Monday, June 24, 2013

Newsroom Confidential at Adas Yoshuron Thursday, June 27, 7 p.m.

Two prominent award-winning journalists, Lynn Povich and Stephen Shepard, will be at Adas Yoshuron in Rockland talking about the news media —past, present, and future — on Thursday, June 27 at 7 p.m. 

 The talk is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a dessert reception and book signing.

Lynn Povich, the first female Senior Editor at Newsweek, has written “The Good Girls Revolt,” a book about the landmark lawsuit she and 45 other women brought against Newsweek in 1970 for gender discrimination. She will discuss what’s changed — and what hasn’t — for women in the workplace. Lynn is a cousin of AY member Jo Dondis of Camden.

Steve Shepard, the former Editor-in-Chief of Business Week and the founding dean of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, has written an insightful and personal book about one of the most important questions of our times: How will journalism make the transition to the digital age? His memoir, “Deadlines and Disruption,” was published last summer.

Lynn and Steve, who met at Newsweek, have been married for 34 years. An interview with Lynn and Steve will be aired today, Monday, June 24, on MPBN. Please check the MPBN website for details. Please join us on Thursday, June 27 for what promises to be a fascinating look at the world of journalism by two insiders. For more information, call 207-594-4523, or email

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jewish Law Class at Thai Bistro: Reproductive Technologies

We will be having Jewish Law Class tomorrow:
Thursday, June 20, 2013 at the Thai Bistro at 6:30 pm. 
We will be discussing Jewish law related to conception through artificial means.  What does the halacha say about artificial insemination?  We will focus on that element of Rabbi Dorff's teshuva tomorrow in class.  You can access his opinion here.   Please print in advance if possible!

Introduction to Judaism Class 5

Monday, June 17, 2013

Introduction to Judaism with Melanie Weiss M.A.:Class 4

Monday, June 10, 2013

Introduction to Judaism Online with Melanie Weiss M.A.

Here are class sessions two and three:

Next Online Talmud Class: The Time that Moses Met Rabbi Akiva

Our next online Talmud class with be this Thursday evening at 7:30 pm.

You can access the text here:

Directions for google +:

1) Go to and click on "Install voice and video chat". It will take a few minutes, so let it finish its installation. Depending on your computer, you may have to restart before it will work.
2) Go to and sign in with your gmail account if you have one (if not, click on 'sign up' at the top)
a. It will ask you to sign up for Google+...make sure you do this!
3) When it asks you to 'add people', search for "Rachel Isaacs" and add me! (it's the one with a picture of me in a black robe and red academic scarf)
4) An hour before the class, I will send out an email to everyone of my google+ friends with a link to the class. Click on the link and wait to see me!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tammuz: Remembering Our Spiritual Center

A new piece I wrote, published on the Keshet blog, about remembering our spiritual center during the Hebrew month of Tammuz.

Chodesh Tov! (Happy New Month!)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It Isn't About You: Insights from Parashat Korach and Colby's Commencement

Captain Erik Quist '99 and his wife Liz Czernicki Quist ’98
         "It isn't about me."  This was the wisdom that Captain Erik Quist (Colby '99) stated repeatedly in his remarks at Colby's bicentennial honorary degree dinner.  Captain Quist had been seriously injured in Afghanistan, and wanted desperately to return to the Marine Corps after his recovery.  However, if he would be more of a burden than a help to the Corps, he understood that he would have to pursue another path because, after all, "it wasn't about him."  After the September 11th attacks, he left a career in finance to serve God and country, and even after his injury, he has remained committed to that mission.  At the same time, he acknowledged that sometimes individuals need to step back from their personal passions for the sake of achieving a communal mission.  It would have behooved Korach, the protagonist from this week's Torah portion, to have heard Captain Quist's remarks.
          In this week's Torah portion, Korach challenges the authority of Moses and Aaron, and instigates a rebellion.  He and his followers are unwilling to accept that Moses and Aaron should have special leadership roles when God tells Israel that the entire people is holy.  Even though Korach did have a unique role among the people, it was not good enough for him; he believed that there should be no one above him.  Initially, it appears that Korach is organizing for all the right reasons.  He has ostensibly cultivated a community that is committed to radical equality.  However, as the text continues, it is clear that Korach is not really interested in equality as much as deconstructing the established order for his personal advancement.
            In Numbers 16:6, we come across the phrase "korach v’adato", Korach, and his eidah. It appears that he has created an eidah, a community, separate from the rest of the nation. Indeed, in the Aramaic translation of the Bible, this analysis of Korach’s motivation is read into the beginning of the portion. In 16:1, Onkolus translates" v’yikach korach", and Korach took, as "v’etpaleg korach", and Korach separated himself. This indictment could not have been more clearly articulated than by Moses himself who, angry and exasperated, asks Korach, “המעת מכם כהבדיל אלוקי ישראל אתכם מעדת ישראל?” Is it not enough that God has distinguished you from the rest of the people Israel? “What more do you want?” Moses asks – how special do you want to be? Essentially, Moses and Aaron are calling out Korach, identifying his true colors. Whether or not Korach’s ambitions were initially righteous, throughout the portion he increasingly separates himself from the community – seeking glory instead of justice or the well being of the people Israel.
           When a nation is in the desert struggling for survival, it cannot afford to empower people like Korach.  True leaders understand that they cannot put their egos before God and country if they want to retain the respect of their troops and complete difficult missions.  In Numbers 12:3 we learn that Moses' most outstanding characteristic was that he was the most humble man on earth.  God chose a humble man who was slow with words to lead the people Israel through its most challenging trials, not an eloquent speaker who loved the limelight.  When God chose Moses to lead the people, he was instructing future generations on how to elect and train leaders.
           This week let us be inspired by the example of Captain Quist, and learn from the errors of Korach.   The desire to sacrifice is praiseworthy and important, but sometimes it needs to be channeled in different ways than we would like.  The true test of a leader is whether she can redirect her passions in a way that serves the whole, even when it means sacrificing personal fulfillment.  Let us appoint such individuals to leadership positions, and strive to emulate their integrity and mettle.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Colby Commencement Invocation

For those who could not make it to Colby College's bicentennial commencement, here is my invocation: