A Tough But Important Call for RRC — One Rabbi’s View

January 16, 2015

For those following the ‘partner status policy’ discussion, I offer here — just click on this, “On proposed NJP change – FSD, Jan 2015″ — my own statement of cautious but clear support for the proposed change.  Written in Dec. 2014 and edited only slightly since, it overlaps with what treasured colleagues Mychal Copeland and Elyse Wechterman wrote, but was completed before I read their compelling pieces (which are at http://www.jewishrecon.org/files/PDFs/Rabbinic%20Perspectives%20on%20PSP.pdf; the entries from Caryn Broitman and Les Bronstein are compelling in many ways too, though I do come down on this side of the policy question).  It’s two full pages in the attached Word document; feedback is welcome…

Blessings, all…

Green High Holy Day Resources / Kavanot

September 23, 2014

Shalom all — to download the good stuff, click on  2014-9-22-COEJL-RH-RESOURCES. Happy New Year!

Short background:  through COEJL (the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, www.coejl.org, which I’m honored to currently serve as chair), and with my friend and colleague Rabbi Steve Gutow, I had occasion to gather a series of green kavanot/reflections for the coming High Holy Days, each keyed to a specific liturgical or ritual point, and each dealing with the overarching issue of climate change, often tied in with other key concerns like social justice, Israel, and the exciting dawning of shmita / the ‘year of release’.  I found it a useful exercise, and I hope it may be helpful for you too.

The text is below, but it’s best  downloaded on this nicely-formatted two-page  Word document, 2014-9-22-COEJL-RH-RESOURCES.  Print it (front-and-back, of course, on one sheet of recycled paper!), and keep it with you in shul (on the bimah if you’re leading!), or wherever you do your best thinking / reflecting / acting / repenting / difference-making in the weeks ahead…   Shanah tovah…    -Fred


High Holy Day Green Thought-Starters, from www.COEJL.org

Assembled by Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb with Rabbi Steve Gutow, 2014


Climate:  In every morning’s Yotzer prayer, we celebrate the Divine as m’chadesh ma’aseh bereshit, renewer of the work of creation; “God has no hands but ours” in this holy effort of protection and renewal.

At RH Musaf (the additional service), with each set of shofar blasts we say Hayom Harat Olam, “today is the world’s birthday” – a call to consider how the Earth is doing compared to its previous or upcoming birthday – and thus, like the shofar itself, a call to action.

At YK’s Vidui/confessional, we admit our triple failure: we’ve wronged the Earth and the many species with which we share it; we wrong the poor, who are most vulnerable to pollution and climate change, yet did the least to cause it; and we wrong the generations after us, our own descendants included (see Ex. 34:6-7).

In the YK Torah reading, many congregations read Deut. 30:19 – “I’ve set before you this day life and the blessing, or death and the curse; you should choose life (u’vacharta ba’chayim), that you and your descendants may live – today, choosing life means tackling climate change with all we’ve got.

And two weeks hence, Sukkot revolves around water – the four water-loving species (lulav and etrog) from various ecoregions in Israel; the “rejoicing at the house of water-drawing”, described in the Talmud as the biggest party ever; and the rabbinic dictum that “on sukkot the world is judged for water”. Sukkot reminds us how climate change drives extreme weather events (“global weirding” more than “global warming”), with more droughts and more floods in the same locations within a season of each other – too little, then too much, water, all at once.


Shmita:  The seventh / sabbatical / shmita year — the time of release, of letting land and people and animals rest – begins now, this Rosh Hashanah. During shmita, we traditionally annul debts, and promote equality; we develop communal and personal resilience; we intertwine our economic, social, and spiritual/religious ideals.  The wonderful www.Jewcology.org, among other sites, expounds on this. Though few today argue for a complete cessation of agriculture, a great movement (starting with www.hazon.org/shmita-project) now reclaims shmita’s core values, and engenders a global Jewish conversation about them.

At Erev RH, we welcome the shmita year with fanfare; name its core values; and begin our year-long exploration of them.

In Avinu Malkeinu, this one year in seven really puts the chadesh (“new/renew”) in chadesh aleinu shanah tovah, “renew for us this year as a good one”.

At Malkhuyot (the RH Musaf theme of God’s sovereignty), possible privations of shmita illustrate how our personal will and desire are rightly overridden by something larger than short-term private interest.

At Shabbat Shuvah (the Sabbath of Repentance amidst the Ten Days), we consider shmita as tshuvah (re/turning) on a grand global scale, re-orienting social priorities toward ethics, holiness, and sustainability.

At Kol Nidrei (YK eve) we acknowledge our own imperfections, and the limitations of the efforts and initiatives we get behind; shmita is a prime example of something to be imperfectly, but continually, applied.

And the timeless YK Haftarah (Isaiah 57-58) insists that we align our ritual life with our ethical life, keeping moral behavior front and center – precisely the logic of the ethically-oriented, year-long set of rituals that is shmita.


Israel:  Still touched and scarred by the events of the summer, our connections with Israel are multiply highlighted during these Awesome Days.  Even as political realities demand our attention (see JFNA’s and JCPA’s http://IsraelActionNetwork.org as one important resource here), Israel’s social, spiritual, and ecological life continues.  Our love of Israel / ahavat Yisrael, evinced throughout our liturgy and history, includes love for the land itself, and for all its inhabitants.  Just last week Israel’s Supreme Court ruled against fracking in the ecologically sensitive Emek Ha’Elah – shmita/release in that vital democracy, perhaps?

At Erev RH (and throughout the holiday), Israel-watchers may note the implications of Shmita on life at the shuk or makolet (outdoor market or neighborhood convenience store), while also considering 5775’s Knesset-level and society-wide efforts to raise ‘shmita-consciousness’.

In the morning Yotzer prayer, we sing Or hadash al Tzion ta’ir, let a new light shine on Zion – or, perhaps, let Israel be a ‘light’ by encouraging its sustainable harnessing of light, via solar technology.

The first RH Torah reading describes the family split-up among us Semites; it’s environmental issues in general, and water in particular, which most clearly unite these cousins divided since Gen. 21.

Then the second RH Torah reading (Jeremiah 31) shows our people’s restoration (v’shavu vanim ligvulam, “your children will yet return to their borders”) going hand-in-hand with that of the land. Those in Israel drawing those linkages (e.g. www.Heschel.org.il and Shmita Yisraeli) deserve our support.

And on YK afternoon, the haftarah (Jonah) implies the need for Israel, and Jews everywhere, to work for justice and sustainability anywhere – even on a boat; even inside a great fish; even as far afield as Tarshish.


Justice:   Many Jews who’ve long embraced social justice work are newer to environmental efforts.  Our local communities, much like the larger JCPA (Jewish Council for Public Affairs, for whom the Confronting Poverty [HYPERLINK] initiative is a key priority right alongside COEJL), remain places of concern and involvement on a host of issues. The most effective and enduring work is that which views green and other issues within their larger systemic context.  Eco-angles abound throughout our vital social justice agenda.

This RH, we hail the dawning shmita as tradition’s clearest integration of ecology (the land and animals rest) with social justice (the poor are released and debts annulled).

The powerful Unetaneh Tokef piyut (pietistic prayer) sees cosmic implications behind our inter/personal reckoning – ba’shofar gadol yitaka, v’kol d’mama daka; “the great shofar is sounded, and a still small voice is heard” – then celebrates tzedakah (righteous action and generous giving) as the rare step that can lessen the decree’s severity.

At Shabbat Shuvah (or any time we reflect on tshuvah, re/turning and repentance), we review Mishnah Yoma 8:9: YK atones for sins between a person and Makom/God, but not for transgressions l’chavero, against our fellow; what happens now, when the chaverim/fellows we wrong are millions of other species, billions of global poor, and countless future inhabitants of a planet denuded by our own actions?!

With the piyut L’El Orech Din (“To God the Law-Arranger”), we might step back and consider how law and priority-setting appears from on high – how large might the degradation of Earth’s vital systems loom, viewed from the Divine bench?

And two weeks from now, while dwelling in our Sukkot or temporary booths, we’re vulnerable both to the elements (whose potential threat we exacerbate via climate change) and to potential dangers posed by those around us (magnified by social injustices and inequities for which we bear some responsibility) – our intense season’s capstone festival insists that we conjoin our social and environmental concern.



Please support this holy work: www.coejl.org


Israel 2012 (wow are we late getting these pictures up!)

August 26, 2013

Modi’in, halfway between Tel Aviv & Jerusalem, was home for much of the summer — a lovely quiet bedroom suburb of 80,000 and growing, developing its own identity, inside Israel proper but hard against the Green Line — on both the major divides today, religious-secular and Palestinian-Jewish, things are pretty good inside Modi’in, but complicated kilometers away…   Midway through, we had two great weeks with a 35-person Adat Shalom trip, organized wonderfully by Keshet Tours.  Plus Evan’s bar mitzvah and time with his family; our own travels;visits with friends in Israel; and Linda & Leora in from Philly.  Mish-mash of best photos here, each sparking a memory, each with a story behind it, but sans captions to let the ‘thousand words’ speak for themselves…  Shalom/salaam… 


Scherlinder photos. early-to-mid 2013 (hadn’t updated in eons!)

August 26, 2013


For Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney’s students

August 26, 2013

Shalom/Salaam/Peace!  I’m honored that your teacher asked me to expound on Zionism from one fairly-balanced left-leaning American Jewish perspective.  The (low-production-value, off-the-cuff!) video is at http://youtu.be/lckYKmuH39k.  A few sources are referenced there, including my 2012 Yom Kippur sermon, which you may want to have open while watching/listening to the video — click here, YK 2012 ‘Home Leave’ to print , for the sermon text.

Another resource I cite briefly in the video, but that’s worth perusing more fully, is Dr. Boaz Newmann’s progressive Israeli perspective, at http://www.acheret.co.il/en/?cmd=articles.502&act=read&id=2575. 

And, it’s always good to have a historical timeline, for context:   start easy, with reasonably accurate balanced choices of just a couple pages each, like http://www.mideastweb.org/Middle-East-Encyclopedia/co/palestine.htm or http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780191736070.timeline.0001 — then for more detail, especially in 20th C and around the conflict, try http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~le20s/more%20history%20news.htm.

The text I more or less spoke from on camera (hate being a talking head, but no choice here!):  Zionism 101 for LTSP 2013.  You’ll find there the final paragraph that I meant to add before the camera ran out of juice!  (it read: “Literally, both of these mugs [Germantown PA & Kibbutz Ketura] are in my kitchen, often used.  American Jews really do have two homes.  I’m honored to speak to you from one of mine.  I bless you with a meaningful exploration of Zionism and Israel; with an open mind and heart; and with celebrating and blessing those who strive for Shalom/salaam – for as was first said on the shores of the gorgeous Sea of Galilee, “blessed are the peacemakers”.  May they carry the day, soon.  Thank you…”)

And after that, please do the reading that Dr. Gafney wisely assigned — it’s a subject worth all those words, and many more.


And bonus material — various (alas all-male, though Rachel Blaustein is in the talk ;-) original takes from the last 120 years or so of Zionist thought, starting with Herzl and Ha-Am, and ending with modern American activist rabbis Abraham Joshua Heschel and Mordechai M Kaplan.  Enjoy:


Ahad Ha’am (Asher Ginsberg)

1897 “The Jewish State and the Jewish Problem”

           Jewish settlement, which will be a gradual growth, will become in course of time the center of the nation, wherein its spirit will find pure expression and develop in all its aspects to the highest degree of perfection of which it is capable.  Then, from this center, the spirit of Judaism will radiate to the great circumference, to all the communities of the Diaspora, to inspire them with new life and to preserve the over-all unity of our people.  When our national culture in Palestine has attained that level, we may be confident that it will produce [people] in the Land of Israel itself who will be able, at a favorable moment, to establish a State there – one which will be not merely a State of Jews but a really Jewish State…

…a political ideal which is not grounded in our national culture is apt to seduce us from loyalty to our own inner spirit, and to beget in us a tendency to find the path of glory in the attainment of material power and political dominion, thus breaking the thread that unites us with the past…

Hayim Nachman Bialik

1925, Dedication of Hebrew University

         …We are not come here to seek wealth, or dominion, or greatness.  How much of these can this poor little country give us?  We wish to find here only a domain of our own for our physical and intellectual labor …  For the present there is only a small beginning of upbuilding, yet already the need has been felt for erecting a home for the intellectual world of the nation.  Such has ever been the nature of our people:  it cannot live for three consecutive days without Torah.  Already at this early hour we experience cultural needs that cannot be postponed, and must be satisfied at once.  Besides, we are burdened with heavy cares for the cultural fate of our people in the Diaspora …

We must therefore hasten to light here the first lamp of learning, before the last lamp grows dark for us in foreign lands.  And this we propose to do in the house whose doors have been opened this day upon Mount Scopus…


Yehuda Leib Pinsker  (1882, Auto-Emancipation)

           Judeophobia is a psychic aberration.  As a psychic aber-ration, it is hereditary; as a disease transmitted for two thousand years, it is incurable…  For the living, the Jew is a dead [person]; for the natives, an alien and a vagrant; for property holders, a beggar; for the poor, an exploiter and a millionaire; for patriots, a [person] without a country; for the classes, a hated rival…

Theodor Herzl  (1894 Diary, 1896 Der Judenstat)

           …the Promised Land, where we can have hooked noses, black or red beards, and bow legs, without being despised for it, where we can live at last as free men [sic] on our own soil, and where we can die peacefully in our own fatherland…

We are one people – our enemies have made us one, together – and thus united, we suddenly discover our strength.  Yes, we are strong enough to form a state, indeed, a model state.

… The world needs a Jewish state; therefore it will arise.

The Zionist Organization  (1922, Memorandum to the League of Nations Council)

           They are persuaded that in Palestine alone it is possible for Jews as such to live their corporate life and attain their full stature as a people in perfect harmony with their environment.  They are not less firmly persuaded that it is in the interest of the new world order that the discord in the Jewish soul should be resolved, and that the Hebrew genius, restored to Hebrew soil, should have an assured opportunity of once more making its characteristic contribution to the common stock.  [compare Bialik:  “”We will be a normal state when we have the first Hebrew prostitute, the first Hebrew thief and the first Hebrew policeman.””]

David Ben Gurion  (1944, “The Imperatives of the Jewish Revolution”)

           We must master our fate; we must take our destiny into our own hands!  This is the doctrine of the Jewish revolution — not non-surrender to the Galut (Diaspora), but making an end to it.

Galut means dependence – material, political, spiritual, cultural, and intellectual dependence – because we are aliens, a minority, bereft of a homeland, rootless and separated from the soil, from labor, and from basic industry.  Our task is to break radically with this dependence and to become masters of our own fate – in a word, to achieve independence.

To have survived in the Galut despite all odds is not enough; we must create, by our own effort, the necessary conditions for our future survival as a free and independent people.

The meaning of the Jewish revolution is contained in one word – independence!

Independence for the Jewish people, in its homeland!


Nachman Syrkin (1898, “The Jewish Problem and the Socialist-Jewish State”)

           A classless society and national sovereignty are the only means of solving the Jewish problem completely.  The social revolution and cessation of the class struggle will also normalize the relationship of the Jew and his [sic] environment.  The Jew must, therefore, join the ranks the proletariat, the only element which is striving to make an end of the class struggle, and to redistribute power on the basis of justice.

The Jew has been the torchbearer of liberalism, which emancipated him as part of its war against the old society; today…the Jew must become the vanguard of socialism…

The Jewish state come about only if it is socialist; only by fusing with socialism can Zionism become the ideal of the whole Jewish people.        [See Chaim Arlosoroff:  “The land shall never pass into the hands of individuals; it shall be the property of the people that championed it in a struggle against many obstacles.”]

 Aaron David Gordon (1911, Ha’Avodah)

           In Palestine we must do with our own hands all the things that make up the sum total of life.  We must ourselves do all the work – from the least strenuous, cleanest, and most sophisticated, to the dirtiest and most difficult.  In our own way, we must feel what a worker feels, and think what a worker thinks.  Then, and only then, shall we have a culture of our own, for then we shall have a life of our own….

We have been deprived of labor (I do not say ‘we have sinned,’ for it was not our fault that we arrived at this situation); and we shall be healed through labor.  Labor must become the pivot of our aspirations, and the basis of our national structure…

Only by making Labor, for its own sake, our national ideal shall we be able to cure ourselves of the plague that has affected us for many generations, and mend the rift between ourselves and Nature.


Yehuda Alkalai (1843, The Third Redemption)

           It is written in the Bible:  “Return, O God, unto the tens and thousands of the families of Israel.”  On this verse the rabbis commented in the Talmud as follows:  “it proves that the Divine Presence can be felt only if there are at least twenty-two thousand Israelites together.”  Yet we pray every day, “let our eyes behold Your return in mercy unto Zion.”  Upon whom should the Divine Presence rest — on sticks and stones?!       Therefore, as the first step in the redemption of our souls, must cause at least twenty-two thousand to return to the Holy Land.  This is the necessary preparation for a descent of the Divine Presence among us; afterwards, God will grant us and all Israel further signs of favor…

Aaron David Gordon (1913, The Congress)

           …The Diaspora has killed our independent life force, the strength to create for ourselves life from within ourselves, for our own part and on our own responsibilities.  We have consequently been unable to leave it, because wherever we go are capable only of creating a new Diaspora for ourselves.  There is no secure refuge, from the Diaspora which is within us, anywhere in the world.  This fact is not seen, and it may almost be said that it is not wanted to be seen, since in Eretz Yisrael, I believe one can feel it with one’s hands….

 Martin Buber (1918, Zion and Youth)

           There is no true Jewish state other than the state in which the rules of Moses’ Law concerning equality of wealth are maintained, and in which social justice as preached by the prophets is realized in a way that encompasses the economic conditions of our era, and dominates them.

Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak Hakohen Kook (1930’s, Lights & Rebirth and The Holiness of the Land)

      [Torah Zionists must work] harder at the task of uncovering the light & holiness implicit in our national spirit, the divine element which is at its core.  The secularists will thus be constrained to realize that they are immersed and rooted in the life of God…

Jewry in the Diaspora had no real foundation; it lives only by the power of a vision, and by the memory of our glory – i.e., by the past and the future.  But there is a limit to the power of such a vision to carry the burden of life, and to give direction to the career of a people – and this limit seems already to have been reached.  Diaspora Jewry is therefore disintegrating at an alarming rate, and there is no hope for it unless it replants itself by the well-spring of real life, of inherent sanctity, which can only be found in Eretz Yisrael…               Independent Jewish creativity, in the sphere of thought or in the sphere of daily life and action, is impossible for [the People of] Israel, except in the Land of Israel.

6.  NON – or POST (?) – ZIONISM

Avram Burg (2008, The Holocaust is Over, We Must Rise from Its Ashes)

           “This country is not the country that we built. We founded a different country in 1948 …  a state that lives by the sword and worships its dead is bound to live in a constant state of emergency, because everyone is a Nazi, everyone is an Arab, everyone hates us, the entire world is against us….  We are abducted by the settlers; they are abducted by Hamas….

If you are a bad person… a strong-arm occupier, you are not my brother, even if you are circumcised, observe the Sabbath, and do mitzvahs.  If your scarf covers every hair on your head for modesty, you give alms and do charity, but what is under your scarf is dedicated to the sanctity of Jewish land, taking precedence over the sanctity of human life, whosever life that is, then you are not my sister.  You might be my enemy.

A good Arab or a righteous gentile will be a brother or sister to me.  A wicked man, even of Jewish descent, is my adversary, and I would stand on the other side of the barricade and fight him to the end.


        (p. 42)   …living in ‘two civilizations.’  For that, the tradition has not prepared us.  Only a movement which dares to face the new realities in the world about us is likely to help us achieve that new style of living.  That is the task of the New Zionism.

        The New Zionism should make it possible for us to see Jewish life steadily and whole.  It should relate the Jewish people, the Jewish religion and the Jewish way of life to Eretz Yisrael as the alpha and omega of Jewish existence.  Eretz Yisrael has to be reclaimed as the only place in the world where Jewish civilization can be perfectly at home.  But also other lands where Jews have taken root have to be rendered capable of harboring that civilization.  The one purpose cannot be achieved without the other.  Should Jewish civilization fail to be at home in Eretz Yisrael, it will disappear everywhere else.  Should it disappear everywhere else, it is bound to give way to some new Levantine civilization in Eretz Yisrael.

(p. 26) All this leads to one inescapable conclusion:  Zionism should henceforth treat the establishment of the State of Israel only as the first indispensable step in the salvaging of the Jewish people and the regeneration of its spirit.  Actually to attain these objectives, Zionism has to be viewed not merely as a cultural and political movement, but also as a religious movement for our day.


       (p. 113)  We are tired of expulsions, of pogroms; we have had enough of extermination camps.  We are tired of apologizing for our existence.  If I should go to Poland or Germany, every stone, every tree would remind me of contempt, hatred, murder, of child-ren killed, of mothers burned alive, of human beings asphyxiated.

        When I go to Israel every stone and every tree is a reminder of hard labor and glory, of prophets and psalmists, of loyalty and holiness.  The Jews go to Israel not only for physical security for themselves and their children; they go to Israel for renewal, for the experience of resurrection.

(p. 224-25)   Well-meaning people used to say that a Jewish state would be an answer to all Jewish questions.  In truth, however, the State of Israel is a challenge to many of our answers.  To be involved in the life of Israel is to be in labor.

What is the meaning of the State of Israel?  Its sheer being is the message.  The life in the land of Israel today is a rehearsal, a test, a challenge to all of us.  Not living in the land, nonparticipa-tion in the drama, is a source of embarrassment.

Israel is a personal challenge, a personal religious issue.  It is a call to every one of us as an individual, a call which one cannot live vicariously.  It is at the same time a message of meaning, a hope for a new appreciation of being human.

The ultimate meaning of the State of Israel must be seen in terms of the vision of the prophets:  the redemption of all [people].  The religious duty of the Jew is to participate in the process of continual redemption, in seeing that justice prevails over power, that awareness of God penetrates human understanding.


February 16, 2012

shtar gerut – feminine – pdf – for Fred

Green Congregations Power-Point

January 31, 2012

for Shawn of JRF, Stacey and Fletcher of GreenFaith, and anyone else interested –I’m using wordpress as a file-sharing tool to put out my draft of tonight’s webinar….  thanks….    FSD for JRF-GreenFaith 2012 2



Israel Trip update

January 19, 2012

Registration is now rolling, through mid-March.  Pictures are in the previous post; details are HERE. Hope you’ll join us July 8-20 or 8-22! Most of what you need to know is below; more, including detailed itinerary, is at http://www.adatshalom.net; register soon at http://www.keshetisrael.co.il/forms/keshet-groups-registration…

Please join Rabbi Fred, the wonderful folks of Keshet Israel Tours,
and each other, for Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation’s
2012 Israel Trip –
for Adults & for Families
including family & friends of Adat Shalomers;
including members of other JRF & area shuls!

July 8th-22nd (or 8th-20th), 2012

Why THIS Israel Trip?
• A tour guide and a youth counsellor ensures a rich experience for adults and kids alike
• Tour guide, youth counsellor, and Rabbi will ensure multiple perspectives and insights
• We’ll cover a lot of the land, rural to urban, desert to forest, while keeping costs down
• A great trip for first-timers, covering many highlights, without sacrificing depth
• Great for Israel returnees as well, with many new angles, locales, and experiences
• Insights on key social and political issues, along with deep Jewish history and text
• We know and trust Keshet Tours, and it will be great
• No time like the present!

Where Will We Go?
• Two nights in Ein Gedi, exploring the Dead Sea, oases, Masada, desert hikes, and more
• One night in Beersheva, seeing that vibrant metropolis as well as Sde Boker, Bedouin communities, etc
• Three nights in Tel Aviv, seeing the wonder of modern Israel, including fabulous new experiences
• Two nights up north, by the Galilee, exploring Tzfat, the Golan, Israel-Arab issues, meeting pioneers, and more
• Two nights in Jerusalem, covering some less obvious and newly-opened sites, plus old favorites
• Optional final two more nights in Yerushalayim, exploring the New & Old cities with Rabbi Fred

How Much Will the Trip Itself Cost?
• Basic Land Package for July 8th-20th, per-person with double-occupancy, is $2159
• Add about $300 per-person for additional meals, gratuities, incidentals
• We need 40 paying participants to keep that price; it goes up with fewer, to cover fixed costs
• Adults & teens are priced the same; 3rd adult or teen in a room is $130 off
• A child age 2-12 accompanying two adults is $375 off
• Families of four have options, depending on kids’ ages, usually ~$400 off
• Limited single supplements are available for those interested, for $600 more
• Final 48 hours in Jerusalem, at the lovely Mt Zion Hotel, $280 per person* including shabbat dinner
• (*Single supplement $160; 3rd child discount $140; 3rd adult discount $60; Quad discount for 2 children ages 2-12 $140 per family)

What About Airfare?
• Group airfare, on El Al from JFK to TLV (and American for DCA-JFK), is $1830 per person
(Well-timed flights, landing at Ben Gurion at 12:25pm on July 9th, and leaving at 1:00am (just after shabbat) July 20th or 22nd)
• If you have frequent flyer miles and can use them, do! Many folks have done so successfully
• Feel free to find your own itinerary – individuals and families can often find less expensive flights
(just land by 12:30 on the 9th – cheaper itineraries available if you’re flexible, especially on Turkish Air, or flying from JFK…)

What are the Next Steps?
• Ask any questions you have of Rabbi Fred, or the Israel Connection Committee
• REGISTER ONLINE at http://www.keshetisrael.co.il/forms/keshet-groups-registration
• Registration is rolling, through mid-March; until then, all but $100 of deposit remains refundable
• Reconstructionist folks, local shul members, and family and friends of Adat Shalomers, are welcome too!
• Register soonest to reserve your place; don’t wait for March 16th, or after the bus fills, when registration closes…
• Plan now! Next year in Israel!

Tar Sands, Climate, and Elul

August 29, 2011

TAR SANDS, CLIMATE, and ELUL:  how a destructive source of oil and dangerous pipeline violate basic religious and human values; why stabilizing the climate is a moral imperative

(from Fred as an individual and as a Religious Witness for the Earth co-Chair, not from Fred as rabbi of any given Bethesda shul or leader of any particular NGO… ;-)

As we parted ways in the late 1980’s, my high school friends thought to set up a betting pool — when would Fred first get arrested in some protest?  To everyone’s surprise, it took until a decade ago, at the dawn of the Bush Administration’s tragic inaction on climate change and short-sighted desire to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, with my colleagues from Religious Witness for the Earth.  Later today, the RWE banner again unfurls in Washington, and I will risk arrest for a second time — again with a huge contingent of faith leaders; again for the sake of the Earth and all its inhabitants.

This time, it’s over the destructive Keystone XL Pipeline project, slated to carry toxic ‘bitumen’ (a low grade of oil extracted out of tarry earth) from the Tar Sands region of Alberta Canada, south across the great plains and the vital Ogallala aquifer, all the way to the Gulf Coast near Houston.

Yes, the mining of the bitumen devastates the boreal forest (a key carbon sink and important ecosystem), along with the First Nations people who live in the Tar Sands region.  Yes, this pipeline is likely to spill on its route (its smaller predecessor pipeline has spilled almost monthly in its first year), with profound impacts.  Yes, our group will be chanting “heal the planet…stop the pipeline”.

Oil production and transport is not my field; faith is.  Though I’m no fan of the proposed pipeline, my own personal witness is against the larger scourge of climate change – and the sad reality that most of us are complicit in it, aware of the damage we’re doing yet unwilling to make major changes in our lifestyle.  I risk arrest to rededicate myself to doing the right thing, and hopefully to help motivate others to do more for tikkun olam (repairing the world), as well.

In political terms, the narrow issue is tricky:  geopolitically, Canadian oil beats that which we still import from the Middle East in vast quantities.  But from a sustainability standpoint, the entire status quo is untenable, un-sacred.  The Keystone XL Pipeline will only exacerbate matters, since getting usable oil out of bitumen is over three times more carbon-intensive than the standard ‘drill baby drill’ stuff.  Literally tons of earth must be moved and processed to get just one barrel of oil from the tar sands.

Maybe we’ll stop the Pipeline – as you can see at www.tarsandsaction.org, the effort is mammoth.  And it’s promising, since the decision to allow it lies solely with this Administration (thus our chant across from the White House will include “keep your promise”).  I pray that we succeed:  NASA climatologist James Hansen, who plans to join the faith contingent today, claims that the XL Keystone’s steady flow of tar sands oil would be all but ‘game over’ for efforts to curb climate change before catastrophic ill effects begin.  You can help by signing the petition at http://act.350.org/sign/tar-sands/ — please do.

And perhaps, despite our best efforts to hold President Obama to his pledges to turn around the juggernaut of climate change on his watch, we won’t succeed.  Maybe the pipeline will be built over the uniform objection of the environmental community.  But even if so, this enormous wave of environmental civil disobedience will still have upped the ante, establishing that inaction too carries a price, and demonstrating the resolve of those who actually oppose the decimation of our global life support system.

That’s why I’ll be standing in front of the White House with Sister Marie Dennis of the Maryknoll Office on Global Concerns, who says “I’m risking arrest because I owe it to my children and grandchildren” (http://blog.sojo.net/2011/08/24/hubble-hubble-climate-trouble/).  That’s why I’m following Lawrence MacDonald (not the only member of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church VA arrested earlier this week), who like me holds that “the details of the Tar Sands and the XL Pipeline matter less than the urgent need to shift to a post-carbon energy future. The Tar Sands XL Pipeline sit-ins at the White House this month are an opportunity to finally begin to match my knowledge about climate change with action” (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/14/1006884/-Stop-Tar-Sands:-While-I).

And that’s why I urge everyone to join the effort – stopping this pipeline, sure, but more so our entire approach to energy, our insatiable appetite for that which destroys at it powers.  (As a friend from synagogue who used to be in the oil industry notes, best of all for the environment “was the recent deal the Obama Administration made to increase vehicle mileage standards; that will do more long term to help the planet than [stopping] all the tar sands projects put together. We need more of that…”  Amen.)

It’s fitting that our party of over 40 faith leaders (along with scores more risking arrest today) will, if all goes well, be released late this afternoon or early this evening.  With sundown tonight we enter Rosh Hodesh Elul, the Jewish festival celebrating the arrival of the penitential month.  Elul readies us for the season of tshuvah – of repentance, turning, change – that follows.  Tonight marks one month to go until Rosh Hashanah, forty days until Yom Kippur.

Change, repentance, is needed all around.  Where we have over-consumed, let us scale back.  Where we have ignored the cries of Creation, let us now heed them.  Where we have failed to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’ – including our impoverished global neighbors who live near sea level with no defense against rising oceans and increased storms – let us re-align our actions with this excellent biblical advice.  Where we have chewed through the planet’s resources and absorptive capacity with no regard for the future, let us now take seriously our responsibility to be stewards of Creation l’dor vador, from generation to generation.  Only by seriously starting our sustainability efforts will we inscribe others into the Book of Life – and only then will be deserve to be written into that good book ourselves.  

— Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb is a Co-Chair of Religious Witness for the Earth (www.rwearth.org).  He is also, for identification purposes only, Rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda Maryland (www.adatshalom.net); chair of Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light (www.gwipl.org); and on the Governance Committee of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (www.coejl.org).  Like Sister Marie, he is doing this for Sara and Gili, ages 6 and 2, and all who may come after them.


In a beautiful ceremony, 138 climate change activists were arrested today in front of the White House, with hundreds more attending in solidarity.  And with credit to the talented National Lawyers’ Guild, the kind and thoughtful-as-possible US Park Police, and the fabulous Tar Sands organizers, all of us (minus one who chose otherwise) were out well before 5pm…  As I offered at the interfaith service before our rally/witness, we should be grateful for all that we have (and committed to extending it to others in turn), including the relative freedoms in this land whereby most of us can risk arrest without personally risking all that much, unlike so much of the rest of the world.

The quote of the day comes from Sam Novey, cited on his sister (and my colleague & friend who was also arrested today) Joelle’s facebook page: “It was kind of intense when the police started coming toward us, but I was standing between two Franciscan friars, a rabbi, and [NASA climate scientist] James Hansen. I thought, ‘I am definitely right on this one.'”  How honored I am to have been that rabbi ;-)

Bottom line:  this civil disobedience action went unbelievably well; except for 90 minutes handcuffed in the police wagon, which even then was meaningful and connective, nothing was at all uncomfortable or challenging.  We don’t deserve any particular kudos for ‘putting ourselves on the line'; we risked arrest, paid $100 each, and were home well before dinner.  The value in this action lies primarily in the re-dedication it sparks in the participants, the witnesses, and in you who hear the story to do a bit more to conserve, to advocate, to move our lives and our world a bit closer to sustainability and sacredness.

A huge shout-out to Rose Berger of Sojouners and Tim Kumfer of Church of the Savior — they had an inkling to organize an interfaith contingent at the Tar Sands action, and made it happen, and it was amazing.  What an honor to have done this with fellow GW-IPL (like Father Jacek from St Camillus and Pam Spaar from the UU community) and local Jewish (like Laura Bellows of the Teva Learning Center and Reb David Shneyer of Am Kolel) folks…  and thanks too to all the wonderful supporters in the crowd, whose presence and song and witnessing-our-witness were so meaningful…  Keep up the good work, everyone!

Thanks much to GW-IPL’s Josef Lorentz for these photos, too:

How Time Flies….

August 29, 2011

So our great goal to keep this site updated failed miserably once paternity leave ended and parenting began in earnest — now, after a crazy long hiatus, finally a few favorites from 2011 so far:

Recent highlights included Colonial Williamsburg with our MSP family:


Installing solar panels on our roof at  Adat Shalom (at 43kw, the largest array on any religious building in Metro DC!):

Camp JRF:

And a few quiet days in a rented cabin in WV before returning to a routine of hurricanes, earthquakes, and High Holy Day prep:

Blessings on you & yours!


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