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Thirty years ago, Rabbi Motti Rotem, the first sabra (Israeli-born Jew) to be ordained as a Reform rabbi in Israel, addressed his congregation from the pulpit before Yom Kippur. In his sermon, he reclaimed the symbol of the Jewish fist, which had become associated with the ultranationalist Kach party, which had just managed to become part of the Israeli Knesset. He said, "The Jewish fist has only one role: to pound on the Jewish heart as we confess on Yom Kippur."

The ...

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There are people with hearts of stone; there are stones with human hearts.

-The Wall, by Yossi Gamzu

Through the 70s and the 80s we spent a total of five years in Jerusalem, working and studying. We loved the city with its rich diversity and physical beauty, its intensity, its historical echoes and holy places, its romance. We had (and have) a lot of friends there. We watched it develop and urbanize, for better or for worse, over those decades. But when we finally decided to make Aliyah in 1990, it was obvious to us that we would not make our home there - which led a...

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“…I have set before you life or death, blessing or curse; choose life, therefore, that you and your descendants may live.”

 On Yom Kippur morning, we will read those words in our Torah reading as found in our Reform machzorim (holiday prayer books). The passage comes from the Book of Deuteronomy.

“Choose life.” It seems simple enough, logical enough – but for some, it seems impossible.

When I was growing up, family...

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When people ask me what prompted me to become a rabbi, I often tell them about my love of Jewish learning, or Israel, or a desire to help, or some such noble pursuit. The truth is, what really prompted me to become a rabbi was Chuck Taylor sneakers.

I remember as a kid going to synagogue on Yom Kippur and seeing my rabbi and cantor wearing snow-white Chuck Taylors on the bimah (pulpit). I grew up in a traditional congregation, where...

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Last Yom Kippur afternoon, unable to concentrate because of the rumblings of my stomach – which I hoped only I could hear – my mind began to wander. Before long, it was filled with memories of Yom Kippurim gone by.

Growing up in Brooklyn, there was a small diner in the neighborhood. Invariably, midway through the day, a group of seniors would venture from the synagogue to a table in the back of the restaurant – where they believed they wouldn’t be seen – for coffee and a Danish. Despite their...

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