Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rabbi Weiner Speaks About His Sabbatical

Dear chevrei (friends),

Having received so many emails, phone calls and notes with questions about my upcoming sabbatical, I thought I would take this space to elucidate a little further what I will be doing during my time away. If you read the letter (see below), you know that I will be away from just after Purim until just after Pesach and then again over the summer. I wrote to you all that in the spring portion of my sabbatical, I would be running several marathons, starting with the Jerusalem Marathon on March 17th! With the exception of Jerusalem, all of the races are on Sundays. Knowing this, a few of our community members who are runners have asked what I will be doing the rest of the week, in between races, and I thought you’d all like to know the answer! Since I expect to be sore from my running endeavors, and since I’d like not to be, I will be spending each week in Woodstock, NY, at a special massage therapy center. While there, I will spend four hours each day learning to become a therapist, so that I can treat myself (plus, you know, having a backup plan if the rabbinate doesn’t work out is always a good idea). The rest of the day will be spent lying totally still in a full body seaweed wrap for up to six hours! Sounds relaxing, right?

Then, for the summer portion of my sabbatical, in addition to my usual volunteering at Jewish camp, I had written to the community that I will be spending much of my time off in Israel. Limor and I have enrolled the girls in a pre-IDF summer “camp” program there, where they will, as Israeli citizens (thanks to Limor being born in Israel), learn how to shoot, march, navigate by maps, speak basic Arabic and even have the opportunity to jump from a real military airplane! They are very excited for the opportunity, especially the skydiving, camping in tents and the food. We are, of course, a little nervous, particularly about Carmel’s use of a gun, since she can barely get the toothpaste on the brush without half the tube winding up in the sink. We’re also worried about Jordan, but at ten years old, she should be ok, right?

Limor will be using her time in Israel to visit her family there, mostly on Shabbat. During the week, however, she will be fulfilling her life-long dream – to attend Israel’s top culinary school: Bishulim – The Israeli Institute of Culinary Arts. Of course, I will be the main beneficiary of her time there! Especially when one considers that, not once, but twice, Limor has burned a pot because she forgot to put water in it before putting it on the stove. The school recommends bringing your own knives, as do all good culinary schools, so we are allowing extra time to be interrogated both by TSA at the airport here and by the Mosad, when we arrive in Israel.

Originally, I had been planning to use my time in Israel to just relax – spending time on the beach, riding my bicycle and reading books. But, with the girls all being busy all day long, I thought I would find something else to fill my time and take advantage of my skills and interests and this opportunity. As many of you have pointed out, time and time again, I spend too much time caring and thinking about Israel. So, I reached out to the Trump administration to offer my services to help work on the President’s new Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan. Apparently, the administration is, indeed, looking for more people who have no diplomatic experience to join the team. They did inform me, however, that since I speak Hebrew fluently, have lived in Israel (twice) for long stretches, have an advanced degree in Hebrew Literature and know and have friends in the non-Jewish community in Israel, that I would be relegated to a minor role. Since I’m supposed to be taking it easy on sabbatical, anyway, I accepted! I cannot wait to make peace!

I will be sure to document all of these wonderful activities through daily emails to the entire congregation, detailing every step: each place visited, each meal eaten, person met and the hilarity that will ensue! I know you look forward to reading them, each and every day! See you when I return!

Shalom,




Friday, January 27, 2017

Celebrating Tu B'Shevat in Kehillah!



While we are in the midst of the coldest months in New York, we celebrate the “official” start to Spring in Israel with Tu B’Shevat. In my mind, this holiday really encapsulates what Judaism is all about. It is a day that we celebrate trees and nature, which are an integral part of the human environment.

Traditionally, planting parsley has been a long-standing Tu B’Shevat preschool activity. Now what does parsley have to do with trees? Well, I imagine that pre-school teachers of years past could not plant actual trees with their students or that the symbolic act of “buying” a tree in Israel was not tangible enough. Given these factors, engaging in a planting activity was (and still is) a good way to discuss nature in a classroom setting. What is really wonderful about this activity is that if you plant the parsley on Tu B’shevat, by the time it germinates and grows, we have jumped two holidays to our major Spring holiday of Passover. A major component of the Passover Seder is Karpas, which is the spring herb/vegetable often represented on the Seder plate by parsley. The Jewish calendar works in amazing ways!

At Kehillah, we will be planting tons of parsley in a new parsley garden. The students will be able to both predict what will happen to the seeds and observe the parsley once it is planted. Basically, the children will be able to document the whole process from start to finish.

Planting parsley on Tu B’Shevat for use on Passover reinforces in a cyclical way how holidays connect us to seasons and one to another.

This Tu B’Shevat try planting something in your own homes that can be used later in the year.

Chag Sameach,








Abra Goldemberg
Director of Early Childhood Jewish Education

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Paint Nite" at Temple Israel of New Rochelle




This is what community looks like at Temple Israel of New Rochelle!

Grabbing aprons, paintbrushes and maybe some liquid courage, 35 women got in touch with their inner Picassos for Sisterhood's Paint Nite. It was a night full of creativity and laughter and too much cheese. Thanks to those who joined us! We look forward to seeing the "artistes" and all other Temple Israel of New Rochelle women at future Sisterhood events. Visit www.tinr.org/events to see those and other Temple Israel events!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Shabbat to the NFTY-NAR Winter Kallah...Temple Israel is the Place to Be!


Dear Chevrei (Friends),

Most people are creatures of habit. Some are mundane and personal, like using the same coffee mug every morning, and others feel grand and involve others, like fraternal organizations. Each of these, in their own way, create and maintain traditions. Traditions are hard to let go of – perhaps because human beings do not naturally love change, but we do love traditions. Judaism is, perhaps more than anything else, a system to store and deliver traditions. And, we’ve got all kind of traditions – from our rituals and holidays, to our favorite foods and special terminology.  That is why Judaism is still so important to Jews – even ones who have no religious practice at all. Even we Reform Jews, who do not fear change, nor avoid it, still know that without many of our traditions, we wouldn’t be Jews at all.

Temple Israel, like all communities, has its own traditions, unique to us. One of those traditions is that Temple Israel has always been the gathering place for the larger community. We are seen as not only a trusted communal institution, both to Jews and non-Jews, but we are known for being warm and welcoming to all who come through our doors. That did not happen by accident. It takes a lot of work, over many years, to build a culture such as we have here. We’ve played host to an array of community wide events over the years because no one does a warm welcome like Temple Israel.

Rabbi Wohl established just such a tradition by creating and hosting the Annual Coalition for Mutual Respect Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Shabbat. If you haven’t been here in the past, you have missed out on a gathering like no other.  This is one of the largest annual gatherings in New Rochelle and Westchester – bringing together hundreds of people from diverse backgrounds and communities, races and religions. Only Temple Israel was willing to open its doors like this more than thirty years ago. If you haven’t experienced this tradition, you should join us this year.  I’ll add, that this will be our first year without Rabbi Wohl presiding over the service and the evening. Those are big shoes to fill. More importantly, this is an opportunity to show Rabbi Wohl, from afar, that what he created has indeed become a tradition here – that tolerance, respect, human dignity and equality are the teachings which he has bequeathed to us. Those teachings too are our traditions and we must, perhaps more than ever, continue these traditions. I hope to see you on Friday, January 13 at the Dinner at 6 pm followed by the Service at 7:30 pm. Click here for details!

Another tradition here at Temple Israel is a commitment to our youth and youth programs. Temple Israel is no "Johnny Come Lately" to the idea that we must invest heavily in our youth if we hope for a bright future for our Jewish people. Going back generations, Temple Israel set itself apart from all other congregations in our area by having a robust high school program. Our formal education program boasts one of the highest post-B'nei Mitzvah retention rates in the country. Our 500 families produce a hundred high school enrollees every year. Congregations, quadruple our size, often do not see numbers like that! Adding to our amazing formal program, is our unmatched youth group. TIFTY is outstanding in the scope of its activities and the number of kids who are involved. Again, in a region that boasts some of the largest synagogue communities in the entire world, it is TIFTY that is regularly the largest, most active and best youth group anywhere around. Why are we so successful?  Tradition! For generations, the commitment to our youth has been clear and our kids know the congregation, and Brotherhood and Sisterhood, are supporting their growth every step of the way.

In recognition of our success in youth programs, and because our reputation and tradition of being the communal gathering space, NFTY-NAR, the region that TIFTY is a part of, has asked us to host its Winter Kallah over the January 20 - 22 weekend! This is an honor, not just for our teens, but for all of us. We all contribute to the culture of success of our youth programs. Now, we can once again put our special form of Temple Israel hospitality on display as we play host to almost 200 teens from all over New York. As we have for more than a century, we’re calling on you to support our youth by offering to host – literally – all of these teens! We need people to open their homes to house all of them over the course of the weekend and to get them to and from Temple Israel throughout the weekend. Please show these teens, what we here in our community already know – that we are the best hosts! Contact Rabbi Nichols at RabbiNichols@tinr.org if you are willing to host. We hope you do!

Abraham & Sarah, the first Jews, according to our tradition, had a tent with no sides so that they could always see visitors, strangers and wanderers from afar. Why was this so important to them? Because they felt that hospitality was among the most important traditions they wanted to begin, and hand down all the way to us! Not much about Judaism has changed in the 4,000 years since they lived. Abraham & Sarah, and Rabbi Wohl too, can all be at ease knowing that we’ve learned their lessons well.

I look forward to seeing you both weekends in January.

Senior Rabbi Scott B. Weiner

Wednesday, December 7, 2016



Chanukah in the Kehillah School


It seems like when we mention Chanukah to young children their immediate reaction is “Presents.” We are inundated by a flood of advertisements and gift guides, especially during the holiday season. I always take joy in the look on a child’s face when a present is opened. Parents often say that all toddlers need is an empty gift-wrapped box and that is what their kids love opening and playing with most. With that being said, Chanukah goes beyond the “Presents”. There is more to it than that. What I enjoy most about Chanukah is watching children with their eyes wide open staring at the Chanukah candles burn in the dark of night.  If you could just figure out a way to put that awesome flicker into wrapping paper it would be the greatest Chanukah gift of all.

What can we do as parents to shift the focus from a nightly present party to seeing the meaningful light that Chanukah has to offer? This year think about incorporating Chesed (acts of kindness) into your nightly Chanukah ritual.  Here are 9 ideas (one for each candle) that you and your family can do to help bring a bit more light into this world.

1. Make dinner and dessert for a neighbor who is homebound, going through a rough time, or just someone who you think deserves a nice homemade meal.
2. Go through your child’s drawers and toys with them and select items to give away to those less fortunate.
3. Collect socks for homeless shelters (check out www.joyofsox.org or www.knockknockgiveasock.org).
4. Do housework, shovel snow, or garden for a neighbor.
5. Make crafts or jewelry for people in group homes, assisted living, or nursing homes.
6. Make cards to thank community helpers (perfect time to hit Pinterest for awesome ideas).
7. Send a care package to someone who lives far away.
8. Make a family Chanukah video, try to get it to go viral, and have people who view donate to a charity of choice (think ice bucket challenge).
9. Help animals in your community by offering to walk a neighbor’s dog or collecting items for an animal shelter. 

May the light of Chanukah bring a better world to all humankind.


Abra Goldemberg
Director of Early Childhood
Jewish Education
Roslyn Conroy
Director of the Kehillah School
for Early Learning


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Something Old, Something New ...


When my daughter Sonya was five years old, we had a very special bedtime tradition. Every night, in her lovely, little girl voice, she would sing the Sh’ma with the “traditional” melody composed by Solomon Sulzer in mid-nineteenth century Vienna. At first, she would sing it as she learned it, with her best possible Hebrew. But then she would sing it a second time, this time doing it her own way. Sometimes she would change the words or tune. Often she would echo each word as she sang (“sh’ma-ma-ma-ma Yisrael-el-el-el…). In short, she had a great time while singing the Sh’ma. That a five-year-old could have a great time performing a millennia old Jewish ritual every night is no small statement. It says a great deal about her, our family, Reform Judaism and the future of our Jewish rituals. And it exemplifies my ideals as a cantor and as a Jewish leader. I embrace tradition, but I also use it as a catalyst for new modes of worship, new ritual and new music. In order to create a vibrant, relevant Jewish experience for all, we need to embrace both our history and our unique, modern sensibilities.

Here at Temple Israel, we are lucky to have such diverse offerings of worship styles. In the month of December alone, we will share the following Shabbat services: Community Shabbat, Chanukah themed Family Shabbat, a more classical Friday night with Torah Service, and one Friday night simply welcoming Shabbat. If any of these appeal to you in particular (e.g. Torah Service, Organ and Choir, Kol Simcha, etc.), I would encourage you also to try a service that isn’t your typical fare. You may be surprised by the traditional elements found in our Family and Community Shabbatot, or how the Organ and choir can help inspire new experiences of prayer. Check the worship calendar!

Judaism has wonderful traditions. And as I am still quite new to our community, I am thoroughly enjoying learning the special Temple Israel twists on those traditions. In the months and years ahead I look forward to embracing and to building upon the beautiful traditions of our people and our community.

L’shalom,



 





Cantor Randall Schloss

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Our Sacred Ideals



Dear chevrei (friends),
I awoke this morning after a late night and woke up our girls to explain to them the results of the election last night.  They were upset, but mostly, they were shocked.  I feel shocked too.  Not at the results per se, but at the difference in the values that I voted for and the clear values statement many voters made yesterday: "I'm angry at the government and its dysfunction; I'm voting for the anti-government candidate."  Sadly, I also truly believe that there are those who voted against a woman president, against the progressive gains made by women, people of color and people on the sexuality spectrum over the last eight years.
Yesterday, I voted, proudly, with Limor and our girls based on our Jewish values - for inclusiveness, fairness, equality and tolerance.  These are values steeped in the Torah and in our experiences.  It is those very experiences that made the rhetoric of this campaign particularly painful to the Jewish community as a whole: race-baiting, anti-Semitism and nationalism have all been used against our people throughout our history.  We have a keen sensitivity to such words.  Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, where in 1938, the Nazi's officially began their persecutions of the Jews in Germany.  There needn't be a link between that day and the election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States.  This date, however, is a reminder that words and votes can lead to terrible outcomes.  If...
- If we turn our backs on our responsibility to be engaged citizens, vigilant in making sure that the dangerous words of the campaign do not become dangerous acts.
- If we turn our backs on our religious traditions of treating everyone with the notion that each of us is created in the image of the Divine and therefore should be treated with holiness.
- If we turn our backs on the concept of Tikkun Olam, that we are obligated to work to make our world a better place.
- If we turn our backs on those Americans who feel such despair at their lot in life that a protest vote feels like a last option.
- If we forget, for even one moment, our obligation to teach our children right from wrong, that ends justify the means and that divisiveness is a winning strategy in the long.
Zachor, "remember," the Torah implores us time and time again; remember injustices brought upon us and work to make our world a place of justice.  "Justice, justice, shall you pursue!"  Justice, we are taught, is not recrimination and revenge, but a balancing of the scales.  America is out of balance and we need to do our part to restore the balance.  That's what we Jews have done with the gift of American liberties - we've improved out lot in life and used that improved standing to make the lives of others, our country and the world better.
I pray, with all sincerity for the success of Donald Trump's presidency; not on policy grounds, but with the hope that his election spurs in our nation a desire to heal wounds, to right wrongs and to meet the needs of the citizenry.  We all bear a role in such a presidency, no matter whom we voted for.
My colleagues, Rabbi Nichols and Cantor Schloss, and I, are here for you.  Call, write, stop by.  In times of doubt, we need to be together as a beit knesset (synagogue), literally "the house of gathering" is just such a place.
Friday night, we will have our annual Shabbat service in commemoration of Kristallnacht and Veterans Day.  The two might seem incongruous, but they are not.  We retell the stories of our pain and suffering to remind ourselves of how bleak the world can be, but we also gather to show that we are not powerless and that in our moments of great distress, our nation is capable of unifying under the sacred ideals upon which this country was founded.  Join us, pray with us.
On Rosh Hashanah, my sermon ended with our community singing God Bless America.  We need God's blessings, as we always have.  And God needs us to do our part, to make whole what is broken.
Indeed, God, please bless America, and all Americans,
Weiner Signature
Scott Weiner