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F PAGE 18A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MAY 22, 2009 s to courtesy of JPS Rabbi Howard Gorin presents members of the Ugandan Jewish Community with JPS Mitzvah Project books~ When the Jewish Publica- yearsagothatJewsservingin only the New Testament as tion Society discovered four the U.S. military were offered their "standard issue Bible." the nonprofit publishing company responded by raising more than $70.000 to send free copies of the JPS Tanakh (an English translation of the Hebrew Bible) to 13,000 Jew- ish servicemen and women. JPS soon began to receive requests for Jewish books from hospitals, prisons, non- profit organizations, and small congregations around theworld. In response, JPS es- tablished the Mitzvah Project Program, sending thousands of free JPS books to commu- nities and organizations in need. Last year, JPS sent more than 500 pounds of books to 11 communities in North and South America, Israel, Europe, Africa, and China. In 2005. Rabbi Howard Gorin of Rockville, Md. vol- unteered to help pack copies of the Tanakh and other books donated by JPS for the Jewish community of Nigeria. After distributing them throughout the country, Gorin commented: "Words, even pictures, cannot capture the emotions. One woman had written me. asking for a Siddur and a Tanakh...When I handed her a paperback Tanakh, she could not control her joy; she actually dida little spontaneous dance." In 2008, JPS celebrated its 120th anniversary. To cel- ebrate the beginning of the next 120 years of service to the global Jewish community, JPS is expanding its Mitzvah Project Program to assist even more underserved communi- ties. Its goal for 2009 is to triple its impact and reach at least 30 communities--such as the Sefwi synagogue in Ghana, the Bnei Menashe in India. and the Seminario Rabinico in Argentina--with at least 2.500 pounds of Jewish books. Reaching these communi- ties is not an easy task. JPS development officer Michael Pomante notes: "In 2005, sending a standard shipment of books to Nigeria cost ap- proximately $25 in shipping fees. Today it would cost us almost $700! Requests for free JPS books currently outnum- ber our resources ten to one. While we have the books to give, we lack the manpower to fulfill orders and the fund- ing to cover costs. In today's difficult economic climate. underserved communities are in need now more than ever. so we are depending on the generosity of donors to the JPS Mitzvah Project us fulfill our mission of making valuable Jewish content avail- able to all." For more information on this program, visit the JPS Web site at www.jewishpub. org or call 1-800-234-3151. ext. 50609. By Ben Harris NEW YORK (JTA) The tale Jill Jacobs tells of the first steps in her journey to becoming one of the most recognizable names in Jewish social justice work has some- thing of a storybook quality. As a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Jacobs recalls having a"vague" social justice sensibility that inspired her to resist the school's insularity. She notes that even the insti- tution's physical structure on the Upper West Side has its "back turned, literally, on the poor Harlem residents to the north and east. "I had very much been taught to be afraid of them." Jacobs said. recalling the warning issued to under- graduates at nearby Columbia University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in 1997. not to venture north of 125th Street. So Jacobs ventured beyond, working with disgruntled tenants by day and poring over Jewish texts by night. curious to see if the rabbis had anything useful to say about such matters. Turned out they did. Nearly a decade later, those early explorations hav led to the recently published "There Shall Be No Needy" (Jewish Lights Publishing), the prod- uct.of years of Jacobs' study of rabbinical teachings on social justice questions and her efforts to bring them to bear on current social policy debates in the United States. But in truth, her gravita- tion toward the rabbinate and social justice work began earlier, as an undergraduate. While attending Columbia she became involved with a now- defunct peer education group called Lights in Action, and upon graduation she stayed on to run the organization. "I was loving seeing the effect when I would teach somebody and they would suddenly connect in a way they hadn't before," Jacobs said. "I kept thinking, 'Oh, I wish I could do this all the time.' And then suddenly I realized that. oh. actually there is a profession that would let do it." So Jacobs enrolled at the seminary, never really expecting that she would follow the bulk of her peers to the pulpit. A chronic overachiever--one seminary colleague describes her as brilliant, the kind of student who aced all her courses. spent her nights working in homeless shelters and still managed to arrive on time for her, appointments--Jacobs earned a master's degree in urban affairs from Hunter College while studying for the rabbinate. She has twice been named to the Forward 50 list of the country's most influential Jews and. in 2008, persuaded the Conservative movement's law committee to adopt her halachic position paper on the living wage after years of effort. Through her teach- ing, speaking engagements and prodigious writing in Jewish publications, Jacobs has become one of the most prominent names associated with Jewish social justice. But at the time of her ordination, the notion of combining the rabbinate with social justice work was an unusual one and Jambs was at the vanguard of a grow- ing trend. Large synagogues now are hiring assistant rabbis to focus specifically on social action--or in the current vernacular. "tikkun olam'--while a host of new or reinvigorated Jewish groups are doing social justice work, including programs geared specifically for rabbis and rabbis-to-be. "On the one hand it feels incredibly gratifying that there's now all these people who are graduating from the rabbinical schools who want to do social justice as rabbis," said J~cobs. 33. the rabbi in residence at the nonprofit Jewish Funds for Justice. "On the other hand, I always feel bad because I don't actually have any jobs to give them. There just aren't that many jobs like this." Though the book, her first, is in part meant as a teaching aid for these rabbis. Jacobs also hopes it will push seri- ous Jews to think about their social obligations and serious Jewishactivists to thinkabout what Judaism has to say about their efforts. What it probably won't do, notwithstanding its erudi- tion, is dispel the suspicions of those on the right, many of whom are skeptical of the burgeoning Jewish social justice movement, seeing it as little more than code for a liberal social program. In "There Shall Be No Needy," Jacobs grounds key planks of the liberal agendau government control of the health-care system, federal Thomas Evans Rabbi Jill Jacobs wants Jews to have "complicated and interesting conversa- tions" about what Jewish values have to say about contemporary social issues. efforts to ensure affordable housing and environmental responsibility, among oth- ers-in the Jewish tradition. What the book does do is provide a useful corrective to what Jacobs describes as the tendency "to slap tikkun olam on everything, or'tzedek tzedek tirdof' ]justice, justice thou shalt pursue], or find the one verse that supports whatever it is that we think." To her credit, Jacobs in- cludes text that doesn't per- fectly jibe with her admittedly liberal agenda, in particular a substantial discussion of the various understandings of the oft-quotedand frequently misunderstood notion of tik- kun olam (literally, "repair of the world"), expanding it significantly beyond its com- mon association with just doing good deeds. I want us "to engage in- ternally in complicated and interesting conversations about text and about how our Jewish heritage and Jewish values might have some im- pact on how we think about a particular issue." said Jambs, who lives in Manhattan. It's a tall order in a com- munity that seemingly has found a useful catchall phrase that seems applicable to just about every conceivable ef- fort to do good in the world, particularly for a soft-spoken rabbi who spends her days in a tiny office at Jewish Funds for Justice. But as one old seminary friend puts it, Jacob's quiet demeanor should not be misconstrued. "It takes getting to know her," said Rabbi Julia Andel- man, "to realize what a pow- erhouse she is." New ra By Julie Gruenbaum Fax Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles Joe Hample left his career as a systems analyst at Wells Fargo five years ago to become a rabbi, hoping to make a dif- ference in people's lives. "When I quit a secure job to run off to rabbinical school, people told me how brave I was. I didn't know what they meant," said Hample, who is 52 and was scheduled to be ordained earlier in May. "But now I know." "Like more than half of his classmates at the Reform movement's Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Hample doesn't have a job. The rabbinate has been hit hard by this recession. Congregations are pulling in less money, and many larger synagogues are goingwithout assistant rabbis, while some smaller congregations have cut solo rabbis to part-time positions. At the same time, more veteran rabbis are hold- ing on to their jobs as retire- ment funds shrink, and some retired clergy are back in the job market. "It's been really tough." said Rabbi Hesch Sommer, director of rabbinical place- ment for the Reform move- ment's Central Conference of American Rabbis. "It's been a really difficult time with this economy and the impact it's had on the Jewish world and congregations, and how that's played out with openings for rabbis." The Reform movement seems to have been the hard- esthitofthe denominations in placing its rabbis. HUC-JIR's three U.S. campuses~in New York, Cincinnati and Los Angeles have placed 17 of the 36 who will be ordained this spring and are looking for congregational positions, a far smaller percentage than is typical at this point in the job placement season. American Jewish University's Conservative seminary, the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, has placed nine of its 12 graduates, and the National Commission that matches new Conservative rabbis with congregations has the same number of job listings this year as it did two years ago, according to ZieglerAssociate Dean Rabbi Cheryl Peretz. who sits on the commission. The nondenominational Academy for Jewish Religion in Los Angeles is optimistic that it will be able to improve on its current numbers. also lower than in previous years. Ten of its 16 gradu- ates rabbis, cantors and chaplains have found work as clergy, and two students are going back to previous careers. At the Orthodox Yeshiva University in New York, the 50 graduates who want to go into the professional rabbinate are looking at awider range of jobs than they mightnormally, but they are finding work, accord- ing to Rabbi Kenny Brander. dean of YU's Center for the Jewish Future. He says that while fewer congregations and schools have job openings, established professionals are not trying to move around in the field, so the competition isn't fierce. The fact that the Reform movement is taking the brunt of the rabbinic job shortage isn't surprising, according to Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. "Historically, Reform con- gregations have suffered most heavily in downturns. For Jews who attend fheir temples rarely, synagogue membership is discretionary and something that they drop in hard times," Sarna said. "In addition, newly minted Reform rabbis have tended to earn higher salaries upon graduation than their Con- servative and Orthodox col- leagues, so it makes sense that they would have a harder time finding employment in hard times." The downturn is hurting the Reform movement on several fronts. HUC-JIR an- nounced that it will close one or two of its U. S. campuses. The Union for Reform Judaism recently began implementing a restructuring that includes consolidating most regional offices into a handful of cen- ters. More than 60 people lost jobs, about a third of them rabbis. Those rabbis are now out pounding the same pave- ment as those who are just graduating. "It seems that there are dozens of applicants for ev- ery job, and those of us fresh out of school are competing Rabbis on page 19A