On Saying Goodbye

A message of thanks from Rabbi Weintraub:

This is a very strange month for me.  As I prepare to depart from Newburgh and Congregation Agudas Israel on July 1, 2018, I am beginning to contemplate my new life in St. Petersburg with Congregation B’nai Israel.  I wonder what will be the same and what will be different? What will my responsibilities entail? How will I be welcomed and how will I ensure that the synagogue there is a place of welcoming for all?

As I ponder those questions, I have been working on the challenging text of winding down here.  I have been trying to keep up my normal working activities, while also making extra efforts to make phone calls, meet in person, sit down and talk to the people of CAI.  For the last seven years, they have been by my side in so many different ways. We have studied Torah together, prayed together, shared celebrations and mourned together.  As I go about these coffees, lunches, dinners, meetings I have become overwhelmed by the words of kindness I have heard. I have discovered that small gestures on my part have been received as larger than life by their recipients.  A phone call, a text message, a Facebook post, a hospital or home visit.

For me, these are what I imagine is expected behavior from a rabbi.  Our job, our career is study, prayer, inspiration, but most of all, it is to be present with the souls of those around us.  The job is not just what we put down on paper or in the ether of the internet, but in the human interactions that are far harder to tally.  I might have made lists of the thousands of phone calls, hundreds of visits, and far too many funerals, but instead we all have our respective memories.  

Through it all, I am most grateful to my beloved.  She has stood by me through interrupted dinners, evenings, nights.  She has known that those “interruptions” were sacred moments, calls to be with people in their brightest and darkest moments.  Being a rabbi is more than a full time position. My phone is always nearby. Even on Shabbat, we can be reached via the doorbell. None of this would be possible without her support and her love. My work is in my office and yours,  in my home and yours, within the community in so many different ways. As I say my goodbyes around town, I discover that within the community I am a (very) minor celebrity, that my gestures of goodwill have been well received.

All in all, I am grateful for the time I have spent here.  For me, Newburgh and CAI was a place of personal, spiritual, intellectual growth.  It was a place where I took the theory of my education and turned it into practical ministry, practical rabbinics. Sometimes I made mistakes, and I hope that I took responsibility for them, that I learned from them. I have never claimed to be perfect, but am always striving to be better, to build a kesher, a connection with Gd and community.

Leaving is bittersweet.  New opportunities beckon, new adventures await, yet the love I have for this community will always remain.  CAI and Newburgh are holy places. They have been an essential part of my rabbinic journey. I pray for the strong, bright, vibrant future of these holy communities.

 

Yom Hashoah

Since 1981 the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs has commemorated the Shoah with Yellow Candles.
https://www.fjmc.org/content/yellow-candles-home

They have reminded us of the importance of remembering.  They have shown us that while the number of living survivors dwindles each year, that we are perilously close to having no one left with their own memories, WE are the memories.  Our existence as Jews is a living memorial to the Shoah.

The Shoah is in our bones.  It is in our DNA.  Every living Jew is a reminder of the failure of Nazi Germany and its collaborators throughout Europe.

Today, we must remember.  We must see the blood, the hate, and most perilously, we must see how ordinary the violence was and remains.

If only immigration was possible for our relatives.
If only more Germans had stood up against Hitler.
If only the League of Nations had done anything.
If only more Poles and Ukranians hadn’t been ready to hand over or murder their neighbors.
If only Stalin had done something, like welcomed more refugees.
If only Roosevelt had done something, like bombing the tracks to Auschwitz.
If only Churchill had done something, like opening the doors of Mandate Palestine.
If only…

And yet, what happens today?  Across the world there is violence and unrest, nationalism, fascism, hatred are again rearing their ugly heads.  What are we doing?  Are we welcoming the stranger? Are we feeding the hungry?  Are we staying quiet?  Are we speaking out?

I am proud to be Jewish.  I am proud to speak of my identity, my religion, my faith, my Gd.  I am grateful that others spoke out for me.  I am grateful that my ancestors came to the United States to escape persecution and find new opportunities.  I am grateful to the FJMC for their work in sharing memories and creating new ones.  We must continue to remember and speak out.

Please join us tomorrow night at SUNY Orange in Middletown:

http://www.sunyorange.edu/news/articles/pr2018-020.shtml

Yahrzeit Candle

This annual Yom Hashoah Community Commemoration event will feature author and trauma coach Emily Cohen at the Rowley Center for Science and Engineering, April 12 at 7pm.

Second Sunday’s

One of the great blessings of our community is our membership. Amazing volunteers his year have organized incredibly Sunday afternoon programming. We’ve had multiple speakers, including book talks and cooking demonstrations. Great food has always been a part of the offerings.

This week we were blessed to share the story of the Catskills-the Jewish Bible Belt. No wait, I mean the best vacation destination in Jewish history. Either way it was a place of great humor and more food than anyone could eat. To celebrate our local heritage we had the food you might have found at Kutscher’s!

 

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.

https://rabbiweintraub.blogspot.com/2018/01/thank-you-jts-rti-was-amazing.html

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!