Friday, May 9, 2014

I Got a Guy

Dear Friends,

You mention to a friend, acquaintance or co-worker that you need the help of a professional or expert to get something important done and the answer comes, “I got a guy….” Renovating your kitchen? “I got a guy.” Have a problem with your computer? “I got a guy.” Just had a baby boy? “I got a guy.” (Well, “I got a mohel,” to be more specific.)

Everybody’s “got a guy” and somehow their guy is always the best at whatever it is that you need done. Of course, that can’t literally be true. Some have to be better at what they do than others. But, the fact that your friend or acquaintance happens to use that person makes them the best. It’s human nature. But, the truth is oftentimes when experts do things for us we have no idea if they are truly excellent or just got the job done.

The same is true of Israeli tour guides. I talk to people all the time who come back from a trip to Israel and whatever else they tell me about the trip they invariably say, “…and we had the best tour guide!” There are good reasons for this response. Going to Israel is a phenomenal experience. For someone who has never gone before almost any trip to Israel, no matter who leads it or what the itinerary happens to be, will be wonderful. For a Jew just being in Israel touches our souls in a way that it simply cannot be otherwise touched. Moreover, all Israeli tour guides are required by the state to go through a rigorous educational training process in order to get a license. That training goes far beyond what any other country in the world requires of its guides. They are, in fact, the best in the world.

Still, some must be better than others, which leads me to my point: I got a guy. His name is Ezra Korman. He is the CEO of Makor Educational Journeys, a newly formed division at IGT, and he is leading Temple Sinai’s trip to Israel this coming December 2014 during the end of the year holiday break. And, yes, my guy is the best. I don’t say that lightly because I have travelled with other guides who were very good. But, Ezra is truly one notch above. Moreover, he is different. He is not just a tour guide but an educator. He has the depth of knowledge of a college professor and the skill to communicate that knowledge to people of all backgrounds and interests. He understands that all of us learn differently, that kids and teens need alternative programming with their own “youth guide” to experience Israel in a way that engages them.

Ezra has more than 20 years of experience running trips and missions for youth groups, university study groups, synagogues, churches, federations, interfaith groups, high level political delegations and fundraising missions. In the past he has served as educational director and then vice president of Daat, an educational travel company in Jerusalem and was as associate director of Keshet: The Center for Educational Travel in Israel.

But, don’t take my word for it. Come meet “my guy,” Ezra Korman, a week from Sunday, May 18 at 10:00 a.m. at Temple Sinai. Find out the scoop on our trip to Israel this coming December from the guy who is going to be leading it with me. Bagels and coffee will be served. Please RSVP to me at or Ronni Zlotnick, our trip chairperson, at (If you forget to RSVP come anyway!)

Shabbat Shalom,

PS - We are extending the deadline to register until June 15. But, don’t miss this opportunity to meet our tour leader, Ezra Korman – join us on May 18 at 10:00!

PPS - Happy Mother’s Day to all of you wonderful Mothers!!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Empty Mezuzah

Larry Gordon, a Temple Sinai member, just shared this one with me:

A man buys a fabulous home in Beverly Hills, California. He brings in a local workman to decorate the place. When the job is finished, the homeowner is delighted but realizes that he's forgotten to put mezuzahs on the doors. He goes out and buys 50 mezuzahs and instructs the decorator how to place them on the right hand side of each door except bathrooms and kitchens.

He's really worried that the decorator will chip the paint work or won't put them up correctly. However, when he comes back a few hours later, he sees that the job has been carried out to his entire satisfaction.

He's so pleased that he gives the decorator a bonus.

As the decorator is walking out of the door he says, "Glad you're happy with the job... by the way, I took out all the warranties in the little boxes and left them on the table for you!"

It’s a great joke. At the same time, this week the image of an empty mezuzah case makes me think of something less amusing. It makes me think of another wealthy Jew who has dazzlingly large homes in Beverly Hills and Malibu – as well as well as a really big gym known as, “The Staples Center”. If the scroll represents the soul of the Jew, Donald Sterling (formerly, Donald Tokowitz) is no doubt a mezuzah case without out a scroll.

Since Sterling’s remarks to his girlfriend about African Americans were brought to light by TMZ, the media has been filled with reports of all sorts of awful behavior by Sterling in the past: from the housing discrimination lawsuit he settled in 2009 (for keeping blacks and Hispanics out of his buildings), to adultery, abusive behavior towards his children and those around him. And while Sterling is not active in the Jewish community in any significant way, the fact remains that he is a Jew, which makes this whole sordid affair a shanda fur die Goyim (an embarrassment in front of the non-Jewish world). Heaven forbid anyone should associate his worldview with Judaism or the Jewish People.

But, rather than hang our heads in shame, it is worth noting that Adam Silver, the new commissioner of the National Basketball Association, is also Jewish. While one can certainly discount his strong stand against Sterling’s racist behavior as doing what was politically or economically necessary for the NBA, there is no doubt that he did what was right. I’m proud that Adam Silver is a member of the Jewish community.

The scroll inside the mezuzah contains the eternal words of the Sh’ma Yisrael. Those words, which speak of God’s Oneness and our love for God and God’s ways, represent the soul of Jew. May we all find ways in our own lives to keep that scroll inside our mezuzah cases.