Posts

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.

The true meaning of Shabbat

We are blessed to be having company for Shabbat dinner this week.  We will be asking our guests questions as part of https://onetable.org/togetheratthetable/

We will find a positive spin on the craziness that has been this week.  Shabbat is a gift to us.  It is an opportunity to be apart rather than a part of the regular news cycle.  It is a time to separate from all that drives us berserk and allow ourselves time to recover.

This week let us find calm.  Let us find peace.  Let us find Shalom.

The root of Shalom is Shalem, שלם meaning wholeness.  When we find true peace, we feel ourselves a little more whole.

Tonight we are having a dinner that blends east and west.  We will have Sesame Chicken, Veggie Lo Mein, challah, brownies.  The recipes are Americanized versions of Asian, Jewish, and wherever brownies came from cuisine.  I think it will be delicious.  When we come together, we can create new opportunities.  Blending these different elments and flavors is not just a hodgepodge, but a statement of identity.  It is a reminder that we all look different.  We all come from different places, but we can find ways to sit down together.  We can talk to one another.  We can love one another.

Shabbat Shalom!

Working and celebrating together

This past Friday night we celebrated Aloha Shabbat together.

With the support of the Jewish Federation of Orange County, the Newburgh JCC organized a beautiful Shabbat dinner. Grilled chicken skewers, salads and more helped bring TBJ and CAI together. Beautiful music from Ross Levy inspired us all.

Rabbi Freedman reminded us what a blessing it is to work together. Too often we live in a society divided. Politics, religion and stubbornness push us apart. We forget our shared values-even among Am Yisrael-among the Jewish people.

Yet here in Newburgh, we find ways to work together. We celebrate our differences and even find time to pray together!

Across our denominational lines, we made beautiful music. We recognized the unity of the Holy One. We sang; we danced; we ate!

Thanks to the blessing of all coming together, finding a moment of unity in a seemingly discordant world. These are the moments that will help us build a peaceful future. When we can come together under one tent, we can find beauty and love.

The world really does change in a moment-and you are a part of it!

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!

Comfort my people

Nachamu, Nachamu Ami…
Listen here for Neshama Carlebach's beautiful rendition of the opening of this week's haftorah:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFAFOQlBCmw&list=PLPQFCYsbHfHEawXD4VCyKZS8eVyvIz57j

Comfort me, comfort my people opens this week's haftorah. After Tisha B'Av, we remind ourselves that we are counting down to Rosh Hashanah, to the opportunity of redemption, repentance, tshuvah, and the resulting forgiveness. How often do we think about our capability for change?

So often we live in a world that assumes our own immutability. We see the world around us and even ourselves as static. We say you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

And yet, and yet, and yet our tradition says the opposite. Our counter-cultural Jewish tradition reminds us that we ALWAYS have the capability to change. It doesn't matter if we are 4 or 104. We can choose our destiny. We have the free will to create new opportunities for ourselves. We can hit reset-right now.

As you listen to Neshama's beautiful rendition of her father's song, think about what you are going to work on this year. Don't get trapped into thinking your life is what it is today. What small steps will you take? What big steps will they lead to? Are you satisfied with yourself and the world around or can you make new partnerships to improve both?

Shabbat shalom a wee bit early!

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!

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!