Topic: JOFEE

“Down To Earth” Judaism | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Chayei Sarah Darya Watnick | Edlavitch DC JCC – Washington, DC  This week’s Torah portion is Chayei Sarah, literally “The Life of Sarah.” The title is a bit of a misnomer, as Sarah dies in the second verse. This portion instead focuses on Sarah’s legacy — specifically Abraham and Isaac, those most influenced by her incredible life. It’s a legacy all about family life and connection to tradition – a story that mirrors much of my work here at the DC JCC as a JOFEE Fellow. Here’s what happens in Chayei Sarah, in a nutshell: Sarah dies at age 127 and is buried in the Cave of Machpelah, in Hebron, which Abraham buys from Ephron the Hittite. Abraham then sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Isaac. In order to find the right woman, Eliezer devises the “camel test”:when he asks for water at the well, which woman will also offer to give his camels a drink. Rebecca passes the test and returns with Eliezer to Isaac and Abraham. Isaac and Rebecca get married. Then Abraham takes a new wife, Keturah, and has six more sons. Abraham dies at the age of 175 and is buried next to Sarah, […]

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Parasha Vayeira – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

By: Brittany Feldman – Hazon – Detroit, Michigan   This week’s Torah Portion, Vayeira, discusses circumcision, birth, destruction, disobedience, and devotion. With so many themes in one portion, I’m choosing to focus on one that stood out to me the most, disobedience. In this particular text, “Abraham pleads with G‑d to spare the wicked city of Sodom. Two of the three disguised angels arrive in the doomed city, where Abraham’s nephew Lot extends his hospitality to them and protects them from the evil intentions of a Sodomite mob. The two guests reveal that they have come to overturn the place, and to save Lot and his family. Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt when she disobeys the command not to look back at the burning city as they flee.” I found the last line of this text to be extremely powerful in many ways. For me, it brought up thoughts about destruction and violence- if something bad happens should we choose to just move on with our lives without looking back? Although Lot’s wife disobeyed G-d’s command can her decision be justified? I started thinking about why she would choose to disobey this command. Was it just out […]

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Parasha Ha’Azinu – D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

By Amanda Gluckich – Milk and Honey Farm – Boulder, CO In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Ha’Azinu, we learn that the people of Israel, who have been wandering the desert for forty years after leaving Egypt, are about to enter the Holy Land that has been promised to them by God. Moses, who is not allowed to continue into the Holy Land due to previous transgressions, is preparing to sing a song to the people of Israel. The Torah portion, or parsha, is virtually entirely made up of song verses. Moses’s song speaks of the intergenerational tragedies and triumphs of the people of Israel, and even articulates the future to some degree. Moses sings of the people of Israel’s many struggles to accept one God, and of all of the things that God has done for them throughout the generations. Moses’s song brings everyone together and up to speed to explain why they are currently in the place they are in: about to be metaphorically born into the Land of Israel, promised to them by God. Moses begins: “Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! And let the earth hear the words of my mouth!” (Deut. 32:1). When reading […]

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2017 JOFEE Network Gathering Remarks

From Steven Green, Director of Grants Management and Program Officer, Jim Joseph Foundation We are here! We tend to wish one another a Shana Tovah while we acknowledge this has been a Shana Kashe. It’s been a tough year. That’s probably the understatement of the century, but it needs to be said and acknowledged. The attacks on Jews of all creeds have been physical, verbal, emotional, and unrelenting. Our values and our resolve have simultaneously been tested. And of course we have not been the only ones attacked in these ways. But no longer are we in a shtetl. No longer are we monolithic. No longer are we even always a ‘we’ – and yet, we are still degraded and debased collectively. I know these are less-than-uplifting remarks, but processing this reality helps us better understand our work and our critical role creating deeply meaningful, personal life experiences for people. Others here will talk about JOFEE specifically; I want to focus for just a few minutes on the external realities impacting many of our lives right now. We have shown that we can stand up against something together – standing up against misogyny through women’s marches; standing up against bigotry, antisemitism, […]

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Parasha Netzavim: Choosing to Dig In

By: Margot Sands – Ekar Farm – Boulder, Co Parasha Netzavim This week’s Torah portion, Netzavim, offers us the warning of risks and rewards that could result from engaging in Judaism. See for yourself in a snapshot of this week’s Torah portion: Moses delivers a message from G-d about the consequences that may be endured as a result of committing to the Jewish faith. What will happen if we do all that has been commanded of us as Jews? We are given the world. Protection. A full, happy life. Fruits of the earth, of the trees, of the next generation. G-d even offers to plot revenge against our enemies. However, the dark consequence bestowed upon us comes from an angry, spiteful G-d. If we don’t choose the faithful life, then we are choosing death and will perish by the wrath of G-d. As I read this Torah portion’s translation, I was stunned by the dichotomy of choices. We can choose the path of a devout Jew, or we can choose to suffer dire consequences. The reward: a gloriously full life following the word of G-d; The risk: taking a misstep in devotion and enduring G-d’s wrath. This contrast of choices […]

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Shabbat at Burning Man

By: Leo Cockrell – Camp Tawonga – San Francisco, CA I arrived on playa for my first Burning Man at midnight on Sunday after eight hours of driving. I got out of my car and I was immediately aware that I had absolutely no bearings. Nothing about this landscape, these people, these structures, or flashing LED lights was familiar, and in a sense, I was no longer familiar to myself. After calibrating my body to the harsh environment and exploring for a few days, I decided to check out the Jewish Theme camp – Milk and Honey. On Thursday morning, Milk and Honey held Torah study and we explored the feelings of unfamiliarity in this particular landscape. We discussed how in Hebrew the word for “Desert” and “Wilderness” is synonymous and wondered if this was because the desert was the only wilderness known at the time of writing the Torah, or if the Desert holds a wildness unique unto itself. We discussed the story of Moses and his discovery of the burning bush in the desert – both how it took his initiation of awareness and curiosity in the bush for G-d to then reach out to him, and how […]

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Gender Identity, Oaths, and Inheritance in Matot-Masei | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Darya Watnick – Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center – Washington, DC Parshat Matot-Masei This week in the Torah we see a double portion: Matot-Masei. Combining Matot and Masei, the two chapters at the end of Numbers/Bamidbar, allows for the need to start the book of Devarim/Deuteronomy on the Shabbat before Tisha b’Av. Matot and Masei are both rather long portions but in the interest of brevity here’s a condensed summary: We start Parshat Matot (Numbers/Bamidbar 30:3-32:42) with a discussion of vows and oaths and the differences in fulfillment for a man and a woman. Moses and the sons of Israel start a war against Midian. It was a brutal war and many of the Midianites are killed (on Moses’ orders). Reuben and Gad want to stay where they are – rather than cross over to the land of Israel. Of course, Moses was furious that they wanted to tend to their herds instead of going with their brothers. Parshat Masei (Numbers/Bamidbar 33:1-36:13) starts with Reuben and Gad promising to help the other tribes settle in the Promised Land before settling themselves in the land across the Jordan River. Moses apportions the land to the tribes and sets up cities of refuge. […]

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Parasha Pinchas / D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

By: Jaclyn Kellner – Coastal Roots Farm – Encinitas, CA Parasha Pinchas “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel from twenty years old and upwards, following their fathers’ houses…” From here, this week’s parsha, Parshat Pinchas, continues to list out the data from this census for the next 46 verses. There is a concept in Torah study that there is not a single superfluous word. This is also far from the only census recounted in full in the Torah. I am sure I’m not alone when I say that I often skim over this sort of census data, eager to get to a story, a list of laws, or a description of what life was like in biblical times. Data collection and analysis is probably among the least sexy work that nonprofits do. So much time and care is put into designing surveys that many folks then don’t fill out, countless hours are spent entering data from sign in and waiver forms. I often stop during a farm-to-fork type trip to weigh and track the produce before we prepare a tasty snack. After all of this work, it’s the information from those one-sentence testimonies, the […]

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When a Donkey Speaks Truth to Power | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Hannah Slipakoff, Jewish Farm School – Philadelphia, PA Parashat Balak In this week’s Parasha, Balak (Numbers 22:2- 25:9), we read a tale about the ways in which kindness and gratitude contribute to justice and G-dliness, and an allegory relating systemic patterns of oppression to land: King Balak of Moab, a ruler whose name means devastator, empty, or wasting, desperately attempts to curse the Israelites. He despises the Tribe of Jacob so deeply, that he attempts to hire Balaam to damn the Israelites for him: There is a people that came out of Egypt; it hides the earth from view, and it is settled next to me. Come then, put a curse upon this people for me, since they are too numerous for me; perhaps I can thus defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed indeed, and he whom you curse is cursed. ~Numbers 22:5-22:7 Balaam mounts a literal WISE ass (inciteful female donkey) and sets out on his wicked task. The Divine however, has a different plan. G-d sends an armed angel to disrupt Balaam’s path, and each time the donkey attempts to avoid danger, Balaam fiercely beats her. […]

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When It Rains It Pours | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Ryan Kaplan, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta Parshat Chukat “Moses made a copper serpent and mounted it on a standard; and when anyone was bitten by a serpent, they would look at the copper serpent and recover.” Numbers 21:9 As I write this post, I sit in my office in Atlanta with the threat of rain clouds to my left and blueberry waffles, coffee, and a coworker’s copy of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) to my right. Georgia’s summer has been very wet thus far, and the promise of the coming downpour outside my window sets a looming melancholic tone for this week’s cinematic Torah portion: Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1). Much happens in the chapters of Chukat. In the interest of brevity: The wandering Israelites are taught in “the ways of the red heifer” (that is to say, they’re told how to purify themselves after coming into contact with a human corpse); Miriam dies and water becomes scarce; Moses and Aaron fall out of G-d’s good graces after striking a rock in search of water instead of speaking to it; Aaron follows Miriam in death and a 30 day period of mourning begins (up from the normal 7 days of Shiva); a […]

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