End of Summer, the Festival of Curiosity and Beyond

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, August 30, 2019 / 29 Av 5779

Summary: Rabbi Kosak speaks about some changes in our Shabbat liturgy, and examines those changes in connection to the sociological discussion of privilege, tradition and inclusion.

Have you ever wondered if Labor Day was a misnomer? After all, it is the last time, until Thanksgiving, when many people don’t have to work. Be that as it may, the professional staff at CNS has been working at full bore, preparing both for the upcoming holidays and the programming year.

As you also begin to focus on the coming program year, I would like to bring to your attention five special scholars or activists who will be presenting at Neveh Shalom, and one who will be speaking in the community at a still undetermined venue. The first four are joining us in November, during our “Festival of Curiosity.” We continue to mark our 150th year as a community, and it seemed suitable to wind the year down in this robust way.

Here the events are in chronological order.

SIR Rabbi Elana Zaiman

On the weekend of November 8th-10th, Rabbi Elana Zaiman will be joining us for the fourth annual Scholar in Residence program in memory of Yoni Suher, who died in a terrorist attack in Turkey in 2016. Rabbi Zaiman is wise and warm, and the author of the book, “the Forever Letter.” This accessible and penetrating book reminds us of the power of letters, and teaches us how to use them to transform ourselves and our relationships.

Over the course of the weekend, we will have five opportunities to engage with Rabbi Zaiman, learning from her how to best connect in these disconnected times, and all of us-even those of us who don’t feel like writers or get nervous when asked to write—will discover our capacities, nurtured and guided by Rabbi Zaiman. This is a weekend not to be missed.

November 23rd

On November 23rd, we are graced with two special events. During Shabbat morning services, and then at 1pm, we will hear from Dr. Rachel Adelman. At 7 pm, we will be listed by Roots, a compelling peace collaboration between Palestinian activist Ali Abu Awwad, and Orthodox rabbi, Hanan Schlesinger.

Dr. Rachel Adelman is a feminist Jewish writer and and educator at Hebrew College in Boston, where she teaches Tanakh (the Bible) in the rabbinical program. Her most recent books is “The Female Ruse—Women’s Deception and Divine Sanction in the Hebrew Bible.” Dr. Adelman will be offering the Davar Torah (sermon) during services (approximately 11 am); at 1 pm, she will speak about “Hanukkah Heroines of Yore.” We owe a special thanks to Dr. Gail Sherman for making this visit possible and several private donors for their support.

Israel360 Presents a Painful Hope: Cultivating a Foundation for Peace

At 7 pm, two leaders from Roots/Shorashim/Judar (English, Hebrew and Arabic for Roots) will be with us. The organization is a unique collaboration of local Palestinians and Israelis building a model for co-existence by fostering a grass roots movement dedicated to non-violence, mutual understanding and transformation. Shadi Abu Awward was a Palestinian militant. Rabbi Hanan Schleshinger is a Zionist settler. You could not find two individuals with more diametrically opposed world views. Yet out of the crucible of their own histories, each has turned toward the other. They share a belief that their political leaders have failed their two peoples and believe if change will come, it will only do so because the people have transformed themselves and demand such change. Leave your preconceptions at the door as we encounter these two very brave individuals working for peace and a better future for their peoples. For more information about the group, visit www.friendsofroots.net.

Israel360 Benny Morris: 1948 and Now: Understanding How Israel’s Past Shapes the Present

On Wedneday, February 19th, at 7 PM, Benny Morris will speak to us and answer our questions about Israel’s past and how it led to conditions today. He is one of Israel’s leading historians, writers and public intellectuals. He was a journalist at the Jerusalem Post for over a decade and was a professor at Ben-Gurion University until he retired from there in 2017. He has been a guest lecturer around the world, including American institutions such as Harvard and Dartmouth. Morris’s research has generated critique from both the left and the right when his findings contradicted their sacred understandings. Yet Morris himself has noted that he is not political, and that his research into Israel’s history sprang out of his innate curiosity to understand his country’s past.

The Morris lecture has been made possible by a grant from JFGP, The Rabbi Kosak Discretionary Fund and a gift from private donors.

Aviva Zornberg on Wednesday April 29th

Venue and timing still to be determined

Some weeks back, our Portland Jewish community was asked if we would like to bring Aviva Zornberg here to lecture. The answer was in the affirmative. On the CNS side, Mel Berwin took the planning reins on this. While we don’t yet know where Ms. Zornberg will be speaking, I encourage all of you to save this date as well.

We live in an age blessed with tremendous Torah scholarship. From academics, to modern spiritualists, one of the miracles of the modern period is that we have recovered from all the great minds we lost in the Shoah. Torah learning is at an all time high. Despite that, it is extremely rare to encounter an individual who creates an entirely new way to study the Torah and the Bible. Sometimes, centuries can pass without a fundamental shift, during which knowledge is built on and developed.

Aviva Zornberg is one of those uncommon souls. Fueled by a love of traditional textual methods, she combined her background in psychology and psychoanalysis as well as her formal literary studies, to generate a truly novel way to hear God’s voice in the text. While many attempts have been made to write new midrash, I believe that she has birthed a new form of midrash and that her contributions will stand the test of time.

Laura and I were fortunate to learn from her numerous times when we lived in Jerusalem. Hopefully, you will use this opportunity to great benefit.

May this be a year filled with the blessings of Jewish learning for us all,

Rav D

Shabbat Table Talk

  1. What do you want to learn this year?
  2. What book, lecture or Ted Talk changed you the most this past year?

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.

Torah Sparks Commentary This Week