Friday, May 29, 2015

Shabbat-O-Gram May 29


Mazal Tov to Angelique and Adam Wallace on their son, Charlie, 
becoming a Bar Mitzvah. Todah Rabah to Angelique and Adam 
for sponsoring the Oneg and Kiddush in honor of Charlie.

  At Thursday night's annual meeting, Sylvan Pomerantz receives a gift 
as he prepares to hand over the presidency to Mia Weinstein in a few weeks.  
Thank you to Sylvan for his stellar leadership!
Just the Facts:

Candle lighting: 7:59 PM
Services at 7 tonight, with guest musician Uri Sharlin, 9:30 on Shabbat morning

To Do List:

  • Get tickets and purchase ads for the Cantor's Concert on June 14
  • See the film Paragraph 175 at Temple Sinai next Thursday night.  This award winning documentary about LGBTQ persecution during the Holocaust is being co-sponsored by TBE, Temple Sinai and the JCC.  Hosted by the Triangle Community Center.  I will be part of a panel discussion following the film.
  • Wear Orange on June 2, the first annual Gun Violence Awareness Day. People across the country will wear orange to honor all those who have been killed -- and inspire action to stop the gun violence that takes too many lives in America.  Why orange? It's a color that symbolizes the value of human life. Hunters wear orange to alert other hunters that they're there - as a way to take care of their own life and the lives of others. Now, we're turning orange into a symbol for the value of human life everywhere. For more background on the Jewish values behind this cause, see my article "Guns and Moses."
  • Look forward to Jewels Harrison's Bar Mitzvah is next week.  See videos and backstory about Jewels, and also see  my article in this week's Jewish Week about this special event. 
  • Take our very quick survey to determine Friday night start times moving forward.

Tribute to Fred Weisman

Joan Weisman presented the first Fred Weisman Tikkun Olam at Thursday's Annual Meeting to Ken and Amy Temple.  Fred passed away just a few months ago.  Below is an excerpt from Joan's tribute to her late husband. Such a fitting tribute to a great man. Below is a photo of myself with Joan and Fred at the 1996 Purim Comedy Night - one of the many programs created by Joan and Fred. Read Joan's tribute in its entirety here.


"...You must be wondering whether Fred had 48 hours in each day, required no sleep or had super human powers.  We won't ever know, but maybe wearing his Superman or Mickey Mouse shirts really did work.  In spite of being a cancer survivor for 20 years and told he had only six months to live on at least two occasions, he was always happy.   He would often exclaim that the reason he did for others was because he was the luckiest man alive and because of his good fortune wanted to share with others.  He truly felt that he was given extra years because he hadn't yet done enough to save the world. 

I recently found the words Fred spoke just last year as he was honored by the Pacific House Homeless Shelter in Stamford with the Rays of Hope Award.  "It has been extremely gratifying to return to Stamford after a 20 year absence to find Beth El continuing what Joan and I had started at Beth El Cares.  We thank you all for giving meaning to the old adage "that those who can, must do"  There are many needy throughout the world but we must not forget the needs of those in our own backyard."

I think the  most important question that we can ask ourselves as we think about The Fred Weisman Memorial Tikkun Olam Award is what each of us can do to repair the world, how we can pay it forward in even a very small way.  How each of us can find and follow our own moral compass as Fred followed his.  How we can pass on the value of tzeduka to our children and grandchildren.   I hope that all I have shared with you about my dear Fred will not be perceived as bragging but an opportunity to see how possible it is for anyone to make the world a better place."  

The State of the Temple

Below is an adaptation of my report given at the Annual Meeting

Let me go against every bar mitzvah speech I've ever written - I mean co-authored - and begin with the thank yous. First and foremost, Sylvan Pomerantz. I knew we had a gem when we picked a president whose brother is a rabbi.  And indeed, one of Sylvan's great assets is his ability to empathize - with clergy, to be sure - but with everyone. We've had so many great presidents here recently that our TBE Mount Rushmore has expanded into Wyoming, but Sylvan certainly deserves to be there.
I work with the most talented and dedicated senior staff any rabbi could only dream about.  Steve has become such a legend that I recently discovered that has become global ventriloquist, able to throw his voice into Eileen Rosner when he was in Israel.  Eileen would open her mouth, and out came all the wisdom Steve had shared with her.  Eileen of course has much wisdom of her own to share.  Lisa Gittelman-Udi has revitalized not only our school, but our entire youth program.  She is an ideal educational partner, and her dedication is unmatched.

If all had gone according to plan, we would be welcoming Cantor Fishman here this coming week, on June 1.  Let's just say that it would have been an enormous loss for us to have waited a whole year, because she has brought magic to our music program and services.  She is a spectacular musician, partner and human being.  I am so glad that things have worked out, for her, for all of us, and especially for those b'nai mitzvah students who have had the pleasure of working with her this year, who would otherwise not have had any cantor at all.

What's so wonderful about our leadership here, senior staff, lay leaders, faculty, administrative and maintenance staff - is that there is real partnership.  We all have learned that life is too short to be hung up on pettiness or to get stuck in the past.  We can't change what was - so we roll up our sleeves and focus on what we can change - and on the people we serve - how much is at stake. Every bar mitzvah student, everyone who is ill or has suffered a loss, everyone celebrating a new child or a marriage, everyone just trying to get by, everyone needing a place to call home - we need to respond to those needs.  That's what matters.

There are great community and global needs that we need to address - and it is so fitting that tonight we dedicate an annual award in memory of Fred Weisman, one who dedicated his life to effecting change wherever he could - and our winners, Ken and Amy Temple, have embodied the vision that Fred and Joan had when they created Beth El Cares.

In embracing the needs of the LGBT community this year as never before, we are responding to a cry of this generation and we are placing TBE where it needs always to be, on the right side of history, not only because it is morally right but also because it is a strategic necessity. 

At a recent retreat, the board asked that I give more insight into my personal vision.  You might recall the countdown of Judaism's Top 40 values that I emailed out last fall before the High Holidays.  Embedded in that list is this one:



Click for a clearer pdf version of Seven Jewish Values

The seven Jewish values on this chart reflect my personal vision as to what a fully inclusive, fully embracing congregation can and should be.  We're pretty good at embracing all seven of these Jewish values, and indeed all 40 of the values on the larger list. We need to continue to get better at that - and particularly in the area of inclusiveness of interfaith and non traditional families.  We are good - we need to be better.

A Pew Survey on America's changing religious landscape released this month indicates that the number of religiously unaffiliated adults has increased by roughly 19 million since 2007. There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S., and this group - sometimes called "nones" - is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants.  Those who are falling away from religious affiliation are now the fastest growing religious group!  Yet 86 percent of millennials, those born since 1980, who are fleeing from organized religion the fastest, still claim to believe in God.  They are out there.  We need to find them, and not wait for them to find us. This needs to continue to be a priority for us.

One way to attract people is with scintillating and meaningful prayer experiences.  We remain committed to building our services and our Shabbat community here, both on Friday nights and Shabbat mornings.  Attendance has been increasing steadily over the year - and so has excitement - which really peaked on Yom Haatzmaut when about 400 joined together for a memorable Shabbat celebration.  We'll be planning a few of those mega services next year, but in fact have the goal of making every week unforgettable. Check your email this week for a quick survey regarding Friday night start times. 

We would like to upgrade options on Shabbat mornings too, and on June 20 we'll experiment with two options for the first half of the service - a traditional option and one with meditations, reflective chanting and some learning as well.

Speaking of learning, we've had a successful adult ed year.  My lunch and learn class on Pirke Avot has been meeting weekly now for nearly half a year.  We'll pick that up next fall with some more text study.  Next year I'll once again be joining with Rabbi TelRav of Temple Sinai to do a 20 session Intro to Judaism class, something we collaborated on last year quite successfully.  We've been doing quite a bit of collaborating with Sinai and with others - with Shabbat Across Stamford the most noteworthy example.  Community Partnership is another of those vision values that I know we all espouse. We also continued our interfaith collaboration on a number of levels, including the monthly interfaith Learning and Latte discussions and our Interfaith Seder here.

So there's a little hint of the vision, what has been and what is yet to be.  This is a fabulous congregation and we have much to be thankful for.  And so much yet to accomplish over the coming year.  

Shabbat Shalom and Happy June!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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