Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nice Kiddush Hashem

It's not often that you hear the words "Tonight the rabbinical community is stepping in to help save more lives" on American (or any country's) national television.

Good going Robby!

And in other organ donation news . . . For just $20, you could win a trip for 2 to Israel, a stay at the luxurious King David Hotel, and you'll definitely be supporting Organ Donation education. Details about the raffle here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Religious Zionist or just Right-Wing Zionist?

This is a tough post to write because everytime I venture into a post about politics I get slammed in the comments, and sometimes (always) I don't feel like dealing with it. But some things must be said.

A few prefaces:

1. A reader once accused me of only ever criticizing the political right-wing, and never the left. This isn't true -- I can pull up plenty of posts that suggest that the left-wing have some serious blinders on -- but the reader had a small point. You have to understand that I hang out in religious circles, and in Israel, "religious" and "politically right-wing" are almost interchangeable adjectives. So I care deeply about "the right," because these are my friends. And when I see people who are my community making errors in judgement, or making embarrassing mistakes in how they are trying to get their point across, or shooting themselves in the foot, it arouses a stronger emotional reaction in me, for the very reason that these are people I care about deeply, and I think that in general they have valuable and important things to say.

2. I'm about to make a broad point using Bnei Akiva (a religious-zionist youth movement) as an example. I have nothing against Bnei Akiva at all other than the limited criticism I'm about to make. I myself grew up in Bnei Akiva of North America and loved it. I went to a Bnei Akiva summer camp and loved it. My friends' kids are in Bnei Akiva and they love it. That having been said, I must also acknowledge almost complete ignorance of the internal workings of Bnei Akiva here in Israel. I don't know anything about how the organization is run, or who leads it, or what sorts of internal politics they are dealing with. I only know, from speaking with friends whose kids are in it, and from seeing the many banners that Bnei Akiva chapters hang in my neighborhood, that it is an active organization with a lot of excited kids involved, and that they do a great job of harnessing kids' energy and channeling it.

Now. Onward.

About a year ago, I went to several seminars and panel discussions about the pullout from Gaza. Two were sponsored by religious organizations, and one had a panel with members from across the political and religious spectrum.

At every one, members of the religious right-wing admitted that, looking back at the last 30 years, they realized they'd made two significant strategic errors. One (the one mentioned less but I'm mentioning it first) was that they had isolated themselves in all-religious communities (such as most of those in Gaza and many in the West Bank), which meant that increasingly, secular Israelis were living their lives without forming any friendships with religious people. It used to be that the secular and religious lived next door to each other and mingled. Not so much in the last 30 years. So by the time we got to discussions about the Gaza pullout, the secular Israelis were talking about settlers as "those people," strange people who had wacky ideas and who cares if they are happy or not?

Second and more importantly (both in terms of how much self-reflection was devoted to it, and also for my current post), the rabbis and right-wing leaders who spoke at these panels acknowledged that Religious Zionism had become a one-issue movement for many years. When one looked at Religious Zionist youth movements, at political discussions, at rallies, etc they were all about The Land, specifically Gaza, Yehuda, and Shomron. Settling The Land. Keeping the Land. Never Giving Up The Land.

And so, these rabbis and political leaders (intelligently) said, they had lost all relevance among the Israeli secular-left. If Religious Zionism is a political movement that promotes holding onto the "disputed territories," and that's it, then why should the secular-left pay attention? On what basis should they be interested in a Torah or a form of Zionism that has nothing to say about things that matter to everyone?

Why, these leaders wondered in retrospect, does our community not spend more energy discussing and making ourselves relevant for issues that affect the whole country on a wide basis? The Torah has things to say about education, about aid to the poor and the sick, about foreign policy, about public safety, about economics, about the environment, about treatment of the non-Jews who live in Israel, etc etc. The secular-left political movements were discussing these things and making decisions, and the religious-right had removed themselves from the table. The secular see Torah as an annoying book that makes people either not join the army, or care ONLY about self-defense and our right to The Land, because that's what the religious-right talked about at the public level.

Meanwhile discussions about the other issues went on, and the religious-right became irrelevant. It was the secular-left who made decisions about education and other issues, because the religious-right was too busy Claiming Our Right To The Land. (This is a generalization, but not my opinion - I'm reporting what the Religious Zionist rabbis and other leaders were saying a year ago.) And now, these leaders were looking ahead and realizing how much power they'd lost when they weren't paying attention . . . because whether we pull out from the West Bank or not, once some sort of permanent decision is made about the future of the West Bank, the religious-right will want to be at the discussion table about the economy, social welfare, etc, but it will be too late. (Again, I'm generalizing just as they did, and reporting what others said.)

OK, now it is a year later, and we have this post by one of my favorite bloggers, West Bank Mama, about the annual festival at her local Bnei Akiva chapter, where every year the kids whitewash the walls and then re-paint them, using motifs that represent their current concerns:

Last November most of the paintings were colored black or orange, and referred to the destruction of Gush Katif and the hope that we will return there. Some of the more philosophical groups wrote about hope and despair and faith - with quotations from various sources.

This year there was a different feel. The war in Lebanon and in Gaza took precedence. Some groups had collages of religous soldiers painted on the wall. Some used military "accessories" to showcase each kid's name in the group - one group used the "kumta" - the beret, each one with a different child's name. My son's group used dogtags. It certainly was a queasy sight seeing my ten year old's name, with a number that he just made up (at least he didn't put his teudat zehut number, that would have been too much).

Another group painted the following slogan in their space:

"Shalom zeh hazman bein milchama l'milchama" - "Peace is the time between one war and another."

Sobering, yes.

At the same time, though, I found this slogan to be somewhat encouraging. Not because I love war, G-d forbid. The idea of my sons fighting scares me to death.

I found it comforting, though, that although these kids are only teenagers, they understand what it takes to live here in Israel. These are normal, happy adolescents, who worry about pimples and popularity just like others their age the world over. But at the same time they know that living in their homeland takes sacrifice, and they are willing to make it.
Like West Bank Mama, I am impressed and glad that Israeli teenagers are so aware of, and involved in, politics. They care deeply about what this country does, and where it is going, and they spend time acting on their convictions. It is heartening and important and meaningful.

But despite the self-reflections last year of right-wing leaders, the indication of this particular Bnei Akiva chapter wall is that, once again, this particular Religious Zionist movement is a one-issue movement. It's all about security, about self-defense, about the land. (Again, this is based just on one post about a wall at one chapter, and I don't claim to understand the whole picture.)

These are teenagers, and they are obviously interested in social change and politics. And it's a Religious-Zionist youth movement. And these paintings reflect their most cherished values. Where are the paintings about chessed, about loving one's neighbor? About charity? About learning Torah? About keeping mitzvot? About improving one's middot? About being a light unto the nations? About taking care of the water and the animals and the soil and the trees of this great land?

Bnei Akiva kids put a banner up in my neighborhood during the Lebanon War stating their solidarity with the people of the North. I smiled every time I saw it. It made me happy that in a time of crisis, the whole country felt unified and that young people in Jerusalem were proudly proclaiming their solidarity with people they'd never met.

Now that the war is over, and the Gaza pullout is long past, I wish they'd put up banners about other things. About loving your neighbor as yourself, about helping the poor and other things that, after all, are Torah values. Perhaps the kids do discuss these things within their chapters. Certainly they have wonderful activities around the holidays, and they do learn Torah, but in terms of the public face of the organization . . . they don't seem to have learned anything from what happened two summers ago. The self-reflection of the rabbis I heard has not trickled down to the level of the kids' banners and the paintings on the chapter's walls.

It makes me sad that, in practice, Religious Zionism continues to be all about Zionism and hardly about religion at all.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I know what you are thinking

You are thinking Chanukah is coming up. I wonder what I could buy for Chayyei Sarah?

Well, here are two nice ideas.

First, via Jewlicious, I have discovered the music of Brit's jazziest Jew, Amy Winehouse. She has two albums out. The newer one sounds amazing. CD's are always a great gift item.

Second, I'm interested in reading this book, based on a very enthusiastic recommendation by someone who seems to know what he's talking about. Looks like fun.

Other items I would gratefully accept: a really good digital camera, jewelry, a gift certificate to Talbots (in anticipation of my next USA trip), and, as always, a laundry dryer. At the moment I could also really use an immersion blender, but I'll probably buy one for myself this week.

Or you could make a tax-deductible donation toward supporting the next UYO-Israel course by sending a check to “American Friends of Holistic Healing,” noting that the donation is for UYO, and mailing it to American Friends of Holistic Healing, 10 Harvard Street, Reading, MA 01867.

Happy Chanukah to all my dear readers!

PS Happy birthday to my wonderful nephew Ilan, who turned NINE years old yesterday!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

FYI: Where you can take UYO in the States

The next UYO in Israel will be in February, dates to be announced. Meanwhile, some readers in the States wanted to know where they can take the course. All the Center locations are listed at But here I've compiled a list of upcoming UYO courses according to date, to make things easier for my dear readers. If you want information about a specific date/location, go to the website and contact the Center owner. Note: In America, the UYO course is given Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday. As the many Orthodox Jews who have taken the course can attest, the logistics of keeping Shabbat and Kashrut are complicated, but worth it, and certainly do-able if you are committed to taking the course. I recommend going with a friend so that you are not the only person bringing your own food and dealing with Shabbat issues.

December 1: Austin TX, Starship Hope MO, Tallahassee FL, Baton Rouge LA

December 8: New Jersey, Ft Myers FL, St Louis MO, Boca Raton FL

January 12: St Louis MO

January 18: Boca Raton FL, Ft Myers FL

January 26: Atlanta GA, Tallahassee FL

February 2: Starship Hope MO

February 16: Ft Myers FL

Special UYO program for Jewish teens and young adults ages 15-21, all halachic with special Shabbat program, in New Haven CT, February 16-19. Run by Rabbi Shimmy Trencher MSW though his organization, Heart Mind & Soul. Click here for details.

February 23: Boca Raton, FL

March 2 (Purim Weekend): Tallahasee FL

March 9: St Louis MO

March 16: Ft Myers FL

March 22: Boca Raton, FL

Friday, November 24, 2006

Things I haven't blogged about because I've been too busy

1. All the fascinating tourist sites I saw with Beth and Eric. I tagged along with them for much of their touring, knowing I'd see things that I normally wouldn't take the time to see for myself. We had a 9-hour walking tour of the Old City, and I took them to the shuk, and we went to Yad Vashem. It was so interesting, not just because of everything I saw and experienced myself, but because it was intriguing to see these sites through the eyes of two non-Jews who had never been to Israel before. I have so much to say, and no time to explain it all!

2. Why, yes, I've been leaning a smidge more to the right politically lately, but I'm still bugged by all the hypocrisy I see coming out of the right-wing. Just because people have a point doesn't mean that they aren't also being intellectually dishonest. Too much to say, no time to say it. Ugh!

3. Excuse me, why didn't anyone tell me until last week that Britney and K-Fed are getting divorced? Don't you care about me at all? How could you let me stay in the dark like that? I'm so upset that I did not know this.

4. I went to a meeting of volunteers for the Halachic Organ Donation Society. I have a list of ideas/projects I promised to implement, and now that UYO is over I'm going to start working on that commitment. What? You don't have an organ donor card? Well, get thee to the HODS website! or any other organ donor card distributor! But most importantly, inform your family of your wish to be an organ donor should the possibility ever unfortunately arise.

5. Via Manolo, I have been mesmerized by the many clips on You Tube from a show that recently aired in the USA called "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team," about the 3-day audition process for becoming one of "America's Sweethearts." Once you start watching, you get sucked in and can't get out. I simply cannot wrench myself away. Do I feel condescending? Or jealous? I'm not sure. Be scared. Be very scared. (And, men who do not want to watch scantily clad women, do NOT click on these links.)

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Rookies and Veterans
Football Clinic Part I
Football Clinic Part II
The Uniform
Training Camp
Natalie must loosen up
Media training
In the Locker Room with Brooke Sorenson

And, as an extra value, here is Double-Jointed Guy. Be scared.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I love Thanksgiving. Having grown up in New England, I associate Thanksgiving with orange, yellow, red, and purple leaves swirling in the crisp wind. My mother is not American so we tended to celebrate with goulash or duck rather than with turkey and mashed potatos, but my grandmother came over every year, and it was a fun day.

Since making aliyah I've celebrated Thanksgiving only once, when I made a full meal for my Israeli relatives. I enjoyed doing it and would have done it again this year were I not so busy planning the UYO class. What with the course and all my work, a lot of things were put on the backburner. By the time the course ended my apartment was a mess and all I wanted to do was sleep for three days straight (which I did, pretty much). So the thought of having company was too much. Plus, in these parts one must order a whole turkey well in advance, as the supermarkets don't automatically carry whole turkeys just because it's the end of November.

But today I've been feeling sad. My mother is making a Thanksgiving meal for herself, my father, and another judge and his family. I miss my folks.

To cheer myself up, I decided today that next week, for Friday night dinner, I'll make a Thanksgiving meal. Sure it'll be a week late, but at least I won't miss out on the cranberry sauce and stuffing and potatos and apple pie. I've invited a few friends who are very appreciative.

But, it's still a week late. And it's not with my parents or sister. And my grandmother died last year.

It's just not the same.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

UYO Wrap-Up

It is a really incredible feeling to sit at a UYO graduation and watch over 20 people get up in public and say things like "I learned to ask for help when I need it" and "I learned that I can show love for my children even when they make mistakes, and even when I make mistakes," and know that their lives changed for the better because of something that I organized.

One man said "I was depressed before I came to this course. Now I know that I have everything I need. I have love. I have friends. I have a job that pays the bills, and a car that gets me around where I need to go. I have everything. I just had to see it."

And for this, I can give myself a pat on the back.

There were also things I learned for myself. That doing profound things for other people takes a lot of the sting out of being single. And that when I delegate work, there's no point in trying to control how it gets done, because the important things will be taken care of, and the rest it's better to just let go. Also that I do some very silly sabotaging things to myself in my dating life, and I'd be better off figuring out how to stop! Imagine, I wasn't even a student in the course. I got all this for myself just from being there and paying attention and being fully present. UYO is an amazing, amazing course. And, there's the inspiring fact that I came away knowing this about us Jews: We are a very argumentative people, but we argue because we're invested in each other. And no matter how hard things get between us, there are people who don't give up on each other.

Most of the students of this course were "dati-leumi," but at the ends of the spectrum we had one student who is chassidic, and another who is completely secular. Both came in with "issues" about what the other represents. By the end of the course, they were brothers. Not in words or even just deeds, but truly in their hearts. Watching this relationship unfold between them was one of the most beautiful and miraculous phenomena I've ever seen. Israel could use more of this, that's for sure!

Want to read a couple of testimonials? Here are blog posts about last week's course by students Beth and Sarah B.

Next Jerusalem course will be in February! Dates to be announced! If you live in Israel and want to attend, drop me your contact info at chayyeisarah at yahoo dot com.

I want to thank all the people who donated money (totalling a few thousand dollars) toward subsidizing the program last week. Thanks to you, many people in pretty dire financial straights were able to participate and now feel that they are "back on track." If you want to make a tax-deductible donation toward the February course, send a check to “American Friends of Holistic Healing,” noting that the donation is for UYO, and mail it to American Friends of Holistic Healing, 10 Harvard Street, Reading, MA 01867.

Onward and upward! (And, back to my "real" job!)

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Wow. Wow.

It was amazing.

I did a great thing.


More details when I'm more awake!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It begins!

UYO-Jerusalem starts tonight!!! With 21 fully registered students, and 2 who will be giving in their form or money sometime today! Woo hoo!

(I'd thought that the capacity for a UYO class was 22 people who had never taken it before and 2 who were reviewing, but it turns out that no, it's a simple upper limit of 24. Which means we STILL have room for one more. But I am soooo proud of myself for practically filling the class! I worked hard and it is bearing fruit!)

Thanks to everyone who recommended the Chandra restaurant in Mahane Yehudah. It was indeed delicious and a great shuk "experience."

The hardest thing for me right now is giving up control. I've worked so hard to arrange the logistics, and now -- at my own request -- other people are taking responsibility for making sure things go smoothly once the course begins. Having done so much work to make this happen, I want to be more free now to just watch and listen and enjoy experiencing everything unfold. I don't want to have to worry about who is setting up the snack table or whether every student got his/her name tag. Obviously I'll be on hand to answer questions, since there are things that at the moment only I know, such as where we stored the paper plates. However, I'm taking a huge step right now in handing over the reigns to others and trusting that the course will be FANTASTIC. It always is. I'm trying to remind myself that all the other UYO's I attended were amazing, with other people in charge. The people who are now in charge will make this one amazing too! But giving up control is really hard!

My main goal for myself over the next few days is to learn to do that. Because the whole point of this enterprise is to empower other people, and that can only happen if I trust them to do their jobs.

Wednesday night update: Wow!!! The course is going AMAZINGLY. What a fantastic group of students. The course assistants are soooo helpful. And the teachers. Wow. They are doing such a great job. I'm so pumped for tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Beth and Eric

. . . are the instructors for the UYO-Jerusalem course this week. They arrived on Saturday and are seriously two of the nicest people I've ever met. It's amazing how two people can each have such different personalities and yet both be so quietly and deeply confident and giving. Beth is more effervescent and bubbly, and Eric is more serenely at ease with himself, in a sort of "still waters run very deep" way. I am learning so much from both of them! It's quite a privilege, to have two UYO instructors all to myself for these few days!

Yesterday the three of us went on a private guided tour of the Mount of Olives and the Old City, an experience I must blog about some other time. But I'll give you the end of the story. Word to the wise: if you ever really, really need a bathroom, do not ever use the one at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is not worth it. Trust me.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm taking Eric and Beth to the Mahane Yehudah market for some shopping and a late lunch. Any suggestions for good, ethnic restaurants? I heard there is a nice Ethiopian place in the area but have no clue where it is. Also Eric likes Indian food. Any tips? Or suggestions for cute little coffee shops, or whatever?

Also I need to pick up two pizzas there, to bring to a meeting. Any tips for a place that makes good pizza in Mahane Yehudah?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Just Four More Days!

Plans for UYO-Jerusalem continue apace. The food and supplies have (almost all) been delivered to Livnot Ulehibanot, the staff meeting is all arranged, we found music equipment, the TEACHERS ARRIVED IN ISRAEL TODAY!!!!, we have chairs, tables, bentchers, and caterer for Friday night dinner, the rabbi has answered all my questions (for now), and I am (mostly) calm and serene. And excited.

Seventeen students are fully registered, and four others have promised that they are coming and will bring me their forms and payment tomorrow. Which means we have room for ONE MORE STUDENT. Who will it be???
On women and war crimes

Worth a link.

Was the death of 18 Palestinian civilians, including children, a war crime by Israel? I have no idea. I do believe that Israel was not targeting them, that their death was an accident, which means that Israel has a lot of investigating to do to make sure this type of mistake doesn't happen again. And yes, despite the terrorists' love for hiding out among civilians, I also think Israel has a responsibility to minimize civilian deaths as much as it can.

But the recruitment of Palestinian civilian women to volunteer as human shields for terrorists definitely IS a war crime, and it is NOT an accident.

I'm so mad I could piss. This is one screwed up, hypocritical world completely incapable of any intellectual honesty.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Yahoo! News covers the issue of Jewish law and organ donations.

Halachic Organ Donation Society here. Get your card!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Latest Story

Clash of the Wedding Cultures

From the "Catered Events" supplement to today's New York Jewish Week.

It was really fun to report. And, I took the photo, too. It's a picture of the banners outside a new bridal dress/beauty salon on Emek Refaim Street. Can you get over how skeazy that dress looks? Unbelievable.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Nice to know

There's a concept in Judaism that the way you know you have really, truly repented from a wrondoing is that, if you are once again put into a situation where you could do that wrong thing again, you don't.

Most often, this is purely theoretical, because how often does one find oneself in exactly the same situation as before?

Years ago, I used to work for the New England office of a Jewish youth outreach organization called NCSY. This was my first full-time job after college, though "full-time" only begins to describe the 14-hour days, and the weekends given over to the cause. As the Director of Programs, my responsibility was to organize all the logistics for the weekend programs. I ordered buses and caterers, printed and mailed invitations, kept track of who was coming and who had paid, negotiated with venues, found fun activities for after Shabbat and ordered tickets, provided housing lists to the hotel or community members, and worked with the people who designed the educational program to make sure they had everything they needed. It was so much work, but I was good at it.

Well, usually I was good at it. In the days leading up to the events themselves, I was an emotional wreck. Inevitably, a lot of people would sign up late, and NCSY is loathe to turn people away, especially since so many people always sign up late. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. If people know they can sign up late and won't be turned away, then they leave the decision-making for the last minute. Which for me meant an enormous amount of last-minute work, since I had to update the housing people, the educational people, the caterer, the ticket counts, and the bus counselors.

I would stay up all night working to make sure everything would go smoothly, since, you know, excellence is in the details. And the fact that people had the chutzpah (the chutzpah!) to sign up late ate away at me. I was so annoyed. And so I got quite snappy, and basically did everything I could to let people know that I was martyring myself to this event, and so they'd better appreciate me. Luckily my coworkers were also my friends, so they tolerated this, but after I quit the job and was able to breathe a little, one of them mentioned how hard I was to work with in the days before an event. Obviously I had a lot of self-reflection to do.

That was 10 years ago, and in the last 10 years I have, in fact, done a lot of work to develop more patience and be able to "let things go" a little more. But I wondered whether, now, I would be able to do that job better than I did in my early 20's.

Well, now I'm organizing UYO. I found a venue, publicized the event, and am keeping track of who registered and who needs to be "nudged" to get in their paperwork and money. I'm working with the instructors very closely to make sure they have everything they need -- both in terms of information and supplies (in fact I'm going shopping in just an hour). I'm helping a few of the people find housing. My phone rings almost constantly in the evening from enrolled students who have questions, and from students who are enrolling in the last minute. The logistical and time commitments are enormous. It is a lot of work.

I acknowledge that I'm not exactly in the same situation as I was 10 years ago. The event has fewer people involved (up to 22 students and about 10 staff, as opposed to 200 kids and 50 staff), and the instructors provide the program so I don't have to think about whether we should go bowling or ice skating at night and how many tickets we need. But most importantly, I'm now dealing with adults, not teenagers, which means that not only are they, too, more patient, but also that they are more independent. I can tell an adult that the deadline for registering for the Shabbat meal is a certain day, and if they miss that deadline, they are welcome to make whatever other arrangements they want (ie eat at someone's house, or bring their own food). With 14-year-olds, it's just a little unfair to expect them to have more than a certain level of independence.

But the sea change for me is that I'm learning, let's say in the "dinner" scenario above, not to take on the responsibility for this event being perfect for everyone. There is a certain amount I can offer. I'm offering the UYO program, and have told everyone the hours of that program. I am offering an optional Shabbat meal, but only if people sign up by a certain day. The program and the meal will both be INCREDIBLE experiences, and obviously I want as many people as possible to participate, because I believe in what I'm doing. But I don't have to take care of everyone's every need. If someone registers in the last moment and therefore can't come to dinner, then I trust that they will find a way to make that work, and that they will be fine.

No, actually, I'm lying. I'll feel bad for people who can't come to the dinner because they signed up too late. And because they have done something that makes me feel bad for them, I just might get annoyed with them (inside, that is - I don't have to make my issue into their issue!). If they don't come to the dinner because they can't afford the extra cost, I'll feel bad for them and angry with myself for having failed to find a way to help them participate. But I'm learning. I'm learning not to take responsibility for things like where people eat dinner. I don't have to feel angry at myself for not making everything perfect for every person.

And as I learn it, I'm becoming less a martyr and a bit easier to work with. I'd say that my anxiety level is at 30-50 percent, rather than 100 percent, which is really a tremendous improvement if you think about it. And as my anxiety level goes down, it becomes easier for the people I talk to to look forward to the program and feel good about having signed up. Even if they have to do a little more planning and their own logistical work, they are excited about what they are about to do, and, I think, have a little more respect for me - because they see that I respect them, and believe in their abilities to handle any small problems that arise.

By giving them the responsibility instead of taking it on myself, I'm saying "I believe that you are a big enough person to be able to handle this." And also, I'm saying "I doing whatever I can to help you, and I believe my best is good enough. I don't have to become a martyr in order for you to appreciate me." (Again, this is the ideal to which I'm aspiring, and I'm finding myself reaching it more than I used to. I don't claim to be this serene and self-confident all the time!)

Now that I think about it, it's pretty amazing that by learning to say "no," my general aura becomes more one of "yes." By setting limits, I can accomplish more. By not always trying to take care of people, I'm meeting their needs better. How ironic, and how wonderful.

Friday, November 03, 2006


I received this press release yesterday. As a press release, it's inherently biased. However, the development it describes is hardly atypical - a similar event on a smaller scale was cancelled by the religious establishement in the last minute just about a year ago - and, well, this whole issue is deeply embarassing for Israel and a serious chillul Hashem.

Since the other organizers are planning to go ahead with the program as best they can, I think a better headline would have been "Chief Rabbi bows out of conference on agunot" not that he cancelled it. It seems the conference will go on - but has lost much of its efficacy, because without Rabbi Amar's participation, very little can be implemented.

Has anyone seen anything about this in the mainstream press today?


November 2, 2006

Chief Rabbi Cancels Rabbinical Conference on Agunot

On behalf of Jewish women around the world who are being denied a Get by their husbands, the International Council of Jewish Women (ICJW) is disappointed to announce that Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has today cancelled the International Conference on the subject of Agunot and Mesuravot Get, which was due to take place in Jerusalem on November 7 and 8, 2006.

The Conference was convened by Israel’s Rabbinical High Court, of which Rabbi Amar is President, to discuss how halacha (Jewish law) deals with Agunot, and the various financial, religious and economic sanctions that can be imposed on recalcitrant husbands, including international cooperation between the various Rabbinical Courts around the world to enforce judgments against them. Rav Amar has given no reason for canceling the event with just 5 days notice, but we understand that his office has come under considerable pressure from the Charedi leadership in Israel. Notwithstanding the fact that Chief Rabbis and leading Dayanim from South America, Australia, Europe, Canada and the US were planning to attend next week, together with their Israeli counterparts, representing a cross-section of the Orthodox world, Rav Amar has bowed to pressure from Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv.

Attached is a list of the Rabbis who had accepted Chief Rabbi Amar’s invitation, which was issued in June – some of them have already traveled to Israel in order to attend this Conference. One of them, Rabbi Yosef Blau, of Yeshiva University, New York, was looking forward to addressing the group of Rabbanim and Dayanim and said: “The calling of the conference by Chief Rabbi Amar is in itself significant. Cooperation between different Batei Din can at least lead to (Agunot) cases being heard and will make a Seruv (injunction against a recalcitrant husband) more effective. Unfulfilled expectations can lead to people became discouraged.”

President of the ICJW, Leah Aharonov, says: “The ICJW has worked with Chief Rabbi Amar for over two years in planning this conference. We have applauded his concern for the plight of Agunot and his courage in calling for an international Conference of leading Rabbis and Dayanim to discuss this shameful problem, which affects Jewish communities worldwide. We are deeply saddened and disappointed by this cowardly last minute cancellation, which will disappoint not only Agunot worldwide and their families, but all Jews who believe in justice.”

Sharon Shenhav, who leads ICJW’s International Jewish Women’s Rights Project, works closely with Israel’s Chief Rabbi and was instrumental in helping to convene this Conference. She has decided to go forward with the event as planned on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. She says: “We will follow the Conference program drawn up by Rabbi Amar and expect the various speakers to participate and discuss the serious problem of Agunot and Mesarvei Get in his absence.”

The International Council of Jewish Women is an umbrella organization which represents 52 Jewish women’s organizations around the world and is a leading voice on Agunot and other human rights issues. It is not religiously aligned with any Jewish sector but represents all Jewish women worldwide at the United Nations, Council of Europe and other important international forums. (