Thursday, April 30, 2020

From the Rabbi's Bunker, April 30-May1: The Cruelest Month (ever); When Do We Open Up the Economy? Kosher Pork; The People Who Dwells Apart...Together; The Darkness of Egypt

From the Rabbi's Bunker

    Koby Hayon leading our Zoom celebration for Israel's Independence Day.

K students showing their colors!

Our 7th graders were asked for their favorite Israeli innovation:
Sydney: Waze
Camryn: Gaga
Sophie: gas masks and helicopters
Brandon: USB flash drive

What's yours?


April is the cruellest month, breeding 
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

Shabbat Shalom

When TS Eliot called April "the cruellest month," he had no idea what this April would be like.  Now May begins, and with it, the hope that brighter days may lie ahead. Another poet, Lucille Clifton, in her poem "Blessing the Boats," expressed the wish that we all share as the cruelest month gives way to May:

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear

Join us at 6 on Friday as out K,1 and 2 students will be sure to brighten our day as they, along with Cantor Katie Kaplan, will co-lead the service with me.  This will be our main Kabbalat Shabbat service. Rabbi G will lead the Torah study at 11 on Shabbat morning.

We've gotten used to this new normal as we see the curve beginning to flatten. With all the sadness we're experiencing, with our adaptation to a life of masks and fear and endless grieving, this April has indeed been the cruelest of months.

Those legendary April showers have been transformed, in 2020, into windswept deluges; but if we simply add some kindness, those May flowers can - and will - still grow.

When Can the Economy Reopen?

This is the question of the hour, and Jewish sources have much to teach us.

Kosher Pork

Much of the conversation this week has revolved around infection being widespread in meat production factories. Several years ago, Conservative rabbis created the Magen Tzedek seal.  It imposed a higher level of Kashrut supervision that evaluated not only regarding standards of ritual slaughter and meat preparation (with involves painless slaughter, draining the blood, salting, etc.), but also three other areas of ethical importance: humane treatment of animals, concern for the welfare of the workers and environmental impact.  The Magen Tzedek project has waned, but there is no question that the knowing and forced exposure of workers to unsafe conditions flies against all the principles behind Kashrut as we know it.  Kosher laws might seem irrelevant to consumers of pork and non-kosher meat products produced by companies like Tyson, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't speak up about it.

In fact, we should be outraged whenever workers anywhere are forced to expose themselves and their families - and by extension, the rest of us - to unsafe working conditions.   And on top of it, if the goal of the current executive order is to prevent workers from being able to sue companies that force them to take such risk, that is shameful.

So look at these study materials.

And as you do, remember that we create a holy society by caring for the most vulnerable among us.  The disease, like some kind of microbial Amalek, had made a beeline right for them: the elderly, particularly in nursing homes, workers (and the unemployed), those with underlying medical conditions, minorities, immigrants (who are being targeted more by the government than the disease itself) and the incarcerated.  As Martin Luther King wrote:

Photo: Reuters

A People Who Dwells Apart...Together

It's not often that I'll recommend that people open up an ultra-Orthodox newspaper, but these are not normal times, so please click here and flip through the pages of this week's Flatbush Jewish Journal. You will find there a small hint of the grief that that community has been enduring because of Covid-19.  You'll see it in the ads, in the articles, and most of all, in the many pages of tributes.  Jews have long believed that no one dies alone - or marries alone, or, in fact does just about anything alone.  So the mess regarding recent funerals and weddings among Haredi Jews, from Brooklyn to Bnai Brak, has been a source of both concern and consternation.

Jews just can't seem to stay away from other Jews.  Just ask Mayor de Blasio, who chewed out the Jewish community for the inordinately large gathering at a recent funeral in Brooklyn.  Now while the mayor should not get a pass for painting the Jewish community with such a broad brush, neither should other Jews ignore what happened. We are our brother's keeper, and this week's portion implores us not to stand idly by.  So we should be calling out all those who endanger us by not keeping social distance rules.  I know that I feel horribly when I have to inform families that no more than ten can attend a funeral, and there have been so many funerals. Those rules of social distancing need to apply to everyone.

Israelis were in total lockdown yesterday, unable to celebrate Independence Day in the normal ways. Isolation does not come naturally for the "people that dwells apart." That's why the government couldn't relax the lockdown even a little yesterday.  They knew that, given an inch, Israelis would soon be all over the beaches and parks and bopping total strangers on the street with those squeaky hammers and spraying that silly snow, as they do every other Yom Ha'atzmaut.  And the day before, on Memorial Day, they all would have flocked to the cemeteries.  The cemeteries were closed on Memorial Day.

So this week, Israel helped to teach us how to do both grief and celebration safely, on a national level.  It may have been more subdued than normal, but it did not lack for togetherness, even as everyone was apart.

See the three video examples below:

1) The annual military awards ceremony at the president's house was handled quite differently.  The musical numbers were wonderfully inclusive, bringing in a wide spectrum of voices was in the musical montages about 24 and 51 minutes in.  

2) And then below that, see the opening ceremony from Mount Herzl, which also demonstrated that it is possible to celebrate separately and to remain united in the Corona Era. 

3) And the final video of the three is the annual International Bible Quiz, which this year was held online, but was still as thrilling and as unifying as ever.  Playing along in my armchair, I even got a few of the answers right this year (it is NOT easy).

משדר מיוחד מבית הנשיא | יום העצמאות ה-72 למדינת ישראל ה' אייר התש

טקס הדלקת המשואות מהר הרצל | ערב יום העצמאות ה-72 למדינת ישראל התש

חידון התנ


And while we are at it, see this fascinating award-winning video about Israel, made available for general viewing this week

Sustainable Nation - Full Length Documentary [OFFICIAL]
Sustainable Nation - Full Length Documentary [OFFICIAL]

or go to and use the promo code ISRAEL2020

The Darkness of Egypt

I always love how our ancient sources live and breathe in Israeli culture.  You don't have to go to rabbinical school to know that this week's portion contains the central verse, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  And there it was, on the screen, introducing the Mount Herzl ceremony, whose theme emphasized the unity and mutual responsibility of all Israelis.

It reminded me of an episode of Fauda Season 3 that I was watching this past week, where Israelis were about to cut the power to Gaza.  The term for "blackout" used was "Hoshech Mitzrayim," evoking the biblical plague of darkness inflicted upon Egypt. The text of Exodus 10 and accompanying commentary talk of this being darker than the ordinary night, a supernaturally thick and tangible darkness.

The subtitles just said "total blackout" or some such, failing to convey the 3,500 year cultural flavor of the Hebrew.  The Bible truly comes alive in the Jewish state, where even Doron from Fauda is a midrash scholar, without even knowing it.

More on this week's Torah portions, Ahare-Mot and Kedoshim 

Bestiality in Biblical and Hittite Law (it's been a long quarantine...)

If You are Really Missing Sports and You Love the Omer...check out

Over the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot, count the Omer with us as we meditate on how the (divine qualities) sefirot show up in the games we love most. Whether you're a fan of basketballbaseball, or hockey , we hope that our playful reflections on the spiritual side of sports bring meaning and joy to your practice of counting the Omer this year.

And finally, we hear from last week's cancelled guest:

Lisa Grove-Raider  passes along the youtube link to the video of her Great-Uncle Kurt Kleinman as he receiving the Medal of Valor from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.  He had planned to show this video as part of his presentation at TBE on April 19th. His story has been told in the bestselling book, The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy May!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Monday, April 27, 2020

Where in the World is Rabbi Sandiego?

When my kids were younger, they were big fans of the public television show and computer game, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” The goal was to track down the elusive thief and learn some geography at the same time.  At a time when everyone is cooped up in quarantine, where the New York Times has announced that its travel section is giving way to a new section called “At Home,” and where religious services are all occurring online, I decided to spice things up by adding a little Carmen Sandiego to the liturgy.

So each day when I open up my Zoom service, I appear with a different holy space as my virtual background.  It’s added a bit of intrigue to the service.  People are wondering, where will the rabbi be leading services from today?  It takes some of the humdrum out and replaces it with a a touch of wonder, which, after all, is precisely what prayer is supposed to accomplish in the first place.  One might say that prayer is all about releasing us from our state of spiritual cabin fever and send our souls soaring.

Here are some of the places I’ve “been” while leading services over the past few weeks.  They are all places where I’ve really gone.

 Mount of Olives, spectacular, mid-morning view

My empty synagogue, Stamford CT

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Gwozdziec synagogue restoration, Warsaw, Poland

Terezin secret Synagogue, Czech Republic 

Himalayan sunrise, near Kathmandu, Nepal

Macau Pichu, Peru


From the Rabbi's Bunker: April 27: A Very Different Yom Ha'atzmaut

From the Rabbi's Bunker

 Last Friday evening, Brandon Nadel became our first-ever Zoom "Not Mitzvah."  His Bar Mitzvah has been rescheduled for the fall, but it would have been this weekend, and his speech was tailor-made for this portion. You can see the whole service by clicking here.  (Pre) Mazal tov, Brandon!

A Very Different Yom Ha'atzmaut

TBE 7th graders getting into the Blue & White spirit on Sunday

Don't forget our Yom Ha'atzmaut mini concert with Koby Hayon and Cantor Katie Kaplan on Tuesday evening at 7 PM.  As Israel approaches this auspicious moment, the reins of the lockdown have been loosened slightly and a new unity government appears ready to be convened.  But, like everything in Israel, it's complicated.

As Daniel Sokatch of the NIF writes, it's too early to know exactly what the government will look like, or how the courts will deal with the still unresolved issues of an indicted prime minister and his delayed trial, but we do know that the agreement hands critically important ministries - including Defense, Foreign Affairs and the Justice Ministry - to Blue and White MKs who are likely to be far more moderate than the current right-wing hardliners in those positions.  On the other hand, an agreement seems to be in place that would allow the Knesset to move forward toward annexation of disputed territories this summer. Sokatch continues:

In the face of efforts to shutter parliament, citizens took to the streets to register their dissent, flying black flags - in Israel, the symbol that democracy is in danger, that the public trust has been broken - from their cars.... Just this week, on the eve of the announcement of the new government, thousands of activists and citizens took to Tel Aviv's Rabin Square, and while taking pains to maintain appropriate social distancing, stood together for democracy and civil liberties in a time of emergency. These brave Israelis showed the world, as Time Magazine put it, what democratic protest looks like during a pandemic.

So we don't know what the future brings - and truthfully, Israel's future diplomatic course will be determined more by what happens here in the US over the coming months than anything happening over there. In today's Washington Post, Jackson Diehl points out that "Netanyahu was about to proceed with the settlements' annexation in early February when he was blocked by Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner, a prime author of the peace plan. The White House said annexation must await U.S.-Israeli agreement on a map of the exact boundaries of the seizure." So it's not a given that the Gantz-Bibi government will be allowed to annex, especially when the Saudis, Jordanians and Egyptians chime in.

I'm disappointed that progress on the pluralism and human rights fronts will be less likely, and as Anat Hoffman writes in Ha'aretz today, dissenting voices are stifled and ignored.  As she puts it, "Israel only engages with Diaspora Jews who marvel at its utter perfection."

Still, she adds: 

The Israel I know as a native Jerusalemite is complicated and messy. I find the "messy Israel" to be a flawed, but nonetheless wonderful, place for hashing out issues and having a real impact. The State of Israel is where Jewish and democratic values play out, and where a multiplicity of (sometimes conflicting) voices are engaged in figuring out what, precisely, those values are or should be. Israel affects us and reflects on us, holding up a mirror through which we can see both the beauty and the flaws.
Pretending that everything is perfect might be momentarily gratifying, but I personally can think of nothing more important, meaningful, and ultimately beautiful than to be engaged in a dialogue about Jewish values and the Jewish State, and doing real work to help achieve those values. 

Whatever happens, we do know that despite all odds, the Jewish state continues to persist, to grow and even to amaze and inspire us at times - even if Israel, like the US, now faces enormous challenges, both external and from within.

Daniel Gordis, in his new Times of Israel column, "Only Here," describes a phenomenon that has become more common over recent weeks, the balcony minyan - total strangers joining voices across courtyards and streets to assemble a quorum for prayer.  

Within minutes, there were all sorts of voices, a chorus seemingly flowing from the stones. Men's voices, women's voices. Some children. A few people, secular by their looks, walked by on the street below, also looked for the source of the voice, and smiled. They might not have been participating, but they of course understood every word and were stirred by what they were witness to - this was theirs, too. So instead of praying downstairs in my study, alone, as I've done for weeks now, we found ourselves together on the porch, singing with people whom we'll never be able to identify, our collective voices rebounding off the buildings. As we were singing, mesmerized by the strangeness but also the wonder of the moment, it struck me: those very words - those exact same words - have been rebounding off of buildings around here for thousands of years. Many of the words we were singing were debated by the rabbis of old - the Talmudic Tractate Berakhot is a record of many of their conversations about what precisely the wording should be. And for millennia, now, we've been doing more or less what they prescribed. These neighborhoods, these hills, these stones, have been hearing those echoing words for thousands of years...
Even in the face of the fear, the hunger, the anguish and the unknown, many people in these neighborhoods will spend this very strange week heartbroken, to be sure, but also grateful beyond words to be in it with people whose lives are statements about where they want to be, no matter what:  Only here.
Only in Israel.
Film at 11...and 12...and 1
A first grade class meets near Bet Sha'an - early years of the state

If you are looking to combine a desire to celebrate Israel's birthday with the pandemic pastime of movie binging, have I got news for you! The Jerusalem Post reports that after years of intensive work on digitizing its collection of Israeli film clips, the Israeli Film Archive is posting many of its gems online and plans to make more available, with the goal of eventually digitizing everything in its vast collection, more than 5,000 hours of film. The IFA features a copy of virtually every film ever shot in Israel, including feature films, documentaries, newsreels and home movies, with clips that go back to the 19th century, among them an 1896 film produced by the Lumière brothers shot in Palestine which is believed to be the earliest film made here still in existence. These films and clips provide a fascinating and unique glimpse into Israeli history; but in the past, only scholars doing research at the IFA had access to them.

Here are some vintage films to get you started:

A 1935 ride from Tel Aviv to the Galilee
A 1935 ride from Tel Aviv to the Galilee

Celebration of Shavuot in 1937
Celebration of Shavuot in 1937

The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive - Miracle of Survival: Against All Odds - Part 1
The Spielberg Jewish Film Archive - Miracle of Survival: Against All Odds

Here's the playlist for the Spielberg Archives pre-state newsreels , as well as vintage photos.

The Yellow Bird Sings

If you are looking for a great read for yourself or a book group, take a look at this current best seller, written by the sister of TBE's Elisa Rosner.

Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner's debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, "The Yellow Bird Sings" is a testament to the triumph of hope-a whispered story, a bird's song-in even the darkest of times.

The novel has received starred reviews from Library Journal and BookPage, and has a wonderful Reading Group Guide (it is one of Macmillan's top book club picks).  Much more at

In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.

As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Roza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor's barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Roza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:

"The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom...."

In this make-believe world, Roza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Roza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.

Stay safe!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Friday, April 24, 2020

From the Rabbi's Bunker, April 24: Supporting Respiratory Therapists, The Torah and Disease; Rosh Hodesh, Omer and Spiritual Help is on the Way, Confronting Fear and Putting Our Lives on the Line

From the Rabbi's Bunker


 Responding to our cabin fever, I've been leading virtual services and classes from remote locations, featuring synagogues and holy places from around the world (and beyond - on Earth Day I led services from the moon).  You just never know where I'm going to turn up!

Shabbat Shalom from the Rabbi's Bunker.

Coming up for air between episodes of "Fauda"...

I know things feel bleak in many ways, but spiritually speaking, help is on the way.  For one thing, Shabbat always provides a huge boost, and our attendance at Zoom Kabbalat Shabbat services has demonstrated that.  This evening at 6, Beth Styles and I will be joined by a special guest.  

You see, this was going to be the Bar Mitzvah weekend for Brandon Nadel. In fact, we worked on his d'var Torah way back in the days before we were confined to our homes.  It also happens that this week's double portion is all about disease and is supremely relevant to the moment. So although the bar mitzvah has been put off until the fall, I invited Brandon to deliver his message at this evening's service. 

Zoom access: ID: 775 369 802, Password: 131187

Today and tomorrow are Rosh Hodesh for the new month of Iyar, another sign that good things are on the way.  Some see the month's name as an acronym of the Hebrew phrase "Ani Adonai Rofecha," "I, God, am Your Healer." This is also the beginning of the third week of the Omer counting period, leading from Passover to Shavuot. You can see in the Omer counting notes, that this is the the week of "tiferet," which is associated with harmony and balance.  We are a couple of weeks from the 33rd day of the counting, called Lag B'Omer, which commemorates the end of a plague that afflicted Rabbi Akiva's students in the second century (some believe that plague was called "Rome."). So maybe it portends some great news on the medical front.... Don't know, but of course we should listen to the experts.

For Shabbat morning's Torah discussion at 11 AM, we'll be discussing the Covid-19 crisis in light of the portions of Tazria-Metzorah, which speak of communalresponsibility at a time of an epidemic. 

URL:, Meeting ID: 620 787 208
Password: 113702

Here are materials you can download:

And looking ahead, we have our Healing and Hangout on Sunday at 1 and a very special Yom Ha'atzmaut mini concert with Koby Hayon and Cantor Katie Kaplan on Tuesday evening,

Mitzvah Moments:

This request came in from TBE congregant Allison Ostroff, who has been on the front lines at Stamford Hospital since the beginning of the Covid-13 crisis.

am working in the ICU right now and raising money for the respiratory therapists.  They truly are the unsung heroes in this covid crisis. They are the unknown profession who risks their lives daily.  In two hours we surpassed our fundraising goal!  Perhaps our TBE community can help as well. 

Thanks and stay safe.


Here is the link to donate, and below is Allison's plea - and thank you to Allison and all who are on the front lines!

While working in the ICU this past month I have witnessed first hand the unsung hero’s of this pandemic - the respiratory therapists. Nurses are amazing and we all know it, but most people do not even know what a respiratory therapist does. They endanger themselves  going in and out of COVID patient rooms to adjust their ventilator settings, putting themselves as close to the patients as possible innumerable times a day.

They save lives. They never complain. And they don’t look for recognition.  

As a physician helping on the frontlines, I feel the community should recognize them. Our goal is to raise this money to provide the 30 therapists each a $50 gift card to purchase food through a hospital service enabling them to buy groceries at Stamford Hospital. This is vital as they can’t get out to the market themselves because of their close proximity to infected patients. 

Thank you so much for supporting us in this very worthwhile endeavor!

Allison Ostroff

It's a small thing to say thank you - but it is so important.  This week when I brought out my recycling and trash bins, I wrote a note on top thanking those who are out there every day.  At a time like this, everyone needs a thank you! 


Are First Responders and Medical Workers Obligated to Put Their Lives on the Line?

I wrote about this back in February, at a time when  much of the discussion was still theoretical.  In light of this week's portion and the continued heroic work we are seeing, it is worth revisiting this question here - and please join in the Torah discussion tomorrow at 11.

Back in 2002, when we faced another potential pandemic, a Jewish medical practitioner came to me and asked what our tradition would tell him about a doctor treating a patient with SARS. This virus was truly scary because so much about it was unknown, but what was known is that SARS was deadly and extremely contagious. Unlike AIDS, it could be transmitted without intimate contact; unlike West Nile, it couldn’t be traced to infected parasites, and unlike Ebola, it was not confined to some remote jungle. It was right here, threatening to turn your local mall into that Valley of the Shadow of Death.

That’s how we are thinking of the coronavirus today.

Eventually the panic will subside as the medical community gets a handle on the virus, but that question will remain supremely relevant, especially as doctors in China have died of infection and fatigue while treating patients with the disease.
Maimonides and others long ago codified the obligation of a physician to heal, but when a patient has a contagious disease, the obligation to save one’s own life can take precedence. If the risk is very small (safek sakanah) the doctor is obligated to heal, and if it is great, s/he is not. Interestingly, according to Dr. Fred Rosner, an expert on these matters, when a doctor treats a patient despite high risks, the act is considered a “pious one” (midat hasidut) by some halachic authorities and folly (chasid shoteh) by others. The Babylonian Talmud opines that one is not obligated to endanger one’s life even if the risk is small, in order to save the life of another. In contrast, the Jerusalem Talmud states that one should take that risk. It’s interesting that the Talmud written in the Diaspora conveys the more cautious, Woody Allen-like approach, while the Jerusalem Talmud speaks in the macho tongue of an Israeli cab driver. The dialectic between the two Talmuds reflects a dialogue that has been ongoing in Jewish circles through the centuries.

In “Love and Death,” Allen is challenged to a duel. He replies, “I can’t do anything 'to the death,' doctor’s orders. I have an ulcer and dying is one of the worst things for it.”

It’s OK for Jews to be afraid. It’s OK to place personal safety - and, by extension, obligations to one’s family - above a higher cause, such as a physician’s oath or national objective. In biblical times, an Israelite who was afraid to fight in a (non-obligatory) war was sent home without censure. “Just go,” the officer would say. “Enjoy your new wife, new home or freshly planted vineyard! It’s OK!”

We have nothing to fear of fear itself.

Which is why I am in such awe of those who have placed it all on the line these past few weeks and the many more who will undoubtedly respond to the call in the days to come. A Jew isn’t doing these things out of a religious obligation (though inspired, perhaps, by the selflessness and courage our religion values) but out of pure love of humanity, and the hope of freeing others from the fears that enslave them. Like Nachshon at the Red Sea, they - and all others who are at the forefront of this medical crisis - have taken the plunge for all of us.

Recommended Reading and Viewing

This LA megachurch has served 350,000 free meals during the pandemic (RNS). In case we are tempted to become TOO self-congratulatory about all we've been doing, this is rather humbling...)

Saying Kaddish Without a Minyan? - Kaddish is not a zero-sum game. Honoring the deceased is really about living a certain life infused with Jewish tradition. In the absence of a minyan to say Kaddish there is still something perhaps more important mourners can do - commit to living that life as fully as possible.

Wisdom For Unwelcome Experiences (MyJewishLearning)  The founder of Hasidism sought to help his followers to cope with unwelcome experiences - distracting thoughts during prayer and any encounters with brokenness. He offered a three-pronged approach: hachna’ah (yielding), havdalah (discernment), and 
hamtakah (sweetening).

Israel and Earth Day (WJC)
Israel and Earth Day (WJC)

The Subversive Kaddish ( Perhaps in this season of mourning-for the students of Rabbi Akiva, said to have died during the period of the omer; for the victims of the Shoah; for the fallen soldiers of the State of Israel-the Kaddish Yatom’s spirit of defiant hope in the face of overwhelming opposition might still continue to resonate.

I Know the Rabbi in "The Plot Against America (Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, RNS)
Rabbi Bengelsdorf is a metaphor. His presence in the narrative reminds us of a grim truth.  He writes:
  • There have always been Jews who have been far too open to the seductions of celebrity and imagined power and influence. Sometimes, as with the hofjuden (court Jews), they could be useful in gaining advantages for their people. All too often, however, like in Germany, those pseudo-powerful Jews realized, too late, that they had been dupes.
  • There have always been Jews who are far too willing to cling to a popular ideology, blinding themselves to its implications to their people and to others.
  • There have always been Jews who are far too willing to think that rising tides of hatred will not include them, that they will somehow be the exceptional Jews.
  • They have always been Jews who misjudge and/or minimize and/or pirouette around Jew-hatred and Israel-hatred. They are on the left and the right.
By the end of the series, Bengelsdorf and Evelyn discover themselves to be characters in a Greek tragedy -- their hubris paving the road to ruin. "The Plot Against America" is a warning -- far deeper than even Roth could have imagined

11 fun ways to celebrate Israel Independence Day in lockdown (Israel 21c) 
Bone up on Israel’s history, make yourself a pita with hummus and party like no one’s watching from the comfort of your own home.

To Celebrate Israel's 72nd, you can listen to this playlist of 895 Naomi Shemer songs!
To Celebrate Israel's 72nd, you can listen to this playlist of 895 Naomi Shemer songs!

What is Yom Ha'atzmaut: Israel Independence Day
What is Yom Ha'atzmaut?

And finally, I share some lovely words penned for Easter services by a close friend and colleague, Rev. Frances Sink:

New Beatitudes-For the Essential

Blessed are the doctors, the nurses and orderlies, the EMTs, and chaplains, for they are guarding the kingdom of life even as they must shelter the kingdom of grief.
Blessed are the farmworkers, the truck drivers, the warehouse workers, the checkout clerks, and the gig workers, deliverers and stockers, providers of food pantries and bringers of meals, for they are feeding a nation.
Blessed are the public educators for their dedicated and noble work- may their so generous giving to their students sustain the still growing minds they guide.
Blessed are those whose lives of racial and economic disadvantage, high density living, working, and commuting conditions place them at extreme risk for infection- may the human cost of their servitude shame our hardened society into repair.
Blessed are the out of work and the out of money-
may their tireless phone calls for promised aid be answered.
Blessed are the imprisoned, the congregated, and the closely confined-
may they be released into more protected care.
Blessed are those without shelter and those without healthcare and those without a safety net and no right to benefits- may they too be known as essential to our collective wellbeing.
Blessed are the postal workers, the Zoomers, the multimedia journalists, reporters,
photographers, the poll workers and the census takers for keeping communication open and democracy alive.
Blessed are the builders, the supply chain rerouters, and the retoolers of factories, for their relevant and responsive initiative- may they open new paths out of chaos.
Blessed are the research and clinical scientists whose answers will break this virus' grip- may their efforts bring success and restore us to health and freedom.
Blessed are the volunteers, the donors, the neighbors and the tireless and the relentless caregivers for they sustain our confidence in the human spirit.
Blessed are all who now are named essential to our profoundly interdependent lives, whose necessary contributions and just as necessary needs went unrecognized, the failure of our moral imagination and commitment. May we all now be seen as essential to each other, the wellbeing of each, precious and essential to the life and care of us all.
Rev. Dr. Frances Sink
Easter Sunday, 2020

Shabbat Shalom and stay safe!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman