Rosh Hashanah is coming, but first Selichot!

Sephardic Jews begin their preparations for Rosh Hashanah when Elul begins.  In addition to the daily blasts of the shofar, they begin waking up early and reciting Selichot, prayers of forgiveness and atonement.  They ask the Holy One to remember Her conversation with Moshe after the golden calf, to remember the 13 attributes of mercy, that Gd is gracious, merciful, forgiving of sin, etc., etc.

Ashkenazi Jews also blow the shofar every morning, but they do not begin their Selichot until the Saturday evening before Rosh Hashanah (most years).

This year, my colleague Rabbi Freedman of Temple Beth Jacob, Stefanie Kostenblatt of Newburgh JCC, and I (Rabbi Philip Weintraub) of Congregation Agudas Israel, wanted to figure out how to inspire more people this time of year.  How do we get people excited for Rosh Hashanah, while also considering a public response to the growing hatred and violence in our nation and around the world?  How can we speak out against hatred, racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamic, anti-LGBTQ, anti-American, and even Nazi/KKK propaganda? After some brainstorming, we decided that Selichot was an incredible opportunity, a tremendous gift.  It was already a time for repentance, to discuss areas of growth.  If we opened that to the community, we could find new ways of talking about race, hope, love and their opposites in this country.

We invited everyone we could think of, but until they started coming in, we did not know what our numbers would look like.  Approximately 200 people from across the City of Newburgh and its surrounding municipalities came.  We saw Mayor Kennedy, City Councilpeople and Town officials.  It was a truly pluralistic event.  We had a gospel choir from Ebenezer Baptist Church.  And the words from their Senior Pastor, Bruce Davis, Sr. were incredible.  He used the Bible to teach an important message of appropriate outrage AND cooperation.

Chaplain Patt Kauffman joined us on the 16th anniversary of her ordination and her reading of the Psalms was truly inspiring.

 

 

 

We heard a message of love and peace from Imam Rashada, of Masjid Al-Ikles in Newburgh.

I think it was probably the first time on our bimah we heard the Muslim Call to Worship AND a song about Jesus.  Some might find that theologically challenging, but to me, it is a tremendous blessing.  We shared our space with our friends and neighbors.  We called out to Gd and created a sacred moment.  We did not try to blend our traditions, but to hear from the best of all of them.  We learned about one another and saw the beautiful parallels we share.

 

We heard voices from the Catholic tradition, saw friends in all sorts of elegant clerical garb, and truly reflected on our place in the universe.

 

 

While we asked everyone to limit themselves to 6 minutes, I may have used a little more time–but I did try to capture the lessons that each spiritual leader had shared before me.

My words from tonight's incredible evening.

Posted by Rabbi Philip Weintraub on Saturday, September 16, 2017

Rabbi Freedman got us all to think about the Al-Chet, and what we should be asking forgiveness for today. His reminder that we all need to be a bit more “uppity”, that we must not stand by when we hear racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, or any other hurtful -ism brought people to their feet.

I didn’t list everyone here, but it was a beautiful night.  Many thanks to Stefanie Kostenblatt and Rabbi Larry Freedman for their organizational abilities, beautiful teachings and cooperation in this beautiful night.  As I go into the Yamim Noraim, the High Holy Days, I am inspired, uplifted and sure that through our cooperation, we can do amazing work.  Our country is a very special place, where people can come from all different backgrounds, faiths, and traditions and work together to build community.   Hallelujah!

Thank you very much to Caryn Sobel for her beautiful photography.

Babka!

Thanks to Sharon Sarna for joining us and the Jewish Federation Of Greater Orange County for sponsoring.

We are learning about babka! What a delicious way to spend the afternoon.

Some of the lessons we learned, with amazing photos can be found on Amazon: Modern Jewish Baker: Challah, Babka, Bagels and More

Important lesson-buy high quality flour and chocolate! It really does make a difference!

For more about Jewish cooking, check out Shannon’s blog:

The Nosher

Hate here? Now?

Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta, the history of the Civil Rights movement was real and present. Yet even there, it felt like history. Sure, we knew there were "rednecks" who still spoke vile words, yet the only time anyone ever yelled "Kike" at me was walking to shul with a large group of Christians in Valdosta, GA at the Governor's Honors Program. They were more offended than I was-so surprised at never having experienced it before.

The last couple years history has come back to life for those of us privileged enough not to experience racism on a regular basis. We know that our African-American brothers and sisters have always experienced it, yet for Jews and their paler brothers and sisters racism and anti-Semitism seemed dormant. (They weren't. They were around, we just weren't looking at the signs.)

http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-1.806446


These sides are not parallel. There are no "all sides" when we talk about hatred. We are completely missing the boat if we think there is any parallel between those calling against violence and those promoting it.

I'm talking with my clergy colleagues about how we can react positively in Newburgh and show that hate is not welcome here. Hope you will be able to help!

Wherever we go there is always someone Jewish…

A classic camp song is "Wherever you go there is always someone Jewish." Full lyrics: https://pjlibrary.org/HGF_ResourceCenter/media/LiveResourceLib/Wherever-You-Go.docx
Larry Milder writes:
Wherever you go,
There’s always someone Jewish.
You’re never alone when you say you’re a Jew.
So when you’re not home, and you’re somewhere kind of newish,
The odds are, don’t look far – ‘cause they’re Jewish, too.

Today I took the show on the road and visited Steve Licker, our board chairman, across the river at Starbucks in Poughkeepsie.
There we discussed issues of the day, shul, Torah, Talmud and most important how we must always continue learning.

One of the most important lessons of community is that it is always there for you. You can find it anywhere-both directly from the synagogue and by playing Jewish geography. We always have opportunities to connect to one another-and it is partly open to you. Without U, commnity looks pretty funny. So show up, participate and maybe the someone Jewish will be U!

As close to us as breathing…

Life is not just ritual. Religion is not only prayer. In order to be connected to our heritage, we must look beyond our four walls.

Once a month we read a book. Sometimes they are Jewish authors. Sometimes Jewish content. Sometimes they just strike our fancy and inspire interesting conversation.

This month we explored love, loss and complex family dynamics with Elizabeth Poliner's As Close to us as Breathing.

Perhaps I'll update this with meaningful comments from the group. Even if I do not, I hope to see your thoughts on this great book below!

Torah everywhere!

Anywhere we go is a place to study Torah. (Well maybe not the bathroom, but almost anywhere! In fact there is a story that the Lubavitcher Rebbe would study his biology homework there, but that's a different conversation.

I enjoy supporting our local businesses. Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, I can be found at 2Alices Coffee on Broadway, here in Newburgh. (It's right next to the Ritz Theater on lower Broadway.

Tuesday mornings at 9am I study Mishnah. We just finished Moed Katan this morning and began Tractate Rosh Hashanah-learning about the 4 New Years in Jewish tradition. We will meet again on August 15. All are welcome-no knowledge of Hebrew necessary.

Wednesday morning at 9am is an open office hour that I like to call #asktherabbi or #popuprabbi. Join me to discuss any issue that comes to mind. I'll be there July 26 and then August 16. Hope to see you there.

It’s a mitzvah!

One of the blessings of our partnership with Temple Beth Jacob is the opportunity to work together. This week the partnership shined at a yahrzeit minyan. Members of TBJ & CAI both were remembering their parents. Together we had a great turnout and even some cookies.
Community means coming together to celebrate and to mourn. Here in Newburgh, we do both well! Join us!

Friday night

What does your Friday night look like?

There is an old story about the angels we welcome with Shalom Aleichem. One is friendly, one not so much. If the table is set for Shabbat, the songs are sung and the meal is shared, the bad angel must say Amen to the good angels prayer that next week will be the same.

If nothing is set and Shabbat is ignored, the good angel must say amen to the icky angel's prayer that next week will look the same.

This past Shabbat we had a lovely dinner and services at Congregation Agudas Israel.

In August we will have Luau Shabbat with our friends at the JCC and TBJ. In September, all will be invited to the rabbi's backyard for a festive Shabbat dinner. I pray you can join us!

Beautifying our home

We live in an imperfect world.  Too often we see violence, misery, hate, and more depressing images on TV than we can process.

Our tradition teaches us that we always commanded to increase holiness.  One way to do that is to make the world a little more beautiful.  A few weeks ago, two members donated a picnic table.  This table allows our office staff a place to eat outside, is located in our sukkah spot and will be ready for the fall.  Yet it was, for lack of a better word, ugly.  With the help of some young (and not-quite-as-young) volunteers, we now have a beautiful art piece outside AND you can eat on it.

Be inspired.  Make your world a little prettier and your day will improve.

Are you ready to daven?

We had an amazing evening working on our davenning skills. Join us next Thursday night at 7:30pm and you'll be ready for any prayer we throw your way!