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Our Jewish Values in Israel – Vote Now!

28 Jan

by Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

In a world where we feel that we need Israel more than ever, as a homeland, a source of pride and inspiration for all Jews everywhere, and in the worst situations (God forbid), a refuge for us all, our voices have never been more important in helping to determine the Jewish values of our shared national home.

Judaism asks all of us to stand up for the rights of the oppressed, and to stand up for our own rights to a place that is for all Jews. The values of Reform Judaism deserve a home in Israel too.

Please join Temple Beth El in casting your vote for Reform values in Israel – here is the easy way to do so.


Cast a Vote for Reform Values in Israel

The 2015 World Zionist Congress elections are vital to the future of progressive Judaism in Israel. ARZA, representing Reform Judaism, is asking every American Jew who holds the values of religious pluralism, gender equality and support of the peace process dear to stand with us by voting for the ARZA slate which includes both Rabbi Judy and me in the current election. You support is important and you are encouraged to do three simple things:

  1. Vote today: Register with the American Zionist Movement and vote at for the ARZA-Representing reform Judaism today.
  1. Spread the word:  Share this link ( with your friends on Facebook. Let them know that it is important to you and that you voted.
  1. Send a copy of your Thank you for voting! page along with your name and address to  Please let us know if the registration fee of $10.00 for those over 30, and $5 for those between the ages of 18-30, is a hardship for you.

Our Temple Beth El goal is 100% participation.  Register, vote, share and send us your voting confirmation so that we may track and report our progress!


Waking Up to a New Year By Rabbi Judith Schindler

31 Dec

We close our eyes to 2014.
So much to leave behind.

Lost planes,
Lost lives.

Shots ringing out –
In Syria, in schools,
across Israel’s borders.

Rising tides of anti-Semitism

Rising distrust of police
and rising frustration with politicians.

Radicals destroying faith
wreaking destruction

We open our eyes to the dawn of a new year
filled with light.

This year may we see and be the good.

Daily acts of compassion
that outshine others’ acts of contention

Generosity that streams steadily forth
from hearts and hands

Religion that heals souls
and lifts communities

Schools of safety
Police that protect
Palestinians who want peace
and an Israel that inspires the world

This Shabbat,
we turn from one book of the Torah
to the next and say:

Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek
Be strong,
Be strong
And let us strengthen one another.

This day,
we turn from one secular year
to the next and say:

Chazak, chazak v’nitchazek

Be strong, in faith

Be strong, in goodness and in your resolve
to cast light even in the darkness

And let us strengthen one another
by giving each other
faith in humanity,
and hope for our future.


Stop the Sirens! Rabbi Judy’s Words at Charlotte’s Rally in Support of Israel

27 Jul

Rally for Israelimage

Stop the sirens
they blare so loudly in my ears
that I can hear them
even when they are silent.

Stop the rockets
being showered across my country
sounding ceaseless red alerts on my phone
and leaving hardly a home safe.

Stop the tears
of grief over loved ones being lost.
The pain seems ceaseless.
Sleep provides no shelter.

Stop the fear
of death and destruction tormenting
innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike

Stop the pain
of wounded bodies and souls.
and the evil of using children
as human shields.

Stop the guns in Gaza.
We know that war is not the path to peace
yet in helplessness and hopelessness
we are drawn into aggression
as a means of achieving safety and security.

Start shouting loudly
for cease fires to be signed.

Start condemning the acts of
and demanding justice for the fanatics
who stole Eyal, Gilad, Naftali, Mohammed
and far too many others from our world.
May all know that uprooting radicalism
is our collective goal.

Stop listening to those
who deny the legitimacy
of Israeli’s rights to their homeland
or Palestinian’s rights to build a peaceful state.

Start expressing faith in the innocent
across borders who, like us, want peace

Start praying passionately
for cycles of vengeance to be broken
and a vision for a sustainable and successful
two state solution to emerge.

Stop the sirens.
Start the path to peace.

Is This the Fast I Desire?

16 Jul

By Rabbi Judy Schindler

On Monday night, I made an unusual promise not with my words but a click on my computer. I made a commitment to take part in an event called Choose Life: Ramaddan and the Seventeenth of Tammuz. Apparently thousands of other people also thought this commitment would be a powerful one to make.

You see Tuesday represented an interesting intersection between the Islamic calendar and their community’s month-long observance of Ramadan and the Jewish calendar and our observance of the Seventeen of Tammuz. On that day, both communities observed fasts during daylight hours and I chose to join them.

The minor fast days of Judaism do not often speak to me. I have never fasted on the 17th of Tammuz. Traditional Jews observe this day as one of mourning because it is the day on which the walls of Jerusalem were breached in 69 CE. Three weeks later the Second Temple was destroyed.

On Tuesday I fasted because our holy land is once again under attack. To fast with my Jewish brothers and sisters and my Islamic brothers and sisters across the globe seemed appropriate. I support Israel’s right to defend herself yet weep over the death of every innocent soul. In this midst of feeling helpless hearing about rockets being showered upon Israeli and Palestinian soil and feeling that peace seemed like a distant hope, I adapted Isaiah’s words that we read on Yom Kippur.

Is this the fast that God desires —
a day for us to starve our bodies?
Is today a day for bowing our heads like a bulrush
and lying in sackcloth and ashes in mourning?
Do we see this fast day as one that will cause
God to look favorably upon us?
Do we think that our piety in prayer
and our self-affliction through fasting
will enable us to gain merit in God’s eyes?

No, this is the fast God wants:
To unlock the fetters of evil,
to stop the cycle of violence.

A fast inspired by God moves us
to share our bread with the hungry,
and to take the poor into our homes;
When we see the naked, to clothe them,
And not to ignore our own kin.

To cry out against brutality
To do all that is in our power
to stop the rockets and the war
to enable families leave shelters
And to let children run free.

To do all that is in our power
so that the wolf will indeed lie down with lamb
and enjoy the landscape of the holiest land in the world
that teaches powerful lessons of centuries and sages gone by.

May Tuesday’s fast and Tuesday’s collective prayers

of Muslim and Jews across our globe

move the Middle East nearer to peace.


Heavy Hearts for Ayal, Gilad and Naftali

1 Jul

by Rabbi Judith Schindler

“Baruch dayan haemet”
We are called to say
when news of a death
reaches our ears.
“Blessed be the True Judge.”

Sadness and grief
touch us with every death.

Anger and anguish
touch us with tragedy.

Wordlessness and helplessness,
challenging God and questioning humanity   touch us with death by terror.

In all cases we utter a prayer:
“Blessed is the True Judge.”

Today, as a Jewish family
we mourn and weep                                                        as we watch the funeral in Modiin
of these three boys

Even as we fail to understand,
may we act to bring God’s goodness and righteousness
and truth into this world.

Even as we cry out
at their murder,
may we affirm our commitment to break the cycle of violence
and work to bring about peace.

Even as we weep,
may we do all we can
to honor the memories
of Ayal, Gilad, and Naftali,
and to honor God.

Baruch dayan haemet.
Blessed be the True Judge.

Baruch Atah Adonai
Oseh Hashalom.
Blessed are You O God,
the maker of peace.

Apples to Apples – America to Israel

19 Jun

imageby Rabbi Judy Schindler

Haifa is Israel’s San Francisco. Both are port cities with hills, spectacular views, and mellow co-existence.

Tzfat is Israel’s Asheville. Here it’s mysticism, there it’s hippies, and both have art and mountains.

Tel Aviv is Israel’s New York. Here’s it’s beaches on the Mediterranean and there it’s high rises on the Hudson. Both are major metropolises with fashion, nightlife, businesses, and fun.

But Jerusalem has no match. The Talmud says, “Ten measures of beauty were given to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem.” (Babylonian Talmud Kiddishin 49b)

One Family Sick With Worry – A Prayer for Gilad, Naftali, and Ayal

18 Jun

by Rabbi Judy Schindler

To be Jewish is to be part of a big family, thirteen million strong.

To be Jewish is to be part of a small family. Apart from being in Israel, we are a minority.

To be Jewish is to be part of one family. To be Jewish means that when we awoke last Friday morning to the news that three teens were kidnapped (likely by terrorists) our stomachs were sick with fear.

Gilad Shaar (16), Naftali Fraenkel (16) and Ayal Yifrach (19) are not only their parents’ children, they are Israel’s children, and they are our children.

Every minute of every day, hundreds of soldiers are using every measure to search every dunam of land.

Every night Psalms are being recited in synagogues across the globe.

Before three nights, 25,000 gathered at the Western Wall in prayer.

Gilad, Naftali, and Ayal are not soldiers, they are students.

Gilad, Naftali, and Ayal are not terrorists, they are teens with mothers and fathers waiting at home weeping and praying for their return.

Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu, our God and God of our fathers and mothers, may the hour soon come when Gilad, Naftali and Ayal will feel their parents’ warm embrace.

Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu, our God and God of our fathers and mothers, may the day soon come when no parent will fear war and the enemy stealing their child’s innocence, body, or soul.

Eloheinu b’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu, our God and God of fathers and mothers, may the time soon come when our children and Palestinian children and all children will know peace.