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Menu from the Trefa Banquet

On July 11, 1883, a large group of about 200 American Jewish VIPs sat down to eat a festive meal to celebrate the ordination of the first graduating class of the Hebrew Union College (HUC) at the elegant Highland House in Cincinnati, Ohio. For Isaac M. Wise, president of HUC, it was a sweet moment validating four decades of tireless work to unite American synagogues with the primary purpose of pooling resources to create a rabbinic school for the Jewish community in the United States. His students were now ordained rabbis and the time to celebrate had arrived.

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Woman in bright pink sweater (face obscured) speaking into megaphone

My voice has been loud for my entire life and I’ve never been especially good at controlling its volume. What’s more, I have a lot to say. Reading this week’s Torah portion, Matot/Mas’ei, I was reminded of  all the times I’ve been told to be quiet. Sometimes those requests were reasonable, like when I was talking too loudly in the back of my classes, but often, I was silenced because our society has left little room...

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Loose beads of different colors; some strung on a string

We Jews have never been much into beads. Although we may have used them and similar objects at times for counting or marking time, we generally have stayed away from them as a ritual object for prayer. Nonetheless, some people may see parallels between beads, used for religious or spiritual purposes in Africa as long ago as 10,000 B.C.E., and the tallit (Jewish prayer shawl), whose design specifications are detailed in Numbers and Deuteronomy, texts written more than 8,000 years later. While some see similarities, I see differences.

On a tallit, the prescribed tassels, knots and...

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Two female students sitting on the ground and smiling up at at the camera while drawing Stars of David on posterboard

Each semester, all URJ Heller High students participate in a Mock Knesset – a full-group, day-long activity that introduces the basics of how the Israeli government forms and operates. The Knesset, which literally means “gathering” or “assembly,” is the Israeli national legislature, responsible for passing the nation’s laws and electing its leaders. 

We learned all about how the government of Israel works. The State of Israel has a democratic government, and the government has a multiparty parliamentary system....

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Young person praying intently at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

If you use a Jewish calendar, you may have noticed this notation last week on June 30: “Tzom Tammuz.” The phrase translates to “Fast of Tammuz” which isn’t terribly enlightening, so I thought you might like to have a bit more information.

Soon, beginning in the evening on July 21 and continuing throughout the day on July 22, we will observe the somber day known as Tishah B’Av (literally, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av). The day is set aside to remember the destruction of the Second Temple along with other...

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