Rainbow Reporter http://www.bnaikeshet.org/ June 2013
Volume XXXV, No.2
From Our Co-Presidents
As we sit down, on a sunny spring day, and think about the many aspects of being a member of BK, we are struck by several recent happenings that speak to our year’s congregational theme of covenant. Webster’s defines covenant as “a solemn and binding agreement.” We suggest that BK’s practice of covenant often reaches beyond the definition and includes efforts by the few to maximize the experiences for the many.
What Are We Going To Do About Services?
photo by Dan Epstein
• A recent Bet Midrash end-of-year recognition event for the teaching staff saw well over two hundred children and adults davening collectively on Shabbat and recognizing the work of the Bet Midrash educators. Each was presented with a token of appreciation and an appropriate (silent) round of Shabbos applause. Also recognized was the work of board members and volunteers who, in conjunction with Rabbi Ariann, have worked tirelessly to evaluate and improve our educational approach and offerings. Yasher koach to all involved. • A shiva, related to the loss of a long-time member, resulting in the immediate action of our now functioning chevra kadisha, a group of individuals who without fanfare contribute to the community by providing a Jewish ritual burial and observance practice available to all. This allows members of our community to actively choose and direct their end-of-life experience according to Jewish ritualistic practices. An email went out and within hours the appropriate protocol and practice began. This was truly a mitzvah in action. There are many such instances that go un-noticed by most of us every day and week. Collectively, we are always ready to support each other, particularly when Bnai Keshet is viewed not merely as a place to hold a lifecycle event but as a part of who we are. The richness of being a part of this type of community comes from your continuing support and participation. We write this in light of Bnai Keshet’s Jewbilation fundraiser event, which is in full spring bloom. Jewbilation is comprised of two parts: • A raffle in which one lucky winner will be experiencing a customized trip to Israel; and • An on-line auction through BiddingForGood, which includes all of continued on page 2
During Rabbi Daniel Ehrenkrantz’s recent visit, Bnai Keshet member Marian Golan asked, “We at BK have folded into our programming what we all see as a Jewish imperative – tikkun olam, hesed, social and political action, etc. But where does worship fit into this scheme? And how do we make worship more accessible to those attracted to other aspects?” And Rabbi Dan replied, “We have a lot of work to do on services!” Personally, I really love our services here at Bnai Keshet. They are creative and participatory, are enlivened with singing, include a nice amount of Hebrew, and are still quite accessible; as someone who leads most of them, I know that there are days when everything connects, when the spirit flows, when everyone seems to really being praying. There are also days that can feel stale. What to do about services is a big question. It is not easy to figure out how to meet the needs of a diverse spiritual community and simultaneously help pave the way for those less familiar with the service. The fact that much of this is done in Hebrew, and that we are all over the map theologically, also makes things challenging. That said, over the years I have suggested a number of practices that I believe enrich services for everyone when it comes to prayer. These little things help you enter prayer and inevitably raise the spirit of those around you. Even though I mention these from time to time, here are a bunch of them all in one place. Most have arisen from hundreds of years of Jewish “davenology” (baffled? See below) and they work. Put a tallit on your head. Just stopping to put on a tallit tells your body and your spirit that it is time to pray. Though some feel self-conscious pulling a tallit over their head, it is a tremendous aid to focus when praying. In my experience people don’t think you’re weird, they think you’re inspiring. Stop when you put on your tallit, or if you don’t continued on page 2
June March2013 2013
Rabbi Elliott - continued wear a tallit, stop when you first sit down, and acknowledge what it is that has brought you to services and what it is you are hoping might come from your davening.
when one of us explores the boundaries of our shared landscape of religious practice. I would love to be bothered incessantly by your ideas and offers to help try new things.
Let your voice be heard
If you learn to lead, you will not only come to understand the dynamics of the service better, you will also come to own it. Even when you are not leading you will become aware of the flow that is built into our liturgical structure, and you will notice the rhythm of how we pray as a community.You will also notice how your own prayer, even when not leading, helps shape our shared service.
When we are praying individually we aren’t supposed to be silent. We are supposed to pray loud enough that we can hear our own words. When we pray a little louder so that those sitting around us might hear, we create a warm prayer buzz that lifts us all up. This is even more true when we sing! It is easier to lose yourself in prayer when you know you can sing as loud as you like and still be fully engulfed in the music of your neighbors. In both cases, the resonating sound of your own voice pulls you into a prayerful space. Sit Smart I get it that sitting in the back has its charms. It is easier to escape. It is less noticed when you chat. But if you have come to pray, where you sit truly matters. If your intention is to pray, stay away from the chatterers. (If you want to chat, wait until Kiddush or take a break in the lobby.) Sit next to others who you know want to pray. Sit close to the action. Fill up the front rows. It is my not-so-secret wish that sitting in the front row might be seen as a coveted place that fills up first. Sitting in the front is a great reminder to yourself and everyone else that you have come to be engaged. Sit up, even sit on the edge of your seat; sit with alert energy. Come Early or At Least On Time Our services start at 9 a.m. with morning blessings. The study, meditation, and chanting all bring focus and intention to the rest of the service that follows. The 30 minutes from 10 to 10:30 are not only the best of the whole service, but they are the fuel that propels the second half forward. Seriously, if you only have an hour to pray, come at 10 and leave at 11. If you only have 30 minutes, leave at 10:30. Close Your Eyes If you have a prayer memorized, try closing your eyes. Rabbi Art Green teaches that rather than imagine the spiritual journey as an ascent upward, one should imagine oneself focusing inward. Even if you don’t know the prayers, close your eyes and notice what is going on inside. Notice your thoughts, your emotions, your internal conversations. Notice what rises to the surface when you pay attention. Demand the Service You Want Every time someone or some group from the synagogue has worked to construct a service that speaks directly to their spiritual needs it has been profound. Even though we have a wide variety of prayer preferences and spiritual types, it has been my experience that an individual or group who bring ideas and interests to services enrich the worship for everyone. Whether it is a traditional style of davening, a creative approach to liturgy, music, a spiritual or intellectual theme, we all benefit
Learn to lead
Be Courageous First this means showing up even if you’re insecure or hesitant. It means praying like it matters, even if you aren’t sure. It means embracing what you believe even if it feels a little out of place. Don’t worry that your intention or your level of knowledge is insufficient or inauthentic. No one has prayer figured out, and no one gets into it while waiting until they are perfectly prepared to start. Know that our worship service is here for no other reason than that you should have a place to pray, meditate, sing, and think about your life. Should you feel self-conscious during services remind yourself that you have come to connect to God, to be with others, to explore your spirit, to become a better person, to learn – whatever it is that brings you is noble and worthy of your best efforts. Be Courageous (Part 2) Finally most of these suggestions are direct to us as individuals, but we should not be afraid to experiment with a deeper embrace of tradition or with a radical departure toward something new. Rabbi Dan Ehrenkrantz said it: “We have a lot of work to do on services!” He wasn’t just speaking to us but to the whole of progressive Judaism. We are far away from figuring out the magic formula. The future of synagogues and of progressive Judaism is wrapped up in our effort to find a spiritual path that is passionate, magnetic, and intellectually honest. Our efforts as a community to expand our practice, to pray off the beaten path, to go beyond what is safe and known, are a part of building – reconstructing if you will – the future of Judaism.
Co-Presidents continued BK’s usual auction goodies (and more), from vacation homes to rabbinic libations. Fundraising is essential to all aspects of Bnai Keshet’s operations. Dues and tuition cover only three-fourths of our operating costs. Please check the website for more information and strongly consider contributing to a community that truly gives back. If you’re lucky, next year truly will be in Jerusalem! Richard and Craig
Observations As summer begins, I always think of my grandfather, Irving Weitzman, and his silver dollars. At the end of each year, as we collected our report cards, Grandpa would ask us how many A’s we had received. For each A, we got a silver dollar (inflation never took hold in my family and B’s weren’t good enough). Even though I never spent these dollars, I loved getting them each year, and loved hoarding them in my desk drawer. I received these coins each year until my junior year of high school, when Grandpa died. I knew how important it was to my grandfather that I succeed in school and how he was willing to put money, at least symbolic money, toward promoting the value of scholastic excellence and lifting it up for me. I took that lesson to heart for the rest of my academic career and spent many more years in formal education than he could have expected! My grandfather’s coins came out on Passover, too, to ransom the afikoman. Even though children’s voices were shushed at the seder table he ruled over, that little financial commitment reminded us of our rightful place in the storytelling and reliving. It was a powerful teaching tool for me and the children of my generation around the table. Chanukah gives us another opportunity to connect money with teaching and training children. Historians tell us that gelt originated in 17th century Poland. Children were given coins to distribute as Chanukah gifts to their Torah teachers. Since the practice highlighted the miracles of Chanukah, the rabbis affirmed it and it spread. (The chocolate coinage is more recent – invented by American chocolatiers in the early 20th century.) This year I taught dozens of BK students about problems of money, sustenance, and the developing world by making fair-trade chocolate gelt with them. There’s something about money as a Jewish educational tool. I was always taught by my Jewish community that it was essential to put my money where my values were, although putting that lesson into practice is a constantly evolving project for me and my family. Money – how we earn it, how we spend it, how we give it away - has been tied up in Jewish self-understanding for centuries (for better or for worse). We worry about having enough of it and simultaneously worry about giving too little away. Throughout the holiday cycle we vacillate between extremes – is money essential to our religious task or is it a distraction? Most of our holidays benefit from hiddur mitzvah, beautiful elaborations on basic ritual objects. Tradition urges us to spend more on a better-smelling etrog,
a prettier chanukiah, a lovelier kiddush cup in order to really feel the magic of each celebration. Likewise, having money is essential to fulfilling our obligation to give tzedakah. On Purim, we ramp up tzedakah to its ridiculous extreme – Jewish tradition says that when we are asked for tzedakah on Purim we aren’t allowed to ask any questions, we must just give immediately (this is perhaps an exaggeration, like the requirement to drink until we don’t know the difference between Haman and Mordechai). Having the money to give is an essential component of Purim. On the other hand, on Shabbat and festival days, we traditionally aim to create a moneyless utopia and see money, even for tzedakah, as a distraction from our spiritual labors on those days. We get to pretend that it doesn’t matter whether we have money or not, as long as our needs for today are met. We aren’t even supposed to give tzedakah on Shabbat. In many families, putting that last coin in the pushke is our final act of the workweek before lighting Shabbat candles. Money has become a powerful pedagogical tool of our tradition. Through the weaving of money messages and symbolic money use into the cycle of the Jewish year, we have created a subtle, but purposeful curriculum. Our tradition urges us to face our money issues and not shy away from them. It teaches us that we live in a real world of choices. The choices we make with our money are realizations of our values and opportunities to make meaning in our lives. From a sweet lesson for children – gelt, afikoman ransom, Purim gifts – to more serious questions of repairing the world through tzedakah, supporting Jewish and non-Jewish communal institutions, and dreaming of a moneyless messianic age each Shabbat – figuring out what to do with our money is an essential piece of the Jewish puzzle. Rabbi Ariann Weitzman
Make BK Your Own Volunteer. Walk up to someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. Embrace the space. Clean up your messes and more. Speak up about what you would like Bnai Keshet to be or offer. Remember everyone has their off days. Smile and be kind, it will come back to you.
Why Should Tikkun Olam Matter? Judaism is built on 3 sacred pillars all given equal value: Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) -Torah (study) - Avodah (worship). How can we improve the ethical climate within our congregation? How do we integrate social action into the whole life of our synagogue? How do we maximize and use all the human potential at Bnai Keshet so that the connection between our community and justice is seamless? The concept of Tikkun Olam has changed over the centuries and has transformed from early rabbinic repairing the physical world to the mystics’ repairing the metaphysical world, to the 20th century repairing the world through social justice. Social activism is rooted in Jewish values and is as much a part of being Jewish as is observing the Sabbath, celebrating festivals and studying Torah. The emphasis on individual responsibility for justice - and a similar emphasis on communal responsibility to create a just society - is a major thrust of Torah teachings. The prophets insisted that we pursue justice because that’s what God says to do. To paraphrase Deuteronomy 15:4, ‘there shall be no needy among you.’ This delineates a goal but a few sentences later we are told that there will indeed be needy and we should ‘lend him sufficient for his needs.’ This may seem a contradiction but it is our reminder that as Jews we must dedicate ourselves to working for a world where the needy no longer exist. There are endless examples of writings mandating Jews to work to repair the world. The very idea of working toward a just world is wrapped into the sacred and similarly, the sacred is surrounded by caring for the world. How can we really understand the Torah without feeling the pull to work against injustice? And how can we see so much that needs fixing without getting strength from the teachings of the Torah? Can anyone merely pray for a better world without actively looking within to how each of us can make a difference? Maybe that is why Torah, Avodah and Tikkun Olam have equal footing in Judaism, for each strengthens the other values and helps us reach a balanced life. As someone who is organizing around social justice at Bnai Keshet, my goal is to create a community that experiences a holistic Jewish vision that blurs the lines between TorahAvodah-Tikkun Olam. The heart and soul of our synagogue must both STUDY Torah and DO Torah. To that end, Tikkun Olam has to be a significant organizing principle for our Jewish life. It requires us to take up the concerns of the world and its inhabitants fulfilling our moral obligations as Jews and as human beings. Whether in direct service or advocacy, we need your help. Our community is called to have a distinctively moral vision that commits us as both individuals and as a community to repairing our fractured world. I have often heard others voice the concern that each person can do so little and the issues
are so large. Jewish text can help calm those concerns, for as is found in Pirke Avot 2:21:You are not required to finish the task (of repairing the world) but neither are you at liberty to desist from it. There will be an opportunity to share your beliefs, your commitments. There will be a survey that each member can access through the web, through coming in to the synagogue and filling it out, and through various other means. When it becomes available, please take the time to fill it out and return it. Talk with your kids about their interests. No one is too young to help heal our world and we all learns from the role models in our lives. “Justice is as much a necessity as breathing is, and a constant occupation.” Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets ByYael Silverberg-Urian
Member Mentionings Congratulations to Deb Levy on the publication of her book, Bury the Hot, a true story about a child surviving the Holocaust Yasher koach to Rabbi Elliott on his inspiring essay in the May issue of Sh’ma. The article connects Torah, prayer, poverty and injustice. http://shma.com/2013/05/asking-more-of-ourselves/ Dan Epstein, from Dan Epstein Photography, was honored by Suburban Essex Magazine as one of the Best of Essex Winners for 2012. Congratulations! Mazal tov to Cheryl Marshall-Petricoff, this year’s Community Pre- K honoree, who was celebrated last month for her commitment and dedication to early childhood education. Michael Hotz was awarded the Distinguished Administrator Award for the State of New Jersey by the NJ Chapter of the American College of Health Care Administrators and was sworn in for his second term as the National Vice Chairman of the American College of Health care Administrators at the Annual Convocation in Orlando Florida. Congratulations to Ron Kaplan on the publication of his book, 501 Baseball Books Fans Must Read Before They Die, available at amazon.com Brava to Vicki Beckerman in her recent off-Broadway performance in Twelve Angry Jurors Bnai Keshet mourns the loss of our dear member Johanna Jacob. Our thoughts are with Barry and Arielle Jackson, whom we know will keep her memory alive.
Let’s start to train together for the Hazon NY Bike Ride NOW IS THE TIME TO SIGN UP AND BE PART OF TEAM BK!!! We’ll start some training together as a team in June, working our way toward…
Labor Day Weekend:
August 30th to September 2, 2013 -The Hazon NY Bike Ride will take us through the Berkshires, Hudson Valley, ending in Manhattan. -It’s an incredible weekend that includes a Shabbat retreat and 2 days of cycling. -Multiple routes to suit your level. - Discounted registration fee- $150. Contact Monica (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions and to sign up as part of the BK team.
Hazon supports that encourage environmental sustainability for the Jewish community and the world. Your fundraising helps us continue to provide for these groundbreaking programs and resources, and also helps support smaller projects of partner organizations. Additional information at: http://www.hazon.org/ programs/new-york-ride/
Our interfaith work! March 28, 2013 Habitat for Humanity in Paterson
Rabbi Darby: how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Rabbi Darby: how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. My first personal interaction with Rabbi Darby Leigh was standing fifteen feet away from him across a room on the day of his B’nai Keshet Shabbat “audition.” I was saying to a friend, “Don’t you love him? I love him!” and when I looked his way, he smiled broadly…he had read my lips.
I saw Rabbi Darby yesterday. Smiling with his whole being, he greeted me with “Happy Monday!” and in that moment, he created more light. And Adonai saw that Monday was good. Will Rabbi Darby still pray with us 226 miles from Montclair? I ‘m betting his answer is Yes. And we, Rabbi Darby, will be praying with you, Randi, Rayna and Ariza. May you be healthy, may you be happy, may you be showered with blessings and Shalom. -Melissa Schaffer
I still love him…but so much more. During his first year at BK I had the honor and privilege of standing beside Rabbi Darby singing and as he led Kabbalat Shabbat services. I learned so much as a Jew and grew also from his faith in me. He saw me. Isn’t that all every human being really wants? Like a great musician or actor, he follows the rule of saying “Yes”. Can you help me? Yes. Rabbi Darby, I’m scared; will you pray with me now, over my cell phone, though I am standing in a hospital room, 365 miles from Montclair? Fervently, Yes. In a hospital, in a phone booth, at a shiva or rock concert? Yes. Through sickness and through health, through tears and laughter? Yes. Fiercely, with your mind, your heart, your arms, your hands, your words and sign language? Yes.. Yes is fearless and open to possibility, discovery, challenge, wonder and The Great Mystery. Yes is going with it, jumping in feet first, throwing open windows and doors, committing. Rabbi Darby always has time to ask, “How are you?” He reaches us by reaching into his deep pockets of creativity, of theatre, compassion and rock and roll. Darby is innately accustomed to embracing differences. He listens with intention and attention; he listens with his eyes and heart, learning our unique voices as he reads our lips. He knows when to step back and let others, especially children, shine. As I was driving the children to school yesterday, our son, Ezra, said from the backseat, “I will miss seeing Rabbi Darby. He helps people a lot; he’s very smart at prayers and reading people’s lips. I want to tell him ‘Thank you for being my rabbi.’ I will miss him, but we can visit him. Can we go to Boston this summer?” Our son, Moses, said, “Rabbi Darby is able to put humor into the teachings and into services. He is open-minded and young. I will miss his smile. He taught me how to be a better person by teaching me values and Torah.”
A Tribute to Rabbi Darby Rabbi Darby has made our most joyous moments even richer, and has lifted us when times were difficult. He is a master of language and expression. Every teaching, every response and every blessing is conveyed with tremendous passion and careful deliberation. Never have we had the honor of the friendship of a man whose soul is so readily present and available.We can’t help put be inspired by Rabbi Darby’s example of living Jewishly as individuals and as members of the BK and the broader community. We are forever grateful, and will never forget, the gifts he has bestowed upon us and our family. We are especially thankful that Rabbi Darby lovingly guided our sons Moses and Ezra as they celebrated their Bnai Mitzvot. As one out of town guest said to us after Moses’ Bar Mitzvah, “You guys certainly won the Rabbi lottery”. -Donald Rifkin
Celebrate your family and friends or remember a beloved one with a Bnai Keshet donation. Whether it is a life cycle event, a special occasion, a remembrance of a beloved person, or just to let someone you know that you appreciate them, turn to Bnai Keshet to recognize the event or moment. Your donation will also help Bnai Keshet.
Tributes What is a Tribute? A tribute is a great way to tell someone you care. Perhaps you wish to acknowledge a life cycle event, a simcha, or just let someone know youâ€™re thinking of them. Your tribute in celebration or in memory of someone will be listed on the website and also on a list distributed at Shabbat services. The recipient of your tribute will receive an immediate e-mail announcement. Nonmember recipients will receive a card via US mail. We welcome any donation, but suggest that it be given in increments of chai, $18. Prayer Book Donations Celebrate and remember with a donation of a prayer book. Whether it is a life cycle event, a special occasion, or to honor a dearly beloved with a lasting memorial, dedicate a Shabbat siddur, a humash, or a High Holy Day mahzor to your family or friends. A bookplate will be placed in
the book of your choice along with your your name and the recipientâ€™s name. Each time the book is opened, your dedication will be reaffirmed. Siddur - $36 Humash- $54 High Holy Day Mahzor- $72 Ways to make your donation: 1) Go to the Bnai Keshet website, bnaikeshet.org 2) Contact the synagogue office via email with the necessary information at email@example.com 3) Mail or drop off the information and payment to the synagogue office, 99 S. Fullerton Ave. Montclair, NJ 07042 Visit bnaikeshet.org to make your tributes.
The Rainbow Reporter Bnai Keshet’s Quarterly Newsletter
We welcome articles
Contact Lois at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Darby Jared Leigh
Rabbi Elliott Tepperman
Director of Congregational Learning:
Rabbi Ariann Weitzman
Rabbi’s Study: 973-783-2511 E-mail: email@example.com
Richard Freedman & Craig Levine
VP Religious Life & Tikkun Olam: Jordan Sklar
Editors: Laurie Waite-Fellner & Lois Infeld Associate Editor: Judith Kalmanson
Rabbi Darby Jared Leigh
Rabbi’s Study: 973-746-7588 Home Study: 973-508-0876 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
VP Membership & Community Development:
Rabbi Ariann Weitzman
School Office: 973-746-0244 E-mail: email@example.com
Director of Operations:
Assistant Director of Operations:
Synagogue Office (Mon. – Fri.)
Synagogue office: 973-746-4889 Fax: 973-746-4963 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.bnaikeshet.org Please contact Stuart Brown, Director of Operations, for more information.
Official newsletter for Bnai Keshet Synagogue, Montclair NJ 07042