Wolpe Out of the Running for JTS Head
Rabbi David Wolpe has removed himself from consideration for the job of leading the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) in New York. Wolpe, of Sinai Temple in Westwood, had been widely considered a front-runner for chancellor at JTS, the central institution in Conservative Judaism.
But last week, Wolpe told Sinai's board of directors that he would remain with the temple, effectively shortening the rumored short list of JTS finalists.
Although there have been no "official" interviews of candidates for chancellor, Wolpe's speech last month at the seminary and meetings with officials there had insiders and media reports speculating that he had to viewed among the front-runners.
Rabbi Ismar Shorsh, the chancellor for 20 years, will retire in June. A search committee is quietly and secretly feeling out potential replacements. The JTS chancellor is generally regarded as the leader of the Conservative movement and the next one must confront the challenge of dwindling membership and divisive issues, such as the movement's policy on not ordaining openly gay or lesbian rabbis.
Wolpe, 47, told The Journal that he made his announcement because he didn't want to create unease among his congregants.
"This is our centennial year and we have tremendous plans for the future to see through what we've started together," Wolpe said.
Wolpe has been leader of the synagogue for the last eight and a half years. With another one and a half years on his contract, he has already begun negotiating his next term.
"To be the chancellor of the seminary is a tremendous opportunity, but it's not the right opportunity for me and my family at this time of my life," he said. As for the next chancellor of JTS, Wolpe said, "I hope they will find someone who represents the movement as well as the institutions." --Amy Klein, Religion Editor
L.A. Airlifts Food, Clothes to Israel
Israelis in need of clothing will receive a major shipment of donated Los Angeles clothes this month, while hungry Israelis will get aid from a new local charity intent on providing kosher Shabbat meals.
This fall's "Israeli airlift" campaign for donations of clothing will see 25,000 pounds of apparel and blankets shipped to Israel for Gaza settlers displaced by the August withdrawal.
On Dec. 2, two El Al cargo planes arrived in Israel with 5,000 pounds of winter items.
"Anything warm we sent right away," said Jewish community activist Daryl Temkin.
On Dec. 6 in Los Angeles, 28 students from Shalhevet High School prepared the remaining 20,000 pounds of donated items for packaging and transport by ship from the Port of Los Angeles to Israel's Ashdod Harbor. Temkin said the air cargo cost $8,500, while the shipping fees were another $3,500, all paid for through donations generated from Temkin's September e-mail plea for clothes.
Separately, Israeli-American businessman Dan Manheim last month created the Israel Kosher Relief Fund and a local Adopt a Family in Israel campaign.
"The whole idea is that they will have one warm Shabbat dinner four times a month," said Manheim. "For $49 a month, you can adopt a family in Israel. Our promise is that the entire $49 will go to the family."
The charity was launched with a Nov. 17 kickoff event at Westwood's Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel, where Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch threw his support behind the effort.
Since this new fund began, Manheim has secured enough credit card-based donations to help 100 families with kosher dinners, part of his goal of helping 3,000 poor families through 2006.
"We leave [Israeli families] a bag on Thursday evening; we don't knock on the door, we don't embarrass them and they prepare for the Shabbat dinner," said Manheim, who grew up on a kibbutz where food never was an issue. He added that Shabbat dinners always were times when "the family is together whether we're religious or not."
Most Adopt-A-Family donations come from local business executives, because the fund does not have a formal synagogue partner yet. Support also has come in from Israeli ice cream mogul and philanthropist Ra'aya Strauss, Manheim said.
The food and winter clothing needs of Israel's poor have been caused not just by increased military spending, but also longtime Israeli infrastructure problems.
To see Israel's hunger needs up close, the West Los Angeles-based Jewish anti-hunger group MAZON sent an Oct. 31-Nov. 6 mission of five MAZON board members and Eric Bost, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's under secretary for food, nutrition and consumer services to Israel. Leading the mission was MAZON Executive Director H. Eric Schockman, who was surprised to see that Israel's agri-business kibbutzim do not recycle unsold food.
"The Israelis don't recycle their surplus commodities that they grow on the kibbutzes, they grind it up," Schockman told The Jewish Journal. "They do produce surplus commodities that could feed a lot of people." -- David Finnigan, Contributing Writer