What Kind of Jew Are You?
When I was a hospital chaplain, a patient once asked me, “what kind of Jew are you?” I responded, “hopefully one who is compassionate, kind, and caring.” He responded, “no, no, no that isn’t what I meant…Reform, Orthodox, or what?” He needed to understand my religious values and thought that affiliation would give him the information that he was seeking. But, the truth is that even though I am a JTS ordained “Conservative” rabbi I have never really had an answer to this question. In my family we have a deliberate and thoughtful Shabbat practice, which is informed by halacha (Jewish law), family values, and spirituality but is not solely dictated by Jewish law. We observe kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), but eat out vegetarian in restaurants and have meat-heckshered and dairy non-heckshered dishes in our home. I work at the J, belong to a Conservative synagogue, and send my kids to Reform day school and religious school. I often feel there is no single space for me in organized Jewish life. At the same time, I believe we are forging a path that will keep our family Jewishly connected and fulfilled for the long-term. Then it dawned on me...
The following blog post gives the view and opinions of its author, Rabbi Jill Levy, and does not represent an official opinion or position of the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC of Houston, nor does it necessarily reflect the opinion and views of any member, employee or board member of the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC of Houston. The purpose of this blog, and specifically this post, is to present how Jewish texts can enlighten contemporary issues. We do not expect that everyone will draw the same conclusions. As Rabbi Ishmael teaches in the Talmud, “A Biblical verse is like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces... just as the rock is split into many splinters, so also may one biblical verse convey many teachings.” (BT Sanhedrin 34a). We hope you’ll share your thoughts and opinions with others in the comments section below.
Anyone who causes one life to be lost from Israel, it is as if they have destroyed the entire world. Anyone who saves one life from Israel, it is as if they have preserved an entire world. – Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 37a.
If gun ownership can save even one life then shouldn’t we support this practice? So far, in 2015, there have been 687 defensive gun uses. After all, the Talmud teaches that everyone has the right to self-defense. It states, “If someone comes to kill you, act first and kill him.” (Brachot 62b)
At the same time, there have also been 1071 accidental shootings, 1840 children ages 0-17 killed/injured, 7439 deaths and 14,781 injuries this year. Ratios typically range around one justifiable shooting for every 32 murders, suicides or accidental deaths annually. You can read about victim stories here from the bradycampaign.org.
As Jews, we have a tradition that cares deeply about the importance of human life, and as Americans we have a public safety issue that we cannot ignore. The United States currently leads the world in firearm ownership and firearm-related deaths, averaging 88 guns per 100 people and 82 deaths each day due to gun violence, including eight children under the age of 18.
We all want to be safe and secure in our own homes and outside. The question becomes what is the best way to achieve that security and should guns play a role?
There are a number of texts that we can draw on from Jewish tradition that speak to this issue. I am presenting the following three texts that guide my beliefs:
My summer camp challenge this year: To teach every camper, in every camp, the same dance, and come together to perform it.
You may not see this as a major challenge, but with seven different camps, at least eight camp directors, numerous counselors and hundreds of children, there are a number of different people and personalities at play. While this may still seem like a simple task, I can assure you, it is not...
There are hundreds of families and children who were affected by the flood and need support for school supplies for the coming school year. Needs range from backpacks and uniforms to general notebooks, pencils, binders, folders, etc.
Anyone who is interested in donating items can take the items to UOS starting now through this weekend.
- composition books
- binders and loose leaf paper
- pencil holders
- general school supplies
Please consider supporting this effort if you are able. For questions, please contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re surrounded by so many stinky things, on a regular day. And now, even more, for some of our unfortunate community members who were affected by the recent flooding and have been cleaning, scrubbing, and throwing stuff for weeks. But as I walked up to the J this morning and caught a whiff of something even before stepping into the building, I realized what we all could use this summer is a little aromatherapy at the J
It’s not what you think. It’s not some spritz the J is squirting outside to welcome its visitors and members. It’s not the sometimes far too heavy use of Norell perfume, a favorite of my late mother and so many other women of a certain age, many of whom are at the J every day to exercise, socialize, or just plain “hang out.” (Yes! Active adults like to just hang out!) And it’s not the enticing smells coming from Laykie’s kitchens, although they are intoxicating...
The last two days have been filled with donation drop offs and lots of supplies being provided to households in need in the community. The need is still great, and your community needs your help.
The J will continue as a drop off and pick up site for cleaning and packing supplies. We have the greatest need for boxes, gloves, masks, tarps and any cleaning supplies.
If you are interested in volunteering, or need volunteers in your home, the coordination of this will be handled by JFS. You can email JFS at email@example.com
Counseling and Crisis Management:
Counseling and crisis management will be coordinated by JFS and should call JFS directly at 713-667-9336.
Gift card donations can be sent to JFS, or dropped off at the J, and we will make sure they get to JFS.
This has certainly been a challenging week in our community as we respond to the devastation caused by the flooding. I wanted to share an update regarding the relief effort, the damage sustained at the J and plans for start of summer camp.
I know that you join me as part of a larger community to lend a helping hand and offer whatever assistance you can to families and friends in need. The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston and Jewish Family Service are coordinating relief support and the J is a drop-off site for the following items: bottled water, work gloves, plastic storage bins, heavy trash bags, heady duty razor blades to rip out carpet and cleaning supplies, including old towels. We are also collecting gift cards from home repair stores and grocery stores for our Bertha Alyce Early Childhood School families that have experienced loss. Additional information on ways to offer support can be found on the Jewish Federation website at www.houstonjewish.org/houstonflood.
Child Care Needs
I recognize that families may have...
The creation of an original cabaret performance has been a dream of mine for several years, and I am so happy and proud that on Wednesday, May 6, we previewed our two women show, “29, One More Time.”
“29, One More Time” is an irresistibly engaging cabaret theatre performance filled with songs and stories of youth, love, motherhood and the perils and triumphs of womanhood. I wrote and perform this joyful, original work along with Joanne Bonasso who also stars. It is directed by seasoned theatre veteran, Rebekah Dahl from the Music Box Theatre with musical direction by Mitch Pengra.
We created a cabaret that is filled with unique stories from our lives that are fun, exciting and highly relatable. “29, One More Time” is a play on the social norm of a woman’s need to stay forever young. As women, mothers and actresses, we relate and through our show examine another way to define ourselves, beyond the number of years we have lived on this earth. Audiences will be delighted by the music in the show, ranging from well-known classics like...
April 1, 2015. By Marilyn Hassid--
In a couple of weeks the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC is proudly hosting a remarkable play on our Kaplan Theatre Stage. Bad Jews, by Joshua Harmon, is a coproduction of Stages Repertory Theatre and Black Lab Theatre in cooperation with the J.
The play’s director, Jordan Jaffe, is the Artistic Director of Black Lab Theatre. Jaffe spent many years roaming the halls of the J as a child and was a JCC Maccabi Sports participant. He later discovered a love for theater while attending Rice University, and in 2013 was named to the Houston Press' Top 100 Creatives list of "movers and shakers" in the Houston arts community.
Bad Jews tells the story of three cousins: Daphna who has just returned from Israel, empowered by her journey; Liam who has fallen for an “American Girl” who is anything but Jewish; and Jonah (note the name!) who just doesn’t want to get involved. Their grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, has died, leaving behind his precious Chai necklace. Battle lines are drawn as these self-absorbed cousins clash over possession of this beloved family heirloom.
I had the privilege of sitting through the first read-through of the play and I promise you, it’s riveting, thought-provoking, and yes, disturbing and, at times funny. I just wanted to throttle these age 20-ish cousins! Don't get me wrong, they could very well be older and still be as self-absorbed. The play is so relatable that you feel a unique emotional connection to the characters.
In a few days, many of us will be sitting around Passover tables and looking to the youngest to ask the Four Questions. This year, I’m suggesting four more questions to be posed by the adults at the table as a lead up to the play:
- What does it mean to be a "Good Jew"?
- Do I consider myself a Jewish American or American Jew?
- Can interfaith marriages work?
- What is the most important Jewish value that you hope to pass on to your children?
Take these four additional questions to your seders and start a conversation. Let us know how the conversation goes by leaving some thoughts in the comments below.
Purchase tickets to Bad Jews online at erjcchouston.org/theatre.
See you at the theatre,
Check out this recent interview with Bad Jews Director, Jordan Jaffe:
A poorly kept secret is that we have a first class ceramics program and a very high quality, well equipped studio at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC. This is not a paint-by-number program, but it is one where students of any level can learn to create their works of art from raw clay and bring them to completion. We have wonderful, up-to -date equipment, and we use first class materials. Instruction is led by professional ceramic artists. Our newest additions are new cabinets, new sink, new lighting, a double wedging table, a slab roller and a wall mounted clay extruder. Dozens of glazes and underglazes are available and are constantly replenished. An additional kiln is on the way as well.
Our dwindling program was kept alive for many years mostly by the untiring efforts of Judy Mellon and Marge Mayer. Now because of enthusiastic students, quality instructors and support and investment from the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC, the program is growing in popularity. The classes run two hours long, and unlike some other ceramic studios there is ample "studio time" for work to be perfected and completed to each student's full satisfaction. At this time we have a class for wheel instruction as well as a class for hand building. Class sizes are optimal now, but if future registration continues to increase, additional classes are possible.
You're welcome to visit and watch the artists at work. The classes are on Monday and Wednesday from 1:00 PM-3:00 PM. In addition to the class instruction the studio is available to students Monday-Friday. To learn more about the ceramic program and other art classes visit erjcchouston.org/art.
Hope to see you soon.
Member and Ceramics Student