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FROM THE RABBI

October, 2015 Ma'aseem

A favorite post-Yom Kippur teaching of mine comes from the great Kotsker Rebbe, who asked his students, “In your opinion, what is the most difficult part of the akeidah for Abraham?”  Having just read the story of the binding of Isaac during the High Holy Days, I find this teaching poignant as we start another year.  His students always tried to impress him, so they eagerly shared that it was when Abraham accompanied Isaac up the mountain without revealing what was going to happen, binding his son on the altar, or raising the knife over his Isaac’s body.  The great Kotsker Rebbe paused and then said, “No, the most difficult part of the akeidah was when Abraham came down the mountain.  From that moment on, Abraham had to live forever with the consequences of his actions.”

 We too can ask a similar question at this time in our lives:  “What is the most difficult part of the High Holy Day season?”  The answer is, coming back “down” to our normal, everyday lives.  For those of you who take the season seriously and spend time looking inward and searching for a renewed sense of purpose, this time of year has the potential to leave us on a spiritual high.  It may be intense moments with family and friends, long stretches of meaningful prayer and meditation, or taking in the changing of the seasons; I relish this time of transition and introspection.  But how do we return to the everyday, actually having to live up to the resolutions we made at the Holy Days?  And, are we ready to face the consequences if we do not fulfill the choices we have set for our lives?

 I often have a difficult time mustering the stamina to keep the “high” of the High Holy Days alive.  So, as we descend the pinnacle of spirituality that the season brings us, can we keep our connection to Judaism and our community intensely meaningful, even when we are caught between work, school, and numerous activities? 

 We are taught that often tests are passed and then are over.  But, as Abraham realized as he returned to his family after the akeidah, tests are often just the beginning of the journey.   Abraham had to face Sarah, his community, and God, knowing what took place on the top of the mountain.  We too have been to the top of the mountain.  Now we must find a way to live life in the foothills, keeping alive the excitement and meaning of our opening days of 5776.

 I know that all of us at TBI are looking forward to sharing another amazing year with all of you, a year that is full of celebration, learning, and the creation of many Jewish memories.  Pace yourself in your descent from the High Holy Days.  Look at the calendar for the year ahead; mark off those moments you don’t want to miss, as well as the ones you hope to make.  We want to see you all year long, not just at the top of the mountain.

 

FROM THE CANTOR

Gratitude (def.): the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

 November, for me, is always about the anticipation of Thanksgiving.  I am a wholehearted lover of autumn and all it holds:  changing leaves, cooling temperatures, warm sweaters, fires in the fireplace, soups on the stove.  Although it means winter is around the corner, I love the heart of fall and the ability to get a little quieter and more indoors-y.  Thanksgiving is an amazing time to pause as both Americans and as Jews and rest in the blessings and freedoms with which we are entrusted.

The theme of gratitude is also particularly Jewish.  We do it every single day, in the context of our liturgy, in many ways.  We begin with “mode ani l’fanecha”:  “I am grateful to You, living and enduring Sovereign, for returning my soul to me in compassion.”  We continue with the morning blessings, giving thanks for the renewal of each day, for our health, the clothes we wear, for our sight, for the strength of our people, for God Who “restores vigor to the weary.”  In the Amidah, we have the “modim” paragraph which states:  “We thank You and praise You morning, noon and night for Your miracles which daily attend us (al nisecha sheb’chol yom imanu) and for Your wondrous kindness…You are compassionate, with enduring lovingkindness.”  Each day, we can take this opportunity through prayer to pause and reflect on how much we have; we don’t even need to wait until November!

 “Gratitude practice” is getting a lot of good press lately.  A recent article in Forbes1 magazine stated that cultivating gratitude improves our relationships, our physical and psychological health, our sleep and our self-esteem.  It increases our mental strength (by reducing stress and even helping us cope with trauma) and enhances our empathy plus reduces our aggression.  Studies show that gratitude makes us friendlier, makes people like us more, makes for a healthier marriage, and has effects on our career such as increased productivity and clearer decision making.  I have read several articles and books that encourage keeping a gratitude journal (there are even apps specifically for this) so that we can log our gratitude. It’s hard to refute that this practice, whether keva (using the given words of our tefilla) or kavanna (a free-form, creative and self-directed practice from the heart), is a good idea.

 So I will start here:  this month, what am I grateful for? I am thankful for all the things I take for granted in the midst of the daily grind:  my kind-hearted husband, our beautiful home, my physical health, the ability to shop in supermarkets where I can always find fresh produce and almost anything I might like to cook with. I am grateful for the gift of my career, for my loving parents and siblings, my circle of off-the-charts dear friends. And this month in particular, I am thankful for (drum roll)…

 BLUEGRASS SHABBAT!  How fortunate that last year, our congregant Jay Sitkin found banjo player Matt Check and his beautiful Friday night creation, Bluegrass Kabbalat Shabbat.  I am grateful that we have a group of donors who have made it possible to bring this 5-piece traditional bluegrass band to TBI on November 20 at 8:00 p.m. to join me on the bima as we celebrate Shabbat, bluegrass style. We’ll have professional musicians arriving from NYC on fiddle, banjo, mandolin, guitar and bass.  Matt has composed some original tunes and re-worked some more traditional tunes, and I have had so much fun learning them! Please join us for this one-of-a-kind Friday night experience.

To familiarize yourself with the music or purchase/gift an album, you can visit www.jewgrass.com

 

FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

A Recipe For Community

As I walk into the building, I smell the delicious aroma of cupcakes baking in the activity room kitchen. It’s baking day in our ECEC. The aroma takes me back to memories of my home kitchen, that I often talk about The next morning, as I approach my office, the luscious smell of chicken soup wafts down the hall from the main kitchen (Hesed is cooking for folks in need of meals) and immediately I am back in the kitchen at home. Each year when our community celebrates together at the Shabbat B’Que, the smokey scrumptious smells of barbeque take me to memories of backyard parties and yummy food. So yes there have been many kitchens and backyards in my life but most importantly they represent home. So many relationships have been born and nurtured in those places. So when I smell those smells at TBI I am reminded that TBI is a home to me as well. A place to be nurtured both spiritually and socially, a place to feel safe and rewarded, a place to build relationships and yes, work, and a community to cherish.

Every family, large or small, is a key ingredient to TBI’s spiritual and communal recipe. Without you there is a void, but when you participate, come to services, join in our events, join a committee and volunteer to work on a project, we are full and thriving.

Each and everyone one of us is an ambassador for TBI. Our community will grow if you bring your friends and family. Talk to your neighbors about the value of feeling that you and your children have a second home at TBI. Tell them about our membership incentives: join this year and benefit from one year of Religious School at no cost with their paid dues or 50% off the first year’s dues for parents who join while they have a child enrolled in our Early Childhood Community. Yes, there are incentives for you as well. If you bring us a new member, you will receive a credit to your account of $200 per family and $100 per single, up to $1000 and $500 respectively.
Bring a prospective member/family to our Shabbat B’Que, on September 20th and both your family and the visiting family will be our guests. We look forward to seeing you then. Watch for further information so you can RSVP.

 

FROM THE DIRECTOR OF THE LEONARD AND MADLYN ABRAMSON EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION COMMUNITY

October, 2015 Ma'aseem 

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “If you want to hear God laugh, make some plans.”  After 46 years in the field of education, mostly early childhood education, I thought it was time for me to hang up my full-time employment hat and take control of my time.  I wasn’t planning to sit home, knit or watch the grass grow, but rather was expecting to continue to do some teacher training, work with at-risk young teens, and play tennis.  Can you hear God laughing? 

So, here I am at TBI as your Interim Director of the Early Childhood Education Community, and excited to take on the challenges that await me in the next few months.  I’ve already met with the ECEC staff and some of the parents and anticipate building on those relationships.  The children, oh the children, they are fantastic - smart, cute, sophisticated and thirsty for great social, emotional and academic growth. 

We have our work cut out for ourselves.  We need to grow our school, and each of you can play an integral part in that growth process.  Tell your friends about TBI ECEC, and tell your neighbors.  Tell anyone you meet at the supermarket, the salon or on the golf course.  Tell them, tell them, tell them about the wonderful opportunities that await young children at TBI.  The best part is that we have flexible schedules to meet the needs of parents working part time, full time or stay-at-home.  We are fortunate to have teachers with many years of experience who have dedicated themselves to the children, their families and to TBI.  This is a rare occurrence, especially in the field of early childhood education.

Tell them about our beautiful classrooms, the magnificent building and the two well-equipped playgrounds.  Tell them about the outdoor nature area dedicated to the exploration and discovery of the natural world - the latest trend in early childhood education.  Tell them about our enrichment program with sports, science, nature, music, cooking and Hebrew. 

Tell them about this warm and welcoming community and the Parent-Teacher Organization that plans exciting events for families as well as adults-only.  TBI is the place to foster friendships and build community.  If we all join together, we can build foundations for learning and life.

Invite them for a tour to see what awaits their family at TBI.  As we begin our new year, let us find the inspiration and strength to renew ourselves and our school.

 

FROM THE PROGRAM DIRECTOR

November, 2015 Ma'aseem

The Jewish community tends to commemorate the Holocaust in the spring on Yom HaShoah, a day of rememberance that falls just a few days before Yom Hazikaron and Yom HaAtzma’ut.  We do not always take a communal moment to remember that on November 9—10, 1938, Nazis in Germany burned synagogues and vandalized Jewish homes, schools, shops, and businesses.  Tens of thousands of Jews were sent to concentration camps during this brief period of time.  The Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, served as a reminder that the anti-Semitic atmosphere pervading Europe was set to intensify dramatically.

 At TBI we make a strong communal effort to “Never Forget.”  Holocaust education and the teaching of tolerance is a component of every Hebrew school and Hebrew High School class curriculum.  Our annual Yom Hashoah commemorative service is always accompanied by an educational enrichment component for teens and adults.  TBI hosts special events aimed at Holocaust education and commemoration, like this year’s “Anne Frank: A Living Voice” Music in the Sanctuary concert.   (Please mark your calendars for May 4, 2016 and look for upcoming additional information about this absolutely incredible musical experience.)  Nevertheless, it is easy to overlook days like November 9, ones that had such impact in our history but become lost in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives.

 I encourage you to spend a few moments during the month of November visiting TBI’s Holocaust Remembrance Room in an effort to honor the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht and to connect with and learn about other moments that occurred during this part of our history that we may unintentionally overlook.  Read the stories currently included in our growing collection and, if you feel comfortable, share your thoughts in our Communal Book of Reflection found inside the space.

 Please note that we are still looking for members to join the Holocaust Remembrance Room committee.  If you are interested in joining this group, please contact me at [email protected].  I look forward to your ideas and thoughts.