The FJMC Sefer Haftarah is at the B'nai Zion Synagogue, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Next week it will be at the Congregation Etz Hayim, Marietta, GA

This week's Unraveller is sponsored by Bob Braitman in honor of the yahrzeit of Alan Eisen, father of Chancellor Arnold Eisen.

The portion for Va-yiggash in the FJMC Sefer Haftarah scroll, the travelling haftarah scroll that visits a different synagogue each week and contains all of the haftarot, was sponsored by Temple Sinai, Los Angeles, CA.

FJMC Factoid: FJMC sent 20 mezuzot and several sets of tefillin to Bet-El in Madrid. We also obtained Spanish text books from Argentina to help them develop a curriculum for the school they wish to open. It will be the only talmud torah in Madrid.

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December 30, 2011 / 4 Tevet, 5772

Ezekiel 37:15-28

All the House of Israel

Ezekiel is a strange dude. As one of my professors in Rabbinical School once pointed out, you’re dealing with a guy who started his career by eating a book (see Ezekiel 2:8-3:3); after that, it’s basically anything goes.Bring them close to each other, so that they become one stick, joined together in your hand -- each of us must take action to heal the breach, to bring about the unification of the Jewish people.

No surprise, then, that this week’s Haftarah opens with more obscure instructions:

The word of the Lord came to me: And you, O mortal, take a stick and write on it, “Of Judah and the Israelites associated with him”; and take another stick and write on it, “Of Joseph -- the stick of Ephraim -- and all the House of Israel associated with him.” Bring them close to each other, so that they become one stick, joined together in your hand (Ezekiel 37:15-17).

The Lord goes on to explain to Ezekiel the meaning of the sticks -- each represents half of the Israelite kingdom, which God will reunite in the coming redemption -- and to promise Ezekiel that when the Lord God brings the people back to the land of Israel they will never divide their own people again.

Although Ezekiel’s message was written thousands of years ago, it could not come at a more opportune time. Increasingly, we hear stories of religious discrimination in Israel -- most recently, women who have been barred from participating in family funerals even when that was not their family’s custom. We are right to be angry about those rabbis who abuse their political power and use religion as a weapon against other Jews.

Israel, and Judaism itself, have suffered because that country does not have a formal separation of Religion and State as we have in America. One need only consider the stark disparity between Orthodox synagogues in Israel, whose rabbis’ salaries are paid by the government from tax revenues, and Conservative and Reform rabbis who must work two, three, and sometimes four jobs to make ends meet -- because their synagogues receive no government support. But if we merely condemn those use religion to sow division, we have done nothing to improve the situation. Ezekiel’s vision of two sticks challenges us to step up and be a part of the solution as well. For God tells Ezekiel, Bring them close to each other, so that they become one stick, joined together in your hand -- each of us must take action to heal the breach, to bring about the unification of the Jewish people.

Ultimately, Israelis must deal with the problem of Religion, State, and pluralism. For us, as American Jews and members of Conservative synagogues, the best way to do that is to support the work of Masorti (Conservative) Judaism in Israel -- rabbis, teachers, and lay leaders who believe in the future of religious pluralism in Israel and in the possibility that all Jews can join together in strengthening our people and our religious homeland. So as the end of the calendar year approaches, consider a donation to the Masorti Foundation, which will go to support Masorti congregations in Israel. When you plan your next trip to Israel, make sure Masorti communities are on your itinerary, especially when you’re deciding where to go for Shabbat. In supporting Masorti Judaism in Israel, we lend support to a vision of Judaism that makes room for all Jews -- regardless of their approach to observance -- within the community of Israel.

This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Abe Friedman, Anshe Emet, Chicago, IL. Growing up in Atlanta, Georgia, Rabbi Abe Friedman developed his deep love of Judaism and the Conservative movement through the nurturing and intellectually stimulating communities of his synagogue, Solomon Schechter day school, USY, Camp Ramah, and Nativ. These experiences led Rabbi Abe to the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, California where he also received an MBA in Nonprofit Management.

New Publications

Leadership - Innovation - Community
Understanding the Haftarot:
An Everyperson's Guide

In this stimulating and unusual book Rabbi Charles Simon, Executive Director of FJMC, provides the reader with the context to understand how the haftarot were organized, why they might have been selected and suggests reasons for finding meaning and value.
You can purchase it a number of ways.
Intermarriage: Concepts & Strategies for Families and Synagogue Leaders
If family members and community leaders wish to become engaged in the process of Keruv they often need to ask, "Does Keruv have an ideology and theology? And if so what is it?" Then they need to learn how to respond to intermarriage from the perspective of both gender and religion. This publication reflects the most current thinking about intermarriage to date and attempts to provide family members and community leaders with the needed understanding to effectively work with intermarrieds or potential intermarrieds.
You can purchase it a number of ways:
It's time for Build-A-Pair
The best way to teach about tefillin!

HeneniThe "Build a Pair" Program is a comprehensive and fun learning program to introduce 5th, 6th or 7th graders to the joy and mitzvah of Tefillin in Jewish life. Multiple components interplay to explore the religious significance, the construction of, and the practice of "laying" Tefillin. A comprehensive education program with videos helps the religious school teach students the meaning of Tefillin in Jewish life and practice. Students practice writing their Hebrew/Jewish names and the SHEMA (first line) to insert into pre-made wooden Tefillin boxes. Students decorate the boxes in any creative way they wish, allowing for personal expression. Students either compete or cooperate in writing a "wRAP" song to sing at a Big Event. The Big Event can be the World Wide Wrap (WWW), sponsored by the Federation of Jewish Men's Clubs (FJMC), held annually on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday. The WWW program is designed to introduce and re-introduce Jewish men [and women] to the significance of "laying" Tefillin. The "Build a Pair" student program attracts the parents to see their children in their model Tefillin sing the "wRap" songs, allowing two generations (or more!) to join in the mitzvah together, and to let the students' sing their "wRAP" song for an appreciative audience.

World Wide Wrap is Sunday, February 3, 2013
The Bar Mitzvah Wrap!

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