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

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

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

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

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

Weekend Schedule

Friday, September 1

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

Saturday, September 2

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

Sunday, September 3

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

Workshop Registration and Information


$150 General; $75 WJC Members

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


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

Online registration is available through the LSI website:

Register Online

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

Dear Friends,

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

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

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

Thank you,

October 22–November 4, 2018

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

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

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

Dear Family School Families,

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

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

Important Dates to Remember

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

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

(845) 684-4242 | [email protected]

Wishing all a warm, loving, happy summer!

Good Shabbos,


Dear Friends,

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

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

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

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

Here are the details:

Friday, September 1

5:00pm Registration and greeting for weekend workshop participants

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

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

Saturday, September 2

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

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

Sunday, September 3

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

Workshop Registration and Information

Tuition: $150 General; $75 WJC Members. Meals: Saturday lunch, Saturday dinner, Sunday lunch, plus snacks $70 (most dietary needs can be accommodated). Participants are also welcome to bring their own dairy/vegetarian food if they do not want to sign up for the meal plan. If tuition costs are prohibitive, contact Dee Graziano ([email protected]845.679.2218 x6) at WJC for a confidential conversation. Again, easy online registration is available through the LSI website

Shabbat Shalom and Love,

Rabbi Jonathan

U’vayom hashvi’i shavat vayinafash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shabbat Shalom and love,

Rabbi Jonathan

D’var Torah – Parshat Sh’mot
Mariel Goran

In Genesis we are introduced to the sons of Jacob by name and then in Exodus they’re named again. This repetition gives emphasis to the connection of individual and family to the past.

Each brother is mentioned by name. To name something gives it validity, belonging, and ownership. Jacob’s family holds a high honor to warrant a place in this holy book. Something significant is about to occur, for from these named sons of Israel will come Moses. This is a pretty illustrious family tree, and it’s been preserved for us to cherish.

Joseph was in Egypt before his brothers, and had been accepted as part of the community. As second in command to Pharaoh, Joseph was respected, acknowledged, and well-established in his identity. But with the new ruler, Joseph’s historical memory is lost. To the Pharaoh of the Exodus, Joseph was an unknown.

Pharaoh did not know what Joseph had done for Egypt in the past, nor did he acknowledge any interest in knowing what went on in the past. He views the situation through his own skewed perception that Joseph’s people are a threat. This Pharaoh is one who abuses his authority and position by imposing impossible tasks and condemning Hebrew male infants to death. He concocts what he thinks is a “cunning” way to deal with the problem of the increasing Hebrew population: he would arrange to have all newborn Hebrew males thrown into the river. To him, this must have seemed to be a logical way to prevent future soldiers who may end up fighting against Egypt. This is such a bad, irrational plan on so many levels. Look at who Pharaoh instructed to do this dirty work: The midwives Shifrah and Puah. Note that they have names.

What new mother or father has not experienced the awe and wonder of new life and marveled that every detail of the newborn is in the right place and in the right number? There is no other explanation of how life exists but for the presence of a higher being. This is something the midwives experience on a daily basis.

Maybe this Pharaoh wasn’t the sharpest despot among the unconscionable oppressors of the world, but really, what was he thinking to ask the women who preserve life to act as his cohorts and wantonly take life? He gave this order to the two least likely people on earth to comply. It would go against their purpose in life. If he thought this out more clearly, which fortunately he did not, he could have had a cleverly diabolical outcome.

Here we come face to face with a Pharaoh who is a dictatorial tyrant. He treats Israelites as foes. This Pharaoh is shown as an insecure, power-hungry ruler, afraid that the Israelites are becoming so plentiful that eventually their men would outnumber his own army, or at least join forces with an enemy against Egypt. He makes serious decisions based on a lot of ‘ifs.’

Apparently he thought his power to be so strong and absolute that there would be no question but that Shifrah and Puah would just do as he commanded.

If he were trying to keep his mandate a secret, he must have imagined that no one would notice. ‘Oh, all the Hebrew newborns are dying, wait - only the males. None of the females, and none of the Egyptians.’ Did he really think no one would notice? As Lord Acton said, ‘Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

The “Hebrew midwives” are definitely midwives to the Hebrew women, but could that modifier also mean that they themselves are Hebrew, and act as midwives to all women? There is a division of opinion – some scholars believe that they were Egyptian, some believe that they were Hebrew.

Shifrah, according to Rashi’s Talmudic commentary, is a northern Semitic name, common with the Egyptian slaves, indicating that she is a Hebrew. Puah is a Canaanite name, again supporting the theory that she is a Hebrew. Perhaps it is intentionally ambiguous; either way, they are members of humanity who choose to do the right thing.

Shifrah and Puah are put into a position where an evil dictator attempts to coerce them into immoral behavior because he feels as powerful as God. Recognizing God’s awesome power, Shifrah and Puah ‘fear God’ and know that they cannot follow Pharaoh’s orders. They know that God is One and they do not put another before God, as Pharaoh wants them to do.

From Pharaoh’s point of view, however, he feels his power entitles him to give any outrageous order, and he vainly expects it to be followed, especially by two women who are, in his eyes, not very important.

When Pharaoh asks why they disobeyed his order to kill the male infants, their well thought out reply is that the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian woman. This might give the reader more insight into their position as midwives. By comparing the Hebrew women to the Egyptian women by telling Pharaoh they are more ‘vigorous,’ we might assume they were midwives to both groups and could speak with a certain amount of authority, thus making their argument more persuasive. ‘Vigorous’ could mean that they are so strong and healthy that they don’t need help in childbirth, or that they give birth even before midwives arrive. But if we look at the word that is translated as ‘vigorous,’ חיות, we find that it means ‘animals.’ They used the word animals in describing them, knowing that Pharaoh could interpret it in accordance with his own temperament. Their explanation apparently placates Pharaoh, as he would take it as a derogatory term such as ‘breeding like animals’ or ‘being less than human.’ It also allows him to save face in thinking that they did not defy him after all, but just affirmed his prejudiced viewpoint. The ploy keeps his wrath under control. The quick wit on the part of

Shifrah and Puah saves the annihilation of the people and makes way for the birth (and life) of Moses in the following chapters. These strong women alter the course of history by defying an order from the highest authority in the land, while making Pharaoh believe that they are still loyal to him, and that the end result is out of their hands. They maintain their beliefs, and do so with grace and forethought, and without alienating him.

Those were very powerful women. They stood their ground, not in a militaristic way, but by making Pharaoh think they concur with his xenophobic opinion.

Their behavior is admirable. We can learn from their diligence and faithfulness. In the face of adversity, they risk their lives to save lives. Shifrah and Puah hold fast to their beliefs. Without harsh words, without battle, they convince this tyrant, even temporarily, to back away from his position.

Throughout history we are placed in situations where we are mistreated, abused, or ignored. Even, or especially, under oppression and the threat of danger, we should remember to do what we know is the moral thing, even under pressure from those in charge. Many times we cannot control the situation, but still we can maintain our own inner balance and equanimity by remembering who we are and by retaining our own sense of justice and morality. We are reminded to be grateful for and mindful of what came before us and allowed us to be where we are today.

This Parshah is not called Exodus; it’s called “Sh’mot,” which means names. Naming Jacob’s heirs begins this chapter. The two admirable midwives, Shifrah and Puah, are named.

Pharaoh has no identity.

Later in Sh’mot, will come Moses’ encounter with God, The One who cannot be named. (But that will be addressed another year.)

Before you think that these names only refer to the males, let’s look at the Hebrew word for name, Shem (the singular of sh’mot).

‘Sh’mot,’ incorporates the all-inclusive elements of masculine and feminine, yin and yang. Shem is a masculine noun. But in the plural, it’s not conjugated with the plural masculine ending ‘im,’ but with the feminine ending, ‘ot.’ It’s an irregular plural noun, one of many in Hebrew with this anomaly.

Some other words with this trait in Hebrew are generation, image, source, and injustice. A similarity in these words is that they can all be found in abundance in the Torah. They give an equality of characteristics to all people or things, male or female.

When discussing a generation, or a likeness or image, or injustice, how can you assign gender?

Judaism is an historically matriarchal tradition. Fortunately, this has changed. But during that era, even if you descended from a long line of male Rabbis, been steeped in teachings from infancy, and practiced Judaism throughout your life, if your mother was not Jewish, neither were you.

This is both an honorable and an enormous responsibility placed upon women. They provide the continuity of family and traditions; they are the keepers and teachers of historical heritage. This continuity is made between Genesis and Exodus in the very beginning of Sh’mot with the repetition of the names of those who traveled into Egypt. While it explicitly names the male heirs of Jacob, the brothers of Joseph, it doesn’t just refer to the men, but to their entire households.

This past Monday was a national holiday to celebrate the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Last Shabbat, Rabbi Jonathan gave us a handout with a selection of Dr. King’s writings. There are two that particularly epitomize the essence of this parshah:

“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

“The time is always right to do the right thing.”

Throughout our lives from time to time, we’ll find ourselves in situations where another may attempt to intimidate or bully us into doing something against our beliefs. At these times may we be blessed with the consciousness of our own integrity and maintain strength and resolution in our sense of fairness and respect for others and ourselves. May we remember to stand by our beliefs and morals, stand up for ourselves, and stand up for what is right. And may our reward be a sense of quiet contentment with ourselves and others and our surroundings, and oneness with our beliefs.

The Keter Shem Tov – Crown of a Good Name Gala has been moved to March 25, 2017

This new date will better accommodate the many members of our community who were unable to attend in November.

In addition our honoree, Ron Carleton, will be celebrating his birthday on March 25! Please save the date and plan to join us for this fun and festive evening.

Photo of Keter Shem Tov Honoree Ron Carleton
Keter Shem Tov Honoree Ron Carleton

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


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 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 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.


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


(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?

Yiddish Art Trio to Perform at Woodstock Jewish Congregation

Monday evening August 15, at 7:00 pm

The sanctuary of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation will come alive with the full and vibrant tones of Klezmer music as only the Yiddish Art Trio can produce them. We will hear melodies of longing and of celebration, enhanced by cantorial kvetches, flying runs, heartfelt lyrics, and powerful bass lines. Whether mournful or foot-tapping joyful, these melodies and songs will transport you to another time while shining a light into the future of klezmer music.

Since 2009 the Yiddish Art Trio — Patrick Farrell (accordion), Benjy Fox-Rosen (bass and vocals) , Michael Winograd (clarinet) — has been redefining the scope of contemporary Yiddish music. Deeply rooted in klezmer and Yiddish music, the trio uses traditional idioms to explore new forms and harmonies, vastly expanding klezmer's musical language. The music, whether ecstatic or introspective, is thoughtfully composed and brilliantly performed.

Recognized globally as authorities within their field, the musicians are known for their ability to harness the full range of tonal and expressive possibilities of their instruments, individually and as a trio. Trio members have recorded and performed with such noted artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Frank London, Adrienne Cooper, Cantor Yaakov Lemmer, Alicia Svigals and others. The band has toured throughout the United States and Europe, performing their music to appreciative audiences and critical acclaim. We are especially honored to be able to host this world-renowned ensemble.

What they are saying:

"Yiddish Art Trio takes otherworldly cantorial and Jewish folk themes and adds a jolt of 21st century energy." — New York Music Daily

"The Yiddish Art Trio is forging a new kind of klezmer music. With its astute blend of harmonically complex contemporary chamber music, klezmer colors and rhythms and a certain underlying folk aesthetic, the band is both more cerebral and yet earthier than similar configurations; the result is exhilarating and thoughtful." — George Robinson, The New York Jewish Week

"Yiddish Art Trio may just be one of the most sophisticated young Klezmer collectives around." — Jake Marmer, The Jewish Daily Forward

My Fellow Congregants,

I want to thank all who participated in last week’s Evening of Sharing. It was a beautiful, well-attended gathering of the WJC family from which was mined a wealth of deep feelings, openness and great ideas for the enrichment of the congregation. The positive energy was absolutely invigorating.

One of the most important messages that emerged from our discussions was that an easy and meaningful way to contribute to our community is to just “be here.” Come to services. Attend classes. Join in our many spiritual and just-plain- fun events.

I look forward to the next time we get together in this way. I also want to reiterate that I’m always available to you for any questions and/or suggestions you might have.

Thanks again for helping to make WJC such a vital and welcoming home for all of us.

With gratitude,

Ron David Gold

All are welcome at every WJC service and event. If you have any questions, please contact us!

Welcoming and Celebrating Shavuot: Saturday, June 11 (6:30 pm)

The Festival of Shavuot begins this evening. We will welcome the Festival with a lovely evening of activity:

  • 6:30 pm – Pot Luck "Seudah Shlishit": Seudah Shlishit ("The Third Meal") is the final communal gathering for every Shabbat, and leads us to Havdalah. We don't celebrate Seudah Shlishit too often at the WJC but this is a wonderful opportunity. Bring a dairy/vegetarian dish to share, and we will eat and sing around the table.
  • 8:00 pm – Torah Study with Rabbi Jonathan: In honor of Shavuot, Rabbi Jonathan will teach some inspiring Torah.
  • 9:30 pm – Havdalah and welcoming the Festival: We will welcome the festival with the tradition of eating dairy foods - please bring some cheesecake, ice cream, or anything else delicious - dairy-free options are welcome too, of course!

Shavuot Sunrise Service: Sunday, June 12 (5 am)

The Hebrew name for the morning service is "Shacharit", which means dawn - that is really the time when we welcome the day. Once a year, on Shavuot, we actually do greet the dawn with our prayers and song. If you don't mind rising early, join us outdoors at the WJC for this magical service. Light breakfast follows.

Yizkor Service: Monday, June 13 (10 am)

As is customary, we gather on the second day of Shavuot for a Yizkor service. We will not be holding a regular festival service, but instead take an extended time to remember our loved ones, and reflect on their continuing place in our lives and our hearts.

On Thursday, June 23 at 7 PM, we will gather for a second Evening of Sharing at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation. The comments of many of the 85 participants during our first meeting revealed that congregants want to stay connected and involved, want to feel heard and understood, and want the lines of communication with the Board of Directors and WJC staff to be open and reciprocal.

You were heard. Your ideas will now be the catalyst to develop new ways to connect within our community. Please bring your suggestions on June 23 to discuss plans for our spiritual, educational, and social growth at the Congregation of a Full Heart. Your input will provide a key to a continued joyous Jewish experience at WJC.

Looking forward to seeing you on the 23rd!