PURIM 2012!

Hadassah’s Back! Purim @ JTS and Romemu! Free!

Purim Night, March 7th 2012
Hadassah & friends read the Megillah at JTS
PISH: The Purim Tish Party at Romemu

Megillah Reading @ Jewish Theological Seminary
3080 Broadway (@122nd St)
Featuring live music, a full megillah reading (chanted by JTS faculty and students), and live commentary & interaction by Rebbetzin Hadassah and members of Storahtelling.

Please arrive early and have photo ID available to enter the Seminary.
RSVPs REQUESTED at [email protected] This event is co-sponsored by the Columbia/Barnard Hillel.

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Big Women Vs. Bigotry: Gay Rights ARE Human RIghts

‘Gay Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Gay Rights’ (H. Clinton)

Big week of big news and big headlines from big women vs bigotry – with important steps and statements for more dignity, diversity and celebration of humanity in all its forms.

In honor of Human Rights Day – 12/10 – Hillary Clinton delivered a momentous speech in Geneva urging gay rights worldwide. She spoke honestly about the work needed to be done in the US and urged governments to step up the legistlation and care of all citizens. She also talked about the issue of religion-sanctioned hatred in this regard – a hatred “once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights.”
See Clinton’s full speech here:

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, Rabba Tamar Applebaum-Elad resigned from her position as Associate Dean at the Shechter Institute, the flagship seminar of the Conservative Movement in Israel. Tamar, a friend and teacher, is a powerful leader and a great ally, stepping up to make LGBT inclusion a reality at Shechter. Her resignation is painful but will no doubt shake the system up in a real way. I was quoted in the Jerusalem Post this morning on this matter: http://www.jpost.com/
(scroll down for the full article text)

My full quote, not published, is here:

‘Rabbi Applebaum-Elad is a courageous and inspiring leader whose commitment to human dignity, tikkun olam and halachic progress is of international renown. Her encouragement and mentorship was one of the main factors that motivated me to pursue Rabbinical studies within the Conservative Movement. Her departure from Shechter presents a painful reality check in regard to the real conflict within the movement’s acceptance of LGBT rabbinical students. However, I am optimistic and hopeful that the time is ripe for real change and that this dramatic shift will serve as a wake up call on larger scale and bring about a swifter move among the leaders of the movement in Israel towards the much needed change in policy. I think that the greater Masorti movement in Israel, as well as the larger Israeli public is yearning for a religious voice that embraces diversity and takes a strong stand against intolerance and discrimination of all kinds. In the wake of recent escalation in fundamentalist views and behaviors in Israel – esp. towards women, Tamar’s leadership shines strongly, her voice needs to be heard louder, and her stand will help all of us make Israel and the Jewish community a better place for all.

On a personal note: In 1997 I considered ordination at Shechter but was advised against application based on my sexual orientation. I came to NY to explore pluralistic Judaism and eventually decided to pursue rabbinic ordination at JTS with the intention of moving back to Israel and help the greater Israeli public find access to an inclusive, pluralistic and relevant Judaism. I am grateful that in 2006 JTS voted to welcome me and my brothers and sisters as qualified members of the community. I am honored and proud to be a student at JTS, and thrilled to be part of the movement at these important times. Along with many of my classmates at JTS I am looking forward to helping build this form of consensus and welcome at the Shechter Institute and in Israel. I’m sure Rabbi Applebaum-Elad will play an important role in this sacred evolution and am looking forward to learning with her and from her on many occasions. ‘

Human RIghts Day is marked during this Sabbath. Here’s to the sacred evolution and celebration of human dignity and diversity that will continue to take us all to next level and increase kindness, compassion, pride and progress for all. Thank you Hillary, Tamar and all fighters for fairness and peace worldwide.
Shabbat Shalom.

Jerusalem Post Article:
Rabbi quits seminary over exclusion of gays By GIL SHEFLER
12/09/2011 05:04

“Masorti seminary rejected gay applicants, wanted to expel gay students.”

A Masorti (Conservative) rabbi has quit the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies inJerusalem in acrimony over the exclusion of openly gay students from its rabbinical studies program, The Jerusalem Post learned on Thursday.

Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum, former associate dean at the seminary, resigned this week because it allegedly reneged on a promise to ordain homosexual students, a source said.

“She was promised two years ago when she entered the position that they will ordain LGBT students,” the source said. “She learned this was not going to be the case two weeks ago and quit.”

Elad-Appelbaum did not answer her phone on Thursday but several sources verified the story.
The Schechter Institute issued a response expressing regret over the rabbi’s decision to leave, without elaborating on the circumstances of her departure.

“The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary received Rabbi Tamar Elad-Appelbaum’s resignation with great regret,” said Rabbi Prof.

Hanan Alexander, chairman of seminary’s board of trustees. “Rabbi Elad-Appelbaum contributed enormously to the seminary during her tenure and we wish her every success in her future endeavors.”

The row between the seminary and the rabbi is part of a larger debate taking place within the Conservative Movement over its policy toward homosexuality. During the 1990s some of its rabbis embraced the gay community and welcomed its members into its ranks while others adhered to the traditional halachic ban against same-sex relations.

In recent years two of its most important religious schools, the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles and the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, have opened their doors to LGBT students. But the Schechter Institute inJerusalem under the presidency of Rabbi Prof. David Golinkin has refused to ordain openly gay students.

Sources said Elad-Appelbaum decided to step down after Golinkin “rejected openly gay students who applied for admission next year and wanted to investigate the sexual identities of those already enrolled at the seminary.”

Amichai Lau-Lavie, an openly gay student at JTS and the scion of a renowned rabbinical family, sent an e-mail calling Elad-Appelbaum a “courageous and inspiring leader whose commitment to human dignity, tikkun olam and halachic progress is of international renown.”

Lau-Lavie said her departure presents a “painful reality check” but that he was optimistic it would eventually bring change to the Conservative Movement’s policy toward gays in Israel and in general. The rabbinical student said he considered applying for admission to Schechter in 1997 but was advised against it “because of my sexual orientation.”

Other members of the movement on Thursday said the expected backlash over the resignation of Elad- Appelbaum – who they said was the third senior official to leave Schechter in as many years – may undermine Golinkin’s position at the helm of the Masorti seminary in Jerusalem.

“The news may hurt the institute’s image and its appeal in the eyes of students, who may not want to go there, as well as donors,” a source said on condition of anonymity. “Golinkin will either give in or have to leave.”

Golinkin on Thursday chose not to comment on Elad-Appelbaum’s departure, saying “I have no response.”

Kristalnacht: a prayer in a church for my grandfather

On the 11th of Heshvan, 1942, my grandfather, Rabbi Moshe Chayim Lau, led his congregation to the gas chambers of Treblinka. We are told he was clasping a Torah scroll, and chanted the kaddish as he, along with one of his four sons and thousands of Piotrkow’s Jews marched to their deaths.
I called my father today, 69 years later, to let him know I remember, thinking of him. My father was one of the other three sons who survived. My grandfather’s last words of legacy to my father were: make sure the rabbinic dynasty survives. So he did: My father made sure that his younger brother live on. That younger brother became the chief rabbi of Israel, his sons became rabbis, and so did my brother. And now it’s my turn. On my way to Rabbinical School at JTS this morning, after talking with my father in Jerusalem I imagined my grandfather’s last moments, horrified, again, and inspired, again by his leadership at the unspeakable time of crisis.

He lost his left arm in a train accident in the early 1930’s, and trained himself to put on Tefillin on his remaining right hand. Had he had both hands – would he have had a better chance at survival? He was only 50 years old – 8 years older than I am now.

And then, unexpected, I lifted up his memory inside the James Chapel at the Union Theological Seminary – across the street from JTS. Union is a Christian seminary, liberal and interesting, with several faculty members teaching at both seminaries and shared programs in the healthy spirit of interfaith. I’ve taught and participated at programs at Union before, even sat at their Succah, but today I attended a creative religious service, where students and faculty sat together to eat, pray, talk and share what’s on their hearts. A few of us from JTS, noticeable with our kippot, wanted to learn these forms of worship and meet our neighbors. We were warmly welcomed, breaking fresh baked bread and slices of apple with our friends from across the street. One of the pastors spoke briefly about a colleague of his in Syria, his struggles and hopes. He invited us to talk in small groups around the round tables about the role of hope and despair in our lives.

I spoke about my grandfather, his final moments on this very day, his moments of final hopelessness. Was there consolation in this complete despair? submission? acceptance? Can I, any of us, in our small moments of despair learn anything from his choices and fate? I ‘lifted him up’ as I was taught to say by my new friends at Union, honoring his memory, pain, legacy, sacred journey.

In a Christian chapel, along with fellow clergy students of at least two faiths, I prayed for my grandfather’s soul finding peace. I prayed, quietly, for more hope, for all of us, always.

The worship at the chapel ended with an upbeat hymn: I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living. I recognized the words from the psalms.

And tonight, on another calendar, Nov 9, a reminder of Kristalnacht, a night of hatred when the horror began with the smashing of windows and lives.

We walk in the land of the living, we get to lift each other up, strive for better.

I hope my grandfather, of blessed memory, would have approved of my prayer. I think so.