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American Guild of Judaic Art New Vision. New Website. New Year. This new “virtual” home for the Guild was created by dedicated  members from all over the country with different talents and skills, who worked diligently to make the site easy to use, informative and—most importantly—the best venue to display AGJA members’ art.  I stand...

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Neshama Interfaith Center Marian Monahan, a founder of the Neshama Interfaith Center, speaks in the voice of a prophet. She preached these words on Mother's Day at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, and has graciously allowed me to share them here: Those of you who know me are aware that I'm quite involved in the interfaith...

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Encountering Angels: Reading Genesis with my Children In this book, my children and I blend traditional Jewish learning and personal experience in our commentary on Genesis, making it unlike any other book written about the biblical text and rabbinic literature related to Genesis.  Like most books of biblical commentary written by rabbis, it examines the text through the...

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Pamela Jay Gottfried is an ordained rabbi, teacher, mother, and self-described wordie. An inveterate Scrabble player and New York Times Crossword Puzzle fanatic, she credits her love of words to her third grade teacher and her parents, who encouraged her to develop her vocabulary through reading and using the dictionary...

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Let There Be Light

From the narrow place of despair I cried to You…

It was inevitable. We discuss the events of the day around the dinner table. There was no way to avoid telling our son, who turns thirteen this week and assumes the obligations of Jewish adulthood. One of those obligations, surely, is sharing in the repair of this broken world.

There was no way to avoid telling him that three more souls were taken by force. There was no way to avoid telling him about the senseless violence, the suffering, the sorrow in this broken world.

I turned to my spouse, who so evenly explained what had happened, carefully articulating what details we knew to be accurately reported. Grateful that he stepped into the breach, I told him of my despair.

What does making friends in different faith communities accomplish? What good is it to bake bread and brew coffee, and make prayer beads and praise the Maker of Peace in the Universe? What words and deeds of compassion can counteract such hostility?

He was quick to remind me that every single act of kindness, every single moment of connection, matters. He offered me a lifeline, pulling my faltering faith toward a wide-open space, where it has room to grow.

Suzanne Barakat shines a light on the essence of her brother: “He was happy in everything that he did. He made it light.” She reminds me that, even in the narrowest place of despair, there is still room for the light.

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Travel-blog

Who would’ve thought this NYC girl would enjoy being an itinerant rabbi in the southeast?!

This month’s post on the Rabbis Without Borders blog is a brief reflection about my weekend in Huntsville, AL. Read about what I learned from the Etz Chayim community and share your thoughts about what smaller congregations can do to remain vibrant!

rwb_logo196On the Other Side of the Mountain: Having opted to leave the Interstate and take the shortest route, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find myself traveling over mountains and across the Tennessee River on a winding State Highway. But I had no idea… Read more →

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Progress Report

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2015 reading challenge januaryI’m almost finished with #7!

At first, I was dubious when my daughter invited me to join her in POPSUGAR’s 2015 Reading Challenge. The shift from skeptic to believer took less than an hour.

“You’re taking this so seriously,” she comments at dinner, after receiving several emails from me with links to lists of potential reads.

I have diligently copied titles for “a book more than 100 years old” and “a book that came out the year you were born.” She’s already decided to reread Harry Potter, but I have to do some research to find books published in 1966, and I must consult my high school friend about “a book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t.” Lisa has a better memory than I do; I only vaguely recall, with lingering anxiety, writing essays about Jude the Obscure and Heart of Darkness before finishing them.

“Too bad I can’t count this month’s book club selection, because I read it in December,” I tell her. “I’m skimming it to prepare for this week’s discussion.”

“I think you can count it,” she reassures me. “It’s not like you’re cheating on a test. This is just supposed to be fun!”

“It is fun,” I insist. I admit I’m taking it pretty seriously, too.

I’m not sure why I’m so serious about this challenge. I’m not especially competitive, nor am I a meticulous record-keeper, though I do enjoy a certain satisfaction at crossing off items on my to-do lists. An avid reader, I average a book per week, so the quantity isn’t particularly challenging.  While during the week I am usually swamped with work-related reading, on Friday evenings I curl up with a novel and the Sabbath truly becomes a “taste of the world to come,” as it’s known in rabbinic tradition.

The greater challenge, for me, lies in the variety of categories. This requires planning, since I usually stick to my favorite genres.  So I spent the better part of the first week of January engrossed in researching the categories, logging in to Goodreads repeatedly, scanning the Facebook walls of my bookworm friends to see what they’re reading.

I already knew that I love reading. Taking this challenge, I discovered that I also love thinking about reading. I relish anticipating the moment that I’ll sink into the comfy chair after Sabbath dinner ends, knowing that I’ll stay up too late reading a good book.

The highlight of my week was receiving an email from the library that “a book with antonyms in the title,” which I’d placed on reserve at the beginning of January, was finally available for pick-up! I expect to finish it this weekend and welcome the month of February ahead of schedule.

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