Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Friday, June 9, 2017
Shabbat-O-Gram for June 9
The Shabbat-O-Gram is sponsored by Jon Eisenstein
and Debbie Eisenstein in honor of their daughter,
Sarah, becoming a Bat Mitzvah.
Hope in Motion and Harmony in Action
Scenes from Sunday's Cancer Walk and last night's Cantor's Concert
and stay tuned for photos from last night's concert.
Mazal tov this weekend to Sarah Eisenstein and her family as she becomes Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat. This evening,we will be honoring our graduating 12th graders with a special blessing (and a gift) and also awarding our Men's Club Scholarships. Additionally, some TBE college students will join us, particularly those who have been on Birthright Israel or wish to share campus experiences regarding Israel. We will have some 8th graders as well who also just returned from Israel experiences. This is a perfect way to recall the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, as we are this week.
And mark your calendars for June 16, when TBE's Meira Rosenberg will discuss her new book, Indiana Bamboo. Mazal tov, Meira! Also, our annual Pride Shabbat will take place on June 23rd. Stay tuned for more on that!
Stay tuned also for our Jewish Heritage Trip to Europe will embark on July 2. Twenty two of us will be going, and in a real way we will represent the entire congregation as we will visit places that continue to define us, both as Jews and Americans. I am hoping to send back a number of dispatches from our journey.
The Six Day War jubilee has stirred considerable interest in Israel and in the conflicting narratives that often confuse us. Over the coming months, we will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of the UN resolution that paved the way for partition and that will be followed up with Israel's 70th anniversary next spring. So it will be a big Israel year here.
With that in mind, please mark your calendars now for two special events in the fall:
November 7: Hoffman Memorial Lecture. Our speakers will be Daniel Gordis and Peter Beinart, well-known authors and pundits who span the right-left spectrum when it comes to Israel. Through their popular podcast series sponsored by the Forward, "Fault Lines" they cross their ideological divides to tackle pressing issues facing the Jewish community. Peter and Daniel prove that meaningful conversation can take place despite significant fault lines. We are delighted to be hosting them both.
December 1: Uri Regev, executive director of Hiddush and former head of the Reform movement in Israel, will speak to us about religious freedom and equality in Israel, with particular regard to marriage rights for Jewish Israelis. Regev visited TBE this week to speak to a group of Fairfield County rabbis and cantors (and it was so nice to meet with colleagues from up and down the pike) about many of the issues surrounding Jewish pluralism that tend too often to be swept under the rug.
Uri also told me an interesting tale about the large cast iron menorah that is outside my office (see photo above). The artist, David Palumbo, is well known for having designed the cast iron gates to the Knesset as well as the gates to the memorial pavilion at Yad Vashem. What I did not know was that this decorated Israeli artist was a victim of Israel's endless culture wars. His workshop was on Mt Zion, not far from a yeshiva that on a weekly basis extended a chain barrier across the road to keep people from driving in the area on Shabbat. On a fateful Friday in 1966, Palumbo was riding on his motorcycle on Mt Zion, did not see the chain and was killed in the most gruesome manner imaginable.
One could say that the man who created the greatest artistic works of Jewish national unity, spiritual inspiration and healing, was killed by an act of religious intolerance and exclusion.
The menorah as a religious symbol has a fascinating history - and it is the subject of our Torah and haftarah readings this Shabbat. (Click for info packet)
Uri Regev, like Gordis and Beinart, are seeking to empower all of us to feel fully invested in contemporary Jewry's great work in progress, the State of Israel - the state symbolized and brought together by the menorah.
Three Pillars: My Greeting for the Cantor's Concert
Here are my words as originally posted in the electronic journal for last night's concert:
It is my distinct pleasure to welcome everyone to our annual Cantor's Concert. Tonight is about partnership and a leadership formula that has sustained Jewish communities for centuries.
A synagogue, like a stool, requires three firm legs to stand - a formula that is even found in our liturgy. Almost exactly a thousand years ago, a prayer was added to the siddur to be recited on Shabbat morning, bridging the Torah reading and the Musaf service. This prayer is called Yekum Purkan (literally, "May the deliverance arise"). (See that prayer in our new prayerbook). Its three paragraphs ask for divine protection for 1) religious leadership and students, 3) the membership as a whole, and 3) administrative leaders and volunteers who provide for the essential needs of the community, such as candles, wine for Kiddush and Havdalah and food for guests and the poor.
Even a thousand years ago, leaders understood that the sacred work of a congregation had to be a team effort, and if any of those legs were missing, the stool would not be able to stand.
Tonight we celebrate the strength of each of those pillars. With regard to religious leadership, I could have no partner more passionate and inspirational than Cantor Magda Fishman. Each day she challenges us to climb ever higher into the spiritual stratosphere, and her voice and energy give us a hefty boost in that direction. And this evening I warmly welcome her travel partners, the Divas, to Stamford and TBE.
With regard to membership, the incredible buzz generated by this concert is in no small part due to the sustained dedication our membership has demonstrated for our sacred work, and the excitement that we all share as we complete a highly successful programming year. Special thanks are due to the family of Norma and Milton Mann z'l and the Mann Foundation for their sponsorship of our Cantor's Concert series.
And last but certainly not least, there is that third vital leg, embodied here for the past decade by our executive director, Steve Lander - and embodied by Lieba elsewhere in our community. I've often thought that Steve and I aren't simply partners. To paraphrase the Joker and Jerry Maguire, Steve completes me. All the areas where I am not particularly skilled (like, say, fixing anything) are areas where he excels. I'd say that the reverse might be true too, except that Steve delivers a mean d'var Torah - and he never steps on the punch line.
My family and I have come to know the entire Lander family quite well over the past decade, and our love and respect deepens by the day. If Cantor Fishman is the soul of our synagogue, than Steve Lander is its beating heart. I could not be more fortunate to be partnering with them - and with our other talented professional and lay leaders.
So let's all celebrate - for tonight is a reflection of who we are and what we aspire to be.