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A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology intended for use by community leaders.


Blogs

No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments

A Book Review of No Other Gods: The Politics of the Ten Commandments By Ana Levy-Lyons Published by  Center Street/Hachette 2018 Reviewed by Rabbi Natan Margalit, Organic Torah Originally published in Tikkun Magazine (link) It is evident from the first page that this book is swimming against the current in our contemporary political and spiritual landscape. Author Ana Levy-Lyons tells a story in her preface about how one of her teachers back in high school liked to entertain the kids by listing oxymorons: pretty ugly, jumbo shrimp, etc, and he sometimes ...

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Passover: The Beginning of an Answer to Short-Circuit Thinking

After hearing the speeches given by brave, heart-broken teenagers at the March for Our Lives rallies, my heart can’t help but be broken as well. The plague of gun violence in this country is out of control and, as they have said, “enough is enough!” Yet, invariably, close behind hearing these speeches on the radio or reading about them in the newspaper, I get the balanced reporting about arguments from the pro-gun advocates. These pro-gun arguments invariably center around the idea that if the good guys have more guns and are trained to use them, then we’d all ...

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Purim: The Dangerous Holiday

Purim is a dangerous holiday. That’s probably why we in the Jewish community often trivialize it and pretend it’s just a kid’s holiday where the children dress up like Mordechai and Esther and we eat hamentashen and everyone has a nice time. We may be afraid to see what it is really saying to us. There is a lot of violence in the Purim story: the Scroll of Esther (in Hebrew, Megillat Esther) includes the king forcing his queen, Vashti, to either dance naked or be killed or exiled; there is evil Haman’s threat to wipe out the Jews of Persia; and there is also the ...

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The Magic of Emergence

“The whole is greater than the sum of the parts” is an old adage, but it could be one of the most important keys to a healthy, meaningful life. People yearn to be a part of something. When we are a part of something, we feel whole. When we see how things connect and relate to form a whole, they make sense and resonate: they come alive. In 1973 I arrived at Camp Swig, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Big Basin, California as a shy 15 year old kid from Hawai`i. My parents were New York Jewish intellectuals who moved to Hawai`i when I was a baby. They wanted nothing more ...

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My Green New Year’s Resolutions

I want to be "greener" this year and here are my plans: Resolution #1: Reduce. I am going to buy less — especially those things that have a negative impact on the environment, such as plastic tableware when I have company coming for dinner. I am also going to reduce my energy needs. I am going to wear more layers of clothing at home this winter, for example, so I can lower my thermostat without feeling cold. Resolution #2: Reuse. When we go out to eat, I am going to try to bring my own containers to take home the leftovers. Styrofoam can take hundreds of ...

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The Force of Our Interconnectedness

I just saw the latest Star Wars movie with my family. It was very exciting and entertaining. But beyond that, I've always felt that the amazing popularity of the Star Wars series has been in part because it touches a spiritual nerve in moderns in a way that most of our places of worship only hope to achieve. The central premise of Star Wars is that there is an energy that connects us all, an energy that surrounds and infuses all life and creates the fabric of the universe. When we recognize that inter-connecting energy, when we tap into it, we can harness great power for ...

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Hanukkah: Our Sanctuaries

There is a hymn with a beautiful melody that many Jewish groups have been borrowing from our Christian neighbors in recent years that begins, "Oh Lord, prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true...." The words are also beautiful. The idea that an individual person could be a sanctuary is not foreign to Judaism.  In fact, many congregations use a Hebrew verse from the Torah as a free translation of this line of the hymn: "Ve'asu li mikdash ve'shakhanti b'tokham..." "They will make for me a Sanctuary and I will dwell among ...

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Two Examples, Two Paths

Take a good look at American society today and you see both dysfunctional, shortsighted, thinking, and, if you look, you can see a new kind of thinking that takes the whole picture into account. On the one hand we have the heartbreaking and sickening epidemic of mass shootings that is only getting worse in our country today. You would think that this would now, finally, bring about an awakening to the well documented conclusion that we need better laws to control the number of guns and who wields them. The evidence is clear: The U.S. has many more mass shootings than other ...

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Looking to the Sky, Remembering Our Ideals

by Rabbi Natan Margalit ~Recently, I read an article in the New York Times Magazine that talked about the way that people do or say things, say, supporting a good cause or political opinion, not because they really believe in it, but because they want to signal to their social network that they are virtuous. Apparently, there is a popular new label for this behavior: “virtue signaling.” The author reports that this term is most often used by people on the right against people on the left (“Virtue Signaling Isn’t the Problem. Not Believing One Another Is,” ...

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Old Habits, New Opportunities

We are creatures of habit. Mostly, that’s a good thing. I almost never forget to brush my teeth, close the windows and lock the doors before I go to bed at night. In the morning I can almost sleep walk while I make my favorite breakfast (fried rice, sardines and kale… I know, it’s not a classic breakfast like cereal and milk, or eggs and toast, but I like it and the kids like it, too. My wife, not such a big fan of sardines…) But, as much as those habits help us stay on an even keel, too much habit can keep us from changes that we want to make. As we enter ...

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A New Kind of Community

My family and I just got back from ten days at our annual “dance camp.” This gathering, which has been happening for more than 30 years, is about dancing, but more so, it’s ten days of living like a village in a tight knit, inclusive and caring community. My oldest son had a great summer this year: Jewish wilderness camp, basketball camp, beaches and more. He loved all of them, but he said that dance camp was the best: it was because he got to hang out with a tight group of teens who spent a ton of time together dancing (he’s becoming a great salsa dancer!), ...

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Tree of Knowledge, Tree of Life

My work at Organic Torah starts with asking a question about chochma/Jewish wisdom: Must the Tree of Knowledge be separated from the Tree of Life? The Tree of Knowledge is what we have become used to in much of our Western education—it begins with breaking things apart into smallest components. Our education system is divided into discreet subjects: math, science, English—too often devoid of context and the vibrancy which comes from what Gregory Bateson called “the pattern which connects.” And if we go to college or grad school we might study a “discipline” ...

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Our 2017 (5777) Collection of Earth Etudes for Elul

Introduction by Susan Levine~ Elul is the month before Rosh Hashanah, a time when we review our lives and think about how we will live the coming year. And during Elul this year, we have seen three category 4 hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) wreak havoc in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and several other Caribbean islands. The scientists have blamed increased ocean temperatures for the high winds and rising floodwaters. What other evidence do we need to believe that climate change is real? Our earth etudes actually connect our earth with the spirit of Judaism--Tikkun ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 20 – In the Hands of Billionaires

by Mirele B. Goldsmith, Ph.D.~ Recently I had the opportunity to hear a presentation about the UN Sustainable Development Goals by Jeffrey Sachs, the world’s best-known economist. Sachs emphasized that poverty and climate change are interrelated. He focused on the financial cost of a “just transition” to a world of decent livelihoods and renewable energy for all. Sachs explained that the cost of this transition could easily be financed if the world’s 2,043 billionaires contributed a mere 3% of their annual income. I find this analysis to be very encour...

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Earth Etude for Elul 17 – Spiritual Charity and the Tale of Two Seas

 by Rabbi Ziona Zelazo~ This post emerged during a summer stay in Israel. I heard the story from my friend Dalia, about her nephew, who got killed in a terrorist attack. In his death he donated his organs to save lives. And so he already enabled a man to regain his vision with the donated retina. I was thinking how amazing it is to be able to give to others. But in particular, I was thinking that there is no one way to give to others. People can choose to be givers in many shapes and forms. And here is another Israeli hint for the idea of giving: There are two ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 13 – Displaced Trash

by Nicci Meadow Misplaced anger causes me to displace trash from where I find it to another place where it ought not to be; Then, picturing it clearly, startles me, helping me to see what I too have become, acting out unintentionally or carelessly. Not very Jewish or Buddhist of me. It's time for a change.   Nicci Meadow is a mother, artist-photographer, "do-gooder" and seeker.  www.niccimeadow.com.

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Earth Etude for Elul 11 – The Shemittah Cycle

by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin~ Do you know where this new year falls in the shemittah (seven-year) count? Or when the next shemittah year will be? Even those of us who were deeply engaged in celebrating the last shemittah year may have difficulty remembering if it was 2 or 3 years ago. (It was 3 years ago – 5775, 2014-2015.) Yet shemittah, like Shabbat, is more than a slice of time. It is a presence, always with us. It is a practice, an attitude, a social, economic and spiritual ethic that guides our lives. In the biblical era, this was evident, and the air of the ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 10 – I Can Do Something

by Joan Rachlin~ I recently retired and have since been immersed in climate change related activities. I once heard it said that most working folk are "denatured," so one of my post-retirement goals has been to “renature.” With this kavannah in heart and mind, I have been trying to more actively appreciate the boundless gifts nature offers us daily. Most specifically, I’ve begun to notice, appreciate, and more consistently support those who produce the food that sustains my family and me. Through the physical labor of farmers we are given the gift of nourishm...

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Earth Etude for Elul 9 -Natural Awe and Artistic Representations

by Rabbi Steve Altarescu~ When we stood at Mt. Sinai, the mountain was described as ablaze with fire and the people heard the sound of God from out of the fire but did not see any form or shape. We learn that since we experienced God without a form or shape it would be wrong for us to make a likeness, a resemblance of anything in nature. Why does Moses repeat this prohibition four times? For the Torah there is power to an image, whether it be a sculpture, a painting or any other art form that stands in contrast to feeling the power of God. For me, there is a ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 8 – Where Are We Now?

by Rabbi Dorit Edut~ These narrow, dark  cobblestone streets still echo with the click-click  of  many shoes, sandals, boots…. of the modern tourists, flamenco dancers and local yuppies who now populate  these gentrifying neighborhoods  where  once there stood a Jewish ghetto – Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, Granada… Small tiles with the words” Chai” in Hebrew or the Menorah symbol can be found scattered on the sidewalks. A Magen David is discovered above a balcony window, etched in the stone wall. The synagogues are now museums or churches or convents. Even ...

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