Blessing for 2021 from Rabbi Ari Isenberg

Posted by on Jan 4, 2021 in Latest News | 0 comments

A message delivered by Rabbi Ari Isenberg on the first Shabbat of 2021: I want to start this year with a prayer of chizuk, of strength, for this new year, written by my family. As we welcome 2021, we offer prayers of chizuk to all those who have been afflicted by the pandemic. One year ago, we all knew its name, we read about in newspapers. It felt like something out there, something that did not affect us, but has, over the past year, swept across the entire world, landing on our shores with its full force. Chizuk also to those, who by choice or necessity, have risen to the occasion, tending directly to the medical needs of those afflicted, and in so doing, placing themselves at risk. We think of the first responders, the nurses and nursing assistants, the respiratory therapists, the orderlies, the technicians and the doctors. And to those who create the safe physical spaces that allow for this medical care, the housekeeping and maintenance staff, among others. And to those in our society who, on a daily basis, seemingly invisible and yet always at risk, tend to our needs, the needs of the “not-yet-afflicted”, by serving us at the pharmacy, the supermarket, the hardware store, with deliveries to our door, so that we can lead our lives in the best way we can. And at the very same time that we acknowledge the devastation wrought by this pandemic, we also acknowledge the heroic and successful efforts of the scientists and lab technicians who have developed vaccines, thereby allowing us to have hope for the future, hope for our future. When we celebrate New Year’s 2022 in a year from now, hopefully inoculated and ready to resume normalcy, may our lives, our society, our shul not simply revert back to look as it did in 2019. No. May we have the chizuk, the fortitude, to distil from this challenging experience all the positives we learned and discovered — empathy, cooperation, compassion, a restructuring of priorities and newfound understanding of what’s really important and necessary, resilience, adaptability, the holy power of technology, creative modes of connection — and infuse our renewed lives with those traits for good and blessing.     Connect with Rabbi Isenberg On Facebook at ari.isenberg On Instagram at @IsenbergAri  On Twitter at...

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Rabbi’s Sermon — Rosh Hashanah 2020 / 5781

Posted by on Sep 22, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

We are pleased to share Rabbi Ari Isenberg’s sermon from Rosh Hashanah Day 1:   Joni Mitchell, the renowned singer/songwriter, did not have the easiest start. She was in her early-20s, became pregnant, and as a single-woman struggling to make it in the music business, gave her child up for adoption. Shortly thereafter, she married; a marriage that would last less than a year.  In 1967, at the age of 24, while on a plane, she heard her tekiah, her call of the shofar, if you will – reading Saul Bellow’s book “Henderson the Rain King”, she looked at the clouds below her, and immediately started writing her famous hit, “Both Sides, Now”. With this song, born out of a call to delve deeply into the darkest places, Joni Mitchell found herself on the cusp of fame. What ensued was a series of hit songs, songs that reflected her pain, her loss, picking up the pieces of her life. Through that, she would eventually find healing, experience wholeness, and would even reunite with her daughter, the one she had put up for adoption in her youth. Rabbi Steve Greenberg, author of the book “Wrestling with God and Men” and the first openly gay Orthodox rabbi, grew up feeling isolated in his sexual orientation. Without the ability to speak it, keeping it tucked away, hidden inside, it was like a dream. Greenberg dated women throughout his 20s, even getting engaged to one. In 1999, Rabbi Greenberg heard his tekiah, his call of the shofar.  It was then that he came out, publicly. That revelation initially stung – to be sure, some of his professional and social ties shattered. But through that shattering, for decades now he’s lived a very happy, full life with his husband and daughter and has established a notable rabbinic career.   In sharing these two accounts with you, it occurred to me: could it be that to live lives that reflect our truest selves, to instill shleimut – wholeness into our lives, to establish teshuva in our lives, we first have to endure a measure of brokenness and vulnerability?   The Talmud seems to think so – quoting tractate Nedarim: “Once a person renders themselves like a wilderness, like at Mount Sinai, utterly exposed, deserted before all, only then is Torah, wholeness, and teshuva given as a gift”. But here’s the problem: who among us actually enjoys feeling vulnerable, feeling exposed? Professionally, we live in a culture of caution – beware of the paper trail, of overexposure, don’t tip your hand. In our personal lives, most of us have some thoughts, experiences, and memories that we suppress, ensuring they never bubble up to the surface.   And this year, as a society, in the face of a pandemic, of a raging climate crisis, and of levels of anti-Semitism and racial tension as high as ever in this country, becoming numb to the numbers and turning a blind eye have become coping mechanisms.  It seems we face a conundrum: In order to attain wholeness and teshuva, Jewish tradition suggests we need to open ourselves to the brokenness that exists in...

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All of the People of Israel are Responsible for Each Other

Posted by on Sep 21, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

Remarks delivered by CBI President Mariela Markelis Dybner on Rosh Hashanah 2020/5781   As we prepare to usher in a new year, a year which we hope and pray will be easier, safer, healthier and more joyful than this one, we reflect on the year that has just passed. From the High Holidays of 5780 until the building closed in mid-March, we enjoyed a time of vibrancy and transition. We welcomed Rabbi Paul Resnick as our Interim Rabbi and Rabbi Julie Schwarzwald as our new Director of Congregational Learning. We studied topics from Talmud to Gender and Ritual. We knit, we knoshed; we shared scotch and comedy in our beautiful new sukkah and chicken and pasta for many a Shabbat dinner. We met in our building, at Liv Breads and on walks around our community. We prayed together with ruach and chanted in our chanting circle and enjoyed what seemed like an endless stream of celebrations in our sanctuary and social hall, culminating in an incredible Gala honoring the Linver/Askin, Engel and Katzman families in the beginning of March. We even spent a weekend getting to know a fantastic young rabbi and his engaging wife and unanimously voted to bring him into our kehila as the new spiritual leader of our congregation. It was amazing! When it became clear that the Coronavirus was an imminent threat in our community, we made the painful decision to close our building on March 13. Zoom minyanim replaced our daily times for prayer in our chapel; we faced Pesach, our first pandemic holiday with improvised seders and days turned into weeks which turned into long months of staying home with dramatically limited social interaction. Our medical professionals, first responders and essential workers braved the new virus with little information or protective equipment. Some of us fell ill or buried loved ones, without the support of our time honored traditions like shivas surrounded by family, friends and community. During this time of pandemic, it is easy to feel alone. Originally legal and still now, moral, social and physical restrictions keep us from congregating as we did, as we would love to do, as it is natural for us to do. And the longer we are apart, the deeper we fall into ourselves. While our High Holidays, these days of awe are meant to be a time of self-reflection, as Jews, we pray together. I am reminded of the Talmudic text, Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh, all of the people of Israel are responsible for each other. In normal times, this phrase has vast implications — if one Jew sees another Jew at the verge of sinning, the first has an obligation to step in and help. Additionally, we are obligated to ensure that all the Jewish people have their basic needs met, that each one has food, clothing and shelter. This communal obligation has added meaning in the time of a global pandemic. Not only are we responsible for our own acts in the face of a new and dangerous virus, but we are even responsible for the acts of our fellow Jews. We...

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Climbing our Pyramid through Learning

Posted by on Aug 18, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

DCL’s Drash from Rabbi Julie Schwarzwald, Director of Congregational Learning The month of Elul begins this Wednesday evening. As Cantor Wallach mentioned last week, we are supposed to begin preparing for the High Holiday season with cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of the soul. We are to engage in a period of intense reflection on what we have been and to imagine what we can become. It should be our goal to think about our relationships, our goals, our hopes and dreams – to be prepared to ask forgiveness from those we have wronged and to plan how to engage in healthier relationships with ourselves, other people, and God in the year to come. Yet here we are, still in the middle – or maybe still the beginning – of a pandemic. A time when we are uncertain of so much around us and living with anxiety and trauma every day. In psychology, we learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow explained that each lower level of needs must be satisfied before one can move to the next higher level. Later psychologists acknowledged that there can be movement among the levels – that we can find ourselves back at the bottom level. The practice of cheshbon hanefesh is meant to be a process of reaching toward self-actualization. This feels next to impossible this year, when so many are worrying daily about the bottom two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy. How can we focus on our spiritual needs and desires when we are worrying on a daily basis about whether to return to work or school, to restaurants, to visiting family and friends? We are in a place where each of us, each family unit, is called upon to assess our own individual risk tolerance and make our own judgements about our comfort level with a return to “normality.” And yet, how can we not engage in this period of contemplation, reflection, and envisioning what we want for the year to come? As we are planning for all levels of education at CBI, we are determined to offer as full a range of programs as we possibly can, while making sure that opportunities and programs are accessible to all. CBI Preschool is scheduled to resume in-person learning on September 8, after our successful (and joyous!) day camp — albeit with smaller, limited classes to allow us to follow health and safety protocols that exceed state guidelines. BBRS is in the planning stages for robust and meaningful religious education, including the introduction of a new, online, teacher-guided self-paced Hebrew/Tefillah program for weekday learning. If we are unable to be together in the building, we know that we can be together online in engaging, interactive ways for Judaics education. Lifelong Learning is planning a wide range of programming, online to start, including all ages and stages — and with exciting opportunities to engage with Rabbi Isenberg, Cantor Wallach, and educators across the country if not around the world. Our youth groups are ready to move ahead with regularly scheduled programming under the auspices of Aly and Mike Greenstein, who are always engaging whether...

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Making the Most of Times of Renewal

Posted by on Aug 11, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

Aug. 11, 2020 (Tuesday during Pandemic)   I’d like to believe that I’m in good company with others who also procrastinate! I tend to put off starting things such as an exercise regimen, a diet, or organizing my office until what seems like a more logical (or convenient!) time to begin. I find myself saying that I’ll make regular exercise one of my resolutions for the new year; I’ll start my diet the day after my birthday, and when things quiet down a bit in the summer, I’ll have some time to file papers and sort my music. Rather than waiting for a once a year opportunity, the Jewish “calendar” gives us the opportunity every month to renew ourselves and to start over, just as the moon renews itself each month. The Hebrew calendar has been based on the lunar year since Biblical times. Rosh Chodesh (the festival of the new moon) had much greater significance in Biblical times than it has today. Numbers 10:10 states that trumpets were sounded and special sacrifices were offered on Rosh Chodesh. There is Biblical proof of Rosh Chodesh being celebrated with a festive meal and refraining from all business transactions. In Talmudic times, the Rabbis allowed men to work, but Rosh Chodesh continued to be a semi-festival for women in recognition of the women in the wilderness of Sinai who, unlike the men, refused to contribute their jewelry for the building of the golden calf. In anticipation of each Rosh Chodesh, we are even given the chance to plan ahead. On the Shabbat immediately preceding the first of the month (except for Rosh Chodesh Tishrei which is actually Rosh Hashanah!), a special prayer to announce the specific date of the upcoming new month is added to the liturgy towards the end of the Torah Service. This blessing, called “Birkat Hachodesh” begins with a paragraph attributed in the Talmud (Berachot 16a) to Rav, who used to recite it daily at the conclusion of the Amidah. Since it already contained a full gamut of people’s spiritual and physical needs, including a moving plea for a life of peace, sustenance, health and abundance, and a life based on love of Torah and awe of God, a phrase was added later relating it to the new moon. The second paragraph of Birkat Hachodesh refers to God as a performer of miracles and calls for Jewish unity, reminding those of us in the diaspora to stay connected to Israel. From the time of the Middle Ages, community leaders wanted to be sure that everyone knew when Rosh Chodesh fell so that they could keep track of the calendar and be able to say the appropriate special prayers such as Hallel (in its shortened form). The announcement of the new month has always been said on Shabbat simply because that is when the greatest number of people are congregated. We at CBI have a lot to look forward to in this coming month! The re-opening committee has been working hard examining and planning how to carefully and safely get at least some people back to our building to...

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