Stranger in a Strange Land

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 10 April 2014 @ 12:29 pm

I think it has to do with Robert A. Heinlein.

stranger in a strange land

A dear friend introduced me to the genre of science fiction/fantasy. Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke. Among many, many others. And yes, Heinlein as well. Their stories have stayed with me and shaped me. But with Heinlein, he had me before I even cracked open the cover. The very title of his book, Stranger in a Strange Land, struck a chord that has lingered. And every time we read Exodus 2:22, I am reminded of how profoundly we are affected when we feel as though we do not belong.


I’m over at Zeh Lezeh (For One Another) today, talking about strangers and how just a slight shift in our perception can make all the difference in the world. Join the conversation over there.

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Inappropriate Pressure

by Rebecca Einstein Schorr on 07 April 2014 @ 9:05 pm

Last week, after months of planning, scores of rabbis from across North America shaved their heads as part of the #36rabbis project. (Here is the Rashi on the #36rabbis.)

kindred spirits

It was a transcendent experience.

shuki and some bald rabbi

And one that has raised more than half a million dollars as the top St. Baldrick’s event of the year and the third highest grossing event in St. Baldrick’s history.

anne, michael, phyllis


The morning after the Shave, a colleague sneered, “I notice you didn’t shave.”

Perhaps this colleague was attempting to be funny.
Or allaying his or her own guilt.
Or, more likely, this person is one of the many who have found it necessary to make a pointed comment to those of us involved in the event who did not shave.

This is mitzvah-shaming.

Like fat-shaming or slut-shaming, mitzvah-shaming is the act of making someone feel inadequate, guilty, or inferior based on a behaviour or set of behaviours that puts the individual outside of the cultural norm. Mitzvah-shaming is when someone derides an individual for not observing the same mitzvah as the rest of the group.

Such as not keeping kosher, not observing Shabbat, or, as in this case, not participating in the #36Rabbis Shave for the Brave.

And it is unconscionable.

In our post-Emancipation Jewish community, one’s sense of commandedness emanates from one’s relationship with God. Reform Judaism fiercely encourages religious autonomy and, therefore, does not permit mitzvah-shaming.

When Rabbi Phyllis Sommer and I conceived of the #36rabbis, we did it knowing that there would be those colleagues who would take on the burden of temporary disfigurement and that there would be others who, for a variety of personal reasons, would support us in other ways. We did not ask anyone to explain his or her decision not to shave — although some did choose to share it with us. We did not pass judgement on those who have chosen not to shave at this time. And neither should anyone else.

liz, phyl, riv

Ultimately, as with all behaviours, it is the One Who Sits in Judgement who will judge. Both those who chose not to shave…and their disparagers.



March 18, 2014

Maybe that is what it takes. An invitation to participate. Perhaps that is why you haven’t given to the cause. SO consider yourself invited. Invited to donate to the #36rabbis. Invited to support the efforts of my seventy-two colleagues who are going bald to raise awareness. Invited to fund essential pediatric cancer research. Invited to […]

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*Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

March 17, 2014

If you don’t know what this means, then it doesn’t really matter what “they” say; apparently NOT everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. (*Happy St. Patrick’s Day! in Gaelic) Arriving at the salon for my Rosh Chodesh mani/pedi, it didn’t take more than a few moments to realize that everyone must have gotten the […]

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March 12, 2014

I’d like to report a theft. Purim has been stolen from our children. And from their grown-ups too. Adult-only Megillah readings and Purim shpiels deprive kids from watching the adults in their community observe the mitzvot associated with Purim. (This is not a joke.) When I was a kid, parents, grandparents, big kids, little kids […]

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Hello Again

February 20, 2014

So…I clearly needed a break. And it’s not as if I haven’t been writing or busy with the #36rabbis or that I haven’t had anything to say. I just kept it to myself. Now I’m back. And with a link to a piece that Ben has written about his experience at Jewish sleepaway camp. We’ve […]

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December 17, 2013

On average, the human heart weighs between nine and twelve ounces. Less than a pound. A hollow muscle. But I defy any expert who disagrees that a heart can equal the weight of the observable universe. Or falter from the suffocating pressure of a vise. Or shatter into innumerable shards. Or be uplifted on a […]

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Business or Pleasure?

December 15, 2013

An innocuous question. After all, I’m at the airport in the dusky hours of the morning. And people are, in fact, typically travelling for either business or pleasure. Or, occasionally, both. Or neither. There is no business on this journey. I cannot steal my heart behind my rabbinic shield. Files of work accompany me. I […]

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December 14, 2013

And Samuel died; and all Israel gathered together and lamented him (1 Samuel 25:1) Died. Sammy. Sweet Sammy has died. He is dead. His parents haven’t “lost” a child. They would never…could never…be so careless. He didn’t “pass” or “pass away.” We pass a driving test or a kidney stone. We don’t just pass through […]

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Don’t Just Like Me

December 5, 2013

The all-encompassing “like” button. As a verb, the word ‘like’ means to show a fondness for something. It can also function as a preposition, conjunction, colloquial adverb, or a colloquial quotative. And since 2009, thanks to Mark Z., the word “like” can indicate some type of positive feedback: I love those shoes! I completely agree […]

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