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Note: The opinions expressed here are solely those of each individual blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of TRT.

Going to Israel? Some things to be afraid of

October 2013

NEWSLETTER ARTICLE OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2013

From Rabbi Weber

You were in ISRAEL this summer? Weren’t you scared?

 

On the last day of our recent Rodeph Torah/Jewish Federation trip to Israel, I told our group that they would be asked this question again and again when they returned home. To prepare them for the inevitable, I asked everyone to tell me what they were scared about during our 11-day journey through the Galilee, the Golan Heights, Tel Aviv, the Negev, the Dead Sea, and of course, Jerusalem. Here are their responses:

  • I was scared I would run out of money on our shopping trips.
  • I was scared I would explode from over-eating.
  • I was scared my wife would insist on buying a condo here before we left.
  • I was scared I would be the first person not to float in the Dead Sea.
  • I was scared our luggage would never arrive (long story, but it did – eventually).
  • I was scared I wouldn’t survive the taxi ride in Jerusalem.
  • I was scared the trip would end.

Hobby Lobby and the Jews

September 2013

Freedom is messy. From the American Nazi Party marching in Skokie, Illinois, to the myriad web sites promoting hatred of [insert the name of any religious, racial or political group here], freedom is something we all cherish… until we are on the receiving end of someone else’s freedom.

Witness the flurry of discussion in and around Marlboro, where it was discovered that the newly-opened Hobby Lobby does not, out of principle, stock items relating to Jewish holidays or Judaism in general. Various callers to the store management and to the company’s headquarters have reported responses indicating that the company is a Christian-owned company, and “these are our values.”

Praying At The Wall

August 2013

Benayim, September 2013

 

JERUSALEM, August 7, 2013 – Elul 1, 5773

I prayed at the Kotel (the Western Wall) today. That may not seem like a big thing for someone who has spent over a year of his life in Jerusalem, but it was actually the first time I’ve ever prayed at the Wall.

I’ve been to the Wall many times. I appreciate its history, and I understand the sacred connection to the Temple which once stood on that spot. But I could never pray there, no matter how hard I tried.

 

We Are Passion & Joy

July 2013

Newletter Article August/September 2013

If you were part of our community last Yom Kippur, you witnessed something truly amazing: an entire congregation filled with the spirit of God.

On Yom Kippur morning I asked everyone to count our blessings, and to take the gratitude we feel and turn it into food for the hungry. I asked you to go out – on Yom Kippur Day! – and buy food for our food drive, even if you had already brought some. I asked you to buy lots of food; what I actually said was, “go buy too much food,” and bring it back before the day ends.

 

Your Opinion Matters

June 2013

Newsletter Article June/July 2013

When the President of the UCLA Health System began his job, his hospital had an 85% approval rating – the highest of any comparable hospital. But his take on that number was that 15% of UCLA patients had a bad experience, and he took no comfort in knowing that other hospitals fared worse. UCLA was, in his words, “the cream of the crap.”

Dr. Feinberg set out to fix the problem, and he did it by going into every one of hundreds of hospital rooms and asking two questions:

-          On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your entire experience in this hospital, and why?

-          Would you recommend this hospital to your family and friends? Why or why not?


 

Reform: Past, Present and Future

May 2013

Benayim, May 2013

What’s the difference between “Reformed” and “Reform”? It’s the difference between past and present – and future.

The Protestant Reformation happened in the 1500’s, when Christians turned away from the Catholic Church to follow Martin Luther and John Calvin and founded “Reformed” churches. For them, “reform” happened once, five hundred years ago.

Reform Judaism, on the other hand, began in the early 1800’s and has never stopped changing. Change happened yesterday, it happens today and without a doubt it will happen tomorrow. That’s not always easy to accept, but that is what it means to be Reform Jews.


 

The Truth Behind "Boycott, Divest, Sanction Israel"

March 2013

NEWSLETTER ARTICLE, APRIL-MAY 2013

I had a professor who would shout “Anti-Semite!” at the elevator if the doors closed before he got on. This was at our rabbinic school, no less. His purpose was to remind us that not everything that happens is because we’re Jewish; some things just happen.

 

Because of that lesson, I’ve always been very cautious about charging someone with anti-Semitism. Sometimes people just have different ideas than I do, or than Jews do, and we have to respect those differences of opinion. But I believe the current BDS Movement (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) against Israel has genuine anti-Jewish sentiment at its foundation.


 

Passover - Seriously

February 2013

Benayim, March 2013

One morning when Pharaoh awoke in his bed

There were frogs on his bed, and frogs on his head.

Frogs on his nose and frogs on his toes –

Frogs here, frogs there, frogs were jumping everywhere.

        We’ve come a long way from the Passover seders of old, when grandpa droned on for three hours in Hebrew, pausing only to say “Sha!” to any child who dared utter a peep. From child-friendly haggadahs to “bags o’ plagues” to liven up the story, we have lots of ways to keep our youngsters involved and connected to the seder.

A Judaic Perspective on Gun Control

February 2013

Benayim, January 2013

When 16 people died this year from meningitis caused by unsanitary conditions at a drug manufacturer, federal agents swooped in to conduct an investigation and to identify the source of the contamination.

In 2009, a private plane collided with a helicopter over the Hudson River. Nine people died. Immediately afterward, the federal government revised flight regulations over all of New York City in response.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of a quarter-million baby cribs this year, after one child died after being trapped in a Pea Pod Travel Crib.

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration issues mandatory recalls on cars when problems appear which could cause an accident, even if no accidents have occurred and no one has been hurt.

But when 31,000 Americans are shot to death every year, no one does anything. Nothing. Not a law, not a rule, not anything.

From Rabbi Weber Feb-March 2013

January 2013

Newsletter Article

From Rabbi Weber

            As we engage in our popular perennial Purim preparations, I share once again in the latest collection of Random Ramblings from a Roving Reform(ed) Rabbi.

  • “Words with Enemies” would be a lot more interesting.
  • Tom Cruise is considering a role in the sequel to “Top Gun.” Thinking of him landing a fighter jet on any carrier at his age, I suggest the new movie’s theme song should be, “Highway to the Corti-Zone.”
  • After 30 years of marriage, Shira has finally decided to take my name. From now on, she'll be called “Don.”
  • I get that Roman numerals seem very dignified, but did anyone think through the “XXX Olympic Games”?
  • Driving to Cape Cod, I thought of the limitless amusement that must ensue for children growing up in Mianus, CT.
  • And on my ten-thousandth trip down Route 95 to Washington, I came up with a new motto for Delaware: “Delaware - because it's on the way to where you're going.”
  • Your kids may grow up and move away, but you'll always have their cell phones on your account.
  • I was behind a truck which said “construction vehicle - do not follow.” It was going the way I wanted to go, so I didn’t know what to do.
  • I'm so glad the election is over. Now I don't have to worry about what the color of my tie says about my politics, and I can go back to worrying that Shira will look at me & say, “you wore that with THAT???”
  • The Optimum iO remote control is a monument to bad design.
  • If you ever want to feel really old, look at the skin on your hands when you're using an Xlerator hand dryer.

A Letter to the Marlboro Board of Education about Police in our Schools

January 2013

As I drove around Marlboro today, I saw police cars at every one of our public schools - and television crews from every network as well. I tried to speak with our Superintendent of Schools, but his secretary apologized, saying he was giving interviews to the media all day. So I'm taking to the Internet to share the letter I wrote to the members of the Marlboro Board of Election.

 

Giving Without Guilt

November 2012

Many charitable organizations send letters in December, asking us to support their work. From Habitat for Humanity to Save the Whales, they hope the feelings of the season (and the thought of an end-of-the-year tax deduction) will spur us to be extra charitable now. And yes, you’ll receive a letter from Rodeph Torah, too – if we don’t ask, we don’t get!

But I would like to ask a different question: not what will you give?, but what really matters to you?

Hillel, Shammai and American Politics

October 2012

I believe the greatest danger facing the United States right now isn’t the economy, or health care, or our foreign policy. To me, the biggest threat to our wellbeing is the current idea that those who disagree with us are not just wrong, but un-American. Democrats are Socialists, Republicans are Fascists, gun owners are crazy lunatics, those who support a woman’s right to choose are baby killers, conservatives are heartless and liberals are nannies.

Worse than the name-calling, we’ve now stopped listening to each other. Today it is possible to listen only to news with which we agree, and to hear only commentary which makes us comfortable with the positions we already hold.

Judaism has something to teach us at a time like this, because we Jews are no strangers to disagreement. After all, we’re the ones who claim – with pride – that “two Jews have three opinions.” The Talmud itself is the record of disagreements, not agreements.

The Debate About Sex

September 2012

Let’s be clear: the debate about abortion is not about abortion; it is about sex. More accurately, it is about the belief of some Christians that sex is at best a necessary evil, at worst a sin, and babies are one of the ways God punishes people for having sex. Which means that not only is abortion against this understanding of God’s will; so is contraception. As Saint Augustine, one of the most influential Christian thinkers of all time, wrote, “Intercourse even with one’s legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of offspring is prevented.”

It is not my place to criticize another’s beliefs, or their religion, but when people hide their true agenda it is important to call them on it.

An Invitation to Israel

September 2012

As Shira and I planned a short trip to Washington, DC this summer, we saw that the new Batman movie was playing at the IMAX theater at the Smithsonian. We reserved tickets for the 10:30 show, recognizing that we would probably be the oldest people in the theater by a couple of decades.

The movie premiered the very next night, and we all know what happened in Aurora, Colorado.

Our tickets were for two days later. We thought about it and decided to go anyway. Afterward, we realized that whatever fear we had, had disappeared the moment the movie started. We had a great time, and we never regretted our decision to go.

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