Rabbi Sharon Brous, spiritual leader of IKAR, a nine-year-old independent congregation in Los Angeles, was named America’s Top Rabbi for 2013 by The Daily Beast.
When Isa Aron considers b’nai mitzvah today, she gets the impression that parents — and sometimes synagogues — care more about their son or daughter performing flawlessly when on the bimah than they do about their forming lasting connections to Judaism.
In 2000, an urban congregation of 1,000 families found itself at a crossroads. The synagogue had a balanced budget and a beloved rabbi who was retiring after three decades, but its building was badly in need of repairs and the congregation was aging. To survive, the leadership felt they had to upgrade, so they took four steps: They hired a big-name rabbi, renovated the building, and put together an ambitious schedule of lectures and other programs to attract new faces. They also borrowed $1 million to pay for it all.
One-third of the legendary Peter, Paul & Mary, the folk icon and political activist has reinvented himself by authoring children’s books that draw on egalitarian themes.
During a recent candidates’ forum at Sinai Temple, Los Angeles City Councilman and mayoral hopeful Eric Garcetti began his opening statement by thanking his hosts, the audience, and the moderator, Rabbi David Wolpe.
Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR offered blessings on Jan. 22 at the Presidential Inaugural Prayer Service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., which traditionally is held the day following the official inauguration.
Whether it’s dressing up as Santa Claus and posing for photographs with low-income kids or serving turkey and ham to the homeless, many Jews volunteer to break out of their element at this time of year in order to bring Christmas joy to families in need.
When Rabbi Sharon Brous first read an essay by Rabbi Daniel Gordis, a colleague and former teacher, accusing her of betraying Israel, she was shocked and angry, she said. Nevertheless, her initial instinct was to refrain from feeding the publicity machine.
We take light for granted. But in the Torah’s opening chapter of Bereshit, it was God’s first gift. It seems fitting, then, that when a local synagogue committed itself to helping an impoverished village in rural Uganda, the first gift would be to turn on the lights — to give the gift of solar-powered electricity.
Jack Kessler, 14, completed his mitzvah project last summer by working at a Friendship Circle camp for teens on the autism spectrum. He says the volunteer effort, which some synagogues require of their b’nai mitzvah students, helped him realize his priorities.
Following six months of advocacy work by the congregation of IKAR, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officials announced that they would no longer impound unlicensed drivers’ cars at sobriety checkpoints, a victory for undocumented immigrants who cannot obtain drivers licenses under state law.
Recently, the nonprofit group Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ) launched a bipartisan Web video, “Al Tirah!” with the hope of encouraging people to vote during the midterm elections, but the organization wants the message of the film — that people should feel empathy for others, rather than fear — to resonate beyond Nov. 2.
Creative Worship Abounds
As Julie Gruenbaum Fax noted, Los Angeles is at the vanguard of a national trend in creating inventive Jewish worship opportunities (“How Different Is IKAR?” June 25).
Since Sharon Brous, 34, founded her alternative synagogue four years ago, IKAR's young rabbi has frequently been identified as an innovative spiritual leader, someone successful at engaging disaffected younger Jews by marrying Torah learning with progressive social action.
As the public face and founding executive director of PJA, Sokatch, 40, has been lauded by the left and loathed by the right.
When Max Webb was interned at 18 different concentration camps during the Holocaust, he made a promise. "If he survived, he would make sure he would contribute to the advancement of the Jewish people and Judaism in any way he could," said his grandson, Greg Podell, the director of the Max Webb Family Foundation.
Webb has made good on that promise, donating to causes in Israel and to local Jewish charities, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. And now, as he's about to turn 90, his foundation has purchased a plot of land for $3 million for a center to house two socially conscious Jewish organizations.
Warren told Wolfson his interest is in helping all houses of worship, not in converting Jews. He said there are more than enough Christian souls to deal with for starters.
Don't call them synagogues.
They are minyanim, or spiritual communities. They have evolved from shared and individual dreams and from serendipitous, profound and beshert connections. They are new, egalitarian, independent, warm, collaborative and vibrant.
And they are all led by female rabbis.