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The Rabbi's Messa

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Rabbi's Messages

Shalom L’Kulam
(Peace, Everyone),

Our Jewish traditions are so strong and successful because they are flexible. We’ve demonstrated this time and again through history and it’s no different today. We hold on to the best of our past, and we honor our roots as we respond to our present and prepare for our future. Part of what Cantor Micah and I work to achieve is an engaging experience of Judaism that is both rooted in our history, and relevant and engaging. Of course, in today’s fast-paced world, that often means that good ideas have a short shelf-life.

     We typically develop a programmatic idea for the congregation, and your excitement around the experience is so high that we repeat it the next year. But we rarely run a program or attempt an experience for a third year in a row. We know that it will fall short of our own standards of excellence – we’ll be bored and so will you. It is why you so often see us changing up the program offerings year after year. This coming year will be no different.

     We’ve spent the last few years doing some summer services at the Bartlett Arboretum but this year, we moved to our own property and have seen terrific turn out as we celebrate our warm summer shabbatot under the stars. Three years of the Wine, Cheese and Chocolate seder have been fun, but this year we’re doing away with it and will be spending Tu B’Shvat building terraria, creating beauty just as God’s world is created beauty. (Don’t worry, we’ll still have wine and chocolate.) And there will be a few changes for the High Holy Days this year, too.

     For the last few years we’ve been holding our family services at Northeast School and it has worked out great…for the most part. But, we were really limited by the physical space in the auditorium and have decided to move these services to the JCC this year. (Offsite parking for all congregants will be at the JCC and shuttle busses to the temple will still be provided.) The last few years, we’ve had a quiet, contemplative space for 2nd Day Rosh Hashanah, but this year we have decided to develop that time into a full service making it early and at 8:30am so folks won’t need to take another day off work in order to have a full, yet more intimate, holiday service, complete with Torah, shofar and an interactive study session. And the Cantor and I have made some liturgical changes that you might find surprising and hopefully pleasant.

     As with everything we do, we seek the delivery of a Judaism that reflects your values, meets your needs and speaks to your experience as a member of a progressive modern community. I’m so proud to serve Temple Sinai as your spiritual leader and look forward to 5778 as your partner.

 – L’Shanah Tovah u’M’tukah,
May it be a Good and Sweet New Year,


Jay TelRav

 

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July-August, 2017

The Rabbi's Messages
Shalom L’Kulam – Hi All,
 

If you have had a son or daughter who has celebrated becoming a bar or bat mitzvah with me at Temple Sinai, then you might remember this moment at the rehearsal before the big day. We practice the reading of the Students’ Prayer of Thanksgiving and, when we get to the next sentence, I ask the student to pause and we discuss the content. It reads: “As a Bar (Bat) Mitzvah, I have now taken upon myself the mitzvah of Jewish learning. In the presence of my family and teachers, I pledge this day to continue my Jewish studies and that I will always be involved in Jewish life.” We discuss what a pledge means and what they are really promising. I remind them that Judaism does not demand nor expect that they say anything that they don’t believe or feel comfortable with and I ask them to consider their ability to make this pledge. Every once in a while I meet a kid who can’t wait to drop out of religious school and who says s/he doesn’t wish to say this but most are pretty comfortable delivering the statement – particularly when I tell them I’ll still respect them even if they find themselves unable to fulfill the commitment.
     Similarly, our tradition has always taken the power of Words very seriously. Long ago, our rabbis were wordsmithing our prayers to ensure that they spoke the sentiment and reflected the values of those who spoke them. The Aleinu originally had a sentence that was intended as a polemic against paganism which read “they bow down to emptiness and vanity and they pray to a god who will not save them.” Though it was not directed at Christians, our ancestors understood that it could be misunderstood and so they removed it from nearly all Ashkenazic prayer books starting in about the year 1350 CE. (Sephardim didn’t live amongst Christians as prevalently and so it was not understood to be the same concern.)
     Our Amidah prayers traditionally acknowledged how much we value the legacy of our Patriarchs. Of course, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are powerful figures in our people’s identity. But, in ways the rabbis of 1st century CE could never have understood, we now value our Matriarchs on par with those men. Our liturgy provides equal acknowledgement of the roles played by Sarah Rebekah, Rachel and Leah.
     The traditional liturgy presents us with an important template. When we apply our God-given commitment to the integrity of what we’re saying we sometimes realize it needs a little work. Take, for example, the end of the Kaddish. It reads:

          Oseh Shalom bimromav, hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu v’al kol Yisrael.
     The straightforward meaning of this is: May the One who causes peace to reign in heaven cause peace to fall upon us and upon all Jews. To a person, everyone I’ve spoken with has shared my belief that this sentiment stops short of its full potential; that is, none of us will enjoy true peace until everyone experiences it. It was a progressive and respectable statement considering it was written in a time by people who knew nothing of globalization and the transcendent nature of the human community. Today, our world is much smaller and we feel collective responsibility, even for those we’ve never met on the far side of the globe.
     Which is why the Cantor and I have been adding a few extra words to the end of our Kaddish for the last couple of months. To ensure that our liturgy reflects our current reality and commitment to the global community, not just to our local, we’re adding  – v’al yoshvei tevel – which means, “and every inhabitant of the earth.” In aligning ourselves with most other Progressive congregations out there, we also align our liturgy with the values of its users!
     Our politics are re-examined as we age. Our self-image is revised as we grow. Our priorities are re-ordered as we learn. Our liturgy is re-written as we mature. Our Judaism Reforms as we re-form!

L’shalom, In Peace

Jay TelRav

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The President's Messages
President's Messages

Dear Temple Sinai Family,

I find myself still humming the words from Hamilton, The Musical as performed by our very own Ruach during its inaugural year-end concert in June. It was a Shabbat I will always remember and am sure many of you will too. That night culminated a year at Temple Sinai that was unprecedented on many levels.

     A few weeks later I found myself in a remote village (no electricity or running water) in Malawi, Africa where I joined hundreds of community members to break ground on a primary school. There, on behalf of buildOn, the non-profit organization I work for, I enjoyed the Malawian version of Ruach. For days on end, hundreds of women, men and children were singing and dancing while building a primary school for their kids.

     These two experiences provided me with a spiritual high that carried me through the summer. And now it’s time to turn our energy to the High Holy Days, one of the most meaningful times of the year for the Temple Sinai family. Our temple is buzzing with anticipation of the year ahead. Our clergy and staff are back from well-deserved summer breaks and have prepared a fall that will provide an opportunity for each of us to learn and grow, just like the community members in Malawi. The only difference is that we already have our “school.”

     Before I headed to Malawi, Rabbi TelRav and I spent a few days camping and retreating in upstate New York. Sitting around the campfire and while hiking to a breathtaking waterfall, we talked a lot about what Temple Sinai will look like in five and ten years. We reflected on how amazing the previous year was and established our aspirations for the year 5778. In addition to the “normal” responsibilities of being your president, I’m going to focus on the following:

  • Board development: ensuring every board seat is filled with a committed member that is authentically engaged in Temple Sinai.
  • Fund raising and marketing: establishing a development and marketing committee that will guide these two functions. Just drop me a note if you would you like to join Seth Diamond, Shelley Leibowitz, Mike Stone (Chair) and Roberta Sultzer on this newly formed
  • Operationalizing various functions: working with our clergy and staff to improve efficiencies in many aspects of our temple.
  • Capital improvements: working with various committees to upgrade our “school.”

     As we head into this sacred time of year I’d like each of you to think about one aspect of Temple Sinai that you want to lean in on. What do you want to learn more about? Where can you lend some of your precious time? Lastly, if you love this Temple Sinai family, ask yourself who is missing and share an invitation with that person. We’d love to welcome them in the way we’ve welcomed you. Then shoot me an email, let me know where I’ll be seeing more of you and whom you’ll be bringing with you.

     I look forward to praying with you over the High Holy Days and learning with many of you in Mussar. G’mar Chatimah Tovah – May you be inscribed for Good.


     Marc Friedman
     president@templesinaistamford.org

 

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July-August, 2017

President's MessagesJu
Dear Temple Sinai Family,

Thank you for the distinct honor of becoming the next president of our spiritual home. Please know this is a responsibility I take very seriously and I will do my best to meet (and exceed) your expectations. While I’ve met many of you over the years, whether at Shabbat Services, in Brotherhood meetings, on the recent temple trip to Israel or while studying Mussar, I know there are a lot of you to whom I’ve not yet been able to say hello.
     It would be great to have tea (I’m not a coffee drinker) with you in the near future. In case that doesn’t happen, I’d like to share with you part of my personal story. This way if you have something really nice to say about the Temple, you’ll feel comfortable sharing your kind words with me. Born in Detroit, I grew up in a near-by suburb, went to college in Kalamazoo and then headed to the east coast.
     My dad was the cantor at Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield, MI where I had my Bar Mitzvah a few years ago. In the very small world category, it’s the same synagogue where Rabbi TelRav had his Bar Mitzvah and yes, my dad was his cantor. While we didn’t know each other growing up (he constantly reminds me that I’m a bit older than he is) our parents were friends and shared the same passion for Temple Kol Ami.
     That passion was also instilled in me from an early age by my dad as he was very active in temple life, even taking his turn as president. He was always going to temple meetings, rehearsing for the High Holy Days or sitting on one of many committees. To this day, my dad is still involved in his temple and a role model for my commitment to Jewish life.
     For the past 25 years I’ve committed myself to breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education while working at the nonprofit buildOn. Having been at buildOn since its founding I’ve witnessed the power that a group of like-minded people can have when they come together as ONE.
     Similarly, I’ve seen the Temple Sinai family come together as ONE on several occasions. From the Unity Project to the Gala and more, it’s inspiring to be part of this warm, welcoming and inclusive family. A lot of the credit goes to Rabbi TelRav for being a remarkable spiritual leader and a lot of the credit goes to you, the congregation, for stepping up in so many ways.
     As a member of the LGBT community I’m thrilled to experience the inclusive gestures made by so many of you. It’s my hope that others in my community will also make their way to Temple Sinai and have a similar experience.
     I’m looking forward to working with a very dedicated Leadership Team which includes Alan Barr, Alan Cohen, Wendy Lewis, Stu Madison, Amanda Sherman and Steve Zales. It’s been an honor to be mentored over the past year by our current president, Gloria Skigen. Gloria has fast become a great friend who was very patient in getting me up to speed on what I needed to learn before accepting the gavel from her. We all owe Gloria a huge THANK YOU for her unwavering commitment to our temple!
     In closing, I have come to appreciate that our congregation thrives using the spiritual advice of our prayer book, “Pray as if everything depends on God and act as if everything depends on you.” I’m excited to work alongside of the Leadership Team, Board of Trustees, committee members and the entire congregation to ensure Temple Sinai grows and provides all of us with the sacred relationship we seek in our temple.  None of this can be done alone. We are all in this together.  

Warm regards,

Marc Friedman

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The Cantor's Messages

Cantor's Messages

clientuploads/Bio_Images_Leadership/micah_morgovsky.jpgDear Temple Sinai Family,

Almost two years ago this fall, Temple Sinai suffered the loss of our beloved friend and music director, Kathy Storfer. We all continue to miss her and mourn her passing. I, for one, think of her whenever I open my mouth to sing and I know I am not alone. These last couple of years, we’ve been so blessed to have had Beth Styles at the helm, leading Kolot Sinai and continuing to bring us wonderful musical worship opportunities. And this year, we turn the page on the next chapter for Kolot Sinai as we welcome a new director, Zachary Kampler. Members of Kolot Sinai met in June to “audition” Zachary, and everyone is thrilled to have him on board.

     Zachary is a professor at Westchester Community College, the Music Director of the Sound Beach Community Band and the conductor for Saint Catherine’s Players. He has served as Music Director for Staples Players, Bedford Acting Group, Weston High School Company, Binghamton University Theater Department, Musicals at Ricther, and the Boys & Girls Club Theater Program. Additionally, he has conducted The Connecticut Little Symphony, Nickel City Opera, and Crystal Opera, in addition to holding the position of Assistant Conductor with the Stamford Young Artists Philharmonic, Tri-Cities Opera, and Sarasota Opera. Zachary’s musical, K.C.@Bat, premiered at the historic Cherry Lane Theatre and is produced around the country. He is a graduate of the Juilliard Pre-College Program, he holds a B.A. in Music from New York University and earned an M.M. in Orchestral Conducting with a concentration in Opera, from SUNY Binghamton.

     When I wrote to Zachary and asked him to share more with us about his musical background, he wrote:

“I started piano lessons at the age of five and was the type of kid who didn’t need to be reminded to practice. I loved listening to music and playing along on the piano and drums. I saw my first Broadway show, Fiddler on the Roof, when I was seven and I’ve been hooked ever since. I was immediately interested in the “how” of everything: How do you make musical moments powerful? How do you create a mood or a feeling through music? How do you bring together a large group of people to accomplish a singular purpose? All these questions led me to be keenly observant throughout my musical education, during which I ‘collected’ different tactics from my teachers and colleagues. This accumulation, combined with some special opportunities at my high school, led to my becoming a conductor. As a director, I try to lead with the expression, ‘Not again; better,’ so that the rehearsal and performance process is always moving forward. I also enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to bring out the best in each performer and each musical group. I don’t believe in talent – a sort of magical gift that one either possesses or lacks – I believe in hard work and finding the right path for each performer. This philosophy most often leads to successful, gratifying performances.”

     Please join me in welcoming Zachary to our temple family and we’ll look forward to singing with him and Kolot Sinai this upcoming High Holy Day season. If you’d like more information about singing with Kolot Sinai, please email me at cantormicah@templesinaistamford.org. Wishing you all a Shana Tova u’m’tukah – a sweet and happy New Year.

B’Shira, in song,

Cantor Micah Morgovsky

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July-August, 2017

Dear Temple Sinai Family,

As a child, I remember counting down the days to the end of school and the beginning of summer vacation. My parents were both teachers, so the rhythms of life changed dramatically for all of us during those summer months. When I was little, we packed up the car and took long road trips, setting out to explore different places all over the country. As I got older, I went to day camp and then sleepaway camp. And, when I was in high school, I immersed myself in summer stock community theater productions. But whatever the summer activity, what was so remarkable about every summer was how different those couple of months felt from the rest of the year.
     Nevertheless, by the end of the summer, I always became antsy and bored. I began to miss the structure of the academic schedule and all of the activities that came with school and studies. And, as strange as it sounds, I know I am not alone. By the end of the summer, back-to-school, with its new clothes, new backpacks and school supplies, new teachers, new classes and new friends, became exciting again. School was something to look forward to because it was new and different.
     According to Kohelet, also known as Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, and so on and so forth.
     I often think about these verses — at moments of distinction and contrast, in joyful and difficult times, in instances of struggle and celebration. On Friday evenings, we light the candles and say the Kiddush to help us let go of the stresses from week that has passed and to welcome the peace of Shabbat. And, on Saturday night, we sing the blessings of Havdalah, of separation, as we distinguish between the holiness of Shabbat and the not-yet-holiness of the week to come.
     Similarly, many of us who have journeyed to Israel have come home with rings that read gam zeh ya’avor, this too shall pass, meant to remind us that both good times and bad times are fleeting and destined to change. In this awareness, we are given the opportunity to cherish the blessings and to summon the strength to endure the hardships.
     As we enter into these summer months, may we enjoy these days for the disruption they bring to the routine. May these weeks offer opportunities to pause and reflect on the many blessings in our lives, as well as confront, head on, those things we wish could be different. May we savor the contrasts and the pendulum swings of life and revel in the balance of our days.

B’Shira, in song,

Cantor Micah Morgovsky

 

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The Educator's Messages

Educator's Messages

Welcome back from summer vacation! I had a great summer, but now I am very excited to get the school year started. We have so many new things, and so I’m really looking forward to the opening day of the 2017-18 school year and the Welcome Back Smokin’ BBQ on September 10!

     All the communications that have gone out over the past several months have talked about the new educational initiatives that have been put in place: 3rd Grade Hebrew, 7th Grade tutoring and split sessions. I may have even mentioned Torah Play; which is something we will be adding to the curriculum of our younger students. Now I want to introduce “Lasagnas with Love,” a schoolwide, year-long social action project.

     One Sunday a month, a different religious school grade will be responsible for preparing lasagnas to be delivered to Schoke Jewish Family Service which they will then distribute to the community. Every student in the monthly assigned class will bring in one container of ricotta cheese and one package of shredded mozzarella. (If they want to bring more, it is always welcome.) Temple Sinai will provide the rest. Each lasagna will be delivered with a “Made with Love by the Students of Temple Sinai” label, along with notes from the students who prepared them.

     My goal is 72 lasagnas for the year and I will be tracking our progress each month on the bulletin board across from the courtyard.

     With a little effort from each of our students, we can make a difference by helping to feed our neighbors in need. Please take note of your child(ren)s assigned date and remember to send in the supplies requested. Together we can spread lots of lasagna love!

     As the attendant at the gas station always says to me. “Create a beautiful day,” and I’ll see you all on September 10!

L’shalom,

     Amy Ritell

 

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July-August, 2017

In the next few days we will be celebrating the Fourth of July, America’s Independence Day, and it started me thinking about a Jewish Independence Day. Although we celebrate Israel’s independence day, Yom Ha’atzmaut, I wondered what would be considered the a Jewish equivalent.
     Dictionary.com defines the word independence as freedom from the control, influence, support, aid, or the like, of others. With this definition in mind, holidays like Passover and Chanukah came to my attention. Freedom from slavery and freedom to worship certainly fall under the definition given and I think they could be considered Jewish Independence Days. Maybe all our holidays reflect our independence. After all, we are free in our desire to learn about and celebrate our Jewish holidays. We have synagogues and Hebrew schools available to us so that we can exercise these rights.
     Many Jews in other parts of the world do not have the same opportunities. Some countries have Jewish populations that are so small they cannot sustain a synagogue, a Hebrew school or a youth group. A Rabbi may visit them only once a month and on the High Holy Days. Last year, I met two girls who were members of BBYO (I can’t remember if they were from Croatia or Serbia) and they lived 4 hours away from the closest chapter so they would Skype with the group weekly and join them once a year for a weekend. That’s dedication and I started to think of all the things we take for granted, like having a Temple Sinai, a religious school, a JCC, etc.
     So, on this July Fourth, I will celebrate my American Independence, my Jewish Independence and the many opportunities available to me and my family to exercise the rights my freedom affords me and I hope you will do the same.
     Enjoy the rest of the summer!

L’shalom,

Amy Ritell

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The Week Ahead

 

Upcoming this week in September
Fri 22
Rosh HaShanah
Mon 25
6:45p
 
Mah Jongg & Canasta
Wed 27
12:30p
 
Canasta

 

 

 

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Fri, September 22 2017 2 Tishrei 5778