Responding to the Executive Order on Migration and Refugees

SS-St-LouisThis Shabbat, from 11 – 11:45 a.m., please join us for a special bimah dialogue featuring Rabbi Glazer, Dr. Lindsay Gifford (Assistant Professor of International Studies and Anthropology, University of San Francisco), and Vlad Khaykin (Associate Director for the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco).

As the world faces the most severe refugee crisis since World War II, affecting tens of millions of displaced people, the current administration signed an Executive Order that halts U.S. refugee resettlement efforts. In solidarity with many leading American Jewish organizations, all arms of the Conservative movement released an official statement condemning the presidential order and calling upon Jews everywhere to advocate for the rights of immigrants and reject the targeting of any individual based on their religion.

In this Shabbat discussion, Rabbi Glazer, Lindsay, and Vlad will explore the urgency of the refugee crisis, how it relates to Jewish values and shared history, weigh security concerns and the refugee vetting process, and look at how tradition teaches us to responsibly respond to these challenges with the ethical imperative "not to stand idly by as the blood of your brother is at stake" (Leviticus 19:16).

Please join us. The interactive discussion will take place from 11 – 11:40 a.m., and will be preceded by our full Torah service (beginning at 9:40 a.m.

Lindsay Gifford is Assistant Professor of International Studies and Anthropology at the University of San Francisco. She has worked on Middle Eastern migration and refugee issues for the past decade, including with members of the Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, and Lebanese communities, with field research experience in Syria, Jordan, and the transnational Middle Eastern Diaspora. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Boston University and was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UCLA. She also volunteers with refugee resettlement agencies in the US, and is a member of GenR, a professional advocacy group for the International Rescue Committee.

Vlad J. Khaykin is a former Jewish refugee and Associate Director for the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco. He holds a degree in Economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and graduate degrees in non-profit management and Near East and Jewish Studies from Brandeis University, where he focused on Jewish-Muslim relations and the history of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim migrant xenophobia.

Image credit: Jewish refugees aboard the German liner, St. Louis, June 29, 1939. (Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images/via JTA)

Special Message From Rabbi Glazer

NiceFranceHaving personally delivered a sefer Torah as part of a Masorti Olami mission with my former congregation to seed the newly formed Maayan Or in Nice, France, I once again write to our CBS communal family with a heavy heart. Following Thursday evening’s attack in Nice that left at least 80 dead and countless others injured, CBS, along with the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association for Conservative/Masorti rabbis, released the following statement:

We are stunned and horrified by this latest terrorist attack in France. That this devastating attack came on Bastille Day, a national holiday celebrating liberty, magnifies its horror. Our prayers and sympathies to the families of the victims and the wounded as we once again stand in solidarity with the French people.

We join the international community in condemning this senseless attack, we pray for healing for those wounded, and we demand that all those responsible be brought to justice.

Join us this Shabbat at CBS for healing as we invoke the Hashkiveinu prayer, "May God protect our comings and goings for life and peace, now and forever."

May the memories of the victims be a blessing to those who loved and cherished them, to all of France and to all who seek peace.

Please consider supporting the healing efforts of our brothers and sisters in France here:

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Kezayit: Kitniyot

What's this Kezayit thing? Read here.


Kitniyot2CBS prides itself on the relatively diverse make-up of our community but, like the majority of synagogues in the United States, most of our members identify as Ashkenazim or subscribe to Ashkenazi minhag (custom). For observant Ashkenazi Jews, Pesach (Passover) dietary restrictions are especially onerous. Like other Jews, Ashkenazim refrain from eating hametz (leavened foods) during Passover, but they also eschew kitniyot, a catch-all term used to describe rice, corn, soy beans, peas, lentils, and many seeds. All of these foods are off limits for Ashkenaz Jews during Pesach.

In recent years, there's been much debate about the kitniyot minhag. Should Jews of Ashkenaz provenance continue to practice the prohibition? Or is it high time we put tofu on our Pesach menu? Let's unpack this a bit...and maybe settle any disputes occurring in your kitchens.

First, the ban on kitniyot was only codified in the 16th century; it's a relatively recent minhag. There are competing explanations for its origin, but the general consensus is that rabbis were concerned that European Jews would mistake a hametz flour for a grain flour, thereby unintentionally violating halacha. The rabbis banned anything and everything that might confuse Jews during the holiday. Today, when we can easily tell the difference, is there really any need for the custom to continue?

Second, it's important to remember that minhagim should not be confused with mitzvot. A minhag is not part of written or oral law, and might be widely practiced (e.g., the kitniyot prohibition) or confined to one particular family (e.g., that goofy thing your bubbe did that your dad does and you've started doing, too). Perhaps not surprisingly, many Jews prioritize minhag over halacha, especially if the custom was practiced by their grandparents and parents. You know the score – tradition!

But even the most strict among us should keep the principle of minhag avoteinu beyadeinu ("the minhag of our forefathers remains in our hands") in mind. Even if you're reluctant to reconsider long-held customs, our rabbis are doing just that. On December 24, 2015, the Rabbinical Assembly's Committee on Jewish Law & Standards adopted two Responsa (sheelot u-teshuvot,) concerning kitniyot. You can read the full papers here and here, but the summaries are supplied below.

The first of the two responsa was authored by Rabbi David Golinkin, the President of The Schechter Institutes and Past President of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where he currently serves as Professor of Jewish Law. Rabbi Golinkin's paper does not include a formal psak, but concludes that the kitniyot minhag should be eliminated. It was adopted by a vote of 15-3-4.

The second responsa was authored by Rabbis Amy Levin and Avram Reisner, the Interim Rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom (Bridgeport, CT) and Rabbi Emeritus of Chevrei Tzedek (Baltimore, MD), respectively. Their paper was adopted by a vote of 19-1-2. The concluding psak of this rabbinic Responsa is: "In order to bring down the cost of making Pesach and support the healthier diet that is now becoming more common, and given the inapplicability today of the primary concerns that seem to have led to the custom of prohibiting kitniyot, and further, given our inclination in our day to present an accessible Judaism unencumbered by unneeded prohibitions, more easily able to participate in the culture that surrounds us, we are prepared to rely on the fundamental observance recorded in the Talmud and codes and permit the eating of kitniyot on Pesach."

It's none of our business what goes on in your kitchen or dining room, but we encourage you to feast on kitniyot this Pesach...if you want to.

Special Message From Rabbi Glazer

This Shabbat, October 17, 2015,
the Rabbinical Assembly is participating in a
Shabbat of Unity with the People of Israel.

In conjunction with this show of sympathy and support,
Rabbi Glazer wishes to share the below message.

023b Dear CBS communal family,

This week, with the constant terror and trauma our brothers and sisters have been experiencing in the Land of Israel and the sympathetic anxiety we experience from afar, I recall my time studying in Israel as a rabbinical student in 1996. I lost two fellow students, Matt Eisenfeld (z”l) and Sarah Duker (z”l), both of whom were ruthlessly murdered on the #18 bus.

The Jewish response to such severe and traumatic moments -- then as now -- is through Teshuvah, Tefillah, and Tzedakah. In processing the daily doses of trauma we experienced at that time, my peers and I found it healing to come together as a community for tefillah, but we also acted together to create a legacy for our fallen friends. The memories of Matt and Sarah remain a continual blessing for all those who were studying in Israel then, as our community created a beit midrash (place of study) in their memory at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Today, every rabbinical student studying at JTS connects with Matt and Sarah's blessed memories through Torah study and tefillah in that dedicated space. Something holy came out of the daily horror.

I feel right now that at CBS we also need to come together with prayers for calm & peace on this Unity Shabbat. I invite us all to join in this call for communal solidarity raised by the Rabbinical Assembly in this Shabbat of Unity with the People of Israel, October 17-18, 2015. Communities across the globe are joining together and reciting this kavannah by my colleague, Rabbi David Wolpe. Let us pray for the safety and security of Israel's citizens and the healing of the injured victims.

El Maleh Rachamim -- Compassionate God,
We pray not to wipe out haters but to banish hatred.
Not to destroy sinners but to lessen sin.
Our prayers are not for a perfect world but a better one
Where parents are not bereaved by the savagery of sudden attacks
Or children orphaned by blades glinting in a noonday sun.
Help us dear God, to have the courage to remain strong, to stand fast.
Spread your light on the dark hearts of the slayers
And your comfort to the bereaved hearts of families of the slain.
Let calm return Your city Jerusalem, and to Israel, Your blessed land.
We grieve with those wounded in body and spirit,
Pray for the fortitude of our sisters and brothers,
And ask you to awaken the world to our struggle and help us bring peace — Amen.

I also offer my own prayer, adapted from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s Prayer for Peace.

Adon haShalom, We are heart broken, longing for a time when
war and bloodshed cease...
...So let it come to pass in our time —
'And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down
and none shall make you afraid.
I will drive the wild beasts from the land,
and neither shall the sword go through your land.’
Let justice flow like a mighty stream
so we might someday see that we are all part of
that elusive peace that only You can provide — Amen.

Tzedakah can be directed in numerous ways, including:

1. Magen David Adom
2. Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem
3. Friends of the IDF

Rabbi Aubrey Glazer