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March 28, 1980     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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March 28, 1980
 

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Page 6, HERITA6E, Florida Jewish News, March 26, 1960 Reform Ordains First Sabra Rabbi by Judy Siegel Jerusalem Post Reporter Though he doesn't look like one, Mordechai Rotem is a pioneer. With his trimmed beard, kippa, traditional prayer shawl and the Hebrew sermons he delivers to his Haifa congregants every Friday evening and Shabbat morning, it seems hard to believe that last week he became the first Reform Rabbi to be ordained in Israel. The Reform Judaism this 32-year-old Sabra professes is an interesting hybrid alien to the secular soil of America but one that he hopes will flourish in Israel. Son of a Polish-born father and a Russian-born mother who were "symbolically traditional" and observed kashrut but did not send him to a religious school, Rotem first decided to become a Reform rabbi after spending six months in Los Angeles as part of the Reform movement's international exchange programme. "The principles of Reform attracted me, but not the way they were implemented in America. I didn't want to wait until it flowered in Israel," he recalls, "sol decided to give it a push." After studying at the Reform Leo Baeck School in Haifa, completing, military service, and receiving a B.A. in Bible and Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, he simultaneously began studies for his M.A. at the university and rabbinical studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem. As the first rabbinical student in the programme--there are five more Israelis in the pipeline--Rotem was often the only student in the room with his professor. He studied Jewish philosophy and history, the development of the Reform movement, Halacha, Bible, Talmud, psychology, human relations and sermonics. The students themselves insisted on more traditional Jewish subjects. Rotem has no doubt that he knows more about Halacha than HUC rabbinical students in the U.S. But he concedes that he is less erudite in the Talmud than an. Israeli yeshiva student. Although he officially received his Reform ordination last week, to the 250 families at the Or Chadash congrega- tion in Haifa, he has been "'the rabbi"- for several years. Rotem, who married an Israeli and has a seven-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter, cannot perform marriages recognized by the State, just like other Reform rabbis in Israel. But he has nevertheless performed four weddings so far for couples who "went through the motions" with a ceremony at the local rabbinate, and FIRST REFORM Sabra Rabbi, Mordechal Rotem, shown with young congregants at the Torah. asked for an additional ceremony afterward at which Rotem officiated. He maintains that the marriages he performed "were according to Halacha, except that the tcctuba (Jewish marriage contract) is reworded so that there is mutual obligation, and not just the obligation of the man to the woman. At one of the weddings, the couples asked that the bride, as well as the bridegroom, recite the words, "You are consecrated to me..." The young rabbi concedes that "it was strange to me, but I agreed because it was important to them." He is flexible about such things, but would never agree--unlike some Reform rabbis abroad--to marry a non-Jew to a Jew (a "repulsive" act), or participate in a wedding while the couple parachute to the ground, climb a mountain or snorkel under the sea, as some offbeat Reform rabbis have. He, like other Reform rabbis, would marry a Jewish man of priestly descent to a divorcee. "The Biblical prohibition against it doesn't belong to the 20th century," he insists. Rotem also welcomes the idea of women rabbis. He doesn't believe that there is life after death, or divine reward or punishment of souls after the death of the body. "The reward and punishment should be in this world," he suggests. I wish it were in the next world, but I'm not convinced that such a thing exists." His kitchen at home is "strictly kosher," but Rotem drives, writes and strikes a match and turns on the lights on the Jewish Sabbath, and drives to services on Friday night and Saturday morning instead of mal hour walk. Shabbat, for the Rotem family, means reciting Kiddu.sh over wine, singing from profane daily tasks CI didn't even rabbinical courses on Shabbat because it but also driving to relatives and friends an, During'the week, Rotem prays when spiritual need to do so." Until a new Israeli book appears, Rotem uses a traditional congregation but leaves out mention of dead, sacrifices in a rebuilt Temple, and rejected by Reform. Women are not separated at Or Chad are called up to the Tora. "About 25 women," he estimates, "actually go rest decline, he explains, "because the that it was wrong for to do so." The sermon is a "maj Haifa. "1 like them to leave with some In the meantime, Rotem hopes his tion--one of a dozen around Israel--will the money to built a synagogue on the them by the Haifa Municipality. He establish a Reform kindergarten for its you( "There is a need for more Reform rabbis are places for them" asserts Rotem, adding many more Israeiis will follow in his Union College ordination in Jerusalem. /cashes f,i P *leer KAH-shess, meaning the "four questions" asked at the Passover Seder. --from the 3-FLAGS dictionary of Yiddish words and phrases During the Seder, the cup is filled for the second time, and the youngest in the company asks: Wherefore is this night distinguished from all other nights? On all other nights we may eat either leavened or unleavened bread, but on this night only unleavened bread ...' on all the other nights we may eat any species of herbs, but on this night only bitter herbs.., on all the other nights we do not dip even once, but on this night, twice.., on all the other nights we eat and drink either sitting or leaning, but on this night we all lean. This is a different night. This is the night of Passover, when we remember our forefathers flight from oppression in Egypt anl the beginning of freedom. Oh, that our ancestors could have made that flight on a set of new MICHELIN radial tires. How they would have enjoyed the soft, economical comfort of that ride. And how well the MICHELIN radials would have withstood the hot sands of the desert. During your Seder this year, as you retell the story of Passover, remember the fir kashes and why this night is so different. And afterwards, think of you, your family and your car. Think how you can provide them all with the safety, economy and comfort of MICHELIN radial tires from 3 FLAGS TIRE CENTER. Then, come in and see us! Until then, we at 3 FLAGS wish you all a VERY HAPPY PASSOMERf See the Tire Professionals at 00TIRE CENTER COM PLETE AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE CENTER QUALITY BANDAG RETREADS =LEET SERVICE Tires Alignment Suspension Brakes 295-7O63 Israel Radio Shortwave to North News & Features in English, direct from From March 2 to May 3, 1980 All Times Are EASTERN STANDARD TIME 7:00- 7:30 a.m. on 17.560, 17.61 5, 25.640 MHz. 3:00- 3:30 p.m. on 11.610, 17.645 MHz. 5:30- 6:00 p.m. 7:00- 7:30 p.m. on 9.815, 11,637, 15.582 MHz. 8:00- 8:25 p.m. 9:00-9:25 p.m. on 9.815, 11.637, 15.105, 15.582 MHz. Midnight - 12:15 a.m. on 11.637, 15.105, 15.415 MHz. 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