In Memory of Rabbi Aaron David Panken z”l

We are a proud, strong and supportive global Jewish family. On May 5, 2018, a leading and much loved member of our family – our beloved teacher, mentor, friend, visionary inspiration and partner, Rabbi Aaron D. Panken, died tragically and prematurely in a plane crash. Rabbi Panken has served as the President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute […]

Parashat Acharei Mot-K’doshim 5778

Virtually, the entire book of Leviticus imagines God speaking to Moses.  It is all instruction and no action.  One significant departure into narrative is a striking little tale begun in Chapters 9 and 10, the ordination of Aaron and his four sons as priests (kohanim) for the people Israel, and the disastrous action of two of the sons that lead to their fiery death. The story concludes six chapters later, with the Torah portion, Acharei Mot.  Depicted here—almost hidden among the thicket of priestly laws and regulations—is one of the most dramatic scenes in Torah: the first Day of Atonement.

[Israel] Making Their Voice Heard, Dayenu: Reform Young Leadership Takes a Stand

The March 24 March for Our Lives coincided with the annual international Netzer Leaders Assemby (Veida), sponsored by ARZENU, KKL and WZO, where teen delegates from over 14 countries gathered to discuss the future of the Progressive Youth Movement. This year’s conference focused on Tikkun olam: As Reform Jews, does it require action or is […]

Parashat Vayikra and Shabbat HaChodesh

This Shabbat has a special name. It is called Shabbat Ha-Chodesh, the Sabbath of The Month, the month being Nissan when we will celebrate the beginning of Jewish history, as we participate in the celebration of Passover, two weeks from now.  According to Tractate Rosh Hashanah of the Mishna Rosh Chodesh Nisan is one of […]

Parashat Ki Tisa 5778

This Torah portion is known for its story of the Golden Calf, built when Moshe failed to return from the mountain on exactly the 40th day as expected. The people panicked, thought Moshe was dead, and that God had abandoned them. Aaron, ever the peace-lover, reasoned that the people needed a visible symbolic representation of God to reassure them.  The People were not denying the God of the first commandment, but rather broke the second commandment prohibiting the building of idols.  When Moshe returned with the tablets, he was indignant and smashed the tablets to show that the covenant between God and the Children of Israel had been shattered.

The Rules: Mishpatim 5778

After the thunder and the lightning, the blare of horns and the smoking mountain, after the chaos and the ecstasy and the fear and trembling of the revelation at Mt. Sinai, we get the rules. Parashat Mishpatim is where we begin to move from the sweeping narrative of the Book of Genesis and the first part of the Book of Exodus to the more granular, specific, some-might-even-say overly detailed descriptions of laws and ritual that occupy most of the rest of Exodus and all of Leviticus.

[NORTH AMERICA] International Humanitarian Award Dinner to Celebrate Eminent Reform Leaders at URJ Biennial

On Thursday, December 7, 2017, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) and Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) will honor Toronto philanthropists and distinguished Reform standard bearers, Nani and Austin Beutel, together with a pioneer of the Israeli Reform Movement, Rabbi Meir Azari, at the International Humanitarian Award Dinner. The evening will feature the exclusive North American premiere of the Debbie Friedman Suite for Orchestra.

Who Are You? – Parashat Toldot

Were we to compare our patriarchs’ impact on Judaism, Isaac would be a distant third.  First place is a tie between his father Abraham, the champion of faith and hospitality, and his son Jacob, the spiritual wrestler. Isaac’s problem lies in how few columns in the Torah are devoted to him. Other than having survived the trauma of the Akedah, the information in parashat Toldot, is basically it. Isaac is best summed up as his father’s son and his son’s father. Like Abraham, Isaac experiences a famine and has his wife taken by a king. Like Jacob, Isaac’s future wife is discovered at a well. Even in Toldot which begins: This is the story of Isaac, son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac, the focus shifts in the very next verse to what will develop as Jacob’s story rather than the tale of Isaac.

A Lesson On Respecting Women – Parashat Hayyai Sarah

We are living in an age when the news is filled with demeaning language and accusations of impropriety in the workplace. Whether it is well-known newsmen, movie moguls or politicians, women are treated as objects and worse. Many of the men assume their positions of power will keep them safe and insulated from accusations. While women who speak their mind are threatened, ridiculed and in some cases fired. It does not matter where you live—North America, Israel or Europe –women are fighting for dignity and respect.