Thursday, November 21, 2019

Shabbat-O-Gram for November 22, 2019 and Thanksgiving


Our Baby Bim Bam Marching (and occasionally crawling) Band, last Sunday!  

Shabbat Shalom!

Cantor Deborah Jacobson at a Hanukkah concert in 2002, 
with the TBE Junior Choir, including assorted Hammerman kiddies

As we head into a holiday week, what better way to celebrate than by welcoming back Cantor Deborah Jacobson for Shabbat Unplugged on Friday night.  We'll also have our annual 7th grade Shabbaton at my home on Friday night and our full Hebrew School will be here on Shabbat morning (in lieu of Sunday).  All that plus Shababimbam and Kids-in-the-Round and we conclude with lunch all together after services and school.  Note that there will be no Shabbat-O-Gram next week, and on the Friday night and Shabbat morning of next weekend, we'll be welcoming back another old cantorial friend, Hazzan Rabinowitz, who will lead services along with Rabbi Gerry Ginsburg, as I grab a few days of rabbinical R and R.

Note that we will be live-streaming this Friday's service.  Of course it is MUCH better to be here in person, but if you can't, go to and you'll find instructions on how to tune in.

Looking backwards for a moment, see Jonah Rosenberg's Bar Mitzvah speech here.

And now, in honor of Thanksgiving...

Surviving your dinner in consequential times

Yes, I know it has been a crazy and incredibly consequential week, in Washington, Jerusalem, Hong Kong and elsewhere.  It is hard to recall a week that has cut so deeply into issues that affect us so centrally; from a dramatic shift on US policy regarding Israeli settlements, to revelations of white nationalism in emails by Stephen Miller, to Israel mired in political stalemate, to confrontations between Israel and Iran in Syria, to today's bombshell indictment of Prime Minister Netanyahu for bribery and other charges. Oh, and the impeachment hearings and resultant questions about the moral direction of our country.  Thanksgiving dinner will be fun this year!

These topics are hardly avoidable this year (they are that consequential) - but if you are looking to to change the subject for a while, spend some time at Thanksgiving talking with the family about coming with us to Europe this summer. See the flyer below and check out the website

A couple of other suggestions for your dinner table conversations:

- Imagine you are at the very first seder in Egypt, or perhaps the first Thanksgiving dinner.  The issues before us are perhaps no less consequential this year.  Create a seder style conversation guide and establish "rules of the road" for respectful discussion.

- Here are some Jewish sidebars of interest, related to this week's news, that you might want to bring into the conversation.  


Fiona Hill says Soros conspiracy theories are the new "Protocols of the Elders of Zion."  (An important sidelight to today's testimony that should not get lost in the shuffle)

Full Netanyahu indictment (translated into English) 

Netanyahu's "Seditious call to arms" responding to his indictment (Ha'aretz - this article may have a paywall, but it's very disturbing; and noteworthy that American Jewish organizations have thankfully not rushed to his support today).  

The key case against Netanyahu:
Case 4000.

The Four Freedoms, Updated

It's at times like these when I look back for moments of inspirational oratory, like FDR's "Four Freedoms" speech, as a reminder of what America is meant to symbolize, for ourselves and for the world. 

As America stood on the brink of entering the war these freedoms - the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want, and the freedom from fear - symbolized America's war aims and gave hope in the following years to a war-wearied people because they knew they were fighting for freedom. 

Here are some passages that I find most compelling today, even as the situation is so different.  Read these words at your Thanksgiving table:

 I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world-assailed either by arms, or by secret spreading of poisonous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace.

...Let us say to the democracies: "We Americans are vitally concerned in your defense of freedom. We are putting forth our energies, our resources and our organizing powers to give you the strength to regain and maintain a free world. We shall send you, in ever-increasing numbers, ships, planes, tanks, guns. This is our purpose and our pledge."

In fulfillment of this purpose we will not be intimidated by the threats of dictators...
For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

- Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
- Jobs for those who can work.
- Security for those who need it.
- The ending of special privilege for the few.
- The preservation of civil liberties for all.
- The enjoyment . . . the enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression-everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want-which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear-which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor-anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception-the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fea


Some Thanksgiving classics from the Archives...

See below this guide from the American Jewish World Service on how to channel gratitude into action for a just world:

And here are some guidelines as to how to bring more mindfulness to your week of Thanksgiving and to your table:


Shabbat shalom and happy Thanksgiving.

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Monday, November 18, 2019

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Jonah Rosenberg on Vayera

Shabbat Shalom. At the very beginning of my portion, God appears to Abraham, and the first thing that the commentators ask was, why does God choose to visit him right at that time?
If you look at the end of the prior portion, you’ll find out why.  He had just had his circumcision and God was trying to comfort him and help him through his recovery.  Hey, if you were 99 and had just circumcised yourself, you would need comforting too!
It’s important to note that Bikur Holim, visiting the sick, is a major mitzvah, and the first time it is mentioned in the entire Torah is right here.  In fact, God is modeling it.
According to Midrash Leviticus Rabbah, a single visit removes 1/60 of the patient’s suffering.  So just showing up really makes a difference.
I’ve gotten to see how important this mitzvah is first-hand.
            As some of you may know 😊, my dad is a doctor.  From time to time, I go with him to visit patients and I draw pictures for some of them to cheer them up. One patient is a big Knicks and Giants fan, so I drew him a portrait of one of the players.  Judging from the smiles on the faces of the people I’ve given pictures to, it seems like far more than 1/60th of their pain was removed.
It so happens that one of my favorite books, “Because of Mr. Terupt,” is all about visiting the sick. In the book, a student accidentally hits his teacher with an ice ball, putting him into a coma.  After that, all of the students visit the teacher frequently, for weeks and weeks and those visits help each of them to recover from the shock and changes their lives, and eventually, he wakes up from his coma.  So here again, how we deal with a tragedy involving illness helps to foster real healing for all concerned.
My mitzvah project relates to this same theme.  A while back, my friend Emmet became ill and was hospitalized for many months.  During this time he showed an amazing display of courage and strength.  We Face timed a couple of times, and even though he had been going through tough times, he always asked how we were doing. This shows what an amazing person he was.  I don’t know if my virtual visits removed 1/60th of the illness but I hope I made his day a little brighter.
Sadly, he passed away in late September.  Since my bar mitzvah is one of the first ones to take place since then, I want to dedicate my mitzvah project to him. In some ways, I feel like I am standing here, representing him. So, for my Mitzvah project, I’ve chosen two charities that were important to him and his family throughout his illness: Be the Match, which runs the national Bone Marrow Registry, and Ronald McDonald House, an organization that provides free housing to families and patients who are receiving care at nearby hospitals. With the help of the amazing community, we have raised over 2,700 dollars for Be the Match and collected around 2,000 pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald house. You can see the collection out in the lobby. I am amazed at how many people donated, from my summer camp division head in Maryland to my parents’ colleagues and friends. Each tab you donated showed your care and compassion towards me and my cause. You also donated items on Ronald McDonald House’s wish-list which will help families set up their temporary apartments.  You can see just some of the many donated items in my bimah baskets. I look forward to delivering the items and tabs to the Ronald McDonald House in New Have next weekend. Your support was immensely important to me, and I am so grateful for your help.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Shabbat-O-Gram for November 15


The Shabbat Announcements are sponsored 
by Julie and Remi Rosenberg in honor of their 
son, Jonah, becoming a Bar Mitzvah.


Traffic cam shows rocket hitting intersection in central Israel

Traffic cam shows rocket hitting intersection in central Israel.  Some 450 rockets have been launched toward Israel since Tuesday, in conjunction with Israel's assassination of an Islamic Jihad terrorist leader.  Just about every Israeli is informed of rocket launchings in real time by the Red Alert app, which I, along with many living outside the land, have also downloaded. You can find it at the iTunes app store by simply searching for "red alert."  It will give you a greater understanding of what Israelis go through all the time.
Ha'aretz reports that a ceasefilre is holding this morning.

And back here in America, there's no shortage of Jewish angles to the current impeachment hearings.  Read about them here.

Shabbat Shalom!

Mazal Tov to Jonah Rosenberg and family as he becomes Bar Mitzvah this Shabbat morning. Get a sneak preview of our weekly portion of Vayera's study packet.  Tonight I'll be joined at services by Cantorial Soloist Katie Kaplan and Koby Hayon, Musical Guest.  (And don't forget to save the date for next Friday's Shabbat Unplugged with the return of Cantor Deborah Jacobson!)  Also, see last week's commentary on Lech Lecha by Bat Mitzvah Lana Busch.  At the bottom of this email, see a flyer for a very important presentation to be held here next Tuesday, by Rabbi Rick Eisenberg, on Jewish approaches to the opioid crisis.


At long last, the Unorthodox podcast taped here in September before a live audience has been released online, featuring an interview with Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. Check it out! And by all means, don't forget to review all about the Fast of Gedalya! (That's an inside joke - you'll need to listen to the podcast).

Our Local Hero: Judy Altmann

This Sunday, the Jewish Historical Society will be honoring Judith Altmann, along with Agnes Verdes, at its luncheon to be held here at Temple Beth El. Judy was born in Jasina Czechoslovakia, which was invaded by the Nazis in 1939. In 1944 she was arrested and transported to Auschwitz concentration camp with her niece where they were selected for work.  From there she was sent to Essen and Gelsenkirchen Labor camps where she remained until March 1945. She survived the "death march" that ended in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.  Sick with typhus, Judy was barely alive when she was liberated by the British Army in 1945.  Judy was given the opportunity to go to Sweden. She lived in Sweden until 1948 at which time she immigrated to the United States.
You will not meet too many people who survived both Auschwitz AND Bergen Belsen, but many in our community have been enriched tremendously by her presence.  No one is more deserving of accolades than Judy.

Back in 2010, Judy joined our March of the Living group in Poland.  It was her first time back at Auschwitz, yet she remembered it as if she had just been there.  She brought a few of the teens into the precise barracks where she had been held, and she described the experience of the camp in vivid detail to our group.  She also was invigorated by the march and here verve and excitement brought a note of joy and hope to the whole experience.  Here are some photos from that trip.



Mazal tov to Judy, and Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman