Reconstructionist Judaism, January 2017
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In this Issue:
.Honest Tea Co-Founder to Future Rabbis: Know Your Brand
Bryan Schwartzman, Communications Associate at RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities
Understand that you operate in a competitive marketplace, make your offerings unique, and meet your potential customers face-to-face in order to offer samples of your product.
That was some of the advice that Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea and executive chairperson of Beyond Meat, gave to aspiring rabbis seeking to connect new people to Jewish experiences. On Dec. 13, he spoke to a packed room of students, faculty and staff at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College on the topic of “People, Planet and Profits: How Business Can Drive Positive Social Change.”
“I talk competition in a friendly, fond way. Competition can make you better, as well as test you,” said Goldman, a longtime member of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Md. “It is very easy to get lazy. You got the base, and these people are coming for the High Holidays and will have their bar mitzvahs and will pay their dues.”
“So I would challenge every entrepreneur to think about, what is your point of difference, what is the brand identity that you create that is singularly and immediately yours,” he continued. “For Honest Tea it is: less sweet, organic, fair trade whenever possible, authentic ingredients and transparent supply chain. For your community, how do you make sure your offerings are unique and distinct in a way that couldn’t be confused with the synagogue down the street?”
“Yes, you have to meet the basic value proposition, but how do you create those deeper layers for those who really want to engage?” he posed. “You’ve got to market. For us, even though we are a much larger company, sampling is still the biggest way to build our brand. Personal interactions are so important. I can have a billboard that says ‘drink Honest Tea’. It may get some people interested. But it is never the same as someone having eye-to-eye contact, hand-to-hand, cup-to-mouth sampling. How do you connect with people in a way that they get to hear your unique voice and story outside of the synagogue walls?”
Goldman spent the better part of a day visiting RRC, sharing lunch with students and meeting with Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., and other institutional leaders. His talk was part of the Social Justice Organizing program curriculum. All RRC students are required to take a course in entrepreneurship, and his talk offered a way to learn from someone who has turned an into a market-disrupting force.
An engaging and accessible speaker, Goldman spoke about his mission-driven approach to creating Honest Tea in 1993 and filling a niche of a low-calorie, mass-produced tea that was healthier than existing alternatives. Many of the goals behind Honest Tea were consistent with that of a nonprofit: improving health, improving working conditions abroad and connecting people to one another. Part of his mission, he said, is to encourage Americans to think more about what they put into their bodies, noting that the United States is the wealthiest country on Earth, but ranks 42nd in terms of life expectancy.
He detailed the company’s first decade, from failing to make a profit and primarily selling its products in health food stores, to becoming a major investment of Coca-Cola and enjoying enormous growth, to the point that its products are now available in fast-food chains like Wendy’s and Subway. He acknowledged that working with larger companies raises a slew of ethical concerns, but said that by partnering with the likes of Coca-Cola and Wendy’s, he is able to have a much larger impact and promote fair-trade, organic products on a wider scale.
He stressed the importance of listening by sharing a tale of visiting tea gardens in south central China that were only accessible by boat. He suggested building a bridge and was told that, apart from the financial barriers to doing so, opening up the area would invariably lead to development and pollution and endanger the very resource farmers were trying to protect.
“I saw a problem, thought I knew a solution, but my solution was going to create other problems,” he said. “Business can be part of the problem but also part of the solution if it is deployed in the right way.”
Spirit in Practice Podcast
How will you sustain your spirit through your next four years, our throughout the rest of your life? Do you wonder how you can show up for challenging times with compassion, courage, equanimity and joy?
Spirit in Practice, a podcast miniseries launched in January, brings together emerging leaders with religious teachers of many faiths to explore social activism and spiritual practices. ​Amidst uncertainty, one thing is clear: ​How we do our work on the outside depends on the work we have done on ourselves on the inside.
We will mine our traditions for wisdom as we live into the future together.
Listen to this podcast our website, iTunes or Stitcher. You can also follow this Podcast on Facebook and Twitter.
Produced by Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Ph.D., RRC ‘82, and Jeannie Hopper. Music by Grammy nominated producer Jay Rodriguez. Spirit in Practice is supported by the generosity of the Henry Luce Foundation.
Profile of a Reconstructionist: The 20th Century through Isadore Seeman’s Eyes
Rachael Burgess, Communications Associate at RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

After nearly a month of birthday celebrations, Isadore Seeman was glad to get a small break before the rush of the High Holy Day activities.
Then again, how often do you have the chance to celebrate a 100th birthday?
“I worked in the health field and in statistics. I knew the average lifespan of Caucasian males in the United States,” Seeman laughs. “And 100 wasn’t it.”
Born August 1916, Seeman has seen 16 U.S. presidents, two world wars, the civil rights movement, the rise of feminism, two U.S. states joining the union, and technological advancements from the widespread use of the automobile to the first close up photographs of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.
Looking back on his life, he felt it was time to follow in the footsteps of several family members and write about his life. He published his autobiography, The Twentieth Century through My Eyes, earlier this year.
“I realized I had to record it, so I set about it and managed to get it done,” Seeman says. “I just thought there was enough substance that it ought to be put on paper.”
As you would expect, there was plenty of substance.
The current president of the Reconstructionist Havurah of Riderwood was the fourth child of five born to Austrian immigrants who settled in the Baltimore area. He spent much of his life dedicated to theatre, on and off the stage. He earned the nickname “Sam,” after a character he played as a young man. The name has stayed with him ever since.
His life changed at age 25, when he contracted tuberculosis. The only treatment for the disease was months of bedrest in a sanitarium.
“Lying there day and night, week after week, I had plenty of time to reflect and just look at the horizons and the sky,” he recalls. “I did a lot of reading, too. My oldest brother decided it was time to educate me so he brought me books about logic and philosophy—stuff I hadn’t touched before.”
He began to think of the next steps in his life. Though he had a teaching certificate, he was struck by the notion that tuberculosis was a preventable disease. When he was finally released from the sanitarium, he turned his attention to the public health sector.
He helped close a terrible facility for orphans in Washington D.C., studied childcare and helped create the Child Daycare Association, worked with agencies to help health councils set standards of service quality regardless of race, and he even served on Lyndon Johnson’s council to address poverty in the metro capitol area.
He recalls meeting his wife of 63 years, Shirley, raising their children, their joys and challenges, and his poetry. After his wife’s passing, he found love again in Marilyn, his supportive and loving partner.
Looking through the newspaper one day, Shirley came across a notice about a High Holy Day service to be led by Rabbi Sid Schwarz, RRC ’80. This was the first time the family stepped into Congregation Adat Shalom in Bethesda, Md. He is still a member there today. He would later join others living in the Riderwood, Md. area to create the Reconstructionist Havurah of Riderwood.
“Reconstructionism seemed to be the right place for me,” Seeman said. “I had an open mind about religion. Puzzled more about it. I went to Hebrew school and had a bar mitzvah. I cannot daven so davening has no appeal to me... My focus is on the havurah, which is more of a study group and interaction with people who are wrestling with their views about religion.”
With the help of Mel Scult, Ph.D., Seeman prepared a paper on Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, z”l, Reconstructionism, and the properties differentiating Reconstructionism from other forms of Judaism. “I’ve come to accept the Reconstructionist point of view and it’s so accepting. You could be your own rabbi.”
Looking back on his life, he knows he will leave behind a great legacy. “When you get to be 100, you tend to look back. I look back with pride… my three sons and my grandchildren, my professional accomplishments, the ways I handled what came along in life, my writing... So why me? It really did sneak up on me.”
Seeman is now focusing on his next project—writing a history of the Health and Welfare Council of the National Capitol Area.
“I guess I’ve gone from project to project. I’ve always had one and always needed one. When I tackle this new project, I’m aware I may not finish it. But I’m going to go as far as I can.”
You can find Isadore “Sam” Seeman’s autobiography, The Twentieth Century Through My Eyes and his collection of poetry, Love and Memories - The Poetry of Isadore Seeman by clicking the links.
Innovation and Impact
Cafe Shabbat - An Unconventional House of Prayer
Reconstructionist innovators are exploring new ways to gather as a prayerful caring community. RRC student Sandra Lawson received a $2,000 innovation grant to fund monthly Friday night Shabbat services in a vegan restaurant, Arnold’s Way Cafe. This is an excerpt from her end-of-year reflection. Notice that her experimentation with space and expectations resulted in significant impact on the life of participants. Do her experiments stir any ideas for you and your community?
The Innovation:
As rabbis, we are taught the world stands on three things: Torah (teaching and learning), service of the heart, and acts of love and kindness (Pirkei Avot 1:2). The role of the rabbi is rooted in these teachings, and it’s our job to adapt as the times change. Today, many Jews do not belong to synagogues. Many live outside the reach of a synagogue. Others have been turned off by synagogues for a variety of reasons ranging from dues structures to simply not feeling welcomed. I want to help Jews connect to their Judaism. So I created a Shabbat experience at Arnold’s Way Cafe, in Lansdale, Pa.
Earlier this year I met Arnold Kaufman, the owner of the cafe, and his daughter Maya--the chef. Maya wanted her children to learn about Judaism, but she did not want to attend a synagogue. The closest one that suited her family was 25 miles away and was too expensive. Arnold and Maya identify strongly as Jews and both longed to be part of a Jewish community. So their cafe was the perfect place to bring Judaism to them.
The Impact:
Arnold, Maya and the Jews who attended these services wanted to be engaged in Jewish life, but the traditional synagogue model was not working for them. On March 18, 2016, I led the first Shabbat service at the Cafe. Nine adults and four children attended. After I received the Auerbach Grant, we held Shabbat services in the cafe from May to September 2016. Over the summer, an average of 12 adults attended each service.
Julie, one women who attended regularly, had been married to a rabbi for years before they divorced. She had not been in a synagogue for 20 years. She said that my services felt safe for her, helped her to heal from previous pain related to being in synagogues, and that she could come, pray, be her full self, and be in community. 
Maya wanted the services for her children so they could learn. But after the first service, she was tired of being in “mommy mode”. She left her kids with their dad and came to services on her own. She told me she got more out of the service when her kids were not present. She also told me she loved the services and was getting more comfortable with the prayers.  She has now enrolled her daughter in Hebrew school. This is exciting because when I met Maya, she was so turned off by synagogues. Now she sees the value in giving her daughter a Jewish education and makes it a priority.
Sandra Lawson is a 4th-year student at RRC. She developed this program with the guidance of Cyd Weissman, Assistant Vice President for Innovation and Impact and instructor of Jewish Education and Entrepreneurship at RRC. For more information, contact
Reconstructionist Ritualwell
.Self Care
Many unknowns in the year ahead may cause us excitement, anxiety and fear. As we help our families, friends and communities through troubling times, we must remember to also take time to care for ourselves.
If you find yourself overwhelmed, take a moment to check out two blessings written by Kohenet Ahava Lilith EvershynePrayer for Self-Care During the Struggle and Birkat haGomel. Both blessings are great reminders that we can take an active role in our own healing during difficult times.
If you are dealing with difficult times, you can add blogs, meditations, rituals and prayers to your healing toolbox by visiting
.Ritual and Reimagining Jewish Art
Ritualwell examines the intersection between art and ritual in an interview with Jewish artist Hillel Smith. From posters of each parshah to murals of Hebrew words and Jewish holidays, Smith shares his spiritual process to create his art.
“Even if I struggle while making the art, looking at a finished piece is transcendent,” Smith said. “I try to stop to appreciate gifts I’ve been given and see it as a responsibility to realize that potential.”
Read the entire interview and view his work on Ritualwell’s website, Reconstructionist Judaism’s home of experimental and innovative ritual.
.Upcoming Networks

Networks meet three to six times a year online for about an hour each session. At least six people are required for each network. Networks are capped at 12 participants unless otherwise specified, and a waitlist will be created if a network reaches capacity.
You can register online at
If you have any questions, please contact Rory Schonning at or 215.576.0800, ext. 131.
1/25/17 How can Jewish bedtime rituals help children feel loved and secure?

2/9/17 How do you serve college students who want to save the world, but can’t manage to talk to their own roommates?
2/15/17 How do network/COP (Community of Practice) leaders have the greatest impact in the Jewish community?
2/16/17 Reconstructionist Incubator: How might we move bold ideas to action?

3/29/17 How can we foster enriching interfaith conversations that invite people to dare to understand?

.Upcoming Events

New York Day of Reconstructionist Learning
January 29, 2017
New York City
As we enter 2017, how will we move forward? How do we help our community and the communities around us heal after a strenuous presidential election and widespread violence around the world?
Register now to learn and share with prominent Reconstructionist rabbis and scholars during the New York Day of Reconstructionist Learning.
See our speakers and workshops or the view the schedule.
Our keynote speaker will be Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Bet Haverim and Chair of RRC & Jewish Reconstructionist Communities Tikkun Olam Commission.
In addition, West End Synagogue and the Society for the Advancement of Judaism invite you to attend their joint Shabbaton on the Shabbat preceding the Day of Learning. Clergy from both congregations will participate in both Friday night services (at WES) and Saturday morning services (at SAJ). Following Kiddush lunch, the program will include a roundtable and participatory discussion.
Register Now. For more information, visit our website or contact Jackie Land at
No’ar Hadash North American Teen Kallah
March 3-5, 2017
New York City
Save the date for this great experience for 8th-12th graders as they explore New York City.
For more information, email or visit
Chesapeake Day of Learning and Celebration
March 19, 2017
Laurel, MD
Save the date for the Chesapeake Day of Learning and Celebration! Hosted at Oseh Shalom, we’ll have a day of learning starting at 2:30 p.m. and we’ll be honoring our Chesapeake volunteers at the annual celebration at 4 p.m.
Stay posted for more details!
For more information, contact Jackie Land at
Pacific Northwest Shabbaton
May 5-7, 2017
Camp Solomon Schechter (near Olympia, WA)

Register now to celebrate Shabbat with us in the Pacific Northwest!

We’ll explore how Judaism is passed on within communities, how to teach and learn, and what changes are needed to nourish Jewish life. There will be programming for everyone including adults, children and young adults. For infants to age four, childcare will be provided by pre-registration.

For more information, visit our website or contact Jackie Land at
Camp JRF 2017
Summer will be here before you know it! It’s never too early to think about the summer your child will remember for a lifetime. Registration is open now for Camp JRF Summer 2017.
For more information, visit our website or contact us at See how Camp JRF makes inclusivity part of its culture in this video.
.Reconstructionists in the News
We are excited to announce that RRC’s Multifaith program has received a $425,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to train chaplains on college campuses in multifaith work. This is one of six inaugural grants from the Luce Fund for Theological Education, which supports the development of new models of teaching, learning, research, publication and leadership development in an era of increased appreciation for religious and other forms of diversity, and to encourage seminaries and their students to engage with a range of broader social challenges.
RRC & Jewish Reconstructionist Communities’ President Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D. spoke from a Jewish perspective to faith leaders during a November 28 conference call on "Faith and Solidarity during a time of White Supremacy." Read her remarks.
The RRC community was very active in fighting the Dakota Pipeline in Standing Rock. Rabbi Linda Holtzman, RRC ’79, and RRC students Miriam Grossman and Ariana Katz joined in protest with 500 other clergy members of many faiths in South Dakota. You can read about their experiences in JTA, Forward and New York Jewish Week.
Measuring Good: Sabermetrics and Spiritual Insight
eJewish Philanthropy
1983: A Rabbi Who Dared Think Judaism Should Evolve Dies
Over 500 communities to mark Global Day of Jewish Learning
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Rainbow of Fun at Bet Haverim Gala
Atlanta Jewish News
As anti-Muslim attacks skyrocket, interfaith leaders demand denunciation from Trump
Why Our Greatest Jewish Athlete Is a Wrestler Named Goldberg
Northwest Suburban Interfaith Council sees massive turnout for Thanksgiving event
Lake Zurich Courier
Protesters pressure Toomey to denounce Trump adviser Bannon
Philly Jewish Group Calls for Opposition to Trump Strategist Steve Bannon
Philly Magazine
Now Is A Time For ‘Eternal Vigilance’
New York Jewish Week
Love, Acceptance: Our Neighborly Pledge
Baltimore Jewish Times
Liberal Jewish Groups Get Surge of Donations After Donald Trump’s Win
Atlanta Embraces Interfaith Engagement
Atlanta Jewish News
She’s saving money and the environment by car-sharing
Chestnut Hill Local
Both Feeling Threatened, American Muslims and Jews Join Hands
New York Times
Anti-Semitic? Disqualifying? Keith Ellison’s Views on Israel Are the Same as Most U.S. Jews
Something’s Happening Here
eJewish Philanthropy
'Hoosier Hospitality' takes center stage at final bicentennial celebration
Indy Star
.Inspiration and Connection
According to RRC student Elyssa Cherney, “holiness is created by helping people find meaning in their lives at moments of transition. That can be a major lifecycle moment: birth, becoming an adult, finding a partner, becoming a parent, and death; or at all the moments in-between.”
Cherney tackled her approach to holiness in a moving High Holiday sermon delivered at Temple Judea in suburban Philadelphia. She was recently named the 2016 George Goldman-Or Hadash D’var Torah Scholar and delivered her d’var Torah on December 9 at Congregation Or Hadash.
Read her D’var Torah. You can also visit her website or follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

During last month’s Global Day of Jewish Learning, Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, RRC ‘97, taught a workshop called “Eco-Judaism: Is There Any Other Kind?! – How Torah Pushes the Sustainability Envelope.” Watch the video online.

Rabbi Seth Goldstein, RRC ‘03, of Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia, Wash., used to pass the house of the congregation’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kirsten, on his way to work after dropping his son off from school. After deciding to carpool together to the shul, they began to talk about creativity, acceptance, forgiveness and other spiritual (and some silly) topics. Every Tuesday, you can listen to these great six-minute conversations called Carpooling with Rabbi. Visit the website, Facebook and YouTube.
Hazzan Ayelet Porzecanski, Cantor and educator at West End Synagogue in New York, writes and performs in Clara ~ A Jewish Russian Immigrant Tale, a fictional tale about a girl named Clara and the very real experience of countless Russian Jewish immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Weaving storytelling and Yiddish song, the dream of the "Golden Land" lands Clara in a New York sweatshop. You can hear samples of the music here.
Death, dying and mourning are topics that stir up pain and anxiety. But RRC student Ariana Katz wants us to stop ignoring the elephant in the room and discuss death and mourning openly. After winning a $20,000 Maxi-Grant from RRC’s Auerbach Grant Program, Katz is has taken to the internet and launched her first podcast called Kaddish: A Podcast on Death and Mourning. You can also follow this project on Facebook and Twitter.
You can study Torah wherever you are!
If you’re ready to wrestle with the weekly Torah parshah, visit Malibu Jewish Center and Synagogue’s Rabbi Judith HaLevy’s YouTube channel, Challenging Torah.
You can also catch RRC student Sandra Lawson’s Torah Lesson on Snapchat (sandrajlawson) or on YouTube.
Join members of other Reconstructionist congregations online on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for wisdom, news and special announcements.

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The Jewish Reconstructionist Communities in association with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) provides services for more than 100 congregations and havurot where members help create the Judaism they want to live. RRC is a progressive rabbinical school­­ where people of all backgrounds engage intensively with Jewish texts, thought and practice. As a combined organization, RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities make up a unique kind of entity in the contemporary Jewish landscape.
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