Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Welcome Cantor Schloss and family to Temple Israel of New Rochelle!

 The Schloss Family: (l to r) Sonya, Leah, Cantor Schloss, Maya

Welcome Cantor Schloss and family!

Mark Zborowsky was a valuable NKVD agent and mole who infiltrated the Trotskyist organization in Paris on behalf of the Soviet Union in the 1930’s. He was also an anthropologist and happens to be the great-uncle of my wife, Leah. In 1952 he co-authored the seminal book on the culture of the Shtetl, Life is with People. Apparently, Fiddler on the Roof bases its conception of life in the shtetl on Mark Zborowsky’s work.

I am no expert on Shtetl life and Yiddish culture. Unfortunately I never got to meet Leah’s great-uncle who undoubtedly was a fascinating man. But I completely agree with his concept, whether in the Shtetl, in Israel, or here in the United States: life is indeed with people. A shtetl was not the physical village where Jews lived in Eastern Europe, a shtetl was the community that lived there. While we may be proud of our synagogues’ beautiful architecture and enviable facilities, it is the community that makes a synagogue.

I came to be a cantor through community. I grew up in a somewhat typical, not particularly observant Jewish home. I went to Hebrew School (occasionally), became bar mitzvah, went to synagogue on the High Holidays, had a lovely Passover seder and lit lots of Chanukah candles. And, I have made music throughout my entire life. In high school, my academic work suffered more than a little due to my participation in music: I sang in two choirs, an acappella  group and in musical theater; I played guitar and drums in a blues band, a rock/funk band and the school jazz band; I played cello in the orchestra and a string quartet; and I was program director of our radio station. Ever since I was a little kid people have often told me (beginning with my grandparents), “You should be a cantor!” My first impression of a cantor was the dramatic singer who almost always seemed to be crying to God. I wasn’t sure if that was for me. Only after speaking with my own Rabbi and Cantor as a young adult did I come to understand that to be a cantor, to be clergy, is really a community service position. Clearly music is central to what I do as a cantor: I lead joyful and spiritual services through affective music, I give concerts, I compose, I teach music to children and adults and I conduct choirs. But music is my medium, not the message. The message is community—sacred Jewish community.

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “To attain a degree of spiritual security one cannot rely upon one’s own resources. One needs an atmosphere, where the concern for the spirit is shared by a community…It is the task of the Cantor to create the liturgical community, to convert a plurality of praying individuals into a unity of worship.” I couldn’t agree more! But Heschel wrote those words about fifty years ago, when the role of the cantor was almost exclusively as a leader of worship. A cantor now must work to create moving worship, but also help to build this shared community spirit through every aspect of synagogue life. I love that my role of cantor requires this breadth of experience and connection. For example, at my former congregation, I led a Shabbat celebration with several of our preschool classrooms every Friday morning. On its own, this seems like a simple (and fun!) task: sing Shabbat songs with adorable children. But this is just the beginning. Parents visit and share the joy that their children express while celebrating Shabbat. They see the connection between what we do in the classroom and what we do in the synagogue during Shabbat services. And many of them bring the songs and rituals home for their family observance of Shabbat. I have joyfully discussed issues of Jewish ritual and practice, Shabbat observance, musical participation and much more with dozens of families with young children. Last year, a divorced father of a 4-year-old (both non-Jews) became so moved by his son’s participation in the Jewish life of our school and synagogue that the two of them are now working with me toward conversion to Judaism. While I have forged a deep personal connection with this family, it is the combined efforts of our educators, clergy, staff and community members that truly made them feel so welcome and connected.

I am so thrilled to be sharing my love of Judaism and music with the Temple Israel community beginning this summer. I can’t wait to make music together, to learn together, to pray together and to share life together. The people I have already met, Rabbis Weiner and Nichols, many staff members and leaders of your community have already made Leah, our daughters, Maya and Sonya, and me feel so welcome. I look forward to your community becoming our community and to joining Temple Israel as its cantor.

Cantor Randall Schloss

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Lloyd Robinson - Temple Israel of New Rochelle's President

Dear Chevrei (Friends),

Alas, I am writing my last Temple Topics article as your President. The past three years have been nothing short of amazing and I have cherished my time serving all of you. Together we have accomplished so much and we all should be proud of the work we have done. I say “we” because nothing that has happened at TINR these past three years could have happened without all of your support and dedication. I really want to thank all of you that volunteered your time, gave your financial support and guided me during my tenure. While I may not miss all the meetings, phone calls and emails, I will certainly miss my interactions with all of you.

Over the past few months I have thanked many of you and if I thanked everyone in this column I’d have to take up the whole issue with just saying “thank you.” All I want to say is that our congregants, clergy and staff are all amazing and I could not be more proud of all of you. Our congregants’ dedication to Temple Israel is so heartwarming. Our Rabbis have done a remarkable job, especially with not having a Cantor this past year.  Cantor Schloss will be a great addition to the Clergy team and I really look forward to having him join us in July. I have praised our staff numerous times throughout these past three years but no amount of praise is enough to thank them for all they have done to make all of us proud. 

I will single out the officers plus two groups that really helped shape and move my agenda forward these past three years.  Liz Weingast, Mindy Stark, Stacy Spiegel, Mark Kleinman, Richard Stoerger, David Itzkowitz, Paul Warhit and Marji Karlin - I cannot thank all of you enough for your unwavering support. Through many meals and some wine and bourbon, we were able to create a vision for TINR’s future that Liz will certainly continue. From the Kehillah expansion, to “TINR 2100” and so many other projects and initiatives - your support made it all happen.

So as this chapter of my 40 plus years at Temple Israel closes I am so looking forward to being just a “regular congregant” and seeing all of you in the pews and at all the great events that TINR offers.

In closing I really want to thank my family for enduring all the meetings and phone calls that took time away from you.  Thank you for allowing me to lead TINR these past three years. I know sometimes it was hard but I also know that I had your love and support. Be careful what you wish for because Barb, Ash, Ari and Ben, I am not sure you are ready to have me around.

Once again thank you all so much, and I hope I made all of you proud.

Lloyd Robinson
President, Temple Israel

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

There's a New Cantor in Town!

Welcome Cantor Randall Schloss!

Dear Chevrei (Friends),

Nearly a year ago, Temple Israel set off on a search for its next cantor. While the process might be best served by having an American Idol style contest – which would leave us with a great singer – the search for a cantor here needs to have far more depth because we expect our cantor to have much more than a great voice. An American Idol style process would have overlooked the many things that our leadership, guided by our Worship Taskforce’s blueprint for the future of worship and community life, was seeking in a new cantor. We were on the hunt for a well-rounded, professional clergyperson who could bring us into that future by bringing a bevy of skills, talents and personality traits to meet our unique needs. We have found such a person in Cantor Randall Schloss, coming to us from Brookline, Massachusetts. 

Cantor Schloss brings us nine years of pulpit experience, a lifetime of musical abilities (he plays many instruments including cello, guitar, drum, piano), an outstanding vocal range (from folk music to opera – he used to be a professional opera singer), and a full gamut of pastoral skills. He composes music, conducts choirs, is relatable and academic (he holds four degrees!), and is an all-around genuinely good person. He fits all the criteria we set out to find all those months ago; our Cantorial Search Committee deserves many kudos for their work.

Every synagogue would want to have a cantor with all of these skills, though not everyone can find such a person. Beyond all of these skills, however, comes the mission of the job as it is here at Temple Israel. Years ago, our Worship Task Force laid out several key elements necessary to transform our worship to meet both our current needs and meet the needs of our ever-evolving future here. These include some tall orders – fully integrating our new prayerbook (which we have been using, but not to its fullest abilities), shifting our music to include more instrumentation and contemporary musical settings, using the Reform Movement’s new High Holiday prayerbook, creating a seamless congregational repertoire spanning the ages of our congregation – from our infants to our oldest seniors - and, perhaps most important, using Jewish music to elevate our collective voices – be that in the sanctuary, in youth group or on the march towards a socially just world.

Rabbi Nichols and I have worked over the last few years to make much of this a reality with help from the Worship Committee, the Board and many lay leaders. But, as valiant as our attempts have been, we have been missing something – in the words of that great sage, Reggie Jackson, we’ve been without “the straw to stir the drink!”  Throughout the many months of searching for a cantor, one candidate felt, to us, like that catalyst Temple Israel needs to make it all come together. We both feel that Cantor Schloss’ combination of skills and experiences will get us where we want to go; where we need to be in the future.

While there is never any guarantee that a new clergy person will be a perfect fit, we have some measure of security in Cantor Schloss. Not only have I seen him create dynamic worship, lead great singing and craft engaging communities, I have done it with him. Cantor Schloss and I have shared the pulpit before – both at Central Synagogue and at my former congregation, the Hebrew Tabernacle, both in Manhattan. I have seen firsthand, and experienced firsthand, the power of Cantor Schloss’ abilities. Even more, I know that wherever he has been in his career he has made a mark that is long remembered for its excellence, caring and attention to detail.  This is a collegial partnership that I am happy to renew on our bimah here in New Rochelle.
I know that you are as excited as Rabbi Nichols and I are to have Cantor Schloss lead us for years to come. July 1st is just around the corner, and so is a bright future. 

Welcome, Cantor Schloss!

Senior Rabbi Scott B. Weiner

Monday, March 21, 2016

Kehillah's Passover Story ... Preparing for the Tot Seder

Some of us involved in Jewish education, joke about a common theme throughout all the Jewish holidays: “They tried to get us - they didn’t - let’s eat.” Some families who conduct a 20 minute Passover Seder, or wish they conducted a 20 minute Seder, may relate to that, but we all know there is much more to Passover and the meaning behind retelling the story each and every year!

For the youngest members of our community, the Passover story is a complex tale of adventure with long-reaching lessons. There are numerous concepts involved in the Passover story and each year we choose a few for each of our age groups to explore according to the children’s interests and abilities.

In preparation for our 2nd Annual Tot Seder on Saturday, April 16 at 11:00 am, we will focus on the characters of the story and try to imagine the thoughts and feelings they had during the unfolding of the years of slavery, the adjustment to freedom, and the process of journeying toward the Land of Israel and our People’s bright future. At our Tot Seder, we will be dressed as Israelites and welcome guest participants like King Pharoah, Moses & Miriam & Aaron, and of course, the main character…God! If you have little ones who might enjoy this participatory preparation for Passover, please join us on April 16. Call Nancy Bossov in the Kehillah School for more information (637-3808) or to reserve a spot in the tent!   

Nancy Bossov
Director of Early Childhood Programs

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Temple Israel Youth Travel to Puerto Rico!

Straight From Puerto Rico!
Did you know that Rabbi Beth Nichols is with our Temple Israel youth in Puerto Rico learning about the culture and making a difference with a service project! Check out their own blog link and pictures below. It's amazing what young adults can do ...


Greetings! We have a new blog post and photos! Please visit our trip journal/blog link below (we will send you an e-mail with each new update).

And, be sure to LIKE us on Facebook because we will load ALL the photos (in higher resolution) onto our page and then you can download them.

We are also posting photos on Instagram, follow us @globalworkstravel or tag photos with #globalworkstravel

The Global Works Home Office Team (hosts of Temple Israel Youth travelers)


Monday, February 1, 2016

Let's Prepare for Purim 2016!

Do you know what the FOUR Purim Mitzvot you can do to celebrate Purim?
Read on, while Rebecca Elkus-Ferst, Chavaya Director, shares with you!

Purim is headed our way in the month of March, and it’s a special holiday with obligations (yes, obligations) that are really fun to take part in. We can’t wait to celebrate this incredibly enjoyable holiday with you and your families, and with the rest of the community. See the cover for the schedule of Purim events. Did you know that there are FOUR Purim Mitzvot that you can do to celebrate the holiday?  

READING THE MEGILLAH is one of the four mitzvot (commandments) of Purim. We hope you’ll join us at Temple Israel for our Purim Schpiel and Megillah reading on Wednesday evening, March 23 at 7:30 p.m.

A SEUDAT MITZVAH, a festive meal or party, is another of the four mitzvot of Purim. We hope you’ll have a chance to celebrate with friends and family! Many people eat hamantaschen (oznei haman) on Purim as well. 

MISHLOACH MANOT is the mitzvah of sending food gifts to at least one other family. The only rule is that it should consist of at least two different kinds of food. It’s a great way to connect with other members of the community! You’ll notice the handy flyer in this month’s Temple Topics which tells you all about this year’s Mishloach Manot fundraiser for Chavaya or you can click here!. If you have not purchased Mishloach Manot in past years we hope you will take the opportunity to do so this year. Each bag purchased helps support Chavaya programming. Please purchase your bags and bring Purim joy to your friends and family while supporting our program. Want to do that now? Click here! And, help support Temple Israel and Chavaya!

MATANOT L’EVYONIM, or gifts to the poor, is another Purim obligation. In the Purim story in the Book of Esther, we learn that people sent two kinds of gifts as part of their celebration – to their friends (Mishloach Manot) and to the poor (Matanot l’Evyonim). It’s a beautiful part of Judaism that we celebrate our victories and successes by giving Tzedakah to those in need (the religious obligation to do what is right and just). There are many values we can learn from the Purim story as well, and among them are that we can surmount evil and that everyone – both girls and boys – can act in a heroic way. The heroes of the Purim story are women who don’t give up on what is right and men who stand up for what they believe in – and we can all learn a lot from that! We also learn that while Judaism in the home is important, our community is a crucial part of who we are. We are obligated to be good friends (giving gifts) and to take care of the poor (monetary gifts), and even to have a party and invite other people (seudat mitzvah). So as we get ready to celebrate Purim, let’s focus on the values we can learn together as one community!

Rebecca Elkus-Ferst
Chavaya Director

Monday, November 30, 2015

Chavaya Family Mitzvah Day ... Sunday, December 20

The months of November and December are certainly filled with opportunities for us to give of ourselves. As we finished celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, we reflected on the things and people we appreciate. Perhaps we even had the opportunity for someone else to let us know that something we did meant a great deal to them. 

This month the temple will be buzzing with opportunities for people to give back and do good. Our annual “Giving Tree” made its debut in the lobby in November so if you have not yet had the chance to “adopt” a child and purchase a gift or if you wish to make a donation to HOPE Community Services and sponsor food, please visit the “Giving Tree” today! Gifts are being collected until Sunday, December 13.

Families of all ages have the chance to give this month at our first Chavaya Mitzvah Day on Sunday, December 20, held in partnership with the Social Action Committee. Mitzvah Day will run from 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. with various activities.

HOPE Community Services - the New Rochelle non-profit that provides cooked meals and non perishable foods to families in need. We will be creating decorations for their upcoming Christmas meals.
Community Service Associates - provides services that nourish not only the physical but also the social and psychological needs of the poor and disenfranchised in the Mount Vernon area. We will be creating food baskets for the soup kitchen.

My Sister’s Place - strives to engage each member of society in our work to end domestic violence, so that all relationships can embrace the principles of respect, equality, and peacefulness. Temple Israel will be creating baby toiletry packages.
The Sharing Shelf - provides new and gently used clothing to children living below the poverty line in Westchester County. We will be collecting new hats, scarves  and gloves for children. 

The Humane Society of Westchester at New Rochelle - dedicated to promoting the human/animal bond through the compassionate care and treatment of animals throughout the communities we serve in Westchester County and beyond. Temple Israel will be creating pet friendly chew toys 

Additionally, we will be collecting new diapers, baby wipes, baby shampoo, new hats, scarves and gloves to send to the organizations listed above. If you are able to help with these collections please bring these items to the collection boxes located near the Chavaya and Kehillah offices or in the Temple lobby.

Chavaya Mitzvah Day will conclude with a pizza lunch co-sponsored by the Brotherhood and Sisterhood. We are very excited for Chavaya Mitzvah Day and thank the Brotherhood, Sisterhood and Social Action Committee for helping make this a successful event! We look forward to seeing you then, giving back to our community.

Click here for the flyer ... and email Rebecca Elkus Ferst (Chavaya Director) or Mia Egelberg or Amy Ecker (Social Action Committee Members) to volunteer your time! We need your donations and time to make this event successful!

Rebecca Elkus-Ferst
Chavaya Director

When purchasing for the "Giving Tree" or any other holiday shopping this season, please consider Temple Israel through Amazon. Click here to be directed to Temple Israel's dedicated Amazon link.