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Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Happy New Year
Text "We take upon ourselves and into ourselves these promises:
To care for the earth and those who live upon it.
To pursue justice and peace
To love kindness and compassion"
Marcia Faulk ( Jewish poet, liturgist, painter, scholar and translator who has written several books of poetry and prayer.)
h/t Society for Humanistic Judaism
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
A perspective on identity, global Judaism, diversity, intersectionality, and unity and what the Hebrew language and Israel have to do with it.
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
I love Havdalah, the brief traditional ritual that marks the end of Shabbat and the old week and announces the beginning of a new week. Like all traditional Jewish rituals, it centers on designated brachot, specifically the four blessings on wine, the aromas of spices, the light of fire, and finally the blessing on separation itself. Indeed, the ritual is all about separation.

Seeing ourselves as enlightened, 21st-century people, we generally don't think of separation as something good. Except for when it is, of course. Like when identity caucuses separate from the larger group for life-sustaining mutual support. But we generally aim for or at least hope for integrated work and social spaces.

But Havdalah is about returning something that has been separated out back into the whole for the good of the whole. Shabbat has come to an end. A new week is beginning. The fourth and final blessing of Havdalah celebrates separations and distinctions between the holy and the profane, light and dark, Israel and the other nations, between the seventh day and the six days of the week.

Like every tradition, we have to do some wrestling with this one. Many of us postmodern people don't take such a dualistic approach to any part of our life. We see light and dark as interpenetrating, rather than as strictly separate. We see the nations of the world in less oppositional ways. And our contemporary schedules rarely allow us to so fully separate the activities of the week from the activities of Shabbat as once was normative. It takes work to think our way through Havdalah today.

But Havdalah is very sense-based. We see the light, we smell the spices, we taste the wine, we extinguish the light and heat of the flame of the Havdalah candle. Maybe we overthink it if we worry about precise meanings or how our understanding of the world differs from our ancestors' worldview.

Whatever it means to you and however you reorganize and rescript the words to bring your understanding and tradition into proximity, Havdalah typically ends with singing "Eliyahu Hanavi," the same song that is sung at the Passover Seder, and "Shavua Tov," a song that wishes a good week to those who hear it. Putting these two at the end of a ritual about separation reminds us that the liberation, which is inherent in the best meanings of Shabbat, must be brought into the week by changing the world for good, and that the world can be made better.

Maybe a messiah such as Eliyahu the Prophet is said to usher in is too problematic a concept. But making the world better is a key ethical touchstone in this tradition that touches our reality.

Shavua tov! Have a good week! Let us spread liberation far and wide!
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Do join us for UUJA's service, tonight, Friday Dec 11, 2020, at 7:00 Eastern, for Shabbat and Hanukkah! Motzi will follow, so bring a product of the grape, and Challah or your staff of life! Here is the Zoom link:
Zoom bombing is a thing, so please share the link with prudence!

Order Of Service:

Welcome: Arthur Thexton
Hanukkiah lighting: Robin Kottman
Song: Ocho Kandelikas
Torah portion: Genesis 37:1-40:23--Arthur Thexton
Reading: 1 Maccabees The Rev. Paul Oakley
Sermon: “Lights of Freedom” by The Rev. Jay Wolin
Song: Light one Candle, #221 in the UU hymnal
Mourner’s Kaddish
Benediction: Rev. Wolin
MOTZI: Rev. Oakley
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Rev. Joanna Lubkin, a Unitarian Universalist minister of Jewish background, shares the ritual of lighting the Chanukah candles for Sunday, December 13, 2020. (Provided with permission)
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Chanukah Candle-Lighting for UU Services - Sunday, 12/13/2020
Rev. Joanna Lubkin, a Unitarian Universalist minister of Jewish background, shares the ritual of lighting the Chanukah candles for Sunday, December 13, 2020.

Book Review – “Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree”

Teaching without Terrifying: Younger Children and the Holocaust

By Rev.Marti Keller

Memoirist Deborah Feldman, who walked away from her Hasidic upbringing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as a young adult, has been on an exodus to discover who she is as a Jewish person now that she has rejected her ultra-Orthodox roots. Part of her journey was a trip through Europe retracing her grandmother’s life during the Holocaust, including time in a concentration camp.

At the Holocaust museum in Berlin, she wandered into one room where there was an explanation of death camps: what they were, how they were run. While she was there, she saw a little boy of around seven in an audio booth with headphones listening to an explanation of how millions of Jews were transported to and processed for their deaths in the Auschwitz gas chambers during World War 11.

In her book Exodus, she wrote, “You shouldn’t be here I wanted to say. You are too young.” Upon further reflection, she observed that there really was such a thing as a small child who needed to be educated about those death camps in order to grow up to be a decent human being.

For a non-Jewish German child, this was the expressed reason for such early and explicit teaching on ethnic hatred and its too often horrifying consequences

For contemporary Jewish parents and their children, as Tablet magazine religion columnist Marjorie Ingall wrote in a column on Holocaust books,  seemingly disregarding what happened 75 years ago ( and for centuries before) because we wish them to be carefree and happy is simply an impossibility.

Really? She asks. We are Jews with a history that hasn’t been carefree and happy. Our children need to know the darker side of what it has meant to be Jewish for so many years in so many places. If we don’t do the educating about anti-Semitism and about genocide, she reminds us, as it is with sex Ed, someone else will do it for us. Certainly by the time our child is eight years old, we should be doing so in a way that is not too graphic, too terrifying to both caregiver and child.

I don’t recall an intentional conversation with any of my own kids when they were elementary school age, or   knowing about any in their public schools or religious education classes: even while having experienced a petrifying incident as a 10 year old myself. I was thrown against a chain link fence by two female classmates and accused of killing Christ.

It is not a matter of us wanting to forget the Holocaust and the virulent loathing of the Jewish people that undergirded it. Those of us who are self-identified Jewish Unitarian Universalists are more than likely to be aligned with the 73 percent of American Jews who ,when surveyed by the Pew Research Center a couple of years back, said that remembering the Holocaust is essential to their sense of Jewishness. We need appropriate materials, as do all parents, that begin to tell the distressing but very real stories of discrimination and annihilation, to teach our kids about our history, as Marjorie Ingall proposes, without scarring them for life.

In light of the recent horrendous, hate triggered , murderous events in Pakistan, Paris and Nigeria, it is both terribly unfortunate and also fortuitous that our own UU Skinner House press has just published  Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree , a  children’s  book written by well- known Jewish author Sandy Sasso, with enticing illustrations by Erika Steisal. Some of the story of the girl, whose diary was key in exposing the evils of the Holocaust to millions of Jews and non-Jews around the world, is told using a clever and effective narrative device. The now famous horse chestnut tree that Anne could see from the attic of her family’s hiding place from the Nazis describes her life before she was taken away to a camp. What happened there, her death from typhus and the obliteration of all of the others who had hidden in that Secret Annex in Amsterdam is not shared. But the humanness of Anne and her sister Margot in particular, the injustice of their treatment, and the trajectory of hatred are vividly conveyed.

As the parent of three grown children now (and a former UU religious education teacher), I wish this book had been available when my school age children were beginning to be aware of the Holocaust and other genocides. This is a book to be read with our children, or by our children, and certainly in group settings where the story of Anne and her family, and of the chestnut tree whose saplings are now planted  in so many places in remembrance and in hope is unfortunately too much needed today.

Rev. Marti Keller is a lifelong, self-identified Jewnitarian, was co-editor of Jewish Voices  in Unitarian Universalism and past president of UUJA

Rev. Marti Keller


Interview with Rabbi Marcia Falk

A piece worth sharing from Lilith Magazine.


A Testimonial

Dana Snyder-Grant has given the UUJA permission to share the following testimonial given March 2014 at First Parish in Concord (MA).


Hello.  My  name is Dana Snyder-Grant.

First Parish has become very precious to me over the last 10 years, and so even though this is scary, I’ve decided to stand up here and talk about four things: being Jewish, being disabled, how Pastoral Care has become a calling, and why First Parish has become a home for me.

I was raised Jewish, and coming to a place many call a church was very scary. First, I felt I was betraying the millions who died because they were Jewish.  I figured that joining a place with deep Christian roots meant I had to leave Judaism behind, or risk rejection.

But that hasn’t been so. First, I can be Jewish and Unitarian Universalist, or, as some call it, Junitarian.  No one here has asked me to give up what it is I value about my upbringing. A few weeks after I started coming here, Margaret Stewart asked me to sing the Chanukah blessings at a service. I love sharing those beautiful melodies.  Soon after, I started the Jewish Awareness affinity group that’s still going on. It’s helped me sort through what Judaism means to me, what I like about it, and what I want to leave behind. And I keep finding this overlap between Judaism and Unitarian Universalism: the natural empathy for the marginalized and downtrodden, the notion that doing what’s right is more important than what you happen to believe, that behind all our diversity, we are one.

I’ve had MS, multiple sclerosis, for more than 30 years. That’s why I look a bit drunk when I walk. Meeting new people is scary because some people like to fit me into a box they have for ‘disabled people’. In all my dealings with First Parish members and staff, you have been welcoming, supportive, and seen me as a person first. (Pause)

Because of my journey with MS, a big part of my social work career has been with people with illness and disability.  After I was invited to talk to the lay ministers about that work, I knew I wanted to be part of their warm, caring circle.  Compared to the counseling I was used to,  pastoral care was more about simply being present with people, using my heart and soul, more than my head.  I know how hard it is to ask for, and accept, help in this culture.  But I’ve learned here that it is a blessing to give and to receive.  Two years ago, I added pastoral singing to my activities, by joining the By Your Side singers, our pastoral care choir.

That’s the most important thing I’m doing in my life.

First  Parish has let me become more myself, by helping me find new ways to express my care, and new confidence that I’m fine just the way I am. I want that miracle to happen for others, and so Jim and I give what we can, with our time and money, and are proud to be members of First Parish.

The Garden of Time – Now Available at the UUA Bookstore

The Garden of TimeThe Garden of Time

By: Jill Hammer Illustrator: Zoë Cohen

Published by Skinner House Books 4/17/14



In this story based on ancient Jewish legend, Adam and Eve walk through the Garden of Eden, noticing what is happening around them and deciding what holidays they will celebrate based on what they see, smell, hear, and taste. Gorgeous text and art illuminate Judaism, the calendar, and the environment for both children and adults.

Includes guides to the Jewish holidays and ancient iconography.

With beautiful images and words, The Garden of Time offers a magical path through the seasons and allows the sacred breath of life to blow through all our souls. Take a walk in the garden; be refreshed and renewed.
—Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, author, The Shema in the Mezuzah: Listening to Each Other

As Adam and Eve discover seasons in the Garden of Time, readers become aware of the universal spirituality and meaning for living within each Jewish holiday. Zoe Cohen’s beautiful paintings, which echo ancient Near Eastern art, invite readers into an ancient paradise that is both magical and deeply rooted in the earth. Rabbi Jill Hammer is a world-class storyteller, helping children and adults to connect their experiences in nature to festivals like Hanukkah and Passover. A wonderful teaching aid, intergenerational and multifaith discussion starter, and perfect holiday gift.
—Rabbi Goldie Milgram, co-editor, Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning

The Garden of Time reveals the cycle and meaning of time, the seasons, and the Jewish holidays in many-splendored ways. Jill Hammer’s poetic, midrashic writing led me to see the passage of time in technicolor and with all my senses and to experience it with a renewed vision and a bountiful appreciation. I enthusiastically recommend this transcendent book as an intergenerational shared story!
—-Peninnah Schram, author, The Apple Tree’s Discovery

Gracefully written and beautifully illustrated, The Garden of Time roots each holiday in its season, in the cycle of nature. In our urban, speeded up, digital lives, nature is often little more than an amusement or an obstacle, and we can forget how integral the seasons are to our cycle of holidays. Jill Hammer’s lilting text and Zoe Cohen’s surprising drawings remind us that the cycle of our holidays is rooted in the cycle of nature. I look forward to reading this book with children in my family and community.
—Arthur Strimling, Maggid HaMakom, Congregation Kolot Chayeinu, Brooklyn, NY