Tuesday, June 7, 2016
The Shabbat-O-Gram is sponsored by Marcy and Martin Nirschel in honor of their daughter, Jessica, becoming a Bat Mitzvah.
Sharing the Spirit of Excellence
Coming off a spectacular "Soul to Soul" concert last night (see the online journal), we move onward to another special Shabbat, tonight featuring Tali Rubinstein on Recorder and Assaf Gleizner on Piano. Tali, another member of the "Banot" band, is a fabulous musician in her own right (see her website), and we welcome her here for the first time.
Mazal Tov to Jessica Nirschel becoming Bat Mitzvah on Shabbat morning. Also a special Mazal Tov to TBE board member Richard Heimler and to Chris Maroc, who will be getting married on Sunday. Sunday also brings New York's Celebrate Israel Parade (celebrated this year on Jerusalem Day) and the "Hope in Motion" walk for the Bennett Cancer Center and Stamford Hospital. Best of luck to all the marchers, whom I will not be able to join this year because Cantor Fishman and I will be officiating at the aforementioned wedding. I'll be with all the walkers in spirit. You are all marching for a good cause!
June is also Pride Month; make plans to join us for our special Pride Shabbat on June 17, featuring one of the key national figures in Jewish LGBTQ advocacy, Idit Klein, executive director of Keshet, along with superb musicians.
We've developed a standard of excellence here that comes through especially on nights like last night. Cantor Fishman constantly raises the bar for all of us. And with people like Peter and Betsy Kempner, whom we honored, and so many who worked so hard for last evening's success, we set an example of what can happen when we refuse to compromise on standards of artistic, aesthetic, spiritual, moral and fiduciary excellence. We can't just have a "good enough" music program, we need to strive to stir the soul with every note. We can't just be warm and welcoming; we need to stretch ourselves beyond the comfort zone and beyond our doors to welcome others. We can't just be "good enough" people, we have to challenge ourselves to become veritable models of menschlichkeit.
One area often gets unnoticed. Our Hebrew School has a reputation for sustained excellence - one touted by its own students. It's high praise indeed when kids routinely tell their parents, "I want to go to Hebrew School today." Parents who survived the dreaded Hebrew Schools of yesteryear are so shocked to hear it! Lisa Gittelman-Udi, our superb Education and Youth Director, has brought our school to a level where learning is always fun. It's never an "either/or" proposition, as it is so often elsewhere.
We have reason to be very proud of the Jewish education our children are receiving. And when I say "our" children, I mean all of us - because whether or not we have children in the Hebrew School right now, these are all our kids. They are the Jewish future and we have a stake in them. That's why it is incorrect to speak of the Hebrew School as a separate entity, somehow apart from the synagogue as a whole.
So today, we celebrate our Hebrew School, by far (in my humble opinion) the best in the area. And we all need to share that news with our neighbors. And while you are at it, let them know about the free first year membership incentive we offer for families with students in grades K, 1 and 2. It is in everyone's interest to grow our school - most of all, it is in the interest of the kids themselves, and of the future of the Jewish people.
So I'm going to give you something to share with your friends - this brief tribute to the TBE Hebrew School, produced by Annie Nirschel. When I say that our students love our school, don't take my word for it. Listen to the kids themselves!
Please share the link far and wide - https://youtu.be/SmG3kYF6JYg. By "far and wide," I mean both within and beyond Stamford's borders. The experiential brand of Jewish education Lisa has cooked up simply is not found at other places. If you disagree, simply ask any other Hebrew School director whether their 7th graders routinely, unanimously, and voluntarily come back to class AFTER their bar/bat mitzvahs BECAUSE THEY WANT TO. If they are being honest, they will say "C'mon! No one can do that!"
Well, here they do.
Lisa and I will be spreading the word about our school this week to Jews in Wilton, where there are no synagogues and where we have a growing TBE "Diaspora." We want to work with them and others to make it possible for more children to experience what we have to offer. If you want to come, or know someone who might, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you would like to set up a meeting with interested parents in your neighborhood, whether in Stamford or elsewhere, please let me know. We need for our members to be our emissaries as we continue to grow our community. Please share our new video with friends in social media. Spread the word!
We are proud of our excellence. It's time for us all to share the spirit of TBE.
Finally, take a look below at our Shavuot flyer for next weekend - the Sat night Tikkun will not include a formal service, but rather will focus on meditation, music and conversation. And check out the just-announced early bird incentive for next year's Jewish heritage Tour of Central Europe.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman