From the photo exhibit "Faces of Prayer,"
which I took in at the Austrian Hospice, Jerusalem,
an oasis of serenity in the midst of the Old City.
The quote is perfect for Tu B'Shevat
It's good to be back. I know it has been an eventful few weeks here while I've been away, and I wish to join with everyone here in extending my condolences to Cantor Fishman, as well as all who have suffered loss over the past month. I also want to thank those who filled in for me in various ways, including those who led Torah study on Shabbat and helped with pastoral tasks. Our professional and lay leadership really stepped up on a number of levels. Thank you all. The first leg of my trip was Jerusalem, where we celebrated the bar mitzvah of Andrew Jaffe-Berkowitz. Here is his d'var Torah, and I must add that the service, along with a special dedication the next day at Yad Vashem, was among the most meaningful b'nai mitzvah I have had the privilege of attending.
We've got a dizzying array of events for all ages coming up. This Friday at 6, a family Kabbalat Shabbat, "Finding Judaism at the Movies" followed by our main Kabbalat Shabbat service at 7:30 (childcare will be provided), featuring our choir on Shabbat Shira (Shabbat of Song). And then on Shabbat morning, "Shabbat in the Round," which by popular demand will now be a monthly occurrence, begins with some breakfast at 9:30. On Sunday, we celebrate Tu B'Shevat with an Ice Cream Seder. On Tuesday and Wednesday, our iEngage series continues with a class on the impact of 1967 Six Day War and then on Thursday, Rep. Jim Himes will hold a town hall here.
Then next week, Temple Rock and the World Wide Wrap. I got back just in the nick of time!
Tu B'Shevat is Wednesday. Here are some resources from the archives:
- What Trees Can Teach Us - secrets from the "Wood Wide Web."
A reminder to go online and sign up now if you want to join us in Israel this summer.
Also, it's not to early to discuss Passover. We have four major Seder-related events coming up. All are important and it's easy to confuse them. So here they are, so you can save the dates:
- Women's Seder, Tuesday, March 13
- Interfaith Seder at Grace Farms, Thursday, March 22
- Chocolate Seder and Family Shabbat Dinner, Friday, March 23
- Congregational Second Seder, Saturday, March 31
The Congregational Seder is the only one that is actually on Pesach. It's a real Seder designed to meet the needs of all generations (with a few compromises here and there). Cantor Fishman and I will be leading it and we would love to have you join us. Last year's was a lot of fun. Since people often make their Passover plans very early, we are reaching out now to see who will be coming and who would like to help us plan. Please contact our office to let us know.
India and Nepal: Some New Friends
I'd like to introduce you to some wonderful new friends I made these past few weeks - about a billion of them.
We live on a swiftly shrinking planet, so I was glad to see how the other half lives, half a world away. When my flight to India veered over Tehran and Kabul, I knew I was going to a place unlike any I'd ever experienced. That turned out to be absolutely true.
I'll be unpacking this journey for a long time - honestly, for the rest of my life - but I wanted to begin this debriefing by sharing with you some of the faces I encountered and the new friends I made. Most are not Jewish, though I visited a number of synagogues and met some extraordinary people among India's tiny Jewish communities in Mumbai and Kochi. But the new friends I made were people (and other living things) of vastly diverse backgrounds. As soon as you hit the tarmac in India, you are overwhelmed by the country's intensity. The colors, the traffic, the smells, the crowds, the scenes of life and death that become commonplace but never routine - and the pure fervor of their religious life. I experienced sacred places and ceremonies of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, Muslims and the Jain faith. I saw magnificent temples and temples so small they literally fit on a person's head.
Add to all of this the fact that I was coming off of five days spent in Jerusalem during Christmas (which is purely noncommercial there), along with a bar mitzvah and Yad Vashem, and I can't imagine how anyone in this world could have spent a month with so much sacred intensity. Oh yes, and throw in the Himalayas, which enabled this trip to take me from looking at the world's lowest place (the Dead Sea, which can be seen from Jerusalem) to its highest. It was truly mind-blowing. The lowest, the highest, and everything in between - everywhere, it seems, that heaven and earth meet.
There is so much that I will be sharing, but let me begin with some photos of my new friends. Allow me to make some introductions:
And keep in mind I'll be giving a full slide presentation here on Sunday, Feb 11 at 7:30 PM.
Immediately below is the video I took of Sarah Cohen, 95, reciting her morning prayers from her home (and shop) in the part of Kochi (Cochin) known affectionately - and not condescendingly - as "Jew Town."
And here are some other friends we made along the way...
This Israeli botanist showed us his childhood synagogue that has been lovingly restored, on a hillside that also houses a Hindu temple, Syrian church and a mosque - perhaps the only place on earth where such coexistence happens.
Inside the Chendamangalam synagogue. the Kochi area has about three dozen Jews, coming from two different groups, both of whom have been there for many centuries. Of course, the two Jewish groups don't get along.
A Hindu shrine in Nepal
A ghat along the Ganges in Varanasi
Gulls on "Mother" Ganges
Funeral on the Ganges, Varanasi
Preparing the body
School outing in Mumbai...
...and the principal
Narlai, a small village in Rajastan, India
Dhulikhel, Nepal, just after sunrise, with the Himalayas in the background
Breathtaking Jain temple in Rankapur
Some wear their religion on their sleeve. And yes, these two in the marketplace of Mumbai are wearing their temples on their heads.
A village near Agra
The view from a rooftop in that village
A young lama in Kathmandu
A Buddhist festival in Kathmandu
A family strolling in Mumbai - the colors of India bombard the senses
Cow in traffic
Cow catching a train, near Rothambore
A "quiet" street in Varanasi
Our new friend Lakshmi (don't tell our dog Chloe).
Lakshmi showing off
The view from atop another elephant named Lakshmi
We were charmed by this snake
We made a number of furry friends
This one in Kathmandu
This dog in the Spice Market of Old Delhi seems to be barking out commands, but dogs are third class in the Indian animal caste system, definitely taking a back seat to the cows and elephants, who can do no wrong (and are also gods).
Amorous Parakeets, Jaipur
This rabbit was for some reason brought to Humayan's Tomb in Delhi
Elephants at a Hindu festival in the Kerala...
...imagine St Leo's Fair, but with half naked men and elephants
The farmer's market in Udaipur - the country is a vegetarian's Nirvana
Amandola scores the winning t...Wait, how'd that one get in there?
The Super Bowl prediction comes NEXT week!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
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