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congregational life

When my congregation publicized its four-day camping and canoe trip in Michigan, how could we resist such an unusual temple offering?

Kerry Leaf

The early American synagogue occasionally reflected its frontier environment. Fist fights, defending the honor of women congregants, and even duels were not unheard of. Perhaps the best known of these riotous events involved a rabbi and the president of the synagogue in Albany, New York, in 1850. And not just any rabbi, but the future founder of the American Reform Movement, Isaac Mayer Wise! The president was Louis Spanier, wealthy, charismatic, and the brother-in-law of Samuel Mayer, the chief rabbi of Hanover in northern Germany.

Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D.

With so many questions to sift through, it’s no wonder many college students struggle to meaningfully connect with Jewish life on campus – but I believe this year is an incredibly exciting time to be Jewish on campus. Though many students may be missing their hometown youth group, congregation, or summer camp as the school year begins, there are plenty of exciting and unique ways for college students to explore Judaism and expand their connection to the Jewish community.

Evan Traylor

Eva needed to socially transition to live full-time as a girl. Our hope is that more and more people will join together to expand the network of supportive communities until transgender people are no longer shunned by society.

Aron Hirt-Manheimer
Two smiling faces holding Jewish LGBTQ pride signs during a Pride Parade

I grew up in Potomac, MD, right outside of Washington, D.C. Like most young people in my area, growing up I had had little interaction with gay people, who were nearly invisible in suburbia.

Matt Adler
Close-up of sterling silver menorah with Star of David

During this journey, I’ve been asked: “Why?” In Judaism, I found meaningful rituals and a history of peoplehood that I have taken on as my own. From the time I left the Christian church, I sought a spiritual home – a place of tolerance and acceptance. In Judaism, I’ve found exactly that.

Joshua Moon

Many of us have had those moments – of sitting with others in synagogue or during a private moment – when prayer seems flat. The words don’t seem to reach us where we are at that time or place; they can’t lift us beyond our everyday worries and concerns. When I’m sitting in synagogue with my son, Akiva, I’m usually focused on his concerns.

Beth Steinberg

When 91-year-old Deana came to visit me, she came to find comfort and solace a year and a half after her beloved husband Alvin died – but it turned out that she spent more time teaching me Torat Chayim (the Torah of Life). In the process, she lifted both of us a little higher on the ladder of holiness.

Rabbi Paul Kipnes

Just opening your door is not a mitzvah; it’s a start. What happens after the welcome is what really matters. It’s the critical difference between being tolerated and being valued – that difference is everything.

Pamela Rae Schuller
Congregants standing in sanctuary

I’ve often been taught that as the people of Israel, named after our forefather, we are meant to struggle with God. It just never occurred to me that could include the struggle to remain upright.

Moriah Benjoseph

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