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Day of Discovery to offer two new innovative programs

Rabbi Daniel Kirzane of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, presented a class last year and will do so again this year. On Aug. 27 he will present ‘Jerusalem in Jewish Tradition — Nine Portions of Beauty and Suffering.’

In addition to the regular format of the communitywide Day of Discovery, two new programs have been added this year.

An interactive family program for kindergarten through sixth grade and their parents will be held from 9-10:50 a.m. at White Theatre featuring Theatre of the Imagination and a Lunch and Learn will be held from 12:15-1:25 p.m. titled “Seven Months Later: The Changing Status of the Separation of Church and State in the U.S.”

Family Program

Rabbi Daniel Kirzane of The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, said the family program has been in the works for a couple of years. The committee wanted the Day of Discovery to be an opportunity for people of all ages to learn.

Up to now, children have largely been left out of the opportunity to participate in Day of Discovery, and religious school has always been canceled to make time for the days’ learning events.

“Unfortunately this has led to that day being a day of missed opportunities for a lot of kids, so we’re really excited (Theatre of the Imagination) is going to come in and try to offer a different positive filling of that space,” Rabbi Kirzane said. 

Religious school will still be canceled, but not the classes per se. For all religious schools in the Kansas City area, this program is just taking their place.

“By having the family program, we’re able to provide a learning environment for our children and also create a learning environment for their parents,” said Rabbi Kirzane. “Come to Day of Discovery; we’re all coming together so all congregations are in a sense having class on that day.”

This is an experimental program, but if all goes well there may be more activities planned for children and their parents in order to increase the atmosphere of learning to reach everyone in the community, Rabbi Kirzane said.

The interactive program will be conducted by Miles McMahon, director of Theatre of the Imagination, and the theme is “Coming Together around Jewish Values.” There will be prayer, singing, skits and games organized by McMahon.

“We started with the premise that whatever we do has to grab our kids’ attention and be able to educate them at the same time,” Rabbi Kirzane said. “Miles has a great way of engaging children and having them connect with meaningful themes while they’re having fun.”

Many educators who helped organize Day of Discovery have had experiences with McMahon, working with him both professionally and having their own children involved in his camps. Rabbi Kirzane said McMahon runs Theatre of the Imagination camp out of Congregation Beth Torah every summer, “so we felt like he was already kind of doing work with us in a sense, and we wanted to continue our engagement with him.”

“We feel this is a really positive community movement and we’re all very optimistic about it,” he said.

Seven Months Later

Carol Sader, community advocate and former representative of the Kansas State Legislature (1987-1995) will moderate the Lunch and Learn program. Anyone staying for lunch is welcome to sit in on this panel discussion regarding an executive order signed by President Trump.

The subject was chosen by Sader, who said she believed a relevant follow-up to last year’s election program would be to pick up on one of the president’s executive orders that is relevant to the Jewish community and the non-Jewish community.

The executive order regards the separation of church and state. The president signed this order saying essentially that if clergy and 501(c)(3)s (nonprofit organizations) speak out opposing or endorsing candidates, they would not lose their tax exempt status under the IRS statute. In other words, he’s asking the IRS to look the other way and not interfere if nonprofits wish to advocate candidates.

Sader said an amendment was added to IRS rules in 1954 by then Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson in order to protect the separation of church and state by not having religious organizations and nonprofits engage in partisan politics and specific candidate-related activities.

“So I suggested that this is a pretty important, relevant issue to our Jewish studies, to bring it to the attention of people,” said Sader. “Most people aren’t even aware of the fact that he issued this executive order, and most people aren’t aware of the Johnson Amendment. They know the rabbis can’t endorse candidates, but they don’t know why.”

The executive order also affects campaign finance because donations to temples, churches, synagogues and 501(c)(3)s are tax exempt — you get a tax deduction for this, Sader said.

“Under this executive order and absent the Johnson Amendment, you’re essentially donating money to your synagogue or church and having that money used to promote partisan and specific candidate activities.” she said. “So it’s a tax deductible campaign donation. This nation was formed in the minds of many of the founders to have a very clear demarcation between religion and government, and this flies in the face of that.”

The president cannot repeal the Johnson Amendment; however, a bill has been introduced in Congress to do just that. Sader said it was clearly the president’s intention to have the Johnson Amendment repealed.

“This is being prompted by the evangelical movement and the right-wing clergy because they want to endorse candidates and oppose candidates, and they want to have the means, the financial resources, to engage in partisan politics,” she said. “This would permit them to do it.”

Pros and Cons

Sader explained you could argue that there’s freedom of speech in our country, and a rabbi or a clergyman should have the right to speak his or her mind from the pulpit or the bimah and tell their congregants who to vote for, and we should not deny them that right. But you can also argue on the side of the importance to both religion and government of their remaining separate.

There will be three panelists speaking on this issue at the Lunch and Learn: Micah Kubic, head of this region’s ACLU; David Achtenberg, law professor at UMKC, speaking on the legal aspects; and Rabbi Doug Alpert of Congregation Kol Ami, who is also a lawyer.

“So those are the three perspectives we will have and I’ll moderate it,” said Sader. “They can speak in favor of or against. I think we’ll hear a little bit of both, but probably more on the separation of church and state advantages. I was pleased that these folks I suggested participate are really happy to do it.”

Day of Discovery

Explore the joy of Jewish learning from 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 27, at the Jewish Community Campus. The cost to participate in Day of Discovery is $20 per person, which includes classes, continental breakfast, a kosher box lunch and a dessert reception.

The deadline for registration is Aug. 21. Online registration is available at www.kcrabbis.org, along with a listing of classes for the day. For more information, contact Annette Fish at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 913-327-4622.