Bad Rabbi???? Sunday at 2

Sunday afternoon, do we have a treat for you!  Join us at 2PM for a fascinating talk from Eddy Portnoy.

He will be sharing crazy and interesting stories from the Yiddish press:

“Stories abound of immigrant Jews on the outside looking in, clambering up the ladder of social mobility, successfully assimilating and integrating into their new worlds. But this book is not about the success stories. It’s a paean to the bunglers, the blockheads, and the just plain weird—Jews who were flung from small, impoverished eastern European towns into the urban shtetls of New York and Warsaw, where, as they say in Yiddish, their bread landed butter side down in the dirt. These marginal Jews may have found their way into the history books far less frequently than their more socially upstanding neighbors, but there’s one place you can find them in force: in the Yiddish newspapers that had their heyday from the 1880s to the 1930s. Disaster, misery, and misfortune: you will find no better chronicle of the daily ignominies of urban Jewish life than in the pages of the Yiddish press.”

Cover of Bad Rabbi by Eddy Portnoy

Hey, where did the rabbi go?

I’m reposting from my personal blog, because I think it is important for you all to see what inspired me, and is helping me grow my rabbinate.  Recently I had the opportunity to study Torah with friends, colleagues and teachers from JTS.  The few days at Pearlstone were so powerful for me.  They helped me think about how I teach, how I learn, and what I love about being a rabbi.  It was an incredible experience.  Below is my blog and my thank you to JTS for the opportunity to participate.

From January 7-11, 2018, I had the privilege of attending the 33rd Annual Rabbinic Training Institute.  I am deeply grateful to my anonymous donor who helped make it possible for me to attend. Since my ordination, I’ve desired to go, but time and/or finances have never quite worked out.  I cannot fully express my appreciation to them for making it happen this year. Every year I would hear from colleagues what an amazing experience it was.  I heard of colleagues who have been every year for a decade or more.  They spoke highly of hevruta, of collegiality, of time for Torah that was truly Lishmah.

My time at Pearlstone was restorative.  It was enriching.  It was inspiring.  Studying with Rabbi Dr. Jeff Rubenstein, Rabbi Dr. Joel Roth, and Rabbi Dan Liben was so powerful.  The professional skills were also useful, but the Torah was simply on another plane.  I am grateful for having the opportunity to put text in context with Dr. Rubenstein, to think about how to connect Talmudic sources to our modern lives.  While I attempt (and regularly fail) at Daf Yomi, I enjoy the breadth of the material, of trying to think about how the rabbis would view our milieu.  Dr. Rubenstein really captured that spirit, juxtaposing modern and ancient texts in unique ways.  I was especially fond of the Israeli/Bavli intermarriage and comparison to Amelia Bedelia.


Studying with Rabbi Roth is always a pleasure. His digressions are as inspiring as his texts.  He finds ways of reminding us of the importance of studying from those we may disagree with, of looking at complicated and challenging issues and finding more positive solutions.  He is humorous and serious in a way that shows a living Torah.


Rabbi Liben’s manner of teaching was so gentle and yet so hopeful.  He brought an energy and a level of forgiveness that I needed at this time in my life.  The texts and practices he shared were a reminder of how we can build a spiritual practice through our sources, our prayers, our liturgy.  Again, the Torah he taught was vital, filled with a life force human and Divine.  


In our daily lives as rabbis, we strive to be present for our communities and congregants.  Sometimes we need a reminder to stop and take care of our own souls, our own bodies, our own spirits, our own hearts and minds.  RTI was a sacred gift.  It brought me closer to myself, to my friends, my Torah, and to our shared Shechinah, our Divine Presence.  It was a holy experience and I returned energized and enlivened.  Since I have returned, I have mentioned RTI on a daily basis.  The Torah I learned there is one that will be with me always.  I cannot wait to sign up for next year.

Parshat Shemot

What do we call the book? How do we remember?

Hanukkah celebrations

Over the last few nights we’ve celebrated Hanukkah as a community. Each night we’ve celebrated and honored members of the community with different backgrounds and roles. We thanks them for their hard work!

Another Mishnah

Always blessed to study Mishnah with my dear friends. Hope you can join me next Tuesday at 9:15am for our continued study!

Going on our way…

Happy Thanksgiving.  Here is a brief video I made about Jacob’s journey and ours.  Wishing you a meaningful time with your family and friends.

Interfaith Thanksgiving

How do we support one another?

On November 19, on Benkard Ave, I stood with a dozen local clergy members and almost 100 members of our Newburgh communities.  At St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, we heard beautiful music and had fellowship together.  We heard words from Isaiah, Psalms, and Corinthians–from the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Scriptures.  We sat and stood and sat and stood together.  We reminded ourselves that no matter our faith, we are one city.

Amidst these messages of peace and love, we shared good will.  We collected food and financial donations for Loaves and Fishes, which will feed over 1000 families in the City of Newburgh this year for Thanksgiving.  Thanks to donations from those attending, from supermarkets and the broader community, this miracle comes to pass every year.  Yet this miracle takes a lot of work to happen!

Every year it is down to the wire.  Every year, they do not know if they will have enough.  Usually, they find a way to make it work.  The families depend on the support of Loaves and Fishes.  Without it, they would have no turkey, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and more.  While it is just one place where the fixings for a meal are available, we know that across the city, churches, synagogues and social service agencies are ensuring that families have what they need.

My question is about the rest of the year.  What are we doing then?  Sure, I schlepped some heavy potato sacks this week, but how will I help next week?  Or in July?  I can see the appreciation when I had someone a turkey, but how do I help so they do not need one next year?

Recently, I have seen political, racial, religious divisions run deeper than ever before.  I have heard and seen hate against virtually every segment of our population.  My faith teaches that we are all created in the Image of the Holy One.  I pray that these small acts of kindness for Thanksgiving will inspire us to work together throughout the year.  Let us hire people for our businesses who don’t look like us.  Let us invite people for coffee and dinner who talk differently than us.  Let us remember that no matter our politics, our faith, our color, we are all one.  Let us be thankful for the blessings we share.  When we share a smile and a thank you, it’s a lot harder to find hate.  As Father Bill Damroth shared with us in the words of William Watkinson, it is “far better to light the candle than to curse the darkness.” Happy Thanksgiving!

PJ library

Looking forward to offering our thanks with PJ library tomorrow at 10:30am in the Copans Library. We will start with Havdalah, do a craft, sing songs, read PJ library books and have coffee for the grownups and donuts for everyone! Hope you have as much fun as we do!

What are you doing Sunday?

Join us this Sunday at 2PM to hear from Jen Glantz.  She is hilarious and entertaining.

Jen Glantz is the brains behind the business, Bridesmaid for Hire, the heart behind the blog, The Things I Learned From, and the main character inside of the Amazon-best selling book, All My Friends are Engaged. Her new book, Always a Bridesmaid for Hire, published by Simon and Schuster, is available now. Jen’s told her story to hundreds of press outlets around the world-wide, such as a the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, CNN and Fox News, where they called her job the “weirdest of all time”.  Jen is a mentor for New York City women entrepreneurs and a hired speaker for conferences and workshops around the country, such as SXSW, BBYO Convention, Google NYC Headquarters, and more.  She lives on the 26th floor of a New York City apartment, the size of a walk-in closet, where she eats way too much pizza & owes way too much money to the library across the street.


Good afternoon.  I’m always looking for new ways of reaching our community.  Here is a reminder to go vote today with a connection to this week’s parsha.  It’s one take, so I can’t edit it, but you get the point.