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March 22, 2013

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 22, 2013 PAGE 5A By Shai Franklin bestandagenda-drivenatworst, of New York'S needy Jews live in Personally, I wish social critics Brooklyn.TheaverageOrthodox NEWYORK(JTA)--Probably would look elsewhere for their family, including those living in no more thanthetop 10percent ideological ammunition and the suburbs and on Manhat- of Brooklyn's Orthodox Jews leave us alone, tan's swank West Side, lives on will ever shop at Pomegranate, Brooklyn now has enough a tight budget, andthat4ncludes the luxury kosher supermarket upper-middle-class Orthodox many of those 10-percenters. recently featured by The New Jews that a gourmet mega- They struggle to keep up with York Times columnist David market like Pomegranate can household bills, yeshiva tuiti6n Brooks in a column titled "The be an overnight success. But as for their numerous children, Orthodox Surge:' in general society, and maybe support for community needs Brooks chose the upscale more so, the upper straturfi is andextravaganceslikeanyother kosher version of Whole Foods just cream floating on a sea of American. as the fulcrum of an admiring working-class and working- By extolling the "trendy" piece on Orthodox Jewish life in poor parents struggling to get minority of Orthodox Jews, America, writingoftheOrthodox through eachweekand blessing Brooks not only misrepresents "sense of collective purpose" and the Almighty for each day. who most of us are andwherewe the "external moral order" that The average Orthodox Jew in . are headed as a community. He governs Orthodox Jewish lives. Brooklyn cannot afford Pome- also reinforces the peer pressure It's nice of Brooks to give Or- granate, and thousands each so many already feel to keep pur- thodox Jews some positive press week rely on food pantries suingthatbrassringratherthan after so many scandals within stockedbyorganizationslikethe owningour materiallimitations our community and amongMetropolitan Council on Jewish andimbuingthemwithsanctity other religious denominations. PovertyandSephardicBikurHo- and purpose. But his praise is misguided at lim. Approximately two-thirds Behind Brooks' column is the notion that if people are successful in their careers and fortunes--say, enough to afford fancy meatsandartisanal kosher cheeses--then they must be worthy of admiration and emu- lation. Had Brooks asked Pome- granate's owner, he might have hear d about how he provides food every week to the community's free kosher restaurant for those without cash to spare. The well-heeled Orthodox have every right to spend where they like, and they probably donate more than most of their non-Orthodox and non-Jewish peers. And most of them are decent and devoted. But so are most Americans. Maybe we pray three times a day, put on tefillin (at least the men), and educate our children in the tradition and laws of our Jewish heritage. This, howeger, does not mean a By Elizabeth Levi wouldchangenotonlymylifebut temple--ones that were not Judaism.Shewastheinspiration my whole congregation in ways weird or unwanted but rather that made me a Jew. The following is the w'~ner o~ no one could anticipate, improved our community and As I became a teenager, she the Women of Reform Judaism My congregation prides itself our Judaism. She began to lead became the temple's youth CentennialEssayCompetition. on being "the oldest Reform our congregation using her group adviser. In 10th grade, I CHARLESTON, S.C.(JTA)--I Jewishsynagogueincontinuous strongvocalstospiceupaservice was elected the youth group's cried when I found out our new useintheUnitedStates."Inother and making sports analogies in religious and cultural vice rabbi was going to be a woman, words, we like tradition, we love many of her sermons. She wore president--a job that entails I was in ninth grade and did not oursanctuaryandweareallone akippah, whiterobesandtallitto creating services for youth like the thought of change. She big farhily. Our previous rabbi keep humble, yet demanded the events. In the beginning, I had would change all of our congre- had served our congregation respect any man would receive no idea what I was doing. But gation's traditions. She would since1992.Hewastheonlyrabbi on the bimah, luckily I had a loving adviser to not have the same endearing I had ever known and thus the She proved herself worthy of teach me. She knew everything voiceasourpreviousmale rabbi, only one I really cared for. ourcommunity'slovewithinthe about a service: She helped me Shemustbeweird:Whatkindof When he retired, I was not first two months of her arrival, putittogether, inspiredmetobe womanwouldwant to be a rabbi too keen to see a big change. I Now she has become part of the original and provided me with anyway? expected our congregation to foundation of our community. I the tools necessary to succeed Four years later, the woman choose another man very simi- cannot imagine our synag6gue without her assistance. I loathed in one moment would l'ar to the rabbi I had grown up without her vital presence. Over the course of two years, be the same woman I strive to with--onealittleolder, liberalin Growing up with a gentile I would find myself leading be like every day. She would be hisreligionandcompletelyopen- mother, my synagogue has services for our youth and our the woman who helped Shape minded.Therabbitheychosedid played a leading role in my Ju- community.Learningfromboth myJudaism, myleadershipabili- not quite meet my criteria, daism. Thus, before our female myadviserandmyrahbi, Iwould ties and myself as an individual. Our new rabbi was awoman rabbi came along, the main betheonegivingsermonsonthe She would become one of my inhermid-30s.Hersermonshad Jewishwomaninmylifewasour bimah--I would be thewoman friends---someoneItextedevery me,hanging on every word she temple song leader. She taught leading our temple's worship. so often, someone who helped spoke. Shewas more traditional me Jewish songs, prayers, tradi- NowIrealizemycongregation me through life's difficulties, in her religious practices than tions and values. I looked up to reliesheavilyontheleadershipof someone I cared for as if she our previous rabbi, yet similar 'her. Shewas the Jewish mother women.Ourb'naimitzvahcoor- were family, in her open-mindedness. She Iwantedtobecome.Shewasthe dinator is awoman, our temple Four years later, that woman brought new traditions to our spiritthatallowedmetoenjoymy educator is awoman, our rabbi, I that general society is morally bankrupt. Are secular Americans less worthy or less serious than their religious compatriots? Are all Orthodox Jews, or most adher- ents of any religious doctrine, more moral or trustworthy than others? Many of my fellow Orthodox Jews are proud and flattered by Brooks' praise, but what is he praising? It's the equivalent of being interviewed on TV and toldyour tie looked perfect.What about the substance beyond a truly magnificent store and the standard-issueminivan?Byplay- ing the prosperity card to prove our moral superiority, Brooks actually undermines that claim. The holiest Sabbath chulent stew I've ever tasted, more than 25 years ago, did not contain the: requisite red meat but rather chicken parts. A struggling family that couldn't even afford a couple pounds of flanken was nevertheless hosting college students for a meal.whenshared withguests, these meager fixings express the genuine meaning of Shabbat hospitality and the Divine presence.Andyet, Brooks judges Orthodoxy's success by how those with the means choose to spend their disposable income. The value of the Jewish way of life is in our ethics and not our prices. This is most readily evident among those with little money or power. We extol the observance of mitzvah.s---reli- gious commandments--with elegance, but not with eXtrava- gance. Shai Franklin has served in execu~e capacities with several national Jewish organizations. woman or a our youth adviser and our music coordinatorall are women. These women are the foundations ofmy community. They are the ones who have influenced not only my Judaism but the Judaism of the rest of our temple youth. They are the people providing our community with love, strength and spirituality. They are the ones instilling Jewish values in ouryouth, ourcongregationand our entire community. The women leading my syna- gogue are the core of our temple. They are the ones who push us toward new directions, yet refuse to let us forget the lessons of our past. These women play a vital part in not only the continua- tion of my congregation but of Judaism as a whole. Without them, the Judaism I know and love would not be possible. I am thankful for the women leaders in my community be- cause now I am one of them. As the president ofmyyouth group, it is my responsibility to instill in the group the values that these women have instilled in me. It is my responsibility to inspire, to teach, to love the way I wfis taught by the women of my community. It's funny to think that four years ago I was upset by the thought of a woman rabbL But why did I doubt this woman's ability to lead 'a community? Why did I doubt her abilities to teach Torah, to serve as a role model, to guide our commu- nity's spirituality? Maybe it was because of ignorance or fear of change. Maybe it was because I doubted myself. I now know that the women of my community are part of its strength. I take pride in these women--in their leadership abilities, their spin.'tuality and their open-mindedness. And I hope that one day, I, too, will be able to inspire people as these women have inspired me. Elizabeth Levi, a senior in high school, is a member of Congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth E lohim in Charleston, S.C., and of the NFTY Southern Area Region. By Jacob Price This article was the winning entry in NFTY's 2013 Wen@ Blickstein Memorial D' var Torah competition. CINCINNATI (JTA)' ' What do you do when you get up in .the morning? You probably have a morning ritual that you could do with your eyes closed. Take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast and make your way off to school without a second thought. Parshat ~Tetzaveh describes the specialized clothing that Aaron and his sons were to wear for their roles as priests. When I read it, I thought it was very interesting that their clothes were described in such elaborate detail. Why was their appearance so important? And although therewas detailed description of all the priestly garb, two specific items, the ephod and breastplate, were explained in mhch greater detail than the rest. The ephod is said to have "... two lazuli stones engraved on them the names of the sons of Israel: six on one stone and six on the other stone ..."_Those stones were to be placed on the shoulders of all the priests. But why the sons of Israel? Why not use two of God's names, say, perhaps Adonai on one shoulder and Elohim on the other? That way, no matter which way he turned, he would see a name of God and know to whom he dressed for work, he saw those that we are the future of the was offering sacrifice. Instead' names all over his garments. Jewish people. with these priestly garments, That clothing reminded him I remember last year, sitting the priest sees the names of the of his larger purpose. And in the back of the room at the children of Israel, the names of therefore, his morning ritual URJ biennial listening to Presi- the people right in front of him, could not have been automatic dent Barack Obama. He turned as he does his holy work. or mundane. When he puts on to our seatsand gave NFTY a Thesamenamesarealsotobe the ephod and breastplate, he shout-out. That was an amaz- engravedonthebreastplate that is forced to remember why he ing experience, but what he said Aaron is to "carry over his heart, is getting up and that his work afterward really stuck with me. as a remembrance before the is important. "Youngpeoplearegonnalead eternalatalltimes.'AsIreadthat The Cohanim, or priests, are the way, and they are leading verse, the word"remembrance" no longer the sole leaders of the the way," he said. (Obama, URJ lingered with me. What was the Jewish people. In fact. we would Biennial. 2011) priest supposed to remember? come tobe known asakingdom We are leading the way, just Everywhere Aaron looks he of priests, a holy nation, as Aaron and thepriests led the sees the children of Israel: to From this we learn thatpeople of Israel thousands of the left or right, sitting on his everyone has the opportunity years ago. We are the Aarons of shoulders, down, resting on his to make a contribution to our our generation, chosen by God heart, and before him, in the community. There is no greater but acting on our own. people themselves. Godwanted evidence of that than in NFTY. It is time for us to p~t on to make sure that the priest Justbybeingherethisweekend. our ephod and breastplate. I would always know why he was you have all shown your dedica- am not suggesting the physical performing the rituals. God tion to Am Yisrael, the people of garmentsdescribedinTetzaveh. chose him to be the messenger Israel.Whetherwearerunninga but instead to shape our own to God, but the message comes Purimcarnivalfundraiserinour metaphoric ephod and breast- from the rest of the Israelites. localTYGsorrunningatikkun plate.Weeachneedtocreateour The priests are to serve their olamprogram, wearethefaceof own ritual thatwill remind each people, even while they are of- allNFTYa~dtheJewishpeople, of us of the reasons thatwe are fering sacrifices to God. Aaron When adults look at us they see NFTYites and why we are Jews. issupposedtorememberthathe themselves. They see their past This could be anything, from is doing everything he does for and a bright future. It is our saying the Sh'ma when you the people of Israel. In addition, job to lead throbgh example, to awake or kissingyour mezuzah when the Israelites look upon reflect what we want others to when you walk out the door. Aaron as he stands before them, see not only in ourselves but in It could be reciting a favorite they see their names and know the Jewish people, verse of the Bible or wearing a that he is doing all that he does That'salotofresponsibilityfor yarmulke. for them. This remembrance is abunchofteens, but we always Whatever it is, add it to not only for the priest, but also putourbestfootforwardandtry the ritual that you do every for the people, to have before us an imaginary morning, so that you remem- Aaron's morning ritual must ephod and breastplate, remind- ber that you are leading the have memat a lot to him. As he ing us thatwe always serve, and Jewish people and that your work is important. That way, wherever yod lookinto the face of a friend, the needs of a stranger or even in the mirror--in every direction you might look, you will see the reasons thatyou care and, perhaps, even glimpse the presence of God. r'1 THE ONE WHO OION'T Ef,/OL H TO THIf,/K TO ASK THE Jacob Price, a junior in high school, is a member of the Isaac M. Wise Temple in Cin~ti and a member of the NFTY Ohio Valley Region. Translations were taken from "The Torah.'A Modern Commentary, "Revised Edition, Union for Reform Judaism. VVA5 THAT A JOTE ROM: