You Shall Pursue

December 31, 2012

Feminism and Faith

Filed under: Social Justice, Spirituality — Tags: , — marleyweiner @ 9:15 pm

Feminism and Faith

This is a fascinating article by the fabulous Sady Doyle about how women can use their religious beliefs as a tool for promoting a more just and egalitarian world. It can be a challenge, balancing a commitment to egalitarianism with the patriarchal origins of Judaism, but there is so much good to be had by reclaiming the text and making it ours.

December 21, 2012

Reconstructionism Part 1: What is Reconstructionist Judaism Anyway?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — marleyweiner @ 1:30 pm

I have been at rabbinical school for almost a semester. And as part of summing up my immersion into the world of Reconstructionism, I decided to explain in layman’s terms just what it means to be a Reconstructionist Jew. Reconstructionism is one of the younger, smaller movements of Judaism (and the question of whether or not it is a movement at all is actually surprisingly complicated) and I get a lot of questions asking exactly what Reconstructionism is. I figured it would be helpful to create a blog series so that I can point interested people to a neat little summary of the theology, history, and how it relates to my own thinking.

Reconstructionism is based on the philosophy and writing of Mordecai Kaplan, a teacher at the Jewish Theological Seminary who hoped to create a radical new way of thinking about what it meant to be Jewish. He was the first to propose the idea of Judaism as a civilization, meaning that Jewish art, Klezmer, Jewish food, Yiddish theater, Zionism, the Arbeiter Ring, Ladino, etc. were all expressions of Judaism just as important and valid as the Talmud and the mitzvot. His belief was that Judaism could only be taken as a whole, and that one could not separate out the religious parts or the cultural parts and say “this, and this alone, is Judaism.” Rather, he proposed that Jews shared common languages, history, literature, religion, and culture throughout history, and that the Jewish people would need to engage in a multiplicity of Jewish expressions in order to make sure that the civilization stayed vibrant. Out of this grows current ideas of Jewish nationality and peoplehood.

Kaplan also believed as strongly in America as he did in Judaism. He expected Jews to participate as much in the broader American society and civilization as in the Jewish one, and hoped that the best values of each civilization would influence the other.

Some misconceptions that I hope to address in this series:

  • Reconstructionism is not “in between Conservative and Reform”
  • Reconstructionists are not all atheists (although some of us are!)
  • Reconstructionists are not all crunchy granola hippies (although many of us are!)

This will be a series in six parts. You can click here for links to the other parts as they become available:

December 20, 2012

The G1d Project

Filed under: Uncategorized — marleyweiner @ 6:05 pm

The G1d Project

So this is interesting…

Thoughts About Terrible Things

Filed under: Choosing Life — Tags: , , , , , — marleyweiner @ 4:31 am

So, this thing happened. And people died. Babies died. And I simultaneously want to talk about it, and I don’t really have the words.

Evil is real. People choose to do awful things to one another, to hurt each other, to kill each other. There are many reasons that we can talk about why that is, the culture of violence, entitlement, and domination that we live in. The insane level gun access in this country. But no matter where we point the blame, the fact is that evil is as much a part of human life as good is. We have violent, nasty evil impulses, and sometimes people choose to act on those evil impulses and bring horror into the world.

What can we do about this as religious people? Our job is twofold. First of all, we must stand as prophets against this madness. We must say: this is enough. We cannot stand by while our neighbors are literally bleeding. We must write, speak, call, until the world begins to heal.

Second, we must stand as a force for love in our community. I have my kids to watch out for; I have to keep them feeling safe and loved and supported even while we talk about this terrible thing that happened. I have friends, family, classmates, and we all need to lean on each other and love each other. We are  community, and the only way to stand against the evil in this world is by sharing our love for one another, over and over again until people truly feel loved and brave and whole. This is what God is for, to look evil in the face and say, there is a force greater than you, that will heal the destruction that you have wrought, that will fight tooth and nail to keep it from ever happening again.

Here is an organization that you can check out to learn more about fighting gun violence in Philadelphia.

As of today, there is legislation being proposed in the Senate for an assault rifle ban. You can contact your Senator here.

Blessings of love, peace, and healing for the families whose children were murdered. May you find support and love in this horribly dark time.

December 12, 2012

On Gender Gaps in the Jewish Community

Filed under: Jewish Communitty, Social Justice — marleyweiner @ 1:54 am

I just read this post in the Forward about a new survey released of salaries for 75 Jewish nonprofit organizations nationwide. The results as they pertain to female leadership and compensation are troubling.

For all that we as Jews tout our history of progressivism, it appears that we lag behind the rest of the country in this measure of commitment to social justice. I am most troubled, both personally and politically, about the gender gap in compensation for rabbis. The field that I am about to go into is becoming rapidly feminized; my incoming class is 70% female. It troubles me to see the hard work of female rabbis valued less than that of their male peers, because I know that it will have very real-world consequences for myself and the members of my graduating class.

I have been privileged to be mentored by brilliant rabbinical students and rabbis of all genders, but I especially appreciate mentorship from female clergy, because they face unique challenges as women in leadership positions that I will also face one day (God willing!) The women I know in Jewish communal service are brilliant, and capable, and work their asses off. I simply cannot fathom how the Jewish community, given the high percentage of women running its education programs, leading its services, raising its money, and building its communities, cannot value the tremendous asset that it has in its women.

We as Jews must do better, and stand up for recognizing and rewarding talent whoever we find it, no matter what package it comes in.

December 4, 2012


Filed under: Choosing Life — Tags: , , , — marleyweiner @ 1:20 pm

In honor of this week’s parsha, here is some camp. Enjoy!

December 2, 2012

On Jewish Learning

Filed under: D'var Torah, Rabbinical School, Spirituality — Tags: , , , — marleyweiner @ 2:57 am

Mishnah is fun you guys. So is Bible. So is reading Kaplan and analyzing it for meaning. Before I started school, I was petrified that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the work, and while it is indeed kicking my ass, I’m pleased to realize that I actually do find most of my classes fun.

Our texts are so much more complicated, and human, than so many are willing to allow for. There is this idea that divine texts have to be perfect and sterile, in a way, but that’s now how it works. Our texts like to contradict each other, and double back on themselves, and yell at each other. Some things that I have learned this year:

  • There’s two versions of the Ten Plagues, each one espousing a radically different theology
  • Similarly, the two kingdoms (Israel and Judea) had radically different relationships between ruling power and God. In large part, the Israelite theology is the one that survived. The covenant theology with Moses is only one half of the picture.
  • The rabbis like to tell each other (in a coded, respectful way) that they are being stupid. The phrase “If so, then there is no end to the matter” has become a running joke in my hevrtua, because it basically means “stop being a punctilious asshole.”
  • Moses is REALLY grumpy. Like, he complains to God ALL THE TIME. And then God yells at him to shut up and do the staff thing, already.

What would it mean if religious people everywhere were able to open up to this ambiguity and embrace our texts in their portrayals of human begins with flaws grappling with God? I think it would leave us with a lot more room for forgiveness of one another’s flaws, to truly see each other as created in the Divine Image (the God of the Bible pulls some petty shit, y’all). As I said before to one of my classmates, “I prefer Moses grumpy.” If Moses is human and struggles with his path, certainly I should be permitted to struggle with mine, as should we all.

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