Shalom, Chaverim! As I write this, I am celebrating my birthday, and as you read it, you are anticipating or in the midst of the High Holiday season. Both are occasions for joy and festivity, as well as solemnity and introspection. This year, we are face with an added level of uncertainty, tinged with sadness, as we contemplate saying farewell to our Cantor of nearly a quarter century, Ralph Nussbaum.
It is, however, also an opportunity. It is an opportunity for us as a community to carefully review our policies and procedures. There may very well be changes that could be made to better reflect our current environment and the needs of our ever-changing (and hopefully growing) congregation. Currently identified issues include Religious School scheduling, weak service attendance, and inclusive social programming. These are real challenges that get to the heart of what it means to be a community.
Luckily, we have a Board of Directors and various committees which serve as contact points between membership and leadership. I encourage you to attend committee meetings (most times are published in the Weekly Update) and engage with board members (a list of whom can be found in this publication) to make your needs and opinions known. It is my sincere hope that all members will be open-minded and respectful of differing points of view. If we are patient with each other and the process, I am confident that we will come to solutions that are best for the East Northport Jewish Center as a whole.
As we navigate this challenging time, please be assured that the shul leadership is working very hard to make it as smooth as possible. Now, in closing, allow me to be among the first to wish all of you a sweet New Year, an easy fast, and a joyful Sukkot, Sh'mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah!
Shalom! This month, synagogue life at ENJC is waking up from its summer slumber. If you have been active this summer, I thank you for your help in making minyanim. Your support is truly appreciated by the shul leadership as well as the families who needed to say Kaddish. If you have been away, I look forward to reconnecting with you at one or more of our scheduled events.
Right after Labor Day, we have 2 B'nei Mitzvah on the schedule: Kevin Siegall on the 10th and Jack Maldavir on the 17th. We are extremely proud of these young men, and I am looking forward to celebrating with their families.
The week of the 11th, Religious School will be opening and our Youth Groups will be kicking off their programming. On the 16th, we will be having a Membership Open House. Come to Shabbat Evening Services and meet potential new members. On the 18th, the Men's Club will once again be sponsoring their anual Family Fun Day, including a cookout, games and opportunities to visit with fellow congregants. Finally, as we approach the end of the month, the High Holiday season commences with a Selichot program on the evening of the 24th. The following week, there will be several volunteer opportunities, as Men's Club and Sisterhood organize chair setup for High Holiday services and the Fundraising committee assembles Honey Baskets. (Don't forget to buy one for your friends!)
Look for details for all of these programs in the Bulletin and our Weekly Update. I'll see you in shul!
Recently, Nicholas Kristof wrote a moving Op Ed piece (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/25/opinion/anne-frank-today-is-a-syrian-girl.html?_r=0) comparing a wounded Syrian girl to Anne Frank. This sermon is a response to his essay.
Firstly, in Nicholas Kristof's defense, it is hard to argue against having compassion for little children, whether Syrian, Yemeni, Yezidi, Kurdish, Sudanese, Muslim or Christian, who suffer in war zones created by political and religious division. And, one also needs understand, the well-meaning effort of the child of a refugee from WWII, Kristoff, whose own Polish father was, himself, subjected to Labor Camp conditions during the occupation of the Third Reich in Eastern Europe. Still, one would think that Kristof might also be able to ferret out the distinctions. One evil cannot always be compared and equated with another, dramatic effect notwithstanding.
Muslim Syrian children, in this case, are collateral damage of a war. They are not targeted for extermination. Jews, during Shoa, had only two possible destinations from which to obtain visas–Shanghai and the Dominican Republic–both of which had limited absorptive capacity and little ability to dispense these visas to Jews on the run. Syrian refugees should have 21 Arab Muslim nations in an Arab League willing to help absorb and financially support them in safe war zones, which could be establish by military means, if there was a willingness to do so. So far, only 3 have come forward even to help absorb refugees. (To their credit, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon). Where are the rich Gulf states in this equation? During the Holocaust, Jews did not have 21 nations to which to appeal. They had only one Jewish State in the making (the Yishuv in British Mandate Palestine) and the Brits were doing their darndest to restrict Jews from emigrating there! This is why the State of Israel's existence and its mission is so vital today.
One wonders why Kristof isn't calling these Arab States to task before appealing to the nations of the west. Many of these nations are not signatory to the Geneva convention, which obligates their responsibility toward their Arab brethren. Why is that tolerated rather than condemned by bodies like the UN Human Rights Commission or by such compassionate journalists like Kristof? Why is that not more objectionable than Western nations' reluctance, themselves reeling from Radical Islamic terror? More to the point, Kristoff seems unaware, as do many activist organizations of the anti-Semitic and anti-Western curriculum, that these children have been force fed. Don't Jewish communities in particular, and western societies in general, also need to be aware of the culture of hate against Israel, taught to Syrian children from kindergarten on? Isn't it potentially a serious problem that might arise if western nations absorb thousands of these young people?
Shalom, chaverim! I hope that all of you are enjoying the summer in your own personal ways. The weather has been hot, but I hear the beach is pleasant. Just remember the sunscreen!
From the outside, things at the East Northport Jewish Center appear very quiet. Clergy and staff are taking their vacations. Programming is limited. We have a regular service schedule, but attendance is lighter than the rest of the year. Do not be deceived. Your Board of Directors and the various standing committees are hard at work planning for the coming holiday season. I hope that you will do your part to help the process along.
As you receive this, the deadline for the High Holiday Ticket Request Form is approaching. Please get your paperwork and payments into the office by Friday, August 19th, in order to be eligible for the seating priority lottery. This lottery determines the order in which the ticket requests are filled.
If you are interested in helping out with the planning for the holidays and beyond, we have many committees, any of which would be glad for your support. The largest, most visible committees are Ritual, Education, Community Relations and Fundraising. Ritual is responsible for worship services, holiday observances and all religious activities of the synagogue. The Education committee helps run the Religious School. Community Relations organizes community meals, blood drives, Tot Shabbats, delivering meals to the sick or shut-in, as well as occasional social and entertainment programming. Fundraising raises moeny for the shul through large one-time campaigns and smaller, ongoing projects. Finally, while the Membership, Building Administration and House Administration Vice Presidents don't currently head active committees, from time to time, they also could use a little extra help. If you feel you have skills that could be useful, please contact the appropriate VP to inform them of your interest. If our interests or skill set do not seem to ally with an existing committee or department, let's talk! I'm sure we can find a place for you!
Beginning Saturday night June 11th and commencing June 12th and 13th, we observe the holiday of Shavuoth. Shavuoth is an important pilgrimage festival and the day that marks 50 days from when we began counting the Omer sheaf offering on the holiday of Pesach. The narrative of Exodus, Chapter 19, also makes a good case that it was the day on which we stood at Sinai and received the thunderous utterance of Ten Commandments that provided the scaffolding of the entire Torah.
There are many theories as to why it became customary to eat dairy on Shavuoth. One theory suggests that when the Israelites received the kosher laws, they were reluctant to eat meat since the laws were complicated, and ate dairy. Another theory says simply that the Torah would be our manual in the Land of Milk and Honey. Another states that just as we wean our young and vitalize them with milk, so we must passionately do so with our Torah. A sage points out that the numeric equivalent of Halav is 40, reminding us of the forty days Moses spent on the mountain top.
Here is a favorite from Nachalat Tzvi. When Moses went up to the top of the mountain he was transported to heaven. There he was required to wrest the Torah away from the possessive angels, who had possessed them for 954 generations, even before the creation! G-d transformed Moses' face to look like Abraham's. He turned to the angels and said "did you not eat milk with meat when I served you at the time you came to tell me about Sarah having Issac?" They had to admit that they did. "If that is so, then you violated the rules of the Torah that you possessed!" Having softened them up by this strong offensive parry, he continued his argument "...do you do work that you need to observe the Sabbath? Do you steal things so that you need a commandment that says thou shall not steal? ...do you worship idols that you need a commandment that says serve no other gods before me?" The angels, defeated by this argument, surrendered the 10 Commandments to him. As a result, it became customary for Jews to begin their Shavuoth festival with the dairy meal, and follow it after a short time with a meat one!
We will be observing this custom with blintzes and ice cream sundaes on Saturday night, June 11th at our special learning session in honor of the festival. Our Tikun Leil Shavuoth will be covering rabbinic ideas on the nature of revelation and aspects of the Book of Ruth. It will begin with Maariv at 9pm.
Please help make this a delectable and successful program. May I take this time to wish you and yours a sweet and joyful Shavuoth festival!