Friday, December 14, 2012
Monday, November 26, 2012
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 email@example.com 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 www.ritualwell.org
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 http://urj.org/socialaction/issues/relief/hurricanes/ 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: www.sandyhelp.trt.org.
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, www.jfnnj.org, or of the URJ, at
www.urj.org/israel, 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!
Rabbi Jordan Millstein
Friday, November 16, 2012
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.
Rabbi Jordan Millstein
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
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)
Saturday, November 3, 2012
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)
Friday, October 19, 2012
Rabbi Jordan Millstein
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
Friday, August 17, 2012
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.
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? 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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to let me know. Your feedback will be greatly appreciated.
Israel Trip Registration Form
Israel Trip Itinerary
Israel Trip Budget and Flight Information
Eilat and Petra Extension Information
Sunday, July 29, 2012
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
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.
Friday, July 6, 2012
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
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
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!”
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
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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 email@example.com; or Ilene Wechter at 201871-4885 orIlenewechter@yahoo.com.
Friday, June 15, 2012
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and let Hilary know that you want to be a member of ARZA and to include ARZA dues in your next bill statement.
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!