Jewish Holidays and Practices
A Guide for Newcomers
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Basic Holiday Info
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Think Pieces and Sermons
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Itâ€™s hard to believe that the High Holidays are just around the corner! For many Jewish households, including many intermarried families, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are opportunities for reconnecting with the organized Jewish community—perhaps for the only times all year. As Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders, this is our time to show how welcoming and inclusive the Jewish community can be. If you are a communal professional or lay leader, what are you doing to maximize the outreach potential of this High Holiday season? JOI wants to help you in this endeavor, so we cordially invite you to join us next Friday (August 3rd) at 1:00 PM (EASTERN) for a free conference call:
MAKING THE MOST OF THE HIGH HOLIDAYS
How can we successfully engage those on the periphery (and our own members) in meaningful Jewish communal life beyond two or three days a year? How can we change what we are doing NOW, while planning for the High Holidays, to maximize the impact of our services and programs in the future?
We will also discuss…
* Last minute tips for marketing;
* Layering programs and services to take full advantage of their outreach potential;
* Making our interactions as welcoming as possible.
Join us for this opportunity to learn best practices and share your own successes and challenges. Discussion will run approximately 1 hour. If you are interested in participating in the call, please contact Eva Stern at 212-760-1440 or EStern@JOI.org by Wednesday, August 1st with your name, organizational position (professional or lay), telephone number and email address. You will then receive the dial-in instructions. We look forward to working together!
As reported in a recent article by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, we have begun implementing the pilot program “Call Synagogue Home,” which is a partnership between the Jewish Outreach Institute and STAR (Synagogues: Transformation and Renewal) thanks to the support of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation. The goal of the program is explained in the Federation article:
Through emphasis on the transformative power of lifecycle events, the program connects interfaith families â€“ a large and growing segment of the Jewish population â€“ to congregational life, in anticipation that they will choose to â€śreturn homeâ€ť to the synagogue time after time….
Through a welcoming approach, addressing the needs of interfaith families as they prepare for lifecycle moments, such as a bris, bar mitzvah, wedding or funeral, the program creates an experience between families and synagogues will be positive and, in most cases, joyful.
The initiative calls for a one-day training seminar for participating synagogues at The Jewish Federation Valley Alliance in West Hills and will provide training tools in three key areas: creating a welcoming environment, celebrating Jewish lifecycles and helping interfaith couples on their Jewish journey.
After a successful training seminar in the Los Angeles area, we look forward to addressing additional partnering synagogues in Atlanta and Philadelphia in the coming months. Our work with these pilot synagogues will allow us to refine our materials and eventually share them with synagogues across North America, in the hope that more intermarried families can indeed Call Synagogue Home.
At the heart of most worship services is a prayer that asks for Godâ€™s blessing for a specific person or people. Of particular note is the version of this blessing made popular by folk singer Debbie Friedman. This Mi Sheberakh (literally â€śthe One who blessesâ€ť) prayer asks for healing for all those who are ill; as such, it has become a staple of many synagogue services—even in those where such prayers were out of vogue as recently as fifteen years ago. In the Conservative movement, the question arose as to whether these prayers could be said for those of other religious backgrounds. We applaud its recent responsum (an answer to a question of religious practice) which encourages individuals to say a prayer for healing for others, regardless of their religious background. Given both the increase in family members from other faiths and the movementâ€™s struggle over how to include those family members in synagogue life, this is a welcome sign of inclusiveness.
Rabbi David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, the Conservative movementâ€™s Rabbinical School in Jerusalem, and a leading authority on halakha (Jewish law) within the movement, authored the responsum. Golinkinâ€™s simple wisdom: we should include all of humanity in our prayers of healing. He cited the following examples to support his conclusion:
In II Kings, Chapter 5, we read the story of Naâ€™aman, the General of Aram, who goes to see the king of Israel in order to be cured of his leprosy. The Prophet Elisha then cures Naâ€™aman from his leprosy by telling him to bathe seven times in the Jordan River (v. 10-14). If a Jewish Prophet can heal a non-Jew, then he can certainly pray for a non-Jew who is ill.
R. Hayyim Palache (1788-1869) of Izmir, Turkey was asked by a Jew: a non-Jew whom he does business with is sick. Is it permissible to pray for him that he should live and also give tzedakah to scholars that they should learn on his behalf to heal him? Rabbi Palache replied that this is â€śmutar gamurâ€ť, entirely permissible. He relied on Sefer Hassidim (The Book of the Pious) and on the story of Elisha and Naâ€™aman.
This complements JOIâ€™s own work with STAR (Synaogues: Transformation and Renewal) to implement the â€śCall Synagogue Homeâ€ť initiative, a project that encourages clergy and professional leaders of synagogues to be especially welcoming of interfaith families at lifecycle events, as they are such ripe moments for a family to connect to the Jewish community. So here is the big question: if we include those of other religious backgrounds in our prayers for healing, how else can we include them at other times as well?