Small congregations contribute to big turnout at URJ Biennial in Chicago

By Betsy Frank

As I write this month’s column, I am still experiencing a “high” from attending the Union of Reform Judaism Biennial convention at McCormick Place in Chicago.

There is nothing like celebrating Shabbat services with 5,000 people. But the most rewarding feature for me was to see all the high school and college students enthusiastically participating in services and other sessions.

I took part in sessions targeted at small congregations and gained useful ideas that we can initiate at UHC.

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A mother’s guidance might have saved Joseph and his people from a whole lot of of tsuris

By Susan Kray

Judging by our ancient, sacred tradition, it seems possible that Joseph and his brothers and their families all wound up in Egypt evolving into a slave population for one reason: Joseph had grown up motherless.

Joseph was deprived of appropriate female influence. His mother Rachel died right after she gave birth to his little brother Benjamin.

As a result, Joseph grew up without proper female guidance. We all know what a mess that motherless boy made of his relationships to his brothers, a mess leading to generations of slavery.

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Mi Shebeirach directs hope for strength and restoration to our loved ones, and to ourselves

Bu Student Rabbi Remy Liverman

Prayers for healing are deeply embedded in our Jewish liturgy and tradition. The practice began with the holy words Moses prayed to God after his sister Miriam had been stricken with the affliction of tzara’at.

Moses pleaded: El na, refa na la — “Please God, heal her” (Numbers 12:13).

When we join together for Kabbalat Shabbat, we pause during our service to include the Mi Shebeirach, our communal prayer for healing.

Continuing to recite this prayer during services spreads the support to the larger community. This act of chesed sends the message that those who suffer are not alone.

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Presence is the foundation of relationships, helping to build a strong congregation

By Betsy Frank

Presence involves more than just occupying a seat at a religious service. Presence is the foundation of relationships.

Judaism, meanwhile, is a religion predicated on relationships — with the Creator and to the Torah, including mitzvot directed toward relationships with our earth and all its inhabitants.

Even our religious practices are built on relationships. We can pray alone, but our liturgies are built upon the notion that more than one individual must be present.

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