Friday, December 14, 2012

Menorah Lighting 7:15 Tonight In Memoray of Newtown Victims

Dear Friends,

There is nothing more innocent and joyful than the look on a child’s face when the Chanukah menorah is lit.  Who doesn’t look forward to seeing the faces of their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, cousins and friends smiling in the glow of the menorah, as each candle is lit?  It is the most beautiful sight in the world.  Moments like this are so precious…so precious.
Sadly, tragically, the parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends of 20 children in Newtown, CT will not be seeing those precious faces anymore – not at the lighting of a Chanukah menorah, not at the lighting of a Christmas tree, not anywhere, not ever.   What a terrible loss; what a senseless, needless, horrible tragedy. 

Tonight at Temple Sinai the lighting of our outdoor Temple menorah will be dedicated in memory of those who died today in Newtown.  The lights of our outdoor menorah will stand for the light of the smiles of those children and the others who perished today.  Please join us at 7:15 tonight for this brief 15 minute vigil in their memory.  For the sake of the feelings of any children in attendance we will not focus on the details of the crime.  But, if you are a parent use your discretion in deciding whether your children should attend.

In addition to the spirits of the Newtown victims the lights on our Chanukah menorah tonight will stand for the Spirit of the One who commands us, “Do not stand idly by while the blood of your neighbor is spilled.” (Lev. 19:16) During our Rosh Hashanah Morning service 3 months ago I challenged our congregation to act in response to the plague of gun violence around us.  If your heart tells you that you cannot stand idly by anymore, please join us at an open meeting of our “Shalom Task Force” on Sunday, January 27th at 11:00 a.m.  Let us not let any more children die without doing whatever we can to stop this plague of gun violence.

Tonight, whether you are here at Temple or at home, as you look at the faces of your children or grandchildren and other members of your family aglow in the light of the menorah say a little Shehecheyanu.  For the moment you share together is indeed precious. 

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Chanukah Sameiach,

Rabbi Jordan Millstein

Monday, November 26, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,


We still need a few more people to join our Temple Sinai team of volunteers who will be going with Nechama this Sunday to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Please contact Matt Libien at or cell 2017882077.

For those interested in making their Thanksgiving celebration more than an exercise in exercising their mandibular muscles, below please find a Thanksgiving prayer that I will be bringing to my family’s celebration this afternoon.  Below that is the “Prayer for the State of Israel” and links to other prayers for Israel and for peace, so appropriate at this time.  May the cease fire that began yesterday hold and, “May the One who brings peace to the high heavens, bring peace to us, to all Israel and all the world.”  Amen.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

By Rabbi Naomi Levy 

Found at

For the laughter of the children,

For my own life breath,

For the abundance of food on this table,

For the ones who prepared this sumptuous feast,

For the roof over our heads,

The clothes on our backs,

For our health,

And our wealth of blessings,

For this opportunity to celebrate with family and friends,

For the freedom to pray these words

Without fear,

In any language,

In any faith,

In this great country,

Whose landscape is as vast and beautiful as her inhabitants.

Thank You, God, for giving us all these. Amen.

[From TALKING TO GOD: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle, and Celebration (Alfred A. Knopf, New York)]


Prayer for the State of Israel (authorship is generally credited to Nobel Prize Laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon)

Our Father in Heaven, Rock and Redeemer of the people Israel; Bless the State of Israel, with its promise of redemption. Shield it with Your love; spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Guide its leaders and advisors with Your light and Your truth. Help them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who defend our Holy Land. Deliver them; crown their efforts with triumph. Bless the land with peace, and its inhabitants with lasting joy. And let us say: Amen.

For Prayers for Peace at this time see:

Rabbi Jordan Millstein

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rabbi's Message: Thanksgiving Back

Dear Friends,

Long before the Pilgrims are said to have celebrated their harvest with a Thanksgiving festival in Plymouth Colony in 1621, our ancestors in ancient Israel celebrated their harvests with thanksgiving festivals:  Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.  (In fact, the American Thanksgiving is said to have its roots in the Jewish fall harvest festival of Sukkot.)  A central part of these thanksgiving festivals for our biblical forebears was the mitzvah of bringing the first fruits of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem as an offering to God.  In so doing they established what, to this day, is a basic Jewish principle of giving thanks:  Giving thanks means giving back. 

This Thanksgiving presents many of us with a special reason to be thankful and give back.  Perhaps you feel as I do that having gotten through Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath without injury or significant property damage we should be grateful.  Meanwhile, as you well know, there are many who were not so fortunate.  There are a number of ways that you can give back and help the victims of Hurricane Sandy:

This Sunday, November 25th, Matt Libien, our Tikkun Olam chair, is leading a group of Temple members who will be volunteering with the Jewish disaster relief organization, NECHAMA.  NECHAMA, which in Hebrew means, “comfort” or “compassion,” has been taking groups of volunteers from our community to various sites in the metropolitan area to do clean-up work.  This Sunday the crew from Tenafly will be made up of Temple Sinai members.  As of this moment, we need 7 more people to be part our NECHAMA team.  It is physical work so one needs to be in decent shape and at least 16 years old to participate.  The group will leave at 7:45 a.m. from the Temple parking lot.  Contact Matt Libien at or cell 2017882077 if you want to participate.

If you would like to give back by giving tzedakah, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Hurricane Relief fund has collected $326,000 to date, including $8,000 for West End Temple in Neponsit, NY, in the Rockaways.  You may recall that I shared with you my colleague, Rabbi Margie Slome’s, moving report on the day after the storm, in which she described how her Temple was devastated by flooding.  Go to to give to either the general hurricane relief fund or the fund dedicated to helping West End Temple in Neponsit.

For other ways to help hurricane victims through the Jewish community and elsewhere I highly suggest visiting the dedicated section of the web site of my friend, Rabbi Don Weber’s congregation, Temple Rodeph Torah of Marlboro, NJ:

When our ancestors gave thanks at their harvest festivals they gave thanks for the land that God had given them, the Land of Israel.  I don’t have to tell you that our brothers and sisters living in that Land need our support right now.  The New York Times reported a few minutes ago that Egyptian officials are saying that a cease fire declaration was close.  In the Middle East, however, one should never count one’s chickens before they hatch.  Moreover, even if hostilities stop, there will be still be a great need for funds for the recovery effort.  You can go to the web site of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey,, or of the URJ, at  , to contribute to the Jewish community’s terror relief fund.  Monies will go to The Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and ORT, to deliver immediate services and assistance on the ground throughout the southern part of the country. Such services include trauma counseling, financial assistance, portable bomb shelters, and potentially other initiatives including bringing children in the strike zones out of harm’s way.

Last but not least, don’t forget to support our local organizations that help those in need.  Local needs are often neglected when disasters strike elsewhere.  For several years I have collected donations from members of my family at our Thanksgiving dinner for the Center for Food Action in Englewood.  Perhaps you will choose to adopt this custom. 

Whatever you do, remember that giving thanks means giving back!

Happy Thanksgiving,
Rabbi Jordan Millstein

Friday, November 16, 2012

Operation Amud Anan + Rabbi Yoffie This Weekend!

Dear Friends,

I know you join me in my deep concern and prayers for our brothers and sisters in the State of Israel. More than 275 rockets from Gaza have exploded in Israel since Israel's assassination of Ahmad Jabari, the head of Hamas' military wing, on Wednesday. Tragically, three Israelis were killed in a rocket strike on Kiryat Malakhi on Thursday. Some of the rockets fired Thursday landed in Holon and Rishon Letzion, where my wife has relatives. Two rockets were aimed at Tel Aviv but, fortunately, landed in the sea. In speaking with our new co-youth advisor at Temple Sinai, Anat Katzir, an Israeli who just moved to Tenafly, I learned that many residents of the south have fled north to stay with relatives or friends. She also mentioned that many of her fellow reservists in the IDF intelligence services were called up.

The name of the current IDF operation in Gaza is “Amud Anan.” It means, “Pillar of Cloud” and refers to the “Pillar of Cloud” through which God protected our people as we fled from Pharoah’s armies at the Red Sea. May God protect our people now as God did then, help bring a quick end to the shelling by Hamas and Operation “Amud Anan” with as little suffering as possible.

If you would like to make a donation to help those who are suffering from the rocket attacks in Israel you can give to the Jewish Federations of North America Israel Terror Relief Fund.

Meanwhile, we are privileged to have Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the immediate past-president of the Union for Reform Judaism, join us at Shabbat evening services at 8:00 p.m. to begin his weekend with us as our scholar-in-residence. Rabbi Yoffie has been a tireless advocate for the State of Israel throughout his career, including a number of years when he served as the Director of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America. I highly recommend reading the piece he wrote on the current conflict that was published in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, today.

And please join us tomorrow evening at 8:00 p.m. when Rabbi Yoffie will speak at services; at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning (free bagels and coffee included) and Sunday morning at 9:30 when he will speak about Israel at a breakfast sponsored by our Brotherhood. Now, more than ever, it is important that we come together as a community.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Jordan Millstein

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Storm and Storm Response II

Dear Friends,

Normally, when you find yourself talking about the weather it’s because you don’t have much else to say.  But, there is nothing normal about the weather that we’ve had over the past couple of weeks.  I just watched a very distressing news report about people on Staten Island who are living in a hotel because their homes were destroyed in the hurricane.  Tonight they are freezing because the hotel has no power and the temperatures have plummeted. My heart goes out to them and I know you join me in praying for everyone in our region who is suffering in the cold and snow this evening.  I imagine some of you have lost your power again tonight and perhaps others of you never got it back after the hurricane.  Please let me know if you or others you know in the Temple are without powerWe are thinking of you.     

Tomorrow, our Early Childhood Center will be opening at 11:00 a.m. after a two hour delay.  Anyone who has lost power or just wants to come by can do so at that time.

Below please find a note from Matt Libien, Temple Board Member and Chair of our Tikkun Olam Committee.  As you may know, Matt ran a remarkable collection drive last Sunday and he is organizing another one this week.  Thank you, Matt, for working so hard to help all of us do this important mitzvah and help those in need.  Please read his note below carefully so that you can participate.

Take care,


Dear Friends,

I hope this email finds you well.  I know that many of you have had your power restored and have finally been able to get back to work.  I am truly grateful and impressed with everyone's response to last Sunday's collection drive.  The Northern Valley community responded in a strong way.  We wound up taking 11 Minivan full loads to the Maywood collection point.  They were truly impressed with the amount of supplies that we were able to generate.

Because the response was so strong and at the request of many, we are holding another collection drive this Sunday at Temple Sinai from 8am to 1pm.  Many people have already brought supplies to Temple Sinai and they are holding them until Sunday.  If you prefer, you are able to bring supplies to the Temple all week during business hours or any time the Temple is open.  These supplies can be brought to the office or given to any of the staff.  On Sunday we will be outside near the building entrance bordering the side parking lot.  We will drive over to a collection point in Paramus after 1pm.  This collection is being coordinated by the Rotary District of Bergen, Passaic, and Hudson counties.  Rotary will then organize the donation and deliver the supplies to where they are needed.  Rotary is an entirely volunteer organization.

We will need volunteers to be there for the collection and to help with the delivery.  I know that many of you will step up.  Please let me know your availability via email or call, 2017882077

Here are the items needed:

Paper Soup Bowls, Plastic Spoons and Forks, Cases of Bottled Water, Canned Soup, Non-Perishable Food Items, Pet Food, Baby Formula, Diapers, Hand Sanitizer, Toiletries, Sweatshirts, New or Clean Used Clothes, Cleaning Supplies, Garbage Bags,
Batteries, and Power Strips (Outlet Strips)

This time around we have been asked to separate new clothes from used clothes.  There is also a separate drive for new underwear and new socks.  If new underwear and new socks are donated, we can bring them to the Maywood distribution point and they are bringing them directly to Staten Island and the Rockaways.  In Moonachie, due to space constraints, they are looking only for small dollar amount gift cards($10) and school supplies.  If we have enough volunteers, we can separate these items and bring them directly to the Wood Ridge Civic Center.

I was truly humbled by your response last week.  Let’s do it one more time!  Please spread the word.


Matt Libien

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Anwering a Prayer

Dear Friends,

After lighting the candles at Temple last night and praying that light be brought back into our homes this afternoon my family became one of the lucky ones to have power restored to our house.  I pray that the rest of you who still are in the dark this “Motzei Shabbat” (Lit:  the time after Shabbat leaves, i.e. Saturday night) have your electricity restored soon as well.  And may you find a gas station with less than a two hour wait!

In the meantime, there are many others whose problems are far worse than not having power in their homes or gas for their cars.  While the devastation on the Jersey Shore, Long Island and areas on the water in NYC are well known there are also people right here in Bergen County who were very hard hit by the storm.  Half a dozen levies gave way on the Hackensack River and water poured into a number of towns alongside it.  Moonachie, Little Ferry, and Carlstadt were flooded and many of their residents are now sleeping in shelters around the county with few or no possessions - some with just the clothes on their backs. This includes children who have no idea why this happened.
Matt Libien, Temple Sinai’s Tikkun Olam Committee chair, will be at Temple Sinai tomorrow morning  from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. collecting items to bring to those affected by the flood along the Hackensack River. Whatever is donated will be brought over to a collection point in Maywood and then will be distributed the same day. 

Here are the items needed:
Paper Soup Bowls, Plastic Spoons and Forks, Cases of Bottled Water, Canned Soup, Non-Perishable Food Items, Pet Food, Baby Formula, Diapers, Hand Sanitizer, Toiletries, Sweatshirts, New or Clean Used Clothes, Cleaning Supplies, Garbage Bags, Batteries, and Power Strips (Outlet Strips)
Matt will be driving them over himself.  But he could use some help.  If you have a truck or van and can drive to Maywood tomorrow to drop off these sorely needed supplies it would be a great mitzvah.  Also, Matt may need some people to help load his van and any other vehicles if we are fortunate to get a lot of donations.  Please contact Matt at  201-788-2077.

Also, I want to remind you that the blood mobile will be at Temple Sinai all morning tomorrow.  Please donate blood.  We will also be registering people for the bone marrow donor registry. 

And don’t forget that tomorrow is open house for our religious school families!

Shavua Tov – May you all have a much better week this week than last!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tragedy and Response

Dear Friends,
I am sure you were as shocked and distressed as I was to learn of the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Sandy in certain parts of the Tri-State area.  It is hard to believe that such devastation could happen here.  I was touched by a posting on Facebook by one of my colleagues and mentors when I was in rabbinical school, Rabbi Margie Slome, who serves West End Temple, the Reform congregation in Neponsit, NY:  “Our first floor has been flooded out….all of our Mishkan T’filah [prayer books] and revised Torah commentaries are soggy….The pews were uprooted.  Our newly donated sound system…probably doesn’t work….I knocked on the doors of as many frail elderly as I could. Some who refused/couldn’t leave….Houses are on fire….”  Our hearts go out to Rabbi Slome and her congregation and countless others who lost homes and businesses during this storm. If you want to help, you can give to the Union for Reform Judaism Hurricane Emergency Fund
If you want to help rebuild West End Temple in Neponsit you can contribute directly to Rabbi Slome’s discretionary fund:  RDF of West End Temple c/o Rabbi Margie Slome, 152 Westminster Rd., Brooklyn, NY  11218    
At the same time, I am still wondering about you – members of our Temple Sinai community – and what has happened to you these past few days.  Even if it is just to say, “We don’t have power but we’re OK,” please let me know by emailing me at or texting or calling me at 201-655-0266.  I don’t have the ability to respond to everyone given the state of our communications but I’ll worry less if I hear from you.  (I guess that’s the Jewish mother in me!)  Of course, if things are not OK, I want to know that as well.  Perhaps, our Paul Winter Helping Hands Committee can find a way to help.  At the very least, we can lend a sympathetic, listening ear. 
At the same time we would like to invite all of you to have Shabbat “pasta dinner” tomorrow evening at the Temple at 6:30 p.m.  We will provide the dinner; you bring a beverage and dessert.  There is no charge, though donations are welcome. Please RSVP to or text 201-658-9103.  We are very grateful to Temple and Sisterhood board member, Anne Marie Bennoun, for organizing and cooking this dinner.  Last night, thanks to the efforts of Ann Marie and other volunteers, we served dinner to nearly 50 Temple members whose homes are without power.  Still others dropped by the Temple to charge their cell phones or other devices, get a cup of coffee or just get out of the cold and dark. We will be open until 8:00 p.m. tonight and open again at 8:00 a.m. on Friday, Saturday (Shabbat) and Sunday.
Last but not least I would like to ask if any of you reading this have any gasoline in a can that you would be willing to give or sell to another Temple member.  A number of people have generators but have run out of gas, which is now very difficult to purchase.  Please notify me by email at
Temple Sinai provides many programs and services to our members.  But, we are much more than an agency or institution.  We are a community of people who are there for one another in good times and bad.  We are a Temple Family.
 Shabbat Shalom,

Friday, October 19, 2012

Not Just Any Class

Dear Friends,

It’s not every day that the likes of Yossi Klein Halevi, noted author, columnist and expert on Israel and the Middle East, drops by to do a workshop for a small group of New Jersey rabbis.  It would have to be for something very special – and indeed it is.  On Monday, I will be part of a small group of rabbinic colleagues to study with Professor Halevi  to help prepare us to teach the participants in our iEngage, the “Engaging Israel Project” of the Shalom Hartman Institute.  Halevi is one of the scholars who designed the curriculum and who are continuing to produce cutting-edge new material as part of the Engaging Israel Project.  At the center of curriculum are 9 recorded video lectures by Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman, president of the Hartman Institute.  The lectures also include the teaching of other esteemed professors and experts on Israel, the Middle East and world Jewry, e.g. Professor Shlomo Avineri of Hebrew University, Professor Moshe Halbertal of Hebrew University and NYU Law School and Dr. Yehuda Kertzer of Brandeis, among others. 

Nineteen students have already signed up to participate in the iEngage program, which will meet on 18 Monday nights this fall and winter, from 8:00 – 9:30 p.m. at Temple Sinai.  Our opening session will take place on Monday evening, October 29th at 8:00 p.m.  (It was originally scheduled to begin this Monday, October 22, but we moved it back one week so as not to conflict with the last presidential election debate.)  It is not too late to sign up but we need you to do so ASAP so we can order the source materials for you from the Hartman Institute.   The cost is $36 total for members of Temple Sinai and $50 for non-members.  The program is subsidized by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey and the Adler Family Innovation Fund, as well as Temple Sinai.  Please contact Sage Aidekman at or 201-568-3075 by Tuesday to register.

And there is one more special treat:  On Thursday evening, November 1st at 7:30 Rabbi Dr. Donniel Hartman will be delivering the keynote lecture for the iEngage series at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades.  The lecture is entitled, ‘The “Tribes” of Israel’.  Rabbi Hartman will discuss the perception that Jewish life in Israel and North America reflect radically different Judaisms and “tribal” affiliations, and the challenge that this presents to a more unified Jewish world.

I am very excited to study with Yossi Klein Halevi and Rabbi Donniel Hartman, as I was privileged to do several summers ago when I attended the Shalom Hartman Institute summer program for rabbis.  I would be even more excited to have you join me on the iEngage journey with me.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Jordan Millstein

p.s.  Some of you who have been following my email blasts and blogs over the years may have expected me to write about the ruling by the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York yesterday, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the law that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage.  So here it is:  hooray for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals!  Stay tuned for the big moment when this issue finally goes to the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Debate is On - This Sunday at 9:30 am

Dear Friends,
With the fall holiday season having come to a close it is time now to move on to…debate season!  The season actually began with last week’s presidential debate in Denver, which left Democrats with agita and Republicans jubilant.  Who knows what we will witness this Thursday night when Vice President Biden and Congressman Ryan get together at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky?
All of this, of course, is mere prelude to the big showdown, which takes place this Sunday at our very own Temple Sinai between Congressman William Pascrell (D) and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (R), candidates for Congress in the 9th NJ Congressional District.  OK, granted, we won’t have Jim Lehrer hosting and 70 million people watching on T.V.  On the other hand, no one was serving you free bagels and coffee for the presidential debates, as our Brotherhood will this Sunday.  In all seriousness, it’s quite an honor for Temple Sinai and our Brotherhood to be chosen to host this important local event which is sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, and the New Jersey Jewish Standard. 
This Sunday’s debate at Temple Sinai will also represent a rare moment for Jews in our local community from across the political and religious spectrum to come together.  As I discussed in my sermon on Yom Kippur, there are so many divisions within our community, yet we are all “holding onto the same tallit.”  We need to make an effort to engage one another in open, civil dialogue. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to do so. 
Breakfast starts at 9:30 a.m.  The debate itself will run from 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. See below for more details. I hope you can make it. 
As I mentioned in my Yom Kippur morning sermon as well, I am looking for a few good women and men, conservatives and liberals, to participate in a Sunday morning political dialogue group.  Our goal will not be to get everyone to agree (a crazy thought in any Jewish group), but to get a small group of people with strong views to listen and learn from one another.  Please contact me at or 201-655-0266 x202 if you are interested.
Rabbi Jordan Millstein

Friday, September 14, 2012

What Did I Forget For The Holidays?

Dear Friends,

There are so many things coming at us at this time of year it is almost impossible not to forget something.  So, we’ve prepared the following in the hope that it saves you some confusion during Rosh Hashanah.  May your New Year be sweet and smooth as honey!

Top Ten Handy Dandy Reminders for Rosh Hashanah:

1. What time are Rosh Hashanah services?
On Sunday, September 16, services begin with the Erev Rosh Hashanah Evening Service at 8:00 pm.  On Rosh Hashanah morning, Monday September 17 there are two services. The first is at 9 am followed by a repeat of the morning service at 12:30 pm. Second day Rosh Hashanah services are at 10:30 am for a musical service for adults and teens in the sanctuary and a family service for parents and children up to B’nai Mitzvah age at 11 am in Founders Hall. More information is on our web site at

2. You are invited! Discover new and old friends at a NEW Erev Rosh Hashanah oneg!
Following the Erev Rosh Hashanah service, you are invited to join together for a new Temple Sinai tradition. We’ll gather to wish one another a happy New Year over coffee, cake and more.

3. Aargh. I forgot about my tickets. Or … what do I do - Aunt Ruthie just decided to come to services!
Please call the temple office NO LATER than 2 pm tomorrow (Friday), September 14 so we can work with you. There will be a “will call” area when you arrive for services.  Come early and speak to an usher so we can help you.

Bear in mind the temple office is not open on Shabbat or this Sunday.

4. What’s the deal with this thing called “Tashlich”?
Join us at the Demarest Duck Pond for this symbolic "casting off sins" into a body of water.  We will join together immediately following the second day of Rosh Hashanah services on Tuesday, September 18 at approximately 12:30 pm. Apples, honey and light refreshments precede the brief ceremony.  If it rains refreshments will be at the Temple after services.

5. Remember those in need.
Buy groceries now for our High Holy Days food drive.  Pick up your grocery bags during Rosh Hashanah and return them by the day after Yom Kippur for distribution to our neighbors in need.  Special thanks to the Ulrich family and SFTY, our high school youth group, for their commitment to this important project. 

6. Sisterhood Flower Sale 
Today/Friday is the deadline to order flowers to beautify your Rosh Hashanah table. Send an email right now to Meredith Cohen at

7. Does Your Family Have a New Baby?
This year we will again mention the names of babies born during the past year. If you had a baby since last Rosh Hashanah or had a new grandchild since then, contact Sally Collins today/Friday at 201.568.3035 or

For your baby to blessed on the bimah, join us for the Tot Rosh Hashanah service on Monday September 17 at 3:30 pm. Be sure to contact Sally Collins today/Friday!

8. Do you need to find babysitting for your baby?
Babysitting is available for children ages 2-5 during the first service on the mornings of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Advance registration is required. Send your email by 2 pm on Friday, September 14 to participate.

9. What are my options for my children in grades K – 6?
On the second day of Rosh Hashanah come with your children to our new Family Service at 11:00 a.m.  On the first day we have Junior congregation for children only, which runs concurrently with the first morning service at 9 am on Rosh Hashanah. Registration is required. Contact the religious school office by 2 pm on Friday at201.568.3075 or email

10. L’shanah Tovah … Have a happy new year. Enjoy this special time of year with your loved ones and may you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a healthy and fulfilling year!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jordan Millstein

Friday, August 17, 2012

Letter from Camp

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Camp Harlam, the Reform Movement summer camp in the Poconos! We -my wife and I who are on faculty, and my two daughters - are about to celebrate our last Shabbat here at camp before we come home this Sunday. If you have never experienced Shabbat at one of our Union for Reform Judaism summer camps it is truly something special. Everyone dresses in white and gathers by unit for "Kabbalat Shabbat," where we sing songs and faculty members tell a story. We then process to the "Chapel on the Hill" outside for a service that is led by kids and songleaders strumming their guitars. The "ruach" - the spirit - is palpable. This being the last Shabbat at camp, it will also be filled with young tears, as the children and teens begin to say goodbye to the special friends they have made a camp.

When I tell you that there is nothing like a month at a Reform Jewish summer camp to inspire and bring genuine joy to a young person's Jewish identity (and a not-so-young rabbi's as well!) I hope you don't take it as hyperbole. There is no single experience you can give your child, save a trip to Israel, that can completely change the way a child views being a Jew. Truth be told, sending your child to a Reform Jewish camp, like Camp Harlam, is likely to have an even greater impact than a trip to Israel, simply because kids go to summer camp year after year, beginning at a very young age. Just like every other quality summer camp, the experiences children have there are foundational, written on their hearts forever. The kids here at Camp Harlam have the same wonderful summer experiences that kids do at other camps - athletics, swimming, ropes courses, hikes, trips, color war, campy songs and lots of group hugs. The one difference is that here Jewish values, identity and spirituality are seamlessly woven into daily activities. The kids don't experience it as "religious" or "too Jewish" because it isn't. It is just camp - and camp means friends and fun and a lifetime of memories.

My hope is that this note will encourage those of you who have children in elementary school - as young as children entering 2 nd grade right now -to consider sending your child to Camp Harlam next summer. The Reform Jewish summer camps around the country are enormously popular and fill up quickly once the fall begins. They hardly need to advertise. If you are interested just reply to this email and let me know you want to hear more.

In the meantime, enjoy these pictures of kids singing on Shabbat in the dining hall, my daughter Sarah and a friend, and a firey photo from Israel Day here at camp.

Shabbat Shalom,


p.s. I am also a big fan of Camp Eisner and Crane Lake camp in the Berkshires, as well as the Six Points, the Reform Jewish sports specialty camp in North Carolina. You can ask me about those as well.

Friday, August 3, 2012

What do Jews do on their summer vacation?

Dear Friends,

What do Jews do on their summer vacation? Why, talk about what they are going to do on their winter vacation, of course! (This is the corollary to, "What do Jews talk about at lunch? 'Where do you want to go for dinner?' Of course!") You know that if you are with family or friends on vacation right now, or about to go on vacation, the topic is going to come up if it hasn't already. So, NU, what ARE you going to do for winter vacation? Well, here's a thought: Why not join your fellow congregants and their family members on a trip to Israel? If you haven't heard, 55 people have already registered for our congregational Israel trip, which will take place from December 20, 2012 through January 1, 2013. This is a very nice sized, intergenerational group. But, I'm greedy. I want more of you to join us! I want you to join us because I know how much fun we are going to have and how meaningful it will be to you, your family, your Jewish identity and to your relationship with us at Temple Sinai. It's lovely to go on vacation to other places but there is nothing like being in Israel. It is, after all, our second home.

To make sure that you have some time to make a decision and register we have extended the deadline for registration one last time, to September 15th . But, don't procrastinate. Sign up now! Below you will find the registration form and other information about the trip - just click on the links. If you have any questions, for example, about your child or grandchild becoming bar/bat mitzvah with us on this trip, please email me at

On a related note I am pleased to be able to announce that Temple Sinai is one of several Bergen County synagogues which, together with the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, will be participating in the new "iEngage - Engaging Israel" education program of the esteemed Shalom Hartman Institute this coming fall. As part of this exciting, new venture we will be bringing major scholars from the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem to our community. The core of the program will be a series of weekly sessions on different topics impacting our relationship with Israel as American Jews, aimed at creating a new vision for that relationship. These sessions will be taught at each of the synagogues by their rabbis and other staff using brand new video and other materials from the Hartman Institute. More information will be made available shortly on how to register. In order to decide when these sessions will be held at Temple Sinai, our adult education committee would like me to ask you whether you would be more likely to participate if the sessions were held on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. or Mondays at 8:00 p.m. Each session will be an hour and a half. Please email me at to let me know. Your feedback will be greatly appreciated.

Shabbat Shalom,

Israel Trip Registration Form
Israel Trip Itinerary
Israel Trip Budget and Flight Information
Eilat and Petra Extension Information

Sunday, July 29, 2012

In Memory of 11 Israeli Olympic Athletes

Dear Friends,

I imagine many, if not most, of you will be watching the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games when NBC begins airing it (on tape delay) at 7:30 tomorrow evening. Beginning with Queen Elizabeth II being received at the entrance of the Olympic Stadium by Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee, and followed by the famed parade of athletes from all over the world, this ceremony, put together by British Film Director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"), promises to be quite a spectacle.

What I am writing to you about, however, is something quite different: a much quieter, much smaller ceremony that will take place at the same time that this giant spectacle is commencing in London - and I am asking you to participate in it. The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey has established 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning, Friday July 27 th , as the time for each of us to take a minute to observe a personal moment of silence to remember the 11 Israeli athletes, coaches, and referees murdered at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

The 2012 Summer Olympics, which begin in London on July 27, marks 40 years since that horrific moment. Since then, the bereaved families have repeatedly asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to observe a minute of silence in memory of the Munich 11. Although a petition has been signed by nearly 110,000 individuals, the IOC has refused to undertake this action. While it does not surprise me that IOC would disrespect the State of Israel and the feelings of the world Jewish community, it is sad and disturbing that they would ignore tragic death of Olympic athletes on this, the 40 th anniversary of the Munich massacre. If you would like to sign the petition click here.

We will also be reciting the names of the 11 victims of this tragedy at Shabbat services this Friday evening and next (July 27th and August 3 rd ), which begin at 6:30 p.m. (oneg at 6:00 p.m. before services). I hope you can join us.

The names of the 11 Israeli Olympic Team members are:

Mark Slavin, 18, Wrestler Eliezer Halfin, 24, Wrestler David Berger, 28, Weightlifter Ze'ev Friedman, 28, Weightlifter Yossef Romano, 31, Weightlifter Andre Spitzer, 27, Fencing coach Moshe Weinberg, 33, Wrestling coach Amitzur Shapira, 40, Track coach Yossef Gutfreund, age 40, Wrestling referee Yakov Springer, 51, Weightlifting judge Kehat Shorr, 53, Shooting coach

Even if you cannot make it to services, perhaps you would like to say kaddish for them yourselves.

I would like to thank Rabbi Neal Borovitz, the chairman of our Jewish Community Relation's Council (JCRC) and Joy Kurland, the director, for sending out this notice and making sure that we remember those who perished because they were Jews and represented our beloved State of Israel.

All the best and an early Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jordan Millstein

P.S. I would also like to remind you that the joint local Reform Temple observance of Tisha B'Av takes place Saturday evening, July 28 th at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Or, 56 Ridgewood Road, Washington Township. See below for other service information.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Terror and Terror

Dear Friends,
Iran is getting desperate so we shouldn't be surprised. The U.S. has orchestrated serious sanctions against Iran and due to a world boycott oil is piling up on Iranian vessels in the Persian gulf with nowhere to go. Israeli agents have, according to most analysts, managed to assassinate a number of key Iranian nuclear scientists and officials, as well as slow the Iranian nuclear program through cyber warfare. One would expect, then, for Iran to counter attack in the way they know how: through a terror attack against Israeli civilians carried out by their proxy, the Hezbollah. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Israeli Defense Minister Barak, and by some reports, sources at the U.S. Pentagon, all agree that yesterday’s attack against Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria was the work of a member of a Hezbollah terror cell, acting under a broad directive of the Iranian government to attack Israelis. (Moreover, it cannot be a coincidence that the explosion occurred on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead.) The death of 5 innocent Israeli tourists and the wounding of dozens more is a terrible tragedy. We will say kaddish for those murdered and pray for the healing of those injured at our services at 6:30 this evening. But, let us recognize that they did not die in vain. They are casualties in a necessary war being fought to stop a dangerous enemy from getting nuclear weapons.
Sadly, we will also be saying kaddish this evening for 12 Americans who were murdered and praying for the healing of scores of others who were injured in an attack last night by a heavily armed shooter at a showing of the latest Batman movie at a cinema multiplex in Aurora, Colorado, a suburb of Denver. While this incident is awful and shocking, should we really be surprised? As Chemi Shalev put it in today’s, Haaretz, the Israeli paper, “Mass, random shooting sprees are as American as baseball and apple pie. America’s ridiculous gun laws won’t change, but the ‘Batman Murderer,’ as he will come to be known, is sure to secure a multimillion dollar book and movie deal.” I don’t know about the book deal but Shalev is surely right about our gun laws. How ridiculous we must look to the rest of the world, especially to Israelis, who do everything they can to protect their citizens from terror, while we let any bozo who can walk and chew gum at the same time (or not) get their hands on semi-automatic weapons! The diabolical planning of the 24 year old shooter gives lie to the NRA claim that letting people carry concealed weapons would allow them to protect themselves from such madmen. No one was going to stop that man after he released smoke bombs and began shooting in the dark. Stopping these kinds of terror attacks means stopping the flow of weapons, both those currently legal and illegal, from being purchased by those who don’t have a special need for protection or desire a basic rifle for hunting. It is well known that our tradition teaches that to save one life is to save the entire world (Talmud). When will we find the personal commitment and political will to overcome our corrupt political process and end this madness? Let us not, as we have in the past, allow the victims of this terrible terror attack die in vain.
One final note: Those of a fatalistic, traditional spiritual bent might say that it is not surprising that these tragedies occurred at this time of year. We are currently in a period of semi-mourning on the Jewish calendar, the three weeks leading up to the fast day known as, “Tisha B’Av”. On Tisha B’Av we remember and mourn the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, both the First Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans, in 70 C.E. This year Tisha B’Av will take place a week from this Saturday evening, on July 28 th . As we have for the past few years, Temple Sinai will join with several other Reform Temples in the area to observe this day with a special program and the traditional reading of the Book of Lamentations. On July 28 th at 7:30 p.m. we will meet at Temple Beth Or in Washington Township (56 Ridgewood Road, Washington Township, NJ). Hope you can join us.
Shabbat Shalom,

Friday, July 6, 2012

Services Inside Tonight

Dear Friends,

Our ancestors endured 40 years in the desert where they braved the searing heat and other elements in order to worship God.  But, something tells me if they had an indoor sanctuary with air conditioning they would have used it. 

Due to the heat, services this evening and tomorrow morning will be held in our lovely, indoor, air conditioned sanctuary instead of outdoors in the Dustin Drapkin Sanctuary, as we had hoped.  Our oneg and candle lighting this evening will be held before services in the lobby at 6:00 pm followed by services at 6:30.  Tomorrow morning we have Torah Study at 9:00 am followed by worship at 10:15 in Founders Hall.

We will try again next week to hold services outdoors in the new Dustin Drapkin sanctuary.

Shabbat Shalom,


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Midnight Ride of Francis Salvador

Dear Friends,
Had Henry Wadsworth Longfellow been Jewish he might have written, “Listen, my children, and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Francis Salvador.” Longfellow, of course, was not Jewish, nor does the name, “Francis Salvador,” fit the rhyming scheme or meter of his famous poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride.” But, Salvador, a Jew from South Carolina, would certainly have been an apt subject for a Longfellow poem.
Born in England into a wealthy Sephardic family, Salvador came to South Carolina after his family’s wealth declined with the failure of the British East India Company. (His great grandfather was its first Jewish director.) In Charleston, Salvador was attracted to and quickly became involved in the patriot cause. Within a year, at the age of 27, Salvador was elected to the General Assembly of South Carolina, the first Jewish to hold that high an elective office in the English colonies. In 1774 he was also elected as a delegate to South Carolina’s revolutionary Provincial Congress, which framed a bill of rights and set forth the colonists’ grievances against the Royal Governor of South Carolina. He strongly pushed the Provincial Congress to vote for American independence.
Along with his political service, Salvador fought in the South Carolina Militia. It was there where he earned the nickname, “the Southern Paul Revere.” Urged on by the British, Cherokee Indians attacked colonial settlements along the frontier on July 1, 1776. Salvador jumped on his horse and rode 30 miles to sound the alarm. Later, he returned to the frontier to fight on the front lines. Sadly, on August 1 st he was shot and scalped. Francis Salvador thus became the first Jew to perish in the fight for American independence.
If you had never heard of Francis Salvador before you read this, let alone heard of his not so famous ride, do not feel bad. Most of us were never taught American Jewish history in any depth. Fortunately, there is an easy, fun way to vastly improve your knowledge. If you have not done so already, I urge you to take a day trip this summer to Philadelphia to the National Museum of American Jewish History. Watch future email blasts and the Sentry for information regarding both an adult and youth trip this fall to this museum.
In the meantime, I share Francis Salvador’s story with you on this July 4 th to remind us of the original meaning of this day and our special Jewish connection to it. Barbeques and the beach are a great American tradition. But, even greater is our tradition and commitment to the cause of liberty and equality of all people, whatever their faith, race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation. As Jews we should be proud of the role the small Jewish community of that time played in the American Revolution; most Jews in the colonies supported the revolution and we were instrumental to its success. And let us be grateful to those, Jews and non-Jews, who fought – and continue to fight - for our freedom to live as Jews without repression, discrimination or fear. God bless America.
Happy Fourth of July!
Rabbi Jordan Millstein

Friday, June 29, 2012

Off and Flying!

Dear Friends,
I’m excited to tell you about the great response we’ve had for this December’s congregational trip to Israel. To date 54 people have put deposits down to join us on our journey, which will take place from December 20, 2012 – January 1, 2013! I could not be more excited or more proud of our congregation for the enthusiastic response to my call last Rosh Hashanah to deepen our commitment to Israel, to one another and our own Jewish n’shamot (souls), by making this trip together.
The response has been so overwhelming that we actually sold out all the tickets we were able to reserve on the flight out of Newark Airport on Thursday evening, December 20 th . Fortunately, we have now been able to secure additional seats that evening on a different flight to Israel out of Philadelphia. If you join our trip now, we will include free motor coach transportation from the Temple Sinai parking lot to Philadelphia International Airport for your nonstop flight to Tel Aviv. While the ride is about 1.5 hours longer than going to Newark, the free transportation eliminates the need for you to pay your way to the airport. For comparison, it’s about $150 round trip to Newark for a car service so this is a good deal! What’s more the flights arrive/depart at similar times so it all works out well.
We are also extending the reservation deadline to August 15th. So, while you are enjoying your summer vacations, why not discuss with your family making your winter vacation a trip to Israel with Temple Sinai? Our current group of 50+ is a very diverse, multi-generational group, ranging from pre-teens to seniors. We have individuals, couples and entire family clans journeying with us, including family members from outside of the congregation. Many participants have never been to Israel before but many others have been several times or even lived in Israel at some point in their lives. We have Temple leaders and worship “regulars” and those who rarely set foot inside our building. So, what are you waiting for? Join us on this trip of a lifetime!
Attached please find the registration form, which also contains information about how to register on-line. Also attached is our current itinerary. (If you have trouble opening the attachments, they are also included in this week’s Shavua Tov “Israel Trip” section.) It is worth noting that due to the larger turnout we are likely to go to a two bus format while in Israel which will allow us to provide multiple choices of activities on certain days. For example, we may be able to create special experiences tailored to those interested in more physically rigorous/adventurous activities, as well as other activities of a less rigorous, more intellectual variety.
Last but not least, we will be celebrating the bar/bat mitzvah together of several young people in our group. For a couple of them, this will be their only bar/bat mitzvah celebration while others will also be celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah at Temple Sinai. Let me know if you would like your child to have his or her bar/bat mitzvah in Jerusalem with us.
All this is open to you but I highly suggest registering now. While we now have additional seats, the numbers are limited. It’s time to say, “This year in Jerusalem!”
Shabbat Shalom,
p.s. I am also pleased to inform you that tonight I will be giving a special blessing to Olivia Taub, daughter of Temple members, Arden and Amy Taub, who is about to depart on her own journey to Israel with the Reform Movement’s “NFTY In Israel” summer program. Join us at 7:30 pm for our Shabbat evening service to wish Olivia a wonderful journey to Eretz Yisrael.

Friday, June 22, 2012

What Are You Up to This Summer?

Dear Friends,

It is the question that is on everyone’s lips right as school lets out, graduations are celebrated, kids go off to camp and the summer season begins in earnest: “What are you up to this summer?” I will be around for a couple of weeks, then away with my family for a week, then back again before I head off for a couple of weeks at Camp Harlam in August. In case you don’t know, Camp Harlam is the Union for Reform Judaism summer camp in the Poconos, where many Temple Sinai kids have gone over the year. My kids will be campers during the second four week session. My wife and I will be camp faculty for two of those weeks. If you have kids that are not yet going to a summer camp I highly recommend Camp Harlam. It has all the sports and other activities of a regular summer camp with the added bonus that your child will get to experience Reform Jewish living in a truly fun and kid-friendly way.

What about us grown-ups? My hope and prayer for you is that you will get some genuine down time. For those who are working this is hard to come by nowadays. My other hope is that you will take advantage of some of that time to engage in some Jewish activities here at Temple Sinai that you might otherwise not do.
  1. Shabbat Worship – In case you missed all the hoopla, in addition to the new playground for our young children we have a brand new outdoor sanctuary near the religious school entrance to the building. Starting on July 6th and continuing through the end of August we will hold our Friday evening/Kabbalat Shabbat services in the Dustin Drapkin Outdoor Sanctuary. Services are early and relatively brief. We will have our Oneg before services, at 6 pm, with services beginning at 6:30 pm. Join us then or join us on Saturday morning at 10:15 a.m. when we will also hold our services outside in the Dustin Drapkin sanctuary, weather permitting.
  2. Torah Study – I can’t tell you how often people say to me, “I hear you have a great Torah study session on Shabbat mornings; I’d really like to try that.” But, sometimes it’s hard finding the time or energy during the year to join us on Saturdays at 9:00 a.m. If you are one of those people, now is the time to give it a try. We are there every week in Founders Hall (20-30 of us). You need never have opened a Bible before to participate. Come join us!
  3. Gemilut Chasadim/Deeds of Kindness – Many of the activities that the Temple offers during the year stop during the summer. But, the organizers of Family Promise, our program to shelter homeless families, are in high gear. This week we are providing shelter in our social hall at Temple Sinai to four families, including 4 Moms and 7 kids. They are wonderful families and very appreciative of our help. There are dozens of volunteers involved and we are supported as well by volunteers from St. John's Catholic Church of Leonia, Christ Church in Teaneck and Kehilat Kesher, across the street from us. We don’t need any more volunteers for this week but we do need volunteers when we host homeless families again, from August 12 - 19. We need people to cook dinner, people who will interact with the families, and people to sleep over in the Temple. Other than sleeping over you can bring your kids to play with the children in the program. It can be a very meaningful experience for them! Contact Stan Laser at 201-446-7313; or Ilene Wechter at 201871-4885
Our rabbis of old taught, “The world stands on three things: On Torah; on worship; on deeds of kindness.” Make your down time meaningful this summer by joining us at Temple Sinai.

Shabbat Shalom,

Friday, June 15, 2012

Teens on the Cutting Edge

Dear Friends,

So, what would you say is the biggest challenge facing the Jewish community today? Anti-Semitism? Threats to Israel’s security? The economy and lack of resources? How about the sky-high number of Jews who disappear from Jewish life after they become a bar/bat mitzvah or their children become a bar/bat mitzvah?

This is one of our greatest challenges and a primary reason the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) launched its “Campaign for Youth Engagement.” I am proud to say that before the new President of the URJ, Rabbi Rick Jacobs announced this campaign as his first major initiative, Temple Sinai launched its own campaign for youth engagement. We applied for and became one of eight congregations to be part of a Reform Movement pilot project to involve young people in what is now referred to as “teen philanthropy.” Jonah Zinn, our rabbinic intern, and I designed a unique teen philanthropy program specifically for our most “endangered” group of young people here at Temple Sinai, our 8th graders.

I say “endangered” because after a year of intensive Jewish learning in preparation to lead Shabbat services as bar/bat mitzvah, 8th graders are the most in danger of becoming disengaged from Jewish life. Our High School program at Temple Sinai is excellent and many 8th graders attend those Monday night sessions during the school year. In fact, tonight we are celebrating the graduation from our high school program of eight students who have participated all the way through their senior year! Be that as it may, we know that there are many students who do not continue in our high school program after bar/bat mitzvah and others who do but can benefit from a different kind of Jewish engagement.

Our new program for 8th graders is called, “Teen Foundation.” Neither a class nor a youth group program, the Teen Foundation combines the passion young people naturally have for making a difference in the world (Tikkun Olam/social justice) with their desire to socialize with peers, and an age-appropriate informal Jewish educational component to create a year of fun, provocative and Jewishly inspiring activity. Meeting twice a month from 5:00 – 6:15 p.m. on Sunday, the ten students in this year’s Teen Foundation spent the year learning about local non-profit organizations and the importance of philanthropy through site visits to local organizations, hands-on service and group discussions. After learning about the issues facing our community, the teens selected a need they wanted to address and solicited grant proposals from organizations which work on their issues of their choice. They then reviewed the grant proposals and awarded grants both from a philanthropic pool comprised of personal contribution from the teens and additional money they raised together through a fundraising event.

The fundraising event they put together, “Party 2Fight Poverty,” raised over $2,600. Combining that money with their family’s contributions, the teens made grants of $1,500 each to three different local organizations which address poverty among children. These teens truly made a difference!

If you have a child who will be in 8th grade next year, I urge you to encourage him or her to be a member of our Teen Foundation. Email me to let me know your son/daughter is interested.

We will meet primarily on Sundays from 5:00 – 6:15 p.m. about twice a month starting in October, after the High Holy Days. In lieu of a registration fee each student is asked to contribute $250 to the Teen Foundation philanthropic pool (i.e. a “tzedakah collective”). Teens who may need assistance with the financial commitment please speak with me. Special funds are available for this program; no one will be excluded because of an inability to make this contribution. If you find this program as inspiring as I do and want to make a contribution to help us provide these funds, please send your check made out to Temple Sinai with the words “Teen Foundation Contribution” in the memo line.

There are a limited number of spaces in this year’s Foundation class, which will be filled in order of when registrations are received. We will send you a registration form shortly after you contact us. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or Jonah Zinn at

Shabbat Shalom,

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Did You Hear the Big News?

Dear Friends,

It’s not that the unemployment ticked up and the economy may be stalling again (ugh!). Nor is it that the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in Boston, ruled unanimously Thursday that the federal law declaring marriage to be a union solely between a man and a woman discriminates against married same-sex couples (hooray!).

No, the big news for us as Reform Jews is that this Monday the attorney general of the State of Israel released his consent to recognize Rabbi Miri Gold as the first rabbi of a non-Orthodox congregation in the history the state. This decision paves the way for dozens of other Reform and Conservative Rabbis in Israel to receive a salary from the government for their work in the same way that about 4000 Orthodox rabbis currently do. And the first non-Orthodox rabbi to receive such a salary is a woman, to boot!

As Americans we may find it surprising and improper that the Israeli government pays the salaries of rabbis at all. Indeed, the lack of “separation between synagogue and state” is a very significant problem in Israel. It has led to the establishment of Orthodox Judaism as the religion of the state. That is why this decision of the attorney general is so crucial. For the first time the State of Israel is recognizing the legitimacy of Reform and Conservative rabbis. It is a major step on the path towards religious equality for our Movement and religious pluralism in Israel.

To be clear, while this is an important step, there is still a long, long way to go before our Movement and the Conservative Movement are on equal footing with Orthodoxy. The Orthodox rabbinate still has full control over marriage, divorce and other critical personal legal matters. The non-Orthodox rabbis will not have any say over matters of religion and Jewish law. Orthodox rabbis and institutions receive $400 million to $600 million in state financing each year, while Reform and Conservative institutions combined get less than $200,000. Moreover, the non-Orthodox rabbis will be paid by the Ministry of Culture and Sport not the Ministry of Religious Services.

But, rather than be insulted by that slight, we should celebrate. And I do mean “WE”. This victory came after a seven year battle in the courts waged by the Israeli Religious Action Center (IRAC), an arm of the Israeli Reform Movement. IRAC’s bills are paid by ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of American. ARZA gets its funding entirely from YOU. Specifically, those of you who include the $36 payment for ARZA dues in your Temple dues statement can take credit for this important change in Israeli society.

So, on behalf of my Israeli colleagues and our fellow Reform Jews in Israel: Thank you for supporting ARZA. You really make a difference. For those who have not yet become members of ARZA, all you have to do is include ARZA dues on your Temple dues statement when it comes in the summer. Or, better yet email and let Hilary know that you want to be a member of ARZA and to include ARZA dues in your next bill statement.

Shabbat Shalom,


P.S. Tonight at Temple my father will be reading Torah and will receive a special blessing in honor of the 50 th anniversary of his ordination from the Reform seminary, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. As it happens, back in the late 1950s my father was among the very first group of Reform rabbinical students to study in Israel. This was before HUC-JIR even had a program for rabbinical students to study in Jerusalem, and long before there were any Israeli Reform Rabbis. My Dad was a pioneer in building the relationship between the Reform Movement and Israel. Mazal Tov, Rabbi Ronald Millstein, on the 50 th anniversary of your ordination. May you go from strength to strength!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Does God Still Speak to Us?

Dear Friends,

The festival of Shavuot, which begins one week from this Saturday evening, celebrates the moment when our people stood at Mt. Sinai and, according to tradition, heard God speak the eternal words of the Ten Commandments.  It is considered the greatest moment in our people’s history, the moment when we as a people entered into a covenant with God.  Since that time Jewish thinkers have grappled with the question:  Was that moment of revelation a one-time experience?  Or does God still speak to us?  If so, how?  This is more than merely an academic question to be pondered by theologians.  It goes to the very heart of our spiritual lives, our sense of God’s presence, of connection and purpose. 

On Saturday evening May 26th I will lead a discussion on this topic together with our rabbinic intern, Jonah Zinn, a student at the Reform Movement seminary, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion.  We will do so as part of what is called a, “Tikkun Leil Shavuot,” a late night (traditionally, all night) study session held on the evening of Shavuot.  This observance was created by the Kabbalists, our ancestors who practiced Jewish mysticism back in the 16th and 17th centuries.  They developed the “Tikkun Leil Shavuot” (literally:  the repairing that takes place on the eve of Shavuot) as a way to spiritually prepare themselves to receive God’s revelation, the Torah, as our ancestors did so many centuries ago.  In recent years this practice has gained in popularity in the Reform Movement as our members have recognized the value and personal meaning of engaging in Torah study.  Jonah and I will be bringing a distinctly modern twist to this ancient practice by focusing on the work of modern and contemporary Jewish thinkers who have addressed this issue.  As part of this discussion we look forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences.

The evening will begin at 7:00 p.m. with a dairy dinner, as is traditional on Shavuot and include Havdalah, a brief evening service, and our discussion.  Please RSVP by Monday to Sally Collins at or 201-568-3035 x214 to let us know that you will be attending.  We hope it will be a memorable part of your Memorial Day Weekend. 

For those who are in town we will also be having a Festival Morning/Yizkor service at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 27th.  I also hope you can join us on Monday morning, May 28th at 10:30 a.m. when we will confirm 15 young people who have spent their 9th grade year studying with me and Jonah.  They are certainly worthy of all of our support and appreciation.  Hope you can be there.

Shabbat Shalom,