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Ma Nishma - JRF News for December 2008

November 25, 2008 - 9:28am -- Anonymous (not verified)

[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.

[b]Those who send Weekly Update e-mails:[/b] Please disseminate [i]Ma Nishma[/i] along with your regular posting.

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]December 2008 / Kislev - Tevet 5769

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

[b]In This Issue[/b]

  • Reconstructionist Movement Tackles 21st Century Judaism at JRF's 42nd Convention
  • JRF Expresses Sorrow, Stands in Solidarity with Victims of Mumbai Terror Attacks
  • Reconstructionist Movement Issues Joint Statement on Same-Sex Marriage Bans
  • JRF Hires Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman as New Western Region Director
  • Special Offers from JRF's Reconstructionist Press
  • JRF’s Sustainable Synagogue Initiative: Communities Recognized
  • Save the Date for North American Workshop on Congregational Growth
  • Camp JRF Summer 2009 Registration Now Open!
  • Camp JRF is Available for Your Special Events
  • Calling all Reconstructionist Teens: No’ar Hadash Events
  • Join Rabbi Jeff Eisenstat at University Synagogue's Recon Salon
  • Reconstructionist Composers Celebrated in Washington DC Concert
  • Birkat HaHammah - The Blessing of the Sun, April 8, 2009
  • Congregational news / Kol HaKavod!


Reconstructionist Movement Tackles 21st Century Judaism at JRF 42nd Convention

[img_assist|nid=1711|title=|desc=|link=url|url=|align=left|width=240|height=236]Reconstructionist Movement Tackles 21st Century Judaism at JRF's 42nd Convention

This is the first of what will be many reports sharing highlights of the 42nd JRF Convention that took place in Boston November 13-16, 2008.

[img_assist|nid=2116|title=From left, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld, Rabbi David Teutsch, Sarah Liebman and Zachary Teutsch|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=240|height=154]As the Jewish Reconstructionist movement enters its sixth decade as a major force in Jewish life, JRF dedicated its 2008 biennial convention in Boston to exploring the theme "Transformative Judaism for the 21st Century."

Listen online or download the audio to this session.

Following a two-year strategic planning process launched at the JRF biennial in 2006, the JRF board ratified a plan whose strategic priorities were reflected at this year’s convention. One of these priorities, the “next generation,” took center stage and was explored in a variety of ways throughout the four-day event and included the many college students and young adults in attendance. Participants engaged in dialogue with a diverse group of experts about the important role the Reconstructionist movement is playing through its innovations in Jewish education, Jewish camp, and all aspects of Jewish communal life.

The convention’s opening plenary, entitled "Jewish Identity, Community and Leadership: A Dialogue Between the Generations," looked at similarities and differences between the Havurah movement of the 1960s and ‘70s and a recent phenomenon of small, independent minyanim and Jewish programming collectives currently on the rise. It also explored why the younger generation is choosing, by and large, not to affiliate with traditional synagogues and how the organized movements can respond to current trends. Two of the four panelists, Rabbi Michael Strassfeld and Rabbi David Teutsch, were early shapers of the Havurah movement and are now serving as leaders of the Reconstructionist movement and two, Sarah Liebman and Zachary Teutsch, are Jewish leaders in their 20s involved today in creating and participating in these "emerging communities" and new, innovative organizations. Contemporary Judaism owes much to the Havurah movement and its “do-it-yourself” spirit, evident in the new wave of independent minyanim. The creative approaches witnessed in both of these trends, and exemplified by the Havurah movement’s broadly popular guide A Jewish Catalog, have much in common with Reconstructionism.

Read the full story at

Jewish Reconstructionist Federation Mourns Loss of Life, Stands in Solidarity with Victims of Mumbai Terror Attacks

In response to the terror attacks in Mumbai, India, Robert Barkin, President of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, and Carl A. Sheingold, JRF’s Executive Vice President, issued the following statement:

We join communities around the world in mourning along with the people of India following the senseless terror attacks in Mumbai this week. We stand in solidarity with them and our hearts go out to the families and friends of all those killed and wounded.

The taking of any life is a great tragedy, yet for us as American Jews, the targeting of Westerners, particularly Jews, Americans, and Britons, is particularly painful. We are deeply saddened by the reprehensible targeted attack on Chabad Lubavitch of Mumbai that took the lives of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, Rivka Holtzberg and three others engaging in Jewish life with them. We hold in our hearts the Holtzbergs’ young son Moshe who will grow up without his remarkable parents, and we mourn all the children who were orphaned by the attacks.

We pray for peace and a time when terror is abandoned as a means to achieve political ends, and we pray that safety and security are restored in Mumbai without further loss of life.

May the memories of those whose lives were lost ever be for a blessing.

Reconstructionist Movement Issues Joint Statement on Same-Sex Marriage Bans

Following the passing of a resolution by the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation’s national board, a joint statement condemning reversals in same-sex marriage legislation was issued by the three arms of the Reconstructionist movement and presented at a public session at the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation’s biennial convention in Boston.

Read the full statement, attached to this issue of Ma Nishma. It is also posted on the JRF website, where you can learn more about JRF’s work in the area of social justice, at

JRF Hires New Western Region Director

[img_assist|nid=2126|title=Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=240]Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman has been hired to serve as the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation's Western Region Director. She is the first rabbi to hold the position since 1996. Rabbi Litman was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1989. During her student years, she was an intern in Los Angeles organizing Reconstructionist havurot in the San Fernando Valley. One of those havurot recently celebrated its twentieth anniversary. Since graduation, Rabbi Litman has served four California synagogues ranging in size from eighty to two thousand families. She also taught at California State University Northridge and Loyola Marymount.

Her particular field of interest is moral education for diverse families. She is the editor, with Rabbi Debra Orenstein, of the award winning Lifecycles anthology. Her recent work on gender expression appears in New Jewish Feminism by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein. Rabbi Litman is active in social justice work. In addition to her new position at JRF, she is the Rabbinic Co-chair of the Northern California Progressive Jewish Alliance and sits on the executive board of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.

Rabbi Litman, who began her work with JRF in November, expressed excitement about her new position with the Reconstructionist movement. "Reconstructionist congregations and havurot tend to be mission-driven and care deeply about the values that inform their affiliation" she said. "It is very fulfilling as a rabbi to be working with people who care about Jewish ethics and traditions."

Rabbi Litman resides in the San Francisco Bay area, home to two Reconstructionist congregations that have recently affiliated with the Reconstructionist movement -- Or Shalom Jewish Community in San Francisco, and Or Zarua Havurah in Berkeley, as well as Keddem Congregation in Palo Alto and Ner Shalom in Cotati.

Special Offers from JRF’s Reconstructionist Press


Rabbi Michael Strassfeld and Rabbi Joy Levitt, Eds.
Illustrated in full color by Jeffrey Schrier

[img_assist|nid=2128|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=227|height=240]The Reconstructionist Press unveiled a commemorative 10th Anniversary hardcover edition of A Night of Questions, the Reconstructionist Passover Haggadah, at the 42nd JRF Convention in Boston this November. This 10” x 10” hardcover gift edition contains all of artist Jeffrey Schrier’s magnificent original artwork from the softcover edition plus a new section, “The Seder as a Spiritual Practice” by Rabbi Michael Strassfeld.

  • Savings on all orders: JRF is offering a 35% savings off the $72 list price on all orders: Final cost is $54 each.
  • Make a difference: 1% of all proceeds will be donated to Hurricane relief efforts.
  • Orders will be shipped after January 1st.

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!

To order, call JRF’s Reconstructionist Press at 877-JRF-PUBS.

ONLINE STORE COMING SOON! JRF’s Reconstructionist Press will soon offer one-stop shopping for books, resource guides, CDs, Camp JRF apparel and memorabilia, gift certificates and more.

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.

At the JRF Convention in Boston, 2008, we recognized fifteen JRF communities and individuals that excel at sustainable practices. They are:

1. Adat Shalom, Bethesda, MD - For community-supported agriculture (CSA) work with local farms and general environmental programming

2. Beit Tikvah, Baltimore, MD - For sponsoring the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Conference and participate in the newly formed Baltimore Environmental Network of Synagogues

3. Bnai Keshet, Montclair, NJ - For their Synagogue Greening Initiative, education curriculum and honoree of Greenfaith with coalition of local houses of worship

4. Congregation Bet Haverim, Atlanta, GA - For their Hannukah for a Brighter Future energy initiative

5. Darchei Noam, Toronto, Ontario, Canada - For their Environmental Principles of Capital Campaign

6. Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Evanston, IL - For being the "Greenest Synagogue in North America" — earning LEED Platinum status from the U.S. Green Building Council, and for ongoing policies to celebrate Jewish life and function in the building

7. Kehillat Israel, Pacific Palisades, CA - For Mitzvot for Sustainable Living

8. Shir Hadash, Milwaukee, WI - For their Year of the Environment initiative

9. Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore, Plandome, NY - For their Synagogue Greening Initiative and save-the-rain campaign

10. Temple Bet Hatfiloh, Olympia, WA - For thier Buying Local and local farm initiative

11. West End Synagogue, New York, NY - For their Brit Adamah Congregational Covenant and Educational Environmental Program

12. Reconstructionist Rabbinical College - Green Committee - For their ongoing work in energy conservation and sustainable practices at RRC

13. Camp JRF: The Aaron & Marjorie Ziegelman Campus - For recycling, composting and food waste reduction efforts with campers

14. Rabbi Michael Cohen - For work in Israel and the Arava Institute

15. Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb - Honorable mention for his life-long efforts at living and leading efforts towards Judaism and Sustainable practices

A full listing of the 7 weeks of teaching packets from the JRF Omer Initiative 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,

Save the Date for North American Leadership Workshop on Congregational Growth

JRF North American Leadership Workshop: The Dynamics of Growth
Sunday, March 29, 2009 — 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Beth Israel, Media, PA

All JRF affiliates are invited to send representatives to this special one-day leadership workshop with Rabbi Shawn Zevit, JRF Director of Outreach & External Affairs/Tikkun Olam and other experts in the field.

Goals and Benefits:

  • Learn how to use a congregational systems approach to understand the dynamics of congregational growth.
  • Discover how a congregation’s stage of development relates to issues of membership and financial resources.
  • Come away with important skills and ideas about how to effectively reach out to attract new members, reach in to strengthen existing members and volunteers, and to creatively grow the congregation's financial resources, qualitatively and quantitatively.

This workshop will benefit congregational presidents, board members, chairs and members of membership, programming, and development committees, treasurers, planned giving and capital campaign advocates, rabbis, cantors, senior administrators, educational and program directors, up-and-coming leaders, and all concerned with congregational growth and development.

Check for updates at

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).

Calling all Reconstructionist Teens: No’ar Hadash Events for 8th-12th Graders


  • Western Teen Kallah - January 9-11 at BB Camp, Portland, OR
  • Midwest Youth Kallah - February 13-15 at Camp Henry Horner, Ingleside, IL
  • North American Teen Kallah - April 17-19, Location TBD

and also . . .

  • No'ar Hadash Goes to Panim el Panim - March 15-18 in Washington, DC.

The Panim el Panim seminar brings together diverse groups of 10th-12th grade students from around the country to explore public policy and social activism through a Jewish lens. Details to follow!

To register for the Eastern Teen Kallah or to check out pictures from past kallot log on to If you have any questions please contact No’ar Hadash Program Coordinator Alanna Sklover at or 215-885-5601, ext. 26. We can’t wait to see you!

Join Rabbi Jeff Eisenstat at University Synagogue's Recon Salon

Recon Salon - An Evening of Intellectual, Spiritual and Emotional Camaraderie in Dialogue About the Future of Our Youth
University Synagogue, 3400 Michelson Drive, Irvine, CA 92612
6:00 pm, Wednesday December 10th, 2008, 14 Kislev, 5769

Come join University Synagogue members in stimulating new thinking about Reconstructionist youth programming and camping. This salon will focus on how we, as a community, can effectively engage our children in Jewish life through meaningful and fun experiences, and successfully connect them to their rich heritage and culture. The Reconstructionist Movement is committed to high quality, innovative youth programming in our geographic region. This is an opportunity to learn about exciting new initiatives and give input to the Movement’s national leadership as they plan for the future for our children.

Refreshments will be served, and the event will end in time for a 7:30 speaker presentation that evening.

RSVP to Mark Bregman, JRF Western Region President and University Synagogue member at 949-440-6855 or

Reconstructionist Composers Celebrated in Washington DC Concert

The work of Jewish Reconstructionist composers will be performed at "No Rock Like You: Songs for the Jewish Soul." This concert, produced by the organization Shalshelet, will be at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in downtown Washington, or at workshops the day after. The concert will feature inspiring new works—pop and classical to Latin and klezmer— performed by gifted soloists, a full choir, drums and more. Free creative workshops for music lovers, musicians, and composers will take place on Sunday, Dec. 14, also at Sixth & I. Visit for details and tickets.

Participants include Manel Frau-Cortes, Cantor Marcelo Gindlin, Mark Glicksman, Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael, and Rabbi Shawn Zevit. Learn about these talented Reconstructionists at

Birkat HaHammah - The Blessing of the Sun, April 8, 2009

[b]North American Solar and Renewable Energy Campaign in the Jewish Community - Events throughout North American and Israel[/b]

The year 5769 (2008-2009) will be the little known Jewish year of “Birkat HaHammah” the “blessing of the sun.” Every 28 years, the ancient rabbis demarked a time in the Jewish calendar that celebrates the ceremonial return of the sun to its original place in the cosmos during creation.

JRF is part of a national coalition that will use this rare event to focus on solar power and energy stewardship.

See as it goes live!

Congregational News / Kol HaKavod!

Members of Bet Am Shalom in White Plains, NY will gather on Sunday, December 14 at 9 am for a Family Chanukah gathering in the attempt to build the world's largest Lego Chanukiyah! The congregation is also gearing up for auditions for the Bet Am Shalom theatre project Déjà Vu, an original musical theatre creation of Biblical dimensions that spans thousands of years from Abraham, Sarah and Hagar to present day Israel.

Students in the congregational school at Bnai Keshet in Montclair, New Jersey, got a lesson about fair trade at an Interfaith Alternative Gift Fair. The children learned about fair trade items and food which are made and grown mostly by small women’s cooperatives from around the world, and had an opportunity to make purchases which support fair trade and sustainable development as well as the work of local organizations.

The Tikkun Olam committee of Congregation Bet Haverim in Atlanta, Georgia, asks the question "How little could you live on?" At the Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday, December 5 will be a special program on the Living Wage Campaign. This interfaith alliance, of which Bet Haverim is a member, hopes to raise the salaries of the lowest-paid workers in Georgia, many of whom are not covered by the federal minimum wage law. To help understand the significance of the choices workers must make, congregants have been invited to jot down ahead of time their own “subsistence” budget for a month, including just the necessities they must pay for and to bring it to the December 5 service. Want to figure out how little YOU could live on? Visit

Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis, Indiana, is collecting “Books for the Souls, Sandals for the Soles.” Congregants are invited to donate new children’s books in Spanish, flip-flops for children and adults, and school supplies to take along on the congregation’s December 21-28 humanitarian service trip to Guatemala this winter.

Keddem Congregation in Palo Alto, California, will welcome its new rabbi, Elisheva Salamo, at an installation ceremony on Tu B'Shevat, February 8, 2009. Just as planting a new tree is a hopeful act with long-term aspirations, Keddem hopes that Rabbi Salamo will put down roots in their community and that they will have a long and fruitful relationship. JRF members and friends are invited to attend. Details at

At Temple Beth Shalom in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, Jon Brandow was the recipient of the 2008 Josh Jacobson Memorial Award, which was presented at the Temple’s 37th Charter Celebration on Saturday, November 1st. Jon has been a teacher in the Temple Beth Shalom religious school, guided a Jewish issues class for teens, tutored B’nai Mitzvot students and headed the remodeling of the congregation’s sanctuary. Josh Jacobson, for whom the award was named, was a charter member who cared deeply about the Temple and its future.

On November 23rd, members of Temple Bnai Israel in Willimantic, Connecticut, joined together with neighbors of all faiths for a Thanksgiving service and a “Walk for Warmth” to raise money for the Windham Area Interfaith Ministry’s Energy Assistance Program that assists people who cannot get assistance anywhere else.

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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