Archive | March, 2015

My latest (JTA): ‘For Reform, new gay-friendly High Holidays prayer book keeps up inclusivity trend’

JTA's caption for a different picture of basically the same thing: "Mockups of the new Reform High Holidays prayer book, Mishkan HaNefesh, on display at the Central Conference of American Rabbis convention in Philadelphia, March 17, 2015."

JTA’s caption for a different picture of basically the same thing: “Mockups of the new Reform High Holidays prayer book, Mishkan HaNefesh, on display at the Central Conference of American Rabbis convention in Philadelphia, March 17, 2015.”

UPDATE: Evidently, the story has also appeared on Haaretz.

The biggest story of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (or CCAR, the professional organization of North America’s ~2,000 Reform rabbis) Convention in Philly was the installation of the group’s new leader, the CCAR’s first openly gay president. Yeah, I covered that story — but that’s not the real reason I went. My purest motivation in going was my desire to look into the new Reform machzor, Mishkan haNefesh, which will land in time for High Holidays 2015. Though there was a time when this blog was an active center of debate and discussion around new Jewish liturgy, it’s been a while since I had much in the way of new material to contribute to that conversation. So, I was excited to jump back in.

JTA's caption: "The new Reform High Holidays prayer book adds a third option to the traditional formula calling worshippers to the Torah to reflect the experience of individuals who don’t identify as male or female."

JTA’s caption: “The new Reform High Holidays prayer book adds a third option to the traditional formula calling worshippers to the Torah to reflect the experience of individuals who don’t identify as male or female.”

Here are some highlights of my JTA piece on the new machzor:

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — The Reform movement’s rabbinic association unveiled its new High Holidays prayer book — one that continues the movement’s trend toward inclusive liturgy — at the group’s 126th annual convention.

The prayer book features the voices of female writers and language more reflective of the LGBT experience. But the volume also signals a return to gendered language for God in Reform liturgy, including a version of the iconic High Holidays prayer Avinu Malkeinu that refers to God as both “Loving Father” and “Compassionate Mother.”

The previous Reform machzor, Gates of Repentance, was published in 1978. By the time the process of creating the new prayer book began in 2008, Person said, there was a feeling that the older text was no longer relevant.

“Today we live with different fears and anxieties than we lived with in the ’70s and ’80s,” she said. “There are references in Gates of Repentance to the post-Vietnam era or the fears of nuclear holocaust. Our fears are different. We still have them, but they’re different. I think the Jewish family is understood differently today, who the people in our pews are is understood differently.”

The new machzor continues the movement’s tradition of inclusivity, replacing a line from Gates of Repentance that referred to the joy of a bride and groom with “rejoicing with couples under the chuppah [wedding canopy].” The machzor also adds a third non-gendered option to the way worshippers are called to the Torah, offering “mibeit,” Hebrew for “from the house of,” in addition to the traditional “son of” or “daughter of.”

Head over to JTA to read more about it. I’ll also probably have more of a deep dive on it sooner or a later.

It feels good to be back in the liturgy game!

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My latest… sort of (jweekly.com): ‘Reform rabbis get first gay prez’

In addition to the standard version of my recent JTA piece about Rabbi Denise Eger, the new president of American Reform rabbis, there’s this piece in j. (the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, aka jweekly.com) by j.‘s Dan Pine, to which I evidently also contributed. It’s mostly made out of my JTA piece, but it localizes the story by adding some material about Rabbi Yoel Kahn of Berkeley:

More than a quarter century ago, Yoel Kahn addressed Reform Judaism’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, asking his colleagues, “Can we affirm the place of the homosexual Jew in the synagogue and [among] the Jewish people?”

At that point, plenty of people — including some Reform movement leaders — would have replied with a resounding “no.” But since that day in 1989, time and social change have answered the question in the affirmative.

This week, Kahn, senior rabbi at Congregation Beth El in Berkeley, again addressed the annual convention of the CCAR, but this time he was not pleading. He was beaming, because the CCAR had just installed its first gay or lesbian president, Rabbi Denise Eger of Los Angeles.

You can read the rest of Pine’s new material (and my original material, I suppose) over here.

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My latest (The Forward): ‘Doughnut Meets Babka in Latest Pastry Mashup’

The Forward's caption: "Three flavors of doughka (for now…), left to right: lemon and olive oil, Mexican chocolate and sticky banana. Photographs by David A.M. Wilensky."

The Forward’s caption: “Three flavors of doughka (for now…), left to right: lemon and olive oil, Mexican chocolate and sticky banana. Photographs by David A.M. Wilensky.”

I just wrote this thing about a delicious new miracle that recently came into our world. Here it is at The Forward:

Get that stale hamantaschen flavor out of your mouth. Get some delectable risen dessert carbs in before Passover arrives. Just get yourself over to the Chelsea location of Dough and pick up Mexican Jewish pastry savant Fany Gerson’s latest creation: the doughka. Half doughnut and half babka, as the name suggests, Gerson’s latest confectionary creation made its debut last month.

Each doughka looks just like a babka, albeit on the smaller side. But unlike the perennially stale, ever-dense texture of that store-bought babka that got left at your house after Shabbos dinner last week (you know the one: half-eaten by the time your guests left; begrudgingly toasted back to life for breakfast the following morning), Gerson’s doughka begins with a base of the unbelievably light yeast dough from which Dough’s doughnuts are made.

The doughka comes in three flavors — “for now,” Gerson says: Mexican chocolate, lemon and olive oil and sticky banana. And they are available only at Dough’s Manhattan location — and only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays beginning at noon.

The author of two cookbooks on Mexican sweets (“My Sweet Mexico” and “Paletas”), Gerson busily oversees two locations of Dough (the other is in Brooklyn) as well as La Newyorkina, her Mexican ice business. In the middle of all that, Gerson recently took some time to talk with me (over a doughka, of course) about the creation of the doughka, new flavors she’s working with and the role of women in the kitchen.

You can read the rest of it over here at The Jew & The CarrotThe Forward‘s food blog.

And seriously, do yourself a favor and go eat one of these things.

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My latest (JTA): ‘Reform rabbinic group installs its first openly gay president’

JTA's caption: "Rabbi Denise Eger, center, reads Torah during her March 16 installation as CCAR president. Also pictured, from left to right, Rabbi Paul Kipnes, Rabbi Mara Nathan, Rabbi Oren Hayon and Rabbi Susan Shankman. (David A.M. Wilensky)"

JTA’s caption: “Rabbi Denise Eger, center, reads Torah during her March 16 installation as CCAR president. Also pictured, from left to right, Rabbi Paul Kipnes, Rabbi Mara Nathan, Rabbi Oren Hayon and Rabbi Susan Shankman. (David A.M. Wilensky)”

I was in Philly for much of this week covering the 126th annual convention of the CCAR for JTA. Man, 500 Reform rabbis in one hotel for days on end…. Just kidding. They’re all lovely. (Well, almost all.)

Anyway, here’s my report:

PHILADELPHIA (JTA) — In 1988, her sexual identity a semi-open secret, newly ordained Rabbi Denise Eger had trouble landing a job. Decades on, Eger has risen to the top of her profession, installed Monday as president of Reform Judaism’s Central Conference of American Rabbis.

She is the first openly gay person to lead the organization, which is composed of more than 2,000 rabbis affiliated with America’s largest Jewish denomination.

Eger’s installation took place as the Reform rabbinical association marked the 25th anniversary of its groundbreaking 1990 resolution calling for the ordination of openly gay rabbis.

“I never intended to be a gay activist or to be ‘the lesbian rabbi,’ which is ironic because I know that’s the only thing the headlines will say, because I’m more than that,” Eger, 55, told JTA at the annual CCAR conference, held here Sunday to Wednesday. “Maybe they’re shocked to find at the beginning that she’s a lesbian president and that I’m breaking some ceiling, but I was elected because I’ve been a dedicated pastor and rabbi for more than 25 years.”

[…]

You can read the rest over here.

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