Friday, October 31, 2014

Ebola and Fear Itself, America-Israel "Fowl" Language, Challah-ween, Voting, a Jewish Duty Shabbat O Gram

Mazal tov to Tyler Pomerance and Ashley Shapiro and their families, as they become b’nai mitzvah this Shabbat morning and afternoon, respectively!  I’m looking forward to seeing them this evening too.  BTW, join us tonight and you may hear a popular Kabbalat Shabbat prayer chanted in a manner that you’ve never heard before! Plus, Challah-ween candy for the kids.

Speaking of which, our Shabbat programming is about to take a great leap forward.  You’ll be reading more about it in the upcoming bulletin, but to whet your appetite, click here to see our schedule of November and December events.  Note that next Friday night before services at 6:30 we’ll be hosting a wine and cheese for young couples and young professionals (and any combination thereof).  Just show up – and we’ll feed you!

To clean up some old business: See – this thank you note from Person to Person which I received following the collection of over 1000 bags of food by the Jewish community these past High Holidays (by far the largest percentage coming from TBE, as usual).  See also last week’s stirring b’nai mitzvah commentaries from Hannah Nekritz and Micayla Roth and, for those looking for mitzvah projects for upcoming b’nai mitzvah or who simply want to know how to do some good in the world, check out The Good People Fund Annual Report.  It will warm your heart to see some of the creative philanthropic and volunteer endeavors going on here, in Israel and beyond.

Plans are also taking shape for next summer’s TBE Israel Adventure – and an organizational meeting with the tour coordinator on Wed. November 12 at 8 PM. Click here for up to date itinerary and pricing information.  Also, let me know if you might be interested in an additional, shorter, solidarity and informational trip to Israel (not geared to families for first timers) this coming year.

Finally, we are co-sponsors for the closing event of this year’s Jewish Arts and Film Festival, this Sunday evening.  See details about what is said to be a very moving film here, called “Under the Same Sun.”

Challah-ween, Ebola and UNICEF

As I wrote last week, I’m of the “If you can’t beat ‘em, make it a Jewish experience” school regarding Halloween.  Normally that’s no problem. When it occurs on Friday night, thus colliding with Shabbat, it offers great challenges for some and opportunities for me.  Especially this year.

So tonight, join us for our Kabbalat Shabbat service at 7:30.  There will be blood…I mean candy.  And I’ll refer to some of the most ghoulish moments in Jewish history,  But I promise that I will not wear my “Sexy Rabbi” Halloween costume.

Here are some suggestions for those wishing to make Challa-ween a more Jewish experience:

How about making a number of little bags of say -- * a chocolate bar or nuts and raisins ("ruzhinkas und
mandlen," as the Yiddish song says);

* plus a small check made out ahead of time to UNICEF  or another tzedakah (American Jewish World Service?), endorsed "Payable to acct only",  plus an envelope addressed there (but with no stamp);

* plus a  little photocopied note with  a brief explanation of the work the organization does and an explanation that it's up to the kid to write in her/his own return address, put on a stamp, and send it.

The visiting kid then not only gets a sweet but also gets to understand at least a little bit of what tzedakah/ "charity" is; becomes responsible to send the check in; and gets the thank-you card from the tzedakah.

If your kids would enjoy the costumed walk around the neighborhood but because of Shabbat you don't want them receiving "treats," you could --

* figure out a time to walk either before or after family Shabbat celebration or our services;

* give the kids a pre-written IOU from you for x amount of pleasant special small food treats to be provided during the next week;

* and ask them to set aside tzedakah $$ from their own money.

The walk and costumes are then for sheer fun.  "Practice for Purim!"


Click on the UNICEF site to see some of the important things UNICEF is doing this year to stop Ebola at its source.  See the Youtube video.  The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the deadliest in history. More than 13,000 cases have been reported since March, and nearly 5,000 people have died. Children are Ebola's most vulnerable victims. At least 3,700 children have been orphaned, many of them shunned by their communities. UNICEF is at work across West Africa-airlifting supplies, training health workers and caring for children and families. Text Ebola to 864233 to donate $10 to @UNICEFUSA and help save lives.

UNICEF has long since gotten past the accusations of anti-Semitism that cloud so much of what takes place at the UN.  In fact, I received the information I am forwarding from the New York Board of Rabbis.  But if you are looking toward helping using a Jewish organization, the American Jewish World Service also has an emergency campaign going on right now.

Ebola scares us, but it also unites people around the world – the disease does not distinguish between Jew and Muslim, American and African.  It is threat to us all.  It threatens our health, and our humanity too. It threatens our health, and our humanity too. We need to place the threat into perspective and not let panic overwhelm our compassion.  But most of all, we need to eliminate that threat.

 We can #StopEbola, but we need to act now.

Voting:  A Jewish Duty

See this piece by David Markus on why it is a Jewish duty to vote next Tuesday.  Why? 

First, government is important. As in ancient days, we “pray for government’s welfare, for without fear of it [we] would swallow each other alive” (M. Avot 3:2). The duty to create and support government is one of the few duties that Jewish law recognizes for all, Jew and non-Jew alike (B.T. Sanhedrin 56a). To Maimonides (1135-1204), the purpose is to ensure public order (Mishneh Torah, Melachim 9:14); to Nachmanides (1194-1270), the purpose extends to include all social welfare (comm. B.T. Avodah Zara 4a). Public safety, health, social equity, the rule of law – the very fabric of modern life in an interdependent world –today require wise, effective and democratically accountable government as never before.   Second, Jewish tradition views government as a human partnership with God.  Click here to read the rest.

Fowl Language between America and Israel

In the face of the unprecedented public display of animosity between the Obama and Netanyahu leadership teams, the next several weeks are not going to be easy ones for American Jews.  We are going to be expected to choose sides.  But the majority of Jews, I suspect, wish a plague on both houses for their reckless abandonment of sanity, which has descended to the use of “fowl” language by an unnamed American official, at a time when the world screams for levelheadedness.  The slur, reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in the Atlantic, has been rightly condemned by Jewish organizations and American officials, including Sec of State Kerry.  Things are bad, and they are getting worse at precisely the time when America and Israel need to be walking in lockstep – as the November 24 deadline approaches in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear capacities.  I about this on my Times of Israel blog: Centrist Quandary: Iran Ennobler or Settlement Enabler?  

Shabbat Shalom, and don’t forget to “fall back” on Saturday night.

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