Friday, March 29, 2013

Gut Shabbes and Gut Yuntiv

Dear Friends,

What do Jews say to one another on Good Friday? “Gut Shabbes and Gut Yuntiv!” (A “Good Shabbat” and “Good Holiday” for Passover) of course. And what should a Jew do on Easter Sunday? Come to the Brotherhood sponsored Matzah Brei brunch at 10:00 a.m., of course! All you need to do is show up hungry. Hope to see you there.

Speaking of Passover food, if it turns out that you have extra Pesadic food (matzah, gefilte fish, macaroons, cans or boxes of you name it) our Brotherhood and Paul Winter Helping Hands Committee are conducting a “post-Passover” food drive. Just bring your unopened Passover food stuffs to the Temple and place it in the bins near the main office by Sunday, April 14th. This way we can continue to fulfill the precept articulated at the Passover seder, “all who are hungry come and eat.” Your Passover food will be taken by Ophelia Yudkoff to Eva’s Shelter, where it will be served, even after Pesach. Kol Ha’Kavod (all honor) to David Klein, our Brotherhood President, and Ophelia, our Paul Winter Helping Hands co-chair, for helping us fulfill this mitzvah - both before Passover by bringing our chumetz to the Temple and after Passover, by bringing our uneaten Passover foods.

Last Passover note: We have a 7th Day of Passover Festival service on Monday morning at 10:30 a.m. This includes Yizkor. Many people do not realize that it is traditional to remember a loved one by attending Yizkor services not only on Yom Kippur but also on the last day of the festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. For the Reform Movement the last day of Passover is the 7th day, Monday. We will hold our Yizkor service Monday, while Conservative and Orthodox Jews, who celebrate 8 days of Passover, will hold it on Tuesday.

Hope to see you tonight (Shabbat services at 7:30 p.m.), or tomorrow (Torah study at 9:00 a.m.; Shabbat minyan service at 10:15 a.m.), or Sunday (Matzah Brie Brunch at 10:00 a.m.), or Monday (Festival/Yizkor services at 10:30 a.m.).

Gut Shabbes and Gut Yuntiv,


Monday, March 25, 2013

A White Passover?!

Dear Friends.

With the weatherman threatening to make this a white Passover, I thought I’d give you a few things to think about for your seders this evening other than the weather.  The Reform Movement offers a plethora of wonderful material to supplement your seders within a few clicks of your mouse.  The two main sites I have visited are the Union for Reform Judaism site, and the Religious Action Center site  On the home page of both these sites is a direct link to this wealth of information to enhance your seders. 

I will be adding two simple supplements to my family’s seder this evening.  One is called, “the fifth child,” which focuses on the issue of gun violence. Click on this link to download this simple, one page supplement.  If you do this I also recommend that you tell people about the New Jersey Together Against Gun Violence assembly that will take place on Sunday, April 14th at 2:00 p.m. in East Orange, at Christ Episcopal Church, 422 Main Street.  (See flyer attached.) 

The other is called, “the Fifth Question,” which is, “Why on this night are millions of people still going hungry.”  (With the various sets of four at the seder – the four questions, the four children, the four cups of wine, the four promises of redemption – it is natural that seder supplements often refer to a fifth thing we should think about.) 

May you have a safe, warm and meaningful Pesach!

Rabbi Jordan Millstein

Friday, March 22, 2013

Obama's Visit Gets Rid of the Chametz

Dear Friends,

This is the time of year when Jews traditionally clean their houses and get rid of the chametz (also pronounced “chumitz”), the leavened products from our houses. This practice has been linked by our tradition to a process by which we do some personal “housecleaning” at this time. We examine our lives and try to get rid of old habits that are negative and problematic (traditionally we would say, “sinful”). We look to get a fresh start at this spring season. It is a process which, in a small way, is akin to our more focused period of self-examination during the High Holy Days.

This week President Obama did the political version of getting rid of chametz during his trip to Israel. In what was described as a “charm offensive,” the President found a way to get rid of some of the old, negative feelings that have lingered for a number of years between the Israeli and American administrations, between Israelis and the President. Shalom Hartman Institute Fellow Yossi Klein Halevi, who has been highly critical of President Obama in the past, called the President’s speech in Jerusalem yesterday, “a love song to Israel.” The President demonstrated that he really can and does understand Israel and the Israeli outlook, at least a lot more than most had thought. His appeal to Israelis, even his criticism of the Israeli government’s settlement policies, came off as coming from a place of love and support for Israel and not harsh and distant as such criticism had in the past.

In the meantime, the Obama administration apparently helped the Israeli and Turkish governments get rid of some significant chametz in their relationship, as Prime Minister Netanyahu called Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey to apologize for the Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara in 2010 and promised compensation for the losses that took place. Prime Minister Erdogan, in turn, committed to restore full diplomatic relations with Israel. This is wonderful news.

‘Tis the season to get rid of that chametz – both in our houses and in our lives. May this be a happy and sweet Passover for you, your families and all the People of Israel.

Shabbat Shalom and have a Zeisen (Sweet) Pesach,


Friday, March 15, 2013

The Pope and Passover

Dear Friends,

The white smoke rose and I did not get the call.  Consequently, I am still your rabbi and the pope is still Catholic.  I say this not to minimize the significance of the naming of Cardinal  Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.  As you no doubt know by now Pope Francis is the first non-European pope in more than 1200 years, the first Latino and the first member of the Jesuit order to lead the largest church in the world.  This is very exciting and important news, well worth our attention.  Mazal tov to Pope Francis and to our Catholic neighbors on the election of a new pope!

At the same time, we are still Jews.  As such, we have other business to attend to of great importance.  For example, preparing for Passover.  Is your house ready for Passover?  Are your plans for your Passover seder/s all set?  I apologize if I have just raised the blood pressure of some of you with those questions.  Depending on your personal practice and whether you are playing host for a seder, Passover can be a bear when it comes to planning and preparation.  To that end I write this missive to offer some assistance:

  1. If you do not yet have plans for the second night of Passover, a week from this coming Tuesday night, March 26th, do I have a deal for you!  You don’t need to cook; you don’t need to set the table; you don’t need to find the Hagaddahs and clean out the matzah crumbs from last year.  You just need to sign up for Temple Sinai’s seder on the second night of Passover. The price is $36 per person. Children 12 years and younger are $18.  (The charge for children has been lowered so yes, it is different than the prices you’ve seen advertised.) While the deadline has officially passed, for you we will extend it to this Sunday, March 17th.  But, we do need your RSVP by this Sunday.  Follow this link to the place on our web site with the information and registration form:  If for some reason this link doesn’t work just go to the web site and click on the message on the home page about the seder.  Or just email
  2. If you are cleaning out the chametz from your home and don’t know what to do with it, do I have a mitzvah for you!  Many of us, present writer included, typically go through our shelves, put all our chametz in bags and take it to the basement.  Then when the holiday is over we go down to the basement and shlep all the bags back up and put them back on the shelves.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that.  It’s a good Reform interpretation of how to make one’s home kosher for Passover.  But, how often in packing and unpacking those bags do you think, “no one is eating this stuff; why am I schlepping it up and down the stairs?  Who needs it?”  You think about throwing it out but then feel guilty about the wasted food.  This year, instead of feeling guilty or annoyed, feel good about yourself and your family by donating your chametz to people who really do want and need it.  All you need to do is bring youropened and unopened non-perishable chametz (leavened products) to Temple Sinai by Sunday March 24th.  (That’s a real deadline; no extensions!)  There will be bins placed on the ground floor near the entrance off the parking lot next to the elevator.  The Temple’s Brotherhood, Sisterhood and Paul Winter Helping Hands Committee are teaming up to run this collection and will take all of the chametz we collect to Eva’s Shelter and the Center for Food Action. If you don’t know whether something should be considered chametz, you can email or call me with questions.  I promise to confuse you further.

May the pope remain Catholic and be a positive force for stronger Catholic – Jewish relations.  May we remain Jews and have a Happy, zeisen (sweet) Passover!

Rabbi Jordan Millstein