Friday, October 30, 2015

Shabbat-O-Gram for October 30

Shabbat Shalom!
Join us tonight at 7:30 and tomorrow morning at 9:30.  This week’s portion, Vayera, details Judaism’s first-ever continuity crisis.  It didn’t take long; in fact, it was the first Jewish family who dealt with continuity concerns, as Abraham took the Egyptian Hagar as a concubine and Sarah fretted that she would not have offspring of her own.  Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. An important new survey, which you can preview here, was released last week by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis.  This studyis the first comprehensive assessment to examine the religious upbringing, college experiences, and current attitudes and practices of millennial children of intermarriage.   We’ll be discussing the results of the survey in some detail on Shabbat morning.
Some of you have noticed that we’ve begun live streaming our Friday night services on a regular basis. We are still in “beta” phase, but comments have been positive.  The idea is to make our service available to those who can’t otherwise get here to experience it in person, whether because of illness, distance or whatever.  For now, the link is available on request.  Our services have a reputation that extends far and wide, so we want people who live in those places (e.g. FARgo, North Dakota, orWIDEopen, England) to be able to see us.  But if you are neither from far or wide and live around here, join us in person!  Part of what makes our service such a great experience is the active participation of lots of people who are filling the seats.
Make sure to circle the dates for these special November events:
November 6, NEXT FRIDAY NIGHT: Latino Shabbat.  Another of our renowned themed, “World Shabbats,” with great music, dessert, a real fiesta (and siesta) for the soul!
November 20 and 21: Judaism Mind-Body-Soul During both Friday night and Shabbat morning services, assisted by TBE members Pamela Tinkham and Katie Kaplan, we’ll be exploring now ways to approach our ancient prayers, using movement, meditation and chant. 
Our TBE Family in the news....
Congratulations to TBE's Lauren Redniss on her latest book “Thunder and Lightning,” and its terrific write-up in the NY Times Book Review.
Halloween Links
Rabbi costume for adults (Hey, I have nothing to wear!)
And don’t forget to turn your clocks back on Sunday morning.
Praying in Her Own Voice
Join us next Tuesday, to see the film detailing the struggle of the Women of the Wall, and then the following week, on November, 11, to meet Anat Hoffman.  She will be speaking about the many ways she has been working to help Israel fulfill the vision embraced in its Declaration of Independence, that the new state “will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture...”
More than almost anyone on earth, Anat Hoffman has worked toward achieving those aims - and with astounding success (despite the frustrating setbacks).  She’s become a real watchdog for human rights.
This is what she wrote this week in her weekly email message:
Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens never had so much in common as they do today. Both the Jewish majority and the Arab minority agree that what Israel and they need most is hope.
If everyone is looking for it, if we all want hope, this may possibly be the worst time to legislate that Arabic will no longer be one of Israel’s official languages, or that Israel’s official calendar will now be based only on the Jewish calendar (today, for example, is 13 Cheshvan 5776). This would be a terrible time to pass legislation legalizing segregated neighborhoods by letting Jews refuse to allow Arabs to move into their communities.
All three examples, and more, are included in the so-called Nation-State Bill that has been dusted-off, repackaged, and proposed for consideration by the government.  
Sometimes our legal team writes legalese, and sometimes they simply write common sense. After reading the new bill, our lawyers told government officials that the proposed bill denigrates Israel’s non-Jewish citizens and tramples the rights of millions of Arab-Israelis. We called out the proposed legislation for what it is: unnecessary, dangerous, and the worst possible way to calm the tension and the violence that has been preoccupying us during the past month.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced, without much fan-fare, that he would not allow the bill to be fast-tracked for a vote, as some had hoped.  Common sense won out over divisiveness. 
Being a majority comes with responsibility. We are measured as a democracy by how we protect the rights of minority groups. With PM Netanyahu’s decision, the delicate balance between two of Israel’s basic tenants-Judaism and Democracy-survives intact for another day. So does hope.
Interfaith Climate Summit
I will have the honor of participating next Thursday in the Interfaith Climate Stewardship Summit in West Hartford.  The Summit is a full day conference designed to educate and inspire religious and lay leadership on the issue of climate change as the moral imperative of our time. 
The distribution of the long-awaited Papal encyclical, “On Care for Our Common Home”, was a watershed event in the spiritual lives of many people of faith around the world. In deeply moving and eloquent language, Pope Francis laid out the unimpeachable grounds for humanity’s responsibility towards all creation. In addressing the current global crisis of widespread poverty and ecological degradation, the encyclical calls for a “new synthesis” - integrating the faith community’s concern for social justice and upholding human dignity with a dedicated commitment for safeguarding our natural environment.
The Climate Stewardship Summit will build upon the encyclical’s moral vision for developing an “integrated approach” in seeking solutions to tackle the increasingly grave consequences of global climate change.   For more information, please visit the conference website 
Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Leah Tuluca on Vayera

Good evening! This day has been on my mind for a very long time now; I really never though this day would finally come. Those of you who me, know how much I love tennis.  I started playing when I was seven, following in the footsteps of my sister Danielle and cousin Levi.  At about ten, I started getting more serious about it, and now I play in 2 to 3 tournaments a month.  I’ve won my share, but for me it’s never just about the winning (though I guess I am pretty competitive). It’s much more about learning from my mistakes and getting better….
…Which is why I found my portion to contain a very important lesson.  When Abraham’s nephew Lot and his wife are running from the city of Sodom (S’dome), as it is being destroyed, they are warned not to look back at the flaming city.  But Lot’s wife does look back, and she is turned into a pillar of salt.
From this we learn that we should always look ahead in life, and not back. While we can learn from the past, including our mistakes, we shouldn’t dwell on them.
In tennis, we have no choice but to quickly let go of our mistakes.
Two years ago, I was playing a match against someone I know pretty well.  I usually beat her and I knew that I could. But I wasn’t really playing my game and made a lot of unforced errors. So I lost. 
I got really, really mad at myself.  I just didn’t have a good day and I felt terrible.
One thing that’s important to note is that I didn’t take it out on her. In fact, win or lose, no matter how competitive I am on the court, I’ve learned how important it is to let that go when I’m off the court.  My portion speaks of how Abraham was so concerned about hospitality toward guests and maintaining a cheerful attitude.  He was in a lot of pain at the time the guests visited him, but he put on a cheerful face.  I try to do that too. But I don’t simply pretend that I’m cheerful.  I really try to let go of the match I’ve just played.
And even on the court, it is important for me to let go of my anger at myself, when I make a mistake, and focus on what I need to do to get better. 
In this case, I needed to practice more and work on the things I did wrong in the match – especially my serve (my mom really hates double faults! J).  But the thing I needed to work on the most was keeping my emotions under control.  So now, when I lose a point, or whenever I make a mistake, and yes, even when I double fault, I don’t look back like Lot’s wife did.  I’ve learned to let it go.
I’m a better player for what I’ve learned…. And more importantly, I’m a better person.  I’ve learned to let go of the occasional bad grade or the misinterpreted comment that was meant to be a joke but came out all wrong, or the one or two times J when I didn’t do my Bat Mitzvah preparations perfectly.
Lot’s wife should have taken a cue from Elsa, to just “let it go.”  I know it’s a lesson I’ve learned very well.
For my mitzvah project I collected used or new tennis equipment from my friends to donate to an organization called Kids Serving Kids.  The equipment will go to help kids who are playing wheelchair tennis.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Shabbat-O-Gram for October 23

The Shabbat-o-Gram is sponsored by Inga and Luciano Tuluca in honor of their daughter, Leah, becoming a Bat Mitzvah on Shabbat afternoon

Our Hebrew School in action: 
th graders' time capsule of Rosh Hashanah wishes 
and tefila (prayer) with the me and Cantor Fishman

Shabbat Shalom!

Mazal tov to Leah Teluca, who becomes Bat Mitzvah on Shabbat afternoon.   And Mazal Tov to the Mets as well!

This Sunday evening is the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by the Hebrew calendar.  At services on Friday evening at 7:30, we'll recall this moment in word and song, as we did on Yom Kippur.  On Shabbat morning, our Torah study will unpack ideas from  Avivah Zornberg's magnificent literary commentary, "Genesis: The beginning of Desire." If you would like to read the chapter in advance, you can download it here (but no advance preparation is required).

This week, we continue to worry about the terror in Israel, which took the lives of two more Israelis, as well as acts of reprisal that have caused great concern, including the mob lynching of an Eritrean asylum seeker who was an innocent bystander in a Beersheva terror attack.  The terror attacks, primarily stabbings, have occurred almost daily; on Thursday, two terrorists tried to board a school bus in Bet Shemesh. They wounded one person before being subdued.  We cannot overestimate the impact on everyday existence of always having to be "watching your back," in the face of this wave, which appears to be becoming the "new normal," though there are some small signs that this fever is beginning to run its course.

If it is, it's not because of any constructive words coming from those in power.  I am troubled by the apparent unwillingness of leaders on both sides to lower the temperature - including yet another N.H.A. (Needless Holocaust Analogy), this time by Prime Minister Netanyahu, who, in his zeal to paint the Palestinians with a genocidal brush, seemed to absolve Adolf Hitler of responsibility for the Final Solution - a gaffe that resulted in the absurd scenario of the German government pleading, "No, it's our fault!"

Meanwhile, another illustrative dispatch from my son Dan contrasting two places where Arabs and Jews live in close proximity of each other. One of them is Lod, where he is working in an Arab school, helping the students to learn English.  See the photo below (Dan is on the right). #couldnotbeprouderofwhatheisdoing
Our TBE Family in the news....
Let My People Know: A Proposal

An important new survey of was released this week by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis.  This study is the first comprehensive assessment to examine the religious upbringing, college experiences, and current attitudes and practices of millennial children (born between 1981-1997) of intermarriage. 

The great news is that a many more of them are choosing to identify as Jews than was indicated in prior surveys.  This trend would have an immediate impact on Jewish population estimates, raising the figure to as high as 7 million in the United States.

Some will claim that many of these self-defining Jews are not Jews by traditional halachic standards.  But that begs the point - the fact is that they want to be seen as Jews and are proud of it.

Many will also ask whether it matters that one be called a Jew if there is little or no Jewish content to that person's life.  Is that kind of identification sustainable to the next generation?  With affiliation and observance levels down and Jewish literacy decreasing, it is debatable whether these high identification rates will have legs.  But it was even more debatable a generation ago, when only 28 percent of children of intermarriage were being raised as Jews.  That number now has apparently increased significantly.  Among Birthright Israel applicants of interfaith families, 77 percent are identifying as Jews.  Still Jewish literacy is a prime concern.

This recent essay by David Bernstein in e-Jewish Philanthropy details the problem from a historical perspective.  During the height of Rome's world dominance, Jews were said to have comprised 10% of the Roman Empire's population, an astounding number.  But that number dwindled quickly, according to one book cited in the essay, because of the lack of basic Jewish literacy among that population.

A knowledge of basic Judaism instills a comfort level that fosters further exploration and makes it much easier to pass through those scary doors of the local synagogue, or other community gateways.  It also enables Jews to speak a common language, one that goes beyond schlepping, finagling and chutzpah!  A common language will help us to draw in this next generation, combined with the warm embrace of a community that reaches out and welcomes them.  I feel that outreach needs to be our #1 priority, and opening doors wider to a community that offers a nonthreatening approach to Jewish literacy will help us to achieve that.

As the essay states:

"The typical Jew in a Western country today may be a highly educated professional, but is Jewishly only semi-literate. His (or her) Jewish education was from a Sunday school, or afternoon congregational school. Forgetting about the quality of that education, it is extremely limited in its intensity, and usually not much reinforced at home or by the suburban environment in which so many Jews live. Many Jews cannot read Hebrew at all; of those who can, many can sound out the words, but without comprehension....  In the struggle for Soviet Jewry of the 1970's and 1980's, there was a slogan: "Let my people go!"  What if we used a slightly different slogan: "Let my people know!""

Bernstein quotes Harry Frischer, who wrote in an article entitled "Building a Robust, Reform Shabbat Community":

"Imagine a worship community that values Jewish learning and literacy, and where members find depths of meaning in the regular study of Jewish texts. A community where members are inspired to acquire the skills needed to navigate Hebrew liturgy, and where members regularly chant Torah and haftarah, deliver divrei Torah, and lead in so many other ways."

Imagine indeed.  We have long tried to build such a community here, encouraging service involvement and learning on a number of levels, with many gateways (including virtual ones, like these Shabbat-O-Grams).  We also have an Intro to Judaism class going on right now.   But people are busy, or shy, or whatever, so many who would otherwise want to take such a class do not.  Many tell me that adult education is always the second most important priority on a given night. They would love to do it, but....

So I want to propose a much easier way for our congregation to make a concerted effort to increase Jewish literacy this year - and you can do it at home, on your own time.

All you need are three things:

1)     A book or online source for the answers (I recommend Telushkin's "Jewish Literacy" and
2)     A blank journal (either paper or electronic)

Take a look at that "Let My People Know" questionnaire.  It is an adaptation of something I used to use for b'nai mitzvah families.  This project is just in its beta stage, so I need your feedback.  How could this project best be implemented?  Would it be best to organize into small groups (described on our website as havurah groups), so people can periodically meet to share their progress? Or should people work with me directly as they complete sections of the project?  Are there areas that you feel should be emphasized more - or less?  How should we recognize those who have completed it?  At services?  On the High Holidays?  Or not at all?  I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Meanwhile, you can feel free to simply start completing the tasks on your own. If a few people become a little more Jewishly literate from this experience, to that I will say, Dayenu!

Oh, and what does Dayenu mean?  Check it out.
Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

Thursday, October 22, 2015

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Georgia Baer on Lech Lecha

A couple of years ago, I participated in a school-wide spelling bee.  I’d never been in one before but I found out I had a talent for it. 

In fact….I won!

Some of the words I had to spell were jam, respect and cork.  These words might sound easy, and they are, but part of the reason I won was that I understood the need to learn the easy words as well as the hard ones.  You need to start from the bottom and work your way up.

Other people skipped right to the hard words, so they were stumped by words like cork, which someone spelled with a q.  One person spelled “partner” wrong.  When that word came to me, I got it right.  We never even got to the hard words, because I was able to win after only seven rounds.  The hardest word was “partner.”  Good thing I didn’t just skip right to the hardest level when I was studying.

I went to the regional finals and studied really hard for two weeks. 

So there I was… on the stage of the auditorium at Western Connecticut University, under the spotlight, and I get ready to hear the first word…  and it’s “musicale.”  I Got it.  Then “feldspar.”  I have no idea what it is, but I spelled it right!  Then I lost on the third one, “regime,” but only because the announcer mispronounced it. 

Oh well.  I had a great experience on this journey and learned an important lesson – that whatever journey you are on, you can’t take short cuts.

Abraham and Sarah learned the same lesson in my parsha. 

Abraham had to undergo ten tests of his ability and loyalty to God – each one harder than the last one. Just like a spelling bee. 

The first test was to leave his home.  God understood that it would impossible to start a new religion while staying at home.

Then he and Sarah went down to Egypt during a famine; then after returning, Abraham split up with his nephew Lot. Then he had to fight in a war.  Then, he had to evict his wife Hagar and son Ishmael. Then, at the very end of the portion, he circumcised himself at age 99.

Only at that point, at the end of the portion, do Abraham and Sarag get their new names.  Until then, they were called Abram and Sarai.   

There are no shortcuts to becoming who you are destined to become.

I’ve learned that lesson too, in different areas of my life, aside from the spelling bee.

As many of you know, I have been playing piano since I was six.  I have a real passion for it!  But it didn’t come so easy at first.  I had to learn the finger positions and practice until they became second nature.  I had to learn how to read music.  And then with each piece, I have had to practice until the music flows and sounds smooth, with the right tempo.

Sometimes when you are on a journey you stub your toe along the way.  Well I certainly did that!!!  About two months ago, I fractured my big toe.

It was disappointing at first, but l but I’ve grown from the experience. I’ve learned how to deal with the pain, and also how to be patient with the slow process of healing.  

I’ve learned that there is little that I can control at this point.  I think I’ve grown from the whole process – and I know that there are no shortcuts to getting back on my feet.  But now that I’m here, it feels really great.

For my mitzvah project, I am collecting non perishable food items for children in our town that are left alone on the weekends without any food.  It’s called “Three Square.” 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Zoë Jaffe-Berkowitz on Noah

As many of you know, I’ve been doing taekwondo for about 4 years. If I’ve stuck to it for that long, there must be a reason that I like it so much. Well there is. About a year and half ago I tested for my black belt. To me, this was not just a test to see if my skill was at a black belt level, but was also a test of willpower. There were many challenging things I had to do at and leading up to the test. The week before I went to the real test, I was required to do a meditation. But this was no ordinary meditation, I had to sit in a room with the lights off for a full hour, without moving or talking. This meditation was supposed to help me prepare my mind for the test. For the beginning of it I felt relaxed and thought the meditation was really working, but after about 20 minutes all I could think was, “Get me out of this room,” or, “Ugh! My foot is falling asleep.” Even though I didn’t want to continue with the meditation I knew I had to or else I would not be able to test the following week.

I realized from this, that taekwondo was not only about what you can do physically, but also mentally. If I had not been able to control myself during the meditation, I would not be at the level I am at today. I had to have the strength to tell myself to sit completely still when, frankly, I had no interest in being there at that moment.

Another major challenge that I had to overcome to earn my black belt was breaking a brick. Now I know what you are all thinking, that’s impossible, which is exactly what I thought. When the test came around I was confident about everything… except for the part where I had to break the brick. When the end of the test came near, we got to the time that I was dreading. I was standing up in front of over 70 people, ready to break the brick, but I kept hearing a little voice in the back of my head saying that it was impossible and that I would never be able to do it. And of course, because I had this attitude, I was not able to break the brick.

Luckily I was able to schedule a retest for the brick breaking. When I arrived at the retest the following week, one of the assistant teachers pulled me aside. He said that I had to believe that I could break the brick and then I would be able to. If I put more confidence into what I was doing I’ll be able to do it. So I took his words of advice and this time when I went up in front of the crowd, I felt better about myself. And on the very first try of that retest I broke the brick.  It felt like I had done the impossible.
This really showed me the power of the human spirit. I broke through barriers that I never thought were possible. And that is why I love taekwondo so much. It teaches me that if I have confidence I can do it. As long as I have the right attitude and I am willing to work hard enough I can achieve anything. It’s really about the power of the mind and spirit in helping you overcome any obstacle.

I have seen this in other areas of my life as well. For my bat mitzvah project I volunteer with the friendship circle. At first I did a training program where we learned about various special needs and different activities we could do with different kinds of people. After I completed this training I was asked if I would like to participate in the friends at home program, which is when you are assigned a “special” friend and go to their house for an hour every week. Of course I accepted the offer.

My buddy’s name is coincidentally Zoe. She can’t talk. But even though she has this major obstacle in her life, it doesn’t prevent her from having fun. Whenever I go over to her house she always has a huge smile on her face.

But Zoe isn’t the only one who has inspired me with the ability to overcome challenges. What I do by breaking a brick and controlling my mind and body to accomplish things, my uncle David did every moment of his life. I was born 10 days before he died and I feel a strong connection with him. I've heard lots of stories about how he had such a great sense of humor and how he was so excited about becoming an uncle when I was born. He also became a bar mitzvah right here on this bimah. All those things took a superhuman effort for him, like my breaking a brick in two. And yet no matter how hard things were for him, he did everything with a smile. Mind over matter, just like Taekwondo.

My portion, Noah, includes the story of the tower of babel, where people tried to build a tower that would reach the heavens. The great sin of these people was that they were materialistic and selfish. They only cared about matter, such as money and the building they were creating, but they did not care about the people working on it. There is a Midrash describing how when a brick fell and broke, they would get extremely upset, but but when a person fell from the tower and died, it didn’t bother them at all, and they just continued building.  The tower of babel story is about human tragedy caused by selfishness and greed whereas my black belt celebrates a triumph of the human spirit.

It is very special to me that I am becoming a bat mitzvah on the same bimah where my family has experienced so many life events.  As I continue to grow it’s nice to know that I have a strong Jewish background that will always be with me and that I will have enduring support from the Jewish community at my synagogue, camp, and school.

Today is kind of like my Jewish black belt test, luckily I didn’t have to break anything. But leading the service and reading from the Torah takes the same kind of discipline, hard work, and the ability to put mind over matter.  And what I’m doing today really does matter.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Shabbat-O-Gram for October 16

The Shabbat Ann
ouncements are sponsored by Devra Jaffe-Berkowitz and Parry Berkowitz and  
Beth and Ray Baer in honor of their daughters. Zoë and Georgia, becoming B'not Mitzvah this Shabbat. 
Shabbat Shalom - and Mazal Tov to the Jaffe-Berkowitz and Baer families, in particular to grandparents Sari and Alan Jaffe and Betty and Sherwin Baer.  It's hard to recall a time when we've had a pair of three-generation celebrations on the same Shabbat!  

A personal thank you to TBE member Lindsay Rosenberg, for making possible the superb concert that will take place here on Sunday night, featuring Franc D'Ambrosio and Cantor Fishman.

Oh, and one more thing..."Let's Go Mets!"

America's Holy City

Last weekend I was honored to officiate at the wedding of Marisa Levi and TBE's own Andrew Staines, in Charleston, S.C..  I'd never been to Charleston before - I'll talk about the place a little at services this evening. It is called the Holy City and now I can understand why.  For now, I want to share a few photos, of the synagogue, the oldest in continual use in the US, of the Emanuel AME church, site of last spring's horrible murders, and finally, of a spectacular sunset view of New York that greeted us on our return. 


Shabbat of Unity

This weekend has been declared a Shabbat of Unity with the People of Israel.  It was kicked off last night with a very meaningful prayer vigil bringing together our entire Jewish community and sending a strong statement of solidarity. Along with many other Conservative congregations, we'll be reciting this kavannah (meditation) written by Rabbi David Wolpe, as we pray for the safety and security of Israel's citizens and the healing of the injured victims. 

El Maleh Rachamim -- Compassionate God,
We pray not to wipe out haters but to banish hatred.
Not to destroy sinners but to lessen sin.
Our prayers are not for a perfect world but a better one
Where parents are not bereaved by the savagery of sudden attacks
Or children orphaned by blades glinting in a noonday sun.
Help us dear God, to have the courage to remain strong, to stand fast.
Spread your light on the dark hearts of the slayers
And your comfort to the bereaved hearts of families of the slain.
Let calm return Your city Jerusalem, and to Israel, Your blessed land.
We grieve with those wounded in body and spirit,
Pray for the fortitude of our sisters and brothers,
And ask you to awaken the world to our struggle and help us bring peace.

And the Children Shall Lead Us


Amidst the palpable and growing despair over the current violence, there are some oases of hope.  One is a bold educational experiment called "Hand in Hand," which brings together thousands of Jews and Arabs in six schools and communities throughout Israel.  You might recall that this school was firebombed by Jewish extremists last year, and the students subsequently were invited to light Hanukkah candles at the White House.
But just as young Arabs in East Jerusalem and elsewhere are the ones whose minds are being poisoned by anti-Israeli incitement on social media - and so many of the "lone wolf" attackers have been teenagers  - so are young people, Jews and Arabs, among those who are providing the first glimmers of hope.
Hand in Hand's response was featured in this inspiring (subtitled) report from Israel's channel 10 news as well as on the cover of Yideot Jerusalem a local section of the Friday paper of Israel's major newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, on October 9, 2015, with a full article within the paper itself.   Here is a translation of that report:
Nadia Kinnani and Arik Sporta, Principals of the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem After returning to school this week, the first lessons were dedicated to class discussions. Both Jews and Arabs expressed concern and frustration about what is commonly referred to as the "conflict". But alongside these feelings were also pride, determination and confidence in the justness of the path they are treading together. 

There are those among our student body, both Jews and Arabs, who are apprehensive about traveling on public transport wearing their school shirt with Arab writing emblazoned upon it- and so our students, both Jews and Arab, organize to walk to school in groups so they won't be exposed to trouble on the streets. There are Jewish student activists that attend demonstrations while understanding the difficulty in their Arab friends joining them there. One student spoke of her experience traveling to school through East Jerusalem where she passed by burning garbage cans and surprise spot-checks; another student was attacked in the evening in a local mall by a group that detected his Arab accent. But the bottom line is that most students still arrived to school this week, to this safe yet complicated place, a place that inspires confidence in our path, our place.
Our students know that it is here where we will contend with this terrible wave of violence. It is the courage of their parents to continue sending them to school, despite their trepidation; It is thanks to the students that see their bilingual education not only as a requirement, but as a personal statement; And it is thanks to our teachers, who sustain the daily routine of educating towards values; against violence and the killing of Jews and Arabs.
Alongside the many differences, we witnessed this week something important that is shared by both our Jewish and Arab students: a desire to not be satisfied by the daily act of arriving to school as a response to this period of violence, but to go out from its protective walls to initiate social and civic engagement in an attempt to end the violence.
Our students are right, and we cannot leave the arena of positive action to them alone. It is during this time that our role as school principals becomes clear: We, as educators in the city, call upon the educational leadership of Jerusalem to learn from our students and to initiate formal civic action against the violence, to ensure that it does not dictate daily life in our city. The younger generation is showing us the way, and it is our responsibility to choose to traverse this path with them.
I am pleased to announce that we will be visiting "Hand in Hand" next May on our interfaith pilgrimage to Israel.  That trip came closer to becoming reality at a preliminary meeting this week, where community members expressed significant interest and excitement and the tour coordinator discussed the itinerary and otherdetails.  See the flyer at the bottom of this e-mail and click here to check the updated itinerary.

When Past Isn't Prologue: Remembering Rabin
(I adapted some ideas recently discussed on the High Holidays in this column for the New York Jewish Week.  Click here to share it)
We are approaching an important date, a watershed that's been anticipated for three decades. On Oct. 21, if you happen to be in Hill Valley, Calif., down by the Texaco station and the clock tower, you might just see Marty McFly whiz by on his hoverboard.
That's right. Oct. 21, 2015 was the date McFly and Doc Brown set their sights on in "Back to the Future 2." They needed to come to that future date from the present, that is, Oct. 21, 1985, which is now precisely 30 years ago, in order to correct something that was about to go terribly wrong to McFly's family. This came immediately after "Back to the Future," when Marty and the Doc corrected another fatal flaw after going back 30 years earlier, to Oct. 21, 1955, the date of the high school dance where Marty's parents fell in love.
Just a few days after Oct. 21, on Oct. 25, the 12th of Cheshvan on the Hebrew calendar, we'll be treated to another journey down memory lane, this one laced with tragedy, as we recall the 20th anniversary of the murder of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.
If only we could go back in time with Doc Brown, pull up our DeLorean alongside Kings of Israel Square on that fateful night and somehow make sure that Rabin would miss his rendezvous with destiny.
If Rabin had lived, would Oslo have succeeded? Would the fragile but growing trust between mortal enemies have been nurtured rather than quashed? Would Yasir Arafat have ceased being Yasir Arafat just long enough to allow the more peaceful facts on the ground to be implanted in the minds of those Israelis and Palestinians yearning for normalcy? Would the youth of Israel, so galvanized in their grief following the murder, have been able to channel that same idealism into genuine progress, building relationships with their Arab neighbors one person at a time and forging a grassroots coexistence?
These are questions that endlessly dog us as we watch Israelis and Palestinians fall into yet another hopeless cycle of hopeless terror and needless death. 
If only we could turn back the clock...
Earlier this year, an old ethical dilemma became a prime topic in social and mass media: Suppose you could go back in time and you see Hitler as a 2-year-old playing in a sandbox. You have two minutes to decide what to do. You could go up to him and kill him by any means. If you do kill him, all of history will be changed. There will be no World War II, no Holocaust, 50 million people and six million Jews will have been saved.
Imagine a world with no Shoah, a world where "Naptime for Hitler" had taken place. How different would it be? A third of our people would have survived to write great novels, make fantastic scientific discoveries and bring Judaism to new heights.
In a recent New York Times column, David Brooks referred to that dilemma and asserted that the world we have could never have come to be without World War II. The Hitler question is really about changing all of the past. To erase mistakes from the past is to obliterate your world now, he wrote.
It's a real good point. If we were to change any event in history, especially a massive event such as the Holocaust, everything occurring after that event would now be different; which means, if you want to get technical about it, that anyone born after the Holocaust would most likely not have been born. 
Would you choose to have the world exactly as it is right now, with a Holocaust; or one without a Holocaust, but without you ... a completely different world with a completely different set of people? Who knows, possibly no Israel. On the bright side, no Kardashians - but if you are under the age of 70, no you.
That question about changing the past teaches us that it is pointless to dwell on the could-have-been's, and points us toward the might-yet-be's. That's the real question at hand.
Which brings us back to Rabin. 
What made him such a visionary leader is that he was able to let go of the past without losing his historical perspective. There are lessons to be learned from any experience, and he had learned plenty over the course of his epic career. But he never let old resentments cloud the fact that every new day presented a gleaming blank slate of possibilities. 
Though not a religious man, he embodied the spirit of the prayer Jews recite each morning, praising God "who renews in goodness each day the work of Creation." Every day God presses the "reset" button. Rabin was able to do this as well, like Mandela and Gandhi, Lincoln, Sadat, Martin Luther King Jr. and other visionary leaders (many of whom also met violent ends) - and unlike all the Israeli and Palestinian leaders who have followed him.
When he received his Nobel Prize, Rabin said, "...of all the memories I have stored up in my 72 years, I now recall the hopes.  Our peoples have chosen us to give them life. Tonight, their eyes are upon us and their hearts are asking: how is the authority vested in these men and women being used? What will they decide? What kind of morning will we rise to tomorrow? A day of peace? Of war? Of laughter or of tears?"
Rabin could have fallen back on his litany of tragic memories, of countless comrades buried, of opportunities wasted, of incessant terror and reprisal, of hatred endlessly regurgitated. He chose instead to "recall hopes," a seeming oxymoron, to retrieve - from his past - a future-focused buoyancy that is at the very core of Zionism, a hope that is its anthem's very name, and to use it to forge a vision of astonishing promise and endless possibility. He chose to go back to the future.
And so must we. 

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman