Page 1

KOL HADASH . new voIce

asj kue


”Do you have to be Jewish to be a rabbi?” RABBI FELICIA L. SOL

We at BJ pride ourselves on our interfaith partnerships and our ability to reach out to other communities, creating bonds of friendship and purpose.”

The BJ Czech Memorial Scroll

In 1998 I spent a summer in Anchorage, Alaska, as a rabbinic intern for a Reform congregation (they call themselves the Frozen Chosen). One of my responsibilities was to “do Shabbat” with the pre-school on Friday mornings. One Friday as we finished singing the blessings, a little girl approached me and asked, “Do you have to be Jewish to be a rabbi?” I answered her, but her question, an insight into the innocence and curiosity of young children, has always stayed with me even as it brought a smile. The Jewish pre-school was open to children of all faiths, and this little girl didn’t know where she fit in the scheme of it all. Where were the boundaries? Ben Azzai in the Talmud teaches that the greatest principle in the Torah is This is the book of the descendents of Adam (Gen. 5) recognizing that all human beings are descendents of Adam and therefore not privileging any one race or religion over another. Rabbi Akiva counters Ben Azzai by putting forth, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19) [your Jewish neighbor],” as the greatest principle. While Ben Azzai presents the universal vision of the Torah, Akiva responds with a more particular one, seeing neighbor as fellow Jew and therefore privileging the obligations to one’s community. It is in this tension where our community lives. I’m not sure Ben Azzai or Rabbi Akiva would have ever contemplated a 4-year-old from Alaska asking if you have to be Jewish to be a rabbi, but certainly they struggled with how inclusion and universalism interacted with particularism. How can one honor that every human being is created in God’s image while still recognizing that specific communities have responsibilities and privileges of membership? In his article “Human Rights and Membership Rights” in Judaism and the Challenge of Modern Life, Moshe Halbertal brings the compelling position of Rabbi Menahem ha-Me’iri (13th century) in struggling with the definition of “the other”:


Read more on pages 12-13 about a BJ Torah scroll that survived the Holocaust.

Social Action/Social Justice . . . . . .2-3 Interfaith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4-7 Youth & Family Education . . . . . . .8-10 Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11 BJ History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12-13 Tze’irim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14 Announcements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .15 Contacts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16

The Me’iri classifies all people possessed of religion as Israel’s partners in Torah and commandments and brings them into the circle of brotherhood with respect to legal standing. … Religion encompasses the fundamental layer of beliefs that underlies the existence of an ordered community—something shared by all believers in a divine-Creator who exercises oversight and holds people to account. The Me’iri’s religious tolerance stems from his recognition of the religious realm common to Jews, Christians and Muslims, and from the fact that the value of this shared religious realm is grounded in its necessary contribution to the establishment of a properly ordered society. (continued on page 3)

inside: Interfaith at BJ The BJ/SPSA Shelter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Bright Promise: Rosh Hodesh With Our Muslim Sisters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Travels in Qatar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 “A Shared Trajectory With the American Jewish Community” . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 The Interfaith Bar Mitzvah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Tolerance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :

new voIce • KOL HADASH .



Opening Our Hands to the Poor and Needy: The BJ/SPSA Shelter By Jim Melchiorre n the late 1990s, working for the Odyssey Channel, I reported about BJ. Little did I know that soon thereafter I would move to New York and work in the homeless shelter the synagogue started. Volunteering overnight in a shelter was nothing new to me; I had done it for more than a decade in Nashville. And while people moving to New York City must make many adjustments, this was not one of them; there’s no difference between volunteering in a shelter in Nashville or New York.


And yet our shelter is unique, owing to its interfaith identity—and not just because two different faith traditions are working to ease the pain of a societal evil. Our shelter becomes a fellowship, converting into action our shared value that transcends dogma or religion: hospitality to society’s marginalized people. Over time I went from volunteering to being coordinator of Sunday nights to (along with Anne Millman and Dava Schub) co-chairing the shelter, the first non-BJ member to hold that position. (I still do a monthly sleep-over shift.)

My strongest memories of our shelter focus on the dedication of our volunteers. A few summers ago a guest began bleeding heavily, fearing miscarriage. While SPSA’s Jo Tiedemann remained with the other guests, Stephanie Susens from BJ rode in the ambulance with the frightened young woman and stayed with her until she received care and her partner arrived. One Christmas Eve, two young adults, Jason Finkelstein and Rebecca Sachs, offered to spend the night so SPSA volunteers could celebrate the holiday—and showed up with Christmas gifts of scarves, hats, and mittens for our guests.

Dozens of volunteers from other shelters joined us as we advocated for the value of the service we provide: a warm, safe place to sleep, with dinner, breakfast, and volunteer hosts; certainly not the solution to the problem of 39,000 homeless people nightly in New York City, but an important alternative for the women we serve.”

And since SPSA members reciprocate by covering volunteer shifts on the major Jewish holidays, we can keep our shelter open for our guests year-round. Our fellowship also includes our relationship with each other. SPSA volunteers gather for Shabbat lunches; our appreciation dinners are scheduled after BJ’s Friday night services, which we attend and participate fully in, including getting up for that joyful welcome to Shabbat.

Olivia Puri folds pillow cases and towels to present to shelter guests.

In the annals of interfaith fellowship, it’s difficult to top our annual Holiday Dinner for our shelter guests, usually held in the home of the Rev. K Karpen and Dr. Charlene Floyd. Four years ago, owing to a coincidence in the calendar, that gathering fell during Hanukkah, Advent, and the Feast of St. Nicholas. So the evening included the lighting of the Menorah, a potluck dinner provided by SPSA members, and gifts purchased by BJ members for our shelter guests, presented under the Christmas tree. We concluded by singing carols around the piano.


Acts of charity must always be accompanied by advocacy for justice, and I was honored when Anne Millman asked me to join her and Channa Camins, BJ’s Director of Social Action/Social Justice, to testify before a committee of the New York City Council in

Rachel Einhorn, Jennifer Radin, and Galit Ben-Joseph set the table for the nightly dinner for the guests in the BJ/SPSA Shelter for Homeless Women.


SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce

asj kue

Our shelter becomes a fellowship, converting into action our shared value that transcends dogma or religion: hospitality to society’s marginalized people.”

cease to be needy ones in the land; therefore, I command you, saying ‘You shall surely open your hand to the poor and needy in your land.’ ” Anne also includes a term I’ve only recently learned, gemilut hasadim, the giving of loving kindness, as an appropriate response to that aforementioned command in Torah.

Olivia Puri and Neil Einhorn move cots out of storage to set up for Shelter guests.

January 2009, at a time when the city’s Department of Homeless Services seemed intent on eliminating the Emergency Shelter Network that provides synagogue and church beds, including ours, to about 400 people each night. Dozens of volunteers from other shelters joined us as we advocated for the value of the service we provide: a warm, safe place to sleep, with dinner, breakfast, and volunteer hosts; certainly not the solution to

the problem of 39,000 homeless people nightly in New York City, but an important alternative for the women we serve. If you’re intrigued by this work and would like to help (especially by an occasional overnight stay), contact Channa at In our shelter resource guide given to all new volunteers, Anne Millman cites Deuteronomy 15:11: “For there will never

Our longtime shelter colleague Rachel Alexander told me a phrase in Hebrew that directs us in meeting that challenge: Tizku l'mitzvot. I’ve read that this phrase is really a kind of blessing. So, in the spirit of our interfaith fellowship, may we all offer that blessing to each other. n Jim Melchiorre is a member of the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew and has been a shelter volunteer for 12 years. Jim is a journalist and video producer who also works part-time as an ESL teacher. He and Cheryl Allen-Melchiorre are the parents of three young-adult sons.

”Do you have to be Jewish to be a rabbi?” RABBI FELICIA L. SOL This past September we celebrated 20 years of being welcomed to and in partnership with the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew and its pastor, Rev. K Karpen. It is partners like SPSA and ASMA (American Society for Muslim Advancement), with the leadership of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Kahn, that inspire us to build bridges instead of walls. These relationships and our belief that they are essential to who we are help us work together toward creating a community built on the sacred values of trust, peace, and justice—a true expression of How good it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together in harmony (Psalm 133:1). It is not only in partnerships beyond our immediate BJ community that we encounter questions around tolerance and inclusion. BJ has many interfaith families. Many nonJewish parents are partners in raising Jewish children. Non-Jewish partners attend services regularly. The Jewish community generally has excelled at making

these families feel defined as “other,” creating an immense amount of fear that intermarriage will cause the downfall of the Jewish people. We at BJ pride ourselves on our interfaith partnerships and our ability to reach out to other communities, creating bonds of friendship and purpose. It’s essential that we recognize the diversity in our own community and build the support and visibility necessary for interfaith partners and family to find a Jewish home at BJ and a path to raising Jewish children without shame. At the same time, our dream is to be a BJ community that responds to the question, “What is it that God asks of us?” guided by Jewish tradition and values. So, while morally and legally we align with Ben Azzai in recognizing that all human beings are created from the same first human being, demanding of us to treat all with the same basic human rights, there also need to be boundaries that define the unique nature of

continued from page 1

our community, endowing it with identity and meaning both for the individual and the collective. Sometimes these boundaries are defined by Klal Yisrael (the general Jewish people), like our upholding of matrilineal descent or the requirements for conversion, and sometimes they’re defined internally by us, as the rabbis. These boundaries often strike a nerve, yet, we as the rabbis know that setting boundaries anywhere inevitably raises questions and sometimes causes pain. It is not always easy to hold our unwavering commitment to basic human rights for all while also being fiercely dedicated to the Jewish people. It is not always easy to live up to the values of being a tolerant and inclusive community while also having limits and boundaries, yet we strive to live in that creative tension and to serve God in the holiest way we know how. n

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce • KOL HADASH .



A Man of Courage: Rabbi Roly Matalon By Debbie Almontaser

Roly was one of the courageous leaders to come to the aid of Muslim Americans in the days after the attacks.”

n my 15 years of interfaith work, I have had the honor and privilege to work with some of the most amazing religious leaders. One of these particularly amazing religious leaders is Rabbi Roly Matalon.


I met Roly weeks after 9/11 through the incredible work he and his congregation were doing through their outreach to Muslim leaders and activists to make sure Muslim New Yorkers felt no different than all New Yorkers. In the months following 9/11, BJ engaged in educational forums on the backlash and discrimination Muslims were facing. Roly was one of the courageous leaders to come to the aid of Muslim Americans in the days after the attacks. He did this by working with likeminded interfaith partners to empower his congregation at a time where many people felt disempowered about how to respond to what happened to our country and move forward in the face of adversity. Roly was an ally to Muslim Americans in so many ways. For example, together with the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, they put on a play, Same Difference. In the spirit of healing, the play reflected the humanity of Christians, Jews, and Muslims and was about bringing people of all faiths together as human beings to a higher power of belonging. As the years progressed, Roly continued to deepen his relationship with members of the Muslim community through interfaith events where we taught and learned about each other’s religious beliefs and cultures. This work developed long-lasting relationships that were built on trust and good will for one another. Roly was always a source of inspiration. Roly’s human-rights position and commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace was unwavering. I will never forget being invited to BJ to hear Israelis and Palestinians talk about the loss of their children. Upon my arrival, there were coffins of Israeli and



Left to right, at the June 2011 Muslim Consultative Network dinner honoring BJ and SPSA: Debbie Almontaser, Rabbi Roly Matalon, Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein, Paula Rackoff, Megan Putney, Jenny Golub, Eileen Weiss, Toni Siegel, Joe Antenson.

Palestinian youth lined up across the front of the synagogue. Moments later, the parents of these children were given the space to speak about their losses. I will never forget the image of the two Palestinian parents who presented their stories in the front of the synagogue together with the Israeli parents. That moment was truly unimaginable for me, yet it was a believable moment because of Roly’s spiritual belief that justice was nonnegotiable. Roly saw value in acknowledging the other, even when it was unpopular and when most perceived the other as the enemy. He had the unique ability to embrace Muslims as he also embraced and cared about his own people so deeply. Fast-forwarding to recent times, Roly once again showed his commitment when the Khalil Gibran International Academy was set to open. Though the school was to open in Brooklyn, Roly offered his support for the school and my leadership. After months of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab vitriol and slander in the media, leading to my forced resignation, Roly was among the first few rabbis who came to my defense. Roly took a public stand by attending and speaking at rallies and various media outlets in my

defense and in support of the school. Roly courageously spearheaded a letter from rabbis to Mayor Bloomberg at a time many rabbis felt this cause was too complicated based on how the media and the city distorted the truth. And when the EEOC judgment ruled in my favor, Roly was the first to say, “I knew in my heart this was coming, rejoice in this glorious moment.” Roly is a spiritual leader who embodies each and every day the commitment to truth, to justice, to kindness, and to true humanity. n Debbie Almontaser, a 20-year veteran of the NYC public school system, taught special education, inclusion, trained teachers in literacy, and served as a multicultural specialist and diversity adviser, before founding the Khalil Gibran International Academy. Active in numerous interfaith groups and initiatives, she has led workshops on conflict resolution at universities, libraries, museums, churches, and synagogues and at conferences. Debbie Almontaser has also been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including  the annual Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Risk-Taker Award in 2007 given by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce

asj kue

Bright Promise: Rosh Hodesh With Our Muslim Sisters By Shelly R. Fredman sliver of moon in a starless sky, for the ancients, signaled a new month, new beginnings. That same air of bright promise was with us at a Shabbat afternoon BJ Rosh Hodesh program in February 2011 where about 70 Muslim and Jewish women gathered to study, eat, and pray together.


We began with the motzi, blessing bread, and then my Muslim friend Asma Sadiq, who I’d come to know while serving on the committee to plan this event together, offered a Muslim prayer, reminding us of the long journey the food had made from field to table. Our small committee’s journey had been a revelatory experience for us all, discovering that we shared so many of the same stories, heroes, values, ideas, and even—during one planning session when we broke out into a shared tune—song.

Travels in Qatar By Rabbi Anne Ebersman n October 2010, I attended the 8th Annual Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue in Qatar with Roly and several other American rabbis. During the conference, I presented a paper titled “Bridging Differences at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School.” In the paper, I highlighted a few of the ways that we strive to teach compassion and multiple perspectives in our school. The most enlightening and thought-provoking conversation of my trip occurred shortly thereafter, in response to the presentation.


At lunch after my speech, I sat next to a Muslim cleric from Oman named Abdullah, who, like me, is an administrator at a school. At first, I thought he had said he was from “Amman,” and launched into a dialogue about my travels in Jordan before he politely corrected me. When I admitted that I had no idea where Oman is, he patiently explained: It’s above Yemen and abuts Saudi Arabia (I still had to Google a map of the Persian Gulf afterwards). He asked me two challenging and important questions. The first question was by way of an anecdote. He said that when he was in the

At the program itself, we ate together, and then afterward Daisy Khan explained the Muslim approach to text study. Then we sat in circles, 10-12 women, and told each other about what, in our tradition, helps us to experience renewal. Jewish women spoke of


the restful radiance of Shabbat and the shedding of layers of the self that occurs at the High Holy Day time. A Muslim-Irish woman sitting next to me told of the gatherings that take place in her community every evening during Ramadan, when she and her friends and family break their daily

fasts together, night after night, for a month. Then we studied text, reading out loud the Qur’an story of Moses’ mother, the “emptiness that came to her heart,” when she had to cast him into the river, and how “she was about to disclose him had We not strengthened her heart so that she might remain one of faith.” After we read the Jewish version of the same story, we asked each other questions Rabbis Sol and Dardashti had highlighted: What places in the text stand out? What do these texts say about women? About the role of faith in their/our lives? And finally, as the air in the room seemed to grow warmer, the laughter came more and more easily, the pauses of acknowledgement: I feel that. And you? My stranger, my sister; I feel that, too. (continued on page 10)

I was so impressed by Abdullah’s openness, his willingness to acknowledge the weaknesses in his own educational system, and the candor with which he questioned me about ours.”

Manchester airport recently with his 7-yearold son, his son saw a man with a kippah on. The son asked, “Daddy, is that man going to try to kill us?” Abdullah then explained how sad it had made him to learn of his son’s prejudiced perceptions. He said that he saw this attitude as an important educational problem in the Arab-Muslim world he lives in. Then he turned to me and asked, “I was wondering, if your children saw me at the airport (he was wearing a head covering), do you think their response would be any different?” The question really took me by surprise. I had to answer honestly that I wasn’t sure. My children don’t know very much about Islam. I wondered if they had developed a skewed perspective from hearing about 9/11 over the years. When I returned to New York, I related the discussion to my daughters and asked their opinions. They said they didn’t think they would have a negative response to seeing a man in the airport dressed in traditional Arab garb. But I’m not as certain as they are. I hope they are right and I am wrong. The second question he asked was equally penetrating. He complimented me on my presentation, particularly the part about how

we teach our students the importance of seeing multiple perspectives. Then he asked, “Do you think that most Jewish schools teach in the way that you do? What percentage of Jewish schools would you say are teaching like this?” It is my dearest hope that we are indeed teaching our children respect for those different from themselves, rather than prejudice, in our day schools. But again, I had to wonder, and my uncertainty made me uneasy. I was so impressed by Abdullah’s openness, his willingness to acknowledge the weaknesses in his own educational system, and the candor with which he questioned me about ours. His question about my daughters has stayed with me. I hope I will have the chance sometime in the future to tell him their reaction, perhaps even to arrange an informal “exchange program” for him to speak at my school and I at his. n Rabbi Anne Ebersman is the Judaic Studies Programming Director at the Abraham Joshua Heschel School. Before that she was the Director of Family Education at BJ, where she continues to lead Family Services every year for the Yamim Nora'im.

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce • KOL HADASH .



Excerpts From “Evolving From Muslims in America to American Muslims: A Shared Trajectory With the American Jewish Community” By Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf


ditor’s Note: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, internationally known Muslim leader who lives and teaches in New York City and is a friend to BJ’s rabbis and other faith leaders, wrote an essay for the book Muslims and Jews in America,1 from which the excerpts below are taken. In this essay he outlines the commonalities faced by faith traditions of immigrant religions in America— particularly Judaism and Islam. … Any student of American immigrant history recognizes that the path to integration in the United States has always been painfully difficult. As a result, it is important that as Muslims struggle to establish themselves within the context of the broader American society they learn successful lessons from the American Jewish community’s historical integration, which will likewise open a space for meaningful partnership between these two communities. As American Muslims forge such relationships, I am convinced that we can both solidify Muslims’ presence within the American mainstream and initiate a fresh chapter in global Jewish-Muslim relations, one that echoes the best chapters of the historical reality of Jewish-Muslim harmony. … Though focused on issues of immigration and integration within a specific American context, Jewish-Muslim partnerships should be built upon the foundation of what I call the “Abrahamic ethic.” … The essence of the Abrahamic ethic is the understanding that all human beings stem from the children of Adam, making all of mankind innately equal. This ethic is the necessary outcome of the two major commandments that underscore the Abrahamic religions. First, to love God


Once we are able to love one another within the larger context of brotherhood and humanity, we are able to move away from the divisive structures that we impose against one another. ”

with all our hearts, minds and souls and secondly, to love and want for our brothers what we want and love for ourselves. Once we are able to love one another within the larger context of brotherhood and humanity, we are able to move away from the divisive structures that we impose against one another. The Abrahamic ethic destroys those barriers that keep us from loving one another as God has intended.

… [B]ecause we all have equal human status and have been given free will by God, we all have certain inalienable liberties, the most significant being the choice to accept or reject the very Creator that brought us into existence. According to the Muslim tradition, as stated in the Qur’an, God created humans with this critical element of free will.2 Human free will, the liberty to make individual choices—and individual mistakes—is essential to human dignity. Only if humans have free will can we be held individually accountable for our choices and actions. But individual humans can and do freely exercise their will in ways that also sow inequality and limit the liberties of others, thus freely choosing to engage in unjust and tyrannical behavior. Jews, Christians, and Muslims interpret strict sensibilities of right and wrong behavior from this ethos, embodied in a particularly strong sense of social justice. The oneness of God and the oneness of humankind define the Abrahamic Ethic. … Just as Muslim communities have been cast in the institutional and cultural contexts of places such as Yemen, Senegal and Indonesia, so too are they now re-inventing themselves in the U.S. This process is essential to Islam's development in the U.S. because, for example, Islam as practiced just as it is in rural Pakistan simply does not work in the milieu of urban Chicago. This advent also resonates within the larger history of Islam and the adaptability of Muslim communities for centuries. Indeed, despite real challenges, many of which stem from complex geopolitical realities, American Muslims are already developing a unique American-Islamic identity; Islam is

1. Muslims and Jews in America, Reza Aslan and Aaron J. Hahn Tapper, eds., published 2011, Palgrave Macmillan in the United States, a division of St. Martin's Press LLC. 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan. 2. See such Qur’anic verses as the following: “There shall be no coercion in religion; the right way is clearly distinct from error” (2:256) and “The Truth is from your Lord; so let whomever wills, believe, and let whomever wills, disbelieve” (18:29).


SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


already being practiced in a distinctly American manner. As an Imam of a New York City mosque and a former immigrant myself, I have witnessed this first-hand. … This means that like American Jews before them, a unique American Muslim consciousness and identity is now taking root and beginning to prosper. … … Another important force in the integration of American Jews was the twentieth-century growth of Jewish Community Centers (JCC) throughout America’s urban hubs. Unlike their Christian forerunners, these centers were founded with a mission to do more than preserve inveterate cultural traditions. As a result, the JCCs helped transition a community of immigrants to one of integrated Americans with a robust awareness of their Jewish identity and traditions alongside their new American identity and practices. American Muslims have yet to develop similar institutions. For this reason, my own organization, the Cordoba Initiative, is beginning to establish a number of new and unique community centers called “Cordoba Houses,” which will offer diverse programming in the arts and culture, education, religion, global engagement, and recreation. Like JCCs before them, Cordoba Houses will serve as a go-to-place for generations of Muslim immigrants, fostering a strong sense of American Muslim culture. … We can already see the rise of significant American movements in terms of academic research related to Islam and Muslims. American Muslim scholars … are transforming the discourse on some of the most important issues affecting Muslims around the globe, such as governance (how should Muslims self-govern?), gender (how should Muslims define the respective roles and responsibilities of men and women in society?), and interfaith relations (how should Muslims relate to other religious communities?), among others. It is my conviction that this impact will only intensify in the years to come… … Likewise, especially in a post-9/11 environment, American Muslims are now called upon to engage in improving U.S.Muslim world relations. Given the U.S.’s long

… I have stressed that American Jews and American Muslims must draw upon their shared histories and values to confront the challenges of immigration and integration still faced today. Such strategic partnerships are already forming between these two communities, and the Cordoba Initiative is highly involved in these efforts. ”

history of engagement with the Muslim world, coupled with the reality that this presence has not always been helpful either for the U.S. or for Muslim-majority countries, American Muslims need to increase their active participation in framing U.S. geopolitical priorities in the Muslim world in a manner that is consistent with the interests of both Americans and Muslims worldwide. Furthermore, because American Muslims understand the aspirations of each side, they have a central role to play in mediating, building trust, and brokering inter-religious and inter-cultural partnerships. …. This is precisely what the Cordoba Initiative aims to do through programs focusing on leadership development (Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow or MLT), women’s empowerment (Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality & Equality), and Islamic law and governance (Shariah Index Project). Building a coalition of diverse partners and stakeholders, the Cordoba Initiative is seeking to create a tipping point in relations between the West and the Muslim world over the next decade. My organization maintains that American Muslims must be catalysts in this work. For those Muslim Americans who work and live at the intersections of America and the Muslim world, there is no higher calling than to heal this relationship. … I have stressed that American Jews and American Muslims must draw upon their shared histories and values to confront the challenges of immigration and integration still faced today. Such strategic partnerships are already forming between these two

new voIce

asj kue

communities, and the Cordoba Initiative is highly involved in these efforts. For example, as part of our MLT program, we facilitate relationships between young, civic-minded Muslims and leaders of other religious communities, both in the U.S. and across the globe. Through this work, we are nurturing a new generation of Muslim leaders eager to partner with American Jews on such issues as Muslim integration in the U.S. as well as global issues like achieving a political peace in the Middle East. I am personally convinced that older generations of American Muslims—my generation—can no longer solve our nation’s or the world’s most intractable problems. Instead, it is younger generations that will bring about justice and peace, starting by building friendships and relationships of trust... … Despite many challenges, my perspective remains decidedly optimistic. Yet it is an optimism firmly grounded in historical reality. … We are a country of immigrants. Such successes as the American Jewish community attest to this fact. … I believe that this mixed American legacy will continue to fall on the side of embracing our immigrant communities and facilitating the healthy integration of these multiple identities. As American Muslim organizations and institutions build coalitions with American Jews in order to learn from each other’s experiences, to leverage each other’s work, and to partner in peace efforts, I am confident that the American Muslim community can become the latest American success story. n Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is Co-founder and Chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, a multireligious and multi-national project that works with state and non-state actors to improve Muslim-West relations. In 1997, he established the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), which was the first Muslim organization committed to bringing Muslims and nonMuslims together through programs in academia, policy, current affairs, and culture. He is the author of the best-selling book What’s Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West.

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce • KOL HADASH .



The Interfaith Bar Mitzvah: One Family’s Story By Jennifer Hirsch


hat were some memorable moments for you when Isaac was preparing for his bar mitzvah?

One was when Felicia asked us to share with Isaac how we’d seen him grow over the time he’d been preparing. It’s bracing to take a moment to really tell your child what you think of him—not what he should do, or where he needs to go, or anything other than that very deep, direct, emotionally connecting sort of talking. I found it very moving. Of course I cried too, although Isaac later said that it wasn’t as embarrassing as he’d feared. What role did your family’s commitment to Social Action/Social Justice play in the process? Isaac developed a really substantive socialjustice project, under the supervision of the Marriage Equality Hevra, involving raising awareness about homophobic bullying and advocacy for gay marriage. John and I do health-policy advocacy, and I really wanted Isaac to have the opportunity to engage in the sort of transformational work that I’ve seen Panim do, and I think that for John, Isaac learning to do something that he does too, and believes is deeply important, opened a door into some of the meaning of the process. Isaac was touched deeply by

this work; it gave a new depth of meaning to taking on the obligations of being a Jewish adult. Watching him meeting with our senator, surrounded by a circle of tonguetied adults, so smooth and confident but also genuine, was one of the proudest moments of my life as a mother. Can you describe the materials you created for the bar mitzvah?


Left to right: Jennifer Hirsch and Jacob, Helene, John, and Isaac Santelli


I grew up Reform, and John is not Jewish, so I knew that for the majority of our guests the services—and even the notion of a bar mitzvah celebration— were going to be crosscultural experiences. I tried to take the things that I take for granted and make it a little more transparent so everyone would feel more comfortable and have some sense of what was going on. I also prepared a “cheat sheet” to help

those whose Hebrew might be a little rusty. And I included some BJ history, to try to share with our guests what is so special about the community. I’ve left an electronic copy with the BJ staff for other families who want to use and adapt it. What family traditions (Jewish and nonJewish) did you incorporate into the celebration? For the brunch at my parents’ for our out-oftown guests , my mother made blintzes and pull-apart cake, which my grandmothers used to make; and, as we did after our wedding brunch, we also included some of John’s family’s favorite Italian dishes. How did BJ support you with bar mitzvah preparations? Isaac bonded deeply with his bar mitzvah tutor, who was assigned to us by BJ but who just happened to turn out to be Isaac’s total soulmate, which was great. I loved hearing the two of them howling with laughter down the hall. Ari and Shoshi were very patient, and I could hear their work and teaching in the confidence of Isaac’s voice at the bimah. (continued on page 9)

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


Exploring the “In Between” Territory: The Challenges of Interfaith Parenting By Eleanor Harrison Bregman n the first night of Hanukkah last December, our 9-year-old daughter, Isabelle, presented me with a Hanukkah gift: a single branch of a Christmas tree stuck into a slice of a tree trunk with a “Merry Christmas” ornament hanging from the end of the branch. “I paid for it with my own money!” she proudly exclaimed. I burst into joyful tears.


I am Christian, and my husband, Peter, is Jewish. Fifteen years earlier, when we met with Roly at the beginning of our interfaith journey, he gave us some great advice: “Go to couples counseling and take a Derekh Torah (Intro to Judaism) class at the 92nd Street Y—and Peter, I know you went to Ramaz, but you have to take that class with Eleanor.” Hundreds of the therapy sessions and Jewish text-study sessions later (not to mention a marriage, three kids, three Orthodox conversions, and my ordination as a Protestant minster), it is clear that we are on a unique path that has its pitfalls and heartaches, but also incredible blessings. I am guessing that our home and synagogue life look like that of many Upper West Side Jewish families who are committed to a Jewish identity for their family and children: We observe Shabbat every Friday much like Peter’s family did growing up—Shabbat dinner with friends and family if we are home, and, if we are traveling, we find a way to say kiddush and hamotzi before the waiter brings our food. We attend children’s

services at BJ when we are in town, and the children attend Jewish day schools. We thus have our collection of homemade tzedakah boxes and menorahs, the kids know every word to the Maccabeats’ song “Candlelight,” and, yes, soon their Hebrew will be better than their father’s. Many people ask me, “How can you do this as a Christian and as a minister? What about your tradition?” On one level, raising Jewish kids has not been difficult for me because my connection to Judaism that started so many years ago in that conversation with Roly has only deepened and stretched my own sense of being a Christian. In fact, I feel sure that my relationship with Peter and with Judaism is what led me to Union Theological Seminary for my Master of Divinity degree and to my ordination as a Protestant minister. Yet it has been difficult in other ways. I attend church alone, and when I do, I usually miss some family event on Sunday mornings—after all, that’s quintessential brunch and birthday time on the Jewish Upper West Side. While plenty of parents have converted, I am probably the only Christian parent at each of our children’s schools. At BJ I have always been welcomed, never made to feel an outsider, and I was warmly received when I recently met with Roly to discuss my career as a minister working on interfaith and multifaith issues. Yet I have often wondered, “Who else here is

The Interfaith Bar Mitzvah Naomi and Arlene and the others who manage the administrative aspects were lovely and patient even when I was scattered or frenzied. Ari was amazing—so kind and supportive of Isaac. I remember him saying that this is not a celebration of Isaac becoming perfect, it’s a moment to mark his becoming an adult, and that was a great thing to hear just at that moment. There were times when it was very hard to navigate the process as an intermarried family, and Emily and Felicia were super-supportive.

new voIce

asj kue

... It is clear that we are on a unique path that has its pitfalls and heartaches, but also incredible blessings.”

‘like us?’ Who else faces issues that we face? Who else here is navigating these waters?” BJ’s recent efforts to address these questions are hopeful and, I believe, at the cutting edge of Judaism. And when Isabelle can offer me a gift that honors both who I am and who she is in the same moment, a gesture that deepens her sense of being Jewish and my sense of being Christian, I know that we are doing something right, if not easy. Like Jacob wrestling with the angel out in the wilderness, out between home and Haran, I know that our family, in exploring this “in between” territory, gets its fair share of bruises. But ultimately, like Jacob, we receive priceless blessings along the way. n Eleanor Harrison Bregman is an ordained minister serving as a Protestant chaplain at Jewish Home Lifecare, a nursing facility in the Bronx. She leads women's retreats and multifaith retreats, discussion series for Christian parents raising Jewish children, and a biweekly multifaith women's spirituality group. In November she will be leading a multifaith women’s retreat “Touching Our Strength” with Janice Stieber Rous. She lives with her husband, Peter, and their three children on the Upper West Side.

continued from page 8

What advice would you give other interfaith families about this process? There’s a lot to talk about, and no one’s situation is exactly the same. I wouldn’t presume to give advice, but I think explaining things, early in the process was important. It helped John to go over the basics eight months prior, and let him ask Emily questions in a less emotionally charged conversation. It was still difficult. Out of his love for and pride in Isaac’s emerging manhood, John really stretched himself. It was not easy or always

comfortable to get there, but standing at the bimah, holding his hand and watching Isaac before the ark was one of the happiest moments of my life. n Jennifer and her family joined BJ in 2004. She has leadership roles in Panim El Panim, on the BJ Hebrew School Advisory Committee, and volunteers annually as a solicitor for the Yom Kippur Annual Appeal. Jennifer and her husband, John Santelli, are both Professors at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health.

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce • KOL HADASH .



Tolerance By Bella Rubinton t’s only one word, but it has so many different aspects. We talk about it a lot at BJ. After going to a meeting for interfaith youth at UNICEF House in July, I learned much more about tolerance and that it is only the first step in a bigger process toward acceptance.


At the meeting, many different definitions for tolerance were given. According to one speaker, a safe environment is important for toleration, and the U.N. helps with this. But just tolerating is not enough. Another part of the process of acceptance is the breaking down of preconceived notions. Farah Pandith, President Obama’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, gave the example of Muslims, who are often blamed for 9/11 even though one terrorist

... A participant compared diversity to ‘a box of chocolates,’ saying you don’t know what’s inside the outer shell until you get to know a person.”

group and not the entire Muslim religion caused it. It is necessary to “unlearn” and break down preconceived ideas. The penultimate goal is acceptance of diversity. In a YouTube video about the Manhattan Multicultural Summer Youth Program, a participant compared diversity to “a box of chocolates,” saying you don’t know what’s inside the outer shell until you get to know a person. The final achievement is acceptance and peace. The keynote speaker, a British filmmaker, Jeremy Gilley, said sports and collaboration could help lead to peace, along with peace “snowballing” through technological campaigns.

Even with the wide range of speakers, all agreed on one thing: the importance of youth. Jenny Kai, one of the program organizers, said, “Youth are the key.” Farah said a “youthquake” is occurring through youth voicing its opinions using technology. But if the new generation doesn’t continue it, their efforts will be wasted. Liz Abzug, daughter of former Upper West Side Congresswoman Bella Abzug, said, “Education for interfaith tolerance should start in kindergarten.” Such an early beginning may sound extreme to some, but it will help to ensure peace from generation to generation and is in sync with the mission of BJ. n Bella Rubinton is an 11th grader at Friends Seminary. She is an active member of BJ and the teen program and volunteers for Tot Shabbat.

Date Clarification: 4th Grade B’nai Mitzvah Parent Orientation Meeting Wednesday, November 16 | 7:00PM | 88th Street Sanctuary

Parents of children who are in 4th grade, or whose birthdates fall between September 2001 and December 2002, are invited to an informational meeting that will detail each step of the B’nai Mitzvah planning process. Though this meeting is optional, we strongly encourage parents to attend. There will be an opportunity to ask questions. Date applications (which will be received in the mail along with date/service selection information) may be turned in at that time. For more information, contact Arlene Brandon at or x223. Ari with b’nai mitzvah students

Bright Promise

continued from page 5

We shared our own faith moments as well, or lack of faith experiences. A young Pakistani woman, dark, deep eyes shining, told of her first months away from home at the Parsons School, she a devout Muslim and her atheist roommate, who used her prayer mat as a doorstop, and one day, overwhelmed by all the praying, her roommate riddled the room with index cards, “God?” on all of them. Thus began our Muslim friend’s religious questioning. Another girl, a cousin of Asma’s, told of a



prayerful grandmother who had never before interfered in her life, begging her one day to stay home from a sleepover. The next day, the apartment building of her friend fell in the Pakistan earthquake. And, in our circle (which somehow seemed smaller now, as if we were sitting round the fire in some cozy living room), I told them about the time I was in the hospital and a woman rabbi reinterpreted Moses’ blessings and curses speech for me, telling me it was an internal thing, and I could choose the blessing, thus giving me the courage to go home.

We were still talking when Rabbi Sol called us all back to the big circle. She asked us to end with a word that summed up our experience that afternoon. One after another, Muslim and Jewish, we chanted, “Revelation. We. Sisters. Beginnings. Sharing. Friendship. We. Kindred. Light. We. Women. Sisters.” n Shelly R. Fredman has been a BJ member since 2006. She teaches the Writer’s Beit Midrash at Skirball and welcomes those interested, no writing experience required, to join the class in exploring the meeting places between sacred text and our own lives.

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce


A Lady Named Pearl By Michael Yoeli and Susan Etra


anna from heaven—we received a very large gift from a lady named Pearl.” That announcement at a recent board meeting was how we learned for the first time that our good friend Pearl Meyer, who had died on Jan. 21, 2011 at the age of 78, had left a bequest of $800,000 to B’nai Jeshurun.

We want to tell you a bit about Pearl, not only because of her extraordinary generosity to BJ, but also because she was an extraordinary woman, whose life deserves acknowledgment and celebration. On Friday evenings, after returning from synagogue and before sitting down to the Shabbat meal, we recite the hymn Eshet Hayil—a Woman of Valor. This beautiful poem describes a woman of valor as one who is energetic, righteous, and capable. Nothing less can be said of Pearl. We first met Pearl 15 years ago when we purchased a house upstate. She made quite a first impression: a hefty, white-haired dynamo who could host a dinner, lead a community meeting, or beat you in a game of golf with equal panache and skill. She was smart, robust, and engaging, with a passion for food and travel, and the ability to cut someone down to size with a biting oneliner, which was delivered with a twinkle in

the eye that said, Don’t worry, I still love you. But she was also a modest person who rarely spoke of her accomplishments, and only years later did we come to fully appreciate the other Pearl, the pioneer, the expert adviser, the philanthropist. Pearl was born in New York City and raised on 2nd Avenue. She was a cum laude graduate of NYU and completed several years of studies at Stern Graduate School of Business Administration, where she was the only woman enrolled. While there she fell in love with a fellow student, Ira Meyer, whom she always referred to as “the love of my life,” and they were inseparable for their 46 years of marriage until his passing in 2000. Pearl started her career modestly as a statistical specialist in the executive compensation department of a corporation. Over time she built an executive compensation consulting practice, pioneering a new field in the process. In 1989, she founded Pearl Meyer & Partners, which became one of the nation’s pre-eminent independent executive compensation consultancy firms.

Lasting Legacies

She made quite a first impression: a hefty, white-haired dynamo who could host a dinner, lead a community meeting, or beat you in a game of golf with equal panache and skill.”

In a corporate world dominated by men, Pearl stood out, often being the only woman in the boardroom. For more than 30 years, she served as a trusted adviser to the boards and senior management teams of hundreds of companies in almost every industry. Throughout, she strove to be a role model for women in business. As exemplified by her open-door policy, she accepted the responsibility of nurturing and mentoring other talented young women, and she was honored for this work by Legal Moment, Mercy College, and the United Jewish Appeal. Pearl was incredibly generous but also very modest about her philanthropy. It was not an accident that during the months of illness prior to her passing, she never even hinted that she planned to give BJ a gift. Only after her death, when people stepped forward to speak about her, did we learn of the full breadth of her generosity and the scope of her involvement in charitable organizations for both Jewish and non-Jewish causes. Still, one has to marvel at her gift to BJ. She was not a member of our congregation for very long. It was only three years ago that she asked us to recommend a shul she could (continued on page 14)

By Arlene Swartz We hope Pearl Meyer’s story has inspired you to strengthen your commitment to BJ. Your planned gift will make it possible for BJ to welcome future generations to pray, study, and serve with us. A bequest is a loving way to help secure BJ’s future and a simple way for you to leave a lasting legacy. Many people choose a bequest because it will not affect your assets or cash flow during your lifetime, you can change your will at any time, and it is fully deductible for federal estate tax purposes (and there is no limit on the deduction your estate can claim). Just a few sentences in your will are all that is needed. Here is sample language we hope you will find helpful when incorporating a gift to BJ in your will:

"I, [name], of [city, state ZIP], give, devise and bequeath the sum of $________ or ______ percent of my estate to B’nai Jeshurun, a nonprofit institution incorporated in the State of New York with a business address of 2109 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 and tax identification number 13-059-4858 for its unrestricted use and purpose." You can also consider a retirement or insurance policy bequest to BJ. Please consult your attorney or financial planner to learn more about setting up a bequest. Please let us know if you have included BJ in your will so we can thank you!

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce • KOL HADASH .



It Arrived In A Box, Naked, Tied Up By George Klas


e’ll dress it for Yamim Nora’im,” Marshall said to Roly.

So, 20 years ago on Yom Kippur a Torah that had survived the Holocaust was given a home at BJ. In 1939, when Germany invaded the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia was to be made Jude rein (free of Jews). Jews were rounded up and synagogues were closed, looted, or destroyed. In an effort to save their religious treasures a group of Jewish leaders persuaded the Nazis to store over 100,000 scrolls, books, paintings, and ceremonial objects in a Jewish museum that existed in Prague. The leaders hoped one day to return the artifacts to their owners. The Nazis, some think, intended them as exhibits in a future Museum of an Extinct Race. 

In the mid 1960s about 1,500 Torah scrolls, now in the possession of a Communist regime, were returned to Jewish hands.”

participates in Yom HaShoah, Yom Kippur, and Simhat Torah ceremonies. It is our largest and heaviest scroll, as befits a senior citizen from the old country. Those who have held it know what I mean. Twenty years ago as we took in a destitute scroll our own future was uncertain. The synagogue roof had caved and we moved in with kind neighbors, the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew.

In the mid 1960s about 1,500 Torah scrolls, now in the possession of a Communist regime, were returned to Jewish hands. They were purchased by the Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust and brought to Westminster Synagogue in London. Over the years, the Trust distributed scrolls to congregations around the world as well as the White House. When I learned of the program I requested one for BJ. As I thought about these scrolls I realized they were like our people: uprooted from their home, transported, warehoused, numbered, and catalogued so they could be displayed like some shameful relic. They survived their own holocaust. Scroll #516, written around 1900, is from Domazlice, a small town near Prague. Twenty years ago on Yom Kippur I dedicated it in the name of my family who perished in Auschwitz. As I took the Torah into the congregation it evoked a shared history, a collective sense of loss. The scroll is damaged and should have been buried. But it is alive and well and


Now as I look at a once-abandoned scroll, standing tall, I’m reminded that we will be returning to our old home, the Community Center on 89th Street. As BJ moves forward, the Holocaust scroll can be a reminder of not only the past darkness but also of a brilliant future. n George and his wife Enid have been members since 1985. He was involved in many of the early Purim Spiels. When not clowning around, he is a marketing consultant.


SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce

asj kue

Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust or over 1,000 years there was a rich tradition of Jewish life in Bohemia and Moravia, now the Czech Republic. In 1700 Jews accounted for a quarter of Prague’s population. Before WWII there were about 120,000 Czech and some 200,000 Slovak Jews in Czechoslovakia. Today there are fewer than 10,000.


When the Nazis invaded in 1939 many of the 350 Czech synagogues were abandoned or destroyed. In 1942 a group of Prague Jews surprisingly persuaded the Nazis to store over 100,000 deteriorating religious objects. Some believe they intended a future museum of Jewish artifacts. Included in the cache were approximately 1,800 Torahs, which the Jewish curators, most of whom later perished in the camps, numbered and catalogued. After the war the Communist regime moved the Judaica to a state museum. But in 1963 the scrolls were returned to Jewish hands when purchased by The Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust1 and stored in Westminster Synagogue’s Kent House in London. Top of page: The Torahs remaining at the The Czech Memorial Scrolls Trust in London in 1997. Photo courtesy of Robert Capon, who traveled there to select a Torah for Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, VA. The story of that Torah, and more photographs, can be found at under “About Us.” Above and page 1: George Klas holding the BJ Czech Memorial Torah Scroll, other images of which accompany this article.

As I thought about these scrolls I realized they were like our people: uprooted from their home, transported, warehoused, numbered, and catalogued so they could be displayed like some shameful relic. They survived their own holocaust.”

Due to neglect and abuse, most the 1,564 rescued scrolls were damaged and not usable. Over the next 30 years a team of scribes kashered those that were salvageable. All the scrolls have now been distributed to Jewish communities around the world, where they participate in Jewish life. Those that were restored are used in services, while those that are damaged are used on ceremonial occasions. The Trust requires the scrolls to be cared for; they cannot be buried. Rabbi Ariel Friedlander, Director of the Trust and a friend of BJ, says, “Distributing the Czech scrolls over the last 50 years has been a labor of love for all of us here at the Trust.” n — George Klas

1. You can learn much more about the history of these Torah scrolls at SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce • KOL HADASH .



Service Matching to Make Friends and Build Community By Mollie Levison hen I first moved to New York during the fall of 2007, I knew almost no one. So, of course, my first mission after I got settled in was to make new friends. Thankfully, I did have one close friend from undergrad who, at the time, was living in New York. My friend just so happened to be pursuing his rabbinical degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary. For Simhat Torah, he invited me to go with him to BJ’s raucous celebration, and because I thoroughly enjoyed the ruah and dancing, my friend suggested that I check out BJ’s 20’s and 30’s group, Tze’irim. I went on and took a look at the Tze’irim page and noticed that the only event coming up at the time was the Hanukkah party. Of course, I did notice that if I wanted to get involved before the party I could do Tze’irim’s service match. Being new to New York and new to BJ, I did like the idea of going to Friday night services with a fellow young, Jewish professional, but the thought of just going to Friday night services with someone seemed not social enough for my taste at the time.


we exchanged contact information, and she invited me to attend Shabbat services with her the following Friday. In essence, Janine was my first “unofficial” service match. We met at BJ a few minutes prior to the start of services and headed to the upstairs seating area where she said there would be more room and a bird’s eye view of the congregation. As this was my very first time ever attending BJ’s Friday night Shabbat services, I recall thinking that it was nice to have someone to sit with, especially when I would get lost during the exclusively Hebrew portions and Janine would direct me to the correct page in the siddur. Janine and I spent a few more Fridays in a

I went to the Hanukkah party with my rabbinical friend. It was there that I met Janine, a friendly Tze’irim member who, at the time, was finishing a postbac program. We bonded over sufganyot and a mutual understanding of the difficulties of the New York dating scene. At the end of the evening

A Lady Named Pearl attend on the High Holy Days, and she came with us to BJ services only a few times for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Yet she was clearly moved by the music and the spirit of the community. As was her way, she decided to get involved, attending a new members event, studying to become a Bat Torah, and even joining a havurah. Something about the experience clearly moved her. Only a short KOL HADASH


Mollie Levison is a member of Tze’irim’s Kehilah Committee and has been a BJ member since 2008.

continued from page 11 time before her death she achieved her goal of becoming a Bat Torah. She gathered her friends and family around her and slowly read in Hebrew from a Torah that had been brought to her home. Eshet hayil mi yimtza Verahok mi’pninim mikhra

A woman of valor, who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. n Michael Yoeli, Susan Etra, and their three children have been members of BJ for 16 years. Susan is a past member of the Board of Trustees, and Michael currently serves on the Board.

new voIce • November/December 2011

The Kol Hadash is published every other month. We would love to print your stories and articles about BJ! For submission guidelines, contact All material is the property of B’nai Jeshurun and cannot be reprinted without permission.


similar fashion; sometimes her roommate or other friends from college would join us. I was definitely grateful to have somewhere to go and someone to spend time with on Friday nights; it allowed me to meet new people, be more comfortable with BJ in general and with going to Shabbat Services on Friday nights, which was something I rarely did growing up or in college. Truly and most importantly though, going gave me the opportunity to build my own personal community around BJ—which I did, over time. After a while, I once again started going to Shabbat services almost every Friday night. Now, I usually go to Friday night services, and I have many close, personal friends that I’ve met through BJ, and I can’t believe how many bars, concerts, happy hours, movies, parties, etc., I’ve been to with these friends—it’s not something I ever imagined that first night or on the nights when I went to services with Janine. Finally, now, when I volunteer to do a service match with someone new to BJ and in most cases, new to New York, I’m always happy to do it because I view it as a way to open the door for that person to not only make new friends, but also build a personal community around BJ—just like I did! n

The Kol Hadash is printed using soy-based inks on 50% recycled paper by an online, eco-friendly printer at a substantial cost saving compared to traditional printing methods. Designer: Harriet R. Goren

SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


new voIce

asj kue


Condolences (through September 23)

Mazal Tov To the following members and their families on their b’nai mitzvah (September and October): Laura Glesby

Eric Kessler

Ameilia Sylvor Greenberg

Hannah Zhukovsky

Asher Ripp

Julian Freiberg

Noah Lipnick

Mara Hutton

To the following members and their families (through September 23):

The community of B’nai Jeshurun mourns the death of our beloved member Adam Warech, and we extend our sincere condolences to his wife Mina (Maria) Warech and their entire family. The community of B’nai Jeshurun mourns the death of our beloved member Bronia Dresner, and we extend our sincere condolences to her daughter, Sylvia Dresner, and to their entire family.

Dava Schub on the birth of her daughter, Benna Rose.

The community of B’nai Jeshurun extends sincere condolences to the following members and their families:

Jordana Horn Gordon and Jon Gordon, Rami and Zev Marinoff on the birth of their daughter and sister, Gabriella Ava.

Rae-Ann Allen and Scott Allen on the death of Rae-Ann's beloved mother, Betty Sandberg.

Arlene Ludwig and Michael Spitalnik on their wedding.

Patty and Joe Finkelstein on the death of Patty’s beloved father, Jerome Lubin.

Breanne Davidson and Gregg Schwartz on their wedding. Charlotte Rashti and Richard Cooper on the birth of their daughters, Abigail Sara and Felicia Hanna. Richard Chused and Elizabeth Langer on the birth of their grandson, Ozzie Gawel Chused.

Phyllis Wiesenthal on the death of her beloved mother, Edith Wiesenthal. Paula, Jeff and Eli Weiss on the death of Paula's beloved father, Irving M. Kramer.

Paul and Nancy Freireich on the birth of their grandson, Gabriel Matthew Weinsier. Renee Cherow-O'Leary and John V. O'Leary on the birth of their grandson, Charles Desi Carroll. Lilli Platt and Allison and Emily Weinger on the wedding of their son and brother, Seth Weinger, to Nicole Szabo. Helen Hanan and Melvin Prostkoff on their engagement. Laura and Andrew Slabin on the naming of their daughter, Sienna Slabin.


Joan, Nathan, Edward and Natalie, and Joseph Kaplan, on Joe’s marriage to Catherine Kim. James and Laurie Oestreich on the engagement of their daughter, Abby, to Daniel Ziluca. David, Jules, Susan and Leora Frankel and Andrew Sage on David's engagement to Donielle Lavintman. Andrea Bigelisen Riskin and Drew Kopf on their wedding. Robyn, Daniel, Noah and Ari Yairi on the naming of their daughter and sister, Talia Ruth. Audrey Sieger and Larry Drath on the wedding of Audrey’s son Saul Cunow to Kate Van Emrik. Sara Meyer and Danny Loya on their wedding. SYNAGOGUE: 257 W. 88th St. • OFFICE: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), Suite 203, New York, NY 10023 • TEL : 212.787.7600 • FAX : 212.496.7600 • WEBSITE :


Non-Profit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Permit No. 530 New York, NY

2109 Broadway (Ansonia) • Suite 203 • New York, NY 10023

KOL HADASH new voIce • . SYNAGOGUE: 257 West 88th Street OFFICES: 2109 Broadway (Ansonia), #203 Main Telephone Number 212-787-7600 Fax Number (2109 Broadway) 212-496-7600 Website

Rabbis: J. Rolando Matalon Marcelo R. Bronstein Felicia L. Sol Hazzan and Music Director: Ari Priven



Committees & Services: Accounts Payable.......................227 Accounts Receivable ..................237 Adult Education Information .....233 Bar/Bat Mitzvah .........................223 Bekef ..........................................255 Bikkur Holim..............................233 BJ Reads ....................................391 Communications........................275 Community Programs ...............255 Conversion .................................264 Daily Minyan...............................232 Development & Donation Information ........228

Director of Events: Guy Felixbrodt, x255 Interim Director of Development: Arlene Swartz, x228 Director of Communications: Denise Waxman, x275

BJ Rabbinic Fellows: Jonah Geffen, x261 Adam Roffman, x264

Director of Administration & Finance: Ron Seitenbach, x226

Cantorial Intern and Teen Educator: Shoshi Rosenbaum, x242

Director of Facilities: Roma Serdtse, x258

Executive Director: Harold Goldman, x248

Assistant to Rabbi Matalon: Marcia Moosnick, x234

Assistant Executive Director: Belinda Lasky, x224

Assistant to Rabbi Bronstein and Hazzan Priven: Naomi Goodhart, x240

Director of Education for Youth and Family: Ivy Schreiber, x225

Assistant to Rabbi Sol: Sarah Guthartz, x233

Director of Social Action/ Social Justice: Channa Camins, x259

Assistant to Executive Director Harold Goldman: Jacob Shemkovitz, x256

88th Street Rental......................223 Family Activities: Hotline ...........318 Hakhnasat Orhim.......................255 Havurot.......................................255 Hevra Kadisha ...........................233 Homeless Shelter .....212-339-4250 Interfaith Committee ............... 379 Kiddush Scheduling ...................255 Kol Jeshurun...............................275 Kol Hadash .................................275 Life Cycles..................................233 Lunch Program ..........................338

Membership Information...........224 Ralph Bunche School Partnership ...........................301 Social Action ..............................259 Teen Programming ....................253 Torah/Haftarah Reading ............232 Tze’irim ......................................264 Ushering ....................................305 Visiting Groups...........................234 Volunteer Information................255 Youth & Family Education ..........225

Board of Trustees: Jeannie Blausteinº President

Beth Kern Henry Meer Bernie Plum Irv Rosenthal Jack Stern Emily Weiss Michael Yoeli

Jonathan Adelsbergº Chair Sally Gottesmanº Vice President Joel Kazisº Vice President Stephen Stulmanº Vice President Debra Fineº Treasurer Andrew Littº Secretary Katie Boyar Robert Buxbaum Gene Carr Anne Ebersman Christina Gantcher Barbara Glassman Sofia Hubscher

Honorary Trustees Virginia Bayer* Ted Becker* Frederic Goldstein Marcy Grau* David Hirsch* Richard Janvey* Robert Kanter Joan Kaplan Susan Kippur* Sara Moore Litt* Naomi Meyer Judith Stern Peck* General Counsel Richard Kalikow º Executive Committee Member * Past President

Kol Hadash November/December 2011  

The bi-monthly magazineof B'nai Jeshurun in New York City. Featured articles include: The BJ/SPSA Shelter, Bright Promise: Rosh Hodesh With...