane day as, in fact, an extraordinary and wonderful day.

I was having one of those ordinary, wonderful days three days ago when I went to dinner with a friend as part of my birthday festivities. We had just placed our order when I excused myself to pick up a voicemail from my husband. His message was that he had received a call from a hospital emergency room telling him that one of our children was in critical condition and might not survive the night.

During our two hour drive to the hospital, we continued to get calls that were both updates and urgings to hurry. Beginning that evening, our family became—again—one of the families who sit in Critical Care units, waiting rooms, conference rooms and cafeterias, receiving medical updates, sharing them with those who are not physically present, waiting, hoping, praying. With a loved one in a medically induced coma and on life support, we, too, are a family signing consent forms for procedures that may or may not result in positive outcomes. We, too, are a family precariously balanced between, hope for a positive outcome and statistical medical realities.

Every morning, I give thanks that our loved one has survived the night. I do the best that I can to convey my deep gratitude for all of the help that he and we have received: the bystanders who jumped into action, began CPR and called 911; the EMTs who fought to keep his heart beating; the doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists who have kept him alive and are caring for him; the widening circle of those who praying for his healing. Most of all, we are grateful to the Creator who gives life, knowing both that it is indeed a miracle that our loved one is alive at this moment and that should he survive, his life and ours may be very different than they were or what we imagined they would be.

In these weeks of the Shabbatot of Consolation, in our acute awareness of the uncertainly of his prognosis, we find consolation in knowing that although outcomes are far from certain, we feel held by the Compassionate One. We find comfort in being together, in our ability to openly express our hopes and fears with one another and in telling our loved one that we are here and that we will continue to be. We chant the Shehekiyanu as he survives each crisis. Holding tightly to the knowledge that life offers no guarantees, in this time of fear and hope and uncertainty, we are deeply thankful for the precious gift of life and for the critical care of so many.

Rabbi Janet Madden earned her PhD in literature from The National Univer-sity of Ireland. A writer and ritualist, she is Rabbi of Providence Saint John’s Health Center (Santa Monica, CA) and Visiting Rabbi of The Oahu Jewish Ohana (Honolulu).

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden

 

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is September 20th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years. There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. Registration $36 for each series to help us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

_____________________

Gamliel Course

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead!

_____________________

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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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.

_____________________

 

 

My Future Life as a Gay Man

Last weekend I went to my friend Justin’s birthday party. We live only 15 minutes away from each other, but met through friend’s in Australia. We bonded quickly and have spent the past two Thanksgivings together with our Aussie posse. He is my go to friend when I need a pick me up because he always has a positive outlook. I love him very much. He is kind, funny, charming, and has a generous spirit. He is dependable and always ready with advice that is 100% spot on.

I have met wonderful people through Justin. He surrounds himself with lovely souls and has built a family of friends. When I walked into his birthday party I was greeted with kisses and genuine happiness to see me. What made it so special is that most of the people were strangers to me. Justin introduced me as his friend, which automatically made me their friend. I felt welcomed, embraced, and included.

I was a 52-year woman, surrounded by twenty something, handsome, and charming gay men. I was told I had great hair, pretty eyes, and fabulous boobs. I was welcomed into every conversation, and asked about me and my life. It was supportive and inclusive and I felt like I was in the gay version of a kibbutz. For anyone who knows what the community of a kibbutz is like, you will understand what a great feeling it was. There was something very Jew-ISH about the birthday party.

Important to note I would have made out with most of the men at the party, and a couple of the women, which is fun since chicks are not my thing. Some of the men were so beautiful I would leave the lights on and not focus on sucking in my stomach, just so I could focus on how handsome they were. Dear Lord. I left the party with a sore neck from all the head turning as I watched a parade of gorgeousness, mostly in Speedos.

I have decided I want to come back in my next life as an attractive gay man who is loved by his parents and living out loud. I loved being a part of Justin’s family and was happy to have a glimpse of what my next life as a gay man looked like. Can’t wait. To my darling Justin, Happy Birthday! I love you and was honored to be included in your celebration with your family of friends. I wish you a year of health and happiness. You make me happy and inspire me to always keep the faith.

The Taharah from Hell that Earned Me Heaven by Isaac Pollak

Fat Man Shadow

About 2 decades ago there was a man in our community who was in his early forties. He had a heart attack while taking a bath and died. Nothing unique or unusual, except that this person weighed over 400 pounds, and we just absolutely could not get him out of the bathtub.

 

The Medical Examiner, the police department, and finally the fire department were called in. The fire department was able to remove a window and use a hoist to extract the body. As if that was not enough, then the family (a brother) demanded an autopsy. Needless to say there was minimal Kavod Hamet.

 

Let’s start with talking about shrouds/Tachrichim. The extra, extra -large (XXL) size we had on hand didn’t come close to being a fit. He died on Friday, with a Sunday morning graveside funeral planned, leaving no possibility of ordering XXXL+ size shrouds. We called around to other funeral homes – no luck. So we improvised – we went across to a CVS pharmacy, purchased 2 sewing kits, took 2 sets of regular shrouds, ripped them open, and our Taharah group sewed together two sets to make one very large set of Tachrichim.

 

I was the best tailor: being a wild kid, I often ripped shirts and pants, and my mother in exasperation finally taught me how to sew, and told me next time I rip my pants I would just have to sew it up myself. I became quite proficient at it – which stood me in good stead in this case.

 

Now, let’s talk about a Taharah on a 400 pound person who had an autopsy and whose skull was sloppily reattached. Needless to say, nothing went well.

 

The Taharah table threatened to collapse, and groaned under the weight. The body could barely be contained on the table and a few times literally almost rolled off on top of us. We had a crew of eight, but this wasn’t enough. Three of us bent our backs as a support so when the deceased was rolled over to wash and get him dressed we acted as a supplement to the table, extending the table width with our backs.

 

I was the strongest of the group so I did quite a bit of the heavy lifting.

 

Almost three hours later the Taharah was complete – but no coffin was big enough, so the family purchased an elaborate $10,000+ extra large coffin from the showroom. We got the man into the casket, closed it, and left.

 

This all transpired a week before Purim, and after I left the funeral home I recalled from the Megilla that Mordechai told Ester (Megillat Ester 4:14) that perhaps “this is your reason for being” as Ester was picked to be the new wife of King Ahasuerus, thus being in a position to save the Jews of Persia.

 

I have always told my kids that we are defined by what we do for others. Perhaps this was my “reason for being,” my one defining moment in life where I was instrumental in having a deceased meet their maker in the traditional manner.

 

Not to brag, but I have completed 18 marathons, 52 100-mile bike races, and 9 triathlons – and nothing has ever exhausted me as did this Taharah. I went home showered and slept 11 hours.

 

But the story goes on. As I was engaged in the Taharah, and afterwards, I deeply resented this person just for being fodder for worms, for not being able to control his food intake, and for making it so incredibly difficult for us to do our job. I was wrong to feel this way.

 

Now, every year on the Seventh day of Adar I fast, recite Psalms, recall the deceased and remember the names of all those for whom we did a Taharah in the previous 12 months. But this person I remember every year as part of my atonement for resenting him at the time.

 

Yes – his Taharah frustrated and exhausted me like nothing else ever did, but in that very fact he also gave me my defining moment of being.

 

Robert Frost wrote a beautiful poem titled “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” It concludes:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep

The poet is enchanted by the esthetic beauty of the scene, the soft silence of the falling snow, the dark dignity of the tall trees. Oh, he would like to stay here in this timeless moment, but he knows that life has an ethical dimension as well, and this demands action, not just contemplation. He has promises to keep; he has duties toward the world.

 

And so do we in our CK work.

 

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

 

Isaac Pollak is the Rosh/Head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC and has been doing Taharot for about 4 decades. He is fascinated by and a student of customs and history concerning the Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish burial and mourning ritual. He is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, with over 300 historical artifacts in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC, and is CEO of an International Marketing Company. He is a student, participant, and lecturer in Gamliel Institute courses.

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is August 16th, featuring Gary Goldberg on “You Want It Darker.  The Public Performance of the Personal Death Awareness Practice of the Late Great Leonard Cohen… featuring Hazzan Gideon Zelermyer and the Shaar HaShomayim Mens Choir”.  This should be a really interesting topic! Don’t miss it!

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years. There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. Registration $36 for each series to help us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

_____________________

Gamliel Course

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah.

_____________________

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 annual 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 Continuing Education 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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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,

c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum,

8112 Sea Water Path,

Columbia, MD  21045.

Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute] are 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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 unpublished 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.

_____________________