Rosanne Selfon, May 2016 quoting Rabbi Eric Yoffie about WRJ

In 2008, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) honored WRJ, naming it as the first organization ever to receive the International Humanitarian Award.

Former URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie presented the award that evening in NY saying, “I have faced many difficult challenges in my years at the Union, but I have never had a more impossible task than the one that I have been given today: to pay a comprehensive tribute to the Women of Reform Judaism, doing full justice to their achievements while staying within a time framework that absolutely, positively is not to exceed five minutes. It cannot be done. And so I apologize in advance for the many things that will not be said…”

Rabbi Yoffie began by saying, “…two things about the Women of Reform Judaism. The first is that without our sisterhoods, there would be no Reform Movement, and there probably would be no Reform synagogues—at least not as we know them today”.
He went on to say, “In the last half century, there have been tumultuous changes in our society, and women’s groups have been impacted in a variety of ways. NFTS was not immune to all this, but its leaders have been remarkably adept at keeping up with the needs of modern women. Along the way they changed their name, continued to speak out for social justice, and just completed what may be their most significant accomplishment of all: the creation of the Women’s Commentary on the Torah, a pioneering work of scholarship that showcases our Movement’s best teachers and affirms, by its very being, the equality of women in Reform Jewish life.” He continued, noting, “You know, I didn’t think that they were really going to produce this Torah commentary, and boy was I wrong! But to underestimate these women is always to be wrong.”

Rabbi Yoffie concluded his remarks saying,“There are too many people in our Movement who do not know the story of WRJ. The major reason, it seems to me, is that WRJ is not engaged in a continual campaign of self-promotion—which tends to be the norm in the Jewish world. They are simply too busy encouraging the grassroots efforts of their members, and in doing the everyday, nitty-gritty work that sustains our synagogues and strengthens the Jewish people.

But: “M’oded anaveem adonai” “God upholds the humble,” we read in Tehilim (Ps. 147:6)
God upholds, and we honor, praise, and thank these women for their untiring efforts to advance the cause of Liberal Judaism.

Rabbi Yoffie commented about communities within your district, “It’s interesting. Much of WRJ’s strength is in the Midwest and in smaller communities, and there are those who think of the Midwest and small town America as an America First kind of place, exclusively concerned about American institutions and American values, in religion as well as in politics. But from its earliest days, WRJ has had a very different vision.“

Temple Israel Sisterhood in West Bloomfield, MI hosts an Interfaith Women’s Freedom Seder

On Tuesday April 5th Temple Israel Sisterhood hosted its first ever Women’s Freedom Seder that underscored human trafficking as the modern day form of slavery.

About 85 women from Temple Israel in West Bloomfield along with women from Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit who came as our guests, attended and participated in this social action Passover seder.

Rabbi Marla Hornsten and Rabbi Arianna Gordon conducted the seder and the Sisterhood’s Social Action Committee organized the event. The four cups of wine became social action oriented – cups of awareness, human dignity, hope and action. We watched a DVD that told the story of Theresa Flores, who was sexually trafficked as a 15-year-old attending Groves High School in Birmingham, MI and many years later started S.O.A.P (Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution), an initiative that provides bars of soap to be labeled with the national human trafficking hotline number and placed in motels. Donations were made to S.O.A.P and to Atzum (a social justice agency that helps human trafficking victims in Israel). It was a wonderfully powerful Seder that touched everyone that attended.

TBE Sisterhood holds 3rd Brisket BakeOff on St.Patrick’s Day

Temple Beth Emeth Sisterhood in Ann Arbor just had a fantastic Brisket BakeOff and Fundraiser this last weekend.  This was our 3rd one.

And fun!  We had ten contestants who entered recipes and briskets for our panel of judges.  Judging was like that on Iron Chef, though no one knows whose brisket is being  judged at any time.   The judges take this very seriously.  Our judges were Justin Hiller, VP of Hiller’s Market, Mary Bilyeu, Ann Arbor’s “Food Floozie” and contributor to, and Lisa Saulles, last year’s winner.   We had great prizes for the winners– we give first through 4th prize (nice inducement for buying and cooking a 6-8 lb brisket).  The value of the prizes we are able to offer gets better each year.

Then we all had a great meal.  There were around 90-100 people (number of drop-ins, people from A2 don’t seem to believe in RSVPs) who came.  It was open to the whole congregation.

Dinner was brisket as the main course (of course), colcannon (Irish, it was St. Patrick’s day after all- made of mashed potatoes, cabbage and leeks), kasha varnakas, green beans, salad, a barley lentil stew (vegetarian option), challah,  dessert.  We also had wine with the meal.

And on top of this– we had a concert by the Balkanos.  Check out the video.

We lucked into this group.  They are out of Chicago,  the singer is the daughter of a member of our congregation, and they were on the way to a “gig” in the Detroit area.  Hope you caught them in Detroit, if you were able to.

I’m very pleased to say we made around $1400.  3% of the “ticket” sales for the dinner is going to Mazon.  The rest is designated as our commitment to the YES Fund.

I’m attaching our brisket booklet. Great recipes in here, but note we also raised much of our money by selling ads in the booklet.

Great fundraising and congregational event.

Feb 20 and Feb 21, 2015

TBE Sisterhood invites our sister-Sisterhoods to come to both TBE’s Sisterhood Shabbat on Feb 20th and our Workshop held at TBE on Saturday, Feb 21, from 9:30 – 2:00.

Sharon K. Benoff is currently WRJ Vice President of Development & Special Projects, has been on the WRJ Board of Directors since 2003, with prior roles as WRJ Vice President of Programming and Advocacy and WRJ Vice President of Service to Sisterhoods. In 2012-2013, Sharon served as the WRJ Centennial Fundraising Chair, responsible for raising millions of dollars to secure WRJ’s future. She is also working with women groups in South America helping them organize and join the WRJ organization. At home, she has been an active member of Women of Shir Ami in Newtown, PA.

Sharon is a dynamic, engaging speaker with a wealth of experience. She will be giving the D’vah Torah on Friday night and lead a workshop for us on Saturday, 9:30am – 2:00pm. Cost of the workshop is $10 to cover lunch.

Other Sisterhoods are invited. Saturday’s programs will focus on Advocacy/Social Justice—how to organize, what WRJ has already done and “Cultivating Leadership/Sharing Ideas.” Our members are very interested in talking to others in similar offices to learn and compare what others have done. If you are interested in coming to our workshop and working with Sharon, contact Hillary Handwerger, 734-668-6585,

Temple Beth Emeth is at 2309 Packard St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Kugel Cookoff and Dinner

At TBE yesterday, we had a kugel contest. Great food (I didn’t win).

As part of the evening we had Yiddish songs from our choir and we had even arranged a talk by a PhD student who has written his thesis on the history of Kugel– yes, really.

Anyway, I was returning from a vacation on Friday, when I got an email from our speaker, saying there was a death in the family and he wasn’t going to be able to make it. I spent the next 2 days boning up and learning all I could about the history of kugel, and I gave the talk.

I am attaching a handout that I created on the History of Kugel, to help with the talk.

Chai Life, Cincinnati, OH

Originally entered as a comment on October 1st, 2009

The Valley Temple Sisterhood in Cincinnati, Ohio has been doing a program called Chai Life for five years. This program, originally called Jewels, began as a way for Women of Reform Judaism members to include their daughters ages 18 and younger in Jewish programming. But we found out almost immediately that many of our sons also wanted to participate. So we renamed our group Chai Life and it includes all of our children and grandchildren. Our programming has included making fleece blankets for Project Linus, decorating planting pots for parsley for the Passover plate, designing art with Jewish calligraphy, making Hanukkah cards for those elderly congregants and community members and other programming. But we found that our most successful program of the year happens just before Purim. One of our members organizes the adult crew of bakers who make 1000 hamantashcen cookies for our Purim dinner and carnival. The adult group works while the children are in Sunday school. Then at noon, we have a pizza lunch together and the kids make hamantashcen cookies in the afternoon. They roll the dough, place the fillings, and create new flavor combinations every year. This year we had over 50 people at the lunch and cookie making program. We have found that the Chai Life program is another way to bring women into our sisterhood membership who have not been members of our group in the past. It is also a great way to engage our children in Jewish activities that they enjoy and look forward to from year to year. We charge $9 dollars per child with a max of $18 per family. On the day of the event (which is right after Sunday school so we provide lunch), we collect $5 dollars for pizza per child with a max of 10 per family. People usually donate their talents so that helps on cost as well.

Kathy Schlaeger

Co-President of Valley Temple Sisterhood
Cincinnati, Ohio
90 Sisterhood members