The High Holidays represent a special time to connect with the Jewish community. We share in observing the beginning of the Jewish year with Jews worldwide. And at the ENJC, as the seats fill in our sanctuary, we are thrilled to see those we meet with at synagogue meetings and social events, members of our shul that perhaps we haven't seen since this time last year, extended family members, and we welcome our newest members as well.
While this is a time of merriment, it is a time of reflection as well. We look at our actions of the past year and formulate resolutions for the year to come. This is a time to connect with our Jewish identity, to celebrate changes and plan ahead. So why not resolve to become more involved with your Jewish community in the coming year?
If you have pre-school or school-aged children, bring them to Tot Shabbats, Junior Congregation and Youth Group events. While you’re at it, have a say in what they’re learning and doing in Religious School and come to our Education meetings.
If you’re interested in how our Jewish history, customs and beliefs affect our daily lives, participate in our Adult Education programs. You can also come to Ritual meetings and take part in the decisions that affect how we, at the ENJC, follow the traditions of our faith.
Do you follow Israeli politics, or are you interested in Israeli culture? Come hear speakers, do some Israeli dancing, enjoy Israeli foods, and while you’re at it, get involved with the Israeli Advocacy and Cultural Affairs committee.
If you enjoy our programming– our holiday celebrations, Chavurah Dinners, golf outings, fantasy sport leagues, Paid-Up Membership Dinners and Casino Nights–join Men’s Club or Sisterhood, where you are also welcomed to join their boards and committees. And of course you can be a part of the Community Relations and Fundraising committees of the ENJC as well.
If you are proficient with computer graphic software, our communications outlets would welcome your involvement with the Bulletin, Weekly Update and ENJC.org website.
And if you are concerned about the welfare of our congregants, please consider joining the Chesed Committee.
These and many more opportunities await you at the ENJC. You can choose to simply participate, or you can be involved behind the scenes. But please resolve to be more involved in all that the ENJC has to offer in the year ahead. We’re so happy to see you in shul for the High Holidays, and look forward to seeing you, your families, and all our new members throughout the year.
On behalf of my family, I would like to wish all L’Shannah Tovah, a healthy and happy New Year!
This article originally appeared on ENJC.org in November, 2015
A QUICK TALMUDIC THOUGHT
I was recently teaching a class and asked the question: "What makes Shabbat holy, restful, peaceful and uplifting?"
My students mostly said that as part of creation, G-d instructs us that the seventh day of the week (Shabbat) should be holy. In the Kiddush prayer that we chant on Friday night, it ends with "Blessed are you G-d, who sanctifies Shabbat....” As is my minhag and custom, trying to always teach in a positive and interactive manner, I complimented all of them and confirmed that all of their answers were "spot on" and beautiful.
I then offered them an explanation shared with me by one of my many teachers who offered the following insight. Shabbat, in of itself, is not really holy as it can be like any other day of the week. In actual fact, it is our actions and committment to G-d that elevates this seventh day of the week to a day of holiness and sanctity! What am I referring to exactly? All other days of the week, we may eat dinner in the kitchen with our cell phones ringing and beeping, everybody rushing to make the next appointment, music and TV blaring in the background, etc. On Friday/Shabbat evening, we can choose to have our dinner in the dining room with a beautifully arranged table, a special and sumptuous dinner, the chanting of the Kiddush, reciting the blessings over the candles, challah and the washing of our hands. Singing beautiful z'mirot and so much more. Consequently, it is our actions that elevate Shabbat to a level of holiness and sanctity.
I am quite sure that we are all enjoying the more relaxed pace of the summer months, time to spend more quality time with family and friends.
As our Religious School continues it's growth, I am more than pleased to report the we have been able to fill THREE new positions for the upcoming new school year. For the first time in many years, we will have multiple classes requiring two teachers per class! This is obviously quite exciting and in point of fact, if the numbers remain the same going forward, we will need to build/create a few new classrooms. l would like to extend our gratitude to Frank Brecher, Melissa Kurtz, Helaine Schwartz and Karen Schweitzer who were so helpful in the interviewing process of numerous candidates to fill the various teaching positions.
During the summer months, with regular attendees traveling, our Shabbat services need your participation. Friday nights and Shabbat mornings are so warm and friendly and take place in our Bet Midrash. I encourage you to come on down and experience these uplifting and enjoyable services. Services during the summer months are generally shorter as we obviously have no Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebrations.
We have decided this year to have THREE separate Junior Congregation services during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which will undoubtedly enhance the quality and result in more meaningful services for all of our children. There will be separate services for Pre-Gan & Gan, Alef thru Gimmel and finally Daled & Hay. In addition, the leaders of these different services will be able to have a greater degree of control due to the reduced number of children in each service.
I wish you all an enjoyable and safe summer!
The terrible killings at the AME Church in Charleston captured national attention on a grand scale. All of us can relate to it because as Jews, we have experienced, through the centuries, what it feels like to be a target of hate. I would like to relate the Charleston tragedy to a big theme in our parashat: “Making space.” I am struck by how much space has been made by the Charleston community, church members and even victims' family–space of compassion, space for love and support, space even for forgiveness, which was stunning and even jarring to me, so close to the moment. But clearly they restricted space as well. They closed ranks and their doors to hatred and malice, and showed us a community that proudly built bridges of care and of love. I will suggest three concrete and symbolic ways that we can make more room for one another as well.
Before this though, in the parashat chukat, Moses is told to be “the rod” and told to assemble the people and talk, so that water will come out of the rock. Why, asks a commentator, does God tell Moses to bring THE STAFF when He might have understood that it would trip Moses up and he would use it to strike rather than to speak to the rock? Because, we learn, it was to used for the first miracle. The first miracle was to conjure space so that all might be included. Millions of people gathered before the rock. The staff expanded the spiritual space that allowed all to be included–millions of people fit and stood before the rock!
Space, says the old Star Trek prelude, is The Final Frontier! Our lives, on so many levels, are comprised of, and our tradition is about, the making of space. The Kabalists tell us that tzimzum, the contraction of God and His expansion of space, was how material reality came into being. Where would we be if God hadn’t expanded the space? When we marry, we join two souls together as one. We make room for our spouse so that our souls and our lives intersect. We cannot neglect the self and become the other, but we must let the other in. Those of us who send our kids off to camp sense how the house seems to expand, which allows us to throw away some of the debris of the year to make more room for them when they come back!
Charleston is not just a tragedy, but it is also an opportunity. How do we make more space in light of Charleston–as a nation, as a community, and as individuals? There are two concrete and symbolic acts that immediately come to mind. South Carolina has “made it right” with their minority community by lowering that confederate flag and confining it to a museum. The confederate flag was a part of their past, no doubt, but not a part of their future. Homage to ancestors should take the form of visiting the cemetery or observing the date of death in personal ways. Short of this, flying their flag is idolatry; it’s idolatry of ancestor worship. And it is greatly selfish. The honored and genteel history of the South cannot be remembered without the stain of evil of institutionalized slavery. That flag stands for the bartering and owning of human lives. To maintain otherwise is to attempt to put lipstick on a a pig. It is good to see that some politicians in the state move in that direction–in the direction of expanding space and reaching out to include.
I composed a reading to respond to the horrific church killings at AME Church in Charleston this last week. I have enclosed it for your reading and prayers as well.
The Talmud holds that the Holy Temple was destroyed by excessive gratis hatred.
Rabbi Kook deduced, therefore, that the Holy Temple and Redemption will come only with excessive love.
The Blessing for peace asks for the Maker of Peace to make peace upon all of Israel.
The Siddur of Rabbi Saadiah Gaon reminds us too to pray that God make peace “in the world.”
The truth is that God can only help those who help themselves.
Peace begins with one’s forgiving one's self and then being open to others. Loving others is a tall order when we don’t love ourselves.
Peace or love does not "break out." It must be tended and cultivated. It begins with an open heart. It begins with empathy for another’s distress. It begins with not holding grudges. It begins when one doesn’t prejudge. It begins when we begin to transcend the selfish and the blind within ourselves.
An act of terror and White Supremacy in Charleston was intended to divide us. It appears that is has united us. An act of terror near Modiin, Israel by Palestinian terrorists yesterday also will bring us together.
We extend out condolences to the families of the victims and their families. May the fallen be remembered for blessing.
We pray for the recovery of the injured. May they find healing from physical and emotional trauma.
May a time soon come when the words of Isaiah ring out in truth: "They will neither harm nor destroy on my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." May our love one day be excessive enough to build the heavenly temple and to bring redemption nearer, and let us say AMEN.
The regional Rabbinical Assembly–a group of rabbis along with the LI Board of Rabbis–has reached out to colleague black ministers with whom we have formed a group, and sent the following message, composed by our RA Region President, Rabbi Art Vernon:
Dear Bishop White,
My colleagues in the Rabbinical Assembly of Nassau, Suffolk and Queeens join me in expressing our sadness and our outrage at the attack on the Bible Study Group at the AME Churche in Charleston, South Carolina. It is inconceivable that a house of worship, a place of peace and prayer, devoted to faith in God, would be desecrated by such an act of violence. We are heartened by the coming together of both black and white people in Charleston to express support for the victims and their bereaved relatives, and to condemn this inexplicable act. We join with you and all good people of faith in offering our condolences to the bereaved and our hope that soon we shall all learn to live together as brothers and sisters in faith. Please share this note with your colleagues and let me know if there is anything else we cando to bring people of faith together in good will. May God bless the families of those who perished, bless the good people of Charleston, SC, and may God bless America.
Yours in solidarity, faith and prayer,
Rabbi Art Vernon, President
Rabbinical Assembly of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens