We will begin once again having hybrid Shabbat morning services this coming weekend. We anticipate, based on current registrations, that we will have an in-person minyan of ten adult Jews so that we can hold the Torah service. Assuming this is the case, we will have the Torah processional and read from the Torah scroll. You can have an aliyah in person at the shul or on Zoom. We plan to reintroduce Kiddush after services at some point fairly soon, but we are taking a “one step at a time” approach so there will be no Kiddush tomorrow.
For reasons of security as well as contact tracing, we ask that you sign up in advance to attend the service. The signup sheet is available here.
Purim begins the evening of Wednesday, March 16. Our Purim celebration will be Zoom only. More details will be announced soon but we will once again have a costume contest with prizes for the best adult and kids’ costumes. So get ready to show off your finery in all its glory.
Next Thursday night in my Contemporary Jewish Controversies class I want to discuss a couple of recent incidents and their broader implications.
On January 25 of this year, a 26 year old woman named Jessie Sander filed a lawsuit against Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, NY. Over the summer, she had been hired as a full time Hebrew school teacher. She began her job in July and fifteen days later, before she had taught a single class, she was fired. The rabbi who supervised the Hebrew school had discovered a blog post she had written where she was sharply critical of Israel and declared herself to be an anti-Zionist. Her lawsuit says her firing violates labor laws because her blogging is a “recreational” activity unrelated to her job and she did not use her employer’s time or resources to write or post the blog. She’s seeking reinstatement and compensatory damages. A New York Times article on the subject can be found here.
More recently, the Israel Studies Program at the University of Washington was engulfed in controversy when it returned a $5 million gift which had established the program several years ago. The head of the program and holder of an endowed chair, Prof. Liora Halperin, had signed a letter along with many other Jewish Studies scholars criticizing Israel’s actions in its most recent war in Gaza. The donor, Becky Benaroya, was unhappy that Prof. Halperin signed this letter and wanted the Israel Studies Program to have certain political requirements and limitations placed on it. Ultimately after a period of negotiation, the University and Ms. Benaroya could not come to an agreement and the school decided to return the endowment. The University's actions have been interpreted both as capitulation to external demands and conversely, as a move to protect academic freedom. To me as a former Hillel professional who also had an adjunct appointment in Jewish Studies, it raises a broader issue of how Jewish Studies fits into the academy and the role of free speech and academic freedom.
As a reminder, The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington has established a Ukraine Emergency Fund to meet emergency humanitarian needs. You can find out more and donate here.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. Although I am working primarily from home, I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian