Past Events

December 2016 - Community Study discussion with CJP

CJP has commissioned community surveys every decade since 1965. This year’s study is deeper than prior surveys, administered in cooperation with the Cohen Center at Brandeis University. According to CJP officials, 70% of all Jewish households in Greater Boston received the survey.

The purpose of MBR's meeting was for CJP to share key findings and themes that have emerged from the 2015 Study, including significant changes in the structure and character of Jewish life as compared to prior years.


November 2016 - Workshop: "Respecting Broken Tablets: including and supporting community members whose lives are changed by Alzheimer's or a related disorder"

Beth Soltzberg, MSW, MBA, Director of the Alzheimer's/Related Disorders Family Support Program at JF&CS, and a coordinator of the Dementia Friendly Massachusetts Initiative, led a moving discussion about the profound and growing impact of dementia on our community. Alzheimer's has been termed "the theological disease" because of its unique challenges to concepts of personhood. Yet, as the prevalence of these conditions grows with our aging society, those living with dementia and those who care about them are speaking out more and more, and their experiences are motivating a fresh, hopeful and inclusive approach.


September 2016 - "Surrender and Rebirth" with Nehemia Polen

The MBR was privileged to study with Rabbi Nehemia Polen for its opening meeting in Elul, exploring the topic of "Surrender and Rebirth: The Spiritual Cycle of the High Holy Day Season. The three texts we learned at this exquisite learning session all relate to transformation and teshuvah. According to Polen, "we tend to focus on the very same thing every year, so we have to wonder whether this process is working. In this spirit we are looking at three Hasidic texts that are deeply concerned with return in the metaphysical sense - return to some place it all began (or before it all began). This is return before rigidity and habit began. Ultimately, incubation of new spirit can emerge and become transforming.”


June 2016 - Israel Bonds Luncheon & High Holiday Sermon Seminar Provides High Level Learning with Art Green

Close to 40 members of the MBR enjoyed some exquisite learning at this year's Sermon Seminar with Art Green, the founding dean and currently rector of the Rabbinical School and Irving Brudnick Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion at Hebrew College. Text study focused on the yamim noraim and, in particular, "ROSH HASHANAH: HA-YOM HARAS 'OLAM? A Post-Evolutionary Celebration of Creation"  and "YOM KIPPUR: Learning to Forgive."


May 2016 - Musical Prayer Leading Workshop with Nava Tehila

MBR and the New England Board of Cantors enjoyed a very special workshop with Nava Tehila, a liberal, egalitarian religious community in Jerusalem that has gained a reputation for its uplifting music. Rooted in Middle Eastern, Hasidic, contemporary Israeli, and other "world" musics, Nava Tehila's original compositions - alternately celebratory, meditative, joyful and reflective - were shared with more than 60 area rabbis and cantors to make the spirit soar.

In this workshop we were fortunate to experience the wonderful journey into the world of prayer with Daphna Rosenberg through chanting and the experience of heart-opening prayer. It was also useful to talk about the intention behind prayer and chanting, and touch upon how we can bring this into our personal lives.


March 2016 - "Jewish Law and Moral Values: The Obligations of the Israeli Government to its Minority Populations in Two Responsa  of Rabbi Haim David Halevi"

Rabbi Haim David Halevi (1924-1998) was a prolific author of responsa and served for many years as Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. Dr. David Ellenson, the Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis and  Chancellor Emeritus of HUC-JIR. presented two very interesting halakhic texts written by Halevi in which Halevi employed biblical and rabbinic sources to present a moral vision of how he felt the Israeli government was obligated to conduct itself in relationship to its non-Jewish citizens. In so doing, Rabbi Halevi wished to provide clear moral directives for the broad Israeli Jewish public. Its implications today are considerable. Ellenson notes that, according to Halevi, "anyone who thinks the halakha is frozen is wrong."  Reviewomg several troubling texts, Ellenson posits that the modern reader has to determine "if it is possible to use negative texts to teach positive values".


January 2016 - Programs with CJP's Leadership Development Institute

A great crowd joined the MBR for CJP's LDI/MBR two-part program exploring collaborations, cohabitations, and consolidations among synagogues and between synagogues and other Jewish institutions. On the evening of January 27th, lay, clergy, and professional synagogue leaders came together to learn from David Trietsch and his team, followed the next morning by a program for rabbis only focusing on rabbinic roles and impact.


December 2015 - "Kindling Holy Fire: Understanding the Black Lives Matter Movement"

At MBR's well-attended December event, Victor Reinstein reminded us that “as we gather during the week of Hanukkah, we are challenged to kindle the holy fire of love and understanding to counter the fires of hate and fear that have destroyed Black churches across the south and that imperil the lives of African American youth across the land.”

Presenter: Yavilah McCoy, CEO of VISIONS, “where people work together to bring about change  in our neighborhoods and communities”.


October 2015 - Presentation on CJP's Anti-poverty Campaign

The MBR’s opening meeting and fall kick-off breakfast focused on CJP's new anti-poverty initiative, featuring Barry Shrage. We sent our love, prayers and support to our sisters and brothers in Israel and then learned about how we can help those in the Boston area who have fallen on hard times. It was heartening to hear from CJP’s anti-poverty staff, Lori Silver and Sarah Abramson, who explained that there are currently more resources than demand. Rabbis are encouraged to call 1-800-CJP-9500 to access compassionate services for individuals and families who are in financial distress. "Rabbinic Interactive Icebreakers" followed the presentation, led by our colleague Sara Paasche-Orlow.


June 2015 - High Holiday Preparation Seminar and Israel Bonds Luncheon with Anne Lapidus Lerner

This year’s High Holiday Seminar began with the Election of Officers for MBR’s 2015-16 year, at which time Howard Jaffe, outgoing President, was presented with a gift from our new President, David Lerner, for Howard’s devotion, sensitivity and sense of community.

God Seeking: A High Holyday Theme.  Anne Lapidus Lerner, our featured speaker and teacher, explained that “at the core of the High Holyday experience and central to its liturgy is the relationship between God and each of us as individual seekers of contact with a power greater than ourselves.  It is an intimidating challenge to call out into the void and find meaning in words crafted centuries, even millennia ago.  Is there a Listening Ear?" Using challenging twentieth-century literary texts we were able to explore these issues and prepare for the Yamim Noraim.


May 2015 - Yom Iyyun: "Jewish Perspectives of End-of-Life Care" with Elliot Dorff

More than 60 rabbis, cantors and chaplains came together in May to hear Elliot Dorff discuss principles for pastoral care-giving regarding difficult medical decisions, viewed through the lens of halachah, rabbinic narrative, and contemporary biomedical ethics. The program was a text-based presentation that included analysis of selected case histories.

Our gratitude to Elliot for guiding us in exploring current Jewish conversations on the authority of halachah vs. rabbinic narrative in end-of-life decision making; voluntary cessation of life-sustaining treatment; responding to the Physician Assisted Suicide (Death with Dignity) movement; the limits of personal autonomy in life and death decision making; and spiritual tasks and possibilities at the core of Palliative and Hospice Care.

This program was co-sponsored with Hebrew SeniorLife Hospice and Stanetsky Memorial and Levine Chapels, for which we are most appreciative.


February 2015 - "The Gender Journey - Toward Greater Inclusion"

Offering a safe environment in which to learn and to ask, this program was intended to deepen our awareness of contemporary gender issues and their impact on the Jewish community and on our work as rabbis. In a time of growing awareness that "male" and "female" do not always define the inner reality of a person's gender, we face unique challenges as rabbis toward meeting the pastoral needs of people we care about and facilitating the inclusivity we value. The effectiveness of our work begins with our own understanding and awareness. The purpose of this program was to help us deepen that knowledge.


December 2014 - Hasidim and Mitnagdim: A Comparison of Key Texts from Early Hasidism

The MBR Hanukkah event this year featured Dr. David Ariel, President of OnePeopleNet and former President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the University of Oxford.  Dr. Ariel taught the intriguing topic "Hasidim and Mitnagdim: A Comparison of Key Texts from Early Hasidism" to a very grateful audience. In fact, it was startling to see the similarity in the disputes between the Hasidim and the Mitnagdim of the 18th century and conflicts we experience today.

Although the views of Jewish thinkers of the 18th century seemed totally irreconcilable, they were "for the most part," according to Dr. Ariel, "machloket l'shem shamayim (disputes for the sake of Heaven)". Dr. Ariel left us with the challenge of understanding our own internal disputes l'shem shamayim — for their values — as opposed to arguments about political or institutional considerations.


October 2014 - Recent Trends in Biblical Scholarship

Our opening meeting featured a fabulous learning session with Marc Brettler, the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies at Brandeis University.  We were thrilled to have this opportunity to study with Marc, especially having learned that he is soon moving to North Carolina for a new position at Duke University.

Brettler also revealed that our topic of trends in biblical scholarship was one of the most difficult for him to teach in at least two decades. To recount his brilliant talk would not be possible in the space provided here, but a few of the debates he mentioned, contentious and interesting indeed, include:

  • Efficacy of enabling new evidence to inspire change
  • Adapting our language from the use of  “redactor” to “compiler”
  • Disentangling the documentary hypothesis model from the supplementary hypothesis model
  • Understanding the bible’s meaning in historical and geographical context
  • Reconciling the absence of women in the bible

August 2014 - Entering Elul: A Mindfulness Retreat

To kick off the month of Elul and our preparations for the High Holidays, a dozen MBR members joined together on August 28th for a half-day mindfulness retreat. The day included meditation instruction, text study, and a mindful lunch.  Some were old hands at meditation, others were newcomers, but regardless of meditation experience the day proved to be a wonderful opportunity for personal reflection and renewal.

Many thanks to our colleagues, Dan Liben  and Toba Spitzer—both graduates of the Jewish Mindfulness Teacher Training program and teachers of meditation and mindfulness techniques in a variety of settings—for facilitating the Retreat.


June 2014 - High Holiday Sermon Seminar - Fabulous Learning with Ebn Leader

More than 50 people attended this year's High Holiday Sermon Seminar & Israel Bonds Luncheon, co-sponsored with the NE Board of Cantors.  Our featured speaker was Ebn Leader who taught early hassidic texts about prayer in community, and more specifically about the ways in which leading a community in prayer can be for the prayer leader a distraction, a support, or/and a spiritual practice.

There are two documents, linked, that include texts shared at the seminar as well as texts Ebn taught a few weeks earlier on tefilat bakasha in Hassidut. It includes three selections, each of which offers its own nuanced variation on the instruction to pray for the Shechina rather than pray for yourself.


March 2014 - "Guide to a Perplexed Donor: Comparative Narratives of Giving - Biblical, Rabbinic, Christian (charity), and Greek (philanthropy) and Tikkun Olam"

At this year's Yom Iyyun, we were treated to the erudition and scholarship of Noam Zion of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.  Known for his famed Haggadah, A Different Night, this day of learning focused on what Noam considers to be his magnum opus on Tzedakah.
Noam's session, entitled "Guide to a Perplexed Donor: Comparative Narratives of Giving - Biblical, Rabbinic, Christian (charity), and Greek (philanthropy) and Tikkun Olam" was a magnificent learning experience for the close to 40 people who attended.


December 2013 - "Implications of the Pew Study and Other Research on our Congregations and Communities"

A tachlis learning session was held in December with Professor Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University exploring implications of the Pew study on our congregations and communities.  We were also treated to a delicious Hanukkah breakfast, complete with latkes and sufganiyot, by Dushez Kosher Caterers.


October 2013 - Anochi - dialogues with God in Israeli Poetry

The MBR was honored to study with Rachel Korazim, Hartman scholar and education consultant, at our opening meeting in October.
Our session examined a variety of expressions of the relationship with God, based on secular, biblical and prayer references in modern Israeli poetry. We were thrilled to review works by Zeev, Admiel Kosman, Yehuda, Rivka Miriam, Koby Oz, moving from rebellion and denial through painful dialogue to acceptance through creativity.


August 2013 - Meditiation Retreat Prepares Collegues for Yamim Noraim

We were excited to help more than a dozen local rabbis take time out of their busy schedules for self reflection and renewal.  As preparation for the High Holydays, this MBR Retreat provided a mindful morning of self-noursihment and reflection, including guided and silent meditation and text study.  Our thanks to Dan Liben and Toba Spitzer for artfully guiding this meaningful program.


June 2013 - Sermon Seminar and Israel Bonds Luncheon Serves Close to 50 Members

Close to 50 MBR colleagues came together for a day of learning with Debra Orenstein, sponsored by the State of Israel Bonds.  Thoughtful ideas were presented by our guest teacher who shared her great wisdom and tangible strategies for making the Yamim Noraim more engaging. Check out this link to review some of Debra's wonderful offerings and expansive teachings.

In addition, we thanked Allan Lehmann for his two years of inspired leadership as MBR President and elected Howard Jaffe as our new President along with his new slate of Officers.


April 2013 - Judaism, Worker's Rights, and Us: From Study to Action 

More than twenty MBR members gathered on April 10th to learn with our local colleague, David Jaffe, the Mashgiach Ruchani at Gann Academy and director of the Kirva Institute for Torah and Spiritual Practice and with Jill Jacobs, Executive Director of T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.  A wide-ranging discussion touched on a variety of topics, including how the Jewish community in antiquity dealt straightforwardly with the reality of poor people in its midst, in contrast to our modern discomfort with acknowledging Jewish poverty, and the treatment of support staff in our institutions.

Building on Rabbi Yisrael Salanter's powerful teaching that "The physical needs of another are my spiritual needs," David Jaffe shifted the focus from halakha to spiritual growth, and a Mussar approach to dealing with labor issues.  Jaffe then recounted his own path of spiritual development as he initiated conversations with workers at Gann Academy, ultimately leading to the creation of Gann's "Ethical Contractor Policy" (download by clicking HERE).

In accordance with MBR's strong position in support of labor rights (see statement HERE), we hope that we can build on the inspirational teaching and work of Rabbis Jacobs and Jaffe in promoting ethical labor policies in our own institutions, whether congregations, nursing homes, schools, or other settings. 


February 2013 - Standing-room-only Crowd Explores End-of-life Issues 

In the coming decade, our society will experience a demographic “age wave” as Baby-boomers begin to move into senior ranks.  On the whole in this country, we are living longer but not always healthier lives, and more people these days are living to become frail elders.  

Many medical interventions to prolong life that were unheard of a generation ago are now considered routine, and individuals are often put in the difficult position of having to make decisions about their loved one’s care without having a clear sense of what that loved one may have wanted.  

The MBR general meeting on February 7th allowed us to explore the many issues around "end-of-life" with a panel of experts in a combination of training, lecture and havruta learning. (more)


October 2012 - Uri Regev Briefs MBR about Religious Advocacy 

The Opening Meeting of the MBR featured a high-level briefing and conversation with Uri Regev on Thursday, October 18th.  The morning program proved to be a challenging and forthright dialogue about the current matzav in Israel with Regev, internationally renowned advocate of religious liberty and the liberal movements of Judaism in his native Israel and around the world. (more)


June 2012 - Sermon Seminar & Israel Bonds Luncheon with Jeff Salkin 

Some of the most luminous texts for the Days of Awe have been lost or at least temporarily misplaced. What are they, and how can we recover them? Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, noted author and teacher, led more than 50 local rabbis on an intellectual journey of discovery that helped us all find text, sermon ideas, hooks, and ideas for reinvigorating our worship experiences.  "When it comes to the art of losing or mis-placing things, I am a Rembrandt. I have misplaced, on numerous occasions: my car keys; and my check book; and in large parking lots, my car; and my library card, and credit cards. I mention all this because one of the sweetest, simplest, and most profound mitzvot of the whole set of 613 is the mitzvah of returning lost objects to their rightful owners. In Exodus chapter 23, verse 4, we read: "If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey going astray, bring it back to him." (Please note: even if the owner is your enemy). 

With a wonderful blend of humor, erudition and intellect, Jeff's teachings provided a wonderful backdrop for this year's seminar, sponsored by Israel Bonds. For a copy of Jeff's talk, click here


April 2012 - Yom Iyyun features Daniel Brenner

"Strategies for Engaging Boys and Men in Jewish Spiritual Life"

Rabbi Daniel Brenner, Director of Initiatives for Boys and Men, Moving Tradition, was our Yom Iyyun teacher and facilitator on April 25, 2012. A combination of lecture, text study and lively conversation made this year's Yom Iyyun a particularly interesting day of learning. 


February 2012 - Consul General Shai Bazak

The MBR was pleased to welcome the Consul General of Israel to New England, Shai Bazak, for a comprehensive briefing on the current situation in Israel. Instead of a formal presentation, Consul General Bazak entertained questions from the audience ranging from concerns about extremism in Israel & the Arab world, to international relations, to ways that we might increase support for Israel right here in Greater Boston. In concluding his remarks, Bazak thanked the rabbis and the Boston Jewish community for their steadfast interest in, and unwavering support for Israel.

The February program was made possible through a generous gift from Stanetsky Memorial Chapels. Several members of Stanetsky's staff attended the gathering which included brief comments to the rabbis from Bruce Schlossberg.