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Ma Nishma - JRF News for September 2008

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[img_assist|nid=1353|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=120|height=120][img_assist|nid=528|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=240|height=54]Dear [i]Ma Nishma[/i] Subscriber,

I'm happy to deliver to your e-mail doorstep the latest issue of [i]Ma Nishma[/i] ("What's Happening?"), featuring news and events from JRF.

Now everyone can subscribe to [i]Ma Nishma[/i]. Register at the JRF website at then click "Manage your JRF e-newsletter subscriptions" at the top left of the home page to subscribe.

[b]Newsletter editors and webmasters:[/b] Please reprint stories and announcements from this issue for a JRF News page in your congregational newsletter and on your website.

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Please forward this to anyone you think would enjoy reading [i]Ma Nishma[/i].

Download this issue of Ma Nishma as an MS Word document, for easier cut/paste into synagogue newsletters.


Lisa Kelvin Tuttle
JRF Communications Director

[h2]September 2008 / Elul 5768

Ma Nishma
News from the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation[/h2]

[b]In This Issue[/b]

  • Registration Now Open for the 42nd JRF Convention - Boston, Nov. 13-16
  • Meet our Newest Affiliate: Or Shalom in San Francisco!
  • JRF Congregations Welcome New Reconstructionist Rabbis
  • JRF and RENA at CAJE33
  • JRF Launches Web-Based Reconstructionist Curriculum Resource Finder
  • Special Offers from JRF’s Reconstructionist Press
  • Camp JRF is Available for Your Special Events
  • JRF’s Sustainable Synagogue Initiative
  • Get Out the Vote: Why American Jews Must Vote
  • Fighting Poverty With Faith: A Week of Action
  • Join JRF in Brooklyn for Havdalah and Slichot
  • Effective Leadership: Essential Practices for Board Members, A Leadership Orientation
  • Marketing Your Congregational Message
  • Congregational news


Register for the 42nd JRF Convention
Nov. 13-16, 2008 at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel

[img_assist|nid=1711|title=|desc=|link=url|url=|align=left|width=120|height=118][i]“Transformative Judaism for the 21st Century”[/i]

Join the largest gathering of Reconstructionists in North America for four enriching days of learning, building connections, and sharing best practices to strengthen and grow our Reconstructionist communities and ourselves.


[b]A Plenary Session on Identity, Community and Leadership[/b] is a dialogue between the generations — those involved today in creating "emerging communities" and those who were shapers of the Havurah movement in the '60s and '70s, now serving as leaders of the Reconstructionist Movement. [[i]If you're reading this electronically, click on presenters' names throughout to read their bios.[/i]] Participants will include Rabbi David Teutsch, Zachary Teutsch, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld and Sarah Liebman.

[b]Four special Forums[/b] will immediately follow the opening plenary, giving us an opportunity to explore the themes raised as we engage in conversations with leaders in their fields:

[b]Jonathan Sarna[/b], the foremost expert on American Jewish history, will join us on Thursday evening with a talk entitled [b][i]American Judaism at a Crossroads: A Perspective on Reconstructionism from a Jewish Historian[/i][/b].

[b]Noah Feldman[/b], recently named by New York Magazine as one of "the influentials" in ideas, will be our special guest speaker during Shabbat lunch. Feldman's expertise is on the relationship between law and religion in the West and Middle East.

[b]Shabbat services as you've never experienced them before[/b], filled with ruach (spirit) and kavannah (intention), will bring us together as an extended Reconstructionist family.

[b]Beit Midrash sessions on Shabbat afternoon[/b] include informal text study, creative exploration of Reconstructionist liturgy, and a celebration of the arts.

[b]A special screening of Praying with Lior[/b], an award-winning film by Ilana Trachtman. The film celebrates the Reconstructionist Bar Mitzvah of Lior Liebling, who has Down Syndrome, and explores themes of disability and spirituality.

[b]Networking opportunities[/b] throughout Convention will facilitate connections between our communities, such as break-out sessions, affinity group meetings, and receptions. Come and contribute your questions and your congregation’s best practices to the conversations!
Harmoniyah--the Reconstructionist Music Network and RENA (Reconstructionist Educators of North America) will be participating in our Convention again this year.

[b]Visit sights of Jewish interest in Boston[/b] or participate in a [b]tikkun olam service opportunity[/b] on Sunday.

[i]And much more![/i]

Get all the details and register now at

Meet our Newest Affiliate: Or Shalom in San Francisco!

[img_assist|nid=2002|title=|desc=|link=url|url=|align=left|width=240|height=73]The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation is delighted to welcome [b]Or Shalom Jewish Community[/b] of San Francisco, California, as its newest member community and the fourth in the greater San Francisco area. Or Shalom represents the first affiliate in the city of San Francisco itself for our movement, adding to Keddem Congregation in Palo Alto; Or Zaruah Havurah in Berkeley; and Ner Tamid in Cotati.

The congregation, founded in 1989, describes itself as "an active community of progressive Jews and non-Jews, diverse yet united in the effort to improve ourselves and mend our world through: [i]limud[/i] (Jewish learning), [i]gemilut chasadim[/i] (acts of loving kindness), [i]avodah[/i] (Jewish spiritual practice), and [i]tikkun olam[/i] (social action). We share a commitment to deep mutual acceptance, the spirit of questioning, and a dynamic balance between tradition and innovation that makes our Judaism alive and relevant."

Rabbi Katie Mizrahi (RRC '05), Or Shalom's rabbi since early 2007, said "Joining the Reconstructionist movement will connnect San Francisco's Jews with Reconstructionism's progressive social action platform and warm inclusive community—a perfect fit for San Francisco. Or Shalom is proud and excited to be embarking on our partnership with the JRF and we embrace this step forward with joy."

Learn more about Or Shalom at

JRF Congregations Welcome New Reconstructionist Rabbis

Seven JRF conregations--five on the East coast, two on the West--have new full-time rabbis and all of them are graduates of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, including four from RRC's class of 2008. Rabbi Donna Kirshbaum and Rabbi Benjamin Weiner will also serve their congregations as Education Directors.

  • [b]Temple Beth Sholom[/b] in Salem, Oregon, welcomes Rabbi James Greene (RRC '08).
  • [b]String of Pearls[/b] in Princeton, New Jersey welcomes Rabbi Donna Kirshbaum (RRC '08).
  • [b]Bnai Keshet[/b] in Montclair, New Jersey, welcomes Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh (RRC '08) as Assistant Rabbi, working alongside Rabbi Elliott Tepperman.
  • [b]Mishkan Ha’Am[/b] - The Westchester-Riverdale Reconstructionist Group in Yonkers, New York, welcomes Rabbi Benjamin Weiner (RRC '08).
  • [b]Temple Sinai[/b] in Amherst, New York, welcomes Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein (RRC '04).
  • [b]Tzedek v’Shalom[/b] in Newtown, Pennsylvania, welcomes Rabbi Anna Rosenfield (RRC '06).
  • [b]Keddem Synagogue[/b] in Palo Alto, California, welcomes Rabbi Elisheva Salamo (RRC '97).

Read about these exceptional Reconstructionist rabbis and the congregations they serve at

JRF and RENA at CAJE33

[img_assist|nid=2003|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=120|height=109]On August 10th, more than 50 Reconstructionist educators and rabbis gathered on the campus of the University of Vermont in Burlington to participate at CAJE33 -- the 33rd annual Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education, sponsored by the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education. They were part of a group of approximately 1,500 of their colleagues, from all denominations of Judaism, who came from all over North America as well as from Israel and other countries to learn about the best practices and latest trends and innovations in Jewish education.

Reconstructionists led study tracks and individual workshops and were part of the evening entertainment. Reconstructionist Educators of North America (RENA) sponsored a reception for all the Reconstructionists at the convention. This was an opportunity to connect with old friends and meet new ones within our movement. RENA also collaborated with NATE (Reform educators) and the JEA (Conservative educators) on a poster session where 16 congregational schools (including 4 Reconstructionist schools) were selected to feature a Best Practices program within their schools.

The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and the Reconstructionist Press had a table where Reconstructionist resources could be purchased and connections made with JRF staff. The Reconstructionist presence at CAJE33 became a venue for many conference participants to ask questions and learn about the Reconstructionist movement. Attendees from all denominations stopped by to say they love using our publications, such as the [i]Kol Hano’ar[/i] children’s siddur and [i]A Night of Questions[/i] Haggadah. Read the story below to learn about the Reconstructionist Curriculum Resource Finder—a new online resource for educators launched at the conference!

JRF Launches Reconstructionist Curriculum Resource Finder

A Jewish educational survey conducted among the Reconstructionist congregations with congregational schools revealed a strong need by educators for easy access to Jewish Reconstructionist educational materials. Many of the schools reported that their curriculum changes on a regular basis and they need an evolving resource that also reflects the continuing changes in Jewish education.

To meet this need, JRF has developed an innovative educational project for Reconstructionist congregational schools: The web-based Reconstructionist Curriculum Resource Finder ( is an interactive online tool intended to serve teachers, parents, and education directors. It provides a menu of suggested textbooks, story books, and eventually lesson plans, linking directly to the publishers, on each of the major topics taught in our schools. Each topic is subdivided according to Reconstructionist educational goals. The Camp JRF curriculum will be integrated as well.

The first stage of the project, sponsored by a lead grant from Congregation Kehillat Israel in Pacific Palisades, CA, is intended to show how the resource will meet the needs of the more than 100 Reconstructionist congregations that need help identifying appropriate curriculum resources.

In developing this project, coordinators Rabbi Erin Hirsh, JRF Director of Education, and Lori Rubin, Co-chair of the Reconstructionist Educators of North America (RENA), have gone “out of the box” to develop a program which will have immediate impact as the new academic year begins. Visitors to the Reconstructionist Curriculum Resource Finder are encouraged to blog about each and every resource, sharing “best practices” in utilizing the resources for similar-size congregations, and providing data that can be used for project evaluation and improvement as the project expands. Visitors are also able to upload their own or favorite resources to help the project evolve.

The impact this project can have on Reconstructionist Jewish education is profound.

This exciting tool for Reconstructionist educators made its debut this August at the CAJE 33 Conference on Alternatives in Jewish Education at the University of Vermont.

In order to help us maximize the value of this resource, we invite Reconstructionist rabbis and educators to log on and comment on as many as possible of the entries with which they are familiar or have strong opinions. We also invite the posting of resources that have not yet been included.

Visit now! For further information, please contact Rabbi Erin Hirsh, Director of Education at 215-885-5601 x 16 or via email at

Special Offers from JRF’s Reconstructionist Press

Do you have your own [i]Mahzor[/i] for the High Holidays and does the congregation own enough? Our beautiful Mahzor Leyamim Nora’im (prayer book for the Days of Awe), part of the Kol Haneshamah Prayer Book Series, is now available for purchase in time for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Have you experienced [i]Siddur Kol Hano’ar[/i], the wonderful, colorful Shabbat siddur for children? Whether for your synagogue, for friends and family, or for your own home, it makes a great gift!

The new [i]Moadim Le’Limud – Seasons for Learning: Mishnah on the Holidays of the Year[/i] is an exciting new way to learn about the Mishnah while deepening knowledge of the laws and customs of Jewish holidays.

And now you can have all the Jewish holidays and important contact information at your fingertips with the pocket size[i]JRF Diary for 5769 / 2008-2009[/i].

Here are the details on all these fantastic offerings:

1250 pages, hardcover $42.00 ($33.60)

The Reconstructionist [i]Kol Haneshamah Mahzor Leyamim Nora’im[/i] (prayer book for the Days of Awe) is an inclusive, comprehensive volume for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services; one that is rooted in the traditional Hebrew liturgy, yet fully contemporary. Some of the most prominent features of this volume are:

  • All readings appear within the text, simplifying the selection of material for services.
  • Constructed with a special strong, reinforced library quality binding.
  • Printed on very thin, lightweight opaque paper.
  • A new section, Kabbalat Hashanah, has been created to begin the erev Rosh Hashanah service.
  • For Rosh Hashanah, the Mahzor can be used for a traditional shofar service and full Musaf, or combining the two in several different ways.
  • On Yom Kippur, the Musaf service and Martyrology are integrated with the Avodah service creating a powerful, seamless whole.

Transliterated edition available now!
Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and Rabbi Jeffrey Schein
Illustrated in full color by Joani Rothenberg

This beautiful hardcover Shabbat prayer book for children ages 5-9 makes a wonderful gift for the whole family to share at home. $28/$23.80 for JRF members. Consider adding a set of matching note cards for a lovely gift set for just $5 more!

Rabbi Gail Diamond
Participants’ Text (Parts I & II) - 33 pages, softcover $12.50
Facilitator’s Guide – 62 pages, softcover $12.50

The Reconstructionist Press is proud to introduce [i]Moadim Le’Limud – Seasons for Learning: Mishnah on the Holidays of the Year[/i]. This exciting new course, written by Rabbi Gail Diamond, gives students an introduction to the Mishnah while expanding their knowledge of the laws and customs of various holidays of the Jewish year. The lessons are designed to be suitable for students of all backgrounds. Some of the most prominent features of this volume are:

  • Two ways for facilitators to use the curriculum: Over several sessions taught over a period of two to three months, concentrating on learning Mishnah on the holidays of the year; or presented seasonally over the course of a whole year, ideally beginning in Elul, timing each lesson for two to four weeks before the holiday discussed.
  • Participants’ Text contains texts to be studied at each lesson along with some of the questions for discussion.
  • Facilitators’ Guide has goals for each section and an expanded selection of discussion questions for each section.
  • Part I, comprising the first half of these wonderful lessons, will be ready in time for Rosh Hashanah for communities that would like to present the course alongside the High Holy Days. Part II will be ready in late fall – in plenty of time for the spring holidays, and will automatically be sent upon publication.

[i]JRF DIARY FOR 5769 / 2008-2009[/i]
Available now! $8.25 (U.S.)

  • Comprehensive calendar for the Jewish and secular year, including explanations of all Jewish holidays and important shabbatot
  • Ample space to jot down appointments, with blank pages for notes and addresses
  • Current listing of all JRF synagogues and havurot
  • The platform and program of the Reconstructionist movement

Order by mail with a check payable to JRF and send to JRF, Beit Devora, 101 Greenwood Avenue, Suite 430, Jenkintown, PA 19046, or order by credit card by calling 877-JRF-PUBS. This unique, pocket-size Jewish calendar makes a great gift so order while supplies last!

The Reconstructionist Press is looking forward to seeing you at the 42nd JRF Convention in Boston this November—come to our table and see the new commemorative 10th Anniversary edition of [i]A Night of Questions Reconstructionist Haggadah[/i] available for the first time there!

Camp JRF is Available for Your Special Events

[img_assist|nid=1617|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=120|height=95]Planning an annual Shabbaton or retreat? Consider holding it at Camp JRF on the Aaron and Marjorie Ziegelman Campus. This beautiful facility in the Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains is now available for rental for our JRF congregations, boards, religious schools, JRF regional programs, teens, and the like.

For more information, please contact the Camp JRF office at 877-CAMP JRF (877-226-7573).

JRF’s Sustainable Synagogue Initiative

With the enthusiasm around JRF’s Omer Learning Initiative, as well as the solid response of JRF congregations in the Climate Change Initiative, JRF is continues to deepen its greening work with member communities next year. Our hope is to motivate and educate our congregations in sustainable practices, with the goal of reaching 100 percent participation in the years ahead, recognizing those JRF communities who excel at sustainable practices at the JRF Convention in Boston, 2008.

A full listing of the 7 weeks of teaching packets is available at and the three related Tikkun Olam conference calls held as part of this year's PEARL initiative, available at

Please refer to the following additional links to find specific resources for tikkun olam:

Information on JRF’s Sustainable Synagogue Initiative can be found on the JRF website’s environment pages at and

For more information contact Rabbi Shawn Zevit, director of outreach and tikkun olam,

Get Out the Vote: Why American Jews Must Vote

[i]Rabbi Yitzhak taught, "A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted.” —Talmud, B’rachot 55a[/i]

[img_assist|nid=1481|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=120|height=90]A crucial election day is only months away. At stake are vital political, economic and moral issues of concern to all Americans, in addition to issues of special concern to American Jews.

During the next four years, there will be important debates about the way our government does business. Legislation on significant issues such as health care, foreign aid, civil rights and support for Israel is likely to be considered by the next Congress and Administration. In addition, over the next four years, the President and Senate will confirm judges who will make crucial decisions affecting our lives. With the stakes so high, we must work to reverse the trend toward declining percentages of voters.

As Jews and American citizens we have an obligation to participate in the elections to ensure that our country's policies at the local, state and national levels reflect our commitment to social justice. Every vote counts and plays a defining role in setting policy agendas. It is our civic duty to register promptly, educate ourselves about the critical issues and VOTE!
The [i]Get Out the Vote 2008 Guide[/i] provides you with tools, resources and information to help your congregation or community plan a successful voter engagement effort in advance of Election Day. This guide was designed for use by Jewish congregations and communal organizations wishing to conduct their own voter registration drives. We also encourage participation in voter registration drives in the general community. The same procedures and materials that are suggested here for use in the Jewish community can be adapted for voter registration use in the broader community.

The Guide was prepared by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation and the larger Jewish community.

Download the Get Out The Vote Guide free of charge at

Fighting Poverty with Faith: A Week of Action

JRF endorses and joins national interfaith coalition "Fighting Poverty With Faith: A Week of Action", September 10-16, 2008


From September 10-16, 2008 people of faith across the country will be mobilizing their communities to ask their local, state and national candidates what they will do to address the pressing issues of poverty and opportunity in America in their first 100 days in office.

In communities across the country, people of faith will be calling and writing the candidates, holding forums to discuss these issues with civic and political leadership, engaging in interfaith community service to aid those in need in their communities, and otherwise highlighting the need for increased leadership on these issues.

By acting during this time, you can be a part of a national interfaith movement to build the political and public will to address poverty in America.

Join Us! Learn more at, and, where you can find resources on how to participate and find events near you!

NY/NJ Region Unites in an Effort to Reach Out to Unaffiliated Over the High Holidays

As part of the Kehillah Kedoshah Synagogue Outreach and Growth initiative, the synagogues of JRF's NY/NJ region have launched the "High Holiday Open Seats Campaign" to let the unaffiliated know they are welcome at our synagogues. Through "Open Seats" each synagogue in the region has set aside a designated number of seats for non-members and posted information about their High Holiday services on the website

The website is being advertised by a regional press-release blitz and through the purchase of domain names and key words on all major search engines. We are excited about our new and unprecedented initiative and will report back about the results.

For more information about Open Seats, please contact Hannah Greenstein, Outreach Coordinator for JRF Metropolitan NY/NJ Region at or at 212-870-2484.

Join JRF in Brooklyn for Havdalah and Selichot

Saturday evening, September 20, 2008, 7 pm.

Please join us in Brooklyn as we bid farewell to Shabbat and welcome the High Holiday season with a family-oriented Havdalah ceremony followed by a Selichot (forgiveness) service filled with beautiful music. Location and other information coming soon. Share the news with your friends and family in Brooklyn!

Contact or

Active Leadership: Essential Practices for Board Members, A Leadership Orientation

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008, 5:30 - 8:45 pm.

At the start of the program year, this orientation seminar for congregational leaders will provide a rich leadership exchange with material for new and returning synagogue board members. Rabbi Shawn Zevit, Director of Outreach and Tikkun Olam/Congregational Consultant, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation will lead the session.

For more information contact

Marketing Your Congregational Message

Thursday, November 6th, 2008, 6:00 - 8:45 pm.

Congregations in the New York-New Jersey region will meet to consider what makes them unique, and will learn how to communicate this message to the greater community. Participants will discuss marketing strategies tailored to different audiences.

For more information contact

B’nai Tikvah Dedication Celebration

[img_assist|nid=2004|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=240|height=192][i][In photo, from left to right, Rabbi Bruce Adler, incoming President David Fine, Rabbi Donna Adler, outgoing President Q Benedikt][/i]

On August 17, [b]Congregation B’nai Tikvah[/b], the Jewish Reconstructionist Center of Southwestern Ohio, celebrated the official dedication of its new building along with its 10th anniversary. The opening included music, dancing and refreshments as well as information on B'nai Tikvah and Reconstructionist Judaism. "The opportunity to be part of the synagogue building process is a rare opportunity. The chance to do this with a group that truly makes a difference in the community makes it even more special," noted outgoing president Q Benedikt. "Our members' hard work running this historic undertaking and the awareness that every person counts makes B'nai Tikvah a very exciting and appealing congregation." Kol Hakavod!

Kol HaLev Marches Torah to New Home

On August 31st, members of [b]Kol HaLev[/b] in Cleveland will be marching with their Torah to their new home at the Ratner School, where the entire Kol HaLev Community will come together for a brief ceremony to celebrate a new chapter in its history. At the meeting of the Kol HaLev board where the vote to partner with the Ratner School was unanimous, Rabbi Steve Segar called this "an historic moment for Kol HaLev" and led all those present in singing the [i]shehecheyanu[/i]. Barry Epstein expressed the board’s gratitude to the members of the space committee: Alan Lipson, Barbara Epstein, Allen Binstock, Sue Pelleg and Rabbi Steve for their hard work and dedication.

For more information call the synagogue office at 216-320-1498 or visit

Oseh Shalom to Honor Cantor

On Saturday, September 6, Congregation Oseh Shalom in Laurel, MD, will honor Cantor Charlie Bernhardt for 25 years as their cantor with a very special concert at the synagogue. The concert will feature Cantor Jan Morrison, Rabbi David Shneyer and Alan Oresky from Fabrengen fiddlers, the DC Labor Chorus, Joe Jencks and Cantor Charlie himself. It is an evening not to be missed. The concert will be appropriate for all ages. Download the event flier at and help spread the word!

For more information and to purchase tickets, contact the synagogue at 301-498-5151 and visit

Tell us about it!

JRF wants to hear about news and upcoming events at your congregation!

Contact Communications Director Lisa Tuttle at today.

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