Friday, September 18, 2015


Crosby's 13 and he's been practicing for his Bark Mitzvah. You are cordially invited!*
Join us at the Hammerman Sukkah at noon on Oct 4 and bring your pets.
* no gifts necessary.

Shabbat Shalom.
This weekend is Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath that falls during the Ten Days of Repentance.  There was such a nice feeling over the two days of Rosh Hashanah.  Thank you so much to everyone who participated - and that means everyone who was here. Please join us this Shabbat.  Tonight at 7:30, David Bravo will be our musical guest and we'll hear from TBE member and Hebrew University political science professor Yitzchak Brudny on the state of US-Israel relations.
Click here for a packet on the process of Teshuvah - to be discussed at services on Shabbat morning.
See at the bottom of this email a chart regarding the 13 Attributes of Divine Mercy (which, since we are made in God's image, also inspires us to be nicer people).  Click here for a larger version
And if you are in the mood for a good laugh, and your sense of humor is as warped as mine is, click here for the i-Shiva parody commercial that's been going around.
During the Pope's visit next week, he will undoubtedly highlight his important moral message on Climate Change.  Click here for a guide to Jewish-Catholic dialogue on the Climate Change Encyclical and here for other resources.
A great suggestion to me this week from a congregant:  Write a letter to yourself, to be delivered back to you next High Holidays.  She did that, and the experience of hearing from herself a year later, and a difficult year at that, was quite moving.
During services, I suggested that it would be nice to include in our video montage in the lobby some photos of people dear to us who have passed away.  I've already received a few.  This will help us to forge a direct link between us and our loved ones on the day when they are such a presence in our lives.  If you are interested, please send me jpeg attachments to and I will include them in the montage.
They continue to come in. Send me yours - anything related to the High Holidays, being Jewish or whatever!  Here are some more:
  • New Year comes; I begin again.
  • This year I give to You.
  • Help me be better this year.
  • Walk through trees; see new light.  (as i'm on back deck watching the sunlight through the trees!)
  • I'll hold you as we walk.   (seeing an elderly woman needing help this afternoon)
  • G-d listen. Please hear my prayer.
  • Grow. Take risks. Give back. Peace.
  • Let me in; I'll come out. 
TBE college student Eloise Hyman is traveling in Europe and Asia this semester. She spent Rosh Hashanah in Krakow, having also visited Auschwitz just before.  Here are some moving reflections she shared: 
I've been lucky enough to grow up around a large Jewish community as well as having found a great one at UChicago. This trip has been probably my first experience of being not only the only Jew in the hostels I'm staying in (which I am) but also a Jew in places where there is next to no Jewish presence. It's a weirder feeling still because these places are exactly what people think of when they think of European Judaism: I went to the synagogue where the rabbi who first wrote the Ashkenazi "guide book", a place that should be full of Jewish life that just doesn't have any anymore. 
I came to Kraków for the Jewish history and thought I knew how I would respond to seeing certain places: interest in seeing the old Jewish quarter and sadness in Auschwitz.
I visited Auschwitz and felt a lot of feelings, but the anger there was stronger than the sadness I expected to feel. Of course it was an upsetting experience, but that wasn't my primary reaction. I didn't really understand why the sadness wasn't my main instinct until the day after (Monday), which was also Rosh Hashanah.
It was my first year not going to some kind of service, so I went to the old Jewish quarter hoping to feel more connected to a Jewish community. I walked around a bit trying to figure out what I was looking for, and then I went to one of the oldest synagogues in Europe and it was open as a museum. I walked in and about thirty seconds later walked out because I was crying: on one of the holiest days of the Jewish year, a synagogue was open as a museum and not used for services or closed out of respect. I very much felt the hole where the Jewish community of Kraków should be.
In my view, Auschwitz exists as a symbol of hatred and hearing about and seeing remnants of the atrocities committed there makes me angry, so seeing it empty was a good thing. Walking around an area that should be full of people praying and celebrating the New Year and instead finding it full of tourists was difficult. I'm so glad I spent so great time in Kraków and that it's given me a lot to think about.
 "A Spiritual Journey of Faith, Friendship and Understanding,"
If ever religion needed to play a constructive role in bringing people together, it's now.
As I said in my first day sermon on Rosh Hashanah:
So many of us were shocked when we saw the families of the Charleston victims look the killer right in the eye in court and forgive him.  But that act opened the floodgates leading to the lowering of the Confederate flag.  And the months and years and decades and centuries of struggle against racism and discrimination and fear - it all turned around in an instant.  People who had been yelling at one another across the aisle forever suddenly looked at what was happening and they saw the victims being buried and the families refusing to hate - and suddenly, it all clicked.  Love won.  Because of religion.

And in Israel too, love has won.  The Elijah Interfaith Institute initiated a crowd funding campaign that raised over $17,000 to rebuild the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes in Tabgha. "If in the name of Judaism one could destroy, in the name of Judaism one should also rebuild," said Alon Goshen-Gottstein, an Orthodox rabbi and the founder of the Institute.  This is the true Israel.  The Israel and the Judaism that responds to hate with love.

While there is so little that we can do to help promote coexistence in our turbulent, divided world, one thing we can do is foster interfaith fellowship right here - and share that vision with others.  That's a prime mission of our Interfaith Council.
I am delighted to share with you news of a historic project being undertaken by our Interfaith Council.  We are proposing to embark on "A Spiritual Journey of Faith, Friendship and Understanding," a nine-day trip at the end of next May that will take us throughout Israel and the Holy Land.  We will meet with Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and Baha'i in order to gain a deeper understanding of the complex issues that have made peace so elusive, while at the same time meet with groups laying the groundwork for dialogue and reconciliation in a number of areas.  Additionally, we will be able to share with our hosts the diversity, unity and mutual respect that make our community so unique.  Finally, this journey will enable us to sharing an unforgettable experience together, a real moment where we can enhance the sacred bonds that unite us.
This high-profile visit will be open to clergy and laity, and we anticipate that a number of community leaders will want to join us.  We are looking for as large and diverse a group as possible. Please take a look at the flyer below and our draft itinerary (not yet finalized) and share it enthusiastically you're your friends of all faiths.  Encourage them to come to our community meeting at the First Presbyterian Church on Bedford St. (the "Fish Church") on Tuesday, October 13, at 7:00, where we will hear from the tour company representative and finalize our plans. 
The land costs for the trip will be approximately $3200/person.  If the number of participants goes up to 25, the price would drop about $300/person.  In addition, we are looking into options for airfare subsidies that are available for trips like ours.  You can read more about our tour company at  Let me know if you are interested - and come to the community meeting!
G'mar Hatima Tova - May we be sealed for a year of peace and life.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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