Friday, April 24, 2015

Yom Ha-atzmaut, Israel Independence Day and VOTE for ARZA: LAST CHANCE

The news from Israel has been so exciting this week.  On Rosh Chodesh, the first of the month when you can read Torah, the Woman of the Wall actually read from a large size Torah at the Kotel, Western Wall in Jerusalem and my niece who is on EIE for her Junior of high school was there.
This week Israel went from the seriousness of Yom Hazikaron, memorial day to the ebullience of Yom Ha-atzmaut, Independence day.  I love watching my Facebook feed as my friends, family and colleagues as they celebrate, post pics, videos, songs and fireworks about the week in Israel. It's almost like you are there but you are not.

One way to have your voice from the United States count in Israel is vote in the World Zionist Organizations elections and vote for ARZA.  This vote will help send more people to the WZO congress in October and they will vote on what types of projects will be funded in Israel.  Whether progressive programs will be funded or Orthodox schools and projects.  For $10 anyone age 18 and older can vote in this election.  It is so important for everyone to vote in this election.  This is a vote for progressive Zionism in Israel, for egalitarian programs, staff and so much more.  ARZA, the Reform Zionist Association has even more to tell you about the importance of these elections.  Our own Rabbi Ike Serotta is on the slate of Reform participants and if we get a high percentage of the votes he may be able to go to the Zionist Congress in Israel in October to vote on all of these issues. Voting closes on Thursday April 30th!

Let me know if you vote and I will be reporting back and will let you know how many votes ARZA got in these elections. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How do we welcome the LGBTQ Community within our community?

In Philadelphia at the most recent  ARJE.  (Formerly NATE, now the Association of Reform Educators, see my blog from last month) annual gathering in February I attended two sessions on learning  to work with the LGBTQ community.

 (Lesbian. gay,  bisexual & transgender. Q stands for questioning – someone who is questioning their sexual and/or gender orientation. Sometimes, the Q stands for “queer,” a term reclaimed by some LGBTs for political reasons.)

 I enjoyed learning with Phoenix Schneider who is the Director, LGBTQ Initiative at Jewish Family and Children's Service of Greater Philadelphia.  I learned terms such as Cisgender which  is a word that applies to the vast majority of people, describing a person who is not transgender. If a doctor announces, “It's a girl!” in the delivery room based on the child's body and that baby grows up to identify as a woman, that person is cisgender.  Cisgender and transgender, are just a few of the terms and language we learned in our sessions. 

Currently at Lakeside we are also participating in a training initiative program with the Response Center on LGBTQ.  We are working on creating a safe space at Lakeside and we are committed to being Allies in our community.  Included in our training initiative is our clergy, educators and lay leaders.  It has been an interesting journey and I have learned quite a bit along the way; how to be a welcoming community, how to respond to and be sensitive to all types of issues.

We are meeting next week for the 3rd time to talk about action items for our congregation.  One idea I want to implement is changing our school registration forms.  It will be easy to change the gender question to have a fill in the blank then to check off  Male or Female.  I hope this will be one of many ideas in our action plan.  

 I am sure in the next 5 years we will have transgender students as well as members of our community.   
One challenging issue is to have a non gender specific bathroom in the building.  Right now we do not have a designated bathroom although Rabbi Serotta has a private bathroom and that is a short term solution.  I hope that perhaps one day we will have a family bathroom which would help all of our families young and old.

Once we have completed our action plan I am sure we will share it with the congregation.  If you have any suggestions please feel free to comment here or email me.  

I look forward to continuing to learn, adapt and help our programs and congregation to reflect the community around us.  Thanks too to Phoenix Schneider for a great session to start off this most recent journey. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The first time I heard a Holocaust survivor tell their story.

 I have heard many Holocaust survivors tell their stories.  When I toured the Holocaust Museum in Skokie I recognized many of the survivors because I had heard them speak over the years.  I thought back and realized that the first time I heard a Holocaust survivor was at the University of Michigan and it was my friend, Daniel Derman's mother, Lisa Derman.
Lisa in Chicago after the war

The year was 1978 and I was a freshman. Holocaust survivors were not speaking like they do today and  it was the first time that Lisa had told her story of escaping Poland and fighting in the Resistance.  It was a lecture hall of over 100 students in a Jewish history class and while she spoke the room was silent as we listened to her unbelievable story.  She always ended her talks with hope and telling her audience how many families members there were now since she and Aron, her husband had survived.

 I had a personal nrelationship with Aron and Lisa and heard many of their stories over dinner, visits and speaking at different educational opportunities.  I cherish all of those memories and stories.  No matter how many times I heard the stories I would be in tears by the time they finished.  Lisa was the master storyteller but I don't think I can recall a time I saw her that Aron did not shout out from the audience to add a fact or perhaps correct her.  Lisa and Aron are gone but their stories still live.  Check out their story and hear their voices yourself.  Listening to the videos are very comforting and it is hard to believe they can't come to Lakeside and tell their story in person.  A few years ago their son Daniel came to Lakeside to start the second generation telling of the story.  The sanctuary was very crowded and like when Aron and Lisa told their story the room was silent listening.  Telling stories couldn't be more important, whether you were in the Holocaust, live in Israel, or are from the south side of Chicago or Highland Park.
Dr. Daniel Derman, 2nd generation

I realized early on as an educator that my students would be the last generation who would be able to meet Holocaust survivors in person and hear them speak.  I work hard to bring speakers to Lakeside Congregation for our students, parents and Adult Enrichment participants.

This Sunday, April 12 at 10:00 am we have the opportunity to hear the story of Estelle Laughlin at Lakeside.  Grades 6-10, their parents, congregants and anyone in the community is invited to come and hear her speak.  I know this will be a meaningful program and we will begin the morning with T'filah; remembering those that perished in the Holocaust.  I look forward to hearing Estelle's story and she will be signing her book, Transcending Darkness after she speaks. I know that Estelle also has hope as she tells her story.   There are many stories of the Holocaust and we are fortunate to hear Estelle's this week.
Estelle Laughlin