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Rabbi's Messages

September-october, 2020

Right around now, students are either heading back to school – or they aren’t. Folks are either getting ready to go to the ballot boxes in another 8 weeks or they’re getting their absentee ballots in the mail. People are either resuming their familiar activities or they are remaining in isolation. Bottom line is – we’re all over the place and having a hard time knowing where our familiar anchors can be found. Even our upcoming High Holy Day season will be dramatically different from any year before and probably any after. Which left us to answer the question, “What is really the most important outcome of Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur for us to ensure happens for members?”

After hearing from so many of you, it is clear that reconnection with your Sinai community, self-reflection and an opportunity to make personal commitments for the coming year are the most important elements for you. As much as I’d like to have believed it to be the rabbi’s sermons, I’m forced to acknowledge there are some other high points for some of you! So, we’ve turned our attention to trying to craft experiences that are of the highest caliber, with the fewest distractions and have the best chance of delivering the outcomes you hope for. Here are some details and then a few suggestions for you.

• I believe everyone knows that services will all be virtual – Streaming or Zoom.

• We will be sending home bags with some New Year’s goodies and prayer books

• Services will all be shorter than usual to avoid screen-fatigue

• We will be having a congregational dinner together virtually on Erev Rosh Hashanah – watch for details

• We will have an in-person (but from your vehicle) tashlich gathering on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah (see page 7 for more information)

• We will each have the opportunity to schedule an in-person visit to the Sanctuary between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to stand before the open ark.

Now for some things you can do to get the most out of the series of the days:

• Come to each service with an open mind and an even more open heart. You’ll have to work a little harder to find the spirituality thru your screen but we’ll be doing our best to facilitate it for you. Decide, ahead of time, that you refuse to let a little thing like a global pandemic get in the way of your personal and spiritual growth!

• There is an opportunity here – we’re often looking outward and around ourselves at the crowds and bustle of the holiday gatherings. This year, you might try to intentionally appreciate the chance for a quiet introspective time.

• Try attending a few more or a few different services than you typically would. This year, it is so easy to drop into the afternoon neilah service on Yom Kippur or the family service on Rosh Hashanah. (No parking issues or buses!) You might be pleasantly surprised at something wonderful taking place.

• If you’ve found yourself trapped with others and have been less kind in your impatience these recent months, you might try to deliver some very specific apologies before the Yom Kippur liturgy confronts you. This includes apologies to yourself for any reflexive, personal slights you’ve made against the person in the mirror.

• Consider small watch parties with a friend or a family with whom you feel comfortable. Maybe you can put a TV on your back porch and watch it socially-distanced from, but spiritually-close to each other?

• Attend a session or two of our Elul programming – we’ll get deep into a prayer each session which might have a significant impact on how you experience that prayer on the holiday.

• Schedule a visit to the Temple Sinai Sanctuary in between the holidays to approach the ark and Torahs for some intensely private time – no distractions

Of course, these are all only suggestions. If you have other ideas about how you’re going to make the most of this time, please share them – remember, we are all in this together: one Sinai Family.

May this coming year be better. May it be easier. May it be healthier, more unified and plain-old boring! Shanah Tovah, u’metukah!

L’Shalom – In Peace,
Rabbi Jay TelRav

 

JUNE, 2020


 

 

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President's Messages

september-october, 2020

Over the years I’ve celebrated the High Holy Days in many different places. This year I will be adding a new one to the list.

As we approach the New Year, I have begun the process of examining the past year and look forward to the renewal that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will provide. This year, knowing that we will not be physically in our Sanctuary to celebrate the High Holy Days, has made me think about where I have celebrated in the past.

I recall being a small boy and sitting with my grandfather at Temple B’nai Moshe in Brighton, Massachusetts. I remember the grand Sanctuary (as it appeared to a small boy) and reading my grandfather’s name on a plaque commemorating those who had founded the temple. I have strong memories, also as small boy of being at Congregation Sinai in West Haven, Connecticut celebrating the High Holy Days with my family and our close-knit Jewish community. Once Congregation Sinai sold its building in West Haven, I remember celebrating the second day of Rosh Hashanah with my mother at Congregation Sinai’s new location in Milford and later at a space rented from a church. By then, Roberta and I had joined Temple Sinai and were celebrating the High Holy Days at Northeast School and later in our Sanctuary.

These are the physical locations where I have celebrated the High Holy Days and they certainly provide me with warm memories. However, what I remember most are those with whom I celebrated. Yes, my grandfather’s temple was grand to a young boy but what I hold most dear are the memories of my extended family: grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I fondly recall how our Jewish community in West Haven would come together for the High Holy Days. I think of celebrating the second day of Rosh Hashanah with my mother. While we were reduced in number as a family, the experience only felt more precious. Finally, my own family and I began new traditions at Temple Sinai.

Our Temple Sinai community will not be together physically in our Sanctuary this year. I will be at home with my immediate family experiencing yet again something new for the High Holy Days. However, I know that my most heartfelt memories will not be of where I was physically this year. Most important will be memories of my immediate family and my extended family at Temple Sinai. The expression “being together in spirit” is often used when we are physically apart. The kehillah kedoshah (sacred community) of Temple Sinai will certainly be together in spirit during the High Holy Days this year (as well as through Zoom and hopefully in person during some outdoor events). While I will be someplace different for the High Holy Days this year, I am excited about creating new memories with my Temple Sinai family.

Alan Cohen
President

 

MAY, 2020

 

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Cantor's Messages

clientuploads/Bio_Images_Leadership/micah_morgovsky.jpgSeptember-october, 2020

Notes from the Cantor

My eyes are closed. I am sitting in my chair, in a relaxed but attentive posture, feet planted firmly on the floor, spine lengthened, chin slightly lifted. I have set my intention for this period of meditation – to focus on the breath as it enters and exits my body. In breath. Out breath. In breath. Out breath. I breathe for a few cycles, concentrating intensely on the flow of air - in through the nose, out through the mouth.

A few moments later, I am thinking about what I should make for dinner – should we have pasta or chicken? Maybe I should go for a walk this afternoon. I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow. And then, with my next inhalation, I realize I have strayed from my intention. I have completely lost focus on the breath. At first I am annoyed with myself, for having wandered so quickly. I fear I will never get the hang of this whole meditation thing. But then I remember that this moment of noticing, of acknowledging my busy mind and choosing to return to the breath, is an opportunity. A chance to return to myself with compassion. B’rachamim Tashuv.

B’rachamim Tashuv. To return with compassion. To say that we are living in scary, uncertain times is a gross understatement, to say the least. High levels of stress and anxiety may cause us to act poorly towards ourselves and our loved ones. I’m sure each one of us can look back over these last many months and identity moments when we were less than our best selves. In retrospect, we may experience regret and wish we had chosen to react differently. Acted with more kindness, more patience, more love. The goal of mediation is not to live in a constant state of enlightenment, but rather to help us be more present in each and every moment – big and small. Mindfulness meditation allows us our humanity – our minds are busy and we are hugely imperfect beings. But if we can slow down and notice our thoughts and actions for just a moment, we can choose. In that moment of noticing, of paying attention, we can choose to return to the love and Divinity within us – and thus act in a way that brings that innate Divine love out into the world.

During the month of Elul, we begin to prepare ourselves for the High Holidays. It is meant to be a period of intense focus and self-reflection. To do the work of repentance we must slow down, notice that we may have strayed from our intention of being our truest self and, hopefully, choose to return to ourselves with compassion. But we need not wait until the Days of Awe to engage in this important work. Every year, every month, every day, every moment, is an opportunity to return. May this period of introspection reveal your true heart and may you return with compassion again and again and again….

B’Shira, in song,
Cantor Micah Morgovsky

 

MAY, 2020

 

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DIRECTOR OF CONGREGATIONAL ENGAGEMENT'S Messages

september-october, 2020

“I imagine that yes is the only living thing.” —ee cummings

Michelle Poris was recently honored as a Rising Star at Temple Sinai. In lieu of the gala, we recognized her at a special event, over Zoom of course, and she shared a remarkable message about her being a rising star simply because she was asked. She was asked to be on committees, to chair the Religious School Committee, to be on the board, for input on the direction of events. She displayed great restraint and humility in failing to take credit for the second part of the equation to being asked: saying “yes.” She could have easily said “no” and continued her content and very busy life with her husband and two lovely children… but she said “yes.” Michelle has had a tremendous impact on Sinai and at the same time achieved personal gratification because she said “yes.”

I am responsible for the health and healing programming for JFS in Greenwich. I have reached out to clergy, psychologists, economists and others to administer programs and usually receive a bevy of questions before securing a commitment, which I don’t always receive. I asked Rabbi Jay if he would do a program. He said “yes” before asking a single question. After he committed, he then asked the questions: what’s the program idea, who’s the audience, when will we do it, am I partnering with anyone, what’s the format… etc. It was so refreshing to get a “yes” without precautions or contingencies. As the program is coming into focus, I know he will have an impact on the community, and I see the passion and energy building for him personally… all because he said “yes.” (Hopefully by the time you read this, you will have experienced his program.)

Sinai Circles will be starting a new round of circles, the membership committee is rebranding, the brotherhood is ready for a makeover, staying connected needs a jolt of energy, and the Religious School has new leadership with bold innovative ideas. There are opportunities in so many areas to have a substantial impact on Temple Sinai. If asked, many of us hesitate and resort to the default of “no.” In our current culture “no means no” and has, in some ways, stomped on the transformative power of “yes.” I ask that you let “yes” guide your experience just as Michelle and Rabbi Jay did. The next time Rabbi Jay, the Cantor Micah, the staff, a friend or I ask you to join a committee, volunteer at an event, attend a program, or provide input please take a moment to consider how a “yes” can deliver a meaningful and transformative experience for you and have an everlasting effect on the Temple Sinai community. Our mission statement ends with the words Growth Happens Here; one definitive way to grow is to say “yes.”

Larry Stoogenke

MAY, 2020

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Educator's Messages

September-october, 2020

Hatkhala Khadasha  (New Beginnings)
During my seven years at Temple Sinai, I have had many new beginnings: I taught seventh grade, ran a Rosh Chodesh group, supervised the youth group, got married, and had a child. I now have the title of Morah Erica and have moved into the role of Religious School and Youth Director. This is a brand new and exciting role for Temple Sinai. It is my privilege to take on this new beginning with a community that has welcomed my family and me with open arms.

Now that summer is coming to an end, a new set of adventures is about to begin for all of us: new classes in school, making new friends, maybe wrapping your head around continuing to work from home with or without your children at home too, and the beginning of a new season. This is a time of beginnings as well; we celebrate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur.  As Rosh Hashanah approaches, we make exciting plans for the year ahead, while we also think about the year that has just passed. This year our High Holy Days will look different from last year. Many of us will dress up, or not, and gather around a computer with our loved ones. While we plan for an unusual New Year we can rely on some of the old faithful comforts, I know I will still enjoy apples and honey, soft fluffy challah and some brisket.

In addition to the Jewish New Year being almost upon us, Temple Sinai is excited to welcome two new religious school teachers to our faculty. Please help me to welcome Robin Himelstein and Jessica Rothstein Berger. It is Robin’s first year teaching at Temple Sinai. However, she taught first and second grade for 18 years at Congregation Beth El in Fairfield and as well as running family programming. Last year she taught first grade at Temple Sholom in Greenwich. During the week, she is a Group Account Director for ProEd Communications, a subsidiary of Omnicom Health Group. She earned a bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology and audiology from Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. Robin has also been a member of Temple Sinai for several years and loves the community. When not working, she loves to spend time with both of her boys, Nate and Eli, and her dog Apollo. She can be found swimming at the JCC or hitting balls at Sterling Farms.

Jessica grew up in Lake Oswego, a suburb of Portland, Oregon, where there weren’t a lot of Jews at the time. However, she found her Jewish identity by becoming involved in her synagogue, going to (and later working at) a Jewish sleep away camp on the Oregon coast, and participating in BBYO. These experiences have shaped who she is. Jessica has worked at many jobs in the Jewish day camp and communal world.

After getting her BA from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), she moved to New York City. Jessica met her Connecticut native husband, Ben, while getting an MSW from NYU. They have two children, Mari, who will turn three in October, and Micah, who was born this past April. When not playing with her kids or preparing a team-building activity, she loves to experience nature and music, and to make art and delicious food!

In addition to these staffing changes, there are going to be new virtual family Chavurot and volunteer opportunities with Schoke Jewish Family Service.

While I have spoken to so many religious school families over the phone and through email this summer, I have not communicated with everyone. I look forward to working with all of you virtually and hopefully in-person this school year. Please let me know if you need information or want to schedule a few minutes to speak about this year’s program.

I look forward to a year full of fun, family, and learning together with you.

L’Shalom,
Morah Erica Quamily, LMSW

 

September/October Dates to Remember:

Sun., Sept. 13:
Opening day of Religious School

Wed., Sept. 16:
First day of Wednesday school

Sat., Sept. 19:  
Rosh Hashanah Children’s Service (Pre-K and younger) Family Service

Sun., Sept. 20: 
No Hebrew School,
2nd day of Rosh Hashanah

Mon., Sept. 28:
Yom Kippur Children’s Service (Pre-K and younger) Family Service

Sun., Oct. 4:     
First day of Tichon Sinai

Sun., Oct. 18:  
Fifth Grade Family Chavurah, Making a Gary Rosenthal Tzedakah Box

Sun., Oct. 18:    
Sixth Grade Food Drive with Schoke Jewish Family Service

 

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Tue, October 20 2020 2 Cheshvan 5781