BJ in the News
BJ, he noted, constantly looks for ways to “expand the sense of who we are.” For example, thanks to a congregant who is a Jew of color, BJ has incorporated the tunes of African-American spirituals, such as “Wade in the Water” and “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” into its services.—Ted Merwin, referring to Rabbi Roly Matalon.
The New York Jewish Week, When Music Sparks Social Action, Ted Merwin, November 20, 2018
“We are heartbroken and shaken, but not entirely surprised,” he said. “Our country has been awash with divisiveness, hatred and violence that continue to threaten and claim lives everywhere.” But, he added, “These are also hours of resolve.”—Rabbi Roly Matalon.
The New York Jewish Week, Jews Of All Stripes Gather For Pittsburgh On The Upper West Side, Doug Chandler, October 30, 2018
Enormous Crowd Packs Synagogue and Spills into Street to Mourn Shooting Victims; An Attack ‘On the Entire Jewish Community’
“Tonight we mourn, tonight we cry, tonight we hold those whom we love a little tighter. And tomorrow we keep working. We resist, we yell, we fight, we find resolve within us, within our tradition, and within one another in this, our strong community, to build a society that is safe, fair, just, and kind. We do not have the luxury of despair.”—Rabbi Roly Matalon, quoting Abraham Heschel.
West Side Rag, Enormous Crowd Packs Synagogue and Spills into Street to Mourn Shooting Victims; An Attack ‘On the Entire Jewish Community’, Michael McDowell, October 29, 2018
“I don’t know if intermarriage is good or if it’s bad, but we can’t avoid looking at and dealing with it. That is why my synagogue, B’nai Jeshurun, decided last summer to officiate at intermarriages if the couple is engaged in Jewish life, commits to creating a Jewish home and to raising their kids Jewish. Those are our conditions. We will support them in creating their Jewish home and in raising their kids; we are not leaving them on their own to do this.”—Rabbi Roly Matalon
Moment Magazine, Is Intermarriage Good for the Jews?, Marilyn Cooper, November 6, 2017
“The President has lost all moral legitimacy as leader and president of this country. This has to come to an end, Congress and politicians have to put an end to this story. This cannot go on, if this continues it will end in social chaos, I am very afraid that this violence will grow and that blood will fill our streets.”—Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon
CNN Edición Español, Comunidad judía critica posición de Trump ante supremacistas, August 16, 2017
“Our esteemed colleagues, Rabbis Marcelo Bronstein, Roly Matalon and Felicia Sol of B’nai Jeshurun in New York, made a similar decision. We know these rabbis well and know that they are acting from deep personal conviction and a love for the Jewish people.”
The Forward, We Stand With Amichai Lau-Lavie, Rabbi Who Resigned Over Intermarriage Stance, Rabbis of the Jewish Emergent Network, July 28, 2017
“‘We have a view of Halacha that considers not just precedent and sources as the only way in which Halacha is decided,’ [Rabbi Roly Matalon] said. ‘It considers narratives and stories and life.’”
The Atlantic, We’re Headed Toward One of the Greatest Divisions in the History of the Jewish People, Emma Green, July 16, 2017
“…clergy at B’nai Jeshurun, an influential synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West side, announced that they would begin officiating at the weddings of interfaith couples who commit to “creating Jewish homes” and raising Jewish children.”
The Forward, Once Resistant, Rabbis Embrace Intermarriage as the Path to Jewish ‘Survival’, Sam Kestenbaum, July 9, 2017
“Rabbi Roly Matalon concluded…‘It is an issue not of pikuach nefesh but of pikuach neshama’ – not of saving a life, but of saving a soul. ‘A Jewish soul.’ This is not a physical life but a spiritual life.”
New Jersey Jewish Standard, This is the issue of our time, Joanne Palmer, June 29, 2017
“‘The goal is to pass down all the values and richness of what Jewish life has to offer,’” said Felicia Sol, the synagogue’s first female rabbi.
New York Post, Synagogue breaks with tradition, allows interfaith marriage, Susan Edelman, June 25, 2017
“Four poles, a covering on top, open on all four sides – the huppah. It’s such a simple structure, yet so layered with meaning. It is at once a private sacred space for the couple symbolizing their Jewish home, as well as a symbol that Jewish life is not lived in isolation, but in community.”
The Forward, The Next Step: Rabbis Explain Why They Will Perform Intermarriages, Felicia Sol, J. Rolando Matalon and Marcelo Bronstein, June 21, 2017
“‘I think what’s coming is that this is going to be a much more open conversation within the movement, and I hope it is one that is productive for the sake of the Jewish future,’ [Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon] added.”
Jerusalem Post, Iconic New York Synagogue to Marry Interfaith Couples, Danielle Ziri, June 21, 2017
“B’nai Jeshurun is an important, widely regarded synagogue in New York City.”
The Jewish Voice, Rabbis to Officiate in Intermarriages at Prestigious NYC Synagogue, June 21, 2017
“… Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, an innovative, independent synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, announced that its rabbis would officiate at marriages between Jews and non-Jews as long as the couple promises to raise its children in a singularly Jewish household.”
The Forward, Jane Looking Forward: The Debate On Intermarriage, Birth Control and More, Jane Eisner, June 20, 2017
“More than a year of study, dialogue, lectures and webinars on the subject of “Jewish Identity, Belonging and Community in the 21st Century” at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, the trend-setting liberal synagogue on the Upper West Side, culminated in an announcement Thursday night that its rabbis will perform weddings of interfaith couples – with certain conditions – as part of a major effort to strengthen Jewish family life.”
New York Jewish Week, In Historic Initiative, B’nai Jeshurun Rabbis To Officiate At Interfaith Weddings, Gary Rosenblatt, June 16, 2017
“… [Shuli Passow, a rabbi at New York’s congregation B’nai Jeshurun, who recalled how her grandparents were hidden in barns and basements in Poland during the Holocaust] said there is a religious imperative to take in refugees. ‘One of the core tenets of the Jewish religion is welcoming the stranger. That is a phrase that is repeated 36 times in the Torah,’ she said.”
How Trump’s policies and rhetoric are forging alliances between U.S. Jews and Muslims, Los Angeles Times, Barbara Demick, February 5, 2017
“B’nai Jeshurun, known as ‘BJ,’ is a large and trend-setting congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan that has led a renaissance of sorts among tradition-minded, egalitarian worshippers living in that heavily Jewish section.”
JTA, Rabbis at influential NY synagogue to officiate at intermarriages, June 16, 2017
“‘We are embracing a significant change in how we approach the future of Jewish life at BJ,’ [Rabbi José Rolando Matalon] said, calling it a ‘shift in emphasis in the way we relate to and invite in intermarried couples.’”
The Forward, Diving Into Intermarriage Debate, Manhattan ‘Mega-Synagogue’ Welcomes Non-Jews, Sam Kestenbaum, June 16, 2017
“‘Clergy can speak about moral issues, sometimes translating into specific policies, to enlighten people,’ said Rabbi Matalon, ‘but to endorse individual candidates? I don’t think that’s something for rabbis or pastors or priests. I don’t do it, not only because it’s forbidden but because I don’t think it’s right.’”
Jewish Week, Trump’s Limited ‘Order’ On Religion, Jonathan Mark, May 10, 2017
“Synagogues are taking on roles usually reserved for nonprofits – hiring professional activists, organizing protests, mobilizing congregants to lobby and educating them on immigrant and refugee rights. Several synagogues sent delegations to the Women’s March on Washington and its local offshoots in January.”
JTA, Not just prayers: Synagogues are organizing to fight Trump’s agenda, Ben Sales, March 9, 2017
“When it was my turn to read the names of Holocaust victims, I couldn’t see them. The print was too small, and my reading glasses were too weak. I was at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan at 10 P.M. last Wednesday night for the annual ‘Reading and Hearing of the Names’ to mark Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day…” The Forward, We did More than Just Survive, Abigail Pogrebin, April 18, 2015
“…Filmmaker, Myriam Abramowicz, has also taken this mission of remembrance to heart. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Abramowicz founded The Hearing and the Reading of the Names at B’nai Jeshurun in 1995, an event that remembers those who were affected by the Holocaust…” Anxiety.org, Aging Holocaust Survivors Still Suffer From PTSD, Michele Rosenthal, April 8, 2015
A report about BJ, “Spirituality at B’nai Jeshurun: Reflections of Two Scholars and Three Rabbis” features the perspective of BJ’s Rabbis in their article, “Jewish Spirituality: Far More than Prayer, Take BJ from its Rabbis’ Point of View, For Instance.” November 2009
We honor Ari Priven as he celebrates his 20th year with B’nai Jeshurun. Cantor Priven is this week’s Top Jew. The Jewish Week, Top Jew: Ari Priven: Achieving New Heights through Innovative and Spiritual Prayer, July 22, 2009
… Gan Yavneh, an Ashkelon suburb… one of a fast-growing number of secular-oriented spiritual communities that have sprung up around Israel in the past decade or so, tapping into a desire by more and more Israelis to connect, in some cases for the first time, with Jewish culture and heritage… drew inspiration not just from their Israeli surroundings but from the popular New York City synagogue B’nai Jeshurun, celebrated for attracting younger Jews with energetic and musical services…
JTA, Secular Israelis forge new ways to connect with Judaism | JTA – Jewish & Israel News, March 3, 2009
Congregation B’nai Jeshurun was given the Star Award from Empire State Pride Agenda in recognition of the synagogue’s leadership on working to obtain passage of marriage equality legislation in New York State.
JTA, N.Y. Synagogue Gets Award for Gay Marriage Activism, January 18, 2009
“…BJ has been viewed as a national model for Jewish rebirth and rejuvenation for more than a decade…Synagogues around the country regularly send emissaries to the shul to determine if any of BJ’s practices or elements can fit into their own services. ..”
The Baltimore Jewish Times, Opening the Soul, March 7, 2008
The financial crisis in Argentina has led B’nai Jeshurun, which has spearheaded activism for the country’s Jewish community because of the Argentine roots of the synagogue’s spiritual leaders, to start a major outreach effort to rabbinic leaders and members of New York’s wider Jewish community.
The Jewish Week, Helping Hand For Argentina, June 21, 2002
“The campaign asks Jewish women (and men) around the world to raise their voices on gender equality this month by describing a specific moment or experience when they realized gender mattered to them as Jews and by noting one thing they can do to advance equality in Judaism. Participants are using the hashtag #ShoutEquality in their posts….” Y Net News, NY Synagogue Promotes Gender Equality, Reprinted with permission from Shalom Life, March 14, 2015
“B’nai Jeshurun, a 190-year-old Upper West Side synagogue deeply involved in issues of fairness, peace, and justice, is celebrating National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day by launching the ‘Shout Equality’ social media campaign…” Shalom Life, New York Synagogue Launches New Campaign to Promote Gender Equality, Shalom Life Team, March 5, 2015
“A get-out-the-vote campaign by Israeli Arab mayors, combined with the creation of a united slate for Arab parties is likely to increase Israeli-Arab turnout by up to 10 percent and elect one of the Knesset’s largest electoral blocs, according to political observers The get-out-the-vote campaign goes against the tactic supported by some Israeli Arabs of boycotting Israeli elections in order to deprive the government from tacit approval…” The Jewish Week, Getting Out The Israeli-Arab Vote, Steve Lipman, February 10, 2015
“…Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, the unaffiliated Conservative synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that is New York’s second oldest congregation — and which draws many members from eastern Bergen County — is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Dr. Plaskow’s book with Meet Me at Sinai, a daylong conference that will look at the changes wrought during the last quarter century and consider what might come next…” Jewish Standard, Who Stood at Sinai?, Deb Herman, February 6, 2015
“I can trace my choice not to go to rabbinical school to a particular moment in time. Rabbi Matthew Cutler was driving me home from a youth group retreat where I had been the song leader. As a senior in college, I was sharing my questions about my next steps– Should I become a Jewish educator or a rabbi? Rabbi Cutler asked, ‘Do you believe in God?’…” My Jewish Learning, Towards a More Inclusive Judaism: Bridging the Distance, Rabbi Felicia L. Sol, February 6, 2015
NEW YORK, NY, January 28, 2015: On Sunday, February 8, B’nai Jeshurun will host Meet Me at Sinai, an all-day event to celebrate and discuss the 1990 publication of Dr. Judith Plaskow’s Standing Again at Sinai, a book that shook the foundations of Jewish expression with its candid discussion of Jewish feminist theology. The event will include more than thirty Jewish leaders speaking on Judaism and gender, as well as film, music, text study, movement, and prayer… Read the full press release here
“…Bo-i Kallah, a Kabbalat Shabbat service enhanced with pan-Sephardic songs and poems, is the brainchild of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun’s Rabbi Rolando Matalon. Bo-i Kallah translates as “Come Bride,” a reference to the Shabbat Bride. It is a line from “Lecha Dodi,” which is sung during Friday evening prayers…” The Jewish Week, Sephardic And Egalitarian, Caroline Lagnado, June 25, 2014
“Drisha-B’nai Jeshurun series calls for new communal approach to mental illness.
‘We were 20 souls around the table. Some attended out of a healthy curiosity but most were warriors of a difficult life. Some were mothers who have tragically lost their children to their illnesses, others battled depression, and many college participants feared what the future would hold for them…'” Jewish Week, From Where Does My Help Come?, Susan Reimer-Torn, June 2014
“I had the great honor last weekend to be at the B’nai Jeshurun shul retreat at Isabella Freedman. It was a fascinating and thought-provoking experience. In the last two decades a remarkable number of rabbis, rabbinical students and Jewish tourists have attended services at BJ, which has had a profound influence on non-orthodox shuls in this country…” Hazon, Strengthening Institutions / Renewing Oneself, Nigel Savage, May 2014
“…From fabled B’nai Jeshurun in New York to the Jewish renewal hubs of the San Francisco Bay area, congregations are reaching past the fixed canon of Ashkenazic nusah (prayer chant) to a different type of musical leadership: music directors who are transferring their styles and skills from the stage to the synagogue and are recharging and building community by plugging into the transformative power of music…” Hadassah Magazine, The Arts: In Shul, a Different Drum, Rahel Musleah, May 2014
“…Following up on last year’s inaugural success, 35 synagogues, schools and Jewish organizations are sponsoring a variety of events on the Upper West Side this Sunday, May 4 through Tuesday, May 6, culminating with a party by the shore of the Hudson River from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the West 79th Street Boat Basin Café at Riverside Park…” The Jewish Week, Upper West Side To Celebrate Israel, Gary Rosenblatt, April 29, 2014
Delegations from over 40 countries, from Andorra to New Zealand, gathered at B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the Seder. B’nai Jeshurun is one of New York’s oldest Jewish congregations, and a sense of history and cultural education imbued the slightly abbreviated service, which was led with gusto and wisdom by Rabbi Rolando Matalon.
The Jerusalem Post, Envoys from 40 countries break matza in New York, Maya Shwayder, April 13, 2014
“This past Saturday, I attended services designed for individuals with disabilities and their families to conclude Shabbat at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The rabbis and staff blocked off a small area of the ballroom and set up a beautiful, small ark in the front of the space…”
The Jewish Week, An Amazing Way To Start The Week: Havdalah At B’nai Jeshurun, Frances Victory, January 13, 2014
“With creative marketing, Jewish Journey Project lets kids choose what they learn — and when.Timon Malloy dropped out of Hebrew school before his bar mitzvah and wasn’t planning on subjecting his 8-year-old twins to the same experience….”
The Jewish Week, Flex Time For Students, Parents, Julie Wiener, May 22, 2013
Does Hebrew school sound a little too 20th century for your third grader? How about eight weeks of “Talmudic Stories In Stop-Motion Animation,” a session of “Create Your Own Hip-Hop Siddur” or a winter break spent doing Jewish theater? Or perhaps your child would prefer to learn Hebrew through a Saturday-night ropes course taught by a former Israel Defense Forces lieutenant?…”
The Jewish Week, Will New Hebrew School Model Help Or Undermine Synagogues?, Julie Wiener, May 23, 2012
Preparing a body for burial can be a surprisingly moving and uplifting experience.
When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: Advance, O God! May Your enemies be scattered and may Your foes flee before you. Numbers 10:35… this pasuk has never had the same meaning for me ever since I heard it for the first time in a very different context: at the conclusion of a tahara, the ritual washing of the body prior to a funeral and burial.
The Jewish Week, Inside The Tahara Room, Felicia L. Sol, August 23, 2011
Morning prayers. Bible lessons. Job leads…As the economic downturn drags on, crucial safety nets like unemployment checks and health insurance are running out… But mosques, synagogues and churches, which were the first in line to help after the recession hit, are stepping up efforts to provide guidance and emotional support to New Yorkers out of work….
The Daily News, Houses of Worship Provide Religious and Spiritual Comfort, Coaching for New York City’s Job Seekers, July 25, 2011
Hundreds of people filled a synagogue on the Upper West Side last Thursday evening, all eyes fixed on the chuppah in front of them. .. No one actually got married, but it was a joyous celebration nonetheless, as the community of B’nai Jeshrun came together to commemorate the passage of marriage equality in New York State.
West Side Spirit, Mazel Tov!, July 20, 2011
Gay rights activist Dvorah Stoll raised her foot in the air and then brought it down with a bang, shattering the glass that lay beneath her to pieces. “Mazal tov!” the crowd shouted, and broke into a celebratory dance.
Despite appearances, none of those who gathered at the B’nai Jeshurun Synagogue on the Upper West Side last Thursday were wed that night.
Jerusalem Post, NY Shul Throws Symbolic Celebration For Gay Marriage, July 19, 2011
The largely uncharted (an unspoken-of) territory of being single in the clergy is explored and Rabbi Felicia Sol is quoted.
The Jewish Week, Tuesday, The Rabbi Went Out, December 7, 2010
[I]n synagogues around New York this year, rabbis are confronting an unusual quandary as they prepare their sermons: whether to wade into a local cultural war over plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero…”NYTimes.com, For Holy Days, Rabbis Weigh Words on Islamic Center, September 8, 2010
Here are excerpts from the JInsider interview showcasing Rabbi Matalon’s practical and inspiring wisdom.
The Jewish Week, Rabbi Roly Matalon: Creating Eternal Moments, August 25, 2010
How Different Is IKAR; Rabbi Sharon Brous Inspires Change ... and Controversy | Community | Jewish Journal
…Within its first year, IKAR had earned a national reputation for tapping into a rich vein of Jewish life, attracting everyone from the unaffiliated to lifelong super-Jews…This week, IKAR is hosting a conference, “Live, Pray, Learn,” where 55 lay and rabbinic leaders from around the country are gathering to explore how to create more dynamic and meaningful prayer experiences.
The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, How Different Is IKAR; Rabbi Sharon Brous Inspires Change … and Controversy, June 22, 2010
Raising Children To Embrace Judaism: Authors Discuss Their Own Ambivalent Experiences | The Jewish Week (BETA)
The struggle to raise an emotionally healthy child in a home where one parent is more religiously observant than the other was the subtext of a lively and revealing Jewish Week Forum last night with authors Judith Shulevitz (The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time) and Dani Shapiro (Devotion: A Memoir) at Cong. B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side.
The Jewish Week, Raising Children To Embrace Judaism: Authors Discuss Their Own Ambivalent Experiences | The Jewish Week (BETA), June 2, 2010
More than 50 rabbis and rabbinical students, all of whom have traveled to the developing world with AJWS, concluded a three-day leadership training institute yesterday at the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center in Reisterstown, Maryland.
American Jewish World Service, AJWS Concludes Global Justice Conference for Rabbis and Rabbinical Students, December 24, 2009
A report on Daniel Sieradski and John Ruskay’s discussion at BJ’s recent Men’s Havurah about the Jewish community’s “next generation’ and how to reach it.
The Jewish Week, The Battle Of The Generations, December 22, 2009
Rabbi Felicia Sol’s views on the importance of community in Jewish education.
The Jewish Week, Tutoring Trend Tests Jewish Values, December 22, 2009
Women’s Prayer Group including BJ Members Expelled from Kotel Area]Police and Western Wall officials expelled a female prayer group from the Kotel area and arrested one of the women after they attempted Wednesday morning to read from a Torah scroll…”.
Jerusalem Post, Woman arrested for praying with tallit at Kotel, Nov 18, 2009.
Channa Camins of B’nai Jeshurun, an Upper West Side synagogue that runs an overnight shelter, testifies at DHS hearing “[We] accomplish all of this work at less than half the cost per person of providing the same services in the general city shelter system.”
New York Press, No Soup For You!, March 9, 2009
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon has heard the criticism before. The gentle, soft-spoken senior spiritual leader of B’nai Jeshurun an unaffiliated synagogue on the Upper West Side considered a national model for Jewish rejuvenation and innovation doesn’t flinch when hearing that some people criticize his congregation’s services for being geared more toward pulling heartstrings than stimulating intellects…”Prayer is more for the heart than the head,” Rabbi Matalon said…”
The Baltimore Jewish Times, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan, March 14, 2008
Jews and Muslims came together Saturday night in what might seem an unlikely place, gathering at the Church of Saint Paul and Saint Andrew on the Upper West Side to break their fast and build bonds.
NY1, Muslims, Jews Break Fast Together On Upper West Side, September 23, 2007
The refrain that freedom and democracy are on the march in the Middle East may seem premature, but recent events like last month’s conference in Qatar on interreligious dialogue reflect positive and noteworthy changes.
The Forward, Despite Controversy, Conference Widens Interfaith Dialogue, July 22, 2005
Secular Israelis are gathering at special congregations and synagogues to greet the Sabbath with a mix of traditional prayer and modern Hebrew poetry. Rani Jaeger, a lecturer in history and Jewish thought at Alma College in Tel Aviv, is one of the founders of Beit Tefillah Yisraeli (Israeli House of Prayer) – a secular congregation that meets at the college every two weeks to greet the Sabbath…”
Haaretz, Welcoming a Secular Sabbath, January 25, 2005
When the wandering Jews of congregation B’nai Jeshurun carry their Torahs from a borrowed church to their renovated synagogue on Sunday, after five and a half years away, they will be returning to a home that is far too small to hold them.
New York Times, A Talmudic Quandary for a Shul: Growth or Intimacy, December 6, 1996.