July 2015


by Julia Weinstein

Have you ever heard of an “earworm”? What about the term “sticky music”? That song that stubbornly plays in your head and sticks in your brain is an earworm. Whatever you call it, that tune playing over and over again in your head is a universal and shared human experience. Researchers have studied and written about this phenomenon and Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain have mentioned it. There is even a TED-Ed on the topic.

Sometimes earworms are so annoying that we need an antidote. Just check Google for a suggestion on a cure: how about chewing gum? Or humming “God Save the Queen”?

by Sharon Mann

The phrase “what goes around, comes around” came to mind recently as I remembered back five years to the time I saw my daughter, Ayelet, off on a flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto, Canada. She was headed to URJ Camp George, a Reform Jewish summer camp where she would spend the summer as a camper, part of an Israeli youth delegation from the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism.

Now, she’s graduated from Mechinat Gal’s Pre-Army Academy, a post-high school Israeli gap year program that emphasizes volunteer work, leadership training, and enrichment studies. As a staff member at The Hannaton Educational Center, she’s come full circle, welcoming North American teens from NFTY in Israel to her home, eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel). At Hannaton, the teenagers participate in a tikkun olam chavaya (repairing the world experience) that includes hands-on volunteer work as they learn to make a positive contribution to Israel and the world.

D'varim is the first in the book of Deuteronomy. It constitutes Deuteronomy 1:1–3:22, and is always read on Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat directly before Tishah B'Av.

In this parashah, Moses begins his farewell speech to the assembled Israelites, reviewing the events that occurred and the laws that were given in the course of their journey from Egypt to Sinai to the Promised Land. In it, he chastises the people for their failings, and instructs them to keep the Torah, observing its commandments in the land that God is giving them as their heritage, into which they will cross after his death.

Today marks a major anniversary for women’s rights: on July 19-20, 1848, advocates for equality for women gathered in Seneca Falls, NY. Event leaders advertised the first women’s rights convention, organized by women, as “a convention to discuss the social, civil, and religious condition and rights of Woman.” Today, we celebrate the Seneca Falls Convention as a major milestone for women’s equality, both in its time and as the beginning of the women’s movement, sparking the monumental change that has occurred in the 167 years since.

The idea of a women’s rights convention was groundbreaking in the mid-19th century, when—either legally or by cultural norm—women did not have the right to vote, speak in public, hold elected office, go to college or work outside the home other than in roles relegated to women, like teaching or working as a seamstress. Married women were subject to their husbands’ legal control and had few, if any legal rights of their own, leaving them unable to sue in court, own property, sign contracts, file for divorce or gain custody of their children.

by Lucretia Levy

This week’s Torah portion is a double portion. In the first portion, Matot, the Tribes, Numbers 30:2−32:42, Moses explains to the Israelites the laws concerning vows made by men and women. Israel wages war against the Midianites. The laws regarding the spoils of war are outlined. Finally, the tribes of Reuben and Gad are granted permission to stay on the east bank of the Jordan River.

In the second portion, Mas'ei, the Marches, Numbers 33:1-36:13, the itinerary of the Israelites through the wilderness from Egypt to Jordan is delineated. Moses tells Israel to remove the current inhabitants of the land that God will give them and to destroy their gods. The boundaries of the Land of Israel are defined, along with those of the Levitical cities and the cities of refuge. God makes a precise distinction between murder and manslaughter. Lastly, the laws of inheritance as they apply to Israelite women are delineated.

by Andrea T. Cannon

This week, we are featuring a number of blogs related to Israel, and especially the experiences of Reform/Progressive Jews visiting and living in Israel. Today, a WRJ Board member reviews a PJ Library children's book about exploring Israel and making aliyah

Title: First Rain
Author: Charlotte Herman
Illustrator: Kathryn Mitter
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Intended for Ages: 4-5  years
Jewish Topics: Making Aliyah, Exploring Israel
Additional Topics Mentioned: The importance of nurturing our family


When Abby moves with her family to Israel, she misses her grandmother and remembers the fun they had with each other. Writing to each other helps, but it isn’t the same as spending time together. Abby grows more and more acclimated to Israel, but never stops thinking of her grandmother, especially while she waits for the first rain.

by Anat Hoffman

Several years ago I attended an urgent Knesset session in which MK Danny Danon told a hushed crowd that Jewish girls, mostly new immigrants, were being kidnapped in the middle of the night by Arab men. He described the situation vividly: "Girls are simply loaded into a vehicle by force by members of minorities."

Other participants described young Jewish women being seduced and finding themselves in abusive relations with Arab men in places they cannot leave. They claimed hundreds of such cases take place every year. Fear filled the air in the packed room.

by Alli Cohen

This week, we are featuring a number of blogs related to Israel, and especially the experiences of Reform/Progressive Jews visiting and living in Israel. Today, we hear from a rabbinical student who was inspired by the injustices she witnessed in Jerusalem to work with Women of the Wall to create change. Be sure to check out the educational video about Women of the Wall she created! 

During my first year as a HUC-JIR rabbinical student, which was spent on the Jerusalem campus, I began to see my homeland in a new light, a light that sadly wasn’t pleasing to the eye. I was angry and hurt that my own Jewish homeland didn’t accept the type of Jew that I was, and I was inspired to do something about it. For this reason, I became an intern for the organization and multi-denominational prayer group Women of the Wall (WOW). Women of the Wall is a group whose “central mission is to achieve the social and legal recognition of [their] right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.” The organization’s mission is one of gender equality and religious pluralism in Israel.

by Rabbi David Wilfond

This week, we are featuring a number of blogs related to Israel, and especially the experiences of Reform/Progressive Jews visiting and living in Israel. Today, we celebrate the six NFTY women who became Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel, a special experience which has only recently been afforded to women.

For six members of Group Six, the visit to the Old City of Jerusalem was like a dream come true. Six young women who had never had a Bat Mitzvah celebrated in a ceremony with their group by the Western Wall.

Two of the group’s members, Michael and Rachel Glozman, told their friends inspiring stories about their cousin, Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman, and her brave struggle as one of the leaders of Women of the Wall. This inspired six young women to ask the group’s leader, Shani Ben Or, an HUC Rabbinical Student, if they could fulfill their dream to become Bat Mitzvah by the Wall.

by Liz McOsker

Pinchas is a very interesting and eventful portion. For 40 years, the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and now their journey is almost over. They can see the Promised Land from their camp near Jericho. They have heard reports about the challenges and opportunities facing them as they prepare to cross the river and move in. It is now time to plan to allocate the land, to ordain the successor to Moses, and to enumerate the sacrifices for various holy days. There is a story in this portion that I find fascinating and will discuss here.