Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Shabbat-O-Gram for June 21



Shabbat Shalom!

Suddenly summer is upon us.  But before we all load up the car and head to the beach, it's great to look back at what has been a fantastic spring.  See our End of Year photo album, and our Cantor's Concert album, along with Liav Vadel's Bar Mitzvah commentary on Naso from last Shabbat.  Special thanks to Aviva Maller Photography for all the concert photos and many others from the past few months.

Please join us for Pride Shabbat on Friday at 7:30.  Katie Kaplan will be our cantorial soloist and Chris Coogan our guest musician. We will spend Shabbat enjoying rich music and conversation about the Blessing of Difference in celebration of Pride 2019!  There will be a short talk and Q&A with Sontaia P. Briggs, Executive Board Member, of Parity, an organization that celebrates the spirituality, faith, and religious expression of LGBTQ people.  She will address the challenges Parity faces in dealing with religious groups that have bias against LGBTQ and consider it sinful. 

Along those lines, I recommend a recent article in the Washington Post asking how Americans' views flipped so quickly on the topic of LGBTQ rights, especially in light of how other prejudices - like anti-Semitism - have stubbornly resisted such change.  The gay rights movement has managed to change people's minds faster than any other civil rights movement in memory.  Still, this rapid change has not eliminated homophobia.  Far from it - as we have seen in the Administration's efforts to roll back a number of transgender rights.  So the battle begun a half century ago is not finished.  But the progress has been remarkable and something for people of all backgrounds to celebrate.  

We'll do that on Friday night!

And of course, join us on Shabbat morning as well, when I'll be looking at the portion of Beha'alotcha and discussing how to take your Judaism "on the road" as you head out in your travels. See the Parsha Packet: "Jewifying" Your Summer Vacation, which includes a selection from my book Mensch-Marks (chapter 19, "The Power Grid.") along with tips on how to bring Jewish values into the Wilderness.

"There are Stars whose radiance..."

"There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. ... They light the way for humankind."

Those immortal words were penned by Hannah Senesh, the great poet and hero who died trying to rescue Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust.  

Mina Roth-Dornfeld, a member of TBE, has a grandson, Daniel Bogaev, who is a noted photographer.  You can see his website here.  Mina is presenting TBE with a framed photo that was part of a recent exhibition of Daniel's.  See a facsimile below.


For those who joined our TBE Jewish Heritage Tour of Europe in 2017, perhaps this photo taken at the same site will jog your memory.


It was taken at the secret synagogue in Terezin, which Jews defiantly decorated and utilized for prayer right under the noses of the SS.  Somehow they were able to envision a better future as they looked up at those painted stars, despite knowing that their own fates were almost certainly sealed, knowing that they would become extinct soon - but that maybe there would be a brighter future for humanity and the Jewish people.  Having this photo in our building enable those who have been to Terezin to explain to others just how sacred that synagogue is - and enable the rest of us to dream of reaching out to the heroic victims, and, in their name, reaching for the stars.  We are the stars that they envisioned.

I'm delighted to announce that, at the request of a number of congregants, we will be doing another trip to Poland, Budapest, Prague and Berlin a year from now, in the summer of 2020.

More information will be forthcoming over the next couple of weeks (and yes, the Cuba trip set for next March is still good to go). Let me know if you are interested.  This trip is for all ages (except for young children), and the Holocaust Memorial Committee is offering significant scholarship assistance for those teens and college students who join their parents on this journey, in tribute to Dr. Hesh Romanowitz, of blessed memory. We feel it is a very important trip for all Jews to take.

"We, a community, we, a spirit"

Photo by the Stamford Advocate

Sam Essenfeld, President of the Senior Class at Westhill and TBE teen, had this to say to his fellow graduates at the Westhill graduation this week. Mazal tov to Sam and to all our graduates!

Goooood morning Westhi- sorry force of habit. Gooooood Evening Class of 2019! Welcome graduates, parents, families, friends, board of education representatives, Mayor Martin, Dr. Hill, and Westhill teachers, staff, administrators, and alumni (hi dad).

Since freshman year, we have defined ourselves as role models, showing the rest of the school that we are capable of doing big things, as emphasized on our senior t-shirt, and have always supported each other along the way. Anyone can be a role model - so who are we? If our class had a motto that could really encompass us, what would it be? Some might say, "Westhill and Proud". How about "Nos, civitas, nos, spiritus" meaning We, a community, we, a spirit, or "Bonum Mane, Patria Maris Borealis", meaning good Morning Viking Country! Let's focus on the former.

I say "we, a community, we, a spirit" because whenever I think about us - the class of 2019 - I see everyone as friends and peers. Whether we see each other at the beginning of the day or walking the halls, I can only think of the warm welcomes and passing "hellos" with a smile. This is what I consider to be our Viking spirit. This spirit is not just what we bring to the Purple Pack in the form of chants and cheers. It is a presence that surrounds us each and every day. Its presence is felt at every painting and Viking emblem in the school. It guards our gates and grows on the trees in the courtyard. Our spirit radiates from each and every one of us in the classroom, as we travel through the Finch and Raynor buildings, onto the fields, and throughout every corner of the campus. Now, being graduating seniors, we have accumulated a true spirit that binds us together as a community.

We, the class of 2019 who have gotten up every morning for the past four years to be here today know that simply stating the word "community" doesn't quite embody this experience of graduating Westhill and Proud with our best friends, enthusiastic teachers, and nurturing mentors around us. Would we have the sentimental feelings of reflection that most of you are probably feeling right now if we were not wholeheartedly invested in our academic and extracurricular journey these past four years? I don't think so. That is community.

Principal Rinaldi's sunrise posts from the front steps of the school every morning, rain or shine, inspire us to carry on his Viking spirit and join together as a community. The more we say, "Good Morning Viking Country", the more we feel united. Who here hasn't felt energized after speaking that mantra? Together, day by day, we have built the motto "Nos civitas, nos spiritus", "We, a community, we, a spirit".

Together, we, the class of 2019, have become artists, actors, activists, and athletes who have received accolades. We, the class of 2019, have become entrepreneurs, environmentalists, and engaged thinkers who know that excellence is the point. We, the class of 2019, are creative writers, coworkers, captains and class clowns, culminating this chapter currently in our caps and gowns. We help each other develop our unique skills and encourage each other to keep our hands stretched out, reaching for the goal. Our community of determined spirits is an essential part of who we are. We care for ourselves, as well as others around us. We give, but we don't give up.

When was the last time you said "remember when I..." Isn't it almost always "remember when we...": "remember when we did that activity in our world language class sophomore year?", or "remember when we decorated the halls for the lip dub?" That speaks volumes about who we are as classmates, but more importantly, as a Viking Country.

When you think about your experiences at Westhill, where do you see yourself? In a particular class? At lunch with your friends? Seeking advice from your guidance counselor? This thought has come to you for a reason. These images in your mind and feelings in your heart have influenced your high school experience. In essence, this is your Viking spirit.....

Had to have high high hopes for a living... sorry its still stuck in my head ...

I have full confidence that we, the class of 2019, are going to use our civitas and spiritusto achieve our goals. We all have a path to walk down, that is, after receiving our diplomas. It's been an honor to serve as your class president.

I would like to extend our sincerest thank you to all of the administrators, teachers, staff, families and friends for helping us get here, to this moment sitting out here on the football field. Thank you, mom, dad, and Ethan, for all of your enthusiasm. Thank you, Mr. Rinaldi, for bringing your spirit every day and being an outstanding leader. Thank you, Mr. Wax for being an amazing class administrator who continually provides us with tremendous support. And thank you, Ms. Miraballes and Mrs. Grant, for being awesome class advisors and the driving force behind our class' success. Have a marvelous Monday Westhill!
Best wishes for a relaxing summer.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

And mark your calendars for next week's...

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