Friday, June 22, 2012
This will be the final Shabbat-O-Gram before the annual summer hiatus. I'll be writing to you from time to time, especially from Israel in August, and I'll continue to communicate throughout via Facebook postings (you mean you haven't friended me yet?) and Tweeting, as this promises to be a verrry interesting summer. Of course our doors are open daily for services and schmoozing, so if you are in town, don't be stranger!
Meanwhile, a few thoughts with which to send you off....
- Mazal tov to Steve Lander and family on his grandson's bar mitzvah this week, and to Rachel Leiterstein and Gadi Zohar, who will be celebrating their ufruf this Shabbat morning at TBE.
- You MUST see this video of Gaby Baum, one of our TBE students, who as you can see, turned her very serious health challenge into a mitzvah with this Allergy Awareness Walkathon. I cannot be more proud of Gaby, having seen what she has (begun to) overcome and the courageous way she's addressed it. Also see Alexa Karp's recent Bat Mitzvah commentary on Beha'alotcha.
- This week has been marked by strong reactions to an outrageous statement made about Conservative and Reform Jews by Israel's Sephardic chief rabbi, following a landmark Supreme Court decision peeling away at the terrible inequalities afflicting non Orthodox movements in Israel. See the letter, written on Israeli government stationery, and read the strong responses from national Federation leadership and the Rabbinical Assembly. You can also read media reactions to the pluralism decision. Also this week, adding insult to injury, another woman was arrested for wearing a tallit at the Western Wall. Israel is the only democracy on earth where some Jews of liberal denominations are not free to practice their faith as they choose.
- Along that line, you can read my latest featured op-ed on the "Times of Israel" site discussing how both in Israel and the Diaspora, we all need to focus on helping disaffiliated and disaffected Jews to find their way home.
- Israel faces numerous other challenges as we head into the summer. First and foremost is Iran. It looks like the clock is running out on a negotiated solution, though there are faint hopes that when severe sanctions set in next week, Iran might be nudged into greater concessions. Israel faces a number of other serious threats, including the growth of Al Qaeda groups in the increasingly lawless Sinai; an attack occurred on that border this week, along with a barrage of rockets from Gaza. Plus there are the escalating uncertainties in Egypt and Syria. These are matters of great concern, but we should have great confidence in Israel's ability to keep its citizens safe. See AIPAC's latest "ACTION ALERT" to see what you can do to confront the Iranian threat. We'll explore the topic of Iran at tomorrow morning's service in our Torah discussion, "Korah and the Limits of Dialogue."
- In addition to all of the above, this week another mosque was set aflame on the West Bank. The arson appears to be one in a series of "Price Tag" attacks, in which settler extremists (as opposed to the vast majority of Israelis living in the territories, who are law-abiding and peaceful) use violence to try to fight off policies they dislike. Observers are worried that violent outbursts will increasingly be a part of the Israeli political discourse. That risk is real: During the past two years, Price Tag attacks have left ten mosques desecrated, Palestinian olive trees uprooted, shops vandalized, senior IDF officers threatened and IDF bases attacked. The potential for violence looms large in light of court orders requiring the Israeli government to evict settlers from two locales in the West Bank this summer. This violence is a threat to the moral fiber of Israel, to its Jewish and democratic character, and to the security of its citizens. The New Israel Fund gives us ways to respond constructively to this threat.
- Back to Beth El, some noteworthy High Holidays news. Rosh Hashanah services will now begin at 9 AM - on Yom Kippur morning we'll still begin 8:30. Children's and family services will begin at 10:30 AM all three days. For everyone, it is important to plan to get here by 10:30, as the prime section of the service will begin around then. On Rosh Hashanah, the sermon will now be delivered in the middle of Musaf, roughly at 11:15 AM, with the service's conclusion to follow. The service will still end at 1 PM or shortly after, but with the sermon now in the middle, we're hoping to reduce that mad rush to the exits that used to occur at the conclusion on Rosh Hashanah. Also note that a large number of our new Machzors have not yet been dedicated. There is no better way to honor a loved one then to dedicate a bookplate in that person's honor/memory.
- Otherwise, we move into the summer in a very good place. Shorashim registration is proceeding apace - and have you seen our Shorashim preschool's new website? Our membership is on the rise, and we've just announced major new incentives for people to affiliate, including free membership for all unaffiliated Day School families with a student entering K,1 or 2. We already have a similar offer for new Hebrew School families. Tell your friends about all these things! The buzz is out there about the exciting things happening here.
- For the coming year we intend to upgrade (even more) our Shabbat offerings. If you have suggestions regarding Friday night or Shabbat morning services, let me know. Next year's schedule is already filling up with great events here. Among them will be special Beth El Cares Shabbats dedicated to various segments of our community, including a conversation on the future of our local federations as well as a focus on education, featuring an appearance by our newly elected Superintendent of Schools, Winifred Hamilton. "Beth El Cares" about our community and we all should be grateful to be living in such a fascinating, diverse place. I caught some of "Alive at Five" downtown last night and was pleased to see the Kosh booth there. Now you can get a kosher hot dog at "Alive at Five" while listening to Matisyahu in a few weeks. What a country!
As we go off to our various summer escapes, it's always nice to know that the place we're escaping from 'aint so bad. Stamford is a great place to live and, in particular, to be Jewish. We have so much to be thankful for.
Shabbat Shalom and enjoy the summer!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman