Archive | June, 2014

Summertime Judaism

26 Jun

by Rabbi Jonathan Freirich

A quick look back on the last week at Temple Beth El tells you just how vibrant our Jewish community is (apologies to any events that I missed):

– We had our weekly events – Shabbat evening and morning – including two B’nei Mitzvah, Anniversary Blessings, Torah Study, FIJI Class, and Tot Shabbat too!

– We celebrated: two baby-namings and a same-sex marriage ceremony.

– We mourned our losses and comforted our mourners with two shiva minyanim and a memorial service.

– We had some intriguing conversations about tattoos, organ donation, marijuana, the novel The Golem and the Jinni, Taste of Judaism, The Porch Torah, and even Talmud, in a myriad of locales including the Temple Beth El building, at The Village Tavern, Whole Foods, and at the Bechtler Museum Cafe.

– We ate together at a SPICE Potluck on Shabbat, and shopped together at our Attic Sale.

– Our Annual Congregational Trip to Israel returned with Rabbi Judy – everyone had an amazing and meaningful adventure, and four kids became Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

– And even though it is summer, B’nei Mitzvah preparations continue with a full schedule of training for our soon to be Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies.

I hear that other Jewish communities slow down in the summer.

I feel so honored and blessed to be part of our Temple Beth El family, to be all together so often for important times and moments of thoughtful discussion.

Looking forward to a great summer!

Check out the next book we will read for our August Book Club, or enjoy the last – links below:

Next book for August 3, 11:00 AM:

But Where is the Lamb?

Last book, a fun summer read:

The Golem and the Jinni

Apples to Apples – America to Israel

19 Jun

imageby Rabbi Judy Schindler

Haifa is Israel’s San Francisco. Both are port cities with hills, spectacular views, and mellow co-existence.

Tzfat is Israel’s Asheville. Here it’s mysticism, there it’s hippies, and both have art and mountains.

Tel Aviv is Israel’s New York. Here’s it’s beaches on the Mediterranean and there it’s high rises on the Hudson. Both are major metropolises with fashion, nightlife, businesses, and fun.

But Jerusalem has no match. The Talmud says, “Ten measures of beauty were given to the world, nine were taken by Jerusalem.” (Babylonian Talmud Kiddishin 49b)

One Family Sick With Worry – A Prayer for Gilad, Naftali, and Ayal

18 Jun

by Rabbi Judy Schindler

To be Jewish is to be part of a big family, thirteen million strong.

To be Jewish is to be part of a small family. Apart from being in Israel, we are a minority.

To be Jewish is to be part of one family. To be Jewish means that when we awoke last Friday morning to the news that three teens were kidnapped (likely by terrorists) our stomachs were sick with fear.

Gilad Shaar (16), Naftali Fraenkel (16) and Ayal Yifrach (19) are not only their parents’ children, they are Israel’s children, and they are our children.

Every minute of every day, hundreds of soldiers are using every measure to search every dunam of land.

Every night Psalms are being recited in synagogues across the globe.

Before three nights, 25,000 gathered at the Western Wall in prayer.

Gilad, Naftali, and Ayal are not soldiers, they are students.

Gilad, Naftali, and Ayal are not terrorists, they are teens with mothers and fathers waiting at home weeping and praying for their return.

Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu, our God and God of our fathers and mothers, may the hour soon come when Gilad, Naftali and Ayal will feel their parents’ warm embrace.

Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu, our God and God of our fathers and mothers, may the day soon come when no parent will fear war and the enemy stealing their child’s innocence, body, or soul.

Eloheinu b’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu, our God and God of fathers and mothers, may the time soon come when our children and Palestinian children and all children will know peace.

Honoring Righteous Gentiles by Being Righteous Ourselves – From Rabbi Judy in Israel

17 Jun

At the entrance of Israel’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, is a most beautiful garden lined with carob trees planted to honor the righteous gentiles of the Holocaust.

The Hebrew word charuv, carob, is connected to the word cherev, war, I imagine because the fruits of a carob tree are shaped like swords. Yet at heart, they are the opposite. War is bitter and devastating. Carob is sweet and sustaining.

Israel honors the 23,000 righteous gentiles of the Holocaust. If they were ever to be in financial need, Israel would support them the rest of their lives just as they supported and saved Jews.

Maimonides taught that there are eight levels of charity, each one higher than the next. On the lower level is giving grudgingly. On higher levels are giving generously, giving anonymously, and giving in such a way that enables the recipients to provide for themselves.

Similarly, I would propose eight levels of being a righteous “other.”

On the lowest level of righteousness is speaking out in conversations when words of discrimination and hatred are spoken and above that, is speaking out in larger social circles when acts of exclusion occur.

On the third rung of righteousness is offering hospitality to an “other” by sharing a conversation or a meal.

Still higher is reaching across lines of difference and making a friend who is the “other” so that their “otherness” dissolves.

Higher still on the ladder of righteousness is speaking out publicly through letters to the editor or emails to business leaders or public officials when discriminating actions happen.

The sixth level of righteousness is committing to causes and giving time to build bridges of understanding between diverse communities and on the seventh level is taking a role of leadership to make that happen.

On the highest level is working to ensure that our laws maintain the equality, dignity and humanity of all who live in our country.

As we offer our abundant gratitude to those righteous gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews, may we, in their honor and memory, ascend rungs of holiness as we embrace those who are labelled “other” in our society.

The Heavenly Jerusalem and the Earthly Jerusalem – From Rabbi Judy in Israel

15 Jun

Jerusalem Rooftops

The heavenly Jerusalem is that for which we pray, dream, and hope.

A Shabbat afternoon stroll on the Old City rooftops gives you a taste of the world for which we yearn.

Laundry set out to dry, gardens groomed, tanks heating up water to wash off the day. Domes of mosques and churches and a rebuilt Hurva Synagogue silently in dialogue.

The air so quiet and sweet you can hear your thoughts. Petitions seem palpable.

The earthly Jerusalem is that in which we live.

Vibrant, diverse, pilgrims and tourists from across the globe comingled with shopkeepers and schoolchildren and scattered soldiers assuring that calm is kept.

Muslim calls to prayer. Jewish davening with devotion. Christians walking the Via Dolorosa imagining Jesus’ last steps.

Chaotic, energetic, historic, beautiful but, at times, tense. Even the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is divided in four.

If only we could bring the spirit of Shabbat to our week, the spirit of our prayers to our streets, and a taste of heaven to today.



Writing our Past, Writing our Future – from Rabbi Judy in Israel

13 Jun

“Days are scrolls, write on them only what you want to be remembered,” Bachya Ibn Pakuda taught.

Digging at a tel (an archeological site) in Israel, coins and stones are found with writing that confirms that our roots on this land are deep.

Proving our past does not secure our future.

We are the next layer of the tel, the archeological trail, that leaves evidence of a Judaism that transformed the world.

May the Jewish life and values we live, become the scrolls and shards that inspire the generations to come.


TBE in Jerusalem!

13 Jun

After stormy delays from Charlotte, and mechanical delays out of Philly, the thirty members of Beth El arrived happily and safely to Jerusalem. Israeli bagels, falafel, a late night hike through the Old City to enjoy the annual light festival and now an early morning archeological dig at Beit Guvrin mark our first 24 hours.

Today, we are literally digging  in our past and tomorrow we will celebrate our future with the B’nei Miztvah of Ellen Garfinkle, Sophie Levy, Hannah Schwartz, and Jacob Stein.

TBE Jerusalem 2014