Archive | July, 2012

Eichah – How the City Sits Alone!

27 Jul

It is with sadness that I write this last Shabbat blog from Jerusalem. My mood is similar to so many in this city. On Saturday night, as I fly to America with Max and Alec, the traditional Jewish world will be in mourning. They will fasting in remembrance of the manifold tragedies that happened to our people on this day, the ninth of Av, in centuries gone by: the destruction of the First Temple, the destruction of the Second Temple, the failure of the Bar Kochba rebellion, and the declaration of the Crusades, just to name a few. With each devastating loss, the dream of returning to our City of Gold and City of Peace became more distant.

As we discussed Tisha B’Av at dinner, Max remarked “All things happen for a reason.” As devastating as each of these tragedies was, some of these events transformed the Jewish world giving us the strength we have today. Had the Temple not been destroyed, Jewish religious leadership would not be available to all and would have remained largely in the hands of the Cohanim, the Priests. Had the Temple not been destroyed, Jerusalem might have remained the central and only focal point for the majority of Jews and so many of the vibrant Jewish communities across the globe that we know today might not have come to be. Had the Temple not been destroyed, so many of the rich liturgies of worship that replaced animal sacrifice might never have been created.

Some fast on Tisha B’av not as a means of mourning the destruction of the Temple per se but of mourning the sinat chinam, the baseless hatred that existed among Jews and among people that caused our great communal losses. For these Jerusalemites and Jews, Tisha B’av is meant to move us to search our souls and remove any hatred in our hearts that might exist.

On Tisha B’av, we recite Lamentations in a dirge-like voice crying out, “Eichah – how the city sits alone!” But Jerusalem does not sit alone. It is vibrant and filled with people of every faith and background. There is no better people watching and prayer watching than in the Old City (and even in the modern city). Jerusalem does not sit alone. As Governor Romney arrives in Israel tomorrow, as President Obama commited to American aid to Israel yesterday, and as Beth El congregants plan trip after trip, we remember our past with sorrow and look to the future with hope. Jerusalem is never very far, is never alone, and is always a place to which I, my family, and I hope all of us will return.

The Talmud teaches that ten measures of beauty descended to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem. May we all be blessed to enjoy its magnificence.

– Rabbi Judy Schindler


Wrestling with the Israel I know and Love

20 Jul

Real relationships are not always easy. They require negotiation, compromise, understanding and space for each partner to grow. As the Biblical Jacob wrestled with an angel, today I wrestled with the Israel I know and love.

In 1990, when I was a first year Rabbinical student in Jerusalem, I was hesitant to tell anyone what I was studying. The concept of a woman rabbi was beyond the typical Israeli’s realm of conception and it was exhausting for me to try and educate complete strangers.

With each return trip, the process of telling the average Israeli that I am a rabbi has gotten easier. Today I am not confronted with disdain nor do people look at me as if I were an alien. Twenty years ago, we didn’t have a Hebrew word for a woman rabbi. When I told people I was engaged in rabbinical studies, they asked if I wanted to be a rabbanit – a rebbetzin. Two years ago, the Academy of Hebrew Language in Israel accepted the word “rabba”, the female word for rabbi, as part of the Hebrew language. When I share my profession, I teach everyone that word hoping that each mind and heart I expand will create a more inclusive society.

Today my standing up for the right to be a liberal religious Jewish woman took another turn. Over the years, laws have been enforced limiting what women may do on their very small side of the Western Wall plaza. Women cannot read Torah, women cannot wear a tallit, woman cannot put on tefillin, nor can women pray in a collective voice. Only one day a month, on the new moon, have we been given permission to lift our voices at full volume in communal prayer.

This morning at 6:30 am, I set off to welcome the new moon of the month of Av with Women of the Wall, a group I have supported for years from across the sea. Today, for the first time, I could support them with my presence. On one hand it was liberating. For the first time in my life, I could be a part of a prayer service at the Wall and join in a choir of communal prayer. But on the other hand, I was uneasy. Our group of seventy five women was under constant surveillance and protection by the Israeli police. We were videotaped the entire time, so that evidence would be in hand for those who broke the law by wearing a tallis.

When relationships get hard, working at them is the answer. Petitioning the Israeli government, supporting causes in Israel that move our homeland forward in the direction we desire, and debating with our passion, presence, words, and action are the best ways to create the change and equality we seek to see. I’m grateful that I can welcome this Shabbat, having done my small part.

They say there are two Jerusalems: Yerushalayim shel malah, the heavenly Jerusalem of our dreams, and Yerushalayim shel matah, the earthly imperfect Jerusalem of our reality. Each day may we do our part to lift our city to a holier and higher place. May our daughters know the day when they can be able to stand at the Western Wall wearing a tallit, if they choose, and singing out in collective song, if they are so inspired.

– Rabbi Judy Schindler

Israel – My Passion for This Place

13 Jul

As I prepare to greet my third Shabbat in Israel, I now have a chance to reflect on what I love about this country.

I love Shabbat. I love that the market across the street from our apartment is open 24/6. I love that as we shop at Machaneh Yehudah (the Jerusalem outdoor market) to buy our challah, rugala and food for Shabbat, everyone else is doing the same thing. I love that the parking on the street is free throughout Shabbat and that when Shabbat ends at a very later hour on Saturday night, all the stores and restaurants open and people flock to the streets until midnight.

I love that every street sign is connected to history. To get to our home, we pass by King David Street, Ramban (Nachmanides) Street and Rambam (Maimonides) Street. I am constantly challenged to look up the names of the streets to see which Zionist leader, Rabbi, or historic Israeli event is being remembered. We park on Harav Chen Street and our rental car is in front of the historic building where the UN came up with the 1947 Partition Plan for Palestine.

I love that Israel never forgets its past. There are archeological digs everywhere we walk and there are monuments and memorials wherever we go – from the monument outside our Beth El group’s hotel in Tel Aviv marking the bombing of the Dolphinarium discotheque in 2001 to Latrun, the national site displaying the 150 tanks that served and remembering the 4,965 soldiers in tanks who fell fighting for our homeland.

I love that Israelis live life fully. In the face of political, economic and serious security struggles, they choose not to focus on the negative but on the positive. They celebrate constantly.

I love that my family is now connected to this place. They have created amazing memories here and are getting to know their extended family. We talk about what we’ll do when we return.

At this point, hundreds of Beth El congregants have made their way to our Israel. Whatever your desire – to travel with empty nesters, to travel with families, to travel on your own, we will help you plan your trip so that you can come to love this place that is home to all of us.

– Rabbi Judy Schindler