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Rabbi's Messages

JULY-AUGUST, 2024

Shalom all,
There is a terrific line in the Talmud (our 5th century collection of early Jewish traditions) that teaches that one person may not be able to remove the suffering of another, but they can shoulder 1/60th of it for them.1

I imagine that you’ve witnessed the truth of this in your own experience of stopping in to visit (or being visited) when times are tough and the smile that emerges communicates a little easing of the strain. Someone reading this is thinking, “why not get 60 people together and solve the whole matter?” Drop me a note and I’ll give you the rabbis’ answer to that loophole!  Bottom line, when the going gets tough, it’s nice to be with others.

But what happens when times are tough all over and we’re all hurting?  Nobody looks around these days and sees that everything is hunky dory – not Republicans nor Democrats, Zionists nor protesters, climatologists nor deniers. We’re all experiencing grief and searching for the salve that eases it...even a bit. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a place you could go to find a group you could sit with that might make you feel a little bit better?

This brings me to the traditions of the Ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. Remembering a time in our distant past when Jerusalem was left sacked and alone, we read the text of Lamentations which names the pain and isolation of those moments. The legend says that many of our worst moments in history happened on this day of the calendar. To name just a few: the 1st and 2nd Temples in Jerusalem were both destroyed (in 586 BCE and 70 CE), the 1st Crusade began that day with the killing of 10,000 Jews in 1096, the Jews were expelled from England in 1290, then expelled from Spain in 1492, the First World War broke out that day and the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto began that day. Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t recommend buying a lottery ticket on August 13 this year.

It has not been the custom of Sinai to mark the 9th of Av, (or Tisha b’Av) in years past but 5784 seems like a good moment to invite you to join Cantor Micah and me to express our grief at the state of the world in a safe space that will honor our suffering while offering us the chance to hold on to a small portion of the others’ pain at the same time. Part prayer service, part poetry reading, part song circle and 100% authenticity, join us at Sinai on August 12 at 8:00pm to see what we can do to help each other through these times. 

L’Shalom – In Peace, םולשל

Rabbi Jay TelRav

1. Nedarim 39b

 

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President's Messages

  JULY-AUGUST, 2024

At Temple Sinai, we have at least three ways to measure the passing of a year. We have the Jewish year that starts on Rosh Hashanah each year and is tied to the Jewish lunar calendar.

We have the secular calendar year that begins each year on January 1st. And we have our own fiscal year that begins on July 1st of every year. With fiscal year 2024 coming to a close, we are off to a fresh start!

At our Annual Meeting on June 9, we elected a slate of new officers and trustees to the Board. We welcomed David Fischer, Bruce Heller and Lisa Silver as vice presidents and new members of the Leadership Team. We also welcomed four new trustees to the board: Myles Block, Barbara Kasman, Allison Lear and Robert Whetsell. The congregation is grateful for the dedicated service of the departing officers and trustees: Vice Presidents Grant Kallen, Jenn Kramer and Arlene Rosen along with Trustees Stu Madison and Glenn Wolf.

We will be starting off the new fiscal year with a wonderfully-talented group of Officers and Trustees to guide us through both the known and unknown challenges and opportunities that we can expect to face.

You may recall that last fall, the board took a half day to study governance best practices and to identify Temple Sinai’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Three streams of work emerged as a result of that board exercise:

1. Improving leadership development

2. Managing congregational growth and the staff and infrastructure to support that growth

3. Launching a strategic planning task force to develop a long-term strategic plan for the congregation

All three work streams are in progress. As part of our strategic planning initiative, everyone in the congregation has been asked to take a survey that will guide us in our development of a strategic plan for the next five to ten years. Thank you to those who took the time to share your thoughts. We plan to follow that survey with targeted focus groups to gain additional insights and refine the data gathered. Simultaneously, the task force is examining our current vision and mission statement and will be looking to align those statements with the ensuing data and other input.

As I approach the halfway point of my two-year term as president, I am proud of the board’s accomplishments and work in progress and grateful to all who contributed their time and energy. I look forward to the coming year working with the new board to continue that progress.

Wishing you all a wonderful summer. And, as always, we will continue to pray for the safe return of all of the hostages in Gaza along with peace and safety for all who are suffering.

L’Shalom – In Peace,
Susan Kostin

 

 

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Cantor's Messages

clientuploads/Bio_Images_Leadership/micah_morgovsky.jpgJULY-AUGUST,  2024

A few weeks ago, I received a thought-provoking question via text message. The text came through on a group chat that my husband, Ben (a rabbi), and I share with our best friends – Shayna, a cantor, and her wife, Melissa (Mel), who is a Jewish educator. Mel, who had been charged to answer the question herself, crowd-sourced ideas and began the chat with this:

“A light question for you all today — the challenge is to answer this in three sentences or less: IN THE WORLD TODAY, WHY BE JEWISH?”

Ben was the first to respond. Though he went over the three sentence limit, we allowed his response:

“In a world of fracture and fear, of inhumanity and indifference, Judaism offers the courageous countercultural call to refuse acceptance of what is and feel responsible for shaping what ought to be. Every life holds divinity, thereby rejecting eradication as a sacred tool. Wisdom requires contradiction and counterpoint, thereby rejecting uniformity and celebrating diversity. And our fates are forever intertwined, and so Judaism asks of us to behave with the belief that our every action and inaction holds weight. Why be Jewish?  To believe in an eternal dream of a Promised Land, and see challenging ourselves and challenging our status quo to change towards connectedness is our only way to realize this dream.”

Soon after, Shayna, adhering to the three-sentence rule, added her thoughts to the chat:

“To be Jewish is to be part of an ancient world wisdom that offers endless tools to help us live a life of meaning and connection to community. To be Jewish is to be part of a culture based around learning, discourse, ritual, tradition, innovation, and communal values. To be Jewish is to be part of a people that is small but mighty, a people who know to never take freedom for granted, and who are instructed to love our neighbor and the stranger as we love ourselves.”

I waited to see what everyone else was going to write first, so I went next and also went over the three sentence limit:

“To use words that Ben has shared - Judaism offers us a toolkit for human flourishing and meaning-making. It gives us the opportunity, in every moment, to be present, to express gratitude, and to sit in awe of the world around us. It is an ancient tradition with stories filled with flawed heroes, allowing us to embrace our own flawed humanity while always aspiring to be better and more than we are right now. It is, at its core, a practice of love and community that binds us together in the present while stretching deep into the past and extending infinitely into the future.”

I was so grateful to Mel for posing this question to us all, and I was inspired by the thoughtful responses of my friend and partner. I would love to know your response to the question: IN THE WORLD TODAY, WHY BE JEWISH?

I hope you’re having a wonderful summer and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

B’Shira, In Song,
Cantor Micah Morgovsky

 

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DIRECTOR OF CONGREGATIONAL ENGAGEMENT'S Messages

JULY-AUGUST, 2024

The most common catchphrase used by almost every congregation is: “We are warm and welcoming!” As we write the story of another year at Temple Sinai, we reflect and ask ourselves: are we reaching our goals?

One of our ongoing goals is to move our culture from one that is “warm and welcoming” to one of “belonging.”

During the seven years I have been at the helm of engagement at Temple Sinai, I have witnessed our actions morph from being warm to being intentionally welcoming. The dynamic of the congregation has changed, as we are now more open and willing to take responsibility for someone else’s experience. We all understand that each one of us is an ambassador of Temple Sinai. This is a beautiful thing to experience.

So, what is the next step for our congregation? “Warm and welcoming” is etched into our cultural DNA. Now, we are moving towards a culture of belonging. When we welcome someone, there is an implicit power difference. While the intent of welcoming is always positive, the potential unintended consequence can be viewed as the welcomer having power over the welcomed. It’s the welcomer’s community, and the welcomed is simply being “allowed” in.

Some common themes I hear when prospective members are exploring Temple Sinai is that they are married to a non-Jewish person, that they aren’t observant, or that they don’t believe in God. With these tropes come trepidation, defiance, or guilt. My goal is to put them at ease and assure them that, wherever they are on their life’s journey, we will meet them and walk with them. Usually, there’s a sigh of relief when they realize that they aren’t being judged or looked down upon. They share their stories of being “othered.” Temple Sinai not only accepts people but embraces them as well. Each addition to our Sinai family adds to the richness and diversity of our congregation.

What does belonging look like? Belonging is to know and understand that our congregation wouldn’t be the same without you. Every one of our congregants is an integral part of our Jewish tapestry. Individuality is essential to sustaining a strong Jewish future for Temple Sinai. As we enter 5785, we hope each and every one of you knows that, when you come to Temple Sinai, you belong. You are home.

Peace,
Larry Stoogenke

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Educator's Messages

JULY-AUGUST, 2024

Professional development is the cornerstone of personal and organizational growth and is pivotal in shaping individuals and organizations. It encompasses a broad spectrum of activities to enhance skills, knowledge, and expertise relevant to my profession.

This year, I attended workshops and a conference in addition to participating in continuous learning through a two-year fellowship with the Jewish Education Project. The significance of professional development cannot be overstated. I find that I benefit most from having a robust network of colleagues who I meet at a variety of professional development opportunities.

Having thought partners is essential for personal and professional growth as they provide valuable insights, perspectives, and support. Collaboration with thought partners fosters creativity and innovation by challenging assumptions and encouraging brainstorming. They serve as sounding boards for ideas, helping individuals refine their thoughts and strategies. They offer constructive feedback, helping individuals identify blind spots and overcome obstacles. This summer, with the support and guidance of Rabbi Jay, I am engaging a small group of thought partners to update our seventh-grade curriculum. Just as the environment around us changes and evolves, so should our curriculum.

As the new school year approaches, we look ahead to a fresh start, a chance to set goals and embrace new challenges. It's a time for students to expand their horizons, discover new interests, and build valuable skills that will serve them well. Each grade level offers unique growth and learning opportunities from pre-k to twelfth grade. As students, educators, and parents alike look forward to the adventures ahead, we all embrace the opportunity to make the most of the coming year and create lasting memories that will be cherished for years to come. I hope we, as parents, also look forward to the new school year with anticipation, eager to support our children's educational endeavors and witness their progress firsthand. We play a crucial role in our children's academic success.

The new Religious School and Youth Engagement year begins on Sunday, September 8.

L’Shalom,
Morah Erica Quamily, LMSW

 

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DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS Messages

JULY-AUGUST, 2024

Have you ever wondered about some of the sculptures and art at Temple Sinai? Each piece has a story. Here are just a few to take a closer look at the next time you are in the building. If you are interested in learning the history of any other pieces of art or sculptures here at Temple, we have a white binder that sits on the coffee table outside the Poch Family Study with information on every piece. A special thank you to Arlene Rosen for compiling this important history of Temple Sinai.

Shelly Welfeld


Ram’s Horn – 1979
By James Knowles, who is a well known sculpturer who has been a Stamford resident for many years.

This bronze sculpture was commissioned in connection with the 25th anniversary of Temple Sinai. The sculpture stands on the front lawn to the left of the path into the Atrium. The flowing nature of Judaism, the open-armed praise of God, the Still Small Voice of Calm, the Hebrew letter shin – ש - these were among the expressions from which this work evolved.

Studies for Ram’s Horn – Prints — 1979 By James Knowles

There are four framed prints mounted in the Atrium on the right side as you enter through the main wooden doors.

Memorial Sculpture — 1988
By James Knowles

Donated by the family of Dr. Seymour Breslow in honor of Dr. Seymour Breslow.  This sculpture is installed on the Temple grounds behind the Atrium.

 

 

            
 

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Sat, July 13 2024 7 Tammuz 5784