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Rabbi Elyse Goldstein


Margaret Visser writes in her book, The Rituals of Dinner, “Precisely because we must eat and keep on eating, human beings have poured enormous effort into making food more than itself, so that it bears manifold meanings beyond its primary purpose of physical nutrition…”

This statement is perhaps nowhere more clear than in Jewish life.

Our way of eating is a distinguishing mark of our nationhood, our history, our traditions, and our worldview. She continues, “Food can be shared, abstained from, used as a weapon or a proof of prestige, stolen or given away; it is therefore a...

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I imagine how Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services feel to shul regulars: a fashion-show of strangers, preening, talking, walking in and out, coming late, and leaving early. It’s a bad theater scene, with people exiting before or even during the final act. It’s a concert gone wrong, with fans singing their hearts out while others don’t know the songs, weren’t there when the band first formed, and don’t understand the lyrics. 

I also imagine how it feels to those who come only for those days: They’ve entered an alien world in which everyone stands up and sits down as if on cue. It’...

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In the weeks before Passover, I see countless Facebook posts lamenting how much people dislike the holiday and what a hassle it all is. Pesach is often so overwhelming that cruises and hotels offer seders so we can get away from home at this special time of year.

Taping shut the closets, turning on the house alarm, and going far, far away is one alternative to the cleaning, the expense, and – dare I say it – the obsession over food at Passover. Special kosher-for-Passover bagels, sponge cake mixes that literally taste like sponges, and the worst excuses for breakfast cereal I have...

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My mother passed away on Rosh Chodesh Iyar – May 1, 2014. It’s fair to say she was a legend in the Reform Jewish community. For 21 years, she was the director of the National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY), and for 12 summers, she held court at her faculty cabin at URJ Kutz Camp, where she taught leadership skills, Yiddish, and - most importantly - supplied lots of up-and-coming Reform Jewish leaders with late-night candy and chips. She touched thousands of lives and inspired not just me but hundreds of other kids to become rabbis, cantors, Jewish educators, synagogue presidents, and...

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I mentioned to someone a few weeks ago that I would be marching at the World Pride Parade taking place at the end of June in my hometown of Toronto. We’d be marching under a City Shul banner with Kulanu, Toronto’s Jewish LGBTQ social, cultural, and educational group. We’d be wearing rainbow kippot (head coverings), and I'd have on a rainbow tallit (prayer shawl).

“But you aren’t gay!” the person exclaimed, "and City Shul isn't a 'gay synagogue!'" Right. And I guess if I’m not homeless, I shouldn’t march for better conditions for those who are homeless. And if I’m not Darfurian, I...

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