Reconstructionist Judaism, September 2016
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In this Issue:
You Won’t Learn This In The Yeshivah: Kol Ami Teaches The Tanach
Unlike many typical Jewish events, Marcel Infeld’s Tanach adult education class, made up of Kol Ami: The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community members, always starts on time.
“We don’t have time to waste,” he laughs.
Infeld—a Holocaust survivor and former Hasid—began this course four years ago with the same group of 10 students. Starting with the Five Books of Moses (Torah) back in 2012, his students read 15-25 chapters prior to meeting every month for an hour and a half. After finishing the Torah in 2013, Infeld’s class wanted to continue through the rest of the Hebrew Bible, often referred to by the Hebrew acronym Tanach. It refers to splitting the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible into three parts: Torah, Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings).
Infeld points out that even in a yeshivah, students focus much of their energy in studying a small portion of the Hebrew Bible: the Torah, and select books from the Prophets. However, yeshivah students spend years studying the Talmud and many Orthodox rabbis are ordained without having ever read the full Tanach.
“The Tanach is ancient literature, our literature,” Infeld says. “Every educated Jew and non-Jew should be familiar with it.”
Finishing Nevi’im just last year, the class created a special closing ceremony called a siyum, similar to the ceremony typically celebrated on Simchat Torah. The class plans to finish Ketuvim  and celebrate with another special siyum on September 17, which RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities President, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, RRC ’99, Ph.D., looks forward to attending.
“I’ve been fascinated with the Tanach, trying to find wisdom in it, but not always finding it,” says Infeld. “The Tanach was composed by a committee with varying points of view. My theory is that the editors were really saying to the readers: you decide what materials will meet your needs.”
.Is Your Rabbi or Cantor a Human Rights Hero?
Has your rabbi or cantor been a leader in human rights issues in North America, Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories? You can nominate your rabbi for Truah’s Rabbinic Human Rights Hero Award. Award winners will be honored at T'ruah’s annual gala on Tuesday, May 16, 2017 in New York City and their stories will be featured on T'ruah’s website and in our newsletters, and shared via related media. Deadline is September 8! For more information, visit Truah’s website.
.Learning About American Jews: Haifa University Visits SAJ
Jews in the Diaspora spend a significant portion of their time learning about Israel, its people, history and culture. But when asked about American Judaism, some in Israel draw a blank.
Partnering with the Ruderman Family Foundation, University of Haifa launched a program to help Israeli students learn about the American Jewish community. The course includes a 10-day visit to the United States, like a reverse Birthright trip. And a class in American Jewish life requires learning about the first movement born in the United States, Reconstructionism.
“Israeli universities have all sorts of programs studying Asia, Africa and the Arab world, but no one is studying the American Jewish community, which is probably the most important community affecting the future of Israel,” Jay Ruderman told the Jewish News Service in 2013. “The idea is that over the course of time you have a cadre of Israelis who’ve gotten a Master’s in the American Jewish community, and that they will help Israel shape this relationship.”
This June, the class visited flagship Reconstructionist congregation Society for the Advancement of Judaism (SAJ) in New York City, founded by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, z”l. The class learned about the American-born movement with Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., RRC ‘99, and SAJ’s Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, RRC ‘06.
This is the second year RRC / Jewish Reconstructionist Communities has participated in the program. Last year, students visited the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, Pa. and had a panel discussion with Rabbi Waxman, RRC’s Vice President for Academic Affairs, Elsie Stern, Ph.D. and RRC student Alex Weissman.
We are constantly seeking opportunities for deeper understanding and connection with Jews in Israel and around the world.
.Reconstructionist Ritualwell
.How to Blow the Shofar
Are you a first-time shofar player or looking for a quick refresher before the High Holy Days?
Check out this step-by-step tutorial on how to blow the shofar by director of Emory University's Center for Ethics and renowned shofar blower, Paul Root Wolpe, Ph.D.
For you advanced musicians out there, take your shofar blowing skills to the next level by playing the blues.
You can find more High Holy Day resources for the Month of Elul and Rosh Hashanah by visiting
.7 Ways to Make Friday Night Special
The idea of a weekly day of rest sounds great, but in today’s busy world it’s almost impossible to do all of the things we need to do and celebrate the full spirit of Shabbat.
Experiencing these challenges firsthand as a new mother, RRC student Elyssa Cherney writes “7 Ways to Make Friday Night Special.
“Shabbat has played an important role in my life as a busy Jewish professional, and even more so as I got married and wanted to create unique family rituals with my husband, Alan,” she writes. “Now as a new mother I want to impart the practices of blessings, gratitude, and giving onto my daughter Ava as she grows up in our home.”
For more Shabbat rituals, blessings and activities, visit
.Coming Up
Reconstructionist Birthright Israel
Planned dates, December 18-29, 2016
Camp JRF, Jewish Reconstructionist Communities and Reconstructionist Rabbinical College are teaming up with Israel Experts to lead a uniquely Reconstructionist Israel trip
for young adults ages 21 to 26. Our participants will see the major sites and also visit the more out-of-the-way places to learn about Israeli culture. Whether they’ve visited before or this is the first time, we know it’ll be an incredible experience!  Registration opens September 12th.
Click here for more information or email us at
.Reconstructionists in the News
Camp JRF has been a leader in inclusivity among Jewish camps across the country. Rabbi Isaac Saposnik, RRC ‘08, was recently featured in Tablet this summer about welcoming LGBTQ children. He and Rabbi Jacob Lieberman, RRC ‘15, discuss the process of inclusivity at Camp JRF in eJewish Philanthropy.
If you’re a Snapchat user looking for people to follow, Jewish Telegraphic Agency recently released its list of “10 Jews You Should Follow on Snapchat" including celebrities Debra Messing, Bob Saget, and RRC student Sandra Lawson.
With the stakes high in this upcoming election, a coalition of religious organizations announced a new program designed to increase voter turnout in the November 2016 election and raise awareness of racial justice. RRC professor Rabbi Mira Wasserman, Ph.D., was featured on C-SPAN to talk about the initiative.
Yasher koakh to Congregation Shir Hadash in St. Louis, Mo. and RRC student, Leiah Moser! Moser will serve as a student rabbi for the congregation.
We would like to wish Congregation Ahavas Achim in Keene, N.H. mazal tov on celebrating 100 years as a community. Congregation Ahavas Achim is a true example of kehillah and has served as a sanctuary for a diverse community of Jews. May we all continue to go from strength to strength. Yasher koakh!
Can bubbe and zayde still find love later in life? Rabbi Jonathan Malamy, RRC ‘00, and leaders of Jewish Home Lifecare spoke with the Jewish Daily Forward about how they are breaking down stereotypes by welcoming romantic relationships among the elderly residents.
RRC professor Rabbi Jacob Staub, RRC ‘77, Ph.D. discusses spiritual direction on Jewish Sacred Aging podcast.
We’re excited to see what’s next for Rabbi Matan Peled, RRC ‘16, who will serve as the new director of education and family programming at Temple Emanu-El of Palm Beach, Fla. As Rabbi Michael Resnick told Palm Beach Daily News, “Rabbi Peled has always been an out-of-the-box thinker, and I have given him a green light to be as out of the box as he possibly can. We really want to touch people in a way that’s creative and relevant to their lives today.”
For the first time in decades, Hill Havurah in Washington D.C. has its own neighborhood rabbi, RRC student Hannah Spiro. Mazal tov, Hannah!
Mazal tov to Isadore (Sam) Seeman for the release of his newest book, The Twentieth Century Through My Eyes. Seeman, a member of Reconstructionist Havurah of Greater Washington, and friend to the Reconstructionist movement for many years, recently celebrated his 100th birthday. Yom Huledet Sameach!
Inspiration and Connection
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 from RRC’s Auerbach Grant Program, Katz is taking to the internet airways, and she launched her first podcast called Kaddish: A Podcast on Death and Mourning. You can also follow this project on Facebook and Twitter.
Every day, we hope that our children see the inspiration and miraculous nature of our world. Rabbi Jason Bonder, RRC ’15, has written a new children’s book entitled “Miracles Like You and Me” which loosely uses biblical narratives to show children the significance of humanity and the greater world.
From his summer internship based in the southern Italian city of Serrastretta, RRC student Michael Pollack, is sharing his experiences at a small local synagogue in an area tourists rarely see. Check out his blog, “Reconstructing Calabria.”
Wherever your travels take you, you can still study Torah with Kehillat Israel’s Podcast. From our Pacific Palisades, Calif., synagogue, you can listen to the congregation’s weekly Torah study led by Rabbi Amy Bernstein, RRC ’97, as well as other master classes led by Rabbis Steven Carr Reuben and Nick Renner, RRC ’14.
If you’re seeking spiritual Jewish music, check out the CDs released by Congregation Bet Haverim’s Merkavah Project.
Need a ritual boost? Whether you are looking for special prayers for Jewish holidays, everyday moments, life cycle events or remembering recent events, browse, Reconstructionism’s home for experimental ritual. Find out what’s new on Ritualwell by signing up for the monthly newsletter.
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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