Thursday, March 25, 2010

With the Legislative Assistants at the RAC, along with Rabbi Lynne Landsberg and Rabbi Michael Namath (along with Rachel and Kyle).

Rachel and I in front of the Capitol.

Serena and I at the Sculpture Garden in DC.
Monday, March 22nd
Serena Tobias, a friend and congregant of TAE, had never been to Washington DC so she decided to join me for the week to explore the city while I was doing my presentations. Today, we had the opportunity to explore the National Archives Museum where we saw the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. One of my favorite action movies was “The National Treasure” in which Nicholas Cage attempts to search for the original Declaration of Independence while the bad guys try to steal it from the Archives Building. So here I was walking through this building and seeing the many thick walls and vaults knowing how well secured this place was and how it would be almost impossible to walk out with such an historical document!

Then we went to the National Gallery of Art where we saw plenty of art especially from 14th-16th century. I had never seen so many oil paintings in one day! Of course I saw some of my favorites including Johannes Vermeer and Renoir. We also went to the Sculpture Garden where the sizes of the sculptures were gigantic. My favorite sculpture was the typewriter eraser- it has a round red eraser on the bottom and a brush on top of it. I fondly remember looking through my dad’s office desk and seeing those green typewriter erasers. However this particular one was enormous!

Tuesday, March 23rd
Our second day of exploring DC- Rachel is on Spring Break so she flew in to join us for the week to be with us. We went to the American History Museum and we finally saw Kermit the Frog! He says hello to all of you. Of course we saw Judy Garland’s famous shiny red shoes that she wore in the movie, Wizard of the Oz. My most recent favorite movie is Julie and Julia about the famous chef, Julia Child- her kitchen is now on display at this museum and it was almost surreal being there. The kitchen looked so ordinary with many knives on the wall as Julia always believed that a good knife was a necessity to prepare and cook a delicious meal. The second museum for the day was a visit to the National Portrait Gallery where they have all the presidents on display with the exception of Obama as these portraits only go up towards the end of their terms. I was completely enthralled by these portraits and learned so much about some of the presidents whom I had never even heard of! After visiting the fourth museum in two days, my feet could barely move but it was a worthwhile workout!

Wednesday, March 24th
WRN Workshop
“The Women’s Rabbinic Network (WRN), a constituent group of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), was created in 1975 by a group of female rabbinic students to provide the support and advocacy needed in the early years of women in the Reform rabbinate…since then, the organization has grown to include the more than 400 women who have been ordained since 1972 at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. The WRN has consistently worked to promote the personal and professional growth of female rabbis and rabbinic students within the Reform Movement…women rabbis have had a profound impact on the world Jewish community. ‘We have contributed to the growth of feminist biblical commentary and midrash, and have paved the path for ritual innovation and creativity. As rabbis in congregations, in Hillel’s, as chaplains in geriatric and hospital settings, as educators, teachers, healers, professors and poets, we are all making a significant contribution to our community.”

Today, I met with some of my colleagues from the WRN to offer a presentation about Jews with Disabilities. These women work within the greater DC area and meet several times a year to check in with each other, to schmooze and study together. They invited me to share my story and my experience regarding inclusion within the synagogue. The biggest barrier that we face is attitudes as it’s very easy to build a ramp and provide an interpreter. But it is not easy to remove people’s judgments against others and as a result, it makes it more challenging for those to feel welcome within the Jewish community. The discussion was lively and without a doubt these rabbis are greatly committed to make others feel welcome within their own synagogues knowing that they will not be able to solve all problems, but at least work on it to the best of their abilities.

Later in the afternoon, I went to Washington Hebrew Congregation, a Reform congregation with 3,000 members. I was invited to speak with the children during religious school t'filah. Before we did t'filah, the children did a mitzvah project called:

"The Project Elijah Foundation was established in 2004 to provide resources for children in Buenos Aires, Argentina suffering because of the collapse of the Argentine economy. In PEF's efforts to provide food, shelter, and education for these children, PEF learned about the depth of hunger not only in Argentina, but around the world even here in America, in our own “back yard”. This became PEF's focus.That awareness and understanding led us to the development of “Elijah’s Kosher Manna”, a highly nutritious kosher food package intended for hunger relief for those in need here and abroad. This program, which began as a strictly Jewish hunger relief program, has shifted its focus to sharing its resources with all those in need."

That day, the children packaged over 1400 meals to be sent to the local shelters in the DC area. The children were deeply involved and aware that they made a difference for one family's meal.

During T'filah, I discussed the fact that it took their hands to make a difference and how hands are an important part of the sacred partnership that we have with God. I shared with them my personal story and explained that hands are also a beautiful way of communication and offered to teach the Shema in sign language. The children responded beautifully and all smiled after we did the Shema with no words and in complete silence.

Thursday March 25th
Presentation at the RAC
“The History of the Religious Action Center
“Since moving into its home at 2027 Massachusetts Avenue, the Center has become a voice of conscience in our nation’s capital. From its historic building on Washington’s Embassy Row, the RAC has educated and mobilized the American Jewish community on legislative and social concerns as an advocate in Congress on issues ranging from Israel and Soviet Jewry to economic justice; from civil rights to international peace and religious liberty. Since it was established in 1961, the RAC has been an integral part of some of the most important political and social developments in recent history.”

I went to the Religious Action Center along with Serena, Rachel and Kyle Fradkin who is studying in the DC area for one quarter through the University of California. Kyle and his family are long-time members at TAE. Kyle’s grandfather, Arthur Fradkin, attends our Saturday morning services every Shabbat. Kyle and Rachel both attend UC Davis and have been close friends since their AETY days.

The first person that came to greet us was Rabbi David Saperstein- his bio is quite impressive…this is what it says:
“Designated in Newsweek’s 2009 list as the most influential rabbi in the country and described in a Washington Post profile as "the quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill," Rabbi David Saperstein represents the national Reform Jewish Movement to Congress and the Administration as the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.”
I have heard him speak over the years and he is one of the most dynamic and outgoing speakers that I have ever heard of. It was a pleasure to see him in person! Rabbi Lynne Landsberg gave us a tour and we met several of the Eisendrath Legislative Assistants (LA) “who are involved and play a pivotal role in every aspect of the Center's work — Legislative Advocacy, Conferences, Communications and supporting the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism.”

These young people gathered around the table and I spoke to them about the challenges that many Jews with disabilities tend to face. The challenge remains but these young people were filled with much energy and optimistic that they are determined that civil rights will continue to be on the top of their agenda.

As you may know that Rabbi Ted Riter was also one of these LAs before he entered rabbinical school awhile back. To work in the halls of the Religious Action Center is truly impressive because it is the beating heart of the Reform Movement to make sure that all voices are heard on Capital Hill.

It was a humble experience to speak to these people at the Religious Action Center who are fully committed and dedicated to change the world one day at a time for all humanity.

Friday, March 26th
Visit to Gallaudet University Hillel for Shabbat Dinner and Visit with the Jewish deaf students.

“Gallaudet University, the world's only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students, was founded in 1864 by an Act of Congress, and its charter was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.”

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yesterday I arrived and brought the Southern California weather with me here to Washington DC! Apparently it was the first day of sun for the local DC people after such a major winter season with lots and lots of snow! I met Rabbi Lynne Landsberg and her husband, Dennis and they welcomed me with open arms and graciously invited me to stay with them. They live in the Chevy Chase area and because it was so warm and sunny – I had a chance to take a nice long walk to wear off the jet-lag. That night we arrived at Temple Micah and were formally welcomed by Rabbi Esther Lederman. This is the second synagogue where name tags were set on the side table as people walked in so that everyone would know and feel welcomed into the synagogue. The program began at 6pm with delicious fruit, humos and crackers plus song and greetings outside in the foyer. We lit the candles, bless the wine, the challah and then we walked into the sanctuary for the actual service. It is exactly like our Kabbalat Shabbat that we do on the fifth Friday of the month at TAE. It created a lovely atmosphere of welcoming the Shabbat.

Traveling so far to the other side of the country, one may assume that I did not know anyone. Wrong. I saw a few friends from the Jewish Deaf community of DC plus I saw congregants from TAE! Who did I see? Well, Dr. Iceland and his wife Jan have been members of TAE for many years and Dr. Iceland has done an excellent job with my teeth. His daughter, Stephanie and her husband moved to Washington DC several months ago. They had been searching for a synagogue and by luck they found out that I was going to be at Temple Micah that night. So they decided to come and surprise me plus check out Temple Micah. It was wonderful to see them again and to see how they are doing, as they will be going overseas for work shortly. I think they enjoyed Temple Micah as I introduced them to Rabbi Esther Lederman who is the assistant rabbi at this synagogue. Rabbi Zemel was on a congregational trip to Israel so he was not able to be there. The congregants welcomed me and they enjoyed my presentation tremendously. The sanctuary is quite modern surrounded by wooden floors and walls. Beautiful Hebrew quotes around the borders of the room. The ark was quite unique as each Torah has it’s own little Ark as they stood next to each other. The congregation uses the Mishkan T’filah. The junior choir also participated in the service and they were such a delight to watch. When they sang V’sharmru- many kids who go to Jewish camps- know that this is the song that they stand up in the middle of it. Well not only did the kids stand up, but also the adults were going along with it. It was a fun sight to watch! I must admit that Shirei Elohim- the TAE junior choir is the best choir of all! I miss them so much so here is a kiss to all of you little ones and keep singing your hearts out!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Third Stop
Washington, DC
March 18th-March 27th, 2010

Visit to Temple Micah
March 19th Friday

"Temple Micah, named by Newsweek as "One of America's 25 Most Vibrant Congregations", is a Reform Jewish congregation dedicated to the spiritual fulfillment of its members. We value religious observance enhanced by social action, intellectual challenge, lifelong Jewish learning and beautiful music. Our diverse and welcoming community nurtures personal connections through active participation in a vibrant temple life."

"Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe, the first deaf female ordained rabbi, will speak at Friday evening services on March 19. Her topic will be, “I Heard God’s Call…A Sacred and Personal Story…”. Rabbi Dubowe, a leader of the national Jewish Deaf Community, has served as a spiritual leader of Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks, CA, for 13 years. She currently serves on the Central Conference of American Rabbis Committee on Disability Awareness and Inclusion. Micah’s Accessibility and Inclusion Committee is coordinating Rabbi Dubowe’s visit."

Monday, March 15, 2010

My first stop of the day was a visit to the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco that reopened during the summer of 2008. The building is quite exceptional as it was the former historic Jessie Street Gas & Electric (PG&E) Power Substation, a 1907 landmark designed by architect Willis Polk. I was greatly moved by one of the exhibits called Our Struggle: Responding to Mein Kampf. This exhibit is a result of French painter and photographer, Linda Ellia’s, encounter with a copy of Mein Kampf in 2005. She actually tore the book apart and gave the pages to various people including strangers. Her request to them was to do anything with that page and use it as an expression of art. The exhibit showed many of these people’s artwork on their individual pages. It was powerful so if you ever have a chance to go to San Francisco anytime from now until June- you must stop at this museum and check out their exhibits.

Later that evening, I arrived at Shaar Zahav and my high school classmate, Danny Kodmur, was waiting to greet me at the door. We had not seen each other since high school! He looked wonderful and was a gracious host as I entered into the synagogue. Before the service, Rabbi Camille Angel welcomed me to her study as we had a chance to catch up. Rabbi Angel and I were classmates during rabbinical school and it was a true honor to speak on her bimah for this Shabbat evening. Somehow, word got out and there were at least 10 deaf people that came to the service because they heard that there was a deaf rabbi speaking. Most people have never met a deaf rabbi since there are only a few of us in this world. They were humbled by my presence and I enjoyed visiting with them during the Oneg. Along with them, there were several other visitors including my daughter, Rachel and her friend Alana and family from Davis, several other rabbis who belong to Shaar Zahav and wanted to be there to hear me speak and also Elyssa Match, Bobbie Match’s daughter who lives in SF. Bobbie is one of our TAE ECC teachers and I have known her children, Alyssa and Charlie, since they were children in our TAE community.

Throughout the evening, there was such warmth and a strong sense of community. Attending this particular synagogue as it is geared to the gay and lesbian community allowed me to have a better understanding as to why we must remain open minded and remember the importance of tolerance to welcome all people together as one human race. There is no one person less or more than others and that is what Shaar Zahav has done.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Visit to Congregation Sha'ar Zahav, San Francisco, CA

“…the Congregation of the Golden Gate, is a progressive Reform synagogue, established in 1977. We are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual Jews, together with family and friends, both Jewish and non-Jewish. We come from a wide range of religious, ethnic, class and cultural backgrounds to worship God with egalitarian, feminist and gay-positive Jewish liturgy.
Please join us for our very special guest, Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe, the first female deaf ordained Rabbi in the world.
"I Heard God’s Call… A Sacred and Personal Story of Rabbi Rebecca L. Dubowe, the first deaf female ordained rabbi”

“Rabbi Dubowe will share her personal experiences and insights about the importance on inclusion especially in the Jewish community The Baal Shem Tov said: It is not good to be alone, for one cannot know one’s differences. Other people are mirrors, in which one can discover their own differences by observing the acts of others." Rabbi Dubowe will address the great needs of those who are alone because of their differences. Are our synagogue doors open wide enough to welcome all who want to embrace Judaism and be a part of the Jewish community?

Following Shabbat services will be an informal Q&A discussion with Rabbi Rebecca Dubowe. All are welcome.”
The third day of the CCAR conference was about professional development. The theme of the two workshops was on how we as rabbis use the pulpit to inspire, comfort and communicate. The emphasis on these workshops was on Social Media that includes blogging, facebook, twitter among other new technologies. Some technology experts say that email will no longer be the main source of communication but rather it will be through social media. It was fascinating to learn and understand the various types of media and left me wondering as to how many people in our TAE congregation actually use one or more of these social medias.
The second workshop was about visual t’fillah and the idea of using visual media during the services. The challenge is how to balance one’s own personal t’fillah along with the community and to use a visual image or picture on the bimah during the service. This idea is not so new as its greatly used in the mega churches. Later in April, I will be visiting Woodlands Community Synagogue in New York that actually uses Visual T’fillah once a month. I look forward to this t’fillah experience and to bring back some insights to the possibility that this might be something we would like to try here at TAE.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Since there is so little time for rabbis to do everything, the conference coordinators scheduled programs back to back so that we can do everything as usual! Tuesday morning, all the committee meetings were held at 7am! One of them was the CCAR Committee on Disability Awareness and Inclusion. The Chair of this Committee is Rabbi Lynne Landsberg who has an incredible story. She was in a very bad car accident and was left with a brain injury that caused her to walk with a cane and with limited short-term memory however this did not stop her from becoming a strong vocal advocate for those with special needs within in the Jewish community. Lynne invited me to be the speaker for this meeting and I graciously accepted this honor. There were about 15 rabbis who attended this committee because inclusion is on their agenda within their own synagogues. I was challenged to think of what to say that they have not already heard. Being in the rabbinate, we tend to believe that we are problem solvers. I explained to the group that we will not be able to solve all the problems or issues related to inclusion however we can change the language or actions that we may use on a daily basis. The most important action that a rabbi or synagogue leader can do is to acknowledge the family with special needs once they enter our sanctuary. Just to welcome and greet them, neighbors or strangers can take us a long way. It is about human touch and reaching out. This is so true especially with families that have special needs. My colleagues greatly agreed and know that it takes one step at a time to make a difference in their congregants’ lives.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My Second Stop... San Francisco
Sunday, March 7- Thursday, March 11, 2010
Attending the CCAR Annual Conference
“The CCAR was founded in 1889. Its members are the body of rabbis who consider themselves and are considered to be the organized rabbinate of Reform Judaism.
The CCAR enriches and strengthens the Jewish community by empowering Reform Rabbis to provide religious, spiritual and organizational leadership as it:
• Fosters excellence in Reform Rabbis
• Enhances Reform Rabbis’ professional and personal lives
• Amplifies the voice of the Reform Rabbinate in the Reform Movement, the Jewish community and the world in which we live.
Its members consist of Reform Rabbis ordained at the HUC-JIR Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, as well as Reform Rabbis ordained at liberal seminaries in Europe, and some rabbis who joined the Reform movement sometime subsequent to ordination.”
Rabbi Alan Greenbaum, Rabbi Ted Riter and I were all ordained by the HUC-JIR , Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion and are members of the CCAR.
I had the pleasure to visit my daughter’s synagogue. As you may know Rachel, my eldest is a sophomore at UC Davis. All her life, Rachel has known what it meant to be an “RK” …a rabbi’s kid. Growing up at TAE, being a part of the youth group and as a madrichah – it has definitely prepared Rachel for opportunities while attending Davis. Her major is Human Development with a possible minor in Jewish Studies. She is currently a teacher of the 4th grade at the religious school on Sundays. On those mornings, the community gathers into the sanctuary for t’filah just like we do at TAE with Cantor David. Since Rabbi Wolfe, the Beth Haverim rabbi, was on sabbatical, Rachel asked me if I would come and lead the families into t’filah. In addition to a number of teachings -I took the opportunity to teach them how to do the Shema in sign language. It was my first time outside of TAE to teach my favorite prayer in sign with Rachel on my side. It was incredible. A holy moment that ended in complete silence with no words or music but music to my ears!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My First Stop…Davis, CA
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Visit to Congregation Beth Haverim
“Founded in 1961, Congregation Bet Haverim still counts among its members some of the “first families” who began a Jewish fellowship in Yolo County in order to share simchas, sorrows and faith with friends who felt like family.
Today, Bet Haverim continues in the spirit of our founders by welcoming the full range of diverse Jewish and interfaith families: single parents, singles, multi-cultural and multi-racial families, gays and lesbians, people of all ages and people with special needs.
As Yolo County’s only synagogue, the congregational family includes more that 280 member households, and offers an on-site Sunday school and Hebrew school, in addition to Gan Haverim, Yolo County’s only Jewish preschool. Ample adult education opportunities, spirituality programming and holiday celebration also are at the core of the vibrant and dynamic synagogue experience at Bet Haverim.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

To provide you with a basic overview, my Speaker’s Tour will include:
· Speaking at several congregations in Washington, D.C.; New York; Phoenix; and San Francisco.
· Meeting with the Religious Action Center (RAC) staff, synagogue staffs, and religious school communities.
· Visiting Hillel locations, including UCSB and Gallaudet University.
· Leading a workshop for the Women’s Rabbinic Network in the Washington, D.C. area.
· Visiting synagogues as an ambassador for TAE.
In addition to the Speaker’s Tour, my objective is to bring back new ideas for programming and worship experiences, and to let others know who we are: the vibrant Jewish community of Temple Adat Elohim. This will be an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime journey; and I want to share this entire experience with you. How? Join me on my blog, as I reflect on my travels, my visits, and the variety of experiences encountered within the different Jewish communities.
A significant part of my journey is really the one within the Temple Adat Elohim community. Thirteen years ago – with courage and support – you graciously opened the doors to invite me to become one of TAE’s spiritual leaders. My sincere hope is that you will participate in the blog, and share your comments and feedback with me as this new journey begins … because your presence in my life has greatly influenced who I am today.
Thank you all for your ongoing encouragement and for allowing me to experience this remarkable opportunity. I look forward to “blogging” with you!

Rabbi Rebecca L. Dubowe