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B’nai Sholom to Host Reform Jewish Community’s Founders’ Day Shabbaton

“Ritual, Ethics, Food and Choice” Focus of Evening and Day Overflowing with Learning

 B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany will host the 2015 Founders’ Day observance, the annual gathering of the Capital Region’s Reform synagogues, with a Shabbaton on Friday and Saturday, March 27 and 28.


Rabbi Mary L. Zamore, editor of The Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic (CCAR Press, 2011), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards, will be the featured scholar-in-residence for the program.


The Shabbaton will begin Friday at 8 p.m. with a community-wide Shabbat service. Zamore will speak on “Reform Jews and Kashrut: Really? Yes! Ritual, Ethics, Food and Choice.”


The event continues Saturday with Torah study at 9:30 a.m., followed by Shabbat service at 10:30 a.m. During a potluck lunch afterward, Zamore will lead a text-study entitled “Matzah, Hametz, Manna: Biblical Foods Teach Us What to Eat Every Day.” Workshops from 1:30 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. will feature discussions of Jewish relationships to food and drink.


B’nai Sholom is located at 420 Whitehall Road, Albany, N.Y.


The services, program and potluck lunch are open to all who wish to worship and learn. Reservations for the lunch are required by March 25. Call 518-785-3772 to reserve.


“The wide range of ethical considerations in our eating habits is an ever-growing concern in Reform Judaism.   I am extremely pleased that Rabbi Zamore will be coming to guide our thinking. B’nai Sholom has a history of inviting scholars on the cutting-edge of Reform Jewish thought when we host Founders’ Day.  I think we will find our appetite for learning stimulated, but hardly sated, during this weekend,” said Rabbi Donald P. Cashman, B’nai Sholom’s spiritual leader since 1985.


Zamore is the spiritual leader of the Jewish Center of Northwest Jersey in Washington, New Jersey. She blogs for the Huffington Post and lectures nationally on Judaism and food. Zamore also serves as the interim manager of mentoring for the Central Conference of American Rabbis.





During her Friday evening talk, Zamore will navigate the congregation through the complex choices of eating, while creating a rich dialogue about the intersection of Judaism, food and food production. Kashrut will be viewed not only as a ritual practice, but also as a multifaceted Jewish relationship with food and its production, integrating values such as ethics, community and spirituality into our dietary practice. Through the ideology of individual choice, Jews learn to shape personal Kashrut, mixing ritual and ethics. 


On Saturday, Zamore’s text-study will reflect on the Israelites’ journey out of slavery into freedom, as Jews everywhere prepare for Passover. Closely studying the Biblical narrative and the later commentaries, Zamore will teach the three foods – matzah, hametz and manna — that trace the Jewish journey, culminating with a discussion that will shed light on complicated, modern food choices.


                The Saturday afternoon workshops will cover the following topics:

•  “Writing about Food: Criticism and Appreciation”

Daniel Berman has been writing a Capital Region blog for for the past seven years and has written extensively for All Over Albany in search of a few of the region’s hidden culinary treasures. His workshop will discuss the challenges to achieving culinary greatness, and share potential solutions.


• Exploring the Challenges of Balancing Social Justice with Food Systems

Amy Koren-Roth, assistant director of the Bureau of Nutrition Risk Reduction at the New York State Department of Health, facilitates a discussion of key issues on balancing personal choices and concepts of equity while sustaining the global food systems for future generations;


• Why Is This Wine Different from All Other Wines?

Wine and grape juice have special status in Judaism and, therefore, special rules. This session, led by Rabbi Cashman, will look at the rules that make wines kosher and how viniculture has been important in the land and State of Israel and in Jewish life around the world.


Founders’ Day honors the memories of Isaac Mayer Wise and Stephen S. Wise, the founders of the major institutions of Reform Judaism in America. Isaac Mayer Wise was born March 29, 1819, and died in 1900 on the 25th of II Adar, which this year (2015) is March 16. Stephen S. Wise was born March 17, 1874, and died in April 1949 at the end of Passover. Consequently, in the Capital Region the day is observed on the last Shabbat in March with a joint service of all the congregations. Participating synagogues are B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation, Congregation Beth Emeth in Albany, Congregation Berith Sholom in Troy, Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady, Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs and Temple Beth El in Glens Falls.


B’nai Sholom’s Founders’ Day Shabbaton is funded in part by a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York.


Founded in 1971, B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany is a home for contemporary Reform Judaism in the Capital Region.  Nearly 130 diverse households from six counties seek religious, educational and social fulfillment at B’nai Sholom.




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