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In a shift, Hebrew College will now admit and ordain rabbinical students whose partners are not Jewish



(JTA) — Hebrew College will begin admitting and ordaining rabbinical students in interfaith relationships, according to new admissions standards revealed on Tuesday.

The decision makes the pluralistic seminary outside of Boston the second major rabbinical school in the United States to do away with rules barring students from dating or marrying non-Jews. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Seminary was the first to do so in 2015.

Hebrew College’s decision comes as rabbinical schools compete over a shrinking pool of applicants and after decades of rising rates of intermarriage among American Jews.

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, Hebrew College’s president, announced the policy change in an email to students and graduates on Tuesday evening. She said the decision, which followed a year and a half of review, came amid a broad revision of the seminary’s “guiding principles for admission and ordination.”

Those new guiding principles were published on the admissions page of Hebrew College’s website late Tuesday, replacing different language that had included the partner policy. “We do not admit or ordain rabbinical students with non-Jewish partners,” the page had previously said, adding that applicants whose partners were in the process of converting would be considered.

“This is a really exciting moment for Jewish communities everywhere,” said Jodi Bromberg, the CEO of 18Doors, a Jewish nonprofit that supports interfaith families. “We all will get to benefit from Jewish leaders in interfaith relationships who have been sidelined from major seminaries up to now.”

Hebrew College has set aside time on Wednesday for its roughly 80 rabbinical students and others to process their reactions about the change, which Anisfeld had previously said she expected to be intense no matter the decision. She declined to comment late Tuesday, saying that she was focused on communication with members of her community.

“This has not been a simple process and, in addition to the strong feelings raised by the policy itself, there have been complex feelings about various stages of the process we’ve undertaken over the past year,” Anisfeld wrote in a message to students in October, in a series of emails obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Hebrew College’s policy change reflects a longstanding and sometimes painful dynamic in American Jewish life: While nearly three-quarters of non-Orthodox Jews who married in the last decade did so to non-Jews, few traditional rabbinical schools have been willing to train or ordain rabbis in interfaith relationships. Their policies have roots in Jewish law, known as halacha, which prohibits marriages between Jews and non-Jews. But they also reflect anxiety among American Jewish leaders over whether high rates of intermarriage threaten the future of Judaism, and whether rabbis must model traditional practices in their families.

At Hebrew College, which launched its rabbinical school 20 years ago, the prohibition against interfaith relationships had been the only admissions requirement rooted in Jewish law beyond the rule that applicants must be considered Jewish according to at least one Jewish movement. There was no requirement that rabbinical students keep kosher or observe Shabbat.

When the school’s leadership first solicited feedback from students a year ago, several took aim at what they said was hypocrisy in the approach to Jewish law.

“This is the one area of students’ halachic life where I am acutely aware that the school does not trust us, does not think we are capable of navigating our own personal lives, and does not believe that the choices we may make for ourselves have the capacity to expand and enrich our Jewish practice,” wrote one student, according to a collection of anonymous comments shared among students at the time.

A chuppah at a Jewish wedding. More than 60% of American Jews who have married in the last decade have done so to non-Jewish partners, according to a 2021 study from the Pew Research Center. That proportion rises to nearly 75% for non-Orthodox American Jews. (Scott Rocher via Flickr Commons)

Most of the 15 comments that students and graduates shared with their peers called for doing away with the ban on interfaith student relationships, often citing the benefits of having Hebrew College-ordained rabbis reflect the families they are likely to serve.

“We should be training rabbis for the Jewish community that exists and that we want to cultivate, not the one we wish existed or that existed in the past,” one student wrote. “Having intermarried rabbis could do a lot of good: perhaps having role models for a fulfilling, active, intermarried Jewish can help people feel welcomed, not just grudgingly tolerated after the fact — and can increase the likelihood that those intermarried couples want to raise Jewish children.”

Several students and graduates wrote that the policy as it stood incentivized students to obscure their relationships, denying them dignity and preventing their mentors and teachers from fully supporting them. Several suggested that prohibiting students in interfaith partnerships could have a disproportionate effect on queer Jews and Jews of color.

At least one person argued against changing the policy, instead suggesting that the school strengthen enforcement and clarify expectations about other Jewish practices and values.

“By changing the policy Hebrew College is sending the message to the Jewish world that love-based marriages are more sacred than the covenant with which we made at Sinai,” that student wrote, referring to the moment in Jewish tradition when God first spoke to the Israelites. “However, by not changing the policy Hebrew College is affirming that students learn the art of lying. Therefore, my suggestion is to keep the policy but change the ethics on how it is enforced.”

Those comments followed a two-day workshop, facilitated by experts in conflict resolution, about the policy a year ago. The experience was challenging for many of those in attendance, according to the student comments.

“The pain of the need to hide was on full display during Winter Seminar, and I found myself wondering if I could remain in a community whose first response was anything other than to seek healing for the hurt that the policy has inflicted,” one wrote at the time.

With tensions high, an initial deadline to decide whether to keep the policy came and went last June. In late October, Anisfeld wrote to students with an update. A special committee including both rabbinic and academic faculty members had been meeting regularly since July, she said, and would be presenting their recommendation by the end of January.

Last week, she said in her message to students and graduates on Tuesday, Hebrew College’s board approved the policy change and admissions principles revisions.

The decision could renew pressure on other rabbinical schools amid steep competition for students. Several non-traditional rabbinical schools that do not have a requirement about the identities of students’ spouses have grown in recent years, while Hebrew College; the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College; and the Jewish Theological Seminary and the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in the Conservative movement all shrunk. Hebrew College recently completed a move to a shared campus after selling its building under financial duress.

“We continue to hear from folks who want to be rabbis and up until this moment had really limited choices,” said Bromberg. “I can’t help but think that this will have a really positive impact on the enrollment in Hebrew College’s rabbinic program.”

The pressure could be especially acute for Hebrew Union College, the Reform seminary with three campuses in the United States. (Because of declining enrollment, the school is phasing out its Cincinnati program.) HUC does not admit or ordain students in interfaith relationships, even though the Reform movement, which does not consider halacha to be binding, permits its rabbis to officiate at intermarriages and to be intermarried themselves.

That policy, which the movement reaffirmed after extensive debate in 2014, has drawn resentment and scorn from some who say it is the only thing holding them back from pursuing Reform ordination.

“All my life, my community had told me that no matter who you are or who you love, you are equal in our community and according to the Divine. But now it feels like I’ve been betrayed, lied to, misled,” Ezra Samuels, an aspiring rabbinical student in a queer relationship with a non-Jewish man, wrote on Hey Alma in 2020, expanding on a viral Twitter thread.

But even the Conservative movement, which bars rabbis from officiating at intermarriages and only recently began permitting members of its rabbinical association to attend intermarriages, is grappling openly with how to balance Jewish law and tradition against the reality around interfaith relationships.

The movement recently held a series of online meetings for members of its Rabbinical Assembly to discuss intermarriage, sparking rumors that the movement could be headed toward policy changes. That’s not the case, according to movement leaders — though they say other shifts may be needed.

“There are no proposals at present to change our standard,” said Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, the CEO of the RA and United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the movement’s congregational arm. “But there is a conversation about what are the ways that we can provide more pastoral guidance to colleagues, especially around moments of marriage.”

The Pew study found new high rates of intermarriage in the Jewish community. (iStock/Getty Images)

Keren McGinity, the USCJ’s interfaith specialist, previously directed the Interfaith Families Engagement Program, a now-defunct part of Hebrew College’s education school. She declined to comment on the internal conversations underway within the Conservative movement. But in 2015, she argued in an op-ed that the Jewish world would benefit from more rabbis who were intermarried.

“Seeing rabbis — who have committed their careers, indeed their lives to Judaism — intermarry, create Jewish homes and raise Jewish children should convincingly illustrate how intermarriage does not inhibit Jewish involvement,” she wrote, citing her research on intermarried couples.

That argument got a boost two years ago, when a major survey of American Jews found that most children of intermarried couples were being raised Jewish. And on Tuesday, McGinity said she was glad to hear that Hebrew College was dropping its partner requirement, which she said she knew had caused students to leave the program in the past.

“The decision to admit rabbinical students who have beloveds of other faith backgrounds is a tremendous way of leading in the 21st century, illustrating that interpartnered Jews can be exemplars of Jewish leaders,” she said.

She added, “Knowing my colleagues, I can only imagine the hours and hours of thought that went into this decision.”

The post In a shift, Hebrew College will now admit and ordain rabbinical students whose partners are not Jewish appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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