Being the first isn't a new experience for Rabbi Janet Ross Marder, the newly elected president of the Reform movement's Central Conference of American Rabbis. Twenty years ago, just four years after being ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, she became the first rabbi to lead Los Angeles' predominantly gay and lesbian congregation, Beth Chayim Chadashim. While there, she established a federation-funded AIDS education program for the Jewish community.
The most dramatic moment I’ve ever experienced at a GA (General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America) took place in 1977, in Dallas, on a Shabbat afternoon, when Golda Meir walked onto the stage for what many of the several thousand in the audience suspected might well be her last appearance in the U.S. And it was. She died in Jerusalem less than a year later.
In Richardson, Texas, they call it “Miriam’s seder.” “Hers Seder” is the term of art in Pennsylvania, at the American Jewish Congress gatherings. And in a diverse cross-section of neighborhoods, towns and cities, from the semi-suburbia of Hollis Hills, Queens, to the flatlands of Canton, Ohio, to the East Bay of San Francisco, to the deep South of Birmingham, Ala., the event is known simply as a women’s seder.
Galveston, Texas — Shabbat services in a synagogue lobby. Volunteers fixing cemetery gravestones. A Jewish federation budget meeting.
Those are the signs of damage, and of recovery, in Southwest Texas three months after Hurricane Ike, the Category 2 storm that ranked as the worst to strike the United States this year and the third worst ever.
Houston — Tzipora Mintz’s first concern when her husband learned he had to come here for medical treatment in early 2003 was his health. He had lymphoma, an advanced form of the cancer of the immune system.
Her second concern was housing. She and her husband — a young Orthodox couple from Brooklyn, they had recently had a new child — would be spending months, on and off, in Houston, while he received care at the Texas Medical Center.
A major German company cooperates with the Third Reich during World War II. Years later, it apologizes for its actions and makes reparation payments to Holocaust survivors. The firm is honored in the United States by the Jewish community.
Another major German company cooperates with the Third Reich. It also apologizes and makes reparation payments. In an attempt to strengthen its public image in the U.S., it bids to put its name on a prominent football stadium. The firm is heavily criticized here by the Jewish community.
First came the date for the bat mitzvah. Marcy Marbut and her parents picked that out three years ago.
Then the invitations. They were mailed out a month and a half ago.
And there was the bat mitzvah tutor, the party planner, the outfit for the simcha and other details.
"This was very organized: everything was planned," Marcy said. "The only thing I didn't plan on was getting sick."
The snag: a ruptured appendix.
In Florida she attended a Sunday morning church service, among more than 5,000 Christian worshippers, which featured rock music and strobe lights. In Texas she went to a Ten Commandments rally at the state house, where Evangelical Christians were urged to put God back into government. Back in Florida, in a soaring cathedral, with a Christian flag flying outside, she heard speakers laud the virtues of creationism.
Michelle Goldberg’s year of living Christianly was done for journalistic, not theological purposes.
The social hall of the Queens Jewish Center, an Orthodox congregation in Forest Hills, will be filled with football fans watching the Super Bowl Sunday evening. But only one will be wearing a Super Bowl ring — Alan Veingrad earned it as a member of the Dallas Cowboys, who won the 1993 National Football League championship.