407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

Opening an ancient tradition for women

In traditional Judaism it is prescribed that only men can be trained to write the most holy of books: the Torah. This practice, which is passed down from one sofer, as the scribe is called in Hebrew, to another, is done with an apprentice style of study. The profession requires a keen eye for detail, a steady hand, and, the devoutness of a Torah Jew.

There has been no space for women in this holy act. Like many customs of ancient and medieval Judaism, women have been left on the outside – watching but not engaging. 

As women and their allies challenged professions within Judaism to open the doors to them, the job of the sofer remained a male-exclusive one. Yet, in recent years, the voices of women have disputed this traditional view, and a few began to embark on the study of this arcane art. They have picked up the pen and put ink to parchment while putting voice to the silent. Julie Seltzer is one of these remarkable women.

Julie is one of the first women in history to scribe an entire Torah. She trained under Jen Taylor Friedman and worked with several scribes in Jerusalem to hone her skills in this precise and beautiful art form. Julie – who has been featured in the New York Times and as an artist at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco will be expounding on her story this Tuesday, June 9, at 7:00 pm in a Federation Zoom presentation Empowerment Through the Pen: One Woman’s Story. You will have a chance to learn about her unique path and how scribing has empowered her spiritual journey and the journey of Jewish women everywhere.

I hope you’ll be able to take advantage of this unique opportunity to spend time with a woman who truly is making history. You can register using the button below (you will receive the Zoom link via email after registering).

Tradition with a twist

Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando has presented a wide variety of virtual programs, many of which have been designed specifically for children, families, women, expectant parents and anyone in our community with a thirst for Jewish knowledge. Next week, we are hosting a very special event (actually 9 mini-events in one) that has a little something for everyone!

I invite you to join us in the tradition of Shavuot with Into the Night: A Shavuot Experience on Thursday, May 28, starting at 5:15 pm. Into the Night starts before the holiday, giving us all the chance to prepare and get excited about the insight from our community clergy.

There is something for everyone, from a Flower Child craft party with PJ Library to making a no-bake cheesecake to a meaningful exploration into meditation with Rene Brent. Rabbi Kay, Rabbi Neely, Rabbi Krublit and Cantor Singer will then regale us with wisdom as we all embark on studying through the night, wrapping up before midnight.

We have made it easy for you to enter, leave and return throughout the evening via a single Zoom link. You’re welcome to come for one event, a few or all 9!

Don’t miss out on this unique community program. Please see the schedule below, and go to jfgo.org/Shavuot to register free. You will receive the Zoom link via email after registering.

On the ground in Israel: a land shaped by conflict

On the ground in Israel: a land shaped by conflict

This past week I was in Israel. It was easy while I was there to forget there is a conflict going on. Everywhere I went, including Jerusalem, things were quiet. I was able to enjoy the outdoor malls, the sites and food of the buzzing metropolitans of both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I was able to take in the Jewish mystical city of Tsfat and tour the ruins of Masada. 

Nevertheless, even with the quiet, while driving down to the Dead Sea we experienced the roads of Area C of the Oslo Accords under Israeli control, went through checkpoints and saw the barrier between the disputed territories and Israel proper. On the news and through college campuses on the other hand it is difficult to avoid mention of the conflict. Israel is rarely depicted for its own merits but rather filtered through the lens of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

These two aspects to the same land begs the question: How did Israel come to be the state it is today? How did the conflict evolve into what is happening and the facts on the ground? If you want to find out how, why and where the conflict began join us on Monday nights at The Roth Family JCC starting January 6 for Beyond Borders: The History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

On the ground in Israel: a land shaped by conflict

Digging deeper on the complex issue of Middle East conflict

At the Taste of Melton this week we explored the ever-evolving Middle East Political Landscape. It was a class that was up to the minute, with speeches just delivered to populations across the Middle East within the last month.

During the beginning of the lesson, learners were given two maps, a map that focused on ethnic diversity in the region and a similar one that demonstrated the religious differences found in the same locations. While the maps themselves don’t depict the conflicts being raged in the region they do illustrate that where there is conflict there are also groups of people who see themselves either ethnically or religiously divergent from their neighbors in the same local.

We as a class were able to dig deep into these maps and had a fascinating discussion on the flash points that lead to conflict in the Middle East. Our discourse centered on the question as to whether land is an identifier that causes conflict or the end goal of a conflict with ethnicity and/or religion being the primary identifier. What are your thoughts on this complex issue? Share your comments below or email me. Better yet, come to the Beyond Borders course starting on January 6, 2020, to explore this and other topics!