Germany Bans Circumcision
“For 4,000 years Jews have considered male circumcision an essential part of our Covenant with the Almighty. We urge the courts and the government of Germany to reverse this decision and the fundamental threat it represents to the foundation of our religious beliefs.”
—Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs, WUPJ President, the first of five signatories to the World Union for Progressive Judaism statement in response to a German court decision outlawing the practice of ritual circumcision, June 2012
Grieving Women Get Justice
“This ruling sends a message that is loud and clear: any rabbi who abuses his position to exclude women from the process of mourning a loved one has another judgment waiting for him in the Israeli courts.”
—Anat Hoffman, Executive Director, Israel Religious Action Center, commenting on the Israeli court’s June 2012 ruling that condemns women’s segregation from men within traditional burial societies. IRAC’s claimant, Rosie, who had been thwarted from delivering a eulogy at her father’s funeral, was awarded the maximum compensation (about $8,000).
Moses’ Midlife Crisis
“Moses was 80 when God told him to make a midlife career change—to give up the shepherding business and go into the business of leading the Jewish people. Go down to Egypt, and tell old Pharaoh: Let My people go.
Moses uses all kinds of arguments to get out of the assignment: I have a speech impediment. The Israelites will not listen to me. Even if they do, the Egyptians will not.
Yet there is one argument he never uses. He does not say: I am too old. He ends up taking the job. And—I think you will agree—he does it fairly well.
Forty years later, God says to Moses: It is time for you to retire. I need a younger man to bring the people of Israel into the land.
If you were Moses, what would you have said? I’d say: Thank you. I’ll take my Social Security now and move to Florida.
But Moses, at the age of 120, fights as hard as he can to keep working, if not as the leader, then as an assistant.
What can we learn from Moses? When we reach old age, we need a job; otherwise, our lives will be dull, empty, pointless. It need not be a job that pays a salary—but we need to have an important job, one that makes a difference.”
—Rabbi Jack Riemer
Teens Unite for Tikkun
“While each one of us may belong to a different Jewish youth movement, we are connected by our passion and desire to fulfill tikkun olam, our responsibility to repair the world. Together we must create a more inclusive and open Jewish community for today and tomorrow.”
—The Coalition of Jewish Teens, representing NFTY (Reform), NCSY (Orthodox), USY (Conservative), BBYO (pluralistic), and Young Judea (Zionist).
Strive for Belonging, Not Membership
“In American Grace, an examination of religion in America, scholars Robert Putnam and David Campbell note that it is worse to be a worshiper with no friends than to have no membership at all. ‘A person who attends church regularly but has no close friends there is actually unhappier than her demographic twin who doesn’t attend church at all...and religious friendship seems supercharged [as a determiner of happiness].’ There is evidence that there is special benefit to friendships forged and maintained in an atmosphere of shared spiritual search and tradition. Anyone who has ever watched or been the person alone at an oneg knows how lonely it can be in purportedly sacred space. The person who feels she has no friends here may even be a member of the congregation, but doesn’t feel she belongs.
People will give up memberships when they are assessing financial and time commitments. They will not so easily dispense with belonging—the ubiquitous yearning to feel loved, needed, and connected to others through shared values and purpose. Belonging is about the answers to questions such as, ‘Who hears my voice? Who would truly miss me as an individual if I were not here? Whose faces light up when I arrive? Who will help me when I am dejected and discouraged? Who needs what I have to offer?’ It enables us to feel, in some way, at home in the world.
We must raise the question about whether congregations and Jewish communal organizations are currently serving sufficiently as places to nourish relationships that offer such a deep sense of belonging.”
—Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher, The Reform Jewish Quarterly, CCAR Press, Summer 2012