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Many say that Thanksgiving is patterned after Sukkot, the Jewish Holiday of the Harvest. At Sukkot, we celebrate a successful harvest, petition God for good rains and climate, enjoy the outdoors in the sukkah and, in general, are conscious of all the many blessings of G-d. There is no doubt that there are some parallel themes to our American Thanksgiving day, but it appears, as you’ll read in the information below, that the tie is not terribly strong.
Apparently “thanksgiving days” were not, at first, necessarily harvest festivals. Rather, Thanksgiving was a reformist, Calvinist and Puritan response to “too many” Catholic holidays. The Puritans, and before them, the followers of Henry VIII, sought to replace “church” holidays with holidays of fasting and thanksgiving for events of contemporary life. Europeans–British, Irish, French, Welsh and Spanish–followed this practice. The settlers of what would eventually become the U.S and Canada brought these customs with them when they settled in the New World. Many such fast and thanksgiving days were established to mourn drought, disease and to celebrate military victories and rescues. For the settlers in a new land, a holiday was often declared after a successful crop or the successful repelling of an Indian attack, declared from region to region to region in the New World by governors and preachers in the colonial territories of Canada and what would become the United States.
The Thanksgiving tie to the Pilgrims became solidified just before the Civil War era by author Sarah Hale, who was the composer of Mary Had a Little Lamb. She was the first to content that it was the Pilgrims of 1621 who established a Thanksgiving. But evidence is sparse that it was the grand celebration she depicted with turkey, cranberry and all the trappings. People of that time may not have had access to those foods. Hale’s twenty-year effort to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday ultimately was successful, although President Lincoln’s first efforts to celebrate the holiday were interrupted by the Civil War and its aftermath. Certainly many individual states, by Lincoln’s time, had a Thanksgiving Day, but the date was not uniform and several states did not celebrate it.
Lincoln proclaimed the date to be the final Thursday in November in an attempt to foster a sense of American unity between the northern and southern states. Because of the ongoing Civil War and the Confederate States of America's refusal to recognize Lincoln's authority, a nationwide Thanksgiving date was not realized until Reconstruction was completed in the 1870s.
On December 26, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. Be that as it may, Thanksgiving Day has entered the American psyche and is the quintessential American Holiday that is celebrated by most citizens. It is recognized as a holiday that is celebrated by most every American as a moment in which to reflect on all the bounty that this great country offers us. From a Jewish standpoint, the holiday is important in cultivating a sense of gratitude. We, in our daily prayers, are reminded of G-d’s miraculous qualities in “renewing the creations each and every day.” I encourage you to make it a spiritual moment for those with whom you celebrate.
Now that the High Holidays and all of the various Jewish holidays that follow are finally over, activities around our ENJC are really "hopping" in a manner of speaking.
In the three-month period from September thru the first week of December, we are in the midst of enjoying ELEVEN Bar & Bat Mitzvah celebrations!! As their teacher, you can imagine it is somewhat stressful, in mild terms, to have them all prepared and ready for this momentous time in their lives. Our Religious School is off to a very exciting and active year as we welcome EIGHTEEN NEW FAMILIES all of whom enrolled their children in our school. I am simultaneously encouraging numerous teens who have already had their Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebrations, to return and chant their Haftorahs again, or chant a new Haftorah or Torah portion.
I recently orchestrated a FRIDAY EVE/SHABBAT PRAYER AND SONG BOOKLET, for the purpose of having families be able to chant or recite all of the various prayers, which are appropriate for a Shabbat eve. In addition to the booklet, I have recorded and burned an accompanying CD as well. The booklet and CD include the following:
The traditional chanting of Shalom Aleichem, the blessings for the Friday night candles, washing of the hands, the Hamotzi (blessing of the bread) and the chanting of the full Kiddush as well. If you would like a copy of the booklet and CD, please contact the Synagogue office, or click HERE. I am pleased to report that I have already supplied many families with the booklet and CD.
I am hopeful that you will request a copy of these items and by so doing, your appreciation and observance of Shabbat will be dramatically enhanced. As I have mentioned to all of my students, young and slightly older, Shabbat in of itself is like any other day of the week. Certainly we understand that is kodesh, a holy day according to the Torah and our tradition. What actually makes Shabbat holy?? It is our actions that result in the elevation of this special day of the week to one of sanctity. With this "hands on" interactive prayer book and CD, your observance of Shabbat will be special and will set a wonderful tone for your Friday eve dinner.
It has been my pleasure teaching an adult Hebrew reading class for the past year. Now that we have almost completed the book, we will be choosing a date, at which time most of the adults in the class will have a group ADULT BAR & BAT MITZVAH celebration. We hope to share further information in this regard very shortly.
I wish you one and all a chodesh tov–an enjoyable new month. Read More
Not only do I want to give a Yom Kippur appeal but I want to appeal to each and every one of you to HELP US HELP YOU!
We will be reaching out to the congregation many times in the near future to find out how to best serve all of our congregants’ needs regarding services, programming or communications. Please, please answer our surveys. Surveys will be conducted both electronically via e-mail and mailed out to your homes.
ENJC is now in its 58th year of existence! Obviously we have been doing something right, and are continuing to do so. In times where synagogues in our area are struggling, merging or just closing their doors, we are growing. This year we signed up 17 new members–I thank you for choosing ENJC!
In the past two years we have renewed the contracts of our clergy. Rabbi Silverman will be with us for seven more years and Cantor Nussbaum will be here for the next five years. Continuity of the clergy is important, and Rabbi Silverman and Cantor Nussbaum work together like a well-oiled machine. We must continue to evolve and be everything to all. We are a diverse group. Some congregants come to the synagogue 3 days a year and some do everything but sleep here! We have members ranging in age from newborns to almost 100 years old.
To continue to grow, we must work harder to satisfy the needs of all of our congregants. We must be able to provide answers to all requests within reason. This past year we upgraded all of our thermostats so they can be controlled remotely. Their design is such that we will not be wasting money and energy heating or cooling the building when no one is here. Going forward, we will be looking into to cost savings on the electric side. We plan on exploring the option of accepting credit cards for payments. We will be looking into environmentally responsible and cost saving methods of operation.
Our Religious School is growing rapidly. This year we have two Aleph and two Gan classes. According to projections for next year, it looks like next year we will have two Aleph, Bet and Dalet classes. We have in excess of 100 children in our school. Thank you all for joining us.
50% of our Congregation Board has children in our Religious School. With all the new blood on the board, it is important that our senior Board members share their guidance and experience with the newer members.
I am very excited to be your ENJC President. It has been my family’s experiences at ENJC that have pushed me to dedicate the time needed to serve as your president.
I thank my wife Meryl for sharing me with the synagogue. My family joined ENJC in 2005. Danny had his Bar Mitzvah in 2007 and Amanda had her Bat Mitzvah in 2009. They both loved their USY experience and how USY impacted their lives. I am proud to have them come home from college for Yom Kippur–and obviously it was not for the food!
I want to thank all the people of ENJC who have helped make this the “Hamish Shul” that we are today. Rather than run the risk of upsetting someone by not naming them, I will not mention any individual names this year–you know who you are! Whether through financially generous donations, your commitment to attending services for the daily minyan, Shabbat or Sunday mornings, being on the board as a VP or trustee, or just being one of the many that we know we can call upon and you will be there for whatever needs to be done, I extend a very special thank you to all who have contributed in any way for this year’s High Holiday services–from chair and book set-up, coordinating babysitting, the various children services, ushering, flowers, coordinating all the honors and alliyahs, sukkot set-up and the things I surely left off the list.
If you are not involved- it is time to get involved. We can never have enough people to help. Everything is made easier when there are many to do it.
We had a wonderful synagogue beautification fundraiser project this past year, our patio brick paver project. But that was just the beginning; there is room for many, many more bricks. Sit on the benches and take a long look, and decide to honor your loved ones who have passed or honor the simchas in your life.
I want to remind all that our Yom Kippur appeal is our major fundraiser of the year. Please be generous.
Have a happy and health New Year! Read More