A Conversation with…Rabbi Mel Gottlieb

Listen in as AJRCA President Rabbi Mel Gottlieb discusses some of the key points from his new article “Faith and Truth” as featured in Conversations: The Journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, with Cantor Jonathan Friedmann, professor of Jewish Music History and the Academy’s Director of Institutional Research and Accreditation Liaison Officer.

Rabbi Gottlieb’s article articulates the point of view that the notion of absolute Truth in Jewish literature is only one of a variety of views found in the Jewish tradition. It argues that a more prominent point of view is the value of Faith and Truth seeking rather than owning an absolute notion of Truth. It brings sources and voices supporting this view. (more…)

A Celebration of Sephardic and Persian Culture!

Recently, The Academy hosted an evening of discussion, music and food, all focused on providing a look into the unique and vibrant world of Sephardic and Persian Judaism, past, present and future!

Please see below for a recording of the exciting panel discussion with:
* Rabbi Daniel Bouskila – Director, Sephardic Educational Center
* Dr. Saba Soomekh – Lecturer, UCLA and Assistant Director of Interreligious Affairs, AJC
* Neil J. Sheff – Immigration Attorney; President, Sephardic Educational Center
* Moderated by: Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, Ph.D – President, AJRCA

The Forgotten Plight of Ethiopia’s Jewry

Rabbi Art Levine, Ph.D., J.D. (Class of 2009) recently visited the Jewish communities in Ethiopia and is raising awareness – and funds – on their behalf. We recently conducted a Q&A with Rabbi Levine to better understand the situation.

Q: Weren’t all the Jews of Ethiopia airlifted to Israel in Operations Moses (1984) and Solomon (1991)?

Levine: Most Jews in America and even in Israel think so, but in fact thousands were left behind. They have been living in terrible conditions ever since. This summer, I decided to travel to Ethiopia to see their circumstances first hand.

Q: What did you find? (more…)

Blessings and Affirmations for a New Year – 5778

As we get older, our sense of time seems to quicken.  What?  Rosh Hashanah again?    Memories of past High Holy Days flood our thoughts – for some people, the memories are drawn from childhood in another city or country; and for others the memories come from a more recent personal history of celebrating the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur.  For those who are called to serve as prayer leaders, the High Holy Days present a double challenge:  how to prepare the soul-clearing within, while also preparing for services, music, sermons, and myriad practical details so that the holy days are meaningful and uplifting for others in our congregations, institutions, and communities. (more…)

A Sephardic Vision for Arab-Israeli Peace

by Rabbi Daniel Bouskila

For centuries, Sephardic-Mizrahi Jews of Arab lands lived in relatively peaceful coexistence with their Arab-Muslim neighbors. While never perfect, life for Jews in Arab lands was not characterized by the horrible persecutions, pogroms or expulsions regularly experienced by Jews living under Christian rule in Europe. Indeed, the Golden Age of Spain took place under Islamic rule, and only after the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims were Jews subject to the brutal inquisition and subsequent expulsion from Spain in 1492.

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Science and Spirituality – For Our Children

by Dr. Tamar Frankiel

Every once in a while, our deepest intuitions about things – intuitions we often doubt because they seem fragile in a materialistic world – actually get confirmed by science.

About a month ago, I was in Provo, Utah, with a couple of colleagues for an interfaith conference. By chance, at breakfast in the Faculty Guest House we met Dr. Lisa Miller, who was lecturing for a different group at BYU the same evening. Generously, she gave us copies of her new book, The Spiritual Child. I glanced at it on the flight home and thought, “Ah, a good parenting advice book – and some science too!” I made a mental note to check out the science later and also see if the book might be of interest to my children who are parents of young ones.

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To Separate or Engage: an Age-Old and Contemporary Question

by Rabbi Mel Gottlieb

As we observe our Jewish community today, we are struck by the impact of two distinct energies that emanate from different camps. One Voice is the voice of caution and careful deliberation in the face of an ‘awe’ (Yirah) that is transmitted within their gates. This voice gets translated into an emphasis on particularism. Another Voice is the voice of expansion (Ahavah) and outreach into the outer society to interact with its challenges and contribute to its growth and healing. (l’taken olam b’malchut Shakai). This gets expressed as a universalistic impulse within Judaism.

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My Journey Through 5 Near-Death Experiences

by Rabbi Stephen Robbins

I was not born – I was removed from my mother dead. It was the doctor who breathed life into me. So began a life filled with pain and trauma: four other near-death experiences, multiple traumatic illnesses (including hepatitis), a lung disease that led to 3 collapses, a massive shingles episode that has added to my chronic excruciating pain for the past eleven years, and much more. And yet while I have lived constantly with immense pain, I have rarely suffered. Pain is a state of body, suffering is a state of mind. I only suffer when I lose my attachment to my soul. When I regain it, the suffering leaves and I’m left only with pain and the illnesses.

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3 Ways Cantorial School Taught Me to be a Better Chaplain

by Mitzi Schwarz

Mitzi Schwarz, ChaplainI grew up enveloped in music, singing and playing instruments from a very young age. This, along with my love for Judaism, eventually led me to pursue a career as a Cantor and to enter cantorial school at the Academy for Jewish Religion, California. From my wonderful teachers, I learned about Jewish liturgy and service. I learned the history of the music of our people, and developed a new respect and love for Jewish music that I never dreamed was possible. Every day in class, as we sang together and analyzed Jewish music and trends, I felt part of a people and tradition stretching back thousands of years.

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