Category Archives: Uncategorized

Something Soft

I spent the night at my sister’s home (the wonderful place they have made their home after they lost their house in the Woolsey fire). I brought bedding for us because, like many others who left their homes, they only came out with a few items. As we were making the beds last night, Shelly walked in and had a couple of blankets in her arms. “For some reason we left with the air beds and these blankets! We didn’t take the Nambe or the beautiful Chanukiah that was a one of a kind made by our friend’s uncle. But we took these. You never really know what you’re going to take.”

I thought about this for a while and realized the following: the Nambe and the beautiful Chanukiah, yes, they would have been great to have. But there is something about a cozy blanket. You wrap yourself in it and feel warm, like a hug. I don’t know why they chose to grab those items as they packed up the car the night they left their home, but they did. Maybe it was because the blanket’s hug called to them to take them with. That the blankets would be there to wrap itself around them when they were cold or just needed a hug.

There are no rhymes or reasons why they took what they did, but I have to say, wrapped in those very familiar blankets that I’ve slept under many times before, it felt very good last night, like a warm hug.

It’s Good to Be Back at Camp!

Last year, while on Sabbatical, we didn’t have the chance to come to camp (Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp) because we spent the summer in Israel. But coming back to camp this summer is a reminder as to why I love it so and why our kids do too.

When I first arrived and got settled in my room I heard a strange sound for Southern California in the summer – rain! It was just enough to get the outside chapel too wet for us to have evening services outside. I was disappointed that we were moved to Baruh Hall.

I took the time before services to go on a walk to the Menorah. For those who have never been here before, the Menorah at Hess Kramer overlooks the ocean and is appropriately named “Rabbi Alfred Wolf’s Inspiration Point.” And inspirational it truly is. There, as I stood overlooking the waves, a rainbow appeared, arching between sea and mountain. Absolutely spectacular!

I returned to Baruh Hall for services and in came over 200 campers and staff. As with any large group in a room with strong acoustics, it took a while to get them settled and ready to pray. No prayerbooks were passed out, rather, there was a screen with the prayers projected in the front of the room. Tonight, while we might not be outside we had the opportunity to experience prayer in a different way – looking up!

Services began and the camp community sang out. While I know that there is a strong level of participation in services at camp, tonight, everyone had the opportunity to truly hear how their prayers sounded. Usually, in the outside chapel, the sound dissipates into the surrounding trees and valley. But tonight, being in this enclosed space, we had the opportunity to really listen to our voices sing out in praise.

While I would not want every camp service to be inside – that’s just not camp – it was a great opportunity for the camp community to truly hear our voices.

And finally, in this space, within the walls of Baruh Hall, we were surrounded by the work of a great woman, Geri Schusterman, z’l, and the spirit of her beloved husband, Mel, z’l, who passed away this past year. Both of them dedicated years of their lives and their creative spirits to Camp Hess Kramer. Geri’s artwork is all around camp and for the most part, the colors have not faded. They tell a story of campers and a community now 60 years old. The campers and I’m sure most of the staff have no idea who created these beautiful pieces of art that adorn the camp – I wish they did. They would have loved to spend time with both Geri and Mel. But I would like to think that Geri and Mel are still here, still a part of Camp Hess Kramer, and lending their creative spirit still today.

And this was just the first day!

Blessings for My Daughter

These are the words of blessing I shared with my daughter, DovLev, as she became a Bat Mitzvah! I’m so proud of her and grateful for all of her blessings.


You made it very clear to me that I was not to “wing” this blessing for you. True, there are so many moments in a service that inspire me to speak to the Bar or Bat Mitzvah when we are at the ark. But today, this moment, I speak to you not as a rabbi, but today, I speak to you in the most important role I have…I speak to you, my daughter, as your Ima.

And, while I want to share each moment, from the time you were born, and when we welcomed you to our family, our covenant and this community to every amazing moment we’ve shared, and even some of the challenging, I know that there is too much to share now. But I do want you to know, we are so proud of all that you are and everything you do.

In the book of Psalms, Psalm 119, which is the longest of all the chapters, 176 verses to be exact, is written as an acrostic. Each Hebrew letter is represented by 8 versus. There is a tradition of using one’s Hebrew name and writing that person their own personal Psalm. So today, I have written you your own Psalm, carefully choosing verses that I feel reflect you and are words for you to hold on to for the years ahead.


27: Make me understand the way of Your precepts, that I may study Your wondrous acts.

The world around you is so wonderful. Take time to explore it and enjoy it. Lift your eyes up and enjoy all the beauty that exists in this world and how you are a part of it.


14: I rejoice over the way of Your decrees as over all riches

You can strive to achieve greatness in all that you do. Some day you will achieve your goal and become who you dream to be. But always remember, even in greatness, even in glory, the simple things in life are the most precious – these are the things that money cannot buy, but can only be created and appreciated by you and everyone in our world.


76: May Your steadfast love comfort me in accordance with Your promise to Your servant.

Always feel God’s love surrounding you. This love comes in all forms. From the love of Aba and me, the love of your brother, Yoni, who you should remember, you only have one of, so cherish him. To the love of your extended family and your friends. Recognizing this love you are given and seeing that it is a gift that will fulfill the promise God makes to you each and every day.


171: My lips shall pour forth praise, for You teach me Your laws.

Torah has been on your lips from the day your were born. You learned how to chant blessings and bring the love of Torah and your Jewish self into your life very early on. Continue to allow your lips to speak words of blessing and always allow your mind to be open to learning each and every day. Torah is not only the words on the scroll, but the Torah of your heart given to you from one generation to the next.


149: Hear my voice as befits Your steadfast love; O God, preserve me, as is Your rule.

Always allow your voice to speak clearly and be heard. Speak with kindness and compassion for all people. But remember to speak with compassion for yourself. Sometimes it’s easy to be so hard on ourselves, but take the time to not only have your voice heard by others, but also by yourself and be proud of that voice, for it will preserve you, your dreams and your future.


42: I shall have an answer for those who taunt me, for I have put my trust in Your word.

Life is not always equal. There are those who taunt you, those who do not speak with kindness. Allow your answer to them be one in which you remember for yourself – be proud of who you are, what you believe and what you do.  Remember to also speak out against injustice: you are a young woman who has no problem speaking her mind. You are a woman who has strong opinions. Allow your voice to ring out and be heard. You are a partner in this world for making it a better place, and that is the trust that has become your inheritance.


37: Avert my eyes from seeing falsehood; by Your ways preserve me.

There are moments that deceive us – moments when we are not so comfortable or moments in which we are unsure. Dahvi, always remember to keep your eyes wide open. Pay attention to everything around you. Learn from that paths you take that may not always be the right one at the moment, because the next path will be true. Each day is an opportunity for your eyes to be open. To see blessings in your life, to see challenges that are to be overcome, and to recognize the beautiful future that lies ahead. Enjoy the journey for it will bring you a life that is filled with blessing and a world in which you will leave your imprint.

Dahvi Tikvah – My Bear, Our Hope – You stand here with your family, your community and the people of Israel, and we could not be prouder of you. For the generations who came before you, who stand around you but you cannot see; for the generations that will come from you, always know that you are a blessing. You are our blessing and you are our hopes and dreams fulfilled. We love you and we are so proud of you!


Final AIPAC Day and Thoughts

Monday at AIPAC:
Another early start to the day. However, there is something to be said for not getting up at the crack of dawn because fate will give you gifts. Rather than heading to the local Starbucks for morning coffee, I went with the hotel room brew. OK, not Starbucks, but it was caffeine and gave me an extra 15 minutes. When I finally headed downstairs I debated if I should get the shuttle or walk. I stood outside for a moment assessing the weather, looked to my right then my left and suddenly saw someone I thought I recognized. Whenever I see someone I recognize, I call out their name and either they respond or think I’m talking to someone behind them. I called out “Marshall!” and sure enough, it was Marshall! Who is Marshall? Marshall and Carol are a couple I grew up with in Denver, Colorado! His daughter and I went to religious school together since consecration and our families have been friends ever since. Yes, one has to fly across the country to run in to people one has not seen in years! It’s a small Jewish world after all.

The morning plenary was another great pep rally for supporting Israel and preparing for lobbying meetings on Tuesday. Senator Joe Leiberman addressed the conference for his last time while in office. The morning was filled with speeches and building the excitement for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address coming up in the evening.

The afternoon was filled with opportunities for break out group discussions and clergy meetings. Specifically, the Reform movement. There are 90 rabbis and cantors from the Reform Movement in attendance. This is significant considering the Reform movement has not been so visually present before. However, this year, with the Synagogue Initiative movement, more rabbis were encouraged to attend and see that AIPAC is an organization for all Jews. True, the Reform movements beginnings lay more in the social action/justice department, but since the 1967, Israel has come more to the forefront. However, with the perception of AIPAC being more conservative leaning, many Reform Jews stayed away. AIPAC however, is bipartisan. As I said in my d’var Torah for this week, and as you’ll hear me say this Friday night, there were times that I sat while others stood and applauded and there were times that I stood and applauded while others sat. What all 13,000 in the halls agreed upon was that Israel must be allowed defend herself and that America needs to support her fully.

Again and again the statement participants made to me when I asked them, ‘why do you support AIPAC?’ was that they feel that they are doing something. That even just being present at the AIPAC conference makes a statement that Israel is important and our government needs to support Israel to the fullest.

The evening energy was so intense with Benjamin Netanyahu on the schedule. Security was tight once again with long lines getting through secret service and into the hall. While I joked about there being no clergy seating for the Sunday morning plenary with President Obama and President Peres, clergy was allowed into a closer section for Monday night’s event. We were entertained by Rick Recht, the Maccabeats and Idan Rachael. (OK, so what did the ultra Orthodox think of his amazing women vocalists?)

Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell were the warm up speakers and then it was time for Benjamin Netanyahu. We have all been wondering what happened in the meeting earlier that day with the President, but unlike last year, we were not going to hear. As Netanyahu said, you may be hearing that Israel is going to do this or that, please, I’m not going to tell you! Why would he? But he did express that something is going to happen, whether through the tougher sanctions created by the United States with containment off the table, or whether it was going to mean a direct strike. His statement was clear: Israel will defend herself no matter what.

The President and the Prime Minister cannot really come out and say that they are going to strike, that would be a declaration of war. And while we want to know what is going to happen and we live in a world of a constant barrage of information, sometimes, there are things that we are just not meant to know until it is happening.

Overall, it was an amazing evening event. That continuned even into Tuesday morning with the final plenary before delegates would go to the Hill for lobbying.

Tuesday was a campaign day! Romney, Santorum, and even Gingrich (hoping for a panel of four to ask him questions like they set up for Romney) spoke to the eager crowd. But the man who everyone was waiting to hear was Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta. He was articulate and consistently clear wiht the President’s message. America has the back of Israel and a strong interest in making sure that Iran does not become nuclear capable. That containment is not on the table, and if needed, military action is not off the table. He gave a long list of all the work the Israeli and American military have accomplished together and the strength that both share with one another. It was informative and inspiring no matter what side of the aisle the delegates were on.

And then, just like that, the conference was over. It was time for everyone to head out to meet with Senators and House Representatives. To be counted in saying that we care about Israel and as your supporters, we expect that you will also.

I went into the conference not sure what to expect, and came out better informed and enlightened. I agree that if one is looking for a way to really “do” something for Israel along with making donations, participating in AIPAC and being a voice for Israel is truly a beautiful way to be counted. No matter where one falls on the political spectrum, AIPAC is a place where there are shared values and hopes for a strong and peaceful Israel and world. So what will be next….

A Day in the West Bank

It’s been a busy week and this is the first opportunity I’ve had to finally post this from my tiyul to the West Bank/Judea-Samaria.

The issues surrounding the West Bank or Judea/Samaria (depending on what some refer to these areas call it) are very complex. There are no black or white answers to all the questions we have regarding a future Palestinian state. While this tiyul was amazing and eye opening in the location of both Jewish and Palestinian towns as well as the difficult typography that covers the country, many of us still walked away with more questions and insights than when we began the morning.

We were fortunate to meet with top government workers as well as developers for a future Palestinian city. The goal of the tiyul planners was not to insist on one answer over another, rather to provide us with more information to show the complexity of the situation. I did walk away with the clear answer that it’s easy for all of us to be arm chair generals but the reality is, we can’t be, and I have more respect for those who are dealing with the issue on a daily and hourly basis. Below are the notes I took from this tiyul through the West Bank:

Our morning began boarding a bullet proof bus. That right there gave rise to the curious excursion we were about to embark upon. Our goal for the day; to understand the building by both sides and the land in an effort to create the borders of a two state solution. What is interesting to note is that it is believed that if it is not completed in 2-3 years, then it may never get done as both sides keep positioning themselves in certain areas requiring map drawers to have to return to the drawing board, so to say.

To what extent are our issues driven by the reading of the other side? There are two dynamics: one group of Israelis who are able to sit and enjoy food together. The other who say, there will be those who will shoot us when we walk together.

On one hand, there is a narrative that says that all of this land belongs to Jews. But on the other, there is the realization that we have to find a way to live together in peace…if possible.

And more thoughts and hands: The stakes are high and there are two thoughts: it is only Arabs who can give us the recognition that will give us peace, but there is also  a requirement to defend ourselves.

As we drive through the streets of East Jerusalem, specifically, the area of Shekh Jarrah, a clear Palestinian neighborhood, we find Haredi Jews who lay claim to a small tomb of Shimon HaTzadik, that will require map drawers, such as Danny Siedemann, a lawyer and leader in the Peace camp in Israel, to redefine future borders.

What is interesting about the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik is that this tomb was closed 364 days out of the year. No one visited it or made a fuss over it except on Chol Hamoed Pesach, when the community had a carnival that included Jews and Arabs alike. However, ten years ago, as talks began regarding Jerusalem and peace, the Haredi Jews began to make pilgrimage to this place and ensuring that it would be open 24/7 for all to visit and pray.

Following the 1967 war, the areas around Jerusalem were annexed and neighborhoods were created to surround Jerusalem in order to never divide Jerusalem again.

Later, from Mt. Scopus, looking down the sharp decline into the Jordan River Valley, we look upon Maalei Adumim. This was the first city to be built in Judea/Summaria and now is home to over 20,000 people. Yet, it is right in the middle of where borders can be drawn, and again, another area in which safe travel has to be considered for Israelis into Jerusalem and around the country.

Our next meeting, after traveling through East Jerusalem and now into the heart of the West Bank, to the town of Beit Aryeh, was with Colonel Danny Terza. Beit Aryeh is a beautiful settlement with 750 families. Placed here as a security town as it looks down into Tel Aviv and especially with Ben Gurion Airpots runways in clear sight. Unlike those at the tomb of Shimon HaTzadik, those who have settled here are not religious, but live here to ensure the safety of the land of Israel. When sitting in this town, it looks like any other Israeli town with it’s playgrounds, schools and community center where the kids were playing at the pool and getting ready for tiyul.

Colonel Danny Terza was responsible for creating the route for the security fence, which must be noted, that only 5% of the fence is actually a wall that we see on TV. Most of the fence is literally just that, a wire fence.

Terza shared that in 1947, there were not many  Arabs. At that time, as we know from history, the UN created a mandate for a two state solution, one for the Arabs and another for the Jews. But Arabs did not want this and Israel was alone created and the following day after Israel declared Independence, the surrounding Arab nations tried to destroy her. In 1967, they tried again to destroy Israel. The land taken in that war was not annexed to Israel because Israel truly thought that there would be peace. But, as with any battle, the Palestinians have another story. They do not see that Jews have the right to a country for as Jews, they are a religion, not a nation, therefore, why should Jews have a state. No other religion has a state.

Most Arabs think there will come a day that Jews will simply go away. But others say let’s help get them out. And the 1967 war, the Arabs insisted that they believed Israel was only trying to enlarge the borders. (keep in mind, the Israelis did not start the war) What Israel calls “terror attacks” against Israel, Palestinians  call “resistance”, part of their struggle against occupation.

With two narratives: one’s belief and one’s story – it makes it very hard to reconcile the two.

But there were times that Israel was so close to peace. 1993, Oslo; 1995, more moves. Even in summer 2000, there was an offer to the Palestinians for almost everything; 94% of territories including the Temple Mount. Ehud Barak said to Arafat at that time, the only thing that is needed by him is for him to sign the  agreement that this is the end the conflict. But Arafat walked away saying that he just couldn’t sign that.

As a side note: there are two terms that are used in describing towns in the West Bank: Settlement: the government agrees to have a settlement in a particular area of the West Bank, especially for security reasons. Outpost: these are caravans of trailers and temporary facilities where people are living on private Palestinian land that the settlers did not purchase.

Terza went on to explain that creating the lines is not just about creating lines as so one people can live here and the other live there – the land is so small that you still have to live together. There are issues that have to be considered:  issues of sewage, water, roads (such as bridges that connect Palestinian areas to Palestinian areas and Israeli to Israeli.) it is so challenging that Americans cannot just come in and make these decisions, as much as many Americans and other countries have tried to do. One has to walk all of the land and talk to all those who are living in it. There must be talks about security and borders, borders and environment, everything must come together.

Since the fence was completed, only 14 people have been killed. Before the fence, over 1600 in terrorist attacks in less than two years.

Next stop, Rawabi, (outside Ramalah) Palestinian development in what is called area A, that will absolutely go to Palestinians. (Note: when looking at a map of the West Bank, it is divided into sections, A, B and C. Area A is under Palestinian control, while Area C is under full Israeli control. Areas B is where Israel is in security control while Palestinians maintain civilian control.

Rawabi is an active building site with city plans that take into consideration everything from infrastructure to environmental concerns. The developers are hoping to have 1000 units built in next couple of years. Yet, there are many issues that they need to overcome, including the need to build a road through Area B to help connect two other areas so trucks and construction supplies can more easily be brought in. And the recent Boycott Bill passed by the K’nesset that prevents companies in Israel to sign the agreement from Rawabi that they will not do business with Israeli companies that are in the West Bank.  The developers are hoping to buy supplies from Israeli companies which could bring in millions of dollars into the Israeli economy.

In meeting with Bashar El Masri, the developer for this project, and a wealthy Palestinian, we heard him and his staff speak eloquently about their hopes for building a future for their people. Their plans are to transform this area from in the distance one sees Ramalah, into a city where Palestinians can “Live, Work, and Grow.” It is their hope, like that of so many youth in the region, to create a place where they are proud to live peacefully. Masri said that it is his hope and belief that if they are able to build such a prosperous and successful city, one in which the people feel proud to live, that this may help bring peace to the region. That when there is hope, there is peace. He said, ‘is it possible that there may still be attacks against Israel – yes, but at least we need to try to do something to try and make a peaceful place for all to live.’

What did this day for me? While I did not come back feeling that the situation was now so clear, I can say, the perspectives it left me with were important.

It’s easy to look at a map and say, ‘it’s so clear what the borders must be.’ But until you are in the land, driving the land, hiking the land, one has no idea the challenge the land poses. The hills and valleys make it difficult to just draw lines. The holy sites, the established communities, make it difficult to just draw lines. The emotions and the many, many years of anguish make it difficult to just draw lines. But still, there is a glimmer of hope that both peoples will be able to find a way to live in peace, the question remains….when?

On the way to CCAR NOLA

Shabbat began with an amazing Mind Body Soul Shabbat. Torah study, yoga service, music and meditation and a spa lunch. Not a bad way to start the journey to the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) Conference.

I’m looking forward to continuing this Shabbat’s exploration of ways to enrich my mind through study, my body through acts of tikun olam, and my soul by spending time with friends and colleagues.

The plane door is about to close but the week is about to open. See you all in New Orleans in a few hours.

Shavua Tov!

— RavIma

A Naming – One Breath at a Time

I officiated at a naming today!  Now that might not sound like something to excited about or even to blog about, but this was a very special naming.  It was for twin boys born last Tuesday, in Atlanta.  It was for twin boys, born last Tuesday, in Atlanta, who are still there because they are only 1 lb 9 oz and 1 lb 5 oz and they are 8 days old today.

Why do a naming for these boys over the phone and while they are still in the hospital?  Because they are 8 days old and they are truly blessings to their parents and family here in California.

Joel and Jeremy are still in critical condition and every day we pray that they will get stronger and their bodies will do what they need to do.  And every day we give thanks to God for caring for them and their parents who are praying with all their might that they will be able to take them home.  Every day we hold our breath as we ask, ‘how are Joel and Jeremy?’

Today, we took a deep breath, recited blessings for thanksgiving and for healing.  Today, we named two beautiful boys and we prayed like we never prayed before that God watch over them and allow them to grow…one breath at a time.

They Took My Sign!

Showed up to the temple on Sunday morning. No religious school, no meetings, no one else but those who were meeting me for our meeting. I pull into my spot and noticed, MY SIGN WAS GONE! Hello! It was clearly marked, “Reserved Rabbi.” Who would want a Rabbi sign?

Do you have any idea how long it took me to get my Reserved Rabbi sign?

11 years ago, after the shooting at the JCC in LA, the board decided that it would be best if we removed the titles of all those who have reserved parking spots. We all complied, but what did this mean? Anyone could assume that “reserved” meant reserved for them!

For 11 years, I would show up for events at the temple with great turn outs and there would be no space for me to park. And yes, sometimes I would double park behind the person who was in my spot

My favorite were those who would park in my spot and the only event going on at the temple was an Introduction to Judaism class. Sorry folks, but you have some work to do before you get my Rabbi spot. 🙂

A little over a year ago, I asked Elias to finally put my title back on the sign. His response, ‘but what about the security concern.’

My answer, ‘If someone really wants to target my car, they’re going to know which car is mine! Put the “Rabbi” back on!’

I’ve had my spot and now, someone took it!

Monday morning, the fabulous Jill started scouring the video records from the weekend and guess what…we caught him!

Turns out that it was two college looking kids. One walked around the campus looking for an open door to make sure that no one was there. Then, when he knew it was all clear, he took the sign off the post and climbed into his friend’s black SUV. The conversation inside must have gone like this:
“hey, get the post dude!”

The two climbed out of the car, got the post and put it in the back of the car. BTW, they wrapped the dirty bottom in a blanket to make sure they didn’t get any mud in the car!

The crazy thing, they did this all at 5:30 in the afternoon, bright day light!

My sign is probably hanging in some kid’s dorm room. Don’t know that it’s going to get him any good parking spots, but maybe it will get him the girl.
As for my spot – it’s still bare and I’m just waiting to show up for the next big event at the temple tonight and find that I don’t have a place to park. If you’re in my spot when I get there, don’t be surprised if you go out to your car and find you can’t leave because I’m parked behind you. Just let me know when you’re ready to leave.

Freedom of Speech or Intimidation

Monday night the Orange County Community had the opportunity to hear Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren speak about the Israel Palestinian conflict. This was an opportunity for dialogue to discuss the challenges in Israel at this time, especially in the wake of Israel’s response to the Goldstone report. (more info at )

Ambassador Oren was speaking at UCI, which is known for it’s “Week of Hate” sponsored by the Muslim Student Union. These weeks of hate include MSU students being overly confrontational toward UCI students, namely Jewish students. There have been discussions with Chancellor Drake during which he describes that we must allow for freedom of speech on campus while maintaining a level of respect for differing views. However, this has been challenged in the past and it was disturbingly apparent Monday night. ( )

When does free speech cross the line? At what point does the University take a stand and say, enough is enough. Expressing one’s views has to also be tempered with listening and entering into a dialogue. The MSU students from both UCI and Riverside crossed the line of descent conduct. From the video posted by the Register and accounts from those in the Jewish community, Monday night’s disruption was not meant to engage in dialogue, but rather insight hate.

It is time for UCI to take a stand. While academic free speech may encourage challenging programs, outright disrespect and disruptions like what took place at Ambassador Oren’s presentation crosses a line. If we truly wish to engage in a dialogue toward peace, then we have to listen to one another and actually dialogue. Shouting insults and even rude hand jestures exchanged Monday night does nothing to promote free speech. It is embarassing for not only UCI, but for all of us when such a dignitary comes to our community and has to waste 30 minutes for a crowd to come under control.

To Ambassador Oren’s credit, he stayed, finished his talk and expressed his disappointment that the MSU students could not have the patience to enter into a conversation.

Where is the line of freedom of speech and hate speech? I believe it was crossed Monday night and now we must stand up and say enough and not be afraid to confront those who only know how to speak hate.