The Conspiracy

Bar Rafaeli is awesome; why ordaining cantors matters; Shmitah and our economy; and more. [Required Reading]

Bar Rafaeli, Israeli supermodel. Yay Israel! | Photo by Flickr user Mykel (Miguel Angel) | (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Topless Bar Rafaeli jumps around. Or something. [Daily Mail]

You’ve already clicked away, haven’t you?

Ordaining cantors and why it matters [Jewish Journal]

Recent news that the Hebrew Union College (the U.S. Reform seminary) would begin ordaining cantors, rather than “investing” them was met with a bit of a question mark from many. (At least, from what I saw on Facebook.) In response to the questions (the biggest being, “So what’s the difference?”), the Jewish Journal featured the following on their site:

“‘There’s been a significant shift in the role of the cantor,’ Ruben said. ‘Rather than just being responsible for the musical elements of the service, they have full clergy status.’

Ruben and Schechtman say the term investiture has little meaning either inside or outside the Jewish community. Ruben said the term was selected originally to make a clear distinction between rabbis and cantors, and acknowledged that some rabbis are not pleased with the change in nomenclature. But he and Schechtman say it’s necessary.

‘For cantors who are serving in partnership with rabbis,’ Schechtman said, ‘it is important for the congregation to understand the cantor is not there just as a singer, but the cantor is there to serve the congregation and to help with all aspects of Jewish life.’


It remains unclear whether the movement will take steps to ordain cantors retroactively, Shechtman said.

The Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary H.L. Miller Cantorial School invests its cantors, but discussions are under way on changing that to ordination. The nondenominational Academy for Jewish Religion already ordains its cantors.

The Reconstructionist movement no longer offers a cantorial program, but cantors previously were invested.”

A plan for the ultra-Orthodox [Haaretz]

Facing the numbers of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, many who are not a part of the “mainstream” culture and social collective, the question becomes: Is this arrangement sustainable? Yair Lapid, Israeli politician, offers his plan for bringing the Haredi population into the wider Israel. Haaretz reports:

“Lapid presented his ideas at an event launching his political party, ‘Yesh Atid,’ (There is a future, in English) at Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. According to Lapid, ‘our model is different from the ones presented by Kadima and Likud. It is the result of months of work.’ Lapid also addressed the ultra-Orthodox. ‘We do not hate you. There is no anti-Haredi message here. Frankly, we can no longer fund you, and we can no longer serve this country alone,’ said Lapid.


According to Lapid, estimations show that during the five year period during which ultra-Orthodox would be exempt from IDF service, roughly half of draft-age men will take advantage of the opportunity to enter the workforce. ‘We are estimating that this will save the country roughly NIS 1.5 billion per year. That money won’t be swallowed up by the treasury, rather it will be earmarked for salaries and scholarships for those serving in combat and support positions,’ said Lapid, unveiling another aspect of the plan.

 ‘Perhaps a party that just wants to attract voters would needlessly drag this portion of the presentation on – but this is the right thing to do, and that is ‘new politics,’’ added Lapid.”

Modern problems, ancient wisdom [The Shalom Center]

In this thought-provoking piece from Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Leviticus 25 is examined in light of current economic and environmental tensions. Waskow offers suggestions for addressing these tensions in our own lives, and makes a call for action:

“On the Shabbat morning of May 19 this year, many Jews will read Leviticus 25, which calls for us to make sure that every seventh year, the Earth gets to rest from human domination, and workers get to rest from their toil.  The weeks before and after that Shabbat could be a time for reflecting on our contemporary economic/ ecological  crisis in the light of this portion and the related passage in Deuteronomy (15: 1-18) which calls for debts to be annulled in every seventh year

When we read this passage a few weeks hence, we could focus attention on acting upon it as well as reading it. Its teaching of economic justice and ecological sanity calls out to us, today. Our society has degraded us—all of us— through economic inequality and ecological destruction; what must we do to heal ourselves?

This  seventh year (often called ‘sabbatical year’ in conventional English), was in Hebrew a year of shmitah (‘release’— or ‘non-attachment’ in a more evocative translation). And this spiraling pattern—six years of work; a seventh year of release, pause, reflection, celebration—was in fact carried out in biblical history. The record of its dating has survived these thousands of years. The next Shmitah year will run from the fall of 2014 to the fall of 2015.

But we do not need to wait till then, for us to act upon it.”

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