Where is God? Wherever you let God in.

Where is God? Wherever you let God in.

– The Kotzker Rebbe

As the Shabbat sun reached far into the west, and the first relief of the afternoon’s heat sighed over Jerusalem, my husband, two young sons and I set out on foot for the Western Wall (the Kotel). Our five year-old son Eli protested leaving the cool air of our hotel room for this place that he did not want to go.

It wasn’t until half-way up the meandering path on a hill that leads to Zion gate that he asked:

“Wait, are we going to the KOTEL?”

I replied: “Yes.”

He said: “I thought you said HOTEL. Oh, the KOTEL… I love that place!” (as though he’d been there before).

Kendra in Israel #3!

Milat Hayom: Shuk

Word of the Day: Market

On Fridays, it is common practice to go to the outdoor market (Shuk) which is called Machaneh Yehudah to do shopping for Shabbat. It is a VERY busy place on Fridays–full of locals and tourist, many birthright participants. There are some great restaurants there also. I went shopping with my friend Ayala last Friday and we got some groceries, challot for dinner, rugalach for seudat shlishit the next day, and some produce. I like to get the kibukim (sometimes called American peanuts) They are my favorite! Luckily I was with a local who told me which vendor to buy them from, because the first place I stopped, she told me, is underneath where the birds perch. Yuck. We had a very nice lunch where we overheard a conversation (in Hebrew, of course) where a guest told the owner, “we came from very far to eat here!” and he asked, “oh really? From where?” they answered a town about 45 minutes away, and the owner said, “that’s nothing! I have people who come from America here all the time!”

Ghosts of Auschwitz

For more on Danny Cohen’s Journey go to: http://www.dannymcohen.com/

As teenagers around the world prepare for group trips to Auschwitz this summer, I am preparing to break a promise. If ghosts exist, I’m not afraid of them. Not any more.

The Nazi crematoria of Auschwitz and Sobibor consumed most of my grandfather’s family.
At Jewish primary school, we sat on the scratchy carpet looking up at an old man who recited otherworldly stories of crowded railcars and forced tattooing and ovens in which his family burned.
At home, if a reference to the Nazi genocide flashed across the television screen, my parents protectively changed the channel. But, alone, I stumbled upon films I shouldn’t have seen in which a mass of undressed men trudged toward false shower rooms and German dogs mauled Jewish children as their mothers screamed.
A shelf in my parents’ dining room held books on Jewish history and heritage. Flung open, they revealed pages of terrifying black and white and sepia photographs. Naked women at the edges of open pits, desperately covering their genitals and breasts with their arms and hands. Skeletal figures, still alive, reaching through barbed wire fences. Open mass-graves.

What is God – Part 5 – You are holy because God is Holy

Let’s start with the question of what it means that something is “holy.” We use this word to describe something that is “other worldly,” not of our material existence, and usually it is applied to something that is worthy of extraordinary consideration, such as reverence or awe. What we label “holy,” then, are experiences that we set apart form the ordinary and mundane.

The Day Anat was Arrested

After hearing Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg speak at the Sisterhood Annual Dinner, I wanted to learn more about the current status of Women of the Wall.

I contacted her and received a generous and interesting response. But as I was reading that email, I stopped short when she described a photograph she had included as “on the day Anat was arrested.” Reading further, she described the next photograph as “with Nofrat Frenkel, who was arrested for wearing a tallit.”

Arrested. For praying.

Kendra in Israel! Blog #2

Milat Hayom: Misibah
Word of the Day: Party

Yesterday was my first full day here. That seems weird since I left home four days ago. It has been really nice to hang out with my friends who live here and be a part of their daily routine. I am staying with close friends of mine from OSRUI, Mara and Josh and their two daughters, Noa and Ella. Noa is almost 3 and goes to Gan just down the street at the Reform Synagogue in Jerusalem, Kol HaNeshema. Josh and I walked Noa there in the morning (well Noa ran most of the way). Jay walking is a serious offense here so when we got to the cross walk and the man is red, he asks Noa, who is that? She answers, Esav (Esau) and when it is green? I thought, Yaakov? (Jacob?) but no, Gumby. Ha!

David Inlander – Reflections on my Audience with Pope Francis

Finally having a chance to catch my breath following a whirlwind trip to Rome, I wanted to share a few thoughts with the congregation about my experience meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican during the last week of June.

I was honored to be a part of an umbrella Jewish organization known as IJCIC, the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation. As the Chair of the Interreligious Affairs Commission of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), I was fortunate to be one of 25 Jewish leaders invited to participate in an audience with the Pope on the 100th day of his papacy. What was especially nice was being able to join the only other Chicagoan in the group, Temple Sholom’s Rabbi David Sandmel, who represented the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center (RAC).

Contemplating Gaspacho – Temple Sholom’s Meatless Monday

Each week in the Temple Sholom E-News blast there is an eco-friendly tip at the bottom courtesy of Temple Sholom’s Eco Chavura – a group that I am so proud and excited to be a part of. Some weeks the tip is more relevant to my life than others, and I have to say the one in the July 1st issue hit particularly close to home. I had to stop and reread it, especially the last line about how much food just being a little more organized can save. If you missed it in the E-News there is the tip for you:

Honor Flight Chicago – Monroe Roth Tells us About an Amazing Journey

When I registered for the Honor Flight, at the suggestion/urging of a very good friend who had taken the flight last year, the form asked for the name, address, and phone number of your spouse/significant other/person-with-whom-you-are living. Additionally, it asked for emergency contact names and their addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. I listed both my daughters, Nancy and Janet. Unknown to me at the time was that they were going to use those contacts for our flight back.

Kendra in Israel! Blog #1

Milat hayom (Word of the day): ivrit (Hebrew)

This past year, every Tuesday when Hebrew school was over I would say to which ever student I was with, ” ok! Now it’s my turn to go to Hebrew school!” And down the street to the cfje ulpan I would go. Inevitably I would get a response from my student along the lines of “what? You still go to Hebrew school even when you’re an adult?” Well, yeah! If you’re me.
I love learning Hebrew and have had a lifelong goal of becoming fluent. I have always felt Hebrew was the universal connection between Jews. It’s the key to understanding our sacred texts, and a way to communicate with any Jew across the globe. Knowing how to read, speak, and write in Hebrew makes me feel like an insider.