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Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness2 months ago
UUJA is excited to announce our 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟒 𝐌𝐮𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐫 𝐒𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐲 𝐆𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩 beginning 𝐒𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐲, 𝐉𝐚𝐧𝐮𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝟐𝟏𝐬𝐭 𝐚𝐭 𝟒-𝟓 𝐩𝐦 𝐄𝐒𝐓.
Mussar is a spiritual practice from Judaism to support "learners and seekers who strive to reach our full potential as individuals and as members of our communities" per Alan Morinis from The Mussar Institute. We will be using his book, 𝑬𝒗𝒆𝒓𝒚𝒅𝒂𝒚 𝑯𝒐𝒍𝒊𝒏𝒆𝒔𝒔, as the central text for our sessions, but the readings are never required to participate in a session!

This group will meet on the 3rd Sunday of each month for learning, sharing & discussion.
Click here to Register : https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUscuyvpzwoEtVHg7zwHKFrO3Mn6ZIl-rGt

To learn more, go to www.uuja.org/mussar and view our General Assembly 2023 materials from our "Spiritual Practice of Mussar" presentation.
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness3 months ago
Shabbat Shalom! Join UUs for Jewish Awareness NEXT Friday, December 8th at 8PM Eastern and 5PM Pacific on ZOOM for a Shabbat Service to celebrate Chanukah together. Featuring a homily by Rev. Sam Teitel Minister of the Church of the River in Memphis Tennessee. Register to receive the Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZctduGgrT0sEt3rBbCTCREDtSOspfdB12eT#/registration
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness4 months ago
Join UUJA for a Sharing Circle this Sunday, November 19th at 4:30 pm EST / 3:30 CST / 1:30 pm PST. This will be a circle of lament and healing for us all.

This is not a forum for political discussion, but rather a safe space to share what is on our hearts at this time.

To register, click here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwvf-msrz4vG9KqyHoqwIaoTypOou1Nchwd

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email about joining the meeting.
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness4 months ago
Join us TOMORROW, Sunday October 22nd at 4:30 PM Eastern/ 1:30 PM Pacific for the pilot book discussion on the UUA’s COMMON READ: “On Repentance and Repair” by Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg. Facilitated by Susan Lawrence & Rev. Alison Miller. We are hosting this series of four 90 minute weekly sessions. You do not have to have read the whole book by the first session. Just try to get started. Click the following link to register now: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0pcuCsrD0sHtJODQ8aUN4q0_UZTH8KVC2_#/registration
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness
Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness5 months ago
Dear friends, Shabbat Shalom to all, even in this time of no peace. I repost this thoughtful reflection which is making the rounds on FB:

Ori Hanan Weisberg

People both here and around the world have checked in to ask how I am. I appreciate this more than you can imagine. But it puts me in a bind as to how to respond, beyond to affirm my physical safety and that of my children.
Those of you who know me personally, or even at length virtually, know that I struggle to restrict my responses to such a question to generalities and formalities. On the other hand, I’ve been working over the past year, in the wake of radical upheavals in my personal life, to restrain my openness. Some see that openness as oversharing that overburdens them.
So, responding to this question is challenging.
Yes, it would be correct to say that I’m fine. Because in many senses I am. Especially if we contextualize this with how others are doing. And even in this situation, I try to remember that context, and I try to remember both the morality and usefulness of gratitude. But I don’t always find the strength.
So, for those who want more detail, here it is.
I’m angry. This is of course to be expected. Joe Strummer (because you knew I’d quote him somewhere here) once wrote “let fury have the hour / anger can be power / you know that you can use it.” He was talking about a rather simple situation of resistance. When anger is directed in one clear direction, and it’s righteous, then outrage, literally directing one’s rage outward, can be an antidote to despair and fear. And if directed effectively, can be a powerful force for change, or at least survival. But that’s not where I am. Because I’m angry in so many directions I struggle to find a center on which to stand. In some senses, all of my angers are pulling me apart.
Given this predicament, I want to add a caveat before I particularize them. I am conscious of being in extremis. I may change my view on many of the things I lay out here. I may repudiate them. I may be embarrassed by them. I may be very wrong about some of these things, though explaining to me how I am wrong, even if done with good will, likely won’t help either of us. At any rate, the question “how are you?” is in the present. This is how I am now. A snapshot of the moment.
Yes, I am answering because I know some of you are personally interested, and yes, I am answering because I need to speak, and I live alone, and because I am Ori. But I also know that some have found value (because they’ve told me so) in my openness in sharing my views and experience.
Nonetheless, I’d like you to keep in mind the most important line in the Book of Job. After Job loses everything and is subjected to intense physical and emotional trauma, he cries out to God, demanding an explanation. Three friends gather to discuss how he might continue to believe in a just and good God and the possibility of a just and good world. And they all mean well.
The friend who speaks last, Eliphaz the Temani, holds he most correct position. He’s really smart, even wise. He isn’t simply an orthodox (small ‘o’) apologist for religious dogma demanding fidelity. He probes the problem deeply and calls for a complex subject position and view of God and the world.
God then speaks to Job from out of the whirlwind, before pivoting to the friends, not addressing all three, but speaking directly to Eliphaz.
וַיְהִי אַחַר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶת הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה אֶל אִיּוֹב וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל אֱלִיפַז הַתֵּימָנִי חָרָה אַפִּי בְךָ וּבִשְׁנֵי רֵעֶיךָ כִּי לֹא דִבַּרְתֶּם אֵלַי נְכוֹנָה כְּעַבְדִּי אִיּוֹב.
“And after Hashem spoke these words to Job, Hashem said to Eliphaz the Temani, ‘I am incensed with you and your two friends, because you didn’t speak to me appropriately like my servant Job.’”
God doesn’t commend Eliphaz’s powerful theodicy, one that has provided many later rabbinic theologians – the Rambam (Maimonides) foremost among them (see the discussion of Providence in Part III of the Guide of the Perplexed) – with great intellectual inspiration. He doesn’t say ‘yep, well done Elushkeh, you got it right my brilliant child and your benighted brother Job just needs to listen to you.’ Rather, as the Rambam emphasizes, God rebukes him for being too invested in his own argument and correctness. The great Jewish historian Amos Funkenstein read Job as teaching that we don’t always deserve answers, but we have the right, and even obligation, to demand a hearing. Especially in extremis. Even if we are wrong or lost or broken or. . .angry.
With that in mind, my answer to the question “how are you?”, that I’m angry includes a list of things I’m angry about. In no special order and certainly no hierarchical ranking.
I’m angry at Hamas about the vicious slaughter and widespread trauma they inflicted, gleefully, on so many people.
I’m angry at Israel’s vaunted security and intelligence communities and institutions, whose often appalling moral decisions and violations of rights have been justified with recourse to the necessity for security, for nonetheless failing to keep us safe.
I’m angry at this absurd government led by a man who has time and again placed his own interests and power above duty to country, while posing as a superlative patriot. And has never paid a political price.
I’m angry at his party for clinging to him despite his amorality (or immorality) because doing so has served their own interests.
I’m angry that for years he funneled cash from Qatar to Hamas while posing as the only one who can keep Jews safe. And I’m angry that so many people bought into this. And angry that so many still do. I’m angry that more than 2% of the population somehow doesn’t want him to resign immediately.
I’m angry at everyone who voted for any party in this government who hasn’t apologized for empowering such a group of corrupt and irresponsible chauvinists and zealots.
I’m angry at Hamas for undercutting the struggle for Palestinian rights and lending credence to the caricatures of Palestinians as bloodthirsty savages who just want to kill Jews, which is far from the truth. This will not only cost Palestinian lives in the immediate, but it will also set back their pursuit of justice and dignity by decades. They have alienated hard-won support in the international community. And they have made it harder to stand for their recognition, rights, and justice. Here, in Israel, it makes answering the refrain that ‘they don’t really want freedom, they just want us all dead and gone’ exponentially more difficult. And they have reinforced the flawed attitude that any failure of brutality to subjugate others is evidence of the need for more brutality.
I’m angry at the harm that this will perpetuate for Israel and Israelis, now and in future generations, on so many levels. Dehumanizing themselves and us, dehumanizing us all, plunging us ever deeper into a morass of hatred and violence. There is no security and dignity for Israeli Jews if there is no security and dignity for Palestinian Arabs.
I’m angry at those on the right who are already waving this as vindication of their cruelty and hate-mongering.
I’m angry at those on the left who are celebrating this as valid resistance and a step in the direction of justice.
I’m angry at their glib equivocations that show zero compassion for individual lives.
One cannot seek justice for peoples if one isn’t seeking justice for people.
Justice only comes when we provide safety and dignity for all.
I’m angry at the arrogance of so many privileged people with little knowledge and enormous self-righteousness, who deny their own implication in a global system that has enabled this situation and glory in accusing others, and who celebrate or rationalize this slaughter as just desserts. Especially those who have never stepped foot here, haven’t read a 100th of what I’ve read, who don’t interact and work with Palestinians every day, yet who like to “educate” me about the Palestinian suffering I’ve witnessed, stay abreast of, and seek to alleviate. There is no justice without humility.
My supposed allies on the left in regard to so many causes, including justice for Palestinians, this isn’t about YOU.
I’m angry at those who obscure context and discredit it by calling it justification. Understanding something more deeply and broadly doesn’t mean one thinks it is just. To any and every brutal situation, some will inevitably respond with brutality. Others will not. That brutality is therefore inevitable, but not justified. It doesn’t exonerate someone who decapitates a parent in front of their child. It doesn’t exonerate someone who throws grenades at people who are dancing. It doesn’t exonerate someone who rapes or beats or shoots or bombs others. Systemic and historical analysis does not neutralize moral agency and responsibility. When we fail to attend to either, we are part of the problem.
I’m angry that someone next to whom I sat Shabbat after Shabbat for years in synagogue went to a music festival, had his arm blown off with a grenade, applied his own tourniquet, and now is a hostage in Gaza with no medical attention to his grave injury. And his parents and sisters, like so many others, are living a nightmare.
I'm angry that my youngest child has spent hours with her best friend, keeping her company, while she's overcome with fear for her beloved older brother (they are so close that one of his profile pictures is of the two of them) who was sent to the front.
I’m angry at myself that this is the world and childhood I’ve given my three children.
I’m angry that I did not build a career that would have given me a meaningful role of some sort in this crisis. I’m angry at the reasons I didn’t do so, many of which have to do with an illness I was both born with and that was exacerbated by my experience and failures to overcome it.
I’m angry at my supposed allies here in Israel who have refused to recognize that democracy and dignity for only some is a delusion. In fact, it is democracy and dignity for no one.
I’m angry that my country is filled with creative energy and courage when it comes to technology and the arts, but absolutely devoid of any creativity and courage when it comes to politics.
I’m angry that I once found Israel’s precariousness romantic and thought it provided a more authentic experience of life and greater purity of commitment and affiliation.
I’m angry at the dishonestly partial and propagandistic education that informed those sentiments.
I’m angry at those who have turned my people’s traditions into distorting mirrors of superiority and cudgels of cruelty.
I’m angry that thousands of Palestinian children will be killed and traumatized in the next days and weeks.
I’m angry that my own children’s immediate welfare and that of my people, and the immediate welfare of another people and its children, are now seemingly mutually exclusive.
I’m angry that I don’t currently possess a plausible vision for a better future.
I’m angry that I live by myself and that the nights are very very long.
I’m angry that this week will forever shape my children’s lives, and my own.
And I’m angry that, unlike Job, I don’t have the kind of faith that gives me an address to demand a hearing and express my anger.
So if you’ve read this, you will have to do.
And I’m angry that some who read this will feel pain.

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

website www.revmartikeller.com

Interview with Rabbi Marcia Falk

A piece worth sharing from Lilith Magazine.  http://lilith.org/articles/a-womans-tashlich/


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