Wednesday, December 10, 2014

B'nai Mitzvah: It is never too late; Ask these women!

Torah Sisters
Last Shabbat 3 women became B'not Mitzvah at Lakeside Congregation.  They had studied together for a year and lead a beautiful t'filah including chanting Torah and each giving a D'var Torah. Janet Friedman, Denise Goldberg and Blair Waddick all brought their different life experiences and Jewish traditions to our service.

I can tell you that they worked hard for over a year to get to last week.  They were a support for one another and got to work and study with Rabbi Serotta, Cantor Davis and myself.  They learning to read Hebrew, chant Torah, talk about their Judaism and write a D'var Torah.

I am the proud teacher of Kitah aleph not only for students in our Hebrew school but also Kitah Aleph for adults.  It is not easy for adults to learn to read and then sing in a new language.  All three adult students had gone through the B'nai Mitzvah process with their children and had seen first hand the joy and the tears that a simcha can bring to a family.  When they first began their process I don't think they realized how transformative this experience would be from reading Torah to addressing their congregation/community.
At the top of our Ark we have the words: Torah, T'filah, Tzedakah and Kehillah.  Our adult B'not Mitzah embodied all 4 words of these value laden words.  They chanted Torah with grace and poise and lead us in T'filah by leading prayers and reading their d'vrei Torah.  Their Tzedakah component included tzedakah center  pieces of pasta, tomato sauce, and other food to donate to a food pantry at their extended Kiddush lunch. They also donated much needed table cloths to the congregation which will be used many times over in the future.  Their Kehillah was evident in our sanctuary which was filled to brimming with parts of their shared community and our Lakeside family.
Denise's hand made Tallit with pictures of her family

I addressed the 3 B'not Mitzvah on the bimah as I do every week at Lakeside and was able to tell them I was proud of them as role models and as active participants in many different areas of our congregation.  Janet has 2 children going through our Religious and Hebrew school program and often volunteers in the school office, Denise has been a teacher in our Religious school for over 20 years and her children are involved in our program as well.  Blair joined Lakeside when her daughter was grown but she and her husband come to services, adult education programs and classes.  We could not have asked for a better class.

I will need a new class though and I started looking for the next Adult B'nai Mitzvah class last week when  announce from the bimah we will start one soon.  Please if you have any interest in learning to read Hebrew, chant from Torah and find a new place in the Lakeside family just let me know.  We haven't set a start date for the new class but we are always looking for new members.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Women of the Wall: Can Women pray at the Kotel?

Kotel 1979
I have been to Israel many times and the place I always return and visit is the Kotel, the Western Wall.  There is something spiritual and you could say there is something in the air.  Physically the Kotel has changed since the first time I was there in 1973 for a Bat Mitzvah trip.  In fact the archeological finds are so impressive they are a NOT to be missed part of any trip to Israel. Even when I have been to Israel for business it is not really a trip until I visit the Kotel.  The last 2 times I have been I have also been able to put notes from my students in the wall.  It never fails to move me and I can't wait until I can go back.

Kotel 1968
When my parents first visited Israel in February 1968 (6 months after the 6 day war in June 1967) and went to the Kotel it was not as it is today.  The war and ripped through this area and you could see the bullet holes, some of which are still evident today as you enter the old city.  These are bullet holes from both 1948 and 1967.  From 1967 until today there are two sections at the Kotel, one for men and one for women.  There is a discreet separation between the men's and women's side and the men's side has always been bigger.

Jews have been in Jerusalem since the time of the Bible.  In fact at certain times there has been no separation between the sexes.  In Israel since the only State recognized Judaism is Orthodox, women are not allowed to read Torah at the Kotel, wear a tallit, (unless it looks like a shawl) and pray like the men are allowed to pray.  

Hotel between 1900-1920, Men and Women together

This Sunday at Lakeside we will be discussing Women of the Wall and here is there mission statement:  
As Women of the Wall, our central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.
Over the past few years the arguments and legalities around the Kotel have intensified with regards to letting women pray at the Kotel.  There are many other political issues as well regarding the Temple mount but we will be focusing on the Women of the Wall.  I hope that you can join on us this Sunday, December 7 at 10:30 am for a good discussion on this lively topic.

From the song: Jerusalem of Gold by Naomi Shemir:

The mountain air is clear as wine
And the scent of pines
Is carried on the breeze of twilight
With the sound of bells.

And in the slumber of tree and stone
Captured in her dream
The city that sits solitary
And in its midst is a wall.

Jerusalem of gold, and of bronze, and of light
Behold I am a violin for all your songs. 
English Translation from the Hebrew