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Rabbi's Messages

september-october, 2023

Shalom All,

When my children had a present to give or a secret to keep, I always found it a great pleasure to watch it drive them nuts. The excitement that they could not share was really hard to keep to themselves and most of us remember the feeling. I felt it myself last year as we approached Rosh Hashanah and I had a secret to keep from the congregation – my own enthusiasm ate me up inside!

It started as a brainstorming session a few months before Rosh Hashanah…we had a problem we needed to solve. Each Rosh Hashanah afternoon for many years, the congregation had walked across the street to our neighbors’ pond to symbolically toss in our sins for Tashlich. It has been a grand time with laughter and children running around. We have even been bringing in an ice cream truck for kids of all ages to help sweeten the New Year a bit further. But last year, we had seen too little rain in the area and the pond had dried up. What to do?

We had tried other locations in the past, and that was certainly an option, but the logistics of moving people from our afternoon family service to a new spot ensured we’d lose most of them. We had done kiddie pools with slips of paper written on with disappearing ink, but they make a mess, and the experience can be difficult for adults to connect with. We wished for something ecologically safe – certainly not tying our sin-notes to balloons for release. Perhaps somehow using leaves in the Temple’s big backyard? But how to send them away? Someone suggested having the kids walk out into the woods to distribute their sin-laden leaves someplace “leaf-ing them behind.” Thankfully, someone thought sending children and elders out into the woods was a bad idea, so we moved on. Then, I recalled a congregant telling me about a fabulous event held in her housing development – could we repurpose it for our needs?

The Sinai staff thought it sounded just crazy enough. I spoke to the Sinai leadership and secured their support. The ritual committee encouraged us to go for it, so I got on the phone and called the Crazy Goat Lady – as she introduced herself to me.

I didn’t tell you precisely what you were going to find at the Temple on Rosh Hashanah afternoon, but I told you two things: first, you would not want to miss it and second, to come to our building’s backyard instead of the front where we usually meet for Tashlich. When we ended the family service and everyone came down the stairs behind the shul, the elation was palpable…13 little goats wandering all over our large, grassy property being gleefully chased, petted, held and fed by congregants who’d arrived a few minutes earlier.

I gathered the (roughly) 300 people together and explained the thought. In response to the changes in our climate, we had re-formed the tradition and created this as a way to honor our performative ritual on Rosh Hashanah. This DIY activity was crafted to accompany both the internal spiritual and communal liturgical processes. Instead of feeding our sins to the fish in the water, we would feed them to the goats. Everyone had plenty of options: The goats were happy to eat our sins as written on slips of paper (per the Goat Lady’s encouragement). We could also transmit them through delicious grass and leaves imaginatively infused with the parts of ourselves we sought to leave behind. Or finally, folks could choose to whisper into the goats’ ears and unload their burdens that way.

Whatever their chosen method, I told them to take this as seriously as they always have in the past. As Cantor Micah pointed out, it was also a nod to the mechanisms of the ancient “scape goat” of Leviticus 16 which led me to promise the Goat Lady we would not push any of her livestock off a ravine in the wilderness. (Unplanned Bonus: the goats gave our lawn a natural trim…no fossil-fuels needed.)

It was, by all accounts, a wild (or rather, semi-domesticated) success. It was memorable. It was in keeping with the theme and mechanisms of tradition, but it also spoke to the moment. Well, you asked, and we’ll bring the goats back once again this year – how quickly the innovative reform becomes the orthodox tradition!

I chose to share this with you because it felt like a success (amongst plenty of other less-successful experiments) in keeping a 21st century, progressive Jewish community actively participating in their own spiritual journey. Our rituals find their value in the individuals’ ownership, and for that to take shape requires constant creating and recreating of meaningful Jewish rites. Do-It-Yourself Judaism is available to those who want to be a part of the ongoing process of modernizing Jewish practice. We are always looking for ways to keep Judaism meaningful, engaging, and fresh and I’m proud of Temple Sinai’s willingness to try something brand new.

It’s so much easier not to have to keep it a secret this year! Join us for some unburdening of your spiritual baggage with the goats again this year in our Sinai backyard and stay for some ice cream at 3:00pm on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah – September 16, 2024.

L’Shalom – In Peace,
Rabbi Jay TelRav

 

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President's Messages

  september-october, 2023



I am writing this article shortly after returning from a United Jewish Federation sponsored mission to Uganda with Project TEN. Fellow congregant Terry Newman and I joined with eight other women from the greater Stamford Jewish community on this eight-day mission.

Project TEN is an NGO (non-governmental organization) subsidiary of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The TEN in Project TEN represents:

              • Tikkun Olam
              • Empowerment
              • Network

The volunteer program primarily targets young adults from ages 18 -26 (Israelis, diaspora Jews and non-Jews alike) who would like a meaningful three-month community service experience in one of its centers in Israel, Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia, South Africa, Mexico and Cambodia. The Network focuses on partnering with local schools to support education and sustainability in an ethical, humble and respectful way.

After one day of training for our short-term adult delegation, we spent three days in two different schools working with small groups of students on reading, comprehension, memory games and critical thinking skills. For each of the schools, we made a gift of a large ceramic water filter and copies of all of the books we read that day.

We chose to visit the Project TEN center in Uganda partly because we wanted to see the historic Entebbe airport where the hijacked Air France plane landed while holding 106 Israeli and Jewish hostages in July of 1976. In the famous commando raid led by Yonaton Netanyaho z’l, all but a handful of the hostages were rescued. Sadly, four of the hostages were murdered and Commander Netanyahu lost his life in the rescue operation.

We also chose Uganda because we wanted to visit and learn about the Abayudaya Jewish community in eastern Uganda near the town of Mbale. Distances there tend to be measured in time rather than kilometers or miles. It took us nearly six hours to drive there from Kampala over narrow and dusty roads in order to arrive in time for Erev Shabbat. Abayudaya is Lugandan for “People of Judah.” Many residents in the Mbale region continue to rely on subsistence farming, living in small round homes with no running water or reliable electricity.

The Abayudaya community was started about 100 years ago by Semei Kakungulu, who was a major military and political figure. He became disenchanted both with the British rulers and with the Christianity to which he had converted, preferring instead the “Old Testament” which he had translated into Lugandan. Around 1925, several European Jews who were employed by the British as railroad mechanics and engineers came into contact with Kakungulu and his followers.

From these encounters, Kakungulu and his followers learned to keep Shabbat, to recite Hebrew prayers and blessings, to slaughter animals for meat in a Kosher manner and also to speak some Hebrew. The Abayudaya then abandoned all vestiges of Christianity and performed conversions through ritual circumcisions.

The Jewish community there suffered brutal persecution during the regime of Idi Amin. Until recently, there had been little engagement or contact with the greater Jewish community. There is currently a vibrant Jewish community of approximately 2,000 of Kakungulu’s descendants and converts living in Mbale.

Rabbi Gershom Sizomu, who trained abroad as a Conservative rabbi, hosted us in his home for a festive Shabbat dinner. We joined the community for Friday night prayers and for Shabbat morning services. Drums and guitar were part of the music along with many familiar songs and niguns. Women are welcomed as full participants. One of the women leaders was on the Bimah translating the rabbi’s d’var Torah into Lugandan. A highlight for both of us, Terry Newman and I were honored with an Aliyah during the Shabbat morning Torah reading.

Terry and I look forward to sharing more about our experiences in Uganda with you. Meanwhile, suffice to know that Jews all over the world, in many sizes and colors, will be celebrating the High Holidays in 2023 with many of the same Hebrew prayers, niguns and customs that we practice here at Temple Sinai.

L’Shalom – In Peace,
Susan Kostin

 

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Cantor's Messages

clientuploads/Bio_Images_Leadership/micah_morgovsky.jpgseptember-october,  2023

I hope this note finds you well and that you had a meaningful and restorative summer, filled with all the things you needed!

As you may know, in addition to my love of Judaism and music, I love to make things with my hands. Any DIY (Do-It-Yourself) project – and I’m in! I inherited the joy of making things by hand from my parents. They are both retired educators, but they have always enjoyed many crafts and hobbies and I learned from them how pleasurable and rewarding these activities can be.

In addition to her love of cooking, my mom is an avid needle-pointer. She stitches enormous works of art which are displayed all over their home (and ours!). When I was younger, she used to knit, make her own clothes, paint, make pottery and macrame. My dad loves to garden and tends to their beautiful property with devotion and care. He’s also a very gifted photographer and has been exhibiting his work in a gallery in New York City regularly for more than 40 years. My dad built me my first dollhouse when I was four years old and now I am continuing the tradition, having built several dollhouses on my own. I enjoy painting and crafts of all kinds and, for many years now, I’ve been teaching Zentangle, a meditative artform, here at Temple Sinai.

When we make things by hand, it usually takes time, attention, thought and care. You have to gather the appropriate tools and materials, carve out designated space and time, clear your mind and focus intensely on the task at hand. While we’re engaged with this task, we might even achieve a sense of flow – a focused, meditative-like state, where we feel a pleasant “at-one-ment” with the endeavor. And there’s usually a unique sense of pride and accomplishment once the project is completed. A hand-made item often has more weight and emotional significance than something store-bought or simply handed to us.

As Rabbi Jay and I look towards the High Holy Days and this new year, we are embracing a new guiding principle called DIY Judaism – Do-It-Yourself Judaism. While we, as your clergy, will always be with you on your Jewish journey, we also want to empower you to find your own unique Jewish voice. Whether that’s through leading a Shabbat service, writing a new prayer, or creating some new Jewish ritual, the sky is the limit and we want you to get creative. We know Judaism is not one-size-fits-all and that not everyone engages with our religion in the same way. And, while it is lovely to sit in services and listen to me sing and Rabbi Jay speak, some of you might want to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, so to speak.

To that end, on October 27, we’ll be hosting a special evening called Shabbat Your Way, where we’ll offer many different opportunities for spiritual engagement. That night, I’ll be facilitating the first of several hands-on art projects where we’ll make our own ritual objects and Jewish-inspired art. I am very excited to roll up my sleeves and get creative with you. And, while I have dozens of ideas, please feel free to reach out to me if you have suggestions for what we should create together.

B’Shira, In Song,
Cantor Micah Morgovsky

 

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DIRECTOR OF CONGREGATIONAL ENGAGEMENT'S Messages

september-october, 2023

We often use our trademark “Growth Happens Here” to define Temple Sinai’s character. The growth we have experienced these past few years is substantial, however it is measured.

We have grown in numbers, as we are closing in on 400 member units. We have grown in programming, as we see our calendar bulging with meaningful and engaging events. We have grown in relationships as evidenced by the increased socializing among congregants in the atrium, social hall, chapel, backyard, parking lot, homes, and out in the community.

In order to grow, we have required a combination of events to occur concurrently, most notably the leadership, staff and the congregation’s embrace of change. We believe our growth will continue as our new initiative, DIY Judaism, elevates the unique Jewish journey of each individual. Temple Sinai will provide the canvas for you to create your own path and take ownership of how you shape your Jewish life. Some might think DIY Judaism is a hands-off approach when, in fact, it’s the opposite. We respect your individual relationship with Judaism and, in turn, hope that with our new offerings, you will connect more deeply, feeling seen and validated within our community.

DIY Judaism has started taking shape in many forms. Circles, which are congregant-led gatherings, are designed to deepen connections. Wine and Cheese and the Meaning of Life, a new program that was launched this summer, came about when a congregant suggested that it would be meaningful to gather a small group at someone’s home and have an in-depth, interactive discussion about an important topic. Our Religious School children hear stories and are encouraged to share their viewpoints. The eclectic music of our services exposes us to the rich and varied timeline of Jewish musical traditions, past, present, and future. Temple Sinai will always strive to provide a deep sense of stability and continuity, while simultaneously affording you the space needed to explore and co-create your Jewish experience.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov stated that, “all beginnings require that you unlock new doors.” Temple Sinai has unlocked many new doors, allowing us to thrive and prosper. What I love is that we are constantly seeking out new doors. Together, as a community of trust, we have the courage to open them. Let us help shape your DIY Judaism and continue to inspire growth to happen at Temple Sinai.

Peace,
Larry Stoogenke

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Educator's Messages

september-october, 2023

Temple Sinai is a place of growth. We personally experience growth and change every day, and why should Temple Sinai not experience the same? At the end of the last school year, we said goodbye to a handful of our religious school faculty members and welcomed a handful of new faculty members.

When a door closes, it often re-opens with a chance for a new opportunity. Our religious school is full of adults excited to teach and learn with our children (mine included). Please introduce yourself to our faculty as you see them on Sundays and at other temple events. Many are congregants. 

Also new this year, we’ve changed our Family Chavurah structure (family programs). Most of our grades participate in one off-site field trip, and all grades have one or two in-house programs led by our faculty or an outside guest. To be fiscally responsible, there will be a fee for families to participate in field trips. We believe our trips are moderately priced and accessible for religious school families. Religious school families have already received the registration for the child/ren’s field trip and on-site programs for the year.

Also, please help me to welcome Sharon Feller to our expanding Temple Sinai staff team. She is our first-ever Religious School and Program Administrative Assistant. Sharon is with us in-person on Sundays during religious school and will work remotely during the week.

Sharon was born and raised in Stamford. Her family has Stamford roots that date back to the late 1800s. She attended Stamford Public Schools, Congregation Agudath Sholom Hebrew School, and Merkaz Torah and was involved in several Jewish youth organizations.

Sharon graduated from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland, with a Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Legal Studies. After college, Sharon began a career in retail management, buying, and store operations. She worked for several businesses. Since returning to Stamford in the early 1990s, she has repurposed her retail business background for her volunteer endeavors in the Stamford Jewish community. Sharon’s volunteer efforts have included Chabad, Friendship Circle, Bi-Cultural Hebrew Academy, United Jewish Federation, and Schoke Jewish Family Service, to name a few. She is a graduate of the UJF Behrend Institute for Leadership. Outside of her work at Temple Sinai and Friendship Circle and volunteering, Sharon is an artist at heart and loves being creative, whether designing jewelry, creating Judaica, or painting. Sharon enjoys many kinds of musical genres and dancing. 

Sharon and her husband, Mark, live in Stamford. They are proud parents of three children and two bonus children: Rabbi Zev and his wife Adar, Doron and his fiancée Sarah, and Liat, who is a Morah at the Temple Sinai Religious School. Sharon is thrilled to be a part of the Temple Sinai family. 

L’Shalom,
Morah Erica Quamily, LMSW

 

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DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS Messages

september-october, 2023

New “Art” Installations at Temple Sinai

I hope everyone has been enjoying this wonderful summer, I personally spent a good portion of time at the beach! I was also able to get a short visit with family in Israel, so I had some Safta time with Mia. I love the summer; the sunshine and the long days are the best for relaxation. I feel this is the time to refresh, regroup and reenergize!

Summer is also the quietest time here at Temple Sinai. In fact, during our busiest times, I sometime joke at our weekly staff meetings “is it July yet?” Religious School is out for the summer, our Circles have all ended and the new ones have not started yet, Friday and Saturday Bible study is on hiatus till the fall, and services are held in the Greenberg Family Chapel. Therefore, now is the best time to plan for the coming year. Time to update the calendar, forms and lists. Those of you that know me well, know that my lists have lists!

As I am writing this article, we have just signed with a contractor to update our lower level. Thank you in advance to the Danoff family for their generous donation from the Danoff Youth Fund, which will enable us to revitalize the Danoff Youth lounge and the rooms that surround it. Look for more in the next bulletin!

For many years we hung our Confirmation and Adult B’nei group photos on the wall outside of our small café area. During the construction of the Chapel project, they all needed to come down and now we had to find them a new home for them in our building. Thanks to Beth Peters, all of the photos have been refreshed and reframed, and a special thank you to Sharon Goldstein her help hanging them in the hallway. They are now all (starting from 1957) hung in the hallway on the wall in our school wing. They look wonderful in their new home! Please stop by to take a look – you might see your children or fellow Temple members in one of them!

We had a landscaping refresh in the island areas on Lakeside Drive made possible by Jake Isolda, who took on the beautification of these areas for his Eagle Scout project. Thank you Jake for choosing Temple Sinai as the recipient of this project. We are now working on brand new Temple Sinai signage for the area around his plantings.

There are many other “art” areas at Temple Sinai. Look for more details in my articles to come.

Shelly Welfeld

 

            
 

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Sun, April 14 2024 6 Nisan 5784