JFSA LGBT group voice heard ’round the world

This summer, 150 gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Jews from around the world gathered in Winnipeg, this year’s host city for the 21st World Congress of GLBT Jews, held July 5 to 7. Attendees represented more than 15 countries, including the United States, Canada, England, France, Israel, Argentina and Mexico.

The experience of being together to learn and to celebrate Shabbat with other LGBT Jews from around the world was so powerful. To know that we are not alone; we are not isolated — we truly have a global voice.

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SHUK 2012 – TOPICS

JEWISH BELIEF IN THE 21ST CENTURY: WHERE DO YOU BELONG?
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Senior Rabbi, Temple Emanu-El
Host, The Too Jewish Radio Show with Rabbi Sam Cohon and Friends
What do you really believe about Judaism?  Where do you fall on the philosophical and theological spectrum?  There are many more choices than you might imagine…In the crucible of international trauma, the 20th century saw an array of new approaches to Jewish belief emerge, some based on very ancient ideas and others completely new.  Explore the different and dynamic ways that modern Jews began to approach a new way of understanding their great tradition by engaging with the dynamic world of philosophical and sociological trends swirling through the western world’s most tumultuous century.  In the 21st century these ideas have been integrated into prayerbooks, curricula, and institutions.  But what do they mean for each of us? We will investigate Jewish existentialism and the dramatic ideas of Franz Rosenzweig and Martin Buber (“I and Thou” remains the best-selling work of Jewish philosophy ever), explore the poetic empiricism of Abraham Joshua Heschel, and seek to understand what Mordechai Kaplan meant by “reconstructing” Judaism.  Find your own place in this vibrant marketplace of great Jewish ideas!

CAN HATE LEAD TO HEALING?  IF YOU MEET AN AMALAKITE (HAMAN) ALONG THE WAY ... WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Rabbi Robert Eisen, Congregation Anshei Israel
With approach of PURIM, and the ever-present Haman (an Agagite – Amalekite) the question needs to be asked once again: If you were to meet an Amalakite (Haman) along the way ... what would you do? The Torah states (Deuteronomy 25: 17, 19): Remember what Amalek did to you … You shall blot out the remembrance of Amalek ... do not forget. Pogo said: We have met the enemy... and he is us". Can they both be right? Why does the Torah charge us with such a MITZVAH? Can’t we just forgive and forget? Who is the Amalakite about which the Torah speaks? … why should I care?

 MASQUERADING AND DRINKING ON PURIM: MEANINGFUL OR DISTASTEFUL?
Rabbi Ben Herman, Congregation Anshei Israel, Director of Congregational Learning
You might be familiar with the traditions to wear masks and costumes, perform purim shpiels and drink until one cannot tell the difference between Haman and Mordechai.  Some of you might even partake in these traditions.  What is interesting to note is that none of them have a basis in the Story of Esther.  Where did these customs come from?   What do our sages have to say about them?  Are they things that we should emulate or should we do away with them?  This class will look at the historical basis for these customs and examine traditional rabbinic sources. 

TRACHT GOOD VEN ZAYIN GOOD  [a Yiddish teaching] THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING
Rabbi Billy Lewkowicz, Tucson Hebrew Academy
It is taught that a positive thought has a more powerful effect on the soul than a negative thought. Why are one’s words and thoughts so powerful? How does one bring joy, harmony, inspiration, peace and success in our lives on a daily basis when there is so much confusion and limitation? How does one create the practices and conditions for expressing the inner potential of one’s soul?  Today there is a desperate search to find the key to overcome anxiety, anger, and depression; to master those negative feelings which incapacitate thousands of intelligent, capable individuals, and drain the joy of life from many others. By looking into the teachings of Jewish mysticism and Chasidic teachings, discover an awareness that can enhance one’s inner joy and become the positive person we seek to be. In this class we will also explore the Torah perspective on the popular book ''The Secret''. How do our thoughts affect the future?

WHAT IS RENEWAL JUDAISM?
Rabbi Shafir Lobb, Congregation Kol Simchah
What is renewal all about and how is it different from Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist?  What is a denomination and what is a movement?  Who is Jewish, who decides and what does all that mean?

THE DEVIL AND MRS. JONES: DO JEWS BELIEVE IN SATAN?
Rabbi Tom Louchheim,  Congregation Or Chadash
Satan appears as a proper character only once in the Hebrew Bible. In the Book of Job he is depicted as an angel who mocks the piety of a righteous man named Job. References to "satan" can be found in some Orthodox and Conservative prayer books. Early rabbinic statements in the Mishna and Talmud show that Satan played a role in early Jewish theology.  In Christianity, the concept of Satan is the amalgamation of both Jewish and Greek descriptions of evil. Explore with Rabbi Louchheim the fascinating role of Satan in Jewish thinking.

THE WEEKLY AMIDAH:  CONNECTING US TO GOD AND GROUNDING US
Lynn Saul, Congregation Bet Shalom – Adult Education Chair
The weekday Amidah, or Shmoneh Esreh, differs from the Shabbat (and festival) Amidah in that its center is a collection of blessings of request, or petitionary prayers, in which our conversation with God reflects our specific concerns about everyday life.  Many modern Jews are not as familiar with these powerful prayers as they might be.  Our session, focusing on the Hebrew text and English translations as well as traditional and modern commentaries, will help those who do not regularly pray on weekdays as well as those who do to better understand and appreciate the beauty and significance of the Shmoneh Esreh.

ELECTION 2012
The One Percent - Distribution and Redistribution of Wealth
Rabbi Yossie Shemtov, Congregation Young Israel Chabad House
BIO: Rabbi Yossie Shemtov is the Regional Director of Chabad of Tucson and spiritual leader of Congregation Young Israel of Tucson.

MOURNING AND MITZVAH
Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, Congregation Chaverim Devorah Morris Coryell, The Shiva Foundation. “Time to us is a measuring devise rather than a realm in which we abide”. (A.J. Heschel)  In grief, we abide in time.  How can we live “in time” after loss?  How can we structure that time so that we honor our grief without having our lives ultimately consumed by it?  Honoring the halacha (Jewish law) set forward by our ancestors, we follow the timeline for grieving including the cycle of “firsts” that follow a loss – the first day (onen), the first week (shiva), the first month (sheloshim) and the first year (kaddish) – as well as the lifelong yizkor and yahrzeit.  What can we learn from the religious rituals surrounding these times that can be translated into the modern world?