Dear Family School Families,

It was wonderful seeing so many of you for our Sukkot pot luck and for Simchat Torah! It is quite the experience to see the Torah totally unrolled while holding it, feeling it, possibly reading it or having someone else read it to you!  Adding to that the prayers and the dancing it is a lovely celebration to end the holidays with.

Our next day of regular classes is Tuesday November 1st for 1st-6th graders Friday November 4 @ 5pm is our monthly Tot Shabbat and, our First Friday Pot Luck dinner follows at 6pmB'Nai Mitzvah class will be on  November 8th.  November 12th is Shabbat Community Day and our Prek-K class.  Please scroll to the bottom for the calendar schedule for the month.

On Sunday, December 4, 2016 we are having a Chanukah Market and Bazaar 10am-3pm.  Please click here for more info.  If you would like to be a vendor please contact me.  Please plan on coming to shop on that day!  Thank you for supporting our Family School.

If any family would like to donate snack, you can drop off tortilla chips, salsa, pretzels, mini bagels or any healthy snack that we can store and use as needed.  Or, please contact me to arrange a date.  Thank you!

Please remember to scroll to the end of the email to see the school calendar!


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, November 1, 2016:  Family School grades   1-6,  4pm-6:30 pm.
  •  Friday, November 4, 2016: Tot Shabbat @ 5pm and First Friday Shabbat Pot Luck Dinner @ 6 pm.        
  • Tuesday, November 8, 2016: Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6 pm-8 pm.
  • Saturday, November 12, 2016: Shabbat Community Day and PreK-K class.  10am-1pm with a pot luck lunch.
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2016:  Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.
  • Tuesday, November 22, 2016:  Family School snow day make up if needed. If not needed there is no school.
  • Tuesday, November 29, 2016:   Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6 pm-8 pm.

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

Shana Tova,

Dee

Simchat Torah Service

Monday, October 24 (6–8 pm)

Please join us at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation from 6–8pm on Monday evening, October 24 to celebrate Simchat Torah, our joyous time to become "the dancing feet" of the Torah. This is our opportunity to begin to apply the spiritual teachings we learned during the High Holy Days to our lives in the coming year. We will follow our custom of unrolling the entire scroll around the room, linking the end and the beginning. We will have our own Berl’s Hotsie Totsie Donershtik Klezmer Orchestra to help us rejoice, sweets to share and lots of space to dance with the Torah. Rabbi Jonathan has prepared a special evening for us. We invite you all, young and old, to dance with us. Please bring a dessert if you are able.


Aliyot and Blessings

High Holy Days at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation 5777/2016

Dear Friends,

It is our custom at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation to choose themes when we call people up to the Torah, and all who feel moved by that theme are invited to rise. Then, after the reading, a member of the congregation crafts a special blessing, known as a misheberach, and offers it to all who have risen. A number of people asked me to post both the themes and the special blessings, so that they could read and reflect on them further, and I do so here. It is a fairly long document, so please feel free to read only part of it at a time, so that you have time to soak in the blessings of these High Holy Days.

Love, continued joy during this festival of Sukkot, and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jonathan


 ALIYOT AND BLESSINGS FOR THE FIRST DAY OF ROSH HASHANAH, 5777

1. Births and New Beginnings:

Isaac is born. This Aliyah is for those among us who, like Sarah, have experienced a birth or new beginning—perhaps unexpected or even seeming miraculous—and want to acknowledge, give thanks, and receive a blessing.

Misheberach:

Misheberach avoteinu Avraham, Yitzhak, v’Yaakov, v’imoteinu Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, v’Leah,

May the one who blessed our ancestors bless you.

May you be blessed.

May you be blessed with joy.

May you be blessed to feel the sun on your face,

May you be blessed to feel the wind in your hair.

May you be blessed to laugh and cry in equal measure.

And may your joy increase:  may you still feel the sun and the wind when the beginning of your endeavor has ended, and the middle has begun.

            Ellen Jahoda

2. Death, Losses, Brokenness:

Hagar and Ishmael are banished. This aliyah is for those among us who have walked this year in darkness and through the valley of the shadow of death, who have felt burdened and shackled by life; for all those whose year was marked by loss, brokenness, or death, and who would like to acknowledge that and receive a blessing for a better year.

Misheberach:

Misheberach avoteinu Avraham, Yitzchak, v’Yaakov; v’imoteinu Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, v’Leah: May the Healing One who blessed our ancestors bless you.

In this past year, we have suffered. Our souls have been wrenched apart by loss, by pain, and by ruptures that seem irreparable, and we may have a hard time finding comfort. Our hearts are so heavy we feel they must break. Let them. Let the grief you feel take over your spirit until you have nothing left. Then God can come in.

God enters when we open our eyes and see, really see, where we are and what is before us. Just as Hagar felt the terrible grief of knowing with certainty that Ishmael would die in the desert, only to have God open her eyes to the saving grace of the well, so may we reach the depths of our despair only to have our inner spirit nourished, revitalized, and strengthened.

Though we all bear our separate losses, we grieve in community, saying Kaddish only when there is a minyan. We confess in community, knowing that we are all responsible for becoming better, holier people. We therefore stand here together, now, in community, helping one another to heal and to find solace because we are family. We can walk through this desert together. May this year open our eyes to let us see the well of life-giving waters (mayim chayim) that God shows us, and may we allow ourselves healing, comfort, and ultimately, joy.

V’imru Amen.

            Cynthia Werthamer

3.  77=ע׳׳ז For Strength and Hope in the Coming Year

Some more “sevens”: this new Jewish year is written Tav-Shin-Ayin-Zayin. There are no numerals in traditional Hebrew, so the letters each represent a number. Tav and Shin are 400 and 300 respectively, adding up to 700. Ayin is 70, and Zayin is 7. Thus the letters combine to 777. But Ayin and Zayin, which add up to 77, also spell a word, oz. Oz means “strength”. I would, with your indulgence, like to offer this aliyah to our entire congregation. In this aliyah, Hagar is in despair, certain that she and her boy Ishmael will die of thirst. An angel reaches out to her and tells her to have no fear. And Hagar lifts up her head and looks around, and lo and behold there is a well of water to sustain her and her son. I would like to bless us with strength in the coming weeks and in the coming year: the strength of our convictions; the strength of faith and hope; physical strength and well being; emotional strength; the inner strength that we need to meet each day as it comes, and to face a troubled world. Psalm 27, the traditional psalm for this season, concludes with this exhortation: “Be strong and of good courage, and keep hope alive!”

I would like to invite Noami Halpern up to the bimah—she will offer and teach us a blessing to share for this aliyah. Please rise.

Misheberach:

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, Source of Life, our Rock and our Redeemer.


ALIYOT AND BLESSINGS FOR THE SECOND DAY OF ROSH HASHANAH AND FOR YOM KIPPUR, 5777

(These themes were repeated, first on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and then once again on Yom Kippur.)

As the computer program combs the entire Hebrew Bible, out of that search one and only one complete verse emerges whose numerical value is this entire Jewish year: 5,777. It is a haunting verse from the Book of Lamentations, a lament that speaks to the human condition when we feel dislocated, when historical tragedy overtakes us, when insecurity undermines us. The verse is:

Tzod tzaduni ka’tzipor oy-vai chi-nam (Lamentations 3:52)

My enemies have ensnared me like a bird, without cause

What is this verse’s message to us, in the year 5777? In what ways have we become ensnared, without noticing? Certainly one of the great challenges we face at this moment is the sense that events are overtaking us, that we are trapped in a juggernaut of cultural and civic degradation, and of course planetary climate degradation, that leave us feeling bewildered and powerless. I feel this lament, this cri-de-coeur: how did this happen, and what are we to do? Who, or what, are our enemies that trap us and keep us from flying towards our destination? How do we get out of the trap?

The remedies I seek with you today are not external political or social programs. I believe each of you here is a thoughtful person who will decide how you want to contribute to the public discourse. But if we feel trapped, how can we be our most effective selves? So, we are here first to focus on the spiritual, internal work that will give us the grounding, the perspective and the wisdom to avoid feeling victimized by circumstance. We want to know how to walk in this world with grace and power, rather than be buffeted and swept off our center by the torrent of headlines that always threaten to overwhelm.

I look to the Torah for guidance. As is my custom, we searched for other verses in the Torah with numerical value equaling 777, Tav-Shin-Ayin-Zayin, the more conventional way of writing the year in Hebrew. Interestingly, a cluster of phrases all from the Book of Deuteronomy popped onto the screen. I chose three of these phrases that speak to me most deeply about how to free ourselves from feeling trapped and victimized. I felt that the Book of Lamentations and the Book of Deuteronomy are somehow in dialogue, one presenting the ailment, the other offering good medicine for what ails us. Here they are:

1. “V’hayu l’totafot been eynecha” (Deuteronomy 6:8) = 777

     “And they shall be a sign for you between your eyes”

The passage after the Sh’ma, which we know as “V’ahavta”, is from Deuteronomy, chapter 6. We are supposed to place “these words” as a sign upon our arm and as a sign between our eyes—these words being that the Source of Life is ultimately one unity, and that we are to love the Source of Life with all of our heart, soul and might. In time, this instruction becomes fulfilled by the creation of tefillin, the lacquered leather boxes that are worn during prayer. I am certain that it is not accidental that the tefillin traditionally rest on the forehead between the eyes – the place known in other spiritual traditions as the “Third Eye”. Our Third Eye represents our expanded awareness, our mindful presence, the seat of our opened consciousness. In Jewish spiritual discourse, this expanded consciousness is called mohin d’gadlut, literally “large mind”. By attending to this greater sight that we each possess, we learn to not become trapped in the mazes of our repetitive thoughts and emotions.

This aliyah is for all those who wish to practice the remedy of mindful presence in the coming year, freeing ourselves from the trap of unneeded worrying and anxiety, and keeping our eye on the great and wondrous mystery, the fact that we get to be here and participate in this experience called “life”.

Misheberach for Second Day Rosh Hashanah:

Misheberach avoteinu Avraham, Yitzchak v’Yaakov, v’imoteinu Sara, Rivka, Rachel, v’Leah

May the One who blessed our ancestors bless all of us.

Dear One,

When forgetfulness

Blinds us

To your presence

May we feel

The touch of your loving hand

Upon our brow,

Opening our sight,

Turning us

            From complaint to gratitude

            From worry to stillness

            From separation to fullness

            From despair to wonder

Help us to return

From our lost wanderings

To finding you,

The one always waiting

With patience and welcome

The one endlessly longing

To greet us again.

We are your miracles.

Your breath is our breath.

Our lives are your gift.

Bless us to dwell in your divine mystery.

And let us say Amen

            Blaze Ardman

Misheberach for Yom Kippur:

Misheberach avoteinu Avraham, Yitzhak, v’Yaakov, v’imoteinu Sara, Rivka, Rachel, v’LeahMay the One who blessed our ancestors bless you.

At the start of Genesis, amidst his growing rage at his brother Abel, Cain hears God’s voice saying, “Beware, Cain, sin is a crouching demon at the flap of your tent. But you can overrule it.” May you be blessed with the capacity to rise above yourself and hear such a voice of warning when you are captured by anger, jealousy, or any moment of fear or constriction; and may you have the will to heed that warning and overrule your own demons.

May you be blessed like Abraham as he raised his knife against Isaac, to hear a voice say, “Stop. Do no Harm,” even when you are sure you are following a path of right and righteousness.  

May you be blessed like Jacob after wrestling with the angel, who tells his brother Esau, “When I look at you I see God’s face.”

Through this sign, through this knowing with your third eye, may you be blessed with truly seeing that our God, YHVH, is one; one unfolding process that is all that was, is and will be; visible and invisible; transcendent and immanent.

And in that awareness may you be blessed to see that EACH of us, human, animal, plant and rock, all of this physical world are G-d, holy and to be cherished.

And finally, may you be blessed to feel the divine presence of that One unfolding Being, our God, Adonai Eloheinu, with you at all times, offering compassion and support no matter what befalls you.

            Gail Albert

2. “Hatov v’hayashar b’eyney YHVH elohecha” (Deuteronomy 12:28) = 777

    “What is good and upright in the eyes of YHVH your God”

Maintaining our integrity and our moral center will always help us remain upright in the midst of the traps of confusion, attacks and temptation. This is where our true strength lies, a place where we are much less likely to be shaken, a place where our petty thoughts and venality and resentments cannot find purchase, a place of quiet humility but also of power.

This aliyah is for all those who wish to practice the remedy of doing what is good and upright, of doing the right thing because it is the right thing, of being able to look oneself in the mirror and know you have done your very best to be a mensch. Take the high road. It is worth the effort, and the view is way better.

Misheberach for the Second Day of Rosh Hashanah:

Mi sheberach avoteinu Avraham, Yitzhak, v’Yaakov

v’imoteinu Sara, Rivka, Rachel, v’Leah:

May the wisdom of our ancestors fill your heart with compassion for those who stand before you in disagreement and struggle.

May you stand outside of yourself, taking three steps forward to a sacred higher ground of being where you can listen and be heard, beyond right and wrong.

When confronted by confusion, attacks, temptation, and control, may you stand on that higher ground in a field of moral integrity, seeing from that perspective, the impact of your actions.

May you speak your truth with a strong and resilient heart

laced with humility, knowing that the other has his or her truth, and like you, doing the best he or she can. Even though you might not be in agreement, acknowledging what is, asking for forgiveness and forgiving, gives peace of mind.

When you bump up against another, may you remember to take three steps forward onto this higher ground, surrounding yourself and the other with compassion…. for living is often a challenge.

And let us say Amen.

            Laurie Schwartz

Misheberach for Yom Kippur

Mi sheberach avoteinu Avraham, Yitzhak, v’Yaakov, v’imoteinu Sara, Rivka, Rachel, v’Leah, May the One who blessed our ancestors bless all of us,
with the resilience and fortitude that you blessed our ancestors
Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Leah and Rachel; with the wisdom and courage, you blessed our teachers; Moshe Rabainu, Miriam ha’naveiya, Dinah the prophetess, the Ba’al Shem Tov, Rav Kook, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Reb Zalman Shachter Shalomi.

May we be blessed with insight, strength and resolve to walk in the essence of our souls seeds of light. Let their subtle seeds of wisdom’s truths infuse our thirsty souls and feed our hungry hearts. For each year at this time,
we are born and reborn again out of infinite divine desire to cloak this world in godly goodness.

May you, o God, of our knowing, hear the truths of our hearts,
may we in your image, in deep reflection, hear the truths of our hearts as we open our lips to you in prayer and contrition.
may the wisdom of your divine knowing, deep listening and understanding, permeate our souls.

May we remember, as we remember our ancestors and teachers
and bathe in their light and the light of our Torah, and know our purpose here in this life. Help us to remember that we are sparks of your light, goodness and infinite wisdom buried deep within us. 
May you ignite and re-ignite the fires of our passionate hearts
to illuminate our sparks, as we strive to be a holy people.

Let the awesome awareness that our being is one with you infuse us with courage and strength, and let this deep knowing define and determine how we walk in the world.

May we re-inform ourselves of these seeds of light within us, as they illuminate the call for equitable justice, and the divine qualities of grace, compassion and wisdom, so to inform our actions as we live our lives.

Bless us all with the critical courage to transform our decisions, speech, directions and actions into the seeds of light that will transform ourselves, and our lives.

Bless us all with the audacity of courage to dare, to sprinkle the seeds of our light, of love, goodness, conviction and compassionate justice,
to repair, rectify and restore your magnificent creation.

Ribono Shel Olam, God of our knowing, bless us all with the deep and constant knowing that these truths of Torah are all within each of us,
always within our mouths and within our hearts and the works of our hands.
and let us say amen.

            Pauline Tamari

3. “Ya’arof ka’matar lik-chi” (Deuteronomy 32:2)

    “May my words fall like gentle rain”

With these words Moses begins his final address to the Children of Israel: “May my words fall like gentle rain, my speech drip gently like the dew, like showers on new growth, like droplets on blades of grass.”

The breakdown of civil discourse and thoughtful speech in our public realm entraps us in pettiness and divisiveness, and undermines the constructive power and purpose of communication. As the Book of Proverbs reminds us, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (18:21)

This aliyah is for all those who wish to practice thoughtful and constructive speech, no matter what venality you encounter from others. It’s not easy! But let us watch how we speak, so that our words nourish rather than pummel and destroy. This too is powerful medicine for the troubles of our times.

Misheberach for Second Day Rosh Hashanah:

May the one who blessed our ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah and Rachel bless you: you adult learners, who need a good reason to do the right thing; who so want to avoid the strong temptation to deliver that clever slapdown that may be sitting on the tip of your tongue. May you be blessed with prescience to know just how great you will feel having avoided delivering a withering blow. May you be blessed with clarity, kindness and patience to know that when you take the elevated path and avoid the sarcasm or cynicism you elevate us all and give us the encouragement to do the same thing. So when the dialogue gets heated take a deep breathe, hear the inner voice urging you on to goodness and help lay the path for us all to create a new normal: kindness.

And let us say: Amen.

            Laurie Mozian

Misheberach for Yom Kippur:

Misheberach avoteinu Avraham, Yitzhak, v’Yaakov

V’imoteinu Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, v’Leah

May the one who blessed our ancestors bless you, who have risen today in honor of this day of Yom Kippur and in honor of Torah with the resolve to refrain from hurting others with your words.

Words have power to help and heal, to enlighten and comfort but also to cause anger and fear, and to damage relationships.

We were just reminded by our Torah that we have choices in life, to choose between life and death, blessing and curse; choosing life-enhancing things, choosing compassion, this is what makes our lives worth living.

When we hear people who should know better use language that demeans, belittles, or bullies others, or worse, when we let ourselves slip into lashon ha-ra, hateful speech, let us remember that, however angry or upset we may be, we are speaking to or about other human beings who are also made in the image of G!d.

Let us remember to separate their hateful speech from their humanity, and may we be blessed to find the right words to convey our meaning with firmness, with kindness, with gentleness.

And let us say: Amen.

            Ellen Triebwasser

Call for Actors–Ages 20 to infinite–for Jewish Sketch Comedy

The Woodstock Jewish Congregation will be celebrating Chanukah with laughter and style this year! The Star Mountainville Group is now casting for a Chanukah show, December 24 evening/December 25th afternoon, at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation.

Presenting OY! by Rich Orloff: funny sketches based on Yiddish words, featuring scenes such as Einstein and his hard-to-please mother, Adam and Eve, God and ribs, the divorce between God and a human, and 3 old guys in a steambath commiserating on their aches and pains using only one word: Oy!

If interested in joining the cast, please email or call Glenn Laszlo Weiss, producer/director at [email protected] or 845-389-8312. Rehearsals will be limited and manageable for anyone's schedule! Nu, what are you waiting for?

Dear WJC Family and Friends,

It has been an extraordinarily busy time at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation as we all know. With our longtime Executive Director, Karen Tashman, gone, Rabbi Jonathan, the staff, the WJC Board of Directors, and shul members have all assumed some of Karen's duties to ensure a smooth transition. Gwen Tapper's remarkable efforts — as well as those of the many volunteers who worked with her — created an atmosphere in which a moving and nourishing High Holy Days unfolded. Under a new tent configuration, Rabbi Jonathan's teachings and guidance during services felt equally new and very fresh. The tent was filled to overflowing with some congregants sitting outside the tent on the grass because all of the seats were filled. It was an enriching and enlightening experience for all who were there.

Our search for an Executive Director is still underway. The search committee has received numerous applications and conducted interviews. As the search continues, the executive committee is reconfiguring some of the staff's duties until a new Executive Director is hired. Several board members are also volunteering extra hours in the office to ensure day-to-day operations run smoothly. This will allow the search committee and the board additional leeway to find the right Executive Director candidate.

Board President Rondavid Gold is stepping down as president after the Thursday, October 20 board meeting to pursue his new role as a snowbird. Vice-President Jerry Lerner will assume the presidency.

Michele Lerner will be chairing this year's Keter Shem Tov fundraiser on Saturday, November 19 at the Saugerties Performing Arts Factory. The event will honor Ron Carleton, whose expert leadership as board president during the Great Recession was key to the shul's continued steadiness as congregations around the nation faced difficult times. Keter Shem Tov tickets start at $125 per person and members are encouraged to attend if at all possible. Along with the annual yard sale, this is one of two key fundraisers the WJC depends on. Reservations are required.

Our current art exhibit, Resistance is the Lesson, which details in photographs and text more than 20 acts of resistance against Nazi oppression during World War II, has been a huge success. As a result, a special closing reception and panel discussion has been scheduled for 12-2 p.m. on October 23.

A new member Shabbat will be held on Saturday, November 12 and there are plans for special Sunday brunches at the shul with Rabbi Jonathan offering teachings and providing an opportunity for discussion. The schedule will be announced. An announcement will also be made shortly about plans for the SPARKS effort to initiate a Beit Midrash program, in addition to the one-on-one mentoring already underway. The new program will allow for group study of a particular topic.

 At the Third Congregational Sharing held at the WJC on September 11, coordinators were assigned key activities. They are: Shabbat dinners, Cynthia Werthamer; Walking/hiking/biking group, Avis Toochin; Study Groups (Book Group, Jewish Book Group), Stacey Brooks; Institutional Archive Creation, Joe Toochin; Connecting to Israel, Bruria Falik; Social Activities & Fun, Nathan Brenowitz; Intergenerational Activities, Miryam Sarsheen; Men's Group/ Women's Group, Bette & Ron Sank; Cooking Club, Avis Toochin; Performing Arts Group, Glen Weiss; Other, Laurie Mozian; Volunteer at WJC Table, Sasha Gillman; SPARKS, Pauline Tamari. Other groups and programs suggested were: Arts & crafts workshops, Swimming, Consciousness Raising Groups, Continuous Care Community Building, WJC On-Line Bulletin Board, Ride Sharing Program to NYC, and a Community Garden.

If you were inspired by Rabbi Jonathan's teachings at the High Holy Days, this is the perfect time to continue to maintain the glow into the New Year by participating more fully in the WJC community. Join a committee or connect with one of the volunteers who have agreed to organize the above programs. Come dance with the Torahs at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 24 for Simchat Torah. Bring your little ones to Tot Shabbat at 5 p.m. on the first Friday evening of the month, attend the Yiddish group on Wednesday mornings, or join us at services. There's something for everyone. We need the participation of each one of us for a strong and secure community.

Shanah Tovah.

WJC Board of Directors

Why Do We Read the Story of Jonah on Yom Kippur?

A Yom Kippur Teaching

The Hebrew Bible is an anthology of writings. It not only includes the Five Books of Moses, which are contained in our Torah scroll, but also the many books of the Nevi’im, the Prophets, and the collection known as Ketuvim, or Writings. The Writings contain the Psalms, the Book of Proverbs, Job, Esther, Ruth, and numerous other titles. Taken together, all the books of the Bible are known as the TaNaKh, an acronym for Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim.

One might have the impression that the Bible is a single narrative and a consistent theological discourse. One would be mistaken! The Tanakh is in fact a marvelously diverse anthology of sacred history, poetry, law, moral instruction, farce, fable, and inquiry into the meaning of life and the nature of the cosmos. The Tanakh explores all of the big questions that we humans face: why are we here? Is there cosmic justice? How are we to fulfill our potential? What is our responsibility to one another? This exploration is not systematic, in the way a modern book of philosophy might undertake. The Tanakh, rather, is in dialogue with itself, one story or discourse actively taking issue with the implications or declarations of another. The Tanakh in fact sets the tone for one of the most grand and enduring quality of Jewish culture: holy argument. That is, Judaism elevates dialogue, passionate debate, to a spiritual path. Where do we find God? Yes, in sunsets, in the miracles of nature, in the ecstasy of prayer… but also in the exchange of ideas. One finds God not at the end of the discussion, but in the very act of searching.

While we traditionally read and study the Five Books of Moses on a weekly basis throughout the year, the later books of the Tanakh do not get weekly attention. Our sages therefore strategically associate many of these books with certain holidays, so that we encounter them at least once during the year. These lesser-read books often offer a counterpoint to the primary narrative of the holiday. The book that the sages assigned to Yom Kippur is the story of Jonah. I would like to explore with you this evening the radical and timeless message of this tale.

One of the names of Yom Kippur is Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgment. We traditionally imagine God sitting on the Judgment seat, the damning ledger of our deeds open before him, as we plead for mercy and forgiveness. In this venerable image, the purpose of our fervent prayers and confession, our fasting and self-denial, is to influence God to move from the Judgment Seat to the Mercy Seat, and, undeserving though we are, grant us another year in the Book of Life. But what if it is not God who needs to move from harsh judgment to compassion, but we ourselves? What if it is we ourselves who are stuck on the Judgment seat, and it is God who is pleading with us to have mercy on each other and on creation? This is the surprising message of the Book of Jonah.

I gleaned these insights from Judy Klitsner in her brilliant book “Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other” – thank you, Bob Messing, for introducing me to it – and I am pleased to expand on them here with you tonight.

Klitsner shows how the story of Jonah is an intra-biblical response to the story of Noah – a subversive sequel, as she calls it. Numerous linguistic and literary parallels link the two tales, but the thrust of the Book of Jonah’s message is diametrically opposed to the moral of the Flood story. The rabbis pick up on those distinctions, and on Yom Kippur choose to amplify the message of Jonah, to our great benefit, as I will explain.

In the popular imagination, pretty much the only thing we know about Jonah is that he is the guy who gets swallowed by a whale. When I was a kid, I remember I got him mixed up with Pinocchio, who also gets swallowed by a whale, if you recall. In the actual story of Jonah, the whale episode (and it is in fact a giant fish that swallows Jonah, not a whale) is only a prelude to the real climax of the tale.

The book, which reads as a kind of fable, contains only four short chapters. Jonah ben Amittai is a prophet of God in the land of Israel. The story opens as God calls to him and tells him to travel east to the city of Nineveh, the capitol of Babylonia and the greatest city in the world, and tell them to repent of their evil ways. Instead, Jonah flees in the opposite direction. He runs to Jaffa and boards a ship headed west to Tarshish, far across the Great Sea, the Mediterranean. He falls asleep in the hold of the ship, and a great storm arises. The sailors pray to their gods to no avail. Finally Jonah awakes and, understanding that his flight from God has caused this turbulence, insists that the sailors toss him overboard. The sailors, having exhausted every other option to save their ship, beg for forgiveness and reluctantly toss Jonah overboard. The sea immediately calms, and Jonah is swallowed by the fish.

Chapter 2: Jonah is in the fish’s belly for three days and three nights. He finally prays to God and affirms that he will heed his calling and perform his mission. The fish spews Jonah back onto dry land. Chapter 3: God once again calls to Jonah and tells him to go to Nineveh, and this time Jonah obeys the call. He reaches Nineveh and proclaims that in 40 days Nineveh will fall if the people do not repent of their evil ways. The people of Nineveh, led by their king, believe the message, actively repent, pray for forgiveness, and change their ways. God renounces the punishment, and Nineveh is saved.

Chapter 4: You might think that Jonah is pleased with this outcome, his mission a complete success, millions of lives saved. But no, Jonah is angry with God. He cannot believe that God is going to forgive these people, who deserved to be punished. God says to Jonah, “Why are you so angry?” Jonah quotes the Thirteen Attributes that we chant during these Holy Days, and retorts, “I knew that you are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, renouncing punishment, and that you would forgive these people. That makes me so angry! That is why I fled your call in the first place. Where is justice? I would rather die.” And God says, “Is anger better for you, Jonah? Why should I not have compassion for Nineveh, that great city, and all of its inhabitants, human and beast, who do not know their right from their left, and are simply doing the best that they can?”

And with that question, the story ends.

Judy Klitsner points out that God’s attitude is markedly different in the earlier story of Noah. In that episode, human society has degenerated and polluted the world with Hamas, which means injustice, violence, or lawlessness. “Vayinachem – and God regretted making human beings…and said ‘I will erase humans from the earth, along with all other creatures that I created.’” (Genesis 6:6-7) But God cannot bear to destroy it all, and singles out Noah as worthy of redemption. God instructs Noah to build the ark.

In Jonah, the King of Nineveh declares, “Let all turn back from the hamas of which they are guilty…God saw what they did, how they were turning back from their evil ways. Vayinachem – and God regretted the evil God had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out.” (Jonah 3:7,8,10)

In both tales, the human condition is the same – we fill the world with hamas. We’re a mess. But God’s regrets change. In Noah, God simply regrets creating humanity, and decides to wipe clean God’s creation. In Jonah, God has come to know and trust humanity’s capacity for change, and regrets God’s own harsh judgment against them. Has God changed and grown?

Another literary clue supports this thesis. In Noah, God brings rains for forty days and forty nights; the people do not have a chance to repent. In Jonah, God tells Jonah to proclaim, “In forty days Nineveh will be overthrown!” The forty days of blanket condemnation in Noah become forty days of opportunity in Jonah.

Noah and Jonah also compare. Noah never speaks. He simply accepts God’s decree. He does not attempt to debate with God or challenge God’s judgment. As I have taught in the past, our tradition considers Noah inferior in this regard. When God tells Abraham that God is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham argues passionately against God’s judgment. Noah is silent, incomplete in his humanity, unable or unwilling to stand up for his fellow humans. Jonah, presented with the opportunity to save others, runs away, and then only begrudgingly fulfills his mission. Both of these prophets are found wanting. But whereas in Noah, God regrets making humanity and asks nothing more of Noah than to follow instructions and build the ark, in Jonah God regrets God’s own harshness, and then tries to educate Jonah to soften himself.

Most interesting to me is Jonah’s name. Jonah in Hebrew is yonah, and means “dove”. The same yonah that Noah sends out from the ark. After the rains have ceased and the waters have begun to recede, that dove returns to Noah with an aleh zayit– a sprig of an olive branch – in its beak. This is the sign that the earth is habitable once more, and that humanity has a second chance. The Book of Jonah – the book of the dove – elevates not the God of strict judgment portrayed at the outset of Noah, but the God of second chances, the olive branch, the symbol of new beginnings. The Book of Jonah portrays a God who believes that humans, despite our weakness, are capable of teshuvah, and deserve the opportunity to attempt sincere change. No wonder our sages chose Jonah to be read on Yom Kippur, the day of second chances.

If God, as it were, can move from harsh judgment to compassion, then can we? Jonah is each of us, sitting on the judgment seat. The Judgment throne is not evil, it is in fact essential to our humanness. A sense of justice, an appreciation for fairness and truth, is an exalted human attribute. But Judaism insists that the world can only be sustained in the tension of polarities. Justice and compassion must exist in a dynamic balance. The rabbis often state that if the world were only based on strict justice, humanity would be condemned. It is compassion that allows us to continue to try to overcome our many flaws. And here, Jonah’s full name becomes very instructive, and a key to understanding his parable. His name is Jonah ben Amittai, Jonah, son of truth. Jonah is a zealot for truth – and the truth that he perceives in human affairs is that we fail miserably to live up to our highest nature. We fail. Why should we not be punished?

Who here has not felt the zealot for truth pacing within, demanding justice, furious for payback? But God says to us, “Jonah, is anger better for you?” Is anger better than compassion? One might say that as the Tanach unfolds, even God has matured, from judgmental of us and disappointed in us, his flawed creation, to compassionate and forgiving. In the Book of Jonah, God wants us to learn that hard-earned lesson, too.

As I mentioned, Yom Kippur’s other name is Yom HaDin, the Day of Judgment. But a better name for this day might be Yom HaDin v’HaRachamim, the Day of Compassionate Judgment. For, while we certainly must be clear-eyed judges of ourselves on this day, honestly acknowledging how we have missed the mark, our tradition invokes a God of forgiveness, who knows our faults, and still believes in us, and in our ability to grow. The future is not determined; it is always open to new possibility, especially if, like the people of Nineveh, we are open to acknowledging our failures and open to making amends, open to the difficult work of changing ourselves.

The choice is before us: will we be zealots like Jonah, angrily demanding judgment, or will we, like God, move from the Judgment seat to the Mercy seat, and let compassion reign? Will we be like the angry prophet Jonah, or can we perhaps be like the Yonah after which he is named, the dove bearing the olive branch in our grasp, carrying a message of hope, peace, second chances and new beginnings for ourselves and the world?

I wish for us all the possibilities of forgiveness and compassion. So may it be.

October 13, 2016

Dear Family School Families,

Wow, it is hard to believe that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are over!  Now we journey on to Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
I would like to THANK Rabbi Kami, Jill Schwartz and Len Chodosh for providing fantastic children services for all children who attended Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services.  Without their dedication, support and love our children's programming would not have been a success!  I would like to also THANK Pauline Tamari who generously donated coloring pages, stickers and Houses for Change tzedakah boxes for children's activities.Without Gwen Tapper, none of this would have been possible!  Thanks to her herculean efforts, patience and devotion all was perfect!  And, a GIANT THANK YOU to Rabbi Jonathan who gives his ALL to our congregation and community.  We are truly blessed to be part of this community with all very wonderful people! There are MANY, Many more people that volunteer tirelessly.  It takes team work at its finest and we are all on the same team!  Thanks to all!

 Please plan on attending the Family School Sukkot pot luck dinner @ 5:30 pm on Tuesday, October 18th.  This is for all students Pre-K - B'Nai Mitzvah. There is no regular class on this day. Rabbi Jonathan will lead us in a lovely Sukkot dinner in the sukkah. Come shake Lulav and Etrog!
  
Our Simchat Torah celebration is Monday, October 24th @ 6 pm.  There is no class on Tuesday, October 25, 2016 because it is Simchat Torah.

Our next day of regular classes is Tuesday November 1st for 1st-6th gradersB'Nai Mitzvah class will be on  November 8th. November 12th is Shabbat Community Day and our Prek-K class.
 Celebrating together as a community and family builds the foundation for growing and creating relationships with each other, our community and our Jewish lives. Please plan on attending
These holidays are part of the Family School requirements.

If any family would like to donate snack, you can drop off tortilla chips, salsa, pretzels, mini bagels or any healthy snack that we can store and use as needed.  Or, please contact me to arrange a date.  Thank you!

Please remember to scroll to the end of the email to see the school calendar!


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.

  • October 18, 2016: Sukkot Pot Luck Dinner @ 5:30pm.
  • October 24, 2016: Simchat Torah 6pm.
  • November 1, 2016:  Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.
  • November 8, 2016: Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6 pm-8 pm.
  • November 12, 2016: Shabbat Community Day and PreK-K class.  10am-1pm with a pot luck lunch.
  • November 15, 2016:  Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.
  • November 22, 2016:  Family School snow day make up if needed. If not needed there is no school.
  • November 29, 2016:   Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6 pm-8 pm.

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

Shana Tova,

Dee

As a lover of numbers, I am greatly intrigued by this new Jewish year, 5777. We’ll see it only once a millennium, and I think it is worthy of our attention and reflection. For the number seven is the central theme of Judaism, and the organizing principle of our spiritual system. Seven is the number of wholeness, fulfillment, and completeness. On Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world, we especially note that the Torah begins with the story of creation, a story of six days of creating that can only be made complete by a seventh day on which all of that creating pauses, and instead the Creator reflects upon and blesses this magnificent creation.

Seven is the “magic number” of Judaism. It is, in fact, a number that crops up everywhere in human cultures, and in patterns of nature. I can summon no definitive explanation for this phenomenon. Light refracts into the seven-colored spectrum. Spiritual systems identify the seven chakras, or energy centers, in the body. The Western musical scale has seven notes in its octave (completed, of course, by the repetition of “do”.) We traditionally counted seven seas, seven heavens, seven continents, and seven planets. Whether the origin inheres in nature, or the human mind (or both), seven represents wholeness, the “All” of life.

But patterns of seven pervade Judaism in particular, not as some curiosity but as the anchor of how we mark time and remember the unity of Creation. Seven has much to teach us. So, let’s take the cue in a year of 777, and dive in.

There are seven days in a week. Around the globe, we mark this seven-day cycle as though it was as inevitable as the sun’s daily journey across the sky, and the moon’s wax and wane. And yet, there is nothing inevitable about a seven-day week. We don’t observe it in nature, not like the 29 ½ day lunar cycle, or the 365 ¼ day solar year. In the times of Ancient Israel, the idea of a seven-day cycle that culminated in a day of rest did not exist in the empires of Egypt or Babylonia, or anywhere else that historians can identify. As unlikely as this may sound, the seven-day week is an invention of Judaism. It is one of our tradition’s gifts to the world.

In addition to the ubiquitous seven day week, cycles of seven appear everywhere in Judaism. Our festivals last seven days; we sit shiva, which simply means “seven”, to honor our dead and mark our grief; we count seven weeks, seven sevens, between Passover and Shavuot, journeying from slavery to our covenant as free people with the Creator, and seven weeks again from Tisha B’av to today, Rosh Hashanah, a journey of teshuvah, an annual return from exile and despair to renewal and reconnection.

And not just days and weeks, but years are also counted. The seventh year is the sabbatical year, a year in ancient Israel when debts were forgiven, when our ancestors let their cultivated fields lie fallow, and even removed the yoke from their oxen: A year of rest for the earth, and all it contains. After seven sabbatical years arrived the Jubilee year, a time when wealth was redistributed, servants were freed, and all were reminded that although we enjoy its fruits, we do not own the earth. God declares, “the earth is mine – you are but leaseholders and temporary residents upon it.”

Months are counted, too. We are just entering the month of Tishri, a month that contains Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shmini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. It is a month of holy days. If we follow the more ancient Jewish understanding that the year begins in springtime, with the month of Nissan, the month of Passover, then count off – Nissan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz Av, Elul – and we have just entered the seventh month of the year, the sabbatical month, as it were, when we take a pause from our year, awaken to the Shofar, fast and reclaim at-one-ment with life on Yom Kippur, rejoice in life’s goodness and bounty on Sukkot, and then dance joyously on Simchat Torah. Our wise tradition gives us a full month every year to exit our rat race and remember that there is more to life than scurrying and hoarding.

The ancient menorah with its seven branches, perpetually aflame, stood in our ancient Temple to remind us of the sacred meaning of seven.

Here, then, is its message: the Torah understands and accepts that it is our nature as human beings to domesticate the world, to manipulate and cultivate our environment for our own purposes. We are a remarkable species, endowed with the ability to take the raw materials around us, analyze and dissect them into their smallest parts and transform them in countless ways. The Torah affirms our gift as a unique and exalted attribute: “And God created the human being in God’s image – male and female God created them. God blessed them and said, ‘be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it’…And God saw everything that God had made, and found it very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (Gen 1: 27-28, 31)

But the Torah also understands and accepts the inherent danger of a species with this much power: our will to domesticate easily becomes a will to dominate; our capacity to have power over our world persuades us that we are no longer beholden to that world; our ability to be creators makes us forget that we are also creatures. We become deluded by our own gifts.

Hence the seventh day, the seventh month, the seventh year, which regularize and ritualize time, mandating that we pause from our doing and manipulating. On the seventh we broaden our awareness, and contemplate the whole. In asserting that we are created in the divine image, the Torah does not limit that assertion to our ability to create and destroy. We know we are more than that. Thus the Torah also describes as Godly our ability to be self-aware, to consider the consequences of actions and the interdependence of all, to be reverent and reflective. One might say that after the six days of Creation, the world is not complete and whole until God steps back and reflects on God’s masterwork. So it is with us: we are not fully human if we do not regularly reflect on the big picture and the big questions of life. Six days we are “human doings”, but seven makes us “human beings.”

It is interesting to note that the number 7 in Hebrew, sheva, pronounced differently becomes “sova”, which means fullness and satisfaction. If we do not take the time to notice that we are satiated with life, we will never stop consuming. Seven reminds us to notice that we are already satiated with life’s blessings. We are already blessed beyond measure.

I wonder if the rainbow inspired our ancestors to consecrate seven in this way. (And if not them, then me, as I will explain!) Undifferentiated light illuminates our world, but that light by itself cannot be seen. Yet when refracted just so through drops of water, we see the magnificent spectrum of the rainbow, seven colors (with infinite shadings in between), a sight that simultaneously amazes and inspires and reassures. Judaism understands our universe, too, as a physical manifestation of an unseen Power, infinite, glorious diversity manifesting from a Unity that we call by countless names. The fleeting appearance of the seven-hued rainbow could be interpreted as a shimmering glimpse of God’s glory, an unbidden and graceful reminder of the one light that wondrously manifests as our physical universe.

In the story of Noah, the rainbow makes its first appearance in the Torah. After the floodwaters have subsided, after the earth has been cleansed of human depredation and violence, and humanity is ready for a fresh start, God chooses the rainbow as the sign of the new covenant, the promise that God will never again flood the earth: “Here is the sign I am giving you of the covenant between Me and you and every living thing on earth, now and forever: I have placed my rainbow in the cloud – it is a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Gen. 9:12-13)

The Rainbow covenant predates and encompasses the covenant that God will later make at Mount Sinai with the Jewish People. The Rainbow Covenant is made with every living thing on earth. It makes good sense to me that today the rainbow is a symbol of humanity’s glorious diversity: one human family, every identity, color, shape and size as equal and worthy as any other, all emerging from and refracting out of the infinite light.

As the One becomes the many, Seven reminds us that the many are in fact all manifestations of the One. This is the supreme goal of the spiritual path: to live and act with the humble and glorious awareness that we are connected to everything, and that all is One.

I was thinking that the United States of America was founded on this exalted spiritual goal: E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one. We humans are expert at dividing and conquering. The Torah and all human history will attest to our capacity for domination and subjugation. It is part of our nature – in Hebrew, our yetzer hara. Yet the better part of our nature – our yetzer hatov – aspires to connect rather than to divide. The Biblical concept that all humans are created in the Divine image, and the American declaration that all men – and we now say all humankind – are created equal are deeply related. The possibility of knitting a sense of common destiny and mutual concern out of all of God’s children is both the American Dream and the Jewish vision of a perfected world. In the words of the prophets, the day will arrive when “My house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7), and “Everyone ‘neath their vine and fig tree shall live in peace and unafraid.” (Micah 4:4)

To manifest this vision of possibility means, in Jewish terms, that we must take the meaning of Seven to heart, and imbue all of our actions with the expanded awareness, with the largest truth, with what we might call “Shabbat consciousness”, so that rather than picking the world apart for our own gain, we are instead doing what we can to put the world back together for the sake of the greatest good.

As Reb Nachman of Bratslav of blessed memory expressed 200 years ago in a prayer we read last night,

“Let all residents of earth recognize and know the innermost truth: that we are not come into this world for quarrel and division, nor for hate and jealousy, contrariness and bloodshed; we are come into this world You to recognize and know, who is blessed forever.”

Or as Pete Seeger of blessed memory, invoking the rainbow, wrote:

One blue sky above us,

One ocean lapping all our shores,

One earth so green and round,

Who could ask for more.

And because I love you

I’ll give it one more try

To show my Rainbow Race

It’s too soon to die.

We live in challenging times. And then again, have there been times that were somehow not challenging? That seems to be the nature of our earthly reality. Therefore, as we enter this year of 5777, may we be imbued with the message of 7, with Shabbat consciousness, able to, in the words of Rabbi Rami Shapiro, “embrace the Whole, even as we wrestle with its parts.” May we find strength, sustenance and comfort in our expanded awareness. May we remind one another of the wonder of being alive. May we see within humanity and all of creation the seven-striped rainbow of spectacular, cascading diversity forever refracting from the ever-present but invisible light that embraces us all.

Shana Tova to you all.

Rabbi Jonathan Kligler

First Day of Rosh Hashanah, 5777/ October 3, 2016

Dear Family School Families,

Just a reminder that there is no Family School next week due to Yom Kippur, the following week October 18th is no class but there is a  Sukkot pot luck dinner @ 5:30 pm for all families.  Rabbi Jonathan will lead us in a lovely Sukkot dinner in the sukkah. Come shake Lulav and Etrog!  Simchat Torah is October 24th @ 6 pm.
 Celebrating together as a community and family builds the foundation for growing and creating relationships with each other, our community and our Jewish lives. Please plan on attending
These holidays are part of the Family School requirements.
Our next day of Family School Classes is November 1st.

SPECIAL NOTE: THERE IS NO TOT SHABBAT, FIRST FRIDAY OR SHABBAT COMMUNITY DAY IN THE MONTH OF OCTOBER.

If any family would like to donate snack, you can drop off tortilla chips, salsa, pretzels, mini bagels or any healthy snack that we can store and use as needed.  Or, please contact me to arrange a date.  Thank you!

Please remember to scroll to the end of the email to see the school calendar!


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.

  • October 11-12, 2016: Yom Kippur. October 12th Children Services start at 10:30 am 
  • October 18, 2016: Sukkot Pot Luck Dinner @ 5:30pm.
  • October 24, 2016: Simchat Torah 6pm.
  • November 1, 2016:  Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.
  • November 8, 2016: Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6 pm-8 pm.
  • November 12, 2016: Shabbat Community Day and PreK-K class.  10am-1pm with a pot luck lunch.
  • November 15, 2016:  Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.
  • November 22, 2016:  Family School snow day make up if needed.
  • November 29, 2016:   Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6 pm-8 pm.

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

Shana Tova,

Dee

Ha’edoti va’chem ha’yom et ha’shamayim v’et ha’aretz: ha’chayim v’ha’mavet natati l’fanecha, ha’bracha v’ha’klala. u’vacharta ba’chayim, l’ma’an tichyeh atah v’zarecha.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life, that you and your descendants may live! (Deuteronomy 30:19)

This week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, is always read on the Shabbat preceding Rosh Hashanah. I praise the wisdom of our sages, who carefully calibrated the calendar so that we would always be hearing these words to prime us for the New Year. It is Moses’ final oration (although a coda of an epic poem and a blessing will follow), and ends with the stirring call that has come to define the Jewish character and especially this season of the Jewish year: choose life. Moses’ words are so timeless that I feel he could be delivering them in our synagogues today.

Moses himself makes clear that he is speaking across the generations, addressing every single individual, from the leaders to the woodchoppers, men, women and children, and even those who are not yet present to hear him speak. He calls us to do teshuvah, to return to God, to our people, to our land. He calls us to open our hearts, “to love the Source of Life with all of your heart and soul.” (30:6) He insists that this change of heart is possible, and that we do not need intermediaries to accomplish it:

Surely this teaching which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may do it?” No, the thing is very close close to you, in your own mouth and in your own heart, that you may do it. See, I set before you this day life and goodness, and death and evil. (30:11-15)

Moses asserts that we are capable of change. Moses insists that we are capable of opening our hearts, of choosing life and goodness, no matter how far we have strayed from our goal: “Even if you are scattered at the ends of the world, from there YHVH will gather you, and bring you back.” (30:4)

Moses is being the ultimate spiritual teacher here at the end of his teaching. He is telling us that our self-limiting beliefs are keeping us from fully participating in the unfolding of creation. It is not in heaven, or across the sea, it is close to you, on your own lips, and in your own heart, you can do it! I can feel Moses’ sense of urgency as he exhorts us, his people, to enter the Promised Land, the land of human fulfillment. We have a noble task to perform, to expand our sense of the possible. We are to do teshuvah, and align our beliefs about ourselves with our true and magnificent potential. We are to choose life and aliveness so that, as Moses says, we and our descendants may live long upon the good earth that the Creator has granted to us.

This is the message of the High Holy Days.

We aim to give up our acquired habit of powerlessness, the idea that we cannot change, and, trembling at times, crack open the door or the window again to new possibilities, and let the breeze rush into our closed room. We aim to open our hearts, even if that means opening ourselves to uncertainty and even pain. We aim to come home, to ourselves, to our community, to life and aliveness, from wherever we have wandered or felt exiled.

I love that Moses calls heaven and earth as witnesses to this moment, as if to say: we are not separate from creation. The whole world is watching, as it were, waiting for us to fulfill our part. The life energy that animates all of creation also animates us. One day that energy will carry each of us out of our individuality and our essence will rejoin and mingle with the earth and sky. That will be the day of our death. But now Moses asks heaven and earth to witness us, each of us empowered to be a conduit for love, righteousness, courage, and transformation. We matter. The Baal Shem Tov taught that divine sparks are hidden and trapped throughout creation, waiting to be liberated, and that every single person has their own unique set of divine sparks waiting for them to reveal and uplift. No one else can fulfill the noble task of being you. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, “The challenge I face is how to actualize the quiet eminence of my being.”

Yes, it is a challenging time. We can list the reasons to despair. Then again, when have times not been challenging? No matter, says Moses, the potential for change is still in our hands. Moses still has an audience for his words as we enter the New Year of 5777: “I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life!”

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova – I look forward to seeing many of you under the tent, and may we all be inscribed for the New Year in the Book of Life and Aliveness,

Rabbi Jonathan

Dear Family School Families,

Wow, Family School started and three weeks just flew by!  This week we started our tefilah in the big tent. Everyone expressed their blessings, feelings and singing voices beautifully. Amazing children, amazing teachers, amazing rabbi, amazing community!  We are truly blessed! 
From the tent we went into the building to make challah with the hands g-d gave us.  I hope all challahs came out well!  A GIANT THANK YOU to Diane Colello for bringing her challah baking expertise to our students! Click here to read a letter from Morah Rose sharing what we did for the day.
Wishing all and healthy, joyful new year, Shana Tova!

SPECIAL NOTE: THERE IS NO TOT SHABBAT, FIRST FRIDAY OR SHABBAT COMMUNITY DAY IN THE MONTH OF OCTOBER.

Thank you to all families that attended our 1st Shabbat Community Day last Saturday and a big thank you to all our PreK-K families for starting there year that day as well. Thank you to Charlotte Scherer for being our substitute for Morah Jill on our first day.

The schedule below does not reflect any class time in October due to the High Holidays.  Please plan on attending services on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot Pot-luck and Simchat Torah.

If any family would like to donate snack, you can drop off tortilla chips, salsa, pretzels, mini bagels or any healthy snack that we can store and use as needed.  Or, please contact me to arrange a date.  Thank you!

Please remember to scroll to the end of the email to see the school calendar!


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.

  • October 2-3, 2016:  Rosh Hashanah.  
  • October 11-12, 2016: Yom Kippur.
  • October 18, 2016: Sukkot Pot Luck Dinner @ 5:30pm.
  • October 24, 2016: Simchat Torah 6pm.
  • November 1, 2016:  Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.
  • November 8, 2016: Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6 pm-8 pm.
  • November 12, 2016: Shabbat Community Day and PreK-K class.  10am-1pm with a pot luck lunch.
  • November 15, 2016:  Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.
  • November 22, 2016:  Family School snow day make up if needed.
  • November 29, 2016:   Family School grades 1-6, 4pm-6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6 pm-8 pm.

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

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Congregation Members and Community,

Let me begin by wishing you a happy, healthy New Year. It is my pleasure to share the following information with you.

In my capacity as upcoming President of the Congregation (as of November 1st), I had the opportunity to meet with Anna (Executive Assistant), Dee (Family School coordinator and many other duties) and Rabbi Jonathan. Also attending the meeting were Judy Lewis (Organizational Consultant and former Day School Executive Director), and Jon Lewis (Board member, upcoming Vice President and former President of the Congregation). It was our intention to get a solid handle on what is going on at the synagogue during the absence of an Executive Director and to offer assistance to the staff in whatever ways we can.

We were delighted. In large measure, thanks to our devoted staff and with immense thanks to our volunteers, both “old” and “new,” the synagogue is functioning very well. There is a general feeling of a team working comfortably together. Although both staff and volunteers have willingly undertaken additional responsibilities, there is little stress in the air and the work is getting done. Thanks to Danny, Sherry (our bookkeeper) and Rose, routine financial issues are being met.

Thanks to Gwen and her cadre, High Holy Day preparations are moving ahead and we will all be able to share that wonderful feeling of spiritual togetherness that we get at this time of year. 

I am gratified to be able to share such good news with you about the Woodstock Jewish Congregation and look forward to regularly doing so again.

Jerry Lerner
Board of Directors

Since being charged by the WJC Board of Directors, the Search Committee has been honored to participate in the important work of attracting and selecting our synagogue’s next executive director.

In this initial phase of our search, we have:

  • Worked with the Board, the staff and members of the Personnel Committee to clarify the staffing demands at the shul and craft a position statement and job posting to announce this unique opportunity to the public.
  • Reached out to both local and national organizations that work with synagogue leaders specifically and non-profit management professionals more generally.
  • Posted the executive director position statement on our website and in myriad online locations designed for both synagogue and general organizational leaders.
  • Reviewed resumes and cover letters from a range of individuals interested in the position on both a permanent and an interim basis.
  • Conducted preliminary interviews with several candidates.

As we enter this season of reflection and introspection, we look forward to the clarity and renewal this process affords to our community in general and to us as individuals. 

Arur makeh re’ehu ba’sateir – v’amar kol ha’am “Amen”

Cursed be the one who strikes down their fellow in secret – and all the people shall say, “Amen”. (Deuteronomy 27:24)

In Ki Tavo, Moses instructs the Children of Israel in the details of some rituals that they are to perform once they have entered the land. Chapter 27 describes a communal reaffirmation of the covenant that the twelve tribes are to undertake. They are to gather in the northern city of Shechem, where Jacob had settled long ago. Shechem sits in a valley between two hills, Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Six tribes are to gather on the slopes of Ebal, and six on the slopes of Gerizim. The Levites are to build an altar, and erect plastered pillars on which the words of the Torah will be inscribed. The Levites shall then proclaim in a loud voice a series of curses that will befall the people if they do not uphold the covenant, and a series of blessings that will accrue to them if they obey.

Some readers might notice how anomalous this description is from many other passages in the Torah. For example, didn’t the Children of Israel already have tablets inscribed with the Torah? Why did they now need plastered pillars? And what are they doing on the sacred mountains in Shechem? Will not Jerusalem be the eternal center of the covenant? These and many other inconsistencies in the Torah lead scholars to theorize about the differing traditions of the northern and southern tribes of Israel – the northern tribes with their center and holy mountain in Shechem, and the southern tribes with their center and holy mountain in Jerusalem. These competing traditions were ultimately woven together in the final version of the Torah that we hold today.

That said, I wish to focus on the dramatic ritual itself. The twelve tribes are arrayed on opposite slopes, and the Levites proclaim twelve prohibitions, followed by a communal “Amen”. The number twelve would appear to parallel the number of tribes, and continue the symmetry of the entire description, but as I read the passage I asked myself, out of all the mitzvot in the Torah, why are these twelve placed together here?

Listen to the prohibitions:

27:15) Cursed be anyone who makes a graven image, and sets it up in secret – and all the people shall respond, “Amen”.

16) Cursed be the one who insults father or mother – and all the people shall respond, “Amen”.

17) Cursed be the one who moves a neighbor’s landmark – and all the people shall respond, “Amen”.

18) Cursed be the one who misdirects a blind person on the way – and all the people shall respond, “Amen”.

19) Cursed be the one who subverts the rights of the stranger, the orphan and the widow – and all the people shall respond, “Amen”.

Then follow several prohibitions against incestuous relationships, followed by

24) Cursed be the one who strikes down a fellow in secret – and all the people shall respond, “Amen”.

25) Cursed be the one who accepts a bribe in the case of the murder of an innocent person – and all the people shall respond, “Amen”.

26) Cursed be whoever will not uphold the terms of this Teaching and observe them – and all the people shall respond, “Amen”.

Upon my first reading, this collection of “Thou Shalt Not’s” appeared random. But then I noticed a common thread: all of these transgressions can be performed in secret. Each one is something a person could get away with: Hiding a graven image, murdering someone in a dark alley, taking money under the table, engaging in illicit sex, misdirecting a blind person, moving a landmark in the dark of night…who will ever know?

It appears the Children of Israel are being directed here to affirm a higher level of moral responsibility. They are being asked to become people of conscience. One level of moral decision-making is based on what would happen to you if you got caught. You don’t want to look bad. You don’t want to be punished or shamed or ruin your reputation, so you avoid transgression. This external focus is important, especially when it reinforces upright behavior. But an ethically mature person has internalized that witness. That person no longer determines his or her behavior on whether someone else is watching, because the ethically mature person is already and always watching him or herself, and assessing the rightness of the action at hand.

I think that upon Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim the Children of Israel are being recruited into a higher and more mature level of moral behavior. As they enter the Promised Land, they will not be able to build a trustworthy community unless each one of them is able to monitor their own moral choices. Each person must carry a witness within, and take responsibility for his or her own actions whether or not anyone else will ever know.

This is a timely teaching as the High Holy Days approach. We are each called upon to do a cheshbon nefesh, a rigorous self-accounting at this time of year. We are asked to assess whether we have harmed anyone, whether we need to make amends and offer apologies to others whose lives we have touched. Let’s not separate our account sheet between overt and hidden transgressions. I believe our Torah portion is reminding us that, for a person of conscience, there are no hidden transgressions, since we ourselves are doing our utmost to be honest witnesses of our own behavior, and to hold ourselves to a high standard. Amen to that!

Wishing you and your loved ones a sweet and healthy New Year,

Rabbi Jonathan

September 22, 2016

Dear Family School Families,

This week in Family School we continued our journey of Hineni, being present and preparation for The High Holidays.  Each child had the opportunity to blow the shofar.  They all were met with great success! Morah Jill wrote a beautiful description of our day.  Here is a link to read it.  Our students, your children are amazing, brilliant, kind, caring, thoughtful souls. Each child no matter what their age has passionate, thought provoking contributions to our school!
  
This Saturday September 24, 2016 is our first Shabbat Community Day. 10 am - 1pm, with a pot luck lunch. 
Shabbat Community Days and Friday night Shabbat Dinners are a required part of our Family School curriculum and attendance. Students are learning Shabbat morning prayers and joining in the service will only enhance your family and our community.  Sharing Shabbat with family and community is what we are building upon.  We are a warm, welcoming community that cares and supports each other and loves our children. That is why we call ourselves a Family School.

Please bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share.

Saturday is also the first day of our PreK-K Class.  It starts at 10am and ends at noon with everyone joining together for our pot luck lunch.

I would like to offer a Huge THANK YOU to Len Chodesh and Stacey Brooks.  Len has been taking magnificent pictures of all the children and Stacey has created beautiful bulletin boards in the Family School with the pictures.  Thank you for all your efforts and continued support!

The schedule below does not reflect any class time in October due to the High Holidays.  Please plan on attending services on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot Pot-luck and Simchat Torah.

If any family would like to donate snack, you can drop off tortilla chips, salsa, pretzels, mini bagels or any healthy snack that we can store and use as needed.  Or, please contact me to arrange a date.  Thank you!

Please remember to scroll to the end of the email to see the school calendar!


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, Sept. 24:  Shabbat Community Day, 10am-1pm.  PreK-K Class 10am-12am.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 27:Family School for 1st–6th Grades, 4:00–6:30 pm. B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6:00–8:00 pm
  • October 2-3, 2016:  Rosh Hashanah.  
  • October 11-12, 2016: Yom Kippur.
  • October 18, 2016: Sukkot Pot Luck Dinner @ 5:30pm.
  • October 24, 2016: Simchat Torah 6pm.

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

Shalom,

Dee

Dear Friends,

I am in the midst of teaching a series I teach annually prior to Rosh Hashanah during the month of Elul, "Spiritual Preparations for the High Holy Days”. As is my custom,  I searched (with invaluable assistance for Karen Levine and her trusty computer) for words and phrases from the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) that have the same numerical value as the incoming Jewish year: 5,777, or more commonly, just 777. This is a form of Jewish inquiry known as Gematria, or numerology. Every year, certain pithy phrases with the New Year’s numerical value emerge from the Torah. I collect those phrases, reflect upon them, and then share the teachings that I draw with all of you.

The class has been using these phrases as our guiding texts, as we explore the process of teshuvah, of realigning our lives with our deepest wisdom and our best selves. The discussions have been profound and helpful. I have been recording these classes, and want to give any of you who have the time and inclination to join in by listening to these recordings. I am also sharing the collection of phrases that we have been using as the foundation of our discussions, so that you can follow along in this way as well. I will be elaborating further on these subjects during the our High Holy Day services.

Listen to audio from the class: Part 1 | Part 2

Finally, I hope I can communicate the awe that I experience every year as a seemingly random number (the Jewish year) meets a seemingly random assortment of phrases from the Torah, and out of that meeting wondrous teachings emerge. It is a privilege to be alive and to experience life’s infinite mysteries!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jonathan

Click here or to read about the Gematriot for the new year.

September 15, 2016

Dear Family School Families,

What a magnificent first day we had at Family School!  Old and new students met, shared and became a community or as Rabbi Jonathan said a team.  Our students were excited learners and teachers to all.  Morah Ruti (aka Patricia Moger)  wrote a beautiful description of our day.  Here is a link to read it.  
We have amazing students, families, teachers and a wonderful Madricha, Nomi Kligler.  
We are going to continue to explore Hineni, being present and preparation for the High Holidays.

Our first Shabbat Community Day is Saturday, September 24, 2016. 10 am - 1pm with a pot luck lunch.  Please bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share.  Sharing Shabbat with family and community is what we are building upon.  We are a warm, welcoming community that cares and supports each other and loves our children. That is why we call ourselves a Family School.

The schedule below does not reflect any class time in October due to the High Holidays.  Please plan on attending services on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot Pot-luck and Simchat Torah.

If any family would like to donate snack, you can drop off tortilla chips, salsa, pretzels, mini bagels or any healthy snack that we can store and use as needed.  Or, please contact me to arrange a date.  Thank you!

Please remember to scroll to the end of the email to see the school calendar!


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, Sept. 20:Family School for 1st–6th Grades, 4:00–6:30 pm.
  • Saturday, Sept. 24:  Shabbat Community Day, 10am-1pm.  PreK-K Class 10am-12am.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 27:Family School for 1st–6th Grades, 4:00–6:30 pm. B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6:00–8:00 pm
  • October 2-3, 2016:  Rosh Hashanah.  
  • October 11-12, 2016: Yom Kippur.
  • October 18, 2016: Sukkot Pot Luck Dinner @ 5:30pm.
  • October 24, 2016: Simchat Torah 6pm.

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

Shalom,

Dee

September 9, 2016

Dear Family School Families,

Rabbi Jonathan, the teachers and myself are looking forward to our first day of Family School on Tuesday September 13, 2016.  First through sixth graders are welcome to arrive early, snack is over promptly at 4 pm.  If your child will arrive after 4 pm please give them a snack in the car.  On our first day all parents of first through sixth graders are invited to come at 6pm to meet and greet with the teachers before dismissal.

Here is the schedule of the day:

3:30-4:00pm - Snack
4-4:30pm - Tefilah
4:30-5:30 pm - Hebrew Studies
5:30-6:30 pm Judaic Studies

The  B'Nai Mitzvah Class starts at 6 pm.  Class includes a pot luck dinner.  Please bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share.  Dinner is around 7 pm, class ends at 8 pm. PLEASE NOTE THERE IS CLASS ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016.  THAT DATE IS NOT LISTED ON THE CALENDAR YOU RECEIVED IN THE MAIL.

If any family would like to donate snack, you can drop off tortilla chips, salsa, pretzels, mini bagels or any healthy snack that we can store and use as needed.  Or, please contact me to arrange a date.  Thank you!

Please remember to scroll to the end of the email to see the school calendar!


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 the 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, Sept.13:Family School for 1st–6th Grades, 4:00–6:30 pm.  B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6:00–8:00 pm
  • Tuesday, Sept. 20:Family School for 1st–6th Grades, 4:00–6:30 pm
  • Saturday, Sept. 24:  Shabbat Community Day, 10am-1pm.  PreK-K Class 10am-12am.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 27:Family School for 1st–6th Grades, 4:00–6:30 pm. B'Nai Mitzvah Class, 6:00–8:00 pm

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

Shalom,

Dee

Pato’ach tiftach et yadcha l’achicha, l’aniyecha u’le’evyoncha b’artzecha

You must open, open your hand to the poor and to the needy in your land. (Deuteronomy 15:11)

Sometimes the Torah reveals it deeper meanings to us through elaborate interpretation and subtle analysis. At other times, Torah speaks to us directly across the millennia, with little need for mediation. Our passage this week falls in this latter category – here is my lightly adapted translation:

“If there is a needy person among you…do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy fellow. Rather, open, yes, open your hand, and lend, yes, lend sufficiently to meet their need. Watch yourself, lest you harbor the base thought, “I will never see this loan repaid.” Give, give readily, and have no regrets when you do so. And as a result, YHVH will bless you in all of your efforts and all of your undertakings. For there will always be needy among you, and therefore I command you: open, open your hand to the poor and to the needy in your land. (Deut. 15:7-11)

Biblical Hebrew, when needing to be emphatic, repeats verbs twice. In this passage we hear: “open, open your hand”; “lend, lend sufficiently to meet their need”; “give, give readily”; and then, in typical Biblical poetic structure, “open, open your hand” repeated again to complete the passage. I love the incantatory flow of it: “open, open, lend, lend, give, give, open, open.”

I also appreciate the way that the Torah invokes Pharaoh when it says, “Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your needy fellow.” Pharaoh of the hardened heart and the closed fist is the archetype of resistance to Life Unfolding. Pharaoh is the embodiment of everything we are trying not to become as we aim toward the Promised Land. In next week’s portion, Shoftim, Moses instructs the people that one day, when they have finally settled in the Promised Land, they will want to set a king over themselves. Moses warns them that this king must guard himself carefully not to become like Pharaoh. This future king “must not send his people back to Egypt just so that he can accumulate more horses” – that is, he cannot enslave his people for the sake of increasing his wealth – “for YHVH has warned you: ‘Do not go back that way again!’” (Deut. 17:16) On the map of our spiritual growth, the Land of Pharaoh is the land of hardened hearts and closed fists. We must not regress; we must not go back that way again.

The path towards a compassionate self and society requires material and spiritual generosity. The Torah promises a reward for this behavior: “YHVH will bless you in all of your efforts and all of your undertakings.” I understand this not as a literal tit-for-tat, but rather as the beautiful consequence of living with a malleable heart and with open hands: I then can become a vessel through which the energy of Life Unfolding can freely flow. As that energy flows through me, I am indeed truly blessed.

Today is Rosh Hodesh Elul, the New Moon of Elul. Today heralds the approach of Rosh Hashanah, one moon from now, and today initiates the season of Teshuvah, of our return and recommitment to the path of truth, integrity, and love. Re’eh is timed perfectly to remind us that the first step towards our goal is to unclench our fists and to give of ourselves freely. Open, yes, open your hand.

Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov,

Rabbi Jonathan

Dear Fellow Congregants,

For the sake of our health and well-being, my lovely wife and I have become Snowbirds. That means that we will be strolling faraway beaches during the cold winter months. Since I will therefore be unable to perform the myriad necessary daily duties of the WJC President, I will be stepping down following the October 20, 2016 Board Meeting.

The Congregation is very fortunate to have Board Vice-President Jerry Lerner ready and extremely able to step in as President. The Board will designate Jon Lewis to serve as Vice-President until the Congregation elects a new Vice-President at the next Annual Meeting in the spring. Our staff and our Board and its committees are awesome in quality, spirit and dedication.

It has been a great honor and privilege to serve as President of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation. I have had the opportunity to meet, know and work with so many of you…always with the goal of keeping our congregation vibrant, solvent and a uniquely wonderful spiritual sanctuary and center for study and learning. I am deeply grateful for all of the support and encouragement I have received.

Having grown up under the reign of a distant, cold, imperious Rabbi of a huge Conservative congregation in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, it was almost surreal for me to be able to actually get to personally know and work with Rabbi Jonathan. We are incredibly blessed to have him as our spiritual leader.

During my future springs, summers and falls in Woodstock, I will continue to serve the WJC as a congregant in every way I am able. Carol and I look forward to sharing this wonderful place with all of you for many years to come.

With love and sincere gratitude,

Ron David Gold

Dear Family School Families,

I hope everyone is enjoying these hot days of summer!

The teachers, the Rabbi and myself are looking forward to the start of Family School! The first day of Family School grades 1st - 6th is Tuesday September 13, 2016.  Snack is available from 3:30 pm, please come as early as possible to insure having snack.  If you can not arrive before 4pm please provide a snack for your child in the car. We officially start Family School at 4 pm and end at 6:30 pm. We are inviting parents to come at 6 pm on the first day to meet and greet with teachers. Tuesday September 13, 2016 is also the first day of the B'Nai Mitzvah Family Class. That class is 6-8 pm with a pot-luck dinner.  In addition to the bi-monthly B'Nai Mitzvah Family Class lead by Rabbi Jonathan there will  be a monthly Teen Family Class lead by Rabbi Jonathan for teens that are post Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The first Teen Family Class is Tuesday September 20, 2016 6-8 pm with a pot-luck dinner. A mailing and calendar will be sent to all families with teens. 
Our Prek-k students class will be 1 Saturday per month on Shabbat Community Day. The first Prek-k class will be Saturday, September 24, 2016, 10am-12pm. Shabbat Community Day is the day when we are all together as a Jewish community.
What a great way to stay connected! It is wonderful that we get class time in before the High Holidays. You can see the school calendar on our website with the congregations calendar.  Here is the direct link  http://www.wjcshul.org/calendar  Soon you will be receiving new Student Info Packets, there will be a hard copy of the calendar included. Please mail the packet back once completed.

We have created 3 changes this year that add to our continuing goal of connecting the Family School and the Congregation/community.  First, we have moved 1st and 2nd grade to Tuesdays. Now, 1st-6th grade will all attend on Tuesday. This connects our students to be a multi-age community  learning, praying, growing, and sharing together. 
 

Second, Our Prek-k class moved from Sunday to Saturday.  The intention is to connect and create community for our students, families and congregation. 

Third, Shabbat Community Day, Friday night Shabbat Seders and holidays are now part of the Family School calendar and curriculum. They will be counted as part of attendance.  We are a Family School because family attendance is part of our program.  Families learning, growing and being Jewish together is part of our goal.

As always, please feel free to contact me via email or my direct office line 845.684.4242

Shalom,

Dee