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Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner


Many people wonder why Tishah B'Av continues to matter in modernity. This solemn day of fasting commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and exile from the land of Israel. Why continue to mourn these losses in an age when the Jewish people have regained our homeland and rebuilt Jerusalem? After traveling with American Jewish World Service to the Thai-Burmese border this past winter, however, I have rediscovered in Tisha B’Av an eternal call to remember oppression and to act to overcome it.

During my travels with AJWS I had the privilege of meeting with some of the...

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The Metropolitan Opera in New York recently made the controversial choice to produce John Adams' "The Death of Klinghoffer," an opera that deals with the murder of Jewish American Leon Klinghoffer in 1985, when terrorists threw him into the ocean during their attack on the Achille Lauro cruise ship. Facing intense criticism, the Met has agreed to refrain from simulcasting the opera in venues all over the world – though they are still mounting a production.

Twenty years ago, as young graduate students living in New York, my wife and I went to go see what we thought would be a...

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Shalom from Eretz Yisrael! I’m thrilled to be here in Jerusalem as part of the first URJ Board of Trustees Mission to Israel, led by Rabbi Rick Jacobs. This is a critical, working trip to advance the goals of our movement. We just arrived Tuesday night, but here’s a rundown of some of the highlights so far. We met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet secretary Avichai Mandelblit at the Prime Minister’s office. The PM was visibly moved by Rabbi Jacobs' introduction and reiterated his support of the Reform Movement in Israel and throughout the world. Rabbi Jacobs has...

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[Editor’s note: This d’var was given by Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Senior Vice President of the URJ, on Friday night at the 2013 URJ Biennial.]

Shabbat shalom!

This week we read parashat va-y’chi, taken from the opening verse: “And Jacob lived in Egypt for seventeen years.  Va-y’chi, meaning “and he lived” is an ironic name, since the parasha tells the story of Jacob’s death. Nearing his end, he pleads with his son Joseph to return him to the land of his ancestors for burial.  He gathers his children to surround him, that he might offer them his final, dying words.  Just a few...

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