May 18, 2017

Dear Family School Families,

In Family School we read a beautiful book, Elisabeth by Claire A. Nivola.  It is a true story about a girl and her family that fled their home abruptly in Germany and took nothing with them.  There was a doll that the little girl left behind and she was extremely sad. After they left Germany in 1933 they went to Italy and in 1939 left Italy for New York City.  In 1939 they settled in Long Island.  Many years later when she was a mom herself she found her doll in an antique shop.  She could identify it by a dog bite mark the doll had on her arm from her childhood dog.  A miracle! We have been having on going discussion what it would be like and what you would take with you if you had to leave your home immediately. The conversation has continued since Bruria Falik came to talk about Yom Hashoah and her families experiences.

If you or your family have any treasures that have been saved from your ancestors we asked the children to bring something in next Tuesday.  We had great conversation about what is important to you and what our ancestors may have gone through.  Please ask your child about the story.


This Saturday is the End of Year Shabbat Service on May 20, 2017 @ 10am.  The children will be participating in the service that morning with Rabbi Jonathan.  It is a special day to honor the achievements of our students and presenting them with gifts, thanking our teachers, staff, rabbi, parents and supporters.  Please plan on attending,  It is a pot luck lunch with our traditional special dessert, Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae's. It is a wonderful celebration of learning, growing and being part of our wonderful community!

It is hard to believe that we have only 3 more Tuesday classes:   May 23, 2017, May 30, 2017  will include a Shavuot Pot Luck Dinner with everyone @ 6pm please come early and stay for dinner and, June 6, 2017 Last day  for grades 1-6.   PreK-K Last day May 20, 2017.

Everyone is moving along in Hebrew but I strongly encourage studying at home regularly.  A few minutes a day really makes a difference.  
If you are interested in arranging a tutor for the summer for your child please contact me.


Sixth grade families please look at the dates available from Rabbi Jonathan's email for your child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah and choose the date and send it back.  We are working on next years calendar and need the dates ASAP.

Please consider: 
A great way to build relationships is to share a meal together! Friendships are growing within our Family School wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out into the community?

Our congregation has a Congregational Communications Task Force.  Their goal is to create community and build relationships.  Currently they are working on creating a plan for In Home Shabbat Meals.  They are looking for families that would like to host a Shabbat Meal in their home either on a Friday night or Saturday luncheon.  It could be a pot luck or you can do the cooking.  That is up to you.  There is a guideline sheet to make it very manageable.  There are support people to insure your success.  It is a great way to meet, welcome and get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.  If you are interested please let me know, or Amy Messing @ 845.684.5279. 

Thank  you for considering this it is a great way to connect and build community.

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefilah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending

  • Saturday, May 20, 2017: 10 am, End Of Year Shabbat Community Day Pot Luck and Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae Day!  
  • Tuesday, May 23, 2017: Family School grades 1-6 4-6:30 pm.  
  • Tuesday, May 30, 2017  Family School grades 1-6.   6pm  Shavuot Pot Luck Dinner, Everyone is invited!  Please plan on attending and bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share.
  • Tuesday, June 6, 2017  Family School grades 1-6 4-6:30 pm.   *LAST DAY*

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Family School Families,

Another great day in Family School! The children are preparing for the End of Year Shabbat Service on Saturday, May 20, 2017 @ 10am.  They will be participating in the service that morning with Rabbi Jonathan.  It is a special day to honor the achievements of our students, thanking our teachers, staff, rabbi, parents and supporters.  Please plan on attending,  It is a pot luck lunch with our traditional special dessert, Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae's. It is a wonderful celebration of learning, growing and being part of our wonderful community!
It is hard to believe that we have only 4 more Tuesday classes:  May 16, 2017 (B'Nai Mitzvah), May 23, 2017, May 30, 2017 (Shavuot Pot Luck Dinner with everyone @ 6pm) and June 6, 2017 Last day  for grades 1-6.   PreK-K Last day May 20, 2017.

Everyone is moving along in Hebrew but, I strongly encourage studying at home regularly.  A few minutes a day really makes a difference.  
If you are interested in arranging a tutor for the summer for your child please contact me.


Saturday, May 13, 2017 is our Lag B'Omer BBQ picnic. Festivities begin at 5pm.  There will be music, games, kosher burgers, kosher hot dogs and veggie burgers.  We will also have a bonfire and marshmallow toasting.  Please plan on attending bringing blankets/chairs.
 The event is free, rain or shine.  Donations greatly appreciated.  All are welcome.  
Jews around the world celebrate Lag B'Omer with picnics and bonfires.  It is sure to be fun for all.  Please RSVP to assure we are prepared in abundance.


Sixth grade families please look at the dates available from Rabbi Jonathan's email for your child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah and choose the date and send it back.  We are working on next years calendar and need the dates ASAP.

Please consider: 
A great way to build relationships is to share a meal together! Friendships are growing within our Family School wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out into the community?

Our congregation has a Congregational Communications Task Force.  Their goal is to create community and build relationships.  Currently they are working on creating a plan for In Home Shabbat Meals.  They are looking for families that would like to host a Shabbat Meal in their home either on a Friday night or Saturday luncheon.  It could be a pot luck or you can do the cooking.  That is up to you.  There is a guideline sheet to make it very manageable.  There are support people to insure your success.  It is a great way to meet, welcome and get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.  If you are interested please let me know, or Amy Messing @ 845.684.5279. 
Thank  you for considering this it is a great way to connect and build community.

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefilah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending


Saturday, May 13, 2017:  5 pm Lag B'Omer BBQ Picnic, RAIN OR SHINE!
  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017: Family School grades 1-6 4-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class 6-8 pm.
  • Saturday, May 20, 2017: 10 am, End Of Year Shabbat Community Day Pot Luck and Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae Day!  
  • Tuesday, May 23, 2017: Family School grades 1-6 4-6:30 pm.  
  • Tuesday, May 30, 2017  Family School grades 1-6.   6pm  Shavuot Pot Luck Dinner, Everyone is invited!  Please plan on attending and bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share.
  • Tuesday, June 6, 2017  Family School grades 1-6 4-6:30 pm.   *LAST DAY*

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dee

V’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha

Love your fellow human being as yourself (Leviticus 19:18)

“This is the central principle of the Torah” (Rabbi Akiva, 2nd C C.E.)

“The rest is commentary – go and study” (Rabbi Hillel, 1st C B.C.E.)

This week we reach the pinnacle of the Torah, chapter 19 of Leviticus in the portion Kedoshim. The chapter begins with YHVH instructing the entire Children of Israel, “You must be holy, for I, YHVH your God, am holy.” What follows are the ethical behaviors that the community of Israel must fulfill in order to manifest this collective quality of kedusha – holiness. These instructions parallel the Ten Commandments of the Book of Exodus, where we are also told that we must fulfill these commandments in order to become a holy people. But the Holiness Laws of Leviticus actually transcend the Ten Commandments, for after repeating most of the “Thou Shalt Nots” of the Ten Commandments, the Holiness Laws culminate in the positive decree to love your neighbor.

The commandment to love here is clearly not meant to address our feelings, but rather our behavior. In fact, a more accurate translation of v’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha might be “Behave lovingly toward your neighbor, as you would wish for yourself.

But what constitutes loving behavior? The verses that precede this one tell us what we must do, and it is a tall order

You shall not render an unfair decision, nor pervert justice; do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich – treat all people fairly.

 

Do not slander others.

 

Do not stand idly by when your neighbor’s blood is being shed.

 

If you see your neighbor committing an offense, do not hate them in your heart; rather, admonish them and try to interrupt their behavior. If you do not do this, you bear some of the guilt for their misdeed.

 

Do not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your neighbor; rather you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am YHVH, the Source of all life. (19:15-19)

Oh my! We are not being told to be merely tolerant. We are not being told to just live and let live. We are being told that to fulfill our collective potential we must take an active interest in each other’s lives. We must care and act when other lives are at stake, or when we know that someone is headed down a dark path. In a holy society, there are no innocent bystanders.

Underlying all of these commandments is the fundamental assertion of the Torah that every single human being is of infinite value, because every single human being is made in the Divine image. In a holy society, no one is expendable.Everyone merits fair and dignified treatment, simply because they are human. If we are to be a holy people, all of our decisions, all of our communal norms, all of our policies must align with and grow out of this understanding.

Judaism, it has been said, is a 3,000-year-long discussion of ethics, and the Torah is our foundation. Being a “practicing” Jew means that we take on that challenge of continuing to think and act in ways that make us more ethical and make our communities more loving and just. If we follow Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Akiva’s lead – and that is what Judaism has followed for all of these centuries – then there is no way around it: Being a good Jew means putting ethical behavior at the center of our existence.

I offer these thoughts humbly, for I am humbled by the enormity of the demand placed upon me as a Jew. I fail so often to live up to these principles! But I am also inspired to be the inheritor of our aspirational teachings and by our unbending ideals. I am inspired to belong to a tradition that demands the best in me. Fortunately there are plenty of Jewish holidays for rejoicing in life’s goodness and bounty, so that our spirits might be regularly replenished. Meanwhile, we have holy work to do.

Shabbat Shalom and Love,

Rabbi Jonathan

Dear Family School Families,

It was great to see everyone together again!  We talked about our Passover Seder experiences with great excitement!  Passover is a great holiday for family, friends and food to all be Jewish together and create memories!

In tefilah, Rabbi Jonathan  discussed, Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), Yom Hazikaron ( Israel's Memorial Day) and Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day). Our students are very bright with lots of great thoughts and knowledge!

Everyone is moving along in Hebrew but, I strongly encourage studying at home regularly.  A few minutes a day really makes a difference.

1st Friday is May 5,2017 with our  Tot Shabbat at 5 pm followed by our monthly Pot Luck Shabbat Dinner at 6 pm. We are also welcoming new members.

Saturday, May 13, 2017 is our Lag B'Omer BBQ picnic. Festivities begin at 5pm.  There will be music, games, kosher burgers, kosher hot dogs and veggie burgers.  We will also have a bonfire and marshmallow toasting.  Please plan on attending bringing blankets/chairs and a pareve side dish (non dairy) or outside friendly dessert like fruit or cookies.  The event is free, rain or shine.  Donations greatly appreciated.  All are welcome.  
Jews around the world celebrate Lag B'Omer with picnics and bonfires.  It is sure to be fun for all.  Please RSVP to assure we are prepared in abundance.


Sixth grade families please look at the dates available from Rabbi Jonathan's email for your child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah and choose the date and send it back.  We are working on next years calendar and need the dates ASAP.

Please consider: 
A great way to build relationships is to share a meal together! Friendships are growing within our Family School wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out into the community?

Our congregation has a Congregational Communications Task Force.  Their goal is to create community and build relationships.  Currently they are working on creating a plan for In Home Shabbat Meals.  They are looking for families that would like to host a Shabbat Meal in their home either on a Friday night or Saturday luncheon.  It could be a pot luck or you can do the cooking.  That is up to you.  There is a guideline sheet to make it very manageable.  There are support people to insure your success.  It is a great way to meet, welcome and get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.  If you are interested please let me know, or Amy Messing @ 845.684.5279. 
Thank  you for considering this it is a great way to connect and build community.

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefillah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending

  • Saturday, April 29, 2017:  10 am Prek-K Class.
  • Tuesday, May 2, 2017: Family School grades 1-6 4-6:30 pm. B'Nai Mitzvah Class 6-8 pm.
  • Friday, May 5, 2017: Tot Shabbat 5 pm followed by 1st Friday Pot luck Shabbat Dinner @ 6 pm.  New Member welcome at our dinner.
  • Tuesday, May 9, 2017: Family School grades 1-6 4-6:30 pm.  Teen Class, 6-8 pm.
  • Saturday, May 13, 2017:  5 pm Lag B'Omer BBQ Picnic,
  • Tuesday, May 16, 2017: Family School grades 1-6 4-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class 6-8 pm.
  • Saturday, May 20, 2017: 10 am, End Of Year Shabbat Community Day Pot Luck and Make Your Own Ice Cream Sundae Day!  
  • Tuesday, May 30, 2017  Family School grades 1-6.   6pm End Of Year Shavuot Pot Luck Dinner, Everyone is invited!  Please plan on attending and bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share.
  • Tuesday, June 6, 2017  Family School grades 1-6 4-6:30 pm.   *LAST DAY*

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Friends,

I want to give you a sense of the vitality of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation by describing our activities of the coming week—and invite you to participate in any event that awakens your curiosity. (As you read these offerings, click on the links for more information.)

Are you interested in meditation as a spiritual practice? We are honored to host Rabbi Jeff Roth along with our own Gail Albert as they lead a brand new Jewish Mindfulness/Heartfulness Practice Group. The meetings are free and open to all, and the first gathering is Monday, April 24 from 7–8:30 pm. Take this opportunity to explore the emerging field of contemplative Judaism with these masterful teachers.

Looking for inspiration in troubled times? I will be teaching a new course beginning Tuesday, April 25, 1:30–3:30 pm: Abraham Joshua Heschel: A Prophet for Our Times. Rabbi Heschel, theologian, mystic, and activist, was a champion of social justice and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest Jewish colleague. We will be reading and reflecting on essays from two of his collections, The Insecurity of Freedom and Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity.

Do you want to express yourself with fullness and joy? Our own master theater teacher Carol Fox Prescott begins a new series of classes on Tuesday, April 25, from 7–9 pm: Breathing, Awareness and Joy. Anyone who has experienced Carol’s teaching and coaching will attest to its transformative power to awaken and express our deepest selves.

Are you a man looking for fellowship with other men? Our new WJC Men’s Group also meets on Tuesday, April 25 from 7:30–9 pm.
We have also formed a Women’s Rosh Chodesh Group, led by our Student Rabbi Kami Knapp—they meet next on Sunday April 30, 10 am–12 pm to celebrate the New Moon of Iyyar, the month of healing.

Every Wednesday morning, April 26, 10 am–12 pm, come have fun in Yiddish with Chane’s Yiddish Vinkl, led by our own Noami Halpern.

Then, on Wednesday evening, April 26 at 7:30 pm we have a concert of some great Yiddish music! We are delighted to present FRAYDELE, a new project led by multi-instrumentalist Joanna Sternberg. Named after Joanna’s grandmother Fraydele Oysher, a pioneer of Feminism Yiddish Theater, FRAYDELE performs their own unique arrangements and interpretations of soulful songs from Yiddish Theater and Yiddish folk music traditions. This concert is free—your donations are welcomed—and is sponsored by the Chane Yachness Fund for Ashkenaz Culture Through Yiddish Language, Music and Literature.

Of course, if you have time on Thursday, April 27, 5:30–6:45 pm you can join me for our always-enlightening study of the weekly Torah portion, Parshat Hashavua.

I admit that all of this marvelous activity does leave me a bit breathless, but also very gratified. We truly are fulfilling our WJC Vision Statement, which begins, “The Woodstock Jewish Congregation is dedicated to the advancement of Jewish ethics, culture and religion. We strive to enable participants to enrich their lives through Jewish worship, celebration, practice, study and fellowship.”

And there is always more: Shabbat services tonight, April 21, at 7:30 pm. Tomorrow, Shabbat morning, we have the privilege of calling another of our incredible young people, Sylvie Bergquist, to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah. It is such a joy! Sunday, April 23 at 6:30 pm we join with the Ulster County Jewish community for our annual Yom Hashoah memorial service, this year taking place at Congregation Agudas Achim, 254 Lucas Ave., in Kingston. And looking just a little bit ahead, on Sunday, April 30 from 12–2 pm our next Gallery Lev Shalem exhibit, “Inner Journeys”, opens.

I’ll stop here and catch my breath! I hope you find this plethora of activities heartening and enticing, and that you feel encouraged to keep up with all that is happening at the WJC. I also hope that you remember that you are always welcome at our great smorgasbord (is there a Jewish word for that?) of Jewish life here at the Congregation of a Full Heart.

Shabbat Shalom and love,

Rabbi Jonathan

My dear friend and esteemed colleague Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum recommended a little book for me to read, and now I want to recommend it to all of you. The book is On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale University. Snyder has written numerous works, among them Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. He serves as a member of the Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

On Tyranny can be read and absorbed in one or two sittings. It is a work of “public scholarship”, a manifesto meant to show us a bigger historical picture, and to equip us with the necessary understanding so that we can confront our own political moment with clarity and with courage.

By drawing lessons from the collapse of democracies and the rise of fascism and totalitarianism during the first half of the twentieth century, Snyder makes clear that the future of democracy in the United States is by no means ensured. History teaches us that democratic systems can lose their footing, and that opportunists will reliably exploit those weaknesses to further undermine the rule of law and replace it with governing systems that consolidate power in the hands of a few. Snyder’s account of Vladimir Putin’s current skillful maneuvering to undermine and weaken European and American democracy is especially chilling. Framed within this global perspective, the election of our current president and his administration’s priorities fit into a terrifying pattern of democratic systems losing their grip in a way that might have seemed unimaginable until recently.

Unimaginable, that is, if one has been raised on what Snyder calls the “politics of inevitability”. This is the mythic framing of American history as the inevitable march toward ever-greater democracy and freedom. I remember learning back in junior high about the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, that the United States of America was somehow blessed – even chosen – by divine providence to move ever forward to greater glory and fulfillment. Growing up as I did in the prosperous post-war baby boom, I absorbed and accepted this ahistorical myth of the march of progress. It was a comfort, and an inspiration to live within this bubble: to the moon and beyond, humanity marches toward a brighter tomorrow. But it is beyond time to put these myths aside; history is a clear-eyed witness that human progress is not assured.

This should be of keen interest to us as Jews for multiple reasons. As an oft-maligned minority, we Jews thrive and are safest when societies abide by the rule of law and the protections of human rights. The tyranny of Nazi Germany led to our near-annihilation. The tyranny of Stalinism led to the crushing and near-extinguishing of our culture and religion, and to gross institutionalized discrimination against us. It is in our obvious self-interest as Jews to resist tyranny and to defend democracy.

Even more obvious is the message of Passover: Long ago, we ourselves were subjugated by tyranny. We groaned under our servitude. And the Source of Life brought us out from that crushing place to freedom. Therefore, we tell this story to remember where we came from, and to remember that we serve the Source of Life. And, as the Haggadah then explains, “Whoever expands and expounds upon this story is worthy of praise!”

This Passover let us be wise, and learn from both the lessons of Torah and from the lessons of recent history. The world needs us to be informed and empowered citizens. I recommend as your Passover reading On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

Wishing you all a sweet and illuminating Pesach,

Rabbi Jonathan

April 5, 2017

Dear Family School Families,

We started our day in tefillah with Rabbi Jonathan singing the 4 Questions and singing other Passover songs.  We really have a very musically talented group!  After tefillah was Hebrew studies, everyone is progressing and enthusiastic!  After Hebrew, we read a wonderful book The Four Questions.  It was written by Lynne Sharon Schwartz and paintings by Ori Sherman.  Definitely worth checking out.  It is a book that will be enjoyed by all. 

Three varieties of charoset were made by our students.  They chopped, cut, mixed and then were able to taste the fruits of their labor. Besides being singers they also are cooks!  You may want to consider adding something different to your charoset recipe this year,  We added dates, oranges and figs chopped up into one of the recipes.  They were all delicious!  

 We will be off for 2 weeks, no school on April 11th and 18th  please help your student stay focused and fresh in their Hebrew studies.  We want everyone to feel success!
 I wish you all a Zissen Pesach.  Enjoy the break and have a sweet delicious seder.

Sixth grade families please look at the dates available from Rabbi Jonathan's email for your child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah and choose the date and send it back.  We are working on next years calendar and need the dates ASAP.


Here is the schedule of make up days:
FAMILY SCHOOL MAKE UP DAYS
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 and,
Tuesday, June 6, 2017.
Our End of Year Shabbat  will stay scheduled for Saturday, May 20, 2017 but, Family School will continue for 3 more Tuesdays.  We understand scheduling is difficult and next year we will build in extra Tuesdays at the end of the year to use if  needed.  Hopefully we have seen the end of weather cancellations for this year!


Please consider: 
A great way to build relationships is to share a meal together! Friendships are growing within our Family School wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out into the community?

Our congregation has a Congregational Communications Task Force.  Their goal is to create community and build relationships.  Currently they are working on creating a plan for In Home Shabbat Meals.  They are looking for families that would like to host a Shabbat Meal in their home either on a Friday night or Saturday luncheon.  It could be a pot luck or you can do the cooking.  That is up to you.  There is a guideline sheet to make it very manageable.  There are support people to insure your success.  It is a great way to meet, welcome and get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.  If you are interested please let me know, or Amy Messing @ 845.684.5279. 
Thank  you for considering this it is a great way to connect and build community.

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefillah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending

  • Friday, April 7, 2017:  5 pm Tot Shabbat followed by our 1st Friday Shabbat Pot Luck @ 6pm. Please come and bring a dish to share!
  • Tuesday April 11, 2017: NO FAMILY SCHOOL.  
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2017NO FAMILY SCHOOL.
  • Tuesday, April 25, 2017: Family School 4 pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  Teen Class 6-8 pm.
  • Saturday, April 29, 2017:  10 am Prek-K Class.

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dear Family School Families,

We are continuing on our Hebrew journey.  I strongly encourage all students to study.  It is difficult to learn a new language with only 1 hour per week dedicated to learning it.  Studying makes a huge difference.  Just 5 minutes a day makes a  difference!  When children are not prepared they are not committed.  When children see their parents are interested and committed it is more important to them as well.  They need support and encouragement.  Just 5 minutes per day help tremendously!  We will be off for 2 weeks, no school on April 11th and 18th  please help your student stay focused and fresh in their Hebrew studies.  We want everyone to feel success!

Sixth grade families please look at the dates available from Rabbi Jonathan's email for your child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah and choose the date and send it back to me.  We are working on next years calendar and need the dates ASAP.


Please consider attending our 2nd night Freedom Seder for Passover.  Our website has all the info, you can register on line as well.

Here is the schedule of make up days:
FAMILY SCHOOL MAKE UP DAYS
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 and,
Tuesday, June 6, 2017.
Our End of Year Shabbat  will stay scheduled for Saturday, May 20, 2017 but, Family School will continue for 3 more Tuesdays.  We understand scheduling is difficult and next year we will build in extra Tuesdays at the end of the year to use if  needed.  Hopefully we have seen the end of weather cancellations for this year!


Please consider: 
A great way to build relationships is to share a meal together! Friendships are growing within our Family School wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out into the community?

Our congregation has a Congregational Communications Task Force.  Their goal is to create community and build relationships.  Currently they are working on creating a plan for In Home Shabbat Meals.  They are looking for families that would like to host a Shabbat Meal in their home either on a Friday night or Saturday luncheon.  It could be a pot luck or you can do the cooking.  That is up to you.  There is a guideline sheet to make it very manageable.  There are support people to insure your success.  It is a great way to meet, welcome and get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.  If you are interested please let me know, or Amy Messing @ 845.684.5279. 
Thank  you for considering this it is a great way to connect and build community.

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefilah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending


 Tuesday, April 4, 2017Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8pm. 
  • Tuesday April 11, 2017: NO FAMILY SCHOOL.  Please consider attending the WJC Freedom Seder.
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2017NO FAMILY SCHOOL.
  • Tuesday, April 4, 2017: Family School 4 pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Members and Friends of Kehillat Lev Shalem,

As spring arrives (in fits and starts!), with it another Passover approaches. As much as I thrill at the promise of spring, I marvel at the longevity of Passover. I feel privileged, and also obligated, to continue to celebrate this ancient festival that Jews have marked for some 3,000 years or more.

Passover actually has four Hebrew names; taken together these names cover the breadth of this holiday:

  • Pesach – “Pass over”. The Children of Israel slaughter lambs and then spread the blood of the sacrifice on the lintels above their doors. On the terrible night when the Angel of Death sweeps over Egypt, slaughtering the Egyptians’ first-born sons, the Angel of Death passes over the Israelites’ homes. When we sit at the Seder table, we mark the night vigil of Pesach. The roasted lamb shank bone on the seder plate reminds us of our ancestors’ vigil so many generations ago, and we are commanded to tell the story to the next generation, just as we received it from our own elders.
  • Chag Ha’aviv – The Festival of Spring. Passover is our ancient springtime celebration, always timed for the first full moon of spring. We clean our houses, throw out our old, fermented food stores, take off the storm windows, and let the fresh air in as we rejoice in the end of winter and the rebirth of spring.
  • Chag Hamatzot – The Festival of Unleavened Bread. The Torah commands us to eat only unleavened bread – matzah – for the full week of the festival. Matzah is known as lechem oni, which can be translated as either “the bread of affliction” or “the bread of poverty”. As we tell the story of our escape from bondage, the Torah instructs us to eat matzah in order to identify with the fleeing slaves, and with poor people everywhere. Therefore during the seder we hold up the plate of matzot – some also open their front door – and announce, “This is the lechem oni that our ancestors ate in the Land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry, come and eat!” Our tradition wants us not only to hear the story of our oppression and liberation, but to taste it, to ingest it, to embody it, so that it becomes a part of who we are, people who can empathize with the degradation of oppression, and who can appreciate the gift of freedom.
  • Z’man Cheruteinu – The Season of Our Liberation. For me, this traditional name for our Festival encompasses all of the others, for liberation is at the heart of our yearning and our celebration. We celebrate the earth’s liberation from the bondage of winter, and the life that bursts forth in spring. We celebrate our ancestors’ liberation from bondage, and our birth as a free people. We retell and re-embody the story of that dangerous and difficult time, so that the ancient memory lives on. We celebrate the ever-present potential for human liberation, for the ultimate triumph of the human spirit against those who would wish to crush it. We ponder what our tale of freedom means for us, in our generation, as the Haggadah instructs: “In every generation you must see yourself as personally journeying out of the land of bondage.” And we celebrate that the Jewish People are still here to share our inspiring tale with one another and with the world.

If you are looking for an inspiring and uplifting seder to join this year, look no further than the WJC. Our long-time friend, singer, songwriter, activist and all-around amazing human being Reggie Harris will be joining me for our annual Second Night Community Seder, Tuesday, April 11, 5:30-8:00pm. It will be an evening of great music and food and meaningful conversation as we apply our ancient message to our contemporary challenges. Register soon – space is limited and we expect a full house.

Wishing us all energy and inspiration in this Season of Liberation!

Shabbat Shalom and love,

Rabbi Jonathan

U’vayom hashvi’i shavat vayinafash

And on the seventh day [God] paused from labor and [God’s] spirit was restored. (Exodus 33:17)

This famous passage appears in this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa. Many will be familiar with it because it is end of a brief passage that we know as V’shamru, verses that we sing at every Shabbat service that remind us of the central importance of Shabbat to the Jewish People. Just as God rested and was restored on the seventh day, following 6 days of labor, so we are instructed to recuperate every week from our busy lives.

The hoped for result of this weekly respite is the term vayinafash, usually translated as “restored” or “refreshed”. In Hebrew, vayinafash is constructed from the root nefesh, which means “soul”, “spirit”, or “self”. Therefore the most literal, and evocative, translations of vayinafash might be “re-souled”, or “inspired”, or “find yourself”.

Our world, especially right now, is in many ways a frightening, dispiriting and soul-sucking environment. Bombarded with coarse and violent news, absorbed in the trivialities of constant information, fatigued by our efforts to walk upright through our days, we can lose our selves, and be swept off of our foundation. We can forget that life is good and that we can be agents of positivity in our lives. We need a regular reminder that life goes much deeper than the latest news cycle. We need a sanctuary in which we can nurture our tender hearts and spirits. We need a respite during which we can offer one another courage and hope to face the next day. This is the purpose of Shabbat.

One of the key functions of a synagogue, as I see it, is to be a space and a community in which people can restore their spirits, in which we can be “re-souled” on a regular basis. We approach this purpose with many different modalities: song; sacred study; fellowship; laughter; moral inventory; and prayer, to name a few. Last week, at Purim, the modality was laughter. If you attended our purimspiel, you hopefully exited with a lighter spirit and the healing release of laughter. (And a special shout-out to purimspiel author Bennett Neiman, and to our great cast of Purim players!) This Shabbat, with our special guest Rabbi Miriam Margles, we explore prayer as a restorative practice. Rabbi Miriam and I titled this weekend “Going Deep: Tapping the Wellsprings of Love and Courage”. Here’s what I wrote on the flyer:

“Prayer is meant to move us, both in the sense of awakening our insides, and moving us to action. Prayer, when practiced with intention and openness, helps us to act with clarity while maintaining a joyous and calm center. Our world needs our clear, loving and powerful presences, and prayer – both individual and communal – is a practice that nurtures and helps us to manifest our best selves. Prayer takes us inward, where we can tap the unfailing spring of Life Unfolding, and then outward, as that spring flows through us and waters the world with love and righteousness.

Rabbi Miriam is a master of this terrain, and a masterful guide in its subtle pathways. Shabbat is a retreat, a sanctuary in which we can replenish and renew ourselves. This Shabbat, Rabbi Miriam and Rabbi Jonathan, using both traditional prayers and experiential exercises, will help us tap the wellsprings of love and courage so that we can continue to step forward into our troubled world.”

Please join us for Shabbat services tonight at 7:30pm. Gabriel Dresdale will be accompanying us all with his sensitive and beautiful cello playing. A festive and copious Kiddush will follow, as Evan and Neesa Holland celebrate their move to their new home in Woodstock with all of us.

Saturday morning, Rabbi Miriam and I will be leading Shabbat service at 10am. At noon we will all be sharing a potluck lunch. And then from 1:30-4:30 pm Rabbi Miriam and I will be leading a free workshop, “To Be Moved and To Move: An Experiential Workshop on the Power of Prayer”. No preregistration is required – just wear comfortable clothes and bring a willing heart.

We hope that you experience the quality of vayinafash with us this Shabbat, that you find your spirit renewed and your soul restored. And please remember that your presence is also a gift, strengthening and encouraging the rest of us. Let’s go deep together here at the Congregation of the Full Heart, and then face the world together as well, with renewed energy.

Shabbat Shalom and love,

Rabbi Jonathan

March 15, 2017

Dear Family School Families,

Wow, we finally got the BIG one!  Hopefully all extreme weather is behind us and everyone managed well!

For everyone that attended our Purim celebrations thank you!  The Purim Spiel was great!  And, a GIANT thank you to our B'Nai Mitzvah Class for hosting fun game booths for the carnival!  Fun was had by all!  

This weekend we have a guest scholar Rabbi Miriam Margles.  Rabbi Miriam is a beloved member of our shul community she will be spending the weekend co-leading services and a Shabbat afternoon workshop with Rabbi Jonathan.  Friday night is our first back to later time services.  7:30 pm is the start time.  On Saturday, services begin at 10 am, 12-1pm is a pot luck Shabbat Lunch (bring a dairy/vegetarian dish) followed by To Be Moved and To Move:  An Experiential Workshop on the Power of Prayer ending at 3:30 pm.  Come, bring a friend all are welcome!
Saturday is also, our PreK-K Class from 10 am - 12 pm.  Morah Wendy is looking forward to seeing everyone!

Reminder:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 5pm incoming  2017-2018 B'Nai Mitzvah Class meeting with Rabbi Jonathan. A meeting to discuss dates, expectations and requirements for the B'nai Mitzvah year. Parents and students  attend.   Please RSVP to me.


Here is the schedule of make up days:
FAMILY SCHOOL MAKE UP DAYS
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 and,
Tuesday, June 6, 2017.
Our End of Year Shabbat  will stay scheduled for Saturday, May 20, 2017 but, Family School will continue for 3 more Tuesdays.  We understand scheduling is difficult and next year we will build in extra Tuesdays at the end of the year to use if  needed.  Hopefully we have seen the end of weather cancellations for this year!


Please consider: 
A great way to build relationships is to share a meal together! Friendships are growing within our Family School wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out into the community?

Our congregation has a Congregational Communications Task Force.  Their goal is to create community and build relationships.  Currently they are working on creating a plan for In Home Shabbat Meals.  They are looking for families that would like to host a Shabbat Meal in their home either on a Friday night or Saturday luncheon.  It could be a pot luck or you can do the cooking.  That is up to you.  There is a guideline sheet to make it very manageable.  There are support people to insure your success.  It is a great way to meet, welcome and get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.  If you are interested please let me know, or Amy Messing @ 845.684.5279. 
Thank  you for considering this it is a great way to connect and build community.

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefilah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending



Saturday, March 18, 2016: PreK-K Class 10am - 12pm.
  • Tuesday, March 21, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8pm.  5 pm meeting with incoming B'Nai Mitzvah students and families.
  • Tuesday, March 28, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6. 
  • Tuesday, April 4, 2017: Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8pm. 

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dee

March 8, 2017

Dear Family School Families,

Thank you to all families that came to the Shabbat Seder and Tot Shabbat.  It was a lovely evening.  Starting Shabbat together is a great way to become connected with our community.  We are blessed to have each other!

This weekend is an exciting Purim Weekend at Woodstock Jewish Congregation!

 Saturday night, March 11th @ 7:30 pm is our patriotic Purim parody, MAKE SHUSHAN GREAT AGAIN!  Use your imagination and expect a wild show!  Everyone is welcome and there is no fee.  Your donations are always gratefully accepted.  Hamentashen and raffle tickets will be available for sale.

Sunday, March 12, 9-10:30 am Reading of the Megillah.  Come hear the whole Megillah!  One of the mitzvot of Purim is to read the entire story, and drown out the name of Haman.  We will take turns reading in English-bring your best jokes, wear a costume if you wish, and we have the groggers!  


Our Purim Carnival follows the Megillah reading from 10:30 am-11:45 am. Run by our B'Nai Mitzvah Class families.  Come in costume, make Shlach Manot baskets, play games, win prizes. Celebrate Purim!

11:45 -12:30 pm is a Sing-along, costume parade, raffle drawing and the Purim story with Rabbi Jonathan.

12:30 - 1:15 pm:  Pot Luck Lunch, please bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share.
Please plan on attending and invite your friends.  All are welcome!


This week in Family School we continue to progress in Hebrew studies.  Studying and reviewing at home is a very big help.  A few minutes per day makes a big difference.  

 Here is the schedule of make up days:
FAMILY SCHOOL MAKE UP DAYS
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 and,
Tuesday, June 6, 2017.
Our End of Year Shabbat  will stay scheduled for Saturday, May 20, 2017 but, Family School will continue for 3 more Tuesdays.  We understand scheduling is difficult and next year we will build in extra Tuesdays at the end of the year to use if  needed.  Hopefully we have seen the end of weather cancellations for this year!


Please consider: 
A great way to build relationships is to share a meal together! Friendships are growing within our Family School wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out into the community?

Our congregation has a Congregational Communications Task Force.  Their goal is to create community and build relationships.  Currently they are working on creating a plan for In Home Shabbat Meals.  They are looking for families that would like to host a Shabbat Meal in their home either on a Friday night or Saturday luncheon.  It could be a pot luck or you can do the cooking.  That is up to you.  There is a guideline sheet to make it very manageable.  There are support people to insure your success.  It is a great way to meet, welcome and get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.  If you are interested please let me know, or Amy Messing @ 845.684.5279. 
Thank  you for considering this it is a great way to connect and build community.

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefilah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending


Sunday, March 12, 2017: 10:30 am - 1:15 pm Purim service, carnival and pot luck lunch.  Plan on attending!
  • Tuesday, March 14, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  Teen Class with Rabbi Jonathan 6-8 pm.
  • Saturday, March 18, 2016: PreK-K Class 10am - 12pm.
  • Tuesday, March 21, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8pm.
  • Tuesday, March 28, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6. 

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Friends,

You are likely aware that anti-Semitic incidents are on a dangerous rise around the United States. Most prominently there have been dozens of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers, and Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized and desecrated. I have unfortunately also been receiving reports about anti-Semitic taunts and posters in our own Mid-Hudson Valley region.

While of course very distressing, none of this is surprising to me. Human beings tend to follow the cue of their leaders, and when hateful speech and intolerant behavior is modeled and championed from our national leadership, tacit permission is granted to everyone who is so inclined to exercise their own hateful speech and impulses. Hatred can breed in every human heart, and a healthy society’s role is to marginalize, suppress, and ideally undo that hatred, so that we can have a civil – as in civilized – society. We need look no further back than the Nazi regime to understand the human potential for evil, and the terrifyingly slippery slope that allows the container of civilized behavior to be upended. We also need look no further today than to Syria, where once again human savagery – led by Syria’s dictator Assad – has swept away the human values that uphold civilization. Jewish tradition names this recurrent wave of human depravity “Hamashchit” – “The Destroyer”, and the 11th century sage Rashi points out, “When the Destroyer is let loose in the land, innocent and guilty suffer alike.”

We are living in a dangerous moment.

I think it is important for us Jews to remember that despite our historic role as scapegoat, here in the United States at this moment we are not first in line for the forces of bigotry. Muslims and Hispanics appear to be closest to the crosshairs, and people of darker skin shades in general are the primary focus of bigoted hatred. But we are certainly all in this together, and the truism “What affects one, affects us all” is as true now as it has ever been.

Fortunately, that awareness of our need to look out for one another is being dramatically awakened in response to these developments. Perhaps you followed the heartening response to the desecration of the Chesed Shel Emet Jewish cemetery in St. Louis. Two Muslim activists, Linda Sarsour of MPower Change and Celebrate Mercy’s Tarek El-Messidi, immediately launched a crowd-funding response to their Muslim communities in order to raise $20,000 to repair the cemetery. Within hours they had surpassed that goal and raised $100,000!

Then, as my colleague Rabbi Yael Ridberg reports, “less than a week later, when the Mt. Carmel Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia was desecrated, Tarek El-Messidi abandoned his travel plans and was one of the first people on the scene, helping to lift toppled stones, and pledging to use funds from the now $130,000 collected, to aid in restoration efforts in Philadelphia, and anywhere else they might be needed.

Many members of the American Muslim community gave of themselves — their money, their verbal condemnation of the attacks, their physical presence to volunteer at the cemeteries and stand together with Jews against such anti-Semitic actions.” Read more of her excellent post here.

Our Muslim allies’ response is precisely what is called for from all of us at this tenuous moment in the United States and around our planet. We can contain and subdue the forces of division and hatred with our determined efforts to remain connected and to offer support across group boundaries. I think that one of the goals of terror is to get folks to shrink back and close ranks with their own kind. I implore us Jews to resist the contracting imperative of fear, and instead to reach out determinedly to the countless people of good will from all corners of humanity who understand that we are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

Shabbat Shalom and love,

March 1, 2017

Dear Family School Families,

I am so sorry that the make up day information was not included last week.  Here is the schedule of make up days:
FAMILY SCHOOL MAKE UP DAYS
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 and,
Tuesday, June 6, 2017.
Our End of Year Shabbat  will stay scheduled for Saturday, May 20, 2017 but, Family School will continue for 3 more Tuesdays.  We understand scheduling is difficult and next year we will build in extra Tuesdays at the end of the year to use if  needed.  Hopefully we have seen the end of weather cancellations for this year!


This week in Family School we continue to progress in Hebrew studies.  Studying and reviewing at home is a very big help.  A few minutes per day makes a big difference.  
Our Chai Cloth project has taken a life of its own.  The children have really taken ownership in creating a very meaningful work of art truly from their hearts.  It has been a multi-step process requiring a lot of thought and concentration.  Please ask your children about it.

This Friday, March 3, 2017 is First Friday Shabbat Seder @ 6 pm.  Please bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share along with your family to start Shabbat together with a beautiful community dinner.  Candle lighting, blessings, songs, dinner and great company will be enjoyed by all.

Tot Shabbat is also this Friday, March 3, 2017.  We start at 5 pm, followed by our Shabbat  pot luck dinner  at 6 pm.

Sunday, March 12, 2017 is our Purim Celebration and Pot Luck Lunch,10:30 am - 1:00 pm. Our B'Nai Mitzvah Class runs carnival games for the children and shekels are given out to redeem for prizes.  We encourage everyone to come in costume, planning to have fun with games, face painting, making Shalach Manot baskets, stories and singing with Rabbi Jonathan. Ending with the pot luck lunch.  Please plan on attending and invite your friends.  All are welcome!


Please consider: 
A great way to build relationships is to share a meal together! Friendships are growing within our Family School wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out into the community?

Our congregation has a Congregational Communications Task Force.  Their goal is to create community and build relationships.  Currently they are working on creating a plan for In Home Shabbat Meals.  They are looking for families that would like to host a Shabbat Meal in their home either on a Friday night or Saturday luncheon.  It could be a pot luck or you can do the cooking.  That is up to you.  There is a guideline sheet to make it very manageable.  There are support people to insure your success.  It is a great way to meet, welcome and get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.  If you are interested please let me know, or Amy Messing @ 845.684.5279. 
Thank  you for considering this it is a great way to connect and build community.

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefilah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending

  • Friday, March 3, 2017:  Tot Shabbat @ 5pm followed by our monthly First Friday Shabbat Seder @ 6pm.
  • Tuesday, March 7, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8pm.
  • Sunday, March 12, 2017: 10am - 1pm Purim Carnival.  Plan on attending!
  • Tuesday, March 14, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6. 
  • Saturday, March 18, 2016: PreK-K Class 10am - 12pm.
  • Tuesday, March 21, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8pm.
  • Tuesday, March 28, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6. 

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Friends,

Our tour of Israel, “Meetings with Remarkable People”, has come to an end, and it exceeded all of our expectations. I know I can speak for everyone in our group when I say that we were uplifted and inspired by the passionate, courageous and principled individuals we encountered. We were able to experience an aspect of Israel that does not make the headlines: individuals from all sectors of the society who feel compelled to make a positive impact on the nation in which they live.

At times we traveled far off the beaten tourist path – sometimes literally, as our bus drove on bumpy dirt roads and across railroad tracks. We met a retired Israeli Supreme Court Justice and we met a Beduin woman who has started her own cottage industry. We met a Christian Arab High School principal transforming her impoverished students’ lives and we met a self-described punk rocker and hippie originally from Australia transforming the desert into fertile soil. We met a Palestinian Muslim man who, with his Israeli partner, daily risks his life to bring Palestinian and Israeli teens together, and we met an Israeli Jewish man who is guiding troubled Jewish teens to become proud men. We met a successful jeweler who is training Ethiopian Jews in his trade as his way of giving them an entrée into a stable economic life, and we met a passionate young Israeli woman who works for a solar energy company that is now providing most of the electricity for the city of Eilat, and has much bigger plans for the future.

We met all of these people, and many more. None of these individuals can solve the endemic problems of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. None of them can single-handedly undo the inequities of their society. None of them has any measurable influence on or significant access to Israel’s current governing coalition or Prime Minister Netanyahu. None of them has the power to stem the terrifying tide of angry nationalism and racism that is sweeping our world, or to hold back global climate change.

Yet none of them are giving up. In fact, what all of these individuals share is a twinkle in their eyes, and a fierce determination and love for what they do and especially for the people they serve. Each one of them has a vision and a purpose for their lives, and was eager to share it with us. Each one has identified what they are passionate about, and is pursuing their goals despite the daunting obstacles. None of these remarkable people is making headlines or rolling in grant money, but every one of them is an agent for positive change.

Perhaps you see where I’m headed with this: our trip not only reminded me that Israel is filled with good people. Our trip reminded me that the entire world is filled with good people. Anywhere you will go, if you know how to look, you will meet countless people who have empowered themselves and are committed to improving their societies. The people we met in Israel are remarkable yet also ordinary people, often very humble, but lit by the inner fire of love and of a sense of purpose, of wanting to be of service. Their sphere of influence is limited: a business, a school, a farm, a small city, a courtroom, a youth group, yet they are not deterred, because they are doing what they love and what they know must be done. They often spoke of their children, and of their desire to hand them a better world.

And so I came back from Israel with the gift of their inspiring examples. I came home encouraged and empowered to keep making a difference in the world within my own sphere, to act locally while I think globally, and I want to share this gift with you as well.

We are living in dark times, but there are good people everywhere. Find them, join hands with them, draw inspiration from one another, do work that you care about, and keep your heart open. That is certainly my goal.

I once again wish to thank our guide Kayla Ship and her organization Keshet Educational Tours for showing us this slice of life in Israel. I can’t wait to return.

If you want to hear more about our trip, you are invited to join me and members of our Israel group on Sunday, March 5, 11am-1pm at our monthly WJC brunch. We will be sharing our reflections and stories from our journey, and look forward to your questions and comments.

Shabbat Shalom and Love,

Rabbi Jonathan

Dearest Friends,

Our tour group from Israel returned to Woodstock but my soul is still dancing on the roof to of our hotel in Jerusalem.  I could look out over the old city-truly the city of gold-especially in the morning sunrise, evening sun set and under the full moon.  Scanning the sky line to the east- The Mount of Olives, the City of David, the valleys and hillsides.  So many Mosques, churches synagogues, the university—all visible from this vantage point.

Upon my return flight the flu that had caught several of our group caught me as well so I am slowly reemerging into life on the side of the world.

From the deepest parts of my heart thank you to each and every person who contributed emotionally, spiritually, financially to make my beyond amazing trip to Israel possible.

I invite and actually plead with you to come to the Sunday Brunch on March 5th at 11 am, where we will be sharing with you the abundance of our trip through stories, photos and food.

Please come so I  can share this with you.

With deepest thanks,

Shalom,

Miryam Sarsheen

February 23, 2017

Dear Family School Families,

In spite of it being a break for some we had a wonderful day in Family School and missed the students that were not there.  Rabbi Jonathan is back from Israel and led tefillah.  We heard about the trip and continued on our journey of learning and singing basic prayers.  Hebrew is moving along and we continued to work on the Chai Cloths.  When we are finished with the first batch they will be displayed in the hall.  It is lovely listening to the children as they are creating these meaningful cloths and who they think may be in need of one.

Our congregation has a Congregational Communications Task Force.  Their goal is to create community and build relationships. Currently they are working on creating a plan for In Home Shabbat Meals.  They are looking for families that would like to host a Shabbat Meal in their home either on a Friday night or Saturday luncheon.  It could be a pot luck or you can do the cooking.  That is up to you.  There is a guideline sheet to make it very manageable.  There are support people to insure your success.  It is a great way to meet, welcome and get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.  If you are interested please let me know, or you can also contact Avis Toochin @ 845.679.7653 although after Friday Avis will be away for a month or Amy Messing @ 845.684.5279. 
Thank  you for considering this it is a great way to connect and build community.

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefilah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending

Tuesday, February 21, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8pm.
  • Tuesday, February 28, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.
  • Friday, March 3, 2017:  Tot Shabbat @ 5pm followed by our monthly First Friday Shabbat Seder @ 6pm.
  • Tuesday, March 7, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8pm.
  • Sunday, March 12, 2017: 10am - 1pm Purim Carnival.  Plan on attending!
  • Tuesday, March 14, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6. 
  • Saturday, March 18, 2016: PreK-K Class 10am - 12pm.
  • Tuesday, March 21, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8pm.
  • Tuesday, March 28, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6. 

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Friends,

While the snow continues to fall in the Hudson Valley, we have arrived in the very south of Israel, a desert landscape of beige and brown. The climate is cool at night and pleasantly mild during the day, a contrast to the surprisingly biting chill that met us in Jerusalem.

View of Mountains from Kibbutz Ketura

We are staying at Kibbutz Ketura, a kibbutz that was founded in 1973 by a group of idealistic young adults from Young Judaea, an American youth movement sponsored by Hadassah. (I’m sure there are some Young Judaeans out there reading this!) They claimed a completely barren site in the Arava valley - a great example of “the middle of nowhere” – and over the decades built a thriving, progressive community. Ketura is an old-style kibbutz, still maintaining itself as a complete cooperative. Across the road is Kibbutz Lotan, another successful kibbutz founded by American youth from the Reform movement. Immediately beyond Lotan is the border with Jordan – one can walk through the groves of date palms and reach the fence. Fortunately, the peace treaty with Jordan is stable, and the border here for decades has been completely calm. The view is stunning and restorative.

Ketura’s success was by no means guaranteed. The Arava receives almost no rainfall, has no obvious natural resources, and the summer heat is brutal. Through trial and error some of the kibbutzniks created a successful algae factory that is quite profitable. And, of course, they noticed that the area’s greatest resource is continuous and intense sunshine – solar power. Led by Yossi Abramowitz, and battling Bezek, the Israeli electric company that holds a monopoly in Israel, Ketura has created a burgeoning solar energy company, with plans to build enormous fields of photovoltaic panels that will be able harvest enough sunlight to power the entire southern region – including parts of Jordan. They certainly hope to extend their reach to the rest of Israel, planning for a sustainable energy future.

In my eyes, Ketura’s crowning achievement is the Arava Institute (http://arava.org).

In keeping with the kibbutz’s vision to promote pluralism and peaceful cooperation in the region, the Arava Institute trains environmental activists and academics from Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Territories, and around the world. Their website states, “The Arava Institute is a leading environmental and academic institution in the Middle East, working to advance cross-border environmental cooperation in the face of political conflict. Students live, learn and work together at the Institute, study conflict resolution, and celebrate each other’s holidays, in all ways encountering one another intimately. The Institute’s motto is “Nature knows no borders”. I encourage you to peruse their website, and if you are inspired, consider offering your support.

Last night we had the pleasure of participating in a kibbutz-wide Tu B’Shvat Seder in the communal dining room. (Tu B’Shvat actually falls on Shabbat, but the kibbutz was celebrating a day early so as not to conflict with their Shabbat observance. At the WJC, our student rabbi Kami Knapp will be leading our Tu B’Shvat Seder following our Shabbat morning services and lunch!)

Tu B'Shevat at Kibbutz Ketura

Tu B’Shvat falls on the full moon of the month of Shvat, and marks the “New Year for Trees” in Israel. We taste the fruits of Israel, sing songs, and give thanks for the bounty and goodness that the trees provide us. The kibbutz dining hall was packed. We sat near the Kenyan volunteers who are here for a year working on the kibbutz. Children dressed as flowers and butterflies and bees performed a dance, teens taught us rounds and chants, adults spoke meaningful words, we ate delicious fruits and nuts, and our group was blessed with a privileged glimpse into the life of this community.

The most moving moment for me was the prayer for peace. The organizers invited up a representative of every different language spoken on the kibbutz. Each one then recited the prayer in his or her own language: French, Spanish, English, Dutch, Afrikaans, three Kenyan languages whose names I do not know, Swahili, Arabic, and Hebrew: “Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu, v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol yoshvei tevel” – “May the One who makes peace above, make peace among us, all Israel, and all who dwell on earth.” After each recital we all declared “Amen”.

The members of Kibbutz Ketura are certainly doing all that is within their power to contribute to that vision of a peaceful and sustainable world. May they be blessed in all of their efforts.

Over the past week we met with so many remarkable and inspiring people, and I promise to write more about those meetings in weeks to come. This has been an extraordinary trip. But now as Shabbat approaches I will pause, and send you all my warmest wishes for your wellbeing. I will write again soon.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jonathan

Dear Family School Families,

Family School is cancelled once again due to freezing rain!  The advisory is now until 7pm according to accuweather.com.  Safety is our main concern.  Please put in to your thoughts that we will be extending the school year and keep Tuesdays available for few weeks after our original end date. Our last Tuesday was originally scheduled to be May 16, 2017.  Please keep your calendars open for a possible 4 additional Tuesday into June.  More info will follow.

 This Saturday February 11, 2017 @ 10 am is our monthly Shabbat Community Day followed by our pot luck lunch, it is also our TuB'Shevat Seder.  Please plan on attending with your families.  All are welcome, bring friends and family to celebrate the trees!
Saturday February 11, 2017 is our PreK-K Class 10am-12pm followed with our pot luck and TuB'Shevat Seder.


Looking forward to seeing all next Tuesday, February 14 2017 Family School 4 - 6:30  pm.  PLEASE REMEMBER TO STUDY HEBREW.  IT REALLY MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE AND IS A BIG HELP.  Thank you!  Please stay safe and warm!

School Reminders:

  1. Drop off and pick up is at the front door. 
  2. All doors will be locked after Tefilah at 4:30 pm on Tuesdays.
  3. All families are always welcome to stay for Tefilah. It is prayer time, led by our teachers and rabbi, that takes place in the first 30 minute period of the day (4:00 – 4:30 pm on Tuesdays). It is my favorite part of our Family School: not only do you have the opportunity to pray, but you also have the opportunity to see what our children know, and to witness their thoughts and reflections on what this means to them.
  4. Children will not be allowed to go out to the car without an adult coming in. If your child is in a carpool, please make sure to inform our office of these arrangements and that your child(ren) know who they are leaving with.
  5. Please remind your child to study. 5 minutes a day is all it takes to make a huge difference. When students are prepared for their class they feel good about themselves and are ready to work. Homework insures the success of each child. Each student only has one hour per week to learn a new language in Family School. Homework will reinforce what they have covered in class. Please be part of your child's success by talking and even learning with them each week.
  6. We do our best to keep interruptions to a minimum. If your child needs to leave early, please let me know ahead of time and the teacher will prepare what needs to go home and we will have your child ready for pick up.
  7. All electronic devices need to be turned off and be out of sight.

Important Dates to Remember:

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017:  Family School Canceled 
 
  • Saturday, February 11, 2017:  Shabbat Community Day for grades 1-6.  We will be celebrating TuB'Shevat with a TuB'shevat Seder  after lunch.  Please plan on attending.
  • Saturday, February 11, 2017:   PreK-K Class 10am - 12pm.  Please plan on staying for the pot luck lunch and TuB'Shevat Seder.
  • Tuesday February 14, 2017: Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6
  • Tuesday, February 21, 2017:  Family School 4pm - 6:30 pm grades 1-6.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6pm - 8p,

As always, please feel free to contact me either by phone at (845) 684-4242, or by email at familyschool@wjcshul.org, with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Friends,

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem!

I am in the midst of an incredibly stimulating and well-planned tour of Israel with a great group of 33 individuals ranging in age from 15 into the 80s. I have been working with Keshet Educational Tours, our tour company, for more than 20 years. Their mission, as indicated by their name, is to educate while we tour, and they just keep getting better and better. Our trip is really a seminar-on-wheels, with fabulous educators teaching us about different aspects of society, history, politics and nature in Israel, alternating with fascinating experiences, sightseeing and large amounts of great food. It is odd to say this, but right now being in Israel actually feels like a break from the turmoil of our own United States.

I only have time to give you a small taste of my experiences thus far, and will write more in the coming week. But let me begin at the beginning. As I emerged from my plane last Sunday at Ben Gurion Airport I scanned all the advertisements – for yogurt, for banking, for cell phones – all in Hebrew. And as always, I marveled that we Jews had, against all odds, reinvented ourselves, rebuilt a long-lost homeland, resurrected our ancient tongue, and here I was again, living a miracle. That sense of awe always overtakes me when I am in Israel, and doesn’t leave me, even as I grapple with the intractable problems and existential questions that accompany life in Israel. During my cab ride from the airport I had what felt like the perfect introduction to my time here (and a chance to practice my Hebrew, as well.) My driver was a sweet young man from Tel Aviv, and after we greeted one another he said to me, “We in Israel are used to living in a balagan (a great Hebrew word which means “a mess”); now the whole world is a balagan – even the United States is a balagan!” I responded, “You’re right, but at least here in Israel this is our balagan!” And so it is, and I still cannot help but embrace it.

Our group convened that evening at our hotel, and in the morning we headed off on our adventures. One high point for me was meeting with David Breakstone. David Breakstone is the brother of our own WJC member Diane Colello. David is also the Vice Chair of the World Zionist Organization, and the founder of Israel’s Theodore Herzl Museum. A passionate educator, David has spent his adult life in Israel promoting Herzl’s original vision of Zionism: a movement not only to create a refuge for World Jewry from anti-Semitism, but also a movement to create a Jewish society that could be a model of equity and social justice for all of its citizens. No one will dispute that Herzl’s utopian dreams are far from being realized, and are even in many aspects receding. Other less generous versions of Zionism battle for preeminence. But thanks to people like David Breakstone, Herzl’s dreams have not died, and the educational center he created stimulates countless Israeli students and teachers to think about the founder of Zionism’s vision, and to consider what kind of nation they themselves might want to work for.

We had the privilege the next day of learning from another amazing educator, Noam Zion, a scholar at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute. The late American philosopher David Hartman founded the Hartman Institute in 1976, shortly after he had moved to Israel. Its mission is to reinterpret Jewish teachings for the challenges of modernity, such as religious pluralism, democracy, and especially the unprecedented challenges of a newly powerful Jewish state. How can one apply Jewish ethics to the implementation of state power? Is it even possible for a nation state to behave ethically? The Hartman Institute has become a leading center and influential think tank in Israel for political, educational, military and religious leaders to explore these challenging questions.

Noam Zion was one of the scholars responsible for the creation of the Israel Defense Force’s manual on the ethics of warfare. All IDF officers and soldiers are required to study this curriculum. Professor Zion led us through a lesson that describes the training these soldiers receive. Rather than a simple book of rules, the curriculum teaches soldiers how to pursue ethical decision-making in complex, dangerous and even life-threatening situations. Professor Zion described the substantial effort the IDF has made to train soldiers who will respond ethically in tremendously difficult conditions. He described the extreme challenges of what is known as asymmetrical warfare: a uniformed army confronting a civilian population, among whom are unidentified enemies. I cannot even begin in this brief paragraph to do justice to the nuances of Professors Zion’s teaching. Suffice to say that this was not propaganda – it was mind-expanding education in the best sense, raising for all of us more questions than answers.

Kayla Ship, our terrific Keshet tour guide, told us that when the Keshet staff had a strategic planning meeting, they came up with a tagline for their educational mission: “It’s Complicated”. In all of the meetings we have thus far had, no teacher or presenter has insulted our intelligence. No question has been off limits. I am deeply impressed by the education our lovely group has received thus far, our minds expanding and bending, our assumptions challenged, sometimes painfully, sometimes thrillingly, sometimes both at the same time.

Which brings me back to my own mission statement: if you want to really understand Israel, you must come here, preferably more than once. Panel discussions, op-ed pieces, and “60-Minute” reports are completely unable to bring this place to life, and we ourselves become talking heads as we debate Israel from afar. It may be complicated here, but it is also vibrantly alive, and I am so grateful to be traveling with this wonderful WJC group as we bend our minds and wrap our hearts around this extraordinary land.

More to come next week – until then, Shabbat Shalom and take care of yourselves!

Love,

Rabbi Jonathan