Faith and Practice

Towards a New Tzniut

July 25, 2014

My third day of rabbinical school, a male colleague ran his finger slowly up my arm to my shoulder and said, in a voice that was somewhere between flirtatious and downright creepy, “You’ll be wanting to cover up, then.”

Let It Go: From the Mountaintop to the Field

June 3, 2014

How taking a fresh look at Shavuot, Sinai and shmita can nourish the spiritual side of our activism — and help us embrace letting go and the “content of our covenant.”

Under Your Tongue: Fresh Farmers Cheese Pie with Rhubarb-Rose Compote

June 3, 2014

You could always drop what you’re doing and stock up on ingredients for this dairy Shavuot recipe, created by Erin Patinkin, co-founder of Ovenly, dubbed “Best Bakery 2013” by Time Out New York.

This Year's Revelation

June 1, 2014

What if God’s revelation to us this year were an instruction to rise above polarization?

Everyone knows Passover. Everyone knows the High Holidays. But what’s so special about Shavuot? In a word: revelation.

Truly Transformative: Motherhood and the Spiritual Practice of Parenting

May 9, 2014

My mother always said that she never believed in God until she had kids. Something about my brother and I coming into being — from sex into clumpy cells, and then somehow into little creatures that emerged from within her with noses, ear canals, and personality quirks — changed everything about how she understood the world to work. She never told me, really, what had happened for her, but if I had to guess, I’d imagine words like miracle, impossibility, and soul would be involved.

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A Seventeen-Year-Old Jewish Feminist’s 10 Plagues: "If They Listened, They Would Hear Us Planning Our Way..."

April 20, 2014

Locusts: They descend on us, pick us bare, for the future of the Jewish people. We don’t align with denominations. We don’t look good in demographic surveys. We don’t care about continuity. We care about meaning, and that scares them. We do not exist to feed the future. We are not here to raise Jewish children. We are here to be Jews in our own right.

A Rabbi’s Re-Imagining of the 10 Plagues: Blood Money, Self-Judgment, Consumption, Time, Extremists, Gun Violence, and More

April 18, 2014

Frogs, writes Rabbi Elianna Yolkut, are cold-blooded amphibious creatures that hatch in cold environments, so the rabbis teach that the plague of frogs was meant to remind the Egyptian of the emotional distance and lack of intimacy that is a necessary prerequisite to enslave someone. Today technology is the cold-blooded creature that jumps into every moment of our lives, taking away our very ability to connect with others, to create space for intimacy with our children, our significant others and our friends.

Ten Feminist Plagues: Right-Wing Governors, Media Double-Standards, Flawed Criminal Justice System By Sarah Seltzer

April 18, 2014

Blood. The blood that is spilled, metaphorically speaking and literally, by governors who are refusing to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and give healthcare to the most vulnerable among us. People with treatable conditions are already dying because they fall in the gap between Medicaid and being able to afford regular insurance. It’s really a travesty.

The Opt-Out Option: Resistance & A Feminist “House Cleaning” of the Soul’s Chametz

Authors
April 17, 2014

This is the last sentence of my horoscope for the week of April 3, 2014:

“You need to be free of the past, free of fearful influences, and free of the self you’re in the process of outgrowing.”

I’m thinking about this sentence as many around me observe Passover, as I opt out of it for the second year in a row, doing a thing that feels razor-sharp-right for me, and also confusing and dangerous. (More than one thing can be true at a time; let’s remember this always.)

A Woman’s Freedom: Ten Plagues, to the Tune of “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free" (For the Third Night)

April 16, 2014

What would it take for women to be free? All women — all ages, born as women, chosen to be women, or just born of a woman and know that the divine female is in us all and is calling to be liberated. What would it take for us all to be free?

I am writing this in a busy cafe, Nina Simone is singing serendipitously in the background, “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free.” You and me both, Nina….

The Ten Plagues of Egypt have been compared to birth pains, necessary contractions in order for a new nation to come to life. READ MORE

Amnesia: A Plague of Modern Life, Or, Why It’s Time to Wake Up to Importance of Interdependence (Second Night)

April 15, 2014

Amnesia is the plague I want to call out. It is a widespread phenomenon of modern life here in the US.

To wit: I am the granddaughter of immigrant garment workers. The forgetting is such that I never even realized the significance of that reality until well into my adulthood. One take on that significance: flight from the familiar into disorientation and vulnerability. Humble origins, a tiny one-bedroom apartment for four people. Being “the stranger,” the ger, the experience that the Haggadah takes pains to remind us of and to transport us to.

The 10 Plagues According to Women: For the First Night, Introducing Zeek's Intergenerational Feminist Series for Passover

April 14, 2014

Editor’s note: This year, Zeek introduces an intergenerational Passover series of feminist plagues. We’ll publish a new one for each day of Passover. This project was inspired, generally, by the 39th Annual Feminist Seder held this March at the home of Barbara Kane and the conversations we had there about creating more intergenerational spaces for feminists and social justice activists, and, specifically, by Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s reading there of “The Ten Plagues According to Women,” which appears here. Over the past few weeks, I reached out to Jewish feminists between the ages of 17 and 70-something, asking each to use the 10 Plagues as a point of departure. To redefine them or reflect on what each sees as today’s plagues, from a Jewish feminist perspective. (These were all written before the Kansas shootings, and it’s with a sad heart we pay particular attention to the connections made between the death of the firstborn and gun violence. —Erica Brody

Read Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s The 10 Plagues According to Women

The Jewish Ecosphere Springs Forward: Social Justice & Innovation in the Expanding Universe of “JOFEE”

March 22, 2014

The JOFEE Dialogues with Nigel Savage, Jon Marker, Nili Simhai, Seth Cohen, Lisa Farber Miller & Jakir Manela

One night this week — before spring arrived! — a statistic kept popping up in my Twitter feed: “Americans spend 90% of their time indoors.” Disturbing, right? As it turns out, the architect Marc Kushner had mentioned this disturbing fact during his TED2014 talk about how design and space impact our culture, communities and lives, deeply. Although he was talking about architecture, I was struck by the amount of time Americans spend outdoors — or don’t. Could it really be so little? The EPA thinks so. READ MORE

Why this Fast of Esther, I'm Fasting for Immigration Reform (Hint: I'm an Observant Jewish Woman. And an Immigrant.)

March 13, 2014

As an observant Jew, I, along with so many people in the Jewish community will spend today fasting and reflectingon the bravery of Queen Esther and the Jews in the Persian Empire. At that time, they gathered to fast and to pray in order to spare the Jewish people from extermination. There are seven fast days every year. But today’s fast feels different. On this day, women from across the Jewish spectrum are fasting and raising awareness to speak truth to power to achieve just, humane, and comprehensive immigration reform. As a Jew, as a woman and as an immigrant from Canada, I identify with the gravity of the mission of the day.

Choices and Change: How I Became a Social Justice Rabbi

February 20, 2014

I didn’t set out to become a social justice rabbi. I didn’t grow up in an activist family or do a lot of community service in high school, and my Judaism is not all about tikkun olam.

“I’m looking for an internship in lobbying,” I said to my high school guidance counselor toward the end of junior year.

“Ok. Lobbying for whom?”

“I don’t care — could be the NRA, could be Planned Parenthood. I just want to learn how this lobbying thing works.”

A Time for Righteous Rage (Not Macho Anger): Martin Luther King Jr & the Modern-Day Mishnaic Sage

January 19, 2014

Around this time every year we memorialize the Martin Luther King who was a peacemaker, a conciliator, a lover and not a hater. In reality, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr was the master of the thunderous cadences of righteous rage. The Jewish community is rightfully proud of the picture of Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Martin Luther King and thousands of others into and through the forces of evil in Selma, Alabama.

We must, however, ask ourselves: “What have we done to earn that legacy?”

Tu B’Shvat Reflections on Parenthood, Extreme Weather, and the Human Family Tree

January 12, 2014

What does Tu B’Shvat mean when life on our planet feels so palpably fragile, asks Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. Her answer? We who are blessed with good soil and healthy roots have an obligation to send sustenance to those on the thin, treacherous margins.

Religion and Hybridity: Can someone be Jewish and Christian?

December 25, 2013

We can’t deny people what they have already taken for themselves: the ability to create identities that are satisfying and meaningful. American religious identities are fuzzy around the edges. The change is already here.

(This piece, from the Zeek archive, originally ran in May 2011.)

Barely Time to Wait: Could the Grateful Dead Be Part of the Response to the Pew Study?

December 16, 2013

It was in the dining hall of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center just over two years ago when the light bulb appeared above my head. Our program director, Adam Segulah Sher, was welcoming participants for a weeklong retreat focused on serving on a chevra kadisha, a community’s secret burial society. “Welcome to this special week where we join together to learn how to honor the dead.” And there it appeared. Yes, we have a retreat focused on honoring the dead, but how about a retreat focused on honoring The Dead? A Shabbaton built upon dedication to the Grateful Dead, the legendary rock band.

From the beginning, it was something more than a joke.

Progress from Process

November 4, 2013

“Will we pause long enough to look at the objects we possess and see that what we think of as ‘process’ is actually a chain of human beings? If not, then we participate in a criminal act of willful forgetting,” writes Rabbi Menachem Creditor. This Chanukah, let’s shine a light on modern-day slavery and ensure our choices support freedom.

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