Conservative appreciation

The world of conservative Judaism

Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
THREE PROMINENT members of the Conservative Movement will be honored in Jerusalem on January 30 by the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the movement’s preeminent institute of Jewish higher education for the training of rabbis, cantors, educators, scholars and community leaders. The three, who were all born in New York, are long-time residents of Israel: Rabbi Reuven Hammer, Prof. Eli Lederhendler and Debbie Perla. A gala JTS alumni dinner will be held on January 30 in appreciation of their work and their service to the Conservative Movement. The event at Kehillat Moreshet Israel will include the presentation of awards and a brief lecture: “American Jews in Israel – a 70-Year Perspective.”
All three honorees are JTS alumni. Hammer is a founder of the Masorti Movement in Israel and a past president of the International Rabbinical Assembly. He is well known to readers of The Jerusalem Post and The Jerusalem Report for the insightful columns that he writes; Lederhendler is a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University’s Institute of Contemporary Jewry; and Perla, who lived in Jerusalem for 20 years before moving to the Lower Galilee, is an expert in family law. Inter alia, Perla served as director of Mavoi Satum, the nonprofit organization that works on behalf of women who are anchored in marriage because their husbands have either disappeared or refuse to give them a Jewish bill of divorce. In 2010 she moved to the Galilee to work at the Hanaton Educational Center at Kibbutz Hanaton, whose mission it is to create an Israeli society that welcomes diversity and abhors political, religious, gender and ethnic discrimination.
ONE OF the highest-profile lawyers fighting Palestinian terrorism in law courts in Israel and abroad, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the founder of Shurat- HaDin Israel Law Center, is also a best-selling author and public speaker. On January 31, she will be addressing Emunah Women from around the country at their volunteer luncheon to be held at the Vitrage Hall, Ness Ziona. Through Shurat HaDin, Darshan-Leitner has initiated legal action in multiple law courts to create obstacles to the funding of terrorist groups. She has also won several landmark cases in her court appearances on behalf of families who have lost loved ones to terrorism. She is one of the very few lawyers who have had the courage, the conviction and the perseverance to continue in this ongoing fight against terrorism.
DURING HIS first Shabbat as the spiritual leader of the Hazvi Israel Congregation in Talbiye, where congregants have at times included late President Shimon Peres, President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rabbi Yosef Ote was greeted without pomp or ceremony – not even a kiddush. It was a seamless transition. His predecessor, Rabbi Avigdor Burstein, had delivered the sermon on the previous Shabbat and had taken his leave of the congregation, and then Ote arrived on the first Shabbat in January.
Hazvi Israel has a monthly kiddush on Shabbat Mevorchim, which happened to be last Saturday, and a kiddush was indeed held in honor of Rabbi Ote, his wife Atira and their children Dorin, Meishar, Shenhav, Litav and Carmel. As happened at his first service, Ote publicly thanked the men who led the morning prayers and read the Torah, but unfortunately his sermon is between shaharit and musaf, so he was unable to publicly thank Jeremy Berkowitz, who led the musaf prayers and whose beautiful singing included something for everyone in the extensive range of melodies.
Synagogue president Oded Feldman presented Ote with a copy of an ornate contract dating back nearly 400 years, the original of which had been presented to famed 16th-century Italian rabbi Judah Moscato, chief rabbi of Mantua, and signed by three leading Italian rabbis who acknowledged Moscato as their leader and teacher. The facsimile was donated by veteran synagogue member Estelle Fink. During the service, several women looked around for Atira Ote, who was not sitting in the seat that for many years had been occupied by her predecessor. The new rabbanit chose to sit on the opposite side of the gallery in the seat in which her late grandmother had sat.
THIS WEEKEND, Kehillat Har El Reform Congregation celebrates its 60th anniversary. Services will by accompanied by choir and piano. Reuven Marko, chairman of the Israel Movement for Progressive and Reform Judaism and Rabbi Paul Cohen, senior rabbi of Har El’s sister congregation Temple Jeremiah in Northfield Illinois, will give addresses at the Friday night service as will Har El chairman Zvi Giladi. On the same evening, the congregation will dedicate new covers for the Torah scrolls that were donated by members in memory of deceased loved ones.