Clal nurtures new skills in leaders, helping them to prepare for the civic, spiritual, intellectual and ethical challenges in American life.
We are very proud that Clal Senior Fellow and Director of our CLI (Clergy Leadership Incubator,) Rabbi Sid Schwarz, gave the Hanukkah address at the White House Hanukkah reception last night. Hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama, the event drew many prominent American Jews along with Israel's President Reuven Rivlin.
Rabbi Irwin Kula, formerly of Congregation B’nai Amoona in Creve Coeur and currently president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership (CLAL), believes that the organized Jewish community must adapt to new realities regarding connections to mainstream synagogues and organizations....
"...Today, I raise my voice, having chosen my words with great care. I will not comment in class about the offensive remarks of presidential hopefuls. I dare not derail us from our mission to seek Jewish wisdom in our study of Torah that informs our lives and helps us grow as human beings. Instead, I choose to share the narrative of my Grandpa Harry’s immigration, as I recite seven stanzas over the Oberaargauer Brass Band’s rendition of ‘Coming to America....’"
"No matter how much money each of us donated yesterday on what has come to be known as Giving Tuesday, it certainly wasn’t as large a charitable commitment as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan made. On the occasion of the birth of their daughter, Max, yesterday the couple pledged to donate 99 percent of their stock shares of Facebook (currently about $45 billion) during their lifetimes to improve the world for the next generation...."
“‘We don’t have a Jewish identity problem,’ says Kula. ‘The problem is that the majority of Jews who are proud of their identities and feel connected to their religion are not using the products, services and delivery systems of the organized Jewish community.’ Kula, together with co-president Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, are recapturing the Clal mission of its founders Rabbi Irving ‘Yitz’ Greenberg and Elie Wiesel.
"As the calendar flips to December, nightfall comes ever earlier, and many of us don our winter coats for the first time, Jews throughout America once again will encounter a challenging cultural/religious question: how should we celebrate Hanukkah? Sure, there will be candle-lighting and latkes, but what else? Lavish presents? Contemporary, catchy songs? Vodka and latke parties? Or, to put it more succinctly, how much like Christmas should our Hanukkah celebration be?..."
"Hanukkah is coming. It’s time to tell stories about armed resistance against oppression. Children will read about the five brave Maccabee sons in picture books. Hebrew school students will enact dramatic battles in seasonal plays. Feminists and art lovers will view graphic paintings of Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes. Musicians will sing about the wars won by God and human beings. We’ll experience a cathartic cycle of fear, excitement, anxiety, relief and joy...."
"On Thanksgiving morning when I entered a large grocery store in Wicker Park, Chicago, I was transported back to a long ago uncomfortable memory. At that time, while living across Lake Michigan from Chicago, I shopped at a branch of this supermarket chain. I told a friend I was abandoning the large supermarket in Benton Harbor, having found a new, smaller market that was more easily navigable. The large store was crowded, aisles jammed with displays and bumper-car-like navigation, ending in long checkout lines...."
"Now, let’s get real: Some don’t feel thankful today. We might feel like the turkeys got us down. We might feel burdened by hosting, harried by travel, lonely for having nowhere to go, bothered for having to go somewhere we don’t want to go, or pre-triggered by a secular holiday season happier in advertising than anticipation or reality.
"Last night I participated in my town of Westborough’s Interfaith Thanksgiving. Our program was entitled ‘Welcoming the Stranger’, recalling that part of the Thanksgiving narrative is a story of those who arrived by boat on these shores, seeking freedom to worship in their own way.