USCJ Centralizes Operation To Assert Stronger Role

USCJ Centralizes Operation To Assert Stronger Role C. SCOTT WEINER All About the Future: Conservative leaders discuss the movement’s future during a panel dis- cussion. They are, from left, Rabbi Julie Schonfeld of the Rabbinical Assembly; Cantor Stephen Stein of the Cantors Assembly; Rabbi Steven C. Wernick of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies. By Josh Nathan-Kazis Published December 09, 2009 Cherry Hill, N.J. — Some of Conservative Judaism’s top leaders found little to criticize within their own movement when they gathered together December 7 for a panel discussion on the future direction of their troubled denomination. The plenary forum at the biennial convention of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism saw one panelist tout renewed involvement by rabbinic spouses in congregational life as a crucial tonic. Another lamented that the movement’s “detractors” failed to recognize Conservative Judaism’s…

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End-of-Year Tax Planning Considerations

End-of-Year Tax Planning Considerations Last Updated: 12/8/2009 4:27:24 PM As the New Year approaches, taxpayers around the nation are thinking about making gifts or other financial moves before January 1 that will benefit them come April 15, 2010. Here are some year-end considerations of particular interest to seniors. A Reprieve on RMDs Last year, as the stock market plunged and the economy teetered on the brink, Congress suspended the penalty for seniors who fail to take the required minimum distribution (RMD) from their IRA and employer retirement accounts in 2009. There is normally a penalty for failure to withdraw once the account owner reaches retirement age -- after age 70 1/2. Taxpayers generally must begin taking annual distributions from their retirement accounts by the April 1 occurring after they reach age 70 1/2 or pay a whopping 50 percent excise tax on the amount that should have been distributed but…

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Israel at World Expo Shanghai 2010

ONE may never understand Israel without knowing the Jewish perspective of the structure of the world. And next May, Israel will make a journey of faith to World Expo Shanghai to demonstrate the exciting, innovating and calming aspect of the Jewish spirit that enables its people to seek a better life through innovation in the desert. The futuristic Israel Pavilion will be composed of two curvilinear shapes, hugging each other in peace and harmony. Made half of raw stone and half of state-of-the-art glass structures, the main body of Israel Pavilion will offer a combined experience of the past and the future with its harmonious shape of opposites. "Israelis like to use stone in their houses, which embody solidity, earth and roots, while the use of glass stands for an open future," said Haim Dotan, the chief designer of Israel Pavilion. Not only that, the shape of the hugging curvilinear…

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Staying Away Is Not an Option – Bikur Cholim

Staying Away Is Not an Option By Joanne Kenen Stefanie Augustine It may not be the easiest of 613 commandments to fulfill, but visiting the sick is nevertheless one of the most significant, meritorious and, ultimately, fulfilling of the interpersonal mitzvot. It is hard to visit sick people. And the sicker they are, the harder the visit. Visiting someone in the hospital can set off fears of illness and infection, stir up memories of past losses or remind us uncomfortably of our own mortality. Then there is the “shlep factor,” as Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the American Jewish University in California and a leading bioethicist, puts it. In our 24-7 multitasking lives, it is hard to find time for what can turn out to be an aggravating experience. We drive to the hospital, pay for parking, wander through unfamiliar corridors looking for the right room—and then discover that the…

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Helping Grandpa Get His Tech On

A few days before my 100-year-old mother’s death this summer, she said she had only one regret: not being able to see her family in California again. But then I realized that I had my MacBook (with its built-in webcam) in my briefcase. A few phone calls later and my mother was using iChat to speak with and see her great-grandchildren for the first time in years. My mother, born in a Belarussian village before the advent of commercial radio, was by her late 90s using a cellphone, receiving e-mail messages from her family and asking me “what is this Twitter thing anyway?” She was far from the only centenarian using technology for more than just medical monitoring and protection against falls. Contrary to stereotypes, computers, social networks, e-mail and even video games are becoming essential parts of older peoples’ lives. Some of the highest growth rates in broadband use…

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Killing Kasztner: Hero or Devil?

New Documentary Revisits Israel’s Holocaust Reception LEFT: COURTESY IZHAK WEINBERG; RIGHT: COURTESY KASZTNER FAMILY Another Kind of Train: Reszo Kasztner, pictured above in Switzerland, was in a position to liberate trains of Jews, including those Jewish children pictured to the left in 1944. Of course that meant he had to choose who would ride to freedom and who would remain under Nazi rule. By Jerome A. Chanes Gaylen Ross’s splendid new documentary, “Killing Kasztner,” comes at a time when a new generation of Israelis is rediscovering a forgotten conflict, one that threatened to tear apart Israeli society in the 1950s. Until recently Rudolf Yisrael “Rezso” Kasztner had been the forgotten person in Israel. An ironic and puzzling situation since in the mid 1950s, the “Affaire Kasztner” was the flashpoint in Israel. It was an event that split Israeli society more deeply than even the Lavon Affair. The idea that any…

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Israel Appeal – Yom Kippur 2009

Shalom In my Israel appeal I will not ask you to donate funds, nor will I ask you to visit Israel, important as these actions are in supporting Israel there is something else that I will appeal to you to do. When we donate money to Israel we are making a sacrifice, when we visit Israel as wonderful as the experience might be we are giving our time and resources, and depending upon the situation with Hamas and Hizbollah and how close we are to the border, taking a certain risk. Today, on Yom Kippur I will appeal to you to donate, to sacrifice, to risk something else for Zion’s sake. I will ask you to donate your voice, to sacrifice your social comfort zone, and to possibly risk your public reputation. Israel is increasingly being slandered, isolated and delegitimized; her reputation in much of the world community has gone…

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Swedish anti-Semitism satire clip a hit

An Israeli satirical video posted on the Internet became a hit in the very countries it criticizes. The video was produced and posted by latma, a Website criticizing Israeli and international media outlets. It was produced in the wake of a report by the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet which alleged that the IDF harvests organs of Palestinians killed in conflict for transplant in Israeli patients. The writer of the report has since admitted he had no way of ascertaining its veracity. Israel called the Aftonbladet report a "new blood libel." Last week, Norway announced its divestment from Elbit, an Israeli Hi Tech manufacturer which is a world leader in the defense industry. Norway announced it would divest from Elbit because of the company's work on the security barrier in the West Bank. Click triangle to start ...

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Bonim Considers Alternative to USCJ

Bonim is a group of clergy, officers and lay leaders of Conservative synagogues who are dedicated to building the movement through the advocacy of change in the relationship between United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the umbrella group of the organization, and its member synagogues. You can read and join the discussion in the Bonim Google Group at http://groups.google.com/group/bonim?hl=enSeptember 15, 2009Pasted below is a statement that is being released by Bonim inresponse to the USCJ Board meeting this past weekend.  As you haveread in other postings, while we were very hopeful with the potentialleadership and impact that Rabbi Wernick could provide towardsubstantively changing the organization, the result of the meetinglast weekend fell significantly short of our expectations and priordiscussions with USCJ.  We have two choices, we can watch and waituntil Rabbi Wernick makes further headway or until a new President iselected or until Hayom issues its report or until the new…

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USCJ Reorganizes

On the job for barely two months, the new chief executive of the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, Rabbi Steven Wernick, is announcing a restructuring of the organization. For some critics, United Synagogue has been a poster child for the movement's ills and Wernick, who spoke to JTA in our offices Thursday morning, wants to make it smaller and better, reducing the number of regions from 15 to six and eliminating five positions in the main office, with more layoffs likely to come.Synagogues have complained for some time that they don't get enough value for their dues to the organization, and Wernick says he is determined to change that. He also wants to reform an unwieldy organization that is "over-institutionalized," with a bloated board and insufficient accountability. On this front, the organization's board will be voting this week on proposed governance and structural changes aimed at granting Wernick more authority,…

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