Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hurricane Harvey ... How Are You Helping?

Dear chevrei (friends),

Ah, unhappy, storm-tossed soul, with none to comfort you: I will make garnets your building-stones, and sapphires your foundations.
Two weeks ago, these were the opening words of the Haftarah portion from the prophet Isaiah. And now, there are millions of Americans storm-tossed by Hurricane Harvey. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by the storm as well as those on the ground providing aid and shelter. Reports are only beginning to quantify the amount of destruction, making it clear that recovery will be long and difficult.

Many in our community are looking for ways to provide assistance to the communities affected by the storm. In relief efforts following natural disasters there is often confusion about how best to provide help. In this case, the challenge is compounded by the ongoing rain and flooding, making it difficult to assess the damage.
With help from the Social Action Committee, we have compiled a short list of organizations that we know are directly working with storm victims and have immediate needs. We encourage you to give generously to these and other organizations.
  1. URJ Greene Family Camp: The Reform Movement's camp in Texas is spearheading two different initiatives. They have opened up the camp facility for families who need shelter. They are also organizing "Hurricane Harvey Houston Day Camp." In addition to providing a full day of supervision and activities for kids whose parents need to focus on storm recovery, the Day Camp will be serving families meals.
  2. Texas Diaper Bank: The Texas Diaper Bank helps families all year long, but are receiving a tremendous volume of requests from displaced families in need of diapers.
  3. Food Bank of Corpus Christi: The Food Bank is focused on getting food and water to displaced families.
There are two Reform congregations in Houston, Congregation Emanu El and Congregation Beth Israel. While they are still compiling data on the impact of the storm on their families, we do know that Beth Israel suffered extensive damage to its building, including the sanctuary flooding. Emanu El's building suffered only minor damage and will be hosting the day camp described above. In the coming weeks we will let you know if there are specific ways that we can help these congregations recover. We are especially proud of the work that Rabbi Josh Fixler, grandson of our member Thelma Fixler, is doing to provide comfort to his community in his first year as a rabbi at Congregation Emanu El.
In the Haftarah portion this week, also from the prophet Isaiah, God tells the people, "with love unending I take you in." May those forced to flee their homes by Hurricane Harvey feel this love through the actions of brave first-responders, kind neighbors, compassionate volunteers, and generous donors.

With great hope,
Rabbi Nichols signature
Rabbi Nichols

Monday, June 26, 2017

What Have I Learned My First Year as Your Cantor?


As I write this article, I am thinking back to this time last year when I was writing to introduce myself to the community. Well, I have now been your cantor for a year. I have gotten to know many of you, I have learned from you and I look forward to getting to know you better over the coming year. And I hope that many of you have gotten to know me, and that you have learned from me as well. But I want to focus on some of the things I have learned during my first year as your cantor:

You love this community.


That’s a strong but true statement. The only vague part is who “you” is. I’ll start with the congregation at large. Some of you regularly attend services. Some of you volunteer and commit time and talent to TINR. Some of you donate generously. Whatever your involvement, time and again you have shown how much you care about your community.
And the clergy and staff love this community. It is refreshing and energizing to work with colleagues who share such a strong commitment to this community. I enjoy working with all of my colleagues here at TINR and I am strengthened by their individual efforts and the overall commitment of the team.

You love music.

So many of you have shared your sincere appreciation for what I bring to this community, musically and otherwise. And the comments go well beyond typical praise. Clearly this congregation is made up of insightful and thoughtful appreciators of music and worship. This is not to say that I am not questioned or criticized on occasion. But those comments too show a love and respect for the role of music in the synagogue. I don’t expect everyone uniformly to love all the music we do here, but I certainly appreciate the passion that so many of you show for music in its infinite variety.
Many of you have also chosen to participate in creating music for our services. Whether you sing in one of our choirs, play instruments or have helped to lead through chanting our sacred texts, you have joined me in uplifting the community in song and prayer. In music, as in all things, we are stronger together.


You love this building.


We are lucky to inhabit such a beautiful building, designed by Percival Goodman in 1962. Clearly the mid-century modern architecture impacts the identity of our community—just look at our logo. It’s not a menorah or other Jewish symbol, but a stylized image of our building. But a building of this age, designed for a very different community more than 55 years ago, must change. How exciting that this summer we are able to renovate our sanctuary, thanks to the Raizen and Fadem families and their generous support. See all the pictures below!

Keeping with the ideals of Reform Judaism, we do not ignore our history. We seek to adapt and renovate in a way that respects the sanctity of the original design but allows the sanctuary to remain relevant and functional for contemporary worship. Besides an aesthetic freshening-up of the space, our renovation will lower the bimah, creating a stronger bond between congregation and clergy. The barriers between our synagogue musicians and the bimah will be removed, creating a direct connection between me and the other musicians, and a stronger bond between all of our musicians and the congregation. The more gracious space for musicians will also accommodate a grand piano, allowing us to create more varied musical worship. The sanctuary and bimah will become accessible to all with a ramp to the bimah and an integrated listening assistance system for the hearing impaired. The fixed pews will be replaced by flexible seating, allowing for unique seating arrangements that may suit a particular service or event. Improved lighting will enhance the worship experience for all.

By the time you are reading this, the renovation will already be underway. I encourage you to stop by the lobby to have a look at our renderings for the newly renovated sanctuary. And most importantly, mark your calendars for Shabbat evening, September 15 as we rededicate our sanctuary prior to the High Holidays.

Come Rosh Hashanah, we will be able to sing with full hearts, “Hashiveinu Adonai eilecha, v’nashuvah. Chadeish yameinu k’kedem.” Return us to You, Adonai, and we will return. Renew our days, as before. May this summer be a time of renewal for all.

L’shalom,








Cantor Schloss

Architect's Rendering

































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