Summer 2017/5777 | Statement on the Kotel and Conversion Bill

The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia consists of over 135 rabbis affiliated with the Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, and Renewal movements, as well as those who are not affiliated with a movement. We are dedicated to the proposition that all Jews are worthy of care and respect. We model pluralism and collegiality in our activities and programs because we believe strongly that our Jewish values  teach us, among others, Vahavta Lere’akha Kamokha, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

We are, then, very troubled and disappointed by two recent developments in Israel, where we are deeply connected by bonds of love and loyalty across time and space. The first is the suspension of the agreement on broadening access to one of Judaism’s most sacred site, the Kotel (Western Wall). This agreement was carefully drafted through years of negotiations between representatives of different streams and movements of Judaism, and it was a model of compromise between different groups of Jews who disagreed on much but who managed to agree on the importance of respecting each other’s needs for prayer and worship according to their particular beliefs and customs. The second is the introduction of a new bill in the Knesset that would limit the authority to enact conversions to a very small group of state-sponsored rabbis, disallowing the conversions of many of our Orthodox colleagues and all of our non-Orthodox colleagues.

Both of these developments send a distressing message of disrespect and intolerance that may have far-reaching consequences for the relationships between different kinds of Jews. As a group of diverse rabbis who share a deep love and commitment to the State of Israel, we urge our sisters and brothers in Israel to reconsider these moves and to instead find ways to bring the Jewish people together through respect for our differences, rather than allowing those differences to continue to divide us.

Save the Date!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018, 11:00 am – 1:00 pm • Next BOR Program – See you then!

Strangers in A Strange Text: Talmudic Treatments of Non-Jews with Rabbi Mira Beth Wasserman Ph.D.

Strangers in A Strange Text: Talmudic Treatments of Non-Jews with Rabbi Mira Beth Wasserman Ph.D.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017, 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM, 

Beth Sholom Congregation (8231 Old York Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027) 

Start the new year with your colleagues for lunch and study in the Sukkah! 

The Talmud’s chief focus is on what it means to be a person of Israel, but here and there, one finds glimpses of diverse rabbinic views on what it means to be a human being. In this session, we will examine sources in which the talmudic sages debate what precisely Jews and non-Jews share in common as children of Adam and as children of Noah. Confronting the xenophobia within our own tradition, we will also uncover a minority opinion that affirms a universalist ethos that unites humanity.

About the Teacher

Rabbi Mira Beth Wasserman, PhD, is assistant professor of rabbinic literature and director of the Center for Jewish Ethics at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Her new book Jews, Gentiles, and Other Animals: The Talmud after the Humanities (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017) examines what it means to be a human being according to the Talmud.

Email Sarah Beth at SPodell@BorPhilly.org for more information.

Click HERE to register. 

The Art of Being Different Together: Pluralism in an Increasingly Polarized World (with Rabbi Brad Hirschfield) and Rabbinical Movement Meetings

The Art of Being Different Together: Pluralism in an Increasingly Polarized World (with Rabbi Brad Hirschfield) and Rabbinical Movement Meetings

Thursday, June 8, 2017, 9:00 AM – 1:30 PM,

Germantown Jewish Centre, 431 W. Ellet Street Philadelphia, PA 19119.

Click here to register!

Join your colleagues and connect, learn, socialize and enjoy! Schedule of the day:

  • 9:30 AM – Meeting with your local rabbinical association – RA, RRA, CCAR, Renewal (optional)
  • 10:45 AM – BOR End-of-Year Wrap Up & Celebration
  • 11:00 AM – Discussion and Learning with Rabbi Hirschfield (see below)
  • 12:30 PM – Kosher, relaxing and delicious lunch with your colleagues and friends!

What is pluralism anyway?  What does it mean to be passionately committed and genuinely open to positions with which we deeply disagree?  Upon What Jewish wisdom can we draw, to move the culture toward shattering the false dichotomy between unity and uniformity?  Together, through text study and conversation, we will explore these, and other questions regarding one of the larger human questions we face in the 21st century.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield — Listed for many years in Newsweek as one of America’s “50 Most Influential Rabbis,” and recognized as one of our nation’s leading “Preachers & Teachers,” by Beliefnet.com, Fox News regular contributor, Washington Post blogger, and President of Clal, Brad Hirschfield is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism (Harmony, 2008). He conceived and hosted two groundbreaking series for Bridges TV—American Muslim TV Network, Building Bridges: Abrahamic Perspectives on the World Today(three seasons), and American Pilgrimage — he is also the Co-founder and Executive Editor of The Wisdom Daily, one of Clal’s newest ventures in making Jewish a public good.  It can be found at www.thewisdomdaily.com.

Email Sarah Beth at SPodell@BorPhilly.org for more information.

Click here to register!

Melila Hellner-Eshed on “The Great Countdown: Sfirat HaOmer in Jewish Mystical Thought”

Melila Hellner-Eshed on “The Great Countdown: Sfirat HaOmer in Jewish Mystical Thought”

Thursday, April 27th, 2017, 9:30 AM – 11:30 AM,

Old York Road Temple Beth Am (OYRTBA) 971 Old York Road Abington, PA 19001

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Join your colleagues for brunch and study with one of the preeminent Zohar scholars of our time.   

AND, in addition to brunch and study, all BOR members will have the opportunity to vote to adopt an updated version of BOR bylaws.  CLICK HERE to read the updated bylaws and send your comments toAbby BY APRIL 7th in order to allow the Executive Committee time to respond.

Email Abby at AWeinberg@BorPhillly.org for more information.

ABOUT MELILA:

Melila Hellner-Eshed, Ph.D., is a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. She is a professor of Jewish mysticism and Zohar in the department of Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She received her degree from Hebrew University under the tutelage of Professor Yehuda Liebes. 

For the past two decades, Melila has been a central figure in the Israeli renaissance of study of Jewish texts by Israeli adults of all paths of life in various frameworks. She initiated and directs Hartman’s Rabbinic Students Seminar, a program for rabbinic students from all denominations spending a year in Israel. She is also the co-director of the Institute’s Beit Midrash program.She has been teaching and working with Jewish communities in North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union for many years.

Her book: “And a River Flows from Eden” – On the Language of Mystical Experience in the Zohar,” was published by Stanford University Press in 2009.

Melila is on the faculty of the Institute of Jewish Spirituality and is active in the ‘Sulha’ – a reconciliation project that brings together Israelis and Palestinians.

Click here to register!

Ira Stone: The Kabbalistic Roots of Mussar: Connections and Disconnections

Ira Stone: The Kabbalistic Roots of Mussar: Connections and Disconnections

Thursday, January 26, 2017, 12:00 – 2:00PM,

Temple Beth Zion Beth Israel, 300 South 18th Street Phila, PA 19103 (click here for map)

Click here to register!

Join your colleagues for a networking lunch and the opportunity to learn from one of the leading Mussar teachers of our time. Updated BOR By-laws will also be discussed and voted on!

After the learning, a kosher, dairy lunch will be served.

A Message From Ira Stone:
The Mussar Movement has long been considered a rival or even an antagonist vis a vis Hasidut in Eastern Europe. Therefore its deep connection with Kabbalah and the larger Jewish mystical tradition has been overlooked. Contemporary evaluation of this stance reveals it to be a much more nuanced situation. We will begin with a consideration of the goals of the Mussar Movement of the 19th century and why its Kabalistic roots were hidden, but the bulk of our time will be spent on texts and a discussion of the rightful place within the mystical tradition of Mussar as, what I call, a “mystical technology.”

About Rabbi Stone:
Rabbi Stone serves as the Rosh Yeshiva of the Mussar Leadership Program located in Philadelphia.  He has served congregations in Seattle, WA and Philadelphia, PA, most recently as the spiritual leader at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel for 27 years (now Rabbi Emeritus.)  Stone received his education at Queens College, the University of California at Santa Barbara, the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was ordained a Rabbi in 1979.

Rabbi Stone has been visiting lecturer in Jewish Philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. He has taught and lectured widely on Talmud and the world of Emmanuel Levinas.  He travels widely as a scholar-in-residence at synagogues at conferences.

He is the author of Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud (JPS, 1998), Seeking the Path of Life: Theological Meditations on the Nature of God, Life, Love and Death (Jewish Lights, 1993) and Sketches for a Book of Psalms (Xlibris, 2000) as well as numerous articles in various journals of Jewish thought. Rabbi Stone’s first book on mussar is A Responsible Life: The Spiritual Path to Mussar (Aviv Press 2006). His commentary on Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto’s Mesillat Yesharim was published by The Jewish Publication Society in September 2010.

Email Abby at AWeinberg@BorPhillly.org for more information.

Click here to register!

Support for Rabbis During the Presidential Transition

Support for Rabbis During the Presidential Transition

Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM,

A Confidential Conference Call with Rabbinic Colleagues on the Upcoming US Presidential Inauguration: Managing our Professional Roles and our Personal Beliefs

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Many of us have strong feelings about the incoming President and serve in settings where there are a diversity of beliefs and feelings on this matter. The Board of Rabbis is creating an opportunity FOR RABBIS ONLY to engage in the concerns, challenges, and opportunities that the incoming presidential inauguration is creating in our communities. How can we address the issue professionally while dealing with our personal anxiety? This will not be a debate of the issues, rather an opportunity for personal reflection and collegial support. Rabbi Elisa Goldberg will moderate a closed and confidential conversation for rabbis who wish to explore these issues in preparation for the inauguration on January 20th.

Pre-registration by 1/9/17 (12 noon) is required and call-in information will be sent prior to the call.

Email Abby at AWeinberg@BorPhillly.org for more information.

Click here to register!

Shmoozing in the Sukkah 5777 – with Naomi Adler & Friends!

Shmoozing in the Sukkah 5777 – with Naomi Adler & Friends!

(PAST) Wednesday, October 19, 2016, 12:00 – 2:00 PM,

Main Line Reform Temple 410 Montgomery Ave., Wynnewood, PA 19096 Click here for a map/directions.

More than 30 rabbis gathered for (a dairy) lunch in the sukkah to join in a conversation about our hopes and goals for the greater Philadelphia Jewish community.  Leading the conversation was Federation CEO, Naomi Adler, who openly discussed the “big questions” regarding our community with Rabbis Joshua Waxman and Robyn Frisch – and many other members! 

About the speakers:

Naomi Adler, an attorney who specializes in non-profit management and fundraising, became the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia in May of 2014. Prior to this position, Naomi was the President and CEO of United Way of Westchester and Putnam for six years.  Leading one of the largest and most impactful Jewish Federations in North America, Naomi is focused on mobilizing financial and volunteer resources to successfully address the Jewish community’s most critical priorities in Philadelphia, Israel and around the world.

Rabbi Robyn Frisch is the Director of InterfaithFamily/Philadelphia.  After practicing as a corporate lawyer in a large Philadelphia law firm for several years, Rabbi Frisch was ordained at HUC-JIR in 2000 and has served as the spiritual leader of Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai, the oldest synagogue in northeast Philadelphia, since 2008. She loves teaching and helping to make Judaism come alive for individuals, couples and families and empowering them to make Jewish rituals, practices and teachings a valuable part of their lives.

Rabbi Joshua Waxman graduated from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2003 and has served as rabbi of Or Hadash: A Reconstructionist Congregation since 2004. He has served on the faculty of RRC in the Department of Biblical Civilizations and as a director in the Spiritual Direction program for rabbinical students. He was a featured columnist for the popular Virtual Talmud series on Beliefnet.com, is the current Rabbinic Chair of the Bux-Mont Kehillah, and serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia.

Email Abby at AWeinberg@BorPhillly.org for more information.

Teshuvah: The Possibility, Necessity & Difficulty of Change

Teshuvah: The Possibility, Necessity & Difficulty of Change

(PAST) Wednesday, September 14, 2016, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM,

Hillel at Temple University, Edward H. Rosen Center for Jewish Life, 1441 Norris Street Philadelphia, PA 19121.

Colleagues prepared themselves for the High Holidays (and got sermon/discussion/teaching ideas for congregations/students/clients/patients).

After the learning, a kosher, MEAT was served.

In this session, we explored the deeper work of teshuvah, going deep inside and trying to shape who we are as human beings.  Three core questions-themes were discussed:

  1. Why people don’t change, and how we could—What are the obstacles are to deep and lasting transformation and how might we overcome them;
  2. Embodying the hesed we pray for—What is the posture we need to adopt in order to give or receive mercy? (And how are these two things intertwined?)
  3. Working on our character and not just our actions—How and why does Maimonides place character at the very center of Jewish life, so that we don’t just need to act kindly, for example, but we also have to grow kinder.

Rabbi Shai Held—theologian, scholar, and educator—is Co-Founder, Dean and Chair in Jewish Thought at Mechon Hadar, where he also directs the Center for Jewish Leadership and Ideas. Previously, he served for six years as Scholar-in-Residence at Kehilat Hadar in New York City, and taught both theology and Halakha at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He also served as Director of Education at Harvard Hillel. A 2011 recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for excellence in Jewish education, Rabbi Held has been named multiple times to Newsweek’s list of the 50 most influential rabbis in America. He holds a doctorate in religion from Harvard; his main academic interests are in modern Jewish and Christian thought, in biblical theology, and in the history of Zionism. Rabbi Held’s first book, Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence, was published by Indiana University Press in 2013; his next book, The Heart of Torah, a collection of essays on the Torah in two volumes, is due out next year.

Email Abby at AWeinberg@BorPhillly.org for more information.

Click here to register!

Breaking the Cement Ceiling:  Orthodox Women in the Rabbinate with Rabba Sara Hurwitz

Breaking the Cement Ceiling: Orthodox Women in the Rabbinate with Rabba Sara Hurwitz

Tuesday, June 7, 2016, 10:00 AM – 1:30 PM, Adath Jeshurun Congregation, 7763 Old York Rd, Cheltenham, PA 19027.

Rabba Hurwitz spoke about her own personal experiences as one of the first ordained female rabbis in the Orthodox rabbis, about the challenges and opportunities Orthodox women who seek positions of religious leadership face today, and about her work as Dean of Yeshivat Maharat in New York City, the first Orthodox yeshiva to ordain women as clergy, which makes her uniquely qualified to reflect on the seismic shifts taking place in the Modern Orthodox world.  Rabba Hurwitz also led us through some of the key traditional and contemporary sources that support the philosophical underpinnings of Yeshivat Maharat’s work and speak about the halachic possibilities and limits for roles for women in Orthodox communities.

  • 10 AM Meeting with your local rabbinical association – RA, RRA, CCAR
  • 11:15 AM Learning with Rabba Hurwitz
  • 12:45 PM Kosher, relaxing and delicious lunch with your colleagues and friends!

Rabba Sara Hurwitz is Dean and co-founder of Yeshivat Maharat, the first Orthodox yeshiva to ordain women as clergy.  She also serves on the Rabbinic staff at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale.  Rabba Hurwitz graduated from Barnard College and completed Drisha’s three-year Scholars Circle Program. She was ordained in 2009 by Rabbi Avi Weiss and Rabbi Daniel Sperber.