Scarsdale’s Rabbi Jacobs to move to the national stage

Rabbi Richard Jacobs, the well-known and well-liked leader of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, has been named the next president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

As soon as I saw the announcement a few minutes ago, I thought “Well, this makes sense.”

Jacobs is an impressive guy, erudite and yet approachable. Many people have told me over the years how much he has inspired them.

Let’s face it: Running Westchester Reform for close to 20 years requires a special guy. It is a very large and influential congregation that is home to many successful, influential and vocal people.

Hey, it might be easier to head the URJ!

The URJ has about 900 member congregations, including a couple of dozen in the Lower Hudson Valley.

Jacobs’ nomination has to be approved by the URJ’s trustees in June. Then he’ll take over for retiring Rabbi Eric Yoffie, one of American Judaism’s most interesting and outspoken leaders, in 2012.

Reform Judaism is doing pretty well these days. It will be mighty interesting to see what Jacobs has to say and where he tries to take the movement.

Jacobs would become only the movement’s fourth president in the last 68 years. Until a few years ago, the URJ was known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

Female activist arrested at Western Wall to speak in Scarsdale

Anat Hoffman, a leader of Reform Judaism who received international attention in July for being arrested for carrying a Torah at the Western Wall, will speak next Friday (Oct. 22) at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale.

Hoffman is the Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center and co-founder of Women of the Wall, which fights for the right of women to “wear prayer shawls, pray and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.”

The Shabbat service with Hoffman will start at 7:45 p.m. at WRT.

According to news reports, Hoffman was interrogated for hours after her arrest.

In a 2008 interview, Hoffman, who grew up in Israel, explained how she became a rare Reform activist in Israel: “I was a totally secular Jew—the choice I’d seen in Israel was to be Orthodox or nothing—and there was a general agreement among us Israelis that we didn’t do “Jewish stuff.” But my attitude changed when my husband and I got involved with the Westwood Free Minyan, which met at UCLA Hillel. It opened our eyes to the fact that rabbis could be friendly and accepting. I also learned that there is more than one way to be a Jew, and returned to Israel with a strong desire to be a religious-pluralism activist.”

A video shows that Hoffman got pretty roughed up by police when she wouldn’t cooperate:

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Interfaith Sunday

A couple of Westchester interfaith notes for this coming Sunday (Oct. 3):

1. Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester in Chappaqua and the Upper Westchester Muslim Society, currently based in Thornwood, will meet at the mosque at 11:30 a.m. to pack relief boxes for victims of Pakistan’s terrible flooding.

They’re inviting neighbors to contribute goods — bed sheets, biscuit packs, fruit bars, powdered milk, nuts, soap, etc. — and to help with the packing.

The UWMS is located at 401 Clairmont Avenue in Thornwood.

2. Also Sunday, the American Muslim Women’s Association, a Westchester group, is holding an “interfaith movie night” from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at Scarsdale library (no, it’s not really nighttime).

The movie is “Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think.”

A panel discussion will include Rabbi Richard Jacobs of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, Rev. Carol Huston of Community Unitarian Church at White Plains and Dr. Mahjabeen Hassan of the American Muslim Women’s Association.