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Rabbi's Messages

JANUARY-FEBRUARY, 2022

Shalom All,

A few months back, I was chatting with one of you about a newsletter article I’d written and, as an aside, they asked why I titled the series, “Rabbi’s Responsa.” It was a good question and I thought I’d share the answer with the whole congregation. In full transparency, if you find that your eyes glaze over at the first mention of Jewish history, rabbinic law and Talmud, you may wish to turn the page now.

You know that we’re the People of the Book, but that goes far beyond the Five Books of the Torah. Along with that written-down, now-sacred text, there was an “oral tradition” of stories and teaching that accompanied it. This oral tradition was written down to avoid being lost to the world in the century following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70CE. Called the Mishnah, it was an explanation of how you actually live by the words of the Torah. For example, Exodus instructs, “Don’t do any malachah on Shabbat.” But what does that mean? The next three centuries saw the rabbis discuss and explain these rules, in this case about prohibited activities on the sabbath. Eventually, the mishnah + the record of their discussions = the Talmud.

Once the Talmud officially closed in the 5th or 6th century CE, the evolution of Jewish thought certainly did not cease. New situations arose then just as they do today. A new food was introduced by some traveler to the community and nobody knew if it was kosher. Or, a cutting-edge, 10th century technology for farming was developed and nobody knew if it was permitted for use by Jews on Shabbat. And who would they ask? Their rabbi.

Sometimes the answers to these questions were quick and obvious, but occasionally the local rabbi of the village would receive a query that stumped him. He’d need the support of his own rabbi who may also have felt ill-equipped to respond. That 2nd authority would write down the question and send it to the rabbi of the whole region. Sometimes these questions were so significant that they would make it all the way to the sitting heads of the greatest academies of Jewish thought in the cities of Sura or Pumbedita. As the highest authorities of the day, those rabbis would deliberate and adjudicate an answer (known as a responsum) to the question. Then, rather than simply sending a letter directly back to the rabbi who originally asked the question, their scribes would hand-copy the response and it would be delivered out to every corner of the Jewish world for universal implementation as new law. This system of asking and answering is called, in Hebrew,  – Questions and Responses.

What is so nifty about the system is that it continues to this day because, despite the explosion of legal literature of the middle ages, Jewish text will never be able to keep up with the emergence of new questions that could not have been asked before: Can laboratory-cultivated meat be considered kosher? How does a Jew observe shabbat in outer space? May a synagogue accept the gift of money earned on the sale of highly addictive and dangerous pain medications? This body of literature continues to grow every year just as the world advances in ways the Torah could never have anticipated.

Each movement establishes an authoritative body of rabbinic voices (ours of course includes female rabbis) who publish these responsa to actual questions from the field. It is fascinating to read through the questions and the answers to see how the legal tradition is taken just as seriously in the Reform movement today as our ancestors did 1500 years ago. You can check it out by scanning the QR code to the right – but be warned, it can turn into a rabbit-hole from which you might not return!

So, while I am certainly not publishing rulings on questions asked about Jewish life for the whole world, the name “Rabbi’s Responsa” is a nod to the traditional way in which rabbis continue to communicate with their community.

May you enjoy the start to a healthy new year and may 2022 bring us all growth, hope and awareness of our countless blessings.

L’Shalom – In Peace,
Rabbi Jay TelRav

 

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER, 2021


 

 

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President's Messages

November-december, 2021

Welcome to our many new members!

We’re very glad you have decided to make Temple Sinai your spiritual home. For the benefit of new members and others who may not know the Temple’s Leadership Team, this article will review the Temple’s governance structure and introduce the Leadership Team to you.

The authority and responsibility for governing the Congregation rests with the Board of Trustees. All significant strategic and policy issues are decided by or delegated for decision by the Board. There are currently 23 voting members of the Board including myself (President), 6 Vice Presidents and the Immediate Past President. The Vice Presidents and the Immediate Past President make up the Leadership Team. The Team and member committees are the primary means through which policies established by the Board are implemented through close cooperation between them and our professional staff.

Alan Cohen served two years as President from 2019-2021. He is Immediate Past President and in that role provides advice and guidance to me and of other members to the Leadership Team. Alan is also the contact for members experiencing any financial challenges with respect to Temple membership. Alan in an attorney and has been a member of the Board of Trustees for nine years. He and his wife Roberta live in Stamford and have been members of Temple Sinai for 19 years.

Sharon Goldstein is VP of Administration and has served in that role for three years. She works closely with our professional staff and various committees to identify the Temple’s capital needs. Sharon is deeply committed to taking care of and improving our indoor and outdoor spaces. Most recently she wrote and obtained a $50,000 grant from the US Department of Homeland Security, half of which reimbursed the Temple for past security upgrades and the balance of which will be used for further improvements. She and her husband Bruce have been members of Temple Sinai for 6 years.

Nan Gordon is VP of Torah (Education). She returned to that role in 2019 having served previously during the 35 years she and her husband Paul (a former President) have been members. She oversees the Religious School and Adult Education, and has recently assumed oversight of the Early Childhood Education Center. Nan overseas the Religious School Committee and works closely with Erica Quamily, Religious School and Youth Director, and anticipates a close working relationship with Anna Goldshteyn, Director of the ECEC.

Grant Kallen is VP of Membership and has served in that role since 2020. He overseas the Membership Committee and works with our professional staff and other leadership and board members to enhance the membership experience. He is also a lead member of the technology committee which implemented the virtual environment that allowed members to worship, learn and engage in other activities during the pandemic. This year Grant will also be co-leading the Mysticism Today Circle with Rabbi Jay. He had his wife Judith have been members of Temple Sinai for more than 35 years. Their daughter Rachel, who became Bat Mitzvah in 1986, lives with her husband Michael and their son Max, age 14, in Sydney Australia.

Susan Kostin served as the VP of Finance and Treasurer from 2004 – 2006 and is now serving in that role again. Susan has led the Investment Committee for many years and participated in the selection of Lexington Wealth, the registered independent advisor overseeing the investment of our endowed funds. Adding to that endowment is one of her goals in serving on Temple Sinai’s Life and Legacy Committee. Susan is now fully retired from a career in law and finance and she also currently serves on the Board of United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien. She has been a member of Temple Sinai for more than 25 years. Susan continues to live in Darien where she and her late husband Ed Kostin Z”L raised their now 31-year-old son Andrew.

Jennifer Kramer is VP of Avodah (Ritual) and after serving on the Board for 3 years joined the Leadership Team in 2021. Additionally, Jen chairs the Cantor’s Concert Committee and the Ritual Committee and also co-chairs the B’nai Mitzvah Committee. She is a member of Sisterhood and one Sinai Circle. Jen is a graduate of the Amidah Leadership Initiative and was an adult confirmand at Temple Sinai. Jen and her husband Patrick have been members of Temple Sinai since 2014. They have one child, Sophia, currently in the Tichon Sinai program.

Lisa Silver is VP of Social Action. In that role she assists in Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and Kehillah Kedoshah (building a sacred community). Lisa chairs the Caring Committee, serves as a member of the Gala and Religious School committees, chairs Mitzvah Day and represents Temple Sinai on the Interfaith Social Ministry Collaborative. Lisa is a graduate of the Amidah Leadership Initiative . She and her husband Grant have been members of Temple Sinai since 2015. Their children Jacob (age 12) and Lily (age 9) attend Temple Sinai’s religious school.

The first priority of the Board of Trustees and the Leadership Team are those articulated in the Temple’s Mission Statement: a community dedicated to the spiritual, social and intellectual development of our members through engaging worship, community involvement and inspiring learning within a caring, responsive and inclusive extended family. Growth Happens Here!

May we all continue to grow together.

In peace,
Moira Morrissey

 

SEPTEMBER, 2021

 

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Cantor's Messages

clientuploads/Bio_Images_Leadership/micah_morgovsky.jpgJANUARY-FEBRUARY, 2022

As I write this, I am in the midst of preparing for my annual cantor’s concert. Though I don’t yet know the financial outcome of this important fundraiser in support of our temple music programs, I know I can confidently thank you all for your tremendous generosity and support. Historically, each subsequent year, the cantor’s concert has brought in more funds than the year before and I am sure this year will follow suit. I continue to sit in awe and gratitude of this amazing community.

Throughout it all, our Temple Sinai family has continued to put music at the center of everything we do and I am thrilled to share that our three musical groups – Ruach, Kolot Sinai and RuJu – are back up and running after a long COVID-forced hiatus. As I write, both Kolot and Ruach are rehearsing for this month’s MLK and Shabbat Shira service, scheduled for January 14. We will be sharing the music of our faith tradition alongside music of the civil rights movement and the gospel style. We will elevate the important steps we’ve taken towards pursuing freedom and equality, while acknowledging the long road still laid out before us. We will celebrate the many freedoms we enjoy, while shining a light on the ways many peoples of the world, our brothers and sisters, are still enslaved. I hope you will join us for this important musical service and commemoration.

I also want to invite you to our annual Tu B’Shvat experience, a couple days later, on Sunday evening, January 16. Centered on themes of nature, this seder usually celebrates the birthday of the trees and revels in the beauty of the natural world. This year, we’ll honor the beauty of nature while acknowledging our obligation to protect it. To this end, we will be conducting an environmental activism seder. At this family-friendly event, we will share ideas and suggest steps every household can take towards caring for and preserving our precious ecosystem. We will talk about ways we can reduce waste, recycle and live with an eye on caring for our environment. There will be important conversations alongside fun activities – please sign up and learn how you can do more to help.

 

With both of these events – MLK Shabbat Shira and Tu B’Shvat – we hold in one hand progress and success, and in the other, commitment and obligation to always strive to do more. As our sages said: it is not incumbent upon us to finish the work, but neither are we free to desist from it. Thank you, once again, for being a community that lives in the balance. I join you in celebrating all we do to help our human community and the environment, and I look forward to continuing the work ahead.

B’Shira, in song,
Cantor Micah Morgovsky

 

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER, 2021

 

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DIRECTOR OF CONGREGATIONAL ENGAGEMENT'S Messages

JANUARY-FEBRUARY, 2022

I recently had dinner with a congregant/friend who was elated with her relationship with Temple Sinai. She has found her optimal place with our community and now comfortably calls Temple Sinai her second home. She thanked me and sang the praises of our staff/clergy for creating a space where she can maximize her fulfillment. I appreciated her recognition, but let her know that I just guided her, and she could find the answer as to why Temple Sinai has become such a central part of her life by looking in the mirror.

After many years as a member of Temple Sinai, this congregant decided it was time to invest herself in Temple Sinai. According to her, “I am now an integral part of the community. I always felt on the outside, not anymore.” What changed was her willingness to lean into Temple Sinai’s offerings. She focused on what interested her and overcame her fear of feeling like the outsider. I let her know that no matter where she decided to place her energy, she would be welcomed and wasn’t going to walk away with any wounds. She started slowly and now her schedule is filled with a litany of Temple Sinai activities. She is connected in a way she never imagined possible and expressed how “fulfilling it’s been from a spiritual, religious, and intellectual standpoint. I am growing at a time when I thought I would be withering.”

This was the sweetest music to my ears. What I love about this conversion from an ostensible outsider to a full-fledged member is that she did the work to make it happen. She recognized that the staff and clergy can only do so much to bring her into the full embrace of our kehillah kedoshah. Her desire to commit to being a part of our Temple Sinai family is what enabled change to happen and her depth of belonging to her community to grow.

One of my jobs is to help you enhance your relationship with Temple Sinai, just as I helped my friend find her path. The menu of opportunities has grown. We offer an array of ways to connect with Temple Sinai including but not limited to a diverse group of Circles, meditation and healing services, social action that includes everything from sandwich making for the food insecure to assisting with Afghan refugee resettlement, mitzvah day projects, Bible study, men’s and women’s retreats, building a school in Africa, Shabbat and Havdalah services and much more. As a congregant of Temple Sinai, you have agency in everything we offer. Please reach out to me and let’s explore ways in which you can find further meaning in your connection with Temple Sinai. If you feel that nothing quite appeals to you, let’s discuss creating a new way to transform your relationship with Temple Sinai. I would welcome that conversation as I know that investing in Temple Sinai is investing in yourself.

Larry Stoogenke

SEPTEMBER, 2021

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Educator's Messages

JANUARY-FEBRUARY, 2022

I am excited to be writing an article full of good things today, and with minimal mention of the pandemic, I promise. During religious school in the time leading up to Chanukah and Thanksgiving, many of our students were asked, “What are you grateful for?”

As I quietly strolled through the hallway listening to the student’s answers, it occurred to me that no one asks me this question nor do I ask it of other adults. So, I will share with you a few things I am thankful for this holiday season.

 I am hopeful and thankful that my daughter will soon be eligible for her vaccine which will provide me with some additional peace of mind. After some quick testing, our family spent the Thanksgiving holidays and beginning of Chanukah with my extended family for the first time in a long time. Jewish tradition teaches us to care and show kindness for others and my daughter (newly 3) has taken an interest in the word “kindness.” So far to her that means giving her clothes that no longer fit to smaller friends in her class and the joy of gift-giving. My heart was full when she saw a commercial for a toy on TV that she thought would be perfect for her twin seven-year-old cousins. We quickly placed the order, which included one for her, and discussed how it was so kind to think of her cousins and to want to bring them a Chanukah present. I spent the week before Thanksgiving counting down the days to reconnecting with my family and watching the joy of three-year-old gift giving. I am grateful for my immediate and extended family this holiday season.

Professionally, I am grateful for Zoom meetings with colleagues and traveling for my first professional conference in two years. I will get to connect with the people whose faces I have gotten to know well on Zoom. I am a member of the Association for Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE). The members of this organization have been my lifeline over the past year and a half. They are on call for operational, curricular, and personal questions as I have assumed my new role at Temple Sinai during a global pandemic. The ARJE has a yearly conference; in my previous position at the Union for Reform Judaism, I was one of a few who had honorary memberships to the ARJE. However, I was not permitted to attend the conference. This year, I am an official attendee and volunteer at the conference. I will have the chance to learn from experts in my field, connect with colleagues, and lead a gathering for other new(ish) Jewish Educators. This conference will allow me to bring back a wealth of information and innovative new programs and ideas to Temple Sinai. I look forward to debriefing with Rabbi Jay, the religious school committee and faculty, and anyone else interested in what I learned.

I encourage you (adults) to take some time to reflect on what you are grateful for, even though no one may have asked you.

L’Shalom,
Morah Erica Quamily, LMSW

 

Dates to remember:

Sunday, January 2   No religious school

Sunday, January 23
7th grade Family Chavurah

Saturday, January 29  
3rd grade Shabbat family service

Saturday, February 12
6th Grade Shabbat family service

NOVEMBER-DECEMBER, 2021

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DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS Messages

MARCH-APRIL, 2021

The other night I awoke at 2:00am with a scratchy throat and a drippy nose. I panicked and feared the worst – I have COVID-19! All of these crazy thoughts were going through my head. Who was I in contact with? Who did I expose over the last few days? What do I do about this coming weekend when my dear friend was flying in from Denver to visit? How will I survive?

Then I thought, well it won’t be so bad – I am three times vaccinated, so I won’t end up in the hospital and I won’t die. All of these intense thoughts were rolling around in my not so awake brain. I picked up my phone and scheduled the first COVID-19 test I could for 10:30am at CVS. Of course, I could not go back to sleep now and ended up having a very restless night. The next day I went for the test and thank God it was negative! I had “failed” the test. I bought a humidifier for my bedroom and lo and behold my problems cleared up.

But then I got to thinking, what a crazy world we are now living in. Two years ago, I never would have panicked like I did that night. What have we become as a society? Someone coughs and we all run away. Has this become our new reality?

As of this writing, Connecticut COVID-19 numbers are way down, children ages 5-12 are being vaccinated, and the CDC is recommending boosters for everyone. Maybe life can return to that “normal” we once knew. But is that even possible anymore? Yes, we need to take care of our bodies and, our health, but we also need to take care of our mind and soul. How do we do that when COVID-19 has taken over?

I want to say that as a Temple community we are continuing to expand and grow every day. We have over 40 new families that have joined since COVID-19. We are back in our building with school, services, and programs. Soon our new Early Childhood Education Center will be filled with babies in our classrooms. And of course, we want to keep everyone as safe as possible.

So, what does this all mean? Our “new normal” means combining best practices from pre-COVID and the current ever-changing moment.  We are at risk from being exposed all the time, but we cannot live in fear. As they say... life must go on. At Temple Sinai we are challenged with keeping our community safe but still together as a community. We have upgraded all of our HVAC filters to Merv 13. We purchased new air purifiers in the Greenberg Family Chapel and for the Poch Family Study. We must take one day at a time and I hope that one day when someone coughs, we don’t all panic!

Shelly Welfeld

Note: When I wrote this article the numbers were down, but just as it was going to print, the numbers doubled in Stamford and we have returned to wearing our masks inside the Temple. Maybe the “new normal” is keeping our masks on forever!

SEPTEMBER, 2021

            
 

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Thu, June 30 2022 1 Tammuz 5782