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  • 20 Feb 2024 7:43 PM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

    By Henry Hollander

    In December the online magazine Tablet published an article by Elias Neibart [link] that cast the spiritual seriousness of Converts to Judaism as a lesson, and perhaps a rebuke, to many of those who were born Jewish. My initial response to Neibart was one of general agreement. In my experience, Jews by Choice have always made up an out-sized presence in the classes that I have taught. Their probing curiosity is a delight. But I have heard people say, “Every Jew is a Jew by Choice nowadays.”  My friend Itzak Khodak, z”l, immigrated from the Soviet Union in the early 1980s. The first thing that he did was find a synagogue and begin attending daily minyan twice a day, a practice that he held to past his hundredth year. Whenever we struggled or failed to make a minyan he would grumble, “I don’t understand. In America no one stops you. You are free to be a Jew…” Itzak suffered for being a Jew in Russia for most of his life. It was an identity that the Soviet rulers wouldn’t let him set aside and for which they never stopped punishing him. Here in America he had the freedom to walk away from the pain and the struggle of living life as a Jew and instead chose to live an active and joyful Jewish life – good to the last drop. 

    Itzak and those who are officially “Jews by Choice,” may not have similar experiences of what it is to live a Jewish life, but there is a sweetness that I felt in Itzak’s presence that is often indistinguishable from my time spent with Jews by Choice. 

    Neibart is among those who are alarmed by the rise in the number of Jews, particularly younger Jews, who don’t identify with with the Jewish religion, “instead viewing their Judaism as purely ethnic and cultural.” (He is looking at the Pew Study from 2020 found here) Viewing the Jewish people as an ethnicity is, to my mind, a sentimental nostalgia for a time when American Jews lived in “Jewish neighborhoods,” ate “Jewish foods,” and immigrated from older places of Jewish settlement. Nevertheless, that nostalgia, even in the absence of actual Jewish practice, shows that it is possible for a Jew to live an intensely Jewish life framed and experienced through culture. 

    The child of a convert from Catholicism, Neibart regrets that his experience of Judaism lacks the transformative quality that his mother had in her conversion. He writes, “In many ways, the children of converts outsource their theological journey to their converted parents.” In the work of Abraham Joshua Heschel [link]   he finds a calling for each Jew to respond to their own personal experience of wonder – of the encounter with the ineffable (one of Heschel’s preferred English words for the Divine), “with the awareness of reality that discredits our wisdom, that shatters our concepts.” If we look at Abraham and Sarah, two characters in Jewish sacred history not born Jews, as converts, we Jews, all of us, are either converts or the children of converts. Neibart cites Heschel, “the ultimate question, when bursting forth in our souls, is too startling, too heavily laden with unutterable wonder to be an academic question, to be equally suspended between yes and no.” Neibart fails to mention that to Heschel religion, all religions, not just Judaism, comes not in the moment of wonder, but in response to that moment when the intensity of it has passed. We might want to live in that moment, in that peak experience, but that is beyond out human limitations.

    In the 1950s and ‘60s Heschel’s office sat at one end of a hallway at the Jewish Theological Seminary. In the office at the far end of the hallway was the office of Mordecai Kaplan [link], the father of the Reconstructionist movement. Kaplan believed in a conception of God that opposed the spiritual approach of Heschel. Rather than God as a kind of supernatural being, he believed that “God is the Power that makes for salvation” He viewed Judaism as a religious civilization, a civilization like ancient Greece or like modern day America, founded but not limited to purely religious impulses and embedded in the flow of history. For Kaplan, culture, rather than “religion,” is the broadest category of what it is to be Jewish. 

    Both culture and religion are terms that did not exist in the Hebrew language until the modern era. They represent a slicing up of what Jewishness has meant to the Jewish people over time. The distress that some people feel when they hear that Jews choose not to define themselves by one of the terms that are external to a tradition Jewish self-understanding should be recognized as a problem of categories rather than of realities. 

    It can be difficult in the United States to properly understand what it is to be Jewish. Unlike in  Christianity and Islam, belief is not what makes one a Jew. Making oneself one of the Jewish people, in all their variety, is what makes one a Jew and this is what is asked of those who choose to be Jews. While a turn towards Jewish expression following intense religious experience is a sign of Jewishness for some, it is not the easiest way to be a Jew and is probably too much to expect of most Jews. It is a blessing that Jews by Choice have this intense experience more easily accessible to them than those who are born Jews. Neither Jews by birth nor choice should take it upon themselves to judge how other Jews live or believe. That is a task best left to the Merciful One. 

  • 14 Feb 2024 2:24 PM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

    By Solomon Moon  

    And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” --Exodus 25:8  

    This week’s parshah has a verse that speaks to me in a loving way. That sanctuary Adonai instructed the  Israelites to build was lavish. But it was to be made so that the Divine could be in a more intimate  relationship with them. It reminds me of the film, The Money Pit, a story about a couple trying to repair a  home that keeps falling apart. Parshah Terumah leaves me with one question: What is your sanctuary?  

    In the film, Walter and Anna buy a house that is in dire need of repairs before it can become a livable  home. Unfortunately, their relationship takes a turn for the worse. It seems as though as the house falls  apart, so too does their relationship. Or perhaps, it’s the other way around.  

    This sanctuary that we have been asked to construct isn’t just the one that housed the physical stone  tablets. It can be our home, our way of life, our minds, our relationships. Wherever the Divine can dwell  among us, there can we build Them a sanctuary to have a deeper relationship with Them. Even when  those things seem to be falling apart, there’s a lesson to learn from the film.  

    The Money Pit has a wonderful teaching about life and love. After the house was restored, Walter and  Anna, who are now separated, were given some sage reassurance. “[The] foundation was good… and if  that's okay, then everything else can be fixed.” The contractor was speaking about the home. However, it  ironically applies to Walter and Anna’s relationship as well. But what is this “good foundation” in our  lives?  

    The sanctuary that the Israelites built was home to the Ten Commandments. The first two commandments  remind us to love G-d and to love your neighbor. Rebbe Hillel interpreted this to mean, “That which is  hateful to you, do not do unto others.” In other words, love is a verb. More than a feeling, it is a choice to  build a home, a life, or a relationship with another. Rabbi Zalman goes a step further. When asked which  of the first two commandments were greater, he responded: “Love your neighbor because then you love  what G-d loves.”  

    Love is a beautiful foundation, but it’s rarely an easy one to build on. In all of Life’s seasons, love will be  tested. There will be times of emotional separation or distance created between you and your loved ones. 

  • 25 Jan 2024 1:59 PM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

    By Solomon Moon  

    In Parsha Beshalach, the Amalekites fought the Israelites after G-d liberated them from Ancient Egypt.  The Israelites were able to overcome Amalek when Moses’ hand was raised. When it fell, Amalek  prevailed. So Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hand to keep it raised.  

    This week we also celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for the trees. An interesting fun fact about trees is  that they have their own “Aaron and Hur” through the mycorrhizal network that connects the trees to each  other underground. In the wake of climate change, the Gaza war, and antisemitism, it is clear that Amalek  is yet to be truly defeated. But, the question that I am left with after reading Beshalach is “Who or what is  your personal Amalek?”  

    This question brought to mind the animated film, Inside Out. It’s about a young girl named Riley, who has  moved to a new city and isn’t adjusting well. She even attempts to go back to her old home by herself.  The Israelites wrestled with this same urge, as many questioned whether they were better off as slaves in  Egypt than to die free in the wilderness.  

    Grief is often associated with the death of a loved one. However, it can also come as the result of the loss  of a relationship, loss of a job, change in health status, or any significant change in life, such as moving  away from a place once called home. Riley and the Israelites were experiencing grief due to this new  change in their lives.  

    Thanks to Joy, Riley’s inner happiness regulator, Riley tried to deal with her grief initially by conjuring  good memories or doing the things she used to find satisfying. In a place far from where she called home,  these once happy moments transformed into sadness. Joy tried to keep Sadness from corrupting Riley’s  happy memories. Simcha is a mitzvah so, Rebbe Nachman may agree that this is the appropriate response  to Riley’s situation. However, what Riley really needed was to express her feelings with the comforting  support of her family, instead of trying to run away from the pain.  

    Grief is a painfully arduous, transformative process. Like any major change in life, grief can also be  accompanied by its friends: anger, depression, and denial. Processing grief is not easy and everyone  grieves differently. But how you cope is similar to how the Israelites prevailed against Amalek (or, how  the trees remain resilient through climate change). That is to say, sometimes no matter how valiantly we  fight against our personal Amalek, our inner-Moses needs Aaron and Hur to help raise his hand in order  for us to prevail.  

    As we turn grief inside out, we choose to grow into the unfamiliarity of life. This is a battle that, unlike  with the Egyptians, G-d cannot fight for us. Amalek blocks the path to Sinai—our destiny, our  relationship with the Divine. Amalek stands in the way of our true, higher selves. The battle with Amalek  is our choice to fight for G-d, for freedom, for our peaceful and loving future together. Yet sometimes  even when you do all the right things, Amalek seems to be prevailing.  

    Riley’s decision to return to the familiar life she had was not just out of grief and frustration. She was also  terribly afraid, and running away from this scary, unfamiliar world her parents forced upon her. Joy then  realized Riley needed Sadness to help her process these uncomfortable feelings. Together they created a  new memory orb that was yellow and blue, filled with joy and sadness.  

    It’s easy to go back to the familiar or the way things were. But in order to continue growing, we must face  the unfamiliar. Grief comes to aid us in that transition by revealing what has been lost and where you have  room to nurture new life. The liberation from Egypt and journey through the wilderness was the Israelites’  opportunity to become and experience something greater than the slavery they endured. To find gratitude  

    in the grief is to see the angel in the marble, and carve until he is free. 

    There are many things that can keep your inner-Moses’ hand raised: community, support groups, creating  new joyful memories and experiences. It can be expressing gratitude, doing a mitzvah, or going for a hike  to appreciate the miracle of nature. Whatever it is, remember what you’re fighting for. Remember what  our ancestors fought for. Remember what G-d fought for. Like the trees, may you find strength in your  roots to weather life’s challenges and the courage to grow through difficult storms. 

  • 12 Jan 2024 12:47 PM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

    By Solomon Moon  

    There are two questions proposed in the movie When Harry Met Sally: 1) Can men and women just be  friends? And 2) When exactly did Harry meet Sally? Fans of the film may consider the latter question to  be obvious, but truly meeting someone in a relationship comes at a pivotal moment. These two questions  are not unlike the two questions that came to mind while studying Parsha Vaera.  

    This weeks Torah portion opens with G-d reintroducing Themself to Moses. This is particularly significant, if not peculiar, because it conveys two things about G-d and Their relationship with the  Israelites and patriarchs. First, the patriarchs and G-d were not on a first name basis, which could mean G-d  had a lower-level of trust in them. Second, the Divine desires not only to be loved, but to be chosen in the vicissitudes of life through our actions.  

    When Harry Met Sally also opens with an introduction of Harry meeting Sally before going on their rocky  road-trip together. Harry and Sally were anything but fast friends. This early moment is reminiscent of G-ds relationship with humans before Abraham and Sarah. This brings up the first question: Can G-d and humankind be friends?  

    The patriarchs before Moses seem to have endeavored to answer that question in the affirmative. Yet,  Vaera reveals that G-d withheld Their true name from the patriarchs, despite their good intentions to be faithful to Adonai. From a human perspective, its as if there is some relational trauma that needs to be healed before G-d can entrust the ancient Hebrews with Their ineffable name.  

    Harry has his own reservations about distrusting the opposite sex to remain platonic due to his past experiences with women. Perhaps G-ds past experiences with humanity prevented Them from being vulnerable enough to share something so precious with the Hebrews.  

    If so, that would make the journey of the Israelites up to this point a means for testing their faithfulness in  order to gain G-ds full trust as partners in Creation. It isnt until the Israelites become slaves in Ancient Egypt and prove to remain faithful to the teachings and covenants theyve inherited, long after the patriarchs of the tribes have passed, that one can see that the Israelites have made evident their  unconditional love for G-d. In the face of discrimination, slavery, violent oppression, and death, the  Israelites choose G-d and their tradition.  

    The Israelites journeyed from a relatively favorable life before the famine to an unfavorable life in  Ancient Egypt and still chose the G-d of their ancestors. This is like the end of When Harry Met Sally.  While Sally, being single, wrestled with feeling unloved and lonely on New Years Eve at a party, Harry, several blocks away, finally realizes hes not just in love with Sally. He wants to spend the rest of his life with her too, immediately. With a fiery love in his heart, Harry runs across town to confess to Sally in the  same way G-d chooses to confess to Moses from the burning bush. Harry and Sally finally meet one  another when they choose the love of their partner over everything else, including themselves.  

    The sages have often used marriage as a metaphor to describe the relationship between the Israelites and  the Divine. Following that tradition, the opening of Vaera is analogous to the ending of When Harry Met  Sally. If the receiving of the Torah is the matrimonial I do,” then the moment G-d reveals Their true name must be the holiest, bended-knee marriage proposal of all time. Here is where G-d chooses the  Israelites and fully realizes their love for each other to begin a more intimate relationship. Thus, G-d  reveals Their name to impress upon the Israelites how much They care about them and how far They are  willing to go to prove that. 

    The plagues, the liberation from Mitzraim, are G-ds way of saying, I choose you too, Israel.” Redemption of the Israelites is a theme associated with the Exodus that is merited to the Divine. But there  also appears to be a redemption of humanity and their fall from grace to warrant and renew G-ds trust in humanity. This redemption can be merited to the Israelites who chose their faith over their circumstances.  This kind of love and trust draws the Divine closer, bringing more Light into the world. This is how the  second question is answered.  

    When did the Divine truly meet Israel? When Israel’s love matched their faith in mitzvahs without any  sign of reward. The Israelites made space for the Divine in their hardships. So the Divine made space for  them to be liberated from it. To open your heart to care unconditionally is an invitation for the Divine to  kindly do the same for you. 

  • 3 Jan 2024 3:37 PM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

    By Solomon Moon 

    Many people may not be aware of Peter Parker's Jewish origins. The web slinging superhero, Spider-Man has the power to climb walls, lift objects 100  times his size, and shoot spider webs from his wrists. That may sound  fantastical, but his greatest superpower is something we all possess. It's the  same power that G-d exercises daily on our behalf, and it's a power that can  change lives. Whether or not we choose to use that special power is always a  choice left to us. 

    This week's Torah portion, Shemot, commences the journey of the Israelites to  be led out of slavery by the Divine. G-d, being mindful of their suffering,  sought to liberate the Israelites from Egypt. This act of life-sustaining  lovingkindness to support and care for the ancient Israelites is demonstrative of  G-d's chesed. But there are a few others in this parsha who do chesed in a way  that embodies the same kindness exhibited by the Divine. They are the amazing  women in this story whose compassion essentially saves the life of Moses. 

    Fans of Spider-Man will know the famous words of Peter Parker's Uncle Ben:  "With great power comes great responsibility." This is a lesson that can also be  learned from Moses, the midwives, Batiya, Miriam, and Yocheved as well. For  instance, when Batiya, Pharaoh's daughter, finds Moses in the river and refuses  

    to commit infanticide simply because he was a Hebrew baby boy, her  compassion proved itself to not only be life-saving but also one of the catalysts  for liberation of the Hebrews. 

    It can be difficult to see the significance and impact of one small act of  kindness amid a great number of tragedies and grief. Yet, it is also important to  never forget people like Miriam, Yocheved, Batiya, Zipporah, Shifra, and Puah.  These heroines did not have super strength or the ability to wrangle evil-doers  with spiderwebs. They instead possessed a greater gift and power: the ability to  show compassion and empathy for the stranger, the other, the oppressed, and  the alleged enemy.

    These women looked beyond themselves and the consequences that could have  befallen them, such as for defying Pharaoh, to see their humanity reflected in  another human being regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender. Then, they  extended to "the other" the same unconditional lovingkindness that G-d offers  to everyone. This teaches that out of the 7 billion people enduring their own  hardships, even if it's just one person who is the recipient of your kindness, you  have made the world a better place. While a single act of kindness may seem  small relative to the grand scheme of life, it can mean the world to that person. 

    Peter didn't get the slogan "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" just because  he saves lives and fights crime. Spider-Man took on the title after his act of  unkindness led to the death of his uncle. After a bookie refused to pay Peter in  the Spider-Man film, Peter chose to let a robber escape even though he had the  power to stop the criminal. That same criminal killed Peter’s Uncle Ben shortly  after. Since then, Peter made it a habit to use his powers for good and do acts of  kindness. He's a superhero who not only saves lives but also shows up for his  fans in the hospital and helps the elderly cross the street safely. 

    Kindness in whatever form it takes is an imperative because it can soften the  hardest hearts. It’s what can transform the stranger into a neighbor or friend.  Needless to say but all the more important to remember, communities and  relationships are forged and strengthened through compassion and empathy,  not hatred and violence. Psalms reminds us that the world was created from G-d's chesed. Likewise, Tikkun Olam and a better tomorrow can be achieved  through our chesed because kindness begets kindness.  

    Suffering becomes bearable and worth persevering through when compassion relieves the pain of others. Everyone struggles and is fighting their own battles, but no one need fight alone. Batiya’s kindness towards Moses is her way of standing with the Israelites and humanity in solidarity. To relieve the suffering of another is the greatest gift we can share, the greatest power we all possess. For it is our collective responsibility to acknowledge other people’s suffering as our own and to act compassionately towards them, as Batiya does for Moses.

  • 28 Dec 2023 3:50 PM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

    By Henry Hollander

    There are four Jewish New Years in the Torah. These include Rosh Hashanah, Tu Bishvat, the first of Elul (the New Year for tithing animals), and the first of Nissan, which starts the cycle of Jewish holidays. But as Americans we only have one.

    Why is our secular New Years on January 1st anyway? Europe went back and forth about whether to use the Julian or the Gregorian calendar, but the Gregorian calendar won out because it made Easter come at the right time. January 1st celebrates the Saints Day of St. Sylvester, one of the more anti-Jewish saints, and January first happens to be the day of Jesus’ circumcision. That makes January first the anniversary of Jesus’ first Mitzvah.

    In Israel, at least a third of the population celebrates Silvester (or the Feast of St. Sylvester) in many of the same ways Americans do New Year’s Eve. The Zionists in pre-state Israel didn’t like Silvester because it wasn’t Jewish from a secular or a religious point of view, but they couldn’t keep it down. Now about ten percent of Israelis celebrate Novy God, a tradition that they brought with them from the Soviet Union. Religion was suppressed in the Soviet Union, but Novy God was built up as a secular holiday that retained some of the non-religious customs of Christmas.

    But is there anything Jewish about American New Years? Well, there are the vows. On Yom Kippur we annul all the vows that we have made over the past Jewish year. In American New Years we make vows. However, we all chronicle how quickly we fail to keep those vows. Perhaps the most Jewish thing we can do on American New Year’s is to avoid making vows we can’t keep. We only have one day of American New Year’s. Let’s not overdo it.

  • 27 Nov 2023 2:35 PM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

    By Anthony Arnello

    Wreaths hang in the mall. The local radio station becomes “Your Home for the Holidays." Wherever we go, we hear people say “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Yet, amidst the Christmas-centered festivity, finding a place for our Jewish identity can be far from wonderful. When December rolled around after my conversion, I was excited for my favorite season, but I was also conflicted. I had devoted so much energy to the exploration of Jewish holidays, theology, and history; so much that was new. When a familiar time came around, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. After all, this year, for the first time, I was a real Jew for Christmas. 

    My family supported me in my journey, but they also celebrated Christmas. They wanted me to feel seen, but their traditions, decorations, and music weren’t going to change. And, to be honest, I didn’t want them to! They were comfortable, familiar, and fun. Thus, I found myself in a two-part December Dilemma. I felt unsure of how to handle Christmas-centered events without feeling uncomfortable or guilty for “wavering” from my Judaism. I wondered how I was going to incorporate my new Jewish identity into the traditions and gatherings already formed in our family holiday schedule. Flustered and a little defeated, I moved on and started planning December, trusting that my pathway through the holidays would become clear.

    As we decided on party dates and menu items, I began to separate Christmas as a religious experience and Christmas as time with my family and friends. I saw that the focus of these parties wasn’t so different from the Jewish holidays I had worked so hard to grow accustomed to. Food and family– It was as simple as that! 

    It’s a mitzvah to honor our parents, and by extension our family. Becoming a Jew, we enter The Tribe, but we cannot forget our own tribe. We bring with us traditions, food, and family. While our family may not become Jews alongside us, those who support us are a part of our tribe and in that, they become a part of the Jewish story. In honoring where we come from and where we have chosen to go, we honor our heritage and our truth. So dare to dreidel with Dasher and Dancer! Incorporate Jewish traditions and Hanukkah into your family events and establish yourself as a new Jew.

  • 15 Nov 2023 9:02 AM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

    by Arlene Chernow

    As we enter December and upcoming holidays, I want to share some thoughts from my 25 years working in congregations. The December Dilemma was the most requested program that I offered to congregations. My takeaway is this: so many of the hurt feelings happen because it is hard to talk with members of an interfaith extended family about expectations.

    The topic that came up again and again was wrapping paper. The story that I heard was that the members of the extended family generally accepted the family’s choice to not celebrate Christmas in their home, but then presents to children came wrapped in Christmas paper. This was interpreted as a passive aggressive gesture.

    Let’s take a closer look: Many of the experiences took place before the internet made shopping as easy as it is today.  If you live in an area of the country where there is a Jewish population, it may be easy to get Hanukkah wrapping paper in your local store, but there are many parts of the country where the Hanukkah and the Christmas wrapping paper are not next to each other. One woman shared that she sent Hanukkah wrapping paper to her mother well in advance of the December holidays with a note asking her parents to use it.

    If they are open to the idea, I suggest having a discussion within your family. Together, you can decide whether to wrap gifts in the paper of the holiday that the gift giver celebrates or the paper of the recipients holiday. If it is the latter, prepare in advance by buying your family members the appropriate wrapping paper for them to use on you or your children’s gifts. Either decision gives parents a chance to have a positive, proactive discussion of love and respect for cultural differences. 

    Another solution we’ve come up with is silver wrapping paper. After many years of leading these discussions, one of my daughters married a man whose family has a tradition of  exchanging Christmas gifts among adults in addition to buying gifts for children, which had not been our tradition. I was then faced with the question of how to wrap the gifts. I chose silver wrapping paper. Why? It shows respect for my daughter’s in-laws. It looks pretty under their Christmas tree, and it is still true to who I am. 

    Am I reading too much into wrapping paper? Maybe, but I think that silver wrapping paper can be a useful model for the critical question:  How can I be true to my new identity as a Jew and create a warm extended and loving interfaith family.

  • 17 Oct 2023 10:46 AM | SCBetDin Admin (Administrator)

    My brothers and sisters in the Jewish community from an Israeli American Rabbi,

    Peoplehood, for me, is the essence of Judaism. Peoplehood bears with it the sense of brotherhood, the sense of “I see you” and “I’ve got your back,” as was the case in the months and days preceding the 1967 war when the Jewish world rallied for the safety of Israel. Today, because of the technological advancement of weaponry and its destructive power, Israel is in a much more dire strait.

    We, the people of Israel, need to hear and feel: "I’m your brother" – from you.

    We need your support now more than ever before. There is a lot you can do right now and, in the future, when we rebuild all the places devastated by the furious fire of hate.

    Here is what you can do:

    1.    Donate - please donate directly to Israeli organizations. This is the most practical, hands-on you can do now–to help with acquiring medical and safety equipment.

    2.   Help with explaining the situation, especially on social media. This is a war we tried to avoid for decades, many concessions were made, which consequently, allowed Hamas to gain power. This is a war against pure evil that finds satisfaction in brutality and killing, exploiting their own people.

    3.    Kaddish – As of now we have 1,300 people dead and we estimate the numbers will rise. Please adopt one person from the list to your heart and say Kaddish for them when you are at services or at home. Please try to contact their family, so that they know that their brothers and sisters abroad are with them. Here is a list of names:

    4.    Pray - Pray and spread awareness about the many civilian hostages, among them young children and elderly who were abducted from their homes. Here is a list of names: 

    5.    Peace - Peace is a noble aspiration that we, the Jewish people, always strive for.  But right now, we are still fighting for our survival and burying our dead children and loved ones.

    In reality, Hamas killed any chance for peace, deliberately, on October 7, by brutally murdering and torturing 1,300 people, among them babies.

    Peace means normalization, and there is nothing normal about neighbors who come to your house to kill you, burn your home down, and abduct your children. Would you trust such a neighbor?

    The army estimates that there were about 2,500 “neighbors” who came viciously, motivated to do their atrocities, and many more “neighbors” came to loot the homes of the dead people.

    For this, we are at a loss for words, not to mention trust.

    In these very difficult, traumatic days, the people of Israel need all the support they can get from the greater “People of Israel”- Am Israel.

    To help us feel connected as one people, please let us hear, see, and feel you Stand with Israel.

    In peoplehood,
    Rabbi, Dr. Belle Michael  

  • 28 Sep 2023 1:06 PM | Franklin Jester (Administrator)

    By Henry HollanderSukkot is my daughter’s favorite Jewish holiday. It might be mine too, but I don’t like to play favorites.

    Like Passover, Sukkot (Hag Ha-Sukkot in Hebrew: The Festival of Booths, or Sukkos in Yiddish) is a holiday we celebrate at home. Well, not exactly at home; sukkahs are usually home adjacent. You can build them in your yard or on your deck or on a balcony - any place where you have open sky above you. A Sukkah needs three walls, and it needs to be covered with fresh greenery – enough to give you a bit more than fifty percent shade.

    My daughter likes Sukkot because it combines so many of the things that she calls fun: being together with family and friends, making meals with comfort foods, a construction project, and an opportunity to decorate.

    You are supposed to "dwell" in your Sukkah during the holiday, but how do you know that you are dwelling? You dwell where you eat all your meals and where you sleep. We used to eat all of our meals in the Sukkah, and my daughter and her best friend once tried sleeping in ours, but they came inside after getting spider bites. Blu Greenberg, in How To Run a Traditional Jewish Household, reminds us that if it is pouring rain we are required to come inside, as the mitzvah of sitting in a Sukkah is only fulfilled when the holiday is a time of our joy.

    Sukkot is a great time to get together family and friends, have some fun, and indulge your creative side. If you don’t have the space or the time to build your own, make sure to visit one at a local synagogue, JCC, or at a friend's house.

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