A community of communities

July 2014

Fri, 07/25/2014 - 9:06am -- Rabbi

Israeli flag mosaicRabbi Lewis is traveling in Israel during this difficult time.  She wrote these reflections for us:

 "These past two days have been full, the moments overflowing. On Wednesday, I joined members of the Rabbinical Assembly in Jerusalem as part of a Solidarity Mission to Israel. We sat in the sanctuaries of Masorti communities and walked the hallways of Knesset. We heard from Tzipi Livni and other members of Israel's government about the operation in Gaza. In the midst of war, we remembered our dreams of an Israel that celebrates pluralistic expressions of Judaism. We learned about efforts to expand the rights of Masorti and liberal Jewish communities on issues of marriage and conversion, the small victories and frustrating compromises."


"We had the blessing of being with Rachel Fraenkel, the mother of Naftali Fraenkel, z'l, one of the three teens who was kidnapped and murdered on his way home from school in June. We cried as Rachel told us about Naftali's love of music and his sensitivity to others. A teacher of Torah and a halachic advisor for women, Rachel reflected on saying kaddish out loud at the funeral. Her actions and her powerful presence have sent ripples of hope to so many coping in the face of loss. "The loss is endless," Rachel told us, "and so is the love, and the support.""


"On Thursday night, I crowded around a chuppah overlooking the Mediterranean sea in Caesaeria. Four hundred people came to dance with Oded and Nataly, to shower them with love and to snap pictures with their i-phones. At the wedding I sat with one of Yosef's cousins. She spoke of her four nephews and sons-in-law now in Gaza. She told me about her family's journey from Uzbekistan to Kabul to Tehran to reach Israel. She talked about her brother who lost an arm and leg in the Yom Kippur War and her daughter who was severely injured in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv during the Second Intifada. After two years in the hospital and dozens of surgeries, Todah L'El (Thank God), she is alive, a mother of four children, living in the Breslav community. Of war, she says, 'Dai, kvar! Enough already.'"


"The past eighteen days, people all over the country and the world have been preparing packages for soldiers and sending trucks of home-cooked meals. My four year old cousin, Yarden, drew pictures and gathered sweets. Singer Shiri Maimon went to perform in a shelter in Ofakim in the south. Others are going to read stories to children, to be with them through the sirens and booms. So much food has arrived at the border with Gaza that the army has asked people to show support in other ways. It reminds me of the scene in Parashat Vayakhel where the Israelite people are so eager to contribute to the building of the mishkan that they bring much more than is needed. Each day in Israel, I am reminded that we are a nation always under construction, struggling to hold our many stories."


"This Shabbat I will be with family in Netanya. I hope to go to the sea, to hold in my heart all those Israelis and Palestinians who thirst for life, for safety, for restored hope in our ability to be partners with the Holy One in the work of repairing our wounded world."

Oh Lord, My God

I pray that these things never end.

The sand and the sea

The rush of the waters

The lightning of the heavens

The prayer of the heart.


(Hannah Szenes)

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Fri, 07/18/2014 - 6:03am -- Rabbi


Israeli flag mosaicRabbi Lewis flew to Israel last night, where she will be traveling for two weeks.  She wrote this meditation on her decision to visit Israel at this very difficult time.


"When I am in Israel, I feel awake and alive. I have had the blessing of living in Israel for three years of my life. After college, I worked at a community center in Ashkelon and at a multicultural women's center in Jerusalem. I served as madricha (counselor) for American High School graduates learning and volunteering in Jerusalem and Be'er Sheva. I fell in love with the rhythms of life of this complex and beautiful country. I was determined to make aliyah and to work in the field of multicultural education. My path took me instead to the adventures of the rabbinate. During our course of study at JTS, Yosef and I had the opportunity to live in Israel together, to delve into the Talmud in Jerusalem and to meet each other's families in Netanya and Eilat."


"Our cousin Oded announced his engagement a few months ago, and I made plans to travel to Israel to attend the wedding this July, to reconnect with family and friends, and to be again in this land of many stories. This summer, as I have waited with great anticipation for the trip, I have cried for Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Frankel and Mohammed Abu-Khdeir. I have cried for the children running for shelter in the south, their hearts pounding. I have cried for all of the families of Israel and Gaza whose dreams have been shattered by trauma. I have pored over the news each hour. I have prayed for peace, picturing the faces of the youth I worked with in Ashkelon, children of immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. They are old enough to be soldiers now. They are only eighteen."


"These past ten days, as war has raged and rocket fire has rained down, I have wondered whether or not to go forward with the trip. I have spent time on the phone with concerned relatives in the US and have checked in with my Israeli family each day. The feeling in my gut is pulling me home to Israel, in all of its layers and liveliness, intensity and heartbreak. While I am in Israel over the next two weeks, I look forward to being in touch with our community and to sharing my experiences. Tonight, as I bring in Shabbat in Jerusalem, I will be thinking of our GJC family, our many voices and perspectives, and our unceasing prayers for peace."

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Fri, 07/11/2014 - 8:45am -- Rabbi


Israeli flag mosaicThe news from Israel is heartbreaking and frightening, and we pray for a quick end to the violence and a path to peace. Amazingly, at the same time that there is this horrible conflict with Hamas, there have been inspiring reports of Jews reaching out to connect personally with Palestinians within Israel, from hundreds of Israeli Jews visiting the family of slain Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir to offer their condolences, to large Israeli demonstrations urging Jews not to take revenge against their Palestinian neighbors and reminding everyone that conflict between the two peoples is not inevitable.  Amid the horror of war and the tragedy of lives shattered, may these glimmers of humanity give us courage to hope for a more peaceful future.

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Fri, 07/04/2014 - 2:26pm -- Rabbi


Reb Zalman and Dalai LamaIn a week of loss, we suffered another with the death yesterday of Reb Zalman, an inspirational teacher of Torah who filled its words and the words of prayer with divine light.  In an age in which we see divisions increasing in our world, Reb Zalman had the wonderful gift of reaching out across boundaries.  Not only did he help open the richness of Jewish tradition to so many of us, he also forged strong connections with religious leaders across the world, from the Dalai Lama to Sufi sheikhs.  Reb Zalman taught that connection across difference - not retreat to homogeneity - held the promise for renewal in religious life and in the world.  His spirit and teachings were long a part of the GJC community, from the time that he lived, taught, and prayed here to more recent years in which his influence was felt through his books and his students that continue to enrich our lives.  May his memory, and the writings he left to inspire us, always help us to find the light of Torah in the faces of all those we meet.  May his family and students find comfort among all those who mourn.

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