We honored adult and teen volunteers at our Annual Meeting on Tues.
Mazal tov to Melanie Massell, Caroline Temlock Teichman and Roni Lang, winners of the Fred Weisman Award, and to Alexa Baer, winner of the Outstanding Teen Award. Photos courtesy of Dan Young. See more at the end of our Spring 2016 photo album.
Join us if you can for Kabbalat Shabbat this evening, as Judy Aronin, a woman so cherished by our entire community, will be speaking about the trials and triumphs of her recent health challenges - and sponsoring the Oneg Shabbat as well. Thank you, Judy!
It will also be the final Shabbat for a number of weeks where both Cantor Fishman and I will be leading the service together. Next Friday, on July 1, I'll be going solo, and we'll bring back a summertime favorite: the service will be outdoors, weather permitting.
I've spent the last three days attending a special seminar at the invitation of Domus, a human services nonprofit here in Stamford. This program, entitled "Undoing Racism," brought together people from many walks of life, including police and fire fighters, educators, social service officials, students, legal professionals and clergy, to learn together and engage in dialogue on the root causes of racism and how to address them in our community. It was a profoundly moving and enlightening experience for me. I believe I was the only Jew among the 35 in the room, and with one exception, the only clergy as well, so I had a lot to contribute, as well as plenty to learn from this very diverse group.
I'm sure I'll have much to say about this seminar over the coming months, but for now, I just need to digest it all.
Meanwhile, you might want to check out my latest featured op-ed for Times of Israel,Jewish Prayer: A Filibuster of the Soul.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Our video montage of 2015-16, produced by Dana Horowitz
As the programming year comes to a close, the Shabbat-O-Gram will be taking a hiatus, giving us all some time to breathe deeply, looking backward at what has been accomplished and forward to the challenges ahead. (Of course I reserve the right to send out the occasional e-mail, it just won't be an official Shabbat-O-Gram).
Here is part of what I reported at the Annual Meeting:
"Other synagogues tout their love of Judaism. For TBE it is all about loving and caring for people. And through that love, we both communicate and embody that love of Judaism. Thanks to our unparalleled cantor who teaches me as much with her wisdom and soul as she inspires me with her music. Our unparalleled education and youth director whose educational expertise is married to a unique artistic vision coupled with a felicity for fun and a genuine love of what she does and of children - a love that is reciprocated. And our unparalleled executive director who is, thank God, returning to good health. Steve doesn't just love balanced budgets, though he's damn good at it - he knows that it's all about people. He is in every respect a mensch and the glue that holds this thing together.
Add to that our superb teachers, our wonderful office and maintenance staff - and I believe this is Alberto's' 43rd year here. And of course, our volunteers, our lay leaders, led by Mia Weinstein, who has grown so much on the job that I think she is considering tossing her name in for a major party nomination. She is polling better than anyone.
To our incoming board members - that last meeting was an aberration. They will get shorter. But I think you got a small indication of the unity of vision that we share, thanks to our strategic plan and an atmosphere of menschlichkeit that imbues all that we do. It's all about people.
We've had a great year. But as it always has been, it's more about looking forward than looking back. We will have a great year upcoming, with lots of special events planned, all topped off by that Jewish Heritage trip (see flyer below) a year from now - Sign up now for an early bird discount! We have some significant conversations going on regarding becoming more inclusive of interfaith families and our leadership has approved the acquisition of the new Conservative movement siddur, Lev Shalem. When you receive your Temple statement, you will have the chance to donate and dedicate volumes of this new book. Read about Lev Shalem and preview it here.
Beth El's work has never been important. We've seen it day after day and week after week - most visibly on Friday nights - and last week was so, so important for us - I saw people who were in such pain find comfort here. But we see it all the time.
There is no more important work that anyone of us could be doing, than furthering the sacred work of this congregation."
Looking back and looking ahead....
This summer I begin my 30th year here, the 25th as your senior rabbi, and that has caused me to do some reflecting. As I've been sorting out my thoughts, I've also begun to organize the memories. If you click here, you will find an archive with links to photo albums, videos and audio files from some of the key moments of the past three decades. This is a work in progress - so if you have items to add, particularly old photos, please send everything to me. I'll be adding to it as we move ahead into the future.
That ought to give you plenty to chew on over the summer, even without the weekly Shabbat-O-Gram.
Have a relaxing and rejuvenating summer, and remember that we are always open here, 24-7-365. Stop by anytime!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman