August 24, 2017

Dear Family School Families,

Thank you for sending back your completed registration packets. If you have not sent yours back yet, please do so as soon as possible. Please feel free to call me with any questions or concerns.

I would like to plant a seed for thought before we start the new year.
We love your children and want to provide a foundation for and love of Jewish living and learning. We want to support you and your families in continuing Jewish living at home and in our community. You make a wonderful start by coming to First Friday Shabbat Pot Luck Dinners, holiday celebrations and observances, and Family School. Regularly attending services is also a great way to immerse yourselves into the community and become familiar with the service. There is a lot of joy and learning in each service. Rabbi Jonathan is always eager to hear from our young ones, Children are always welcome to attend and participate. There are also many opportunities for everyone to volunteer in our congregation: helping with holidays, mailings, pot luck dinners and luncheons, the Yard Sale, the Chanukah Bazaar, and countless other smaller tasks. Your involvement is an expression of what we teach: kavanah, gemilut chassidim, and mitzvot.

We are very blessed to have a congregation that loves children! Any experience shared here is an opportunity to grow intergenerational relationships and foster a strong connection to the teachings that are our foundation.

So my question to you is, what do you want from us?
What can we do to become a part of your family's life?
What imprint do you want your children's experience here to have?
How do you see us growing together as a community, joining Family School families with our entire congregation?
After your child's bar or bat mitzvah, what is your vision of your and your family's connection to Judaism?
By building a foundation for and love of Judaism we want to inspire a continuing passion for learning and being Jewish. We do not see a bar or bat mitzvah as a graduation of sorts, but as the beginning of a life-long yearning for learning and growing. Please let me know your thoughts and let's keep this conversation going.

Mark your calendar for the next Tot Shabbat and First Friday Potluck on September 1. Please join us and bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share. Bring a friend, too—all are welcome!

I hope there is studying happening for all. It is very easy to get rusty. We are looking forward to a great year!

Important Dates to Remember
Please mark your calendars and plan on attending!
Back to Family School: First Days
Grades 1–6: September 12 (4–6:30 pm)
B'nai Mitzvah Class: September 12 (6–8 pm)
Pre K–Kindergarten: September 16 (10 am)
Teen Class: September 19 (6 pm)

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or thoughts. Please feel free to call or email me anytime.

(845) 684-4242
familyschool@wjcshul.org

Wishing all a warm, loving, end of summer

Good Shabbos,

Dee

Rabbi Jonathan is away this week! In lieu of a Torah teaching, he has asked us to share the following press release about his exciting upcoming workshop with Dr. Melila Hellner-Eshed, PhD. We hope you can join us!
Shabbat Shalom,
WJC Staff

The Lev Shalem Institute (LSI) of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation (WJC) is offering a new weekend workshop, “Awakening: Preparing Ourselves for a New Year” with Dr. Meilila Hellner-Eshed.

The workshop begins on Friday, September 1 at 5 pm at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, continues all day Saturday and concludes at 2 pm on Sunday, September 3. As with all LSI courses and workshops, this course is open to all, Jew and non-Jew.

A riveting presenter and expert in Jewish mysticism, Dr. Hellner-Eshed combines an encyclopedic knowledge of classic Jewish texts with the heart of an artist and the perspective of a citizen of the world. Like all great teachers, Melila guides students to where the ancient tradition and their own lives intersect. The course will weave interactive text study, lecture, song, creative writing, reflection and deep sharing.

“Melila is truly one of the leading teachers of Judaism in the world today,” said WJC Rabbi Jonathan Kligler. “I am honored to be one of her students, and honored to call her a friend. We have ample opportunities for the community to learn with Melila in sessions both open to the public and those that are just for workshop participants. It’s a rare opportunity to learn with her in an intimate setting at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation.”
Friday evening and Saturday morning activities will be open, free of charge, to the entire community, WJC members and non-members. Beginning with Shabbat lunch on Saturday and continuing through Sunday lunch, Dr. Hellner-Eshed will lead a workshop that requires participants to register in advance and pay a tuition fee.

Weekend Schedule

Friday, September 1

5 pm Registration and greeting for weekend workshop participants
6 pm “First Friday” pot luck Shabbat Dinner OPEN TO ALL
7:30 pm Teaching with Dr. Hellner-Eshed OPEN TO ALL

Saturday, September 2

10 am Shabbat morning service, led by Rabbi Jonathan, with Torah teaching by Dr. Hellner-Eshed OPEN TO ALL
12:30-8 pm Workshop begins with lunch for the participants, followed by
learning sessions, afternoon break, dinner and havdalah service.

Sunday, September 3

9:30 am-2 pm Workshop continues, and concludes with lunch and farewells

Workshop Registration and Information

Tuition

$150 General; $75 WJC Members

If tuition costs are prohibitive, contact Dee Graziano at WJC for a confidential conversation.

Meals

$70 (Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner, and Sunday lunch, plus snacks; most dietary needs can be accommodated)
Participants are also welcome to bring their own dairy/vegetarian food if they do not want to sign up for the meal plan.

Online registration is available through the LSI website:

Register Online

Dr. Melila Hellner-Eshed teaches Zohar, Jewish mysticism, and Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is also a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute.
For the past two decades, Dr. Hellner-Eshed has been a central figure in the renaissance of the study of Jewish texts by Israeli adults from all paths of life, as well as teaching and working with Jewish communities all over North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union. At the Shalom Hartman Institute, she initiated and directs the Rabbinic Students Seminar, a program for rabbinic students from all denominations spending a year in Israel. In this capacity she has influenced a generation of young rabbis from around the world. Dr. Hellner-Eshed is also the coordinator of the Maskilot Program, which provides outstanding female doctoral students with an edge in completing their Ph.D.’s and pursuing their rightful place in Israel's elite circle of Jewish studies academics.
Dr. Hellner-Eshed is active in ‘Sulha’– a reconciliation project that brings together Israelis and Palestinians. She is the author of And a River Flows from Eden - On the Language of Mystical Experience in the Zohar (2009), and Seekers of The Face - From the Secrets of the Idra Rabba in the Zohar” (2016).

Dear Friends,

I will be attending a candlelight vigil tonight in Kingston at 7 pm, in solidarity with all those in our nation who will not tolerate the emergence of Neo-Nazis and white nationalists into the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia or anywhere else in the Untied States of America. I will be standing in solidarity with the victims of their vicious worldview and the subsequent violence and death that their presence caused. I will be standing with all those who are disgusted by the absolute moral vacuum of our national administration, and with all those who know that it is now up to us ordinary citizens to uphold and reinforce the values that maintain a civilized society.

I invite members and friends of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation, and all others who are able to attend to join me tonight at 7 pm outside the office of Citizen Action, on the corner of Grand Street and Broadway (across the street from the YMCA).

Nazi flags, racist and anti-Semitic slogans, and domestic terrorist violence have no place in the United States of America. Let us stand together to oppose this hateful, corrosive and deadly underbelly of human consciousness, and work to prevent it from seeing the light of day across our nation.

Thank you,

The central mitzvah and activity of the High Holy Days is תשובה teshuvah, the task of realigning ourselves with our highest values and taking the steps we need to manifest those values. “Sin” and “repentance” are the English terms usually associated with this process. These phrases, as commonly heard, carry a burden of guilt and heaviness that can impede our embrace of this beautiful and life-affirming process. The Hebrew vocabulary for these activities, however, reveals a refreshingly different perspective on human nature, and provides us with an optimistic roadmap for bettering ourselves.

חטא Chet

Chet is primarily rendered into English as “sin”. But it’s origin is in the root “to miss”, as in shooting an arrow and missing a target. That is to say, a chet is a “miss”. We took aim at our target, we shot our arrow, and we missed the target. A chet, therefore, is not a reflection of our essence, but only of our behavior. As such, after missing the target we always have the possibility of trying again. We are intact and capable of change, even if our behaviors have missed the mark.

כונה Kavanah

Kavanah is usually translated as “intention”. It is a central and deeply meaningful concept of Jewish spiritual practice. We are asked to fill our actions with intentionality, to have our insides line up with our outsides, to pay attention to what we are doing. But the origin of kavanah makes the term even more grounded and achievable. The root of kavanah is the verb “to aim”. Kavanah means “aim”. Therefore, when we commit a chet – a miss – it is because our kavanah – our aim – was off! As we prepare to take an action, we must practice our aim. We will miss the target countless times. That does not mean that we are fundamentally bad people. It means that as human beings, it takes a lifetime of practice in order to improve our aim.

Avigayil Landsman pointed out to me that the gematria – the numerical value - of חטא chet is 18, equal to the numerical value of חי chai, “life”. That is to say, as long as we are alive, we will be missing the target. This is inherent to being human, and in the Jewish understanding, the Creator understands this about us. That is why we need the High Holy Days every single year, to become aware of and to acknowledge the ways we have missed the mark, to make amends, and to practice our aim for the coming year. And God forgives us for not being perfect; how could anyone possibly hit the target every time?

תשובה Teshuvah

Teshuvah is usually translated as “repentance”. But its origin is in the root “to respond, answer, reply”. Teshuvah literally means “response” or “answer”. Teshuvah is our constructive response to having committed a chet, to having missed the mark.

A response necessitates that there is a question, a call. Something calls to people of conscience, urging them to do right. Life calls to us, and we sense its demand. Somehow, the universe is not neutral about our behavior, but rather there is a standard that we intuit and toward which we aspire. Our ability to hear this call and to respond to it is precisely what elevates us to the plain of being human.

And so, when we notice that we have missed the target, we respond, and this is the process of teshuvah: we track down our arrow. We assess what damage our miss might have caused – did we wreck some property, or God forbid, injure someone? We do our best to apologize for our poor aim, and to make amends. We recommit to working on our aim. We pick up our bow and arrow and try again.

Teshuvah means response. If you are able to respond, you have “response-ability”. You are responsible. What a beautiful term. Often thought of as stolid or steadfast, to be responsible actually requires nimble presence: presence of mind, presence of self, so that you can respond to the question before you, the human being before you, the problem before you. To be responsible means that when life’s demand comes before us, we answer “Hineni”, here I am, ready and willing. To be responsible is noble, beautiful and life giving, as in every moment we try to offer our best answer to life.

On the Jewish path, because our sins are the result of errant behaviors, rather than inherent flaws, we affirm that change is always possible. Sometimes (rarely) it is dramatic and instantaneous. Most of the time it is incremental. We backslide, we forget, we repeat our mistakes. But with many misses and countless repetitions, we do change. We learn to be patient with ourselves, and to forgive our failings. Bit by bit, our aim improves. We love better, we enjoy more, we accept what is out of our control, and more and more we do the right thing as a matter of course. We’ll never be perfect, but we also figure out that perfection was never the right target at which to aim.

I’ll close with a little story. You may have heard it before. It is called “Autobiography in Five (Short) Chapters”, by Portia Nelson, and this is a slightly adapted version:

Chapter One.  I am walking down a street.  There is a giant hole in the middle of the street.  I fall in.  I am terrified.  I don’t know what happened.  I don’t know where I am.  It is dark. I don’t know how to get out.  I am down there for a long time.  Finally, I look up and see some light.  With incredible effort, I scramble up toward the light, and manage to climb out.  I continue walking.

Chapter Two.  I am walking down the same street.  There is a giant hole in the middle of the street.  I fall in.  This seems very familiar.  It’s not my fault!  I don’t know how this happened!  I am down there for a long time.  Finally I look up, see the light above, and scramble out.  I continue walking.

Chapter Three.  I am walking down the same street.  There is a giant hole in the middle of the street.  I know it’s there.  I see it.  I fall in.  I get out as quickly as I can.  I continue walking.

Chapter Four.  I am walking down the same street.  There is a giant hole in the middle of the street.  I know it’s there.  I see it.  I walk around the hole.

Chapter Five.  I walk down another street. (There will probably be a giant hole in it somewhere!)

G’mar Chatima Tova - May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year

Rabbi Jonathan

Lots of good friendship and good food this weekend at the WJC –Join us!
Tonight, Friday, August 4: Tot Shabbat Service at 5pm, followed at 6pm by our “First Friday” Shabbat Dinner. Bring a pot luck vegetarian/dairy dish to share.
Tomorrow, Saturday, August 5, 10am: Carol Super Gold celebrates her Adult Bat Mitzvah.
And Sunday, August 6, 11am-1pm (SEE BELOW!): a delicious brunch honoring our Chesed Circle volunteers – all are welcome!

Dear Friends,

This Sunday, August 6 at our “First Sunday” brunch, we are honoring the volunteers in our Chesed Circle. These are the folks among you who have simply signed up for our Chesed Circle email list, which means that when someone in our community needs an act of chesed – kindness – these people are invited to respond.

Anyone can join our Chesed Circle; just let the office know that you would like your name added to the list. No meetings! But once a year, we do want to gather to honor our volunteers.

In so doing, we are following a very old Jewish tradition: the Volunteer Banquet. For centuries, Jewish communities would organize multiple volunteer societies to meet the needs of the community. There would typically be an organization for Malbish Arumim, Clothing the Naked,” which provided clothes for the needy, and an Ozer Dalim, “Helping the Poor”, which would distribute alms. There would be a Hachnassat Kalah, “Dowering the Bride”, which would use its funds to underwrite marriage expenses and dowry for the impoverished bride, and a Talmud Torah organization that would support the free school for orphans and children of the poor. The Free Loan Society would provide interest-free loans to members of the community. A Bikkur Cholim, “Visiting the Sick”, society would help care for the sick, and the Chevra Kadisha, “The Holy Association”, would bury the dead. In many communities, the voluntary societies would hold an annual banquet to honor their members (and to raise funds, too, I assume!)

As Jews immigrated to the United States, and Jewish communities reestablished themselves here, these volunteer associations were recreated in new institutional forms. Jewish hospitals and social service agencies were founded. Jewish Federations took on many of the functions of the volunteer societies of the old country. In many, many ways the Jewish community has continued to do an exemplary job of caring the sick and the needy. But institutions can become impersonal, and a sense of intimacy is usually lost. Smaller and more intimate communities such as our own are well served by following the model of the shtetl, and finding ways to take care of our own. We have much to learn from the ultra-orthodox world, which never gave up these caring functions in their communities. Their volunteer organizations are known as gemachs, which is an acronym for Gemilut Chasadim, “Acts of Loving Kindness.” I remember visiting an old friend who had become very orthodox and now lived in a religious community in Israel. She showed me the local phone book, which had an entire section devoted to various gemachs that provided every service imaginable, and for free.

So, despite our complicated and fragmented lives, we at the WJC follow our Jewish obligation to do our best to offer caring acts to those in need in our community. Our Chesed Circle fulfills many of those needs. And so, like our ancestors, we have decided to hold our first annual Chesed Circle Banquet this Sunday from 11am-1pm to honor our volunteers. I especially want to thank Gwen Tapper, volunteer extraordinaire, who coordinates our Chesed Circle and is organizing the brunch. Thank you, Gwen!

I hope many of you can join us, and perhaps you will sign up for our Chesed Circle email list as well!

Shabbat Shalom and love,

Rabbi Jonathan

October 22–November 4, 2018

We are thrilled to offer this next opportunity to travel to Israel with Rabbi Jonathan. This trip will provide a broad introduction to the land, history, people and politics of this extraordinary country. Working with our good friends at Keshet Educational Tours, we have crafted an itinerary that is both intimate and expansive, complex and exhilarating. As Rabbi Jonathan has taught us over the years, descriptions of Israel from afar are pale and two-dimensional; the only way to appreciate the unique and staggering vitality of Israel is to make the trip. You will not regret it.

By the way, it is easy to decide to extend your trip, if you desire. Keshet will help with any special arrangements.

Whether this is your first trip or you are an Israel “veteran”, consider joining us, and invite your friends. Read the itinerary and get all the information you need here. Then feel free to contact Rabbi Jonathan (rabbijonathan@wjcshul.org) to let him know that you are interested, and with any and all your questions.

Dear Family School Families,

I hope you are all enjoying the summer! I just wanted to remind everyone that next Friday, August 4, 2017, we will hold our monthly Tot Shabbat at 5 pm followed by our First Friday Shabbat Pot Luck Dinner at 6 pm. Please join us and bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share. Bring a friend, too - all are welcome!
Mark your calendar for the next Tot Shabbat and First Friday Potluck on September 1, 2017.
I hope there is studying happening for all. It is very easy to get rusty.

Enjoy these beautiful summer days and hope to see you Friday, August 4, 2017 at Tot Shabbat and/or our First Friday Shabbat Pot Luck.

Important Dates to Remember

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending!
Back to Family School: First Days
Grades 1–6: September 12 (4–6:30 pm)
B'nai Mitzvah Class: September 12 (6–8 pm)
Pre K–Kindergarten: September 16 (10 am)
Teen Class: September 19 (6 pm)

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or thoughts. Please feel free to call or email me anytime.

(845) 684-4242 | familyschool@wjcshul.org

Wishing all a warm, loving, happy summer!

Good Shabbos,

Dee

Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to let you know that my dear friend Dr. Melila Hellner-Eshed, one of the leading teachers of Judaism in the world today, and a wise and joyous soul, will be joining us at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation as our Scholar-in-Residence for the weekend of September 1-3. Her topic will be “Awakening: Preparing Ourselves for the New Year.” We have arranged her visit so that her Friday evening and Saturday morning teachings are free and open to all, and then she will be leading an intensive workshop from Saturday lunch through Sunday lunch that is open to registrants only. All the details are below.

I am honored to be one of Melila’s students, and honored to call her a friend. A native of Jerusalem, a riveting presenter and an expert in Jewish mysticism, Dr. Hellner-Eshed combines an encyclopedic knowledge of classic Jewish texts with the heart of an artist and the perspective of a citizen of the world. Like all great teachers, Melila guides us to where the ancient tradition and our own lives intersect, and makes us more aware and alive in the process. Her teaching integrates interactive text study, lecture, song, creative writing, reflection and deep sharing.

A native of Jerusalem, Dr. Hellner-Eshed teaches Zohar, Jewish mysticism, and Jewish Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is also a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. For the past two decades, Dr. Hellner-Eshed has been a central figure in the renaissance of the study of Jewish texts by Israeli adults from all paths of life, as well as teaching and working with Jewish communities all over North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union. At the Shalom Hartman Institute, she initiated and directs the Rabbinic Students Seminar, a program for rabbinic students from all denominations spending a year in Israel. In this capacity she has influenced a generation of young rabbis from around the world. Dr. Hellner-Eshed is also the coordinator of the Maskilot Program, which provides outstanding female doctoral students with an edge in completing their Ph.D.’s and pursuing their rightful place in Israel’s elite circle of Jewish studies academics. Dr. Hellner-Eshed is active in ‘Sulha’ – a reconciliation project that brings together Israelis and Palestinians.  She is the author of And a River Flows from Eden – On the Language of Mystical Experience in the Zohar (2009), and Seekers of The Face – From the Secrets of the Idra Rabba in the Zohar (2016).

I hope you will be able to attend some or all of the weekend, and that you will invite others as well. This is a rare opportunity to learn with a world-class scholar in our intimate Woodstock setting. Registration for the workshop is open now at the Lev Shalem Institute of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation website

Here are the details:

Friday, September 1

5:00pm Registration and greeting for weekend workshop participants

6:00pm “First Friday” pot luck Shabbat Dinner OPEN TO ALL

7:30pm Teaching with Dr. Hellner-Eshed OPEN TO ALL

Saturday, September 2

10:00am Shabbat morning service, led by Rabbi Jonathan, with Torah teaching by Dr. Hellner-Eshed OPEN TO ALL

12:30pm-8:00 Workshop begins with lunch for the participants, followed by learning sessions, afternoon break, dinner and havdalah service.

Sunday, September 3

9:30am-2:00pm Workshop continues, and concludes with lunch and farewells

Workshop Registration and Information

Tuition: $150 General; $75 WJC Members. Meals: Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner, Sunday lunch, plus snacks $70 (most dietary needs can be accommodated). Participants are also welcome to bring their own dairy/vegetarian food if they do not want to sign up for the meal plan. If tuition costs are prohibitive, contact Dee Graziano (familyschool@wjcshul.org845.679.2218 x6) at WJC for a confidential conversation. Again, easy online registration is available through the LSI website

Shabbat Shalom and Love,

Rabbi Jonathan

V’achalta v’savata u’veirachta
You shall eat, and be satiated, and give thanks (Deuteronomy 8:10)

As some of you may know, those three Hebrew words – V’achalta v’savata u’veirachta – comprise the proof text for the Birkat Ha’mazon, known in English as the Grace After Meals. Birkat Ha’mazon is a very long series of blessings of gratitude that are meant to be recited – and are often sung boisterously – after every meal. (Having grown up singing this every day after lunch at Jewish day school, I still mostly know it by heart.) In addition to offering blessings before eating, such as the Motzi, the blessing over bread, our Sages determined from this verse of Torah that we should also give thanks after we eat. Their decision was based on the order of the words: eat, be satiated, then give thanks!

Why should we be required to give thanks after we eat? The verses in Deuteronomy that immediately follow explain that when you have entered the good land that YHVH is giving to you, and have plenty to eat, and have built fine houses to live in, and you have become prosperous, “beware lest your heart grow haughty…and you say to yourselves, ‘it was my own power and strength that won this wealth for me!’” No, you must remember that your abundance is a gift from God, the Source of All. (8:11-17)

The Torah, as always, understands human nature. When we are famished or thirsty, and someone offers us refreshment, we might find ourselves exclaiming, unbidden, “Oh, thank God!” with a sigh, knowing that imminent relief to our suffering has arrived. But when we are satiated, we quickly forget the need we so desperately carried just moments earlier. That’s the way we are. We get used to our good fortune and our privilege, assume that as our baseline, and then focus on our next need. We forget to give thanks.

I recently read about a study that explored how quickly people become accustomed to new circumstances. For example, when we get faster internet speed, how long does it take before we expect that speed all the time? How long before we find ourselves complaining when the speed is too slow, when just a short time ago we were thrilled with our computer’s new capacity? I don’t remember the details of the study, but the answer is: it takes almost no time at all. And from there it is but a small and predictable step to feeling not only satisfied but self-satisfied, having forgotten completely about our blessed good fortune.

Therefore Judaism instructs that we must practice gratitude before the need is met, and after the need is met – in other words, all the time! Gratitude is the antidote to dissatisfaction. It is impossible to kvetch and keep a straight face when you dwell in a moment of appreciation.

You shall eat, and be satiated, and give thanks. When a physical need is involved, the feeling of satiation comes only after the need is met. But with spiritual and emotional needs, the reverse is true. If you can fill yourself with gratitude, lacks that you may have felt a moment before disappear! It is quite wonderful: when I am counting my blessings, when I am focusing on all the good that is bestowed upon me in any moment, at that moment I lack nothing. I fill and overflow with gratefulness. My cup runneth over.

Prayer is designed to carry us into this blessed state. You can do it right now: you can still your unquiet spirit, you can silence your endless whining simply by noticing the unearned bounty that has been bestowed upon you in this moment. Notice the next breath that has been granted to you, gaze at the greenery outside your window, feel the pulse sending life through your veins and arteries, all of them a gift to you from the Universe…and give thanks. These infinite gifts cannot be bought or sold; they are literally priceless. They have been given to us gratis, freely. And the only way we can even begin to return this kindness is with our own gratitude, freely offered.

Then I might say: You shall give thanks, and then feel satiated with life, and then – if you’re hungry – go ahead and eat something! Enjoy every bite. We are truly blessed, and when we take the time to count our blessings, we remember and rejoice.

Shabbat Shalom and love,

Rabbi Jonathan

  • Geoff Miller on guitar and Cathie Malach on Piano will be joining Rabbi Jonathan this evening at 7:30 pm for an especially musical Kabbalat Shabbat service. Join us!
  • Come laugh this Sunday at 7 pm with the comedy duo Mikhail Horowitz & Gilles Malkine in “Millennial Mishegas”, an evening of deservedly obscure songs, poetry, and shtik from (mostly bogus) Jewish cultural history.
    • Admission: $10 suggested donation
    • We're recommending adults only (although not necessarily mature adults) for this performance.

 

Dear Friends,

I composed this piece a year ago, highlighting Judaism’s insistent and insightful understanding of the dangers of demagoguery. A year later, sadly, tragically, dangerously, the demagogue who was then a presidential candidate is now our president. Therefore I am sharing these teachings with you again today. My thanks to my colleague Rabbi Lewis Eron for his insights into this Torah portion.

Shabbat Shalom and love,

Rabbi Jonathan


Vayikhalu al Moshe v’Aharon vayomru aleihem: “Rav lachem, ki chol ha’edah kulam kedoshim u’v’tocham YHVH – u’madua titnas’u al k’hal YHVH?”

And [Korach and his followers] gathered against Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! Is not the entire community holy, and is not YHVH in their midst? Why do you raise yourselves up above the community?!” (Numbers 16:3)

Demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument. (Merriam-Webster)

Korach assembles 250 Israelite leaders and publicly confronts Moses and Aaron: “Why do you merit to be the leaders?” Korach’s argument sounds reasonable – did not YHVH speak to all of the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai? Did they not all enter into covenant with YHVH at the mountain? Does not the Divine Presence dwell amongst them all? Why then should the brothers Moses and Aaron have the power of Chief Judge and High Priest? How about a little more power-sharing here? And did not Moses himself recently exclaim, “Would that all YHVH’s people were prophets!” (Num. 13:29)

It sounds good, but the Sages and Jewish tradition don’t buy it. Instead, the Sages examine what can be learned about Korach elsewhere in the Torah, and determine that his words are hollow and self-serving. They then read between the lines and midrashically paint Korach as the embodiment of demagoguery, a phenomenon they clearly are deeply acquainted with, (when it comes to human behavior, there is nothing new under the sun), and they hold Korach up as the example of the political leader not to follow.

The Sages note that Korach is not an ordinary citizen. He is Moses and Aaron’s first cousin. He is part of the priestly elite, and his role is to care for and transport the Ark of the Covenant and all the other sacred objects that furnish the Holy of Holies. Korach is clearly among the most privileged of the Israelites. The midrash describes Korach as exceedingly wealthy, as well. (Even today, the Hebrew and Yiddish expression “as rich as Korach” describes an extremely affluent individual.) The midrash explains that Korach did not earn his wealth. He either came upon it by luck or by dishonorable means. By some accounts Korach expropriated part of the treasure that Joseph hid for Pharaoh. Other stories relate that as a Hebrew slave, he was Pharaoh’s treasurer and placed a good portion of the royal riches into his own purse. Yet Korach’s wealth did not prompt him to do good deeds but only fed his sense of self-importance.

Parshat Korach opens with an unusual wording: Vayikach Korach… – “And Korah took…” (16:1). Took what? Why does the Torah not say “And Korach arose”, or “And Korach gathered around himself…” The midrash expands upon this strange opening and explains: Korach took people with words. His followers were taken in by Korach’s rhetoric. Korach, the rabbis assert, possesses the gift of gab. He knows how to inflame his followers’ grievances and reinforce their sense of entitlement. He distorts and selectively ignores the truth in order to win people over.

For example, the other named leaders that Korach gathers around him have their own reasons to be aggrieved at their exclusion from the highest echelons. Dathan, Aviram and On are all of the tribe of Reuben. If you will recall, Reuben was Jacob’s first-born. Yet descendants of the tribe of Levi are in control. Doesn’t the Torah explicitly direct the inheritance to go to the first-born son? Shouldn’t they be in charge?

But their emotion ignores history. Their patriarch Reuben long ago fell from grace, after he slept with Bilhah, one of his father Jacob’s wives. Jacob stripped him of his first-born privileges (see Genesis 49:3). Yet Korach knew just what to say to appeal to the Reubenites’ humiliation, to promise them restored status, and to get them to stand by his side.

Korach finds good company with the leaders of the Reubenites. Dathan and Aviram are also masterful at manipulating appearances and at twisting language. When Moses asks to meet with Dathan and Aviram they publicly refuse to meet with him, and hold a “press conference” instead, announcing: “We will not meet with that man. Is it not enough that he brought us from a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die here in this wilderness, and now he wants to lord it over us?… We will no longer be hoodwinked by this man! We refuse to meet with him!” (Numbers 16:13-14)

Note Dathan and Aviram’s breathtaking gall: They take the very words of hope that Moses shared with the slaves in Egypt, that if they would leave bondage God would lead them to a land flowing with milk and honey, and use that image to conjure the good old days of slavery! (Happy slaves singing on the plantation, anyone?)

The midrash elaborates on Korach’s clever casuistry (specious argument), creating passages in which he picks apart and mock’s the Torah’s instructions and laws, making them seem pointless and burdensome. Korach paints Moses as a tyrant whose rule is more onerous than Pharaoh’s. He even slanders Moses, claiming that Moses behaved immorally and warning women to stay away from him! He proclaims Moses’ choice of Aaron as High Priest to be pure nepotism, a brazen attempt to consolidate all the wealth of the priestly tithes into Moses’ own family. Korach incites the people, commenting on how well fed these leaders appear to be. He even spins a tale about a poor widow who was forced to give up her only means of livelihood – a single sheep – because of the onerous taxes and regulations that she is forced to follow by Moses and Aaron. Today we call these kinds of stories “fake news”.

But as always, skillful demagogues mine kernels of truth, which is what gives their arguments momentum. Dathan and Aviram play on the fact that Egypt was more fertile than this wilderness through which the Children of Israel now journey: where’s that land of milk and honey you promised us?! Korach also strikes a chord of truth: Moses does possess great authority; Aaron does receive the best cuts of meat. They are privileged. But Korach and his followers also ignore the greater truth: Moses has never governed for his own enrichment. He carries the burden of leadership without fanfare, just as his brother Aaron carries the sins of the entire People on his shoulders when he seeks God’s forgiveness. Aaron and Moses serve a higher purpose, and resist the aggrandizing temptations of power. But Korach, despite his compelling rhetoric and his populist appeals, serves no one but himself.

Thus Jewish tradition uses the contrast of Korach and Moses as an object lesson in leadership, teaching us to be wary of self-serving leaders. In Pirkei Avot, The Teachings of the Sages, Korach becomes immortalized as the example of the wrong path: “Any dispute that is in service of the common good will have enduring value. A dispute that is not in service of the common good has no lasting value… And what is an example of a dispute that has no lasting value? The dispute of Korach and his companions.” (Pirkei Avot 5:17)

In our portion, we are rewarded with a satisfyingly fantastic and wish-fulfilling ending to Korach’s rebellion: the earth opens its mouth and swallows him up along with his cohort. Problem solved, I suppose! But we don’t get to expect any miracles in our own political dramas. Rather, we have to remain vigilant against the Korachs of our day. We must shun the fleeting satisfactions of self-righteous rage that cloud our own good judgment, and hone our abilities to argue with reason, to stand up to falsehoods, and to work with passion for the common good.

Dear Friends,

In May I had the privilege of teaching a class on the writing of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel of blessed memory. His words resonate with relevance across the decades since he composed them, and inspired me afresh, as they always seem to do. I want to share with you one passage that has especially stayed with me. Its message is both timeless and ever timely:

Looking upon myself from the perspective of society, I am an average person. Facing myself intimately, immediately, I regard myself as unique, as exceedingly precious, not to be exchanged for anything else.

No one will live my life for me, no one will think my thoughts or dream my dreams.

In the eyes of the world, I am an average man. But to my heart I am not an average man. To my heart I am of great moment. The challenge I face is how to actualize the quiet eminence of my being.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, from “Who Is Man?” (1965)

I want to repeat that final statement:

“The challenge I face is how to actualize the quiet eminence of my being.”

Heschel is not being arrogant here. Rather, he recognizes the truth, that each of us possesses a “quiet eminence”, an inner light, a unique self. Actualizing that inner self does not require becoming famous, or being recognized at all. It is a private act in which one affirms that one has a place in the world, that one matters. We were not created so that we could hide our unique light under a bushel. We were created in order actualize that light: in our daily exchanges, in our creative life, in our garden, in our work. Whatever the arena of our lives, that is where we each have something to offer that no one can replace: our selves. Your quiet, magnificent eminence is a gift to the world, and a wonder to behold. Go for it.

Shabbat Shalom and love,

Rabbi Jonathan

Dear Family School Families,

Yesterday was our last day of Family School. Thank you for giving us the privilege of teaching, supporting and nourishing your child's Jewish education. It has been a pleasure watching them grow, reflect and inspire us all!

Thank you to our wonderful, loving, dedicated teachers: Partricia Moger, Rose Ostrander and Jill Schwartz. Without you, our Family School would not be all it is! Thank you to our dedicated volunteer Willy Kane, and to all who love and support our school and community!

Over the summer, we will continue to have Tot Shabbat and First Friday Family Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinners. Tot Shabbat starts at 5 pm, and is followed by dinner at 6 pm. All are welcome! These are the dates for the summer: July 7, August 4 and September 1. Please plan on attending. All are welcome!

Everyone has progressed in Hebrew, but I strongly encourage continuing to study at home regularly. A few minutes a day really makes a difference. Each child was sent home with a study pack, please encourage your child to stay on it. If you are interested in arranging a summer tutor for your child, please contact me.

In-Home Shabbat Meals
Friendships are growing within our Family School; wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out in the community?

Our Congregational Communications Task Force is creating a plan for In-Home Shabbat Meals. They are looking for families that would like to learn more about hosting a Shabbat meal in their home on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon; it is a great way for us to get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.

It can be a pot-luck or you can do the cooking; that’s up to you.
The Task Force will provide guidelines and support to ensure a fun, successful gathering.

To learn more, contact Amy Messing at (845) 684-5279.

Important Dates to Remember
Please mark your calendars and plan on attending!
Summer Schedule

  • Friday, July 7
    • 5 pm: Tot Shabbat
    • 6 pm: First Friday Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinner
  • Friday, August 4
    • 5 pm: Tot Shabbat
    • 6 pm: First Friday Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinner
  • Friday, September 1
    • 5 pm: Tot Shabbat
    • 6 pm: First Friday Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinner

Back to Family School: First Days

  • Grades 1–6: September 12 (4–6:30 pm)
  • B'nai Mitzvah Class: September 12 (6–8 pm)
  • Pre K–Kindergarten: September 16 (10 am)
  • Teen Class: September 19 (6 pm)

As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions, concerns or thoughts. Please feel free to call or email me anytime.

Wishing all a warm, loving, happy summer!

(845) 684-4242
familyschool@wjcshul.org

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Family School Families,

This week in Family School, we had stimulating conversation about the Ten Commandments: our students had very interesting thoughts and comments.  Each child was sent home with two papers: one was the simplest form of the Ten Commandments, and the other was a piece by Rabbi Jonathan. 
(Please keep the conversation going at home. There is a lot to talk about!)

On display in the hall outside of the school wing and kitchen are our Chai Cloths. Each child created a Chai Cloth with the intention of giving one to someone in need, whether physically or emotionally. They can be gifted to someone you know or to a member of our congregation that you may not know. Throughout the year, our curriculum has been centered on Kavanah (intention), Gemilut Chassadim (acts of loving kindness), Mitzvot and Tzedakah. The Chai Cloths represent all of these Jewish teachings.

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.  One student brought in something that his mom brought from her childhood and something he treasured that was given to him.

It is hard to believe that we have only two more Tuesday classes:

  • May 30th's classes will include a Congregational Shavuot Pot Luck Dinner. School starts at 4 pm as usual, and then we will gather in the social hall at 6 pm. The children will be making noodle kugel for the pot luck dinner. Please come early, bring a dish to share, and stay for dinner. All are welcome.
  • June 6 is the last day of class for Grades 1–6. 

Over the summer, we will continue to have Tot Shabbat and First Friday Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinners; all dates are listed below. Tot Shabbat starts at 5 pm, and is followed by dinner at 6 pm. All are welcome!

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

If you are interested in arranging a summer tutor for your child, please contact me.

Sixth Grade families, please look at the available dates for your child's Bar/Bat Mitzvah that Rabbi Jonathan emailed to you. Choose a date as soon as possible so that we can add it to next year's calendar.

In-Home Shabbat Meals

Friendships are growing within our Family School; wouldn't it be nice to cultivate these relationships out in the community?

Our Congregational Communications Task Force is creating a plan for In-Home Shabbat Meals. They are looking for families that would like to learn more about hosting a Shabbat meal in their home on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon; it is a great way for us to get to know each other in a relaxed Shabbat setting.

It can be a pot-luck or you can do the cooking; that’s up to you.
The Task Force will provide guidelines and support to ensure a fun, successful gathering.

To learn more, contact Amy Messing at (845) 684-5279.

Important Dates to Remember

Please mark your calendars and plan on attending!

  • Tuesday, May 30
    • 4 pm: Family School, Grades 1–6
    • 6 pm: Congregational Shavuot Pot Luck Dinner – Everyone is invited! Please plan on attending and bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share.
  • Friday, June 2
    • 5 pm: Tot Shabbat
    • 6 pm: First Friday Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinner
  • Tuesday, June 6
    • 4–6:30 pm: Family School, Grades 1–6 (LAST DAY)

Summer Schedule

  • Friday, July 7
    • 5 pm: Tot Shabbat
    • 6 pm: First Friday Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinner
  • Friday, August 4
    • 5 pm: Tot Shabbat
    • 6 pm: First Friday Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinner
  • Friday, September 1
    • 5 pm: Tot Shabbat
    • 6 pm: First Friday Shabbat Pot-Luck Dinner

As always, please feel free to contact me  with any questions or concerns. Confidentiality is always ensured.

(845) 684-4242
familyschool@wjcshul.org

Shalom,

Dee

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,