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 in person or online.

While we can find ourselves often back at the bottom of the pyramid — such as during the multi-day power outages many of us suffered through after Hurricane Isaias — we are resilient people. Let’s embrace this month as a time to breathe deeply, accept our current limitations, and look beyond the moment to reach for moments of self-actualization through our process of cheshbon hanefesh.

Kol tuv, all the best,
Rabbi Julie

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 daven together – in person – for those who wish. Please watch for those opportunities to attend outdoor evening minyanim and also (soon!) on Shabbat mornings. Our thriving virtual services will of course continue, but for those of you who wish to attend in person, please also consider volunteering to help with COVID screenings and ushering at those services. We simply won’t be able to gather without volunteers.

I am especially excited that in the next several weeks, we will once again be celebrating B’nai Mitzvah at CBI. Though the service won’t be exactly what we’ve been accustomed to for so many years, I know that our community will nevertheless find a way to show our love and support to those families who have been so patient, understanding and flexible in planning their simchas during this pandemic, and to the B’nai Mitzvah students who have worked so hard even while quarantining (over many hours of Face Time lessons with me!) to prepare for this special milestone in their lives.

This new Hebrew month of Elul also ushers in the High Holiday season! We are supposed to use this month as an opportunity for introspection and “taking stock” of our lives – called “Cheshbon Hanefesh” (accounting of the soul) in Hebrew. As the shofar is sounded each weekday during Elul (you’ll be able to hear it at our Morning Minyanim being held on Mondays and Thursdays, and also at the start of evening minyanim as a special addition during the Pandemic!), its piercing blasts are meant to awaken our conscience and to reflect on our potential to do great things – for our families, our communities and for the world. Our wonderful CBI shofar blowers often make the task of blowing shofar look easy, but it takes significant effort and perseverance. It teaches us that nothing meaningful comes easily. When we are faced with challenges, we must work hard and not give up!

I look forward to spending this month working closely with Rabbi Isenberg, along with the High Holiday and Religious Affairs committees, planning for the many varied services and experiences we are eager to share with you which we hope will help make this year’s High Holiday season as meaningful, spiritual, and community-oriented as possible in these challenging times. We are fortunate to have great support and valuable input from Rabbi Julie, Harvey Brenner and our dedicated lay leaders to help us in this effort.

I pray that this new month will hold the blessings of health, safety, justice, goodness and peace for everyone. And may it be an opportunity in our lives for a renewal of wonder, love, hope, friendship, compassion and holiness.

Cantor Lorna Wallach

Water & Torah

Posted by on Aug 4, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

A message from Rabbi Isenberg:

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

After crossing the Sea of Reeds to safety, it takes the Israelites three days to find their first source of water in the wilderness. Three days without water left the Israelites physically exhausted and dehydrated, and spiritually bereft as well.

The Torah’s commentators teach us that this was one of only a few instances throughout the prolonged 40 year journey when the Israelites were truly without water. In fact, Rashi comments that the Israelites had a constant well of water because of the merit of Miriam, Moshe’s sister. The commentary imagines a nurturing Miriam, whose very presence provides miraculous wells of water that would sustain the Israelites.

No wonder, then, that one of the other instances when the Israelites are without water is when Miriam dies. Upon Miriam’s death, the life-sustaining well that had followed the Israelites dried up. Here, too, the Israelites experience a spiritual drought in addition to a physical one.

The rabbis would ultimately draw a parallel between water and Torah. If Torah is as much a source of nourishment, sustenance, and hydration as water, then we Jews should not go more than three days without Torah. That, dear congregants, is how we arrived at the weekly schedule of Torah reading: Shabbat, Monday, and Thursday. In a typical week, we do not let more than three days pass without hearing or chanting Torah.

These, however, are not typical times. Since the start of the pandemic, CBI has worked hard establishing creative ways to engage with you and maintain a strong sense of communal togetherness, all while adhering to the life-saving protocols of physical distancing. One area, however, that had not yet been restored is the weekly rhythm of hearing Torah chanted. It is just my fourth day as your new rabbi, but I believe we are ready to reintroduce the time-honored tradition of ensuring we, too, do not go more than three days without hearing some Torah chanted.

Therefore, I’m excited to announce that as of next Monday, August 10th, we will resume weekday morning minyan on Mondays and Thursdays, via Zoom. Along with Shabbat mornings, we will be back to the regular rhythms of Torah. Here’s the more precise schedule:

Monday mornings at 7:30am via Zoom.
Thursday mornings at 7:30am via Zoom.
Shabbat mornings at 9:30am via Zoom/Livestream

A word about the pandemic: Let’s remember to remain sensitive to anyone in our midst who needs help, support, and comfort. We are all still in survival mode, in one way or another, and it is critical that we exhibit patience, generosity of spirit, and kindness to each other.

I look forward to seeing you soon:
● Tuesdays at Noon on Zoom for lunch
● At one of the many outdoor and physically-distant parlor meetings
● At this Thursday’s Ice Cream Tailgate
● Friday Kabbalat Shabbat services at 6pm or Shabbat morning gatherings at 9:30am
● Rabbi vs Rebbetzin Cook-Off, Live on Zoom from my kitchen, on Thursday, August 20th
● A host of programs for the month of Elul, as we approach the High Holidays

 

Rabbi Ari Isenberg

Moving Forward — Step-by-Step

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

A Message from Mariela Markelis Dybner, CBI President

Friday, July 17

 

Dear Congregants,

It has certainly been a long four months since we were able to gather at our synagogue, and unfortunately, as we are all too aware, there seems to be no date in sight when we will be able to all come together again without restriction. Our clergy, professional staff and volunteers have made a yeoman’s effort to provide services, programming and camaraderie during these difficult times to you, our synagogue community. Our Zoom services and programming have been very well attended and have served to fill an urgent need in our congregants’ lives. The good news is that the numbers of Covid cases in our community, town, state and neighboring states has dropped to levels at which our governor and related health authorities have determined that limited outside groups practicing accordant protocols can meet and even more limited groups can gather indoors.

In anticipation of these changes, as discussed at our annual meeting, we set up a new Reopening Committee tasked with recommending a measured and practical method to introduce in-person services. Their recommendation, which was approved by our Board of Trustees this week, provides a step by step basis, first to hold evening minyan twice a week outdoors and then slowly over a period of weeks if things continue to progress positively to hold indoor Shabbat services. However, it is stressed that no one should feel obliged to attend these services for we will continue to hold all of our services and programming over Zoom just as we have been doing the past few months. At this time, we are adding an option for those who do not find remote services sufficient and who feel safe and secure enough to attend in person outdoor services and over time indoor services.

Temperature screening and COVID self-assessment protocols will be instituted and all protocols recommended by public health authorities will be strictly enforced including social distancing, face coverings and once indoors extensive cleaning of all public spaces. Now, candidly, I understand that some may find these measures inconvenient, but they are necessary given the “new normal” that we are all living in, and it is critically important that we remain consistent and disciplined in following these practices in order to achieve our goal of offering in-person services and programming while diligently following health guidelines.

The outdoor weeknight minyan will begin Thursday, July 23 and will continue each Tuesday and Thursday at 8pm to join our regular Zoom service. To attend the evening minyan, you will need to register beforehand by either calling or emailing Karen Tucker. At first, the in-person minyan will be limited to fifteen people so that we can take a measure of the program. We will also need volunteers to help staff and run the minyanim. The volunteers will be the ones administering the COVID questionnaires, taking temperatures of each attendee, strictly enforcing social distancing and making sure that everyone is wearing masks. If you wish to volunteer to be a minyan aide, please contact Karen Tucker as provided above.

We would request that all those who plan to attend the services only enter through the main parking lot. (services will be held in the back of the synagogue for security purposes and other security measures will be taken). You will not be allowed to enter through the cull de sac on Ridgewood Road. This is being done so we can make sure that everyone who enters has had their temperature taken, answered the Covid questionnaire and is wearing a mask. The services and state health guidance will be monitored to determine whether to continue or modify the service and protocol.

This progression to in person services is not taken lightly by our clergy, professional staff and lay leaders and is not and it is stressed again intended to make anyone do anything outside their comfort zone, it is being instituted only as method to provide an avenue for those for whom remote services are not sufficient and feel safe and secure attending such a service. It is important that those who attend these services follow the rules and regulations implemented for if these necessary safety precautions are not being followed, we will have to suspend the program.

As we enter the middle of summer, a summer unlike any we’ve ever experienced, I think we can look back over the last four months, and without in any way diminishing the awful impact of this pandemic, take satisfaction in the careful work we have done, and the progress we have made, to keep our Congregation up and running to meet the needs of our members. At the same time, we all know that there is a long road ahead of us, with twists and turns and detours we can’t foresee. But if we stay patient with each other, united in our approach, nimble in our preparations and laser-focused on the latest public health guidance, we have every confidence that we will meet whatever challenges lie ahead and continue to responsibly discharge our mission in the context of the “new normal” in which we all now work and live. So, thank you for giving us a few minutes of your time to read about this development. Stay well, continue to take the necessary precautions to keep yourselves, your families and those around you safe — and stay tuned for additional updates. Thank you.

L’shalom,

Mariela Markelis Dybner

A Farewell Message from Rabbi Resnick

Posted by on Jul 14, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

July 14, 2020

 

My Dearest CBI Millburn Community,

It is hard to believe that my tenure as your rabbi is ending on July 31st.  This means I am in this position for only another 18 days.  My first day at CBI was August 1st – and what happens at CBI on the first Thursday of August – a free BBQ. It was great to meet over 200 of my new friends that evening. Yes, I know that it was a FREE dinner, and folks were not coming out [just] to meet the new rabbi, nevertheless it was an AMAZING start to an even greater year.  Thank you for that!

I need to highlight one person I met that night: Marvin Fish. He came early to the BBQ – I was told that some of the older folks would do so. Marvin did. I asked him how long he was affiliated with CBI.  He said 70+ years. I thought to myself – who could be affiliated with anything for over 70 years?! Indeed, Marvin and a few others have been connected with CBI for what seems to be forever. This is just one special aspect of CBI.

I came into a community that, for some, was hurting and in need of healing and support. Today, one year later, I want to thank each and every one of you who have told me that there is a new vibe at CBI.  Thank you for taking that journey with me. CBI was, and still is, an vibrant, warm community with so much happening now, and so much potential.  

From the very beginning of my year, I said that CBI is a heimish community. That is a key quality that isn’t magically created. It is created by each and everyone of you reading this letter. It is not unusual to have two-generation families. In fact, there are a few three-generation families. And this year we welcomed a few new families, too. A vibrant community needs both. 

We did a lot together – we engaged teens more – leading part of Musaf on Yom Kippur, leading a hakkafah on Simchat Torah, or studying and eating at Torah Teen Time. We studied together – ethics today and ethics of yesterday as we brought Torah to the hood and plunged into Ethics of our Fathers. I was honored to reach out to the community and hand out honey cakes at Rosh Hashanah and donuts during Hanukkah with my fellow Millburn rabbis. Thank you to Mariela for that suggestion.

We prayed, studied, and stood together on Martin Luther King Day and displayed the word DREAM in our front yard, only to be followed by banners connecting with those of us fighting against injustice and expressing appreciation for our first responders as they fight COVID-19. And for the month of June we stood in solidarity with the LGBTQ community by displaying a pride flag.

And now we are at the end of the year. I thank you again for welcoming me into your community. It is hard to believe that I made so many new acquaintances, friends, fellow walkers and learners. I hope that I was able to challenge some of you to do better in this fractured world. I hope that I was able to help some of you pray with more kavannah – intention.  I hope that I was able to better connect some of you with your own Judaism and with this special community.

I will miss studying together, engaging at kiddush together, walking in the reservation together, davening together. And a HUGE shoutout to Cantor Wallach for being my partner in this endeavor and for continuing to inspire all of us with her spirit and voice.

I will also miss this TEAM — Harvey Brenner, Rabbi Julie Schwarzwald and up until a few weeks ago, Rochelle Barron. Today there is a great team at CBI.  

May it continue to flourish with Rabbi Eisenberg as you move forward. This is a lehitraot, and not a goodbye. I hope to see you again. 

Rabbi Paul Resnick

Turn Our Sadness into a Springboard for Action

Posted by on Jul 14, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

July 7, 2020

These Three Weeks … A Message from Cantor Lorna Wallach

 

Following the death of a close relative, Judaism has very specific laws and guidelines for what is restricted during this period of mourning (30 days for a spouse, sibling or child; a year for a parent). During this period of personal grief, the mourner is supposed to avoid parties, celebrations, concerts, dancing, avoid listening to live music and, for thirty days, they cannot shave or cut their hair. Within each calendar year, Jews also have periods of communal mourning where similar restrictions are imposed. One such period is known as “Sefira”, or the 49-day period of the counting of the Omer, which begins on the second night of Passover and goes to Shavuot. The other period is the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av (commemorating the destruction of the Temple). The three weeks begin on the minor fast day of Shiv’ah Asar B’Tammuz, the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tammuz, (this Thursday, July 9th) which commemorates the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem, before the First Temple was destroyed.

The earliest written source for these communal mourning customs dates back to the Geonic period (6th to 11th centuries C.E. in Babylonia). It appears that the first semi-mourning custom that was established for the Counting of the Omer period was to prohibit marriages, followed at a later date by the prohibition against cutting one’s hair, followed still later on by the prohibition against listening to live music and playing musical instruments.

There aren’t many liturgical adjustments for this three week period, however, there are 3 special Haftarot that are always read in this period, and if you attend our Kabbalat Shabbat services in these next three weeks, you will hear me sing L’Chah Dodi to the somber melody of Eili Tziyon (a Middle Ages acrostic elegy recited on Tisha B’Av) as a reminder of this period of communal mourning.

While mourning is the general theme of this three-week period, the loss of the Beit Hamikdash, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, can be seen as symbolic of something special that we once had and is now missing in our lives. When we are in our “normal” routines, most of us are less likely to pause and think about what is lacking in our lives. During this pandemic, however, it has been so hard not to focus on all of the losses we have each experienced during these past 4 months — such as in- person family and communal celebrations including B’nai Mitzvah, weddings, birthday parties and graduations; also hugging, gathering in our beautiful sanctuary to pray together and especially to sing together.

Sadness, tragedy and disappointment are a part of life – no one can escape such experiences, but there is a reason that Jewish tradition delineates a finite period for communal mourning as opposed to having it be a constant state of being.

There is a Chassidic saying that says, “Sadness is not a sin, but its effect on the person is worse than any sin’s.” Chassidic teaching differentiates between two types of sorrow: merirut, a constructive grief, and atzvut, a destructive grief. Perhaps the message of this mourning period THIS year is for all of us to find creative ways to connect and come together, and with one another’s support, we can turn our sadness into a springboard for action to improve ourselves and the world around us rather than losing hope and becoming indifferent.

I wish you all good health and strength.

Cantor Lorna Wallach

A Farewell Message

Posted by on Jun 16, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

A look back from Rochelle Baron, Director of the CBI Preschool:

 

Dear B’nai Israel Family:

My involvement with the preschool began in the late 70’s when we enrolled our daughter in the Twos class. Fast forward to 1994 as I sat with Rabbi Bayar, Naomi Eisenberger, and a committee of wonderful people who hired me to be the next director. And now, 26 years later, I am retiring from this special place!

So many events have transpired over this time period! I met wonderful families and witnessed many, many children pass through our school and move on to great adventures. The list of colleges our graduates have attended and the successes they have achieved is truly mind-boggling. I had the blessing of having two grandchildren attend and call out “Hi Grandma!” whenever we would see each other. I have lived through two renovation projects, one emergency evacuation (when the gas station on Vauxhall Road exploded), and holding school in trailers in the parking lot. Throughout this time I have worked with talented and committed teachers who challenged their students and brought many great experiences to their classrooms. As a staff we went through a wide range of life’s experiences, some good and some not so good, and we were always there for each other. The many past CBI presidents, pre-school committee members, executive directors, and maintenance staff are all responsible for helping to make my tenure at the preschool the rewarding experience it has been.

I learned a lot from my years as an early childhood educator. One given fact is that no two days are alike—you never know what you are in for until you see the faces of the students in the morning. I know that children need love, lots of patience, and must be allowed to discover things for themselves. They need to have opportunities to play, make mistakes, and find solutions. Most of all they must be taken seriously and respected by the adults in charge of helping them grow up to be responsible future members of society.

I leave knowing we have created a warm, nurturing environment which is well respected in our community. The school’s focus on learning Jewish values and age-appropriate early childhood curriculum will hopefully continue in the years to come.

Thank you to Rabbi Bayar for his years of guidance, sense of humor, and support. Many thanks to our current CBI team: Cantor Wallach for being my Shabbat morning partner and friend, Rabbi Resnick for his presence and wisdom this year, Rabbi Julie for her commitment to making our two schools work so well together, Mariela Dybner for her leadership, Susan Kashan for her administrative help, and to Harvey Brenner for holding everything together. I wish Rabbi Isenberg and Gila many years of fulfillment and joy as they join this very special congregational family. And best wishes to Rabbi Julie for much success as she becomes the third director of CBI Preschool!

Most important of all, I send much love to Gary, Rhea and Michael, Joshua and Jennifer, Sam, Lucas, and Oliver who make my life meaningful every single day.

Sincerely,

Rochelle

Finding Our Voice

Posted by on Jun 9, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

DCL’s Drash from Rabbi Julie Schwarzwald, Director of Congregational Learning

 

But let justice well up like water, Righteousness like an unfailing stream.

–Amos 5:24

Having spent the last three months in various forms of quarantine as a result of the pandemic, we woke up two weeks ago to learn of the wrongful death of George Floyd – the most recent example of racial injustice. This past weekend, many of us joined local rallies to stand together – while socially distancing – to share our outrage. We hope that this time, things will change. And we ask ourselves once again, how did we get to this place?

To educate our children with the understanding that we are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, is to emphasize our mission to accept each individual as they are – to recognize that they are exactly as they are meant to be. We can learn from our children. You’ve seen the pictures/memes of children who look different from one another meeting each other and immediately playing together. Youth who have been in class together for years simply accept each classmate’s learning needs and are often able to ignore anything that could be disruptive – and will tell adults, “That’s just how they are.” 

Social justice and social action have long been components of Judaism and have found their place in congregational education. As Rochelle and I have discovered with weekly preschool Shabbat, it can be challenging to find tangible activities for our youngest learners that demonstrate this. We need to fully integrate the value of b’tzelem Elohim into our curriculum, with regular conversations about how our tradition, our history, and our values and commandments inform our daily life. 

A song that we have sung all year in BBRS has been echoing in my head all week. Elana Arian composed “I Have a Voice” with teens at URJ Kutz Camp last summer. What a powerful anthem for our time.

I have a voice

My voice is powerful

My voice can change the world

 

I will open my eyes 

I will not look away 

I will use this gift I’ve been given

Every day

 

I will give of myself 

I will reach out my hand

I will use this heart I’ve been given

To take a stand

 

I will fight for the truth 

I’ll stand up for what’s right

I will use this strength I’ve been given

To be a light

 

I have a voice

My voice is powerful

My voice can change the world

Professional development is essential as we look toward the next school year. While we maintained connection and celebrated successful conclusions to our school years, we know that this pandemic has brought to the forefront a necessary revolution in education. Every BBRS and CBI Preschool teacher will attend the NewCAJE virtual conference this summer with an emphasis on learning new tools for online and distance learning while exploring philosophy, pedagogy, and best practices. I am investigating the best technology to continue to make our education accessible to all. Mila Naiman and I will also attend the USCJ New Directors’ Institute as we prepare to take on leadership of the preschool following Rochelle’s retirement. 

As we continue planning various scenarios for the upcoming school year, we keep in mind how to offer increasingly accessible Jewish education, with righteousness and justice for all.

Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel used to say: on three things does the world stand: On justice, on truth and on peace.

–Pirkei Avot 1:18

 

May we find them soon,

Rabbi Julie

CONSOLATION — EMPATHY — HOPE

Posted by on Jun 5, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

An Important Message from Rabbi Paul Resnick and Cantor Lorna Wallach:

A LETTER OF CONSOLATION

WORDS OF EMPATHY

EXPRESSION OF HOPE

Dear CBI Family,

March 13th the CBI building closed. The closure was unprecedented. The TEAM and Board quickly jumped into action and created and implemented a plan of engagement.

The CBI family has been strengthened through ZOOM engagement, calls and communal sharing of good times and sad times as well. And COVID-19 seemed to have taken over the airwaves, every one of our conversations… our lives. How we shop for food became a topic in many a forum. How we were going to do our sedarim was the topic just eight weeks ago. That quickly became … How were we to celebrate our Tikkun for Shavuot?

We all know of friends, colleagues and family members who have had the virus inflict pain and sickness and some who have succumbed to it. Unemployment is hitting one in four American workers. 1 in 4. 25%. It is not just out there. It is here.

Then there was/is discussion of when is it going to end? When would we be able to get back to normal? Is there going to be a new normal? Will we ever need to work in an office full time again?

But then after our celebration of Shavuot and Shabbat we heard of the news of the brutal and senseless killing of George Floyd.

Protests started. People needed to react. There is much pent up frustration from the communities of color with justice not being given to ALL Americans. We were and we are at a tipping point. And this is NOT a black/brown issue. It is an American issue.

There was/is violence. Rubber bullets and teargas are being used against some. The VAST MAJORITY of Americans though are peacefully expressing our Constitutional right to free speech, to protest.

Most protests are calm and have a purpose. The goal is to raise the issue of social injustice in America for people of color. And to think of a solution to a problem that has plagued our society for many, many years. We cannot remain silent; we need to speak out for legislation and oversight so there will not be people killed by police as a result of the color of their skin.

Some say that police use brutal force too quickly. Unwarranted use of force is unacceptable. Though we also need to support law enforcement. Attacks specifically directed against police officers are also not acceptable.

The killing of George Floyd has brought our society to a more unpredictable time than in several generations. Many of us feel a sense of being overwhelmed. Pandemic. Uncertainty. Unrest.

Chancellor Eisen of the Jewish Theological Seminary released the following statement this week, and I share an edited version with you:

This is a devastating and dangerous moment in our country, the history of which is so stained by racial injustice.

We believe that every person and institution must assume responsibility to create a more equitable and just society. Jewish tradition forbids us to remain silent in the face of racial injustice. “Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” (Leviticus 19:16).

We call on each member of the JTS community, and the entire Jewish community, to do all in their power to respond to this moment of crisis by taking action to build a more just world. We can lift our voices, train our students, and work in partnership with alumni, lay leaders, and our friends and family in the Black community.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminded us pointedly that “morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty but all are responsible.”

As a show of solidarity in the fight for justice for all, we will be placing a banner in front of our building at the beginning of next week with the following message:

צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף

Justice, justice shall you pursue – Deuteronomy 16:20

We stand against racial injustice

May we continue to pray for God’s sheltering presence to shine down on all Americans. And let us say, Amen.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul F. Resnick Cantor Lorna Wallach

Sharing Music … Together

Posted by on Jun 2, 2020 in Latest News | 0 comments

A Note from Cantor Lorna Wallach:

Where does your mind take you when you hear music? Are some melodies more emotive for you than others? Each of us, no doubt, has songs strongly associated with our memories and feelings. For many of us, this is true of Jewish music, too! Does your heart swell with pride when you hear Hatikvah? Or when the Hava Nagila melody is amplified at a ball game? Can you close your eyes and actually see the golden glow of the Kotel when you hear the poetic words of Naomi Shemer’s song, Yerushalayim Shel Zahav? Even if you never lived in “Anatevka”, do you feel as though you are in that town when you hear Sunrise, Sunset? Without Jewish music, it’s hard to experience the serenity of Shabbat, the silliness of Purim, the pathos of Kol Nidre, or the joy of Simchat Torah. Through music we can express the greatest praise and thanksgiving to God.

Music is one of the greatest gifts given to humanity. I believe that we have all experienced the power of music, and especially songs, at some point in our lives. It is universal. Rabbi Sampson Raphael Hirsch defines song as “an inspired or rapturous expression of what some external event has revealed to the inner self, that which the physical eye cannot see, but what has become clear to the mind’s eye.”

There are few songs mentioned in the Torah. Even the word for “song,” (shir) is found quite infrequently. On Shabbat Shirah (which usually occurs in January), we read Shirat HaYam in Parashat Beshallach and the Song of Deborah (Judges 5) in the Haftarah. Shirat HaYam, The Song of the Sea, is the first example recorded in the Torah of communal spontaneous prayers by the Jewish people. The Israelites have safely escaped the Egyptian army, and are free on the other side of the now chariot full Red Sea. And they look at Moses, and up to God, and declare their belief in God’s power, and in Moses’s ability to advocate on their behalf. And they were all so ecstatic that they began to sing. First Moses and the men, and then Miriam and the women.

There is something very powerful and uplifting about singing together – whether in unison or with other voices in harmony. As the Cantor of CBI, one of my greatest joys and pleasures is to sing WITH you at services in our beautiful sanctuary or chapel. One of my greatest frustrations and yearnings from having to be socially distanced for all this time is the absolute impossibility to be able to sing together, even with just one voice, on Zoom! But even though your voices are muted during our virtual services, I now rely more on watching the Zoom participants sing. Seeing this helps me feel the energy and connectedness of our virtual community as the gallery view of faces is displayed on my Zoom screen!

One of my greatest joys and pleasures during this pandemic has been sharing music with the many of you who tuned in to my Music in May series each Wednesday morning this past month. I enjoyed putting together the weekly programs, based on different themes such as honoring our mothers and other important women in our lives, songs of gratitude, songs of Jerusalem and songs of community, including Jewish songs in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and English and also some non- Jewish songs! I loved that some of you sang along at home and also shared with us your own personal connections and memories about some of the songs I sang.

Although May has come to an end, I am excited to let you know that I will continue my Music on Wednesdays series starting again next Wednesday, June 10th. I invite all of you to zoom in for June Tunes at Noon (please note the time change!). Come once or each week, as we share a half hour (approximately) of beautiful, uplifting, fun and perhaps nostalgic and emotional songs.

Until then, here are some quotes about singing that I hope resonate with you and inspire you!

“Wake up, live your life and sing the melody of your soul.” — Amit Ray (Indian author, master teacher of meditation, yoga, spirituality)

“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.” — Emory Austin (inspirational female speaker)

“I don’t sing because I’m happy; I’m happy because I sing.” — William James (late 19th cent. American philosopher and psychologist)

 

Cantor Lorna Wallach