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A Discussion with Author Mike Kelly
Award-winning columnist at the(Bergen) Record and author of Color Lines and Fresh Jersey

The Bus on Jaffa Road explores the 1996 incident that took the lives of JTS student Matthew Eisenfeld (z”l) and his fiancée, Sara Duker (z”l), and the couple’s legacy.

Rabbi Daniel Nevins, Pearl Resnick Dean of The Rabbinical School and dean of the Division of Religious Leadership, served as moderator.

By Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz | Director of Israel Programs, The Rabbinical School, JTS

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At the opening of Parashat Nitzavim, the Israelites stand rooted before Moses and God. A captive and diverse audience, they are recipients of a message that is both immediate and transcendent in nature. They are told, “I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here today before the Lord our God and with those who are not with us here this day” (Deut. 29:13). In addition, the Israelites “enter into the covenant . . . to the end that God establishes . . . as God promised to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deut.

By Dr. Alisa Braun | Academic Director, Community Engagement, JTS

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“If it doesn’t rain, we don’t know what’s going to happen,” commented a NASA water-cycle scientist recently on the drought that has been devastating California. With rainfall and reservoirs at historically low levels, the state’s farm owners and laborers are increasingly faced with dire choices: What percentage of their fields will they have to leave fallow? How many farmhands and migrant workers will have to be laid off? At what point should one give up—uproot one’s family, move on, and do something else? As the drought intensifies, so do the feelings of uncertainty.

By Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz | Director of Israel Programs, The Rabbinical School, JTS

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Parashat Eikev deals heavily with the theme of entering and securing the Land of Israel. Multiple blessings are part and parcel of entry into the Promised Land. The people are promised a “good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains” (Deut. 8:7) and one that is replete with seven species (wheat, barley, dates, pomegranates, figs, olives, and grapes; 8:8). But those blessings are dependent on the observance of the mitzvot and the loyalty of the Israelites.

By Dr. Stephen Garfinkel | Associate Provost and Assistant Professor of Bible and Its Interpretation

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Is the author of this week’s Torah reading, Parashat Devarim, or the author of the entire book of Devarim (Deuteronomy, the last of the five books of the Torah), not paying attention? Or, perhaps, does the author think we have not been paying attention to what we have read or heard in the Torah’s previous several books? The book of Deuteronomy is a retelling of much of what precedes it in the Torah. (In fact, the name Deuteronomy has come to mean “second telling” or “second law,” based on an extrapolated interpretation of the phrase mishneh Torah in Deuteronomy 17:18. There, in context, it

By Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz | Director of Israel Programs, The Rabbinical School, JTS

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Reflections from Israel on the Rabbinical Assembly–Masorti Solidarity Mission to the South, 2014

The past month has been a time of great emotion and tension for those of us living in Israel. From the moment that Naftali Fraenkel (z”l), Gilad Sha’ar (z”l), and Eyal Yifrach (z”l) were kidnapped, there was a sense of foreboding that overtook the country. And, tragically, it seems there is little hope on the horizon for a conflict that has been forced upon the State of Israel.

By Rabbi Samuel Barth | Senior Lecturer in Liturgy and Worship

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A serious challenge confronting the all-too-human venture of praying to God is in working out what we can say to the “One Who knows all.” A prayer for a congregation to recite in the face of destructive storms might open with the words, “God, we stand before you in time of peril”—but if God truly knows all, might we not assume that God is well aware of the peril facing the community? So the words are not, so to speak, necessary for the message directed to God, but they are certainly important for the community: in saying the words together, their hearts and souls join together, recognizing

By Rabbi Samuel Barth | Senior Lecturer in Liturgy and Worship

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In recent weeks, Medinat Israel (the State of Israel) was celebrated by citizens, residents, and the worldwide Jewish community with an array of observances for Yom Ha’atzma’ut (Israel Independence Day). In synagogues of the Conservative/Masorti Movement, morning minyan included the Hallel prayer and a special Torah reading, affirming the understanding that the establishment of Israel is not merely an item in the political history of the mid-20th century, but a vital step in the spiritual story of our people and, perhaps, the world.

By Professor Arnold M. Eisen | Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary

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Truth in advertising: Rabbi Amy Eilberg (GS ’78, RS ’85) is an old and dear friend of mine—we raised our kids together in California. Rabbi Eilberg will be feted this coming week at the Rabbinical Assembly (RA) convention in Dallas as honoree of the RA Joint Campaign supporting the four Conservative-affiliated seminaries (JTS, the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano, and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies), The Masorti Foundation, and the RA.

By Rabbi Matthew Berkowitz | Director of Israel Programs, The Rabbinical School, JTS

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At the beginning of Parashat Tetzavveh, Moses is commanded to instruct the Israelites, “bring clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. Aaron and his sons will set them up in the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain which is over the Ark, to burn from evening to morning before the Lord. It will be a statute for the Israelites throughout all time, throughout the ages” (Exod. 27:20–21). The verse explicitly refers to setting up the ner tamid, the eternal light. How may we understand the significance of this commandment, especially in a post-Temple era?

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