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MAZAL TOV! On Thursday morning July 2, 2015 Zev Haworth became a bar mitzvah at the Davidson’s Archeological Park of the Western Wall, an egalitarian section of the Kotel, the holiest site in Jerusalem and in all of Israel. His family was there to celebrate this special day with him – his mom, dad and younger sister all beamed with pride. Zev chanted beautifully and skillfully from the Torah, from parashat Balak in the book of Numbers, and he delvered a spontaneous dvar Torah about what he had learned while studying. It was a beautiful, cool summer morning and everyone was uplifted and moved by this special and historic moment and experience.
After more than 25 years working in Congregations across the United States, serving as a leader, cantor, facilitator, teacher and spiritual counselor I am THRILLED to offer joyful bat & bar mitzvah celebrations at the holiest site in Jerusalem! I continue to officiate lifecycle celebrations of all kinds – weddings, commitment ceremonies, renewal of vows, baby namings and welcoming ceremonies and bar and bat mitzvah services – throughout Israel and at your favorite sites world-wide. Please see my LinkedIn site for more information about me my rabbinic work and to read testimonials from satisfied families and couples. Contact me TODAY for a free initial consultation and to reserve a date for your celebration!
Autumn in Barre, MA. Photo: Rabbi Rosalind Glazer
Every day during my three-month, silent meditation, retreat at IMS in 2011, I sat, walked and strolled contemplatively for some 4-7 miles on the beautiful property and woods surrounding the center. Whether in the sun, rain or snow of that cool New England Autumn and frigid early Winter I ventured out to behold the magnificent sky, land and water. This particular day filled with gorgeous bursts of color and clear fresh air was incredibly alive and nourishing.
To take an extended break from a driven life to wade deep into silence is a blessing unlike any other. In that place every color is more briliant. Every breath is fuller. Every insight more profound. Every moment rising and passing is examined and recognized as a rich treasure.
True, my blog title is “The Rabbi Speaks,” and it is indeed full of words. But sometimes as the Sages say, there is more wisdom in silence. It is not a surprise that the Hebrew words medabber, speak, and midbar, desert are related. To live a life of spirit one must – from time to time – step out of the noisy, clamoring world and enter a vast expanse, open like the desert, to find quiet calm and inner stillness. Only in that place where the constant chatter of ones own mind can finally settle can one finally hope to hear the “still small voice” whispering a deeper truth – a truth more profound than any other.
Sing and learn with Rabbi Rosalind Glazer
7:30 PM Friday July 15th
This Erev Shabbat service with drum accompaniment promises to be a lively, inspiring and energetic musical Tefillah experience. In a Dvar Tefilah (teachings on prayer) I will discuss some of the ideology and theological concepts that have motivated liturgical changes to the Reconstructionist siddur, particularly the Aleynu. An oneg Shabbat and shmoozing will follow.
9:00 AM Saturday July 16th
Torah Study on parashat Pinchas will include a discussion and exploration of teachings by the late Slonimer Rebbe (d. 2000), who took a hybrid Hasidic-Musar approach in his Torah Commentary, Netivot Shalom al haTorah. We may also explore other contemporary scholars.
10:00 AM Saturday July 16th
Shabbat Morning Services will include vibrant and harmonious singing, meditative niggunim, Torah chanting and special group aliyot with blessings coordinated to the verses of Torah, a celebratory aufruf, reflections on the Parasha and a brief concluding service. Services will be followed by a light Kiddush luncheon and a meet and greet / shmooze and cruise.
8:00 PM Saturday July 16th
Our Shabbaton wraps up with a Melavah Malkah Experience – a delightful storytelling and uplifting musical and rhythmic sing-along event for the whole family. It includes dessert and music-making indoors and concludes with Havdallah and smores under the stars in the shul courtyard at 9:45 PM.
Please join us for this spiritually enlightening and uplifting Shabbaton.
Come along and bring a friend. Everyone is invited!
Once again it is time to count the omer, the forty-nine day period between Pesach and Shavuot, the latter of which is named for the seven weeks between the two festivals.
Many customs are associated with the count and as the practice builds in popularity, new methods and tools are created. You can use an omer counter with a scroll that turns daily to display the precise combination of days and weeks that have passed. You can purchase or design an omer calendar (there are almost as many choices as there are hagadot) or find one on the Web.
The pages of an omer calendar can include space for notes, artwork (with or without color-it-yourself charts), spiritual teachings, or pithy aphorisms. Some calendars denote the sephirot of the kabbalistic tree which assign a different spiritual quality to each day. Others list a middah (ethical attribute) that can be developed through mindful attention on ones actions throughout the day. Some print mishnayot, verses from Pirkei Avot (the Ethics of the Sages) for reflection. (Traditionally, one of its six chapters is studied on each of the six Shabbatot between the spring holidays.) And true to the times, there are omer counting apps you can download from the web!
The count begins on the second night of Pesach, so I’m sure I recited the omer blessing at the family seders of my youth. But it wasn’t until an 8-day Pesach meditation retreat I attended in my late twenties that I learned of the practice and discovered its potential for spiritual transformation. Similar to lighting the Hannukiah whose flames are supposed to be observed and not used for any other purpose, the secret of the omer practice lies in its simplicity. The recitation of the traditional blessing and count are meant to bring us into squarely into the present; no retelling of the past, no prayers for the future. It’s just a “be here now” moment.
When former JCCSF Executive Director, Rabbi Jason Gaber z’l was battling AIDS, a story about his omer count that year was published in the Northern California Jewish Bulletin (now the j). Jason, who had been ordained by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi a few months earlier, described it as a daily practice in making each precious day count.
Psalm 90 reads, “Let us number each day that we may gain a heart of wisdom – limnot yameynu keyn hoda v’navi levav chochma.” Each day we count the omer we pause and simply dwell in full awareness of life’s blessings. The true wisdom, however, comes in making a daily habit of counting of our blessings and not waiting for the omer or until we’re staring face to face with our mortality.
“I cannot think of a more striking example of the Exodus in our own day,” concluded Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of the Jerusalem-based IRAC, Israel’s Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. As part of our January Mission to Israel the Northern California Rabbis had assembled to hear an up-to-date briefing on the status of Women of the Wall. We got that – and so much more.
Ms. Hoffman’s comment referred to the hundreds of refugees who make the journey by foot each month from the Sudan, through Egypt and across the southern border into Israel. She told us that in exchange for a brand new pair of New Balance sneakers, a social worker had recently collected one man’s shoes. The shoes were then mounted and preserved in a museum-quality box frame for display and sent to congregation in the US that had donated a sizable sum to support IRACs legal and social work on behalf of asylum-seeking refugees in Israel.
For days after returning from the mission I was haunted by the story and wondered whether it would be even remotely possible to raise the thousands of dollars needed to secure such a remarkable pair of shoes. I wrote to Ms. Hoffman asking where I could learn more about the project and she responded immediately. “We have another pair that made the journey from Darfur, but we are having difficulty interviewing the shoes owner because he works from dawn to midnight every day. We are thinking of offering him a day’s work pay to come tell us his story and also receive a new pair.”
The impact of hearing this story powerful story was equal to that of seeing the Israeli neighborhood in which many of these refugees live. Our delegation visited BINA, a secular yeshiva in South Tel Aviv where students live and work with the most diverse of Israel’s ethnic populations. Our guide told us that refugees often find work as day laborers; yet their status remains precarious. As he introduced us to a volunteer-run, multi-lingual lending library they had set up in Levinsky Park, we witnessed one refugee taken into custody by a police officer. This is apparently not uncommon.
It is heart breaking to imagine risking everything to begin a new life in Israel only to land in prison and face deportation. Yet many refugees say that they’d rather die in Israel than to be deported back to Africa. Speaking on the refugees’ behalf one social activist remarked emphatically that, “The failure of other countries to treat refugees properly does not give us an excuse to do the same.” Refugees are unlike migrant workers in that they simply have no option other but to flee for their lives.
These comments reminded me of a scene in “Out of Sight,” a new play by actress and playwright Sara Felder. In it she recounts her mother’s inability to forgive herself for not speaking against the FDR government when it refused entry of the SS St. Louis into the port of Miami thereby sealing the terrible fate of hundreds of Jewish refugees. Yet, in every generation, many courageous individuals do step forward to save the innocent. For example, I recently learned of Nicholas Winton, a righteous gentile from Great Britain who helped 669 Jewish children escape Nazi Germany and who until recently had never told anyone about it! When a youth activist asked him his philosophy of life he stated, “Don’t be content…just to do no wrong. Be prepared everyday to try and do some good.”
At Pesach we recall the Exodus, the Holocaust and all historic persecutions of our people. But remembering history is not enough. To live “as if we had personally gone forth” requires that we name and respond to the Exoduses of our own time; to put ourselves in the shoes of those struggling right now to escape Pharaoh’s death-grip. This Pesach let us refuse to indulge feelings of powerlessness; let us not surrender to paralyzing indifference. Rather, let us courageously step forward together to fight all forms of tyranny and oppression in our day – for the sake of our generation and generations to come.
[From the WOW Facebook page 1-30-2011; See also J. Cover Story 2-11-2011] Northern California Rabbis Support Women of the Wall January 31, 2011 From January 24-29, a delegation of 30 Rabbis from Northern California various high-ranking officials in Israel. The delegation, which was arranged by Israeli Consul General for the Pacific Northwest Akiva Tor, included Consul Tor and Rabbis from the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal movements.
As participant Rabbi Rosalind Glazer explained, “Our joint participation is a model of Jewish diversity in the U.S. We hope that our unified voice can make a powerful statement about the underlying value of, and need for, religious pluralism in Israel. As American Jews, our voices need to be taken seriously at this critical juncture in the history of Israel and the Jewish people.”
The Rabbis met with M.K.’s Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Nachman Shai (Kadima), Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Supreme Court Justices Elyakim Rubenstein and Salim Jubran, and Jewish Agency Chair Natan Sharansky.
The delegation spent Friday, January 28, in the Old City of Jerusalem visiting the Kotel tunnels, Robinson’s Arch, and the City of David. The day began with an early-morning meeting with Anat Hoffman, the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, who shared the group’s political and legal history. Hoffman said, “Israel could choose to be a leader in the Jewish world. There could be a bat mitzvah at the Kotel.” The rabbis flooded Hoffman with questions and snapped photos of her wearing a Women of the Wall tallit and head covering. Hoffman encouraged supporters to sell the Women of the Wall tallit in their gift shops, invite congregants to write letters to Israeli government officials, and bring their synagogue trips to Women of the Wall services on Rosh Hodesh.
Many of the rabbis in the delegation have been long-time supporters of Women of the Wall. In October 2010, Bay Area Rabbi Pamela Frydman and Rabbi Menachem Creditor launched an international campaign called “Rabbis for Women of the Wall.” Over 600 Rabbis, 85 Cantors, 60 organizations and 1000 individuals have since signed a statement to Israeli officials demanding that that they define a time or place at the Kotel where women are allowed to lead worship, wear a tallit, wear tefillin, hold the Torah and read from the Torah.
Rabbi Frydman, who participated in the January delegation, presented a packet to each government official (and Head of External Affairs Natalie Kimchi on behalf of the Supreme Court Justices) containing the statement and accompanying signatures as well as a new set of letters signed by hundreds of rabbis, cantors, rabbinic and cantorial associations, social justice organizations, congregations and individuals. In addition, Rabbi Glazer presented a letter from Bay Area Friends of Women of the Wall.
In addition to the letter-writing campaigns, many congregations participated in Women of the Wall’s photo campaign last summer, when thousands of women all over the world were photographed holding a Sefer Torah. Rabbi Chaim Schwartz, President of Congregation Chadesh Yameinu in Santa Cruz said of the photo campaign, “Women were in tears. Many of them had never held a Torah before, because they had never been invited to do so.”
Rabbi Shoshanah Devorah of Congregation Kol HaEmek in Mendocino County, participated in the January delegation. She was present at Women of the Wall’s second gathering in 1988, and participated regularly until 1995 when she moved to the U.S. Rabbi Devorah remembers the tear gas used by police during one of Women of the Wall’s services in 1988, and said she felt like she was “at a civil rights protest in the U.S. in the ‘60s.” Devorah, who became a Rabbi at the age of 59, recalled fondly that “Women of the Wall was very important in my own spiritual development. It was the first place that I put on a tallit.”
Rabbi Rosalind Glazer of Congregation Beth Judea Israel in San Francisco is an International Vice-Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall and also serves on the Steering Committee for Friends of Women of the Wall, a San Francisco Bay Area group of women and men who advocate for the acceptance of all streams of Judaism in Israel. Rabbi Glazer was in tears as she spoke about women at the Kotel, “Mayor Barkat told us that the Kotel is for all Jews. But, that is not true today. Jews in the diaspora want a place to be spiritual. It is the first place they go and it is the first place they get slapped in the face. The message that they get on their first experience is ‘you’re not equal; you’re not welcome.’”
Rabbi Stephen Pearce, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco recently joined Glazer and twenty-one others as an International Vice Chair of Rabbis for Women of the Wall. Explaining his decision, Pearce said, “I am thrilled to help pursue a sense of justice. The struggle of Women of the Wall is a model of how Israel can learn to compromise and pursue conflict resolution in other areas.”
Rabbi Mauricio Balter, President of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel also recently became an International Vice Chair, joining Rabbi Andrew M. Sacks, Director of the RA in Israel, one of the original Vice Chairs. “I feel that it’s a very big z’chut [privilege] to serve” said Balter of his new role.
By special invitation from the Israeli Consul General, Akiva Tor, I will be joining a rare rabbinic delegation to Israel during the last week of January as the only female pulpit rabbi from San Francisco and one of only five female rabbis in the 30 member delegation. Encouraged to participate because of my outspoken support for religious pluralism and liberal Judaism in Israel, my role will be to advocate for these through the loosening of the overwhelming influence of the ultra right wing religious establishment (Rabbanut) on the Israeli government. Why is this important to BIJ? BIJ’s congregants are strong supporters of Israel and are very concerned that there be a future for Reform and liberal Judaism in the Jewish homeland. Our successful campaign of photos this past Fall for Women of the Wall, WOW, was an expression of this effort. In December 2010 we also hosted the launch of the Year of Civil Discourse on Israel (co-sponsored by the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council, the SF Jewish Federation and the Northern California Board of Rabbis) to express the urgent need for all members of our communtiy to learn and use constructive tools for sharing concerns about Israel without descending into hurtful, hateful, and distructive vitriol. As this delegation approaches I will speak about why I am making this trip – with individuals, at services, meetings and events. While in Israel, I hope to publish daily posts on this blog with comments and observations about my experiences. I will be speaking about delegation on Friday night February 11, 2011 at 8:30 PM in the BIJ Fireside Room following the Oneg Shabbat. Who else is on this delegation and why now? Participants from San Francisco and other Bay Area and Peniunsula rabbis from Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, Renewal and Post-Denominational streams of Judaism will include Rabbi Doug Kahn, JCRC Executive Director, Rabbi Eric Weiss, Executive Director of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center and President of the Northern California Board of Rabbis (NCBOR), Rabbi Marvin Goodman, NCBOR Executive Director, Rabbi Steve Pearce and Rabbi Jonathan Jaffe, of Reform Congregation Emanu-El, Rabbi Micah Hyman of USCJ Congregation Beth Shalom, Rabbi Yonathan Cohen and Judah Dardik (both Modern Orthodox Rabbis) and others. Our joint participation is a model of Jewish diversity in the US and our unified voice can make a powerful statement about the underlying value of and need for religious pluralism in Israel. As American Jews our voices needs to be taken seriously at this critical juncture in the history of Israel and the Jewish people. What is the delegation’s itinerary? This 7-day delegation, with 5-nights in Jerusalem and two days of air travel, is composed of back to back exclusive meetings with high level Israel officials including President Shimon Peres, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and other senior staff of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Anat Hoffman of Women at the Wall and Israel Religious Action Center, MK Natan Scharansky and the committee for Jewish identity (conversion, Reform), Supreme Court Justices Michael Cheshin and Justice Yitzhak Engelhard, and senior research fellows at IPCRI, a joint institution of Israelis and Palestinians dedicated to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Please stay posted for more information!
Becca Roberts and I became friends when I moved to Berkeley from Arcata in 1987 to study massage therapy and to find a larger Jewish community with whom to connect. We were students at Gail Stewart’s Re Source School and we spent the year learning our soon to be new vocation. We seven students were spoiled by the low student-instructor ratio, with a dedicated team of teachers – Gail, Patrick and Jill and another from whom we learned Anatomy & Physiology at her home in Moraga. We trained in Gail and Harris’ cozy, fireside living room in the Berkeley Hills, behind the Claremont Resort. Through Re Source we connected with the Bay Area Body Therapy Guild, a network of professional body workers with whom we both stayed connected as we built our careers.
We finished the 200-hour training and were certified in the summer of 1988 and we wondered how we could find bodywork jobs with no experience. Becca was the first to be hired – at the Albany Sauna. That helped me also get a foot in the door. When we started they paid $11 per session, and the owner, a creep, made a fortune on us. The place was kinda run down and the work demanding. Among the regulars there were a lot of burly guys. The tables were makeshift and the ergonomics pretty lousy, so I left after each night sore and exhausted.
Soon Becca got a second job – this time at the Berkeley Sauna which was owned by a woman named Elizabeth and her sister. I followed Becca and started working there too. It was a much nicer place and it was closer to my home on Ashby Ave. They also paid better; around $17 or $18/massage and the tips were also higher. Lot’s of regulars came in so the therapists shared clients. I worked on Steve and so did Becca and they were married a few years later.
Not long after, I joined the bodywork team at the Courthouse Athletic Club. I tried to bring Becca aboard, but she wouldn’t go near the place. The owner, an orthopedist, had misdiagnosed a cyst in Becca’s knee several years before and this had ended her professional cycling career. I went on to build a practice in Kensington with a small group of women practitioners and Becca continued teaching PE part-time at Berkwood Hedge School. My godson Lev Hirschhorn and his older sister Talia were two of her students.
Becca and I shared a bond in that both of us had degrees in PE and neither of us were at ll embarrassed by it. Actually, it amused me because between the two of us, Becca was the jock. I had started out studying music and recreation at Humboldt State while Becca got her undergraduate degree in Adult Fitness from Sonoma State. I then returned to study at San Francisco State, supporting myself as a body worker and completing my BA. I took endless prerequisites for a Masters program in Physical Therapy – Human Anatomy in the cadaver lab, Exercise Physiology, Kinesiology, Adaptive PE and others. When Becca decided to get her certificate in Adaptive PE at State, I connected her with Dr. Tina Summerford, who had been one of my advisors. It felt good to finally give Becca a hand up like the many she had given me.
As a transplant from the East Coast, I loved that Becca was practically a Berkeley native. She had grown up here and her mom, Janet, lived close and knew a zillion people.
Becca was on the Aquatic Master’s Swim team and when I moved to North Berkeley I joined the Hopkins pool and tried to do the same. But I had been injured in a bike accident and that was exacerbated by my Aikido training so Ihad to give up the intense workouts. Occasionally Becca and I still swam together at the Strawberry Canyon Recreation Area behind the stadium at Cal.
Becca then started rowing crew at Lake Merritt (which was never my thing) but I was impressed by the discipline and commitment of her teammates – rowing at all sorts of crazy early morning hours! Once I joined Becca for a killer workout with her trainer at the Berkeley Tennis Club and gave up half way through. When Becca took up Iyengar Yoga I sometimes joined her at the Yoga Room at the Julia Morgan building including some with Rodney Yee.
It’s surprising to realize how many new things Becca introduced to me. When she took up Macrobiotic cooking, I got seriously interested too. For a while I cooked Macrobiotic food for our bodywork friend, Joan Marie Passalacqua. Becca taught me how to make mochi and the last time we pounded rice was at Maryclare’s birthday party a couple of years ago.
Becca knew the guy who started Clif Bars and when she launched her business making Sesame Chews we believed she could be just as successful. I wholesaled them to the SF State bookstore. To her increase her business savvy Becca decided to study at WISE, Women’s Initiative for Self Employment, in San Francisco. When I graduated from State and started a practice in on-site (chair) massage I also took the WISE training and I learned tons about how to be a business entrepreneur.
Becca’s parties were low key with a colorful mix of really interesting people. And because she was a foodie you could count on the yummiest and most nutritious food and drink. Back when thirty was still a big deal I attended Becca’s 30th birthday celebration at her mom’s. I was at her 40th just before I left for Rabbinical School in Philadelphia and also I also came to her and Steve’s wedding reception in Redwood Park. I am so glad I made it to her 50th birthday in the back yare of their Derby Street a couple of years ago. Even though Becca was undergoing cancer treatment by then she looked fabulous in a cropped white wig and sexy black spotted dress.
Other than her knowing she was born Jewish, Becca was not much into organized religion. One winter she had a Holiday party at her apartment which was around the corner from my flat on North Street in Rockridge. Janet had given Becca a pit-fired ceramic Hanukkah menorah, made by my good friend and homeless rights activist Susan Felix. Hanukkah was over by then, but Becca happily displayed her fully lit menorah on the mantle. I had never seen someone simply bypass the traditions associated with its lighting, but Becca was so gleefully displaying it that I just bit my tongue.
During my rabbinic training in Philadelphia I visited and stayed with Becca, Steve and Abby. I’d been in seminary for almost four years and we’d been lousy correspondents, but when we got to talking it was as if I had never left. We hiked up Claremont Canyon as we’d done many times before and Becca commented on my powerful stride and pace. Becca was half my weight and althout I’d been living asedentary life, on those steep trails I was somehow able to keep up with her.
Becca told me about her cancer diagnosis shortly after I returned to the Bay Area in the summer of 2006 to begin serving as the rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel Judea in San Francisco. Coming back meant we were able to pick up right where we’d left our freindship.
I am so incredibly grateful for the gift of Becca’s friendship and for being able to enjoy her company during the final years of her life. There was noone else quite like her – humble, strong, courageous, gutsy, kind and caring – and I am still astounded by the many ways she influenced my life. I will miss her tremendously and savor the memories.