Friday, February 28, 2014

Good Deeds

Dear Friends,

Whenever I meet with a bar or bat mitzvah student we discuss the meaning of becoming bar/bat mitzvah. While the term translates as “son of mitzvah” or “daughter of mitzvah,” what it means, according to Jewish tradition, is that the young person is now responsible for doing the mitzvot (plural of “mitzvah”). This naturally leads to the question, “What is a mitzvah?” Almost every student replies, “a good deed.” The truth is that this popular definition of a mitzvah is not completely correct. A mitzvah is a commandment, something we believe, or according to our tradition, God wants us to do. It includes both “good deeds,” i.e. actions which help others or make the world a better place (“tikkun olam”), and Jewish observances and traditions. Both types of mitzvot are essential to living a rich and meaningful Jewish life. Both connect us to God. Mitzvot are not merely good deeds, they are “God deeds.”

Here is one “good deed” mitzvah and one “Jewish observance” mitzvah that you can do through Temple Sinai this week:
  1. GOOD DEEDS DAY. On Sunday, March 9th the Jewish Community Relations Council and Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is sponsoring “Good Deeds Day.” Temple Sinai is a host site for collecting non-perishable/unexpired food items to be donated to local food pantries. Everyone at Temple Sinai – members, parents, the ECC community – are encouraged to bring donations as soon as possible to the Temple, starting this weekend and ending on Sun. morning, March 9. On Good Deeds Day, March 9, you are invited to come to the Federation from 2-4 to sort and pack the food items. Representatives from some of the food pantries will come as well to meet and mingle with the volunteers. Anyone who would like to help sort and pack at JFNNJ (50 Eisenhower Drive, Paramus) on Good Deeds Day is encouraged to register at Space is limited and there are free t-shirts for the first 200 volunteers. Please contact Joy Kurland at with any questions. This is a terrific Mitzvah project for any bar/bat mitzvah students looking for one.

  2. SHALACH MANOT. This is the Jewish practice of sending gifts to one another in conjunction with the festival of Purim. The origins of SHALACH MANOT go back all the way to the Megillah, the Book of Esther, when Mordechai declared the holiday of Purim as a time “of feasting and gladness – send food to one another, and give generously to the poor”. Our Temple Sisterhood has organized a system through which you can send Purim wishes and goodies to Temple Sinai members, ECC and Religious School families, and Temple Staff. You can also send an $8 donation to the “Purim Connection”, an organization that delivers Purim gifts to young soldiers on active duty in Israel and to Israeli children who are victims of terror and displacement. For more information, click here. Order forms are available at Temple, in the Sentry or click here for form. from Shavua Tov. If you have questions or would like to volunteer for bag "production" or delivery, contact Hilary Eth.

Doing mitzvot is at the heart of what it means to be a Jew. It makes being Jewish more than something that you are; it makes it something that you live. And when we live out who we are, we are truly fulfilled.

Shabbat Shalom,

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hanging with Bruce and the Boys

Dear friends,

I don’t know where you’ll be on Feb 27th but I’ll be at the Clinton Inn for the Brotherhood Guys night out! This Second Annual Guys Night out, next Thursday from 7:30 – 10:00 pm at the Palmer’s Crossing Room in the Tenafly Clinton Inn, promises to be a lot of fun. I’m sure you want to hang out with me for an evening, but if that’s not good enough for you to join us that night, how about the following Top Ten Reasons?
  1. Hang out with your friends. All the men from Brotherhood will be there as will other guys who are friends with the guys from Brotherhood.
  2. Meet new friends. Many men have already signed up so there will probably be at least a few you do not know yet. This is a great, easy-going and relaxed opportunity to meet some new guys and maybe make new friends.
  3. Hang out with former New York Jets star running back and kick/punt returner Bruce Harper. Ok, so if the chance to hang with me and the Brotherhood guys isn’t enough of a draw, how about an actual football star??
  4. Enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet of hot wings, pizza and beef brisket egg rolls
  5. Enjoy unlimited, free flowing beverages including beer, house wine and soft drinks and for those who prefer cocktails, we’ll have a cash bar.
  6. Watch the Knicks v. Heat and the Rangers v. Blackhawks on the large screen TV
  7. Take a chance on a great Raffle and at the same time help support our Temple Sinai youth. Buy a raffle ticket for two amazing seats for the NY Rangers v. Phoenix Coyotes game on March 24th at Madison Square Garden. All proceeds of the raffle go to the Brotherhood Youth Scholarship Fund which is being used to send our youth to the URJ Religious Action Center in Washington, DC, this weekend. We will sell only 100 raffle tickets at $10 each (3 for $25). They’re tax-deductible, you do not need to be present to win and the more you buy the better your odds of winning!
  8. Support Brotherhood by being a part of the group having a laid-back, enjoyable evening together.
  9. Help build the Temple Sinai community by strengthening the Brotherhood.
  10. And finally, leave your work behind, put the shovel down, and come out of the cold. Relax, grab a drink and a wing, and kick back with the guys!
I hope to see you there!

Shabbat Shalom,

**Cost for the entire event is only $30. To RSVP, go

Friday, February 7, 2014

Putin's Games

Dear Friends,

Maybe it’s just me but I’m having a hard time getting psyched to watch the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Perhaps if I was more into winter sports I would naturally be more excited. But, the sight of a bunch of German and Nordic men in body-suits plummeting down an ice chute on a French-named sled trying to get to the bottom of a hill a tiny fraction of a second faster than the rest doesn’t do it for me. OK, to be honest, I do think figure-skating is beautiful, and speed skating and skiing can be fun to watch. So, I should have a more positive attitude.

I guess what is really bothering me is the thought of that latter-day Czar, Vladimir Putin, smugly sitting at the games celebrating the return of Russia to its days of glory under his autocratic rule. He of the “gay propaganda” legislation, political corruption, and shuttering of independent media; he of the detention of protestors and dissenters of every stripe; he who continues to support the murderous Assad regime in Syria; he who seems for all intents and purposes to be President of Russia for life. Forget the stray dogs, unfinished hotels and the toilets that don’t flush. The Sochi Olympics is Putin’s party and the world is there to marvel at his success.

So, what to do? We could just ignore old “Pootie-Poot,” as President Bush called him, and enjoy the show. We Americans often ignore ethical issues when it comes to celebrating the world of sport. But, that would be an abdication of our values. Should we then keep our televisions and computers off and not watch at all? Some may find that to be a good solution. But, we know that the athletes themselves are not to blame nor are we going stop Putin by not watching the Olympics. Let us rather cheer on our athletes, Americans, Jews, Israelis – those who represent the values that we believe – keep our eyes and ears open to what is going on in the world and not forget what we stand for.

Shabbat Shalom,