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The Rabbi's Messa

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Rabbi's Messages

Shalom L’Kulam (Peace, Everyone),

College began for me at a small engineering school in Michigan. I was headed into industrial work in the auto industry. The internship I held for two years was fun, but I could see that it wasn’t going to provide a fulfilling life. I jumped the rails of my own trajectory and headed into the unknown – certainly unaware that I would become a rabbi. As I considered the options, this path held interest for me for many reasons including the fact that there would always be something interesting waiting for me each day. That has certainly proven true and I’m always surprised by how many people, young and old, ask me, “just what do you do all day?” Seemed like a chance to share a glimpse at a typical week with you to provide an idea of what your rabbi is doing all day long.

     I think about my time in several different “buckets.” There is Teaching, Counseling, LifeCycle, Administration and Worship. My kids have attended the Sara Walker Nursery School in our own building for the last four years, so I drop them off at 9:00am and head down the hall to my study. There are always plenty of emails and voicemails to get through and then I begin meetings shortly after. I have weekly meetings with the staff collectively and individually to watch what they’re working on and help iron out details. I work with the president each week on initiatives and individual issues, and I speak with the vice presidents of each portfolio regularly. There are staff timesheets and travel logs to sign, letters to draft, thank you notes to write and newsletters to compose.

     Jayne serves as my gatekeeper, ensuring that I don’t overbook meetings with congregants, b’nai mitzvah kids, community leaders or others. When you call and she says that I don’t have any appointments until late next week, she’s not overstating! Each week, I have to schedule time to plan my teaching. I’ve got Monday morning and Wednesday evening comparative religions classes, Friday evening sermon, Saturday morning Torah Study. On Sunday I have services with the kids, our Schiff Tichon Sinai program with the teens and Mussar with the adults. Unfortunately, much of that planning gets pushed to the evenings after I put the little ones to bed. I know…not particularly healthy.

     I tend to get my “grown up” meetings done by about 3:00pm and then the kids start showing up. I meet with every one of our bar and bat mitzvah students about eight times and then we do a full 1.5 hour rehearsal before the Big Day. We celebrate between 25-35 b’nai mitzvah a year. You can do the math…I just know that they come in rapid succession all afternoon until my evening meetings and classes begin! We have committee meetings, board meetings and the Leadership Team meeting with the congregation’s officers. And every week, I have a learning session with my chevruta – a congregant with whom I’ve been studying an ancient mussar text for quite a while now. These sessions are really important to my personal and professional growth.

     The counseling with adults covers a wide gamut from career advice to spiritual struggle, from bumps in the road in marriage to their health concerns for themselves or their loved ones, from families who have fallen in love with Sinai’s reputation and want to join to those who have struggled with some aspect of the congregation and want to share their upset…(thankfully there are more of the former than the latter). And, lately, I’ve sat with a number of you to ask if you can help Temple Sinai with the costs of building a badly needed chapel and library.

     And, of course, there is the lifecycle work. Thankfully, I do not often have to drop everything and run to the hospital to be with someone in crisis – though it does happen. I also make less urgent visits to the hospitals, rehabilitation centers and homes all the time. I meet with families for funerals and I do about six months of preparatory meetings with each couple before I officiate at their wedding. The ceremonies for new babies (naming and bris) are among the most fun, but the funerals are the most meaningful to me.

     I do honor Tuesday as my Shabbat – trying not to spend time on email, the phone or other work (despite the fact that I’m writing this today on a Tuesday). Jayne knows that Thursday evenings are not available – I leave at 5:00pm to have dinner with my family. Like all the rest of you, I’m over-stretched trying to do too much that is all important to me. But I work on balance too.

     Rabbinical school never prepared me for a lot of this but I’ve surrounded myself with rabbinic and lay mentors who guide me through what I don’t know. And, the further I get in my career, the more I become a mentor for others – sharing with them the gifts that God bestowed upon me. As you can see, my professional life gets pretty crazy, but please know that I will always make time for each and every one of you.

L’Shalom – In Peace,

Rabbi Jay TelRav

 

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The Rabbi's Messa

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October, 2017

Shalom L’Kulam (Peace, Everyone

Holidays are freshly over and we are ready to settle back in to the blessed routines of our lives, but wait…before you return to the very same responsibilities and obligations to which you have been accustomed, allow me to make a suggestion:

     The past many years, I’ve been forming small groups of adults who would like the opportunity to celebrate an adult Bat Mitzvah. I say “bat” because there are very few males who find the experience appropriate. Either they were given the opportunity to read from the Torah when they were young or they were not but don’t particularly desire the chance now. If you ask any of the adult celebrants, you’ll hear that the experience is so much more than preparing for the “big day” but I still have a very difficult time filling that cohort.

     On the other hand, I speak with my teenage students about how, after fulfilling their parents’ expectations of Bar Mitzvah, they have the opportunity to reengage as Jewish adults – of their own volition – and to Confirm their place in the community upon completion of the 10th grade. During those years in between, I meet with our students to operationalize the traditions, values and meanings they’ve accumulated. We discuss career choices, religious options, ethical conundra, politics, healthy relationships and Jewish pride – on campus and beyond. This group of teens has continued to grow year after year and they report finding it to be a surprisingly cool way to experience Judaism.

     Why should this be limited to our teens? You, too, have made commitments along the way in your Jewish journey but it remains important for all of us to “check in” and to Confirm what our place in the Jewish community means to us today. The news presents us with stories every day that challenge our sense of right and wrong. The religious messages coming from other traditions leave us disoriented. The ethics of geopolitics and the dynamics of healthy relationships are always ready for our examination.

     To that end, I’m writing to invite you to register for the very first cohort of Adult Confirmation. Starting on the evening of October 25 from 6-7:00pm, we will gather to re-think, re-order and Re-form our Judaism. Nothing is off the table – nothing is assumed. This is for adults of all ages, all levels of Jewish education and all religions. The format will be based upon a survey of major religions in America. We will spend the first half of each session learning about an aspect of another faith and then the second half using that understanding to compare and contrast its expression in Judaism. There will be guest presenters from other religions and we’ll be taking field trips to worship with our neighboring Stamford houses of worship.

     2000 years ago, Rabbi Hillel warned us: “Don’t say, ‘I will study when I find free time – because you may never find free time.’” This might be just the method you’ve been yearning for to address that nagging desire to stimulate a part of your brain that has been at rest for too long! Call the Temple Office to let us know we can expect you.

     L’Shalom – In Peace,

Rabbi Jay TelRav

 

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he Rabbi's Messa

September, 2017


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





Earlier this year I attended the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) Scheidt Seminar for President-elects of Reform synagogues. Future leaders from across our country came together for five days of learning, praying and developing sacred partnerships. During our time together we were inspired to:

  • Build and maintain sacred partnerships between the professionals and lay leaders at Temple Sinai.
  • Take action on new ideas.
  • Be bold and share new ideas with our sacred congregational partners.
  • Be intentional and reflective in our leadership.
  • Develop our own personal Torah of Jewish leadership and keep exploring our personal connection to our sacred tradition.
  • Keep learning as we lead.

     While at Scheidt, I also was able to spend some one-on-one time with Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, Union for Reform Judaism. I asked Rabbi Jacobs for advice on how successful congregations lead change and what his vision of a great president looks like. As expected, Rabbi Jacobs had great advice on these topics and on how to lead a rich and meaningful Jewish life. I’d love to share his advice with you over tea if you’re interested.

     In reflecting upon my time at Scheidt, it is clear to me that Temple Sinai is already a leader when it comes to developing and engaging its lay leadership. Our Amidah Leadership Initiative, where we are developing the future leaders of our congregation, is one that other congregations are just now starting to replicate … and we’ve been doing it for years!  Some of my colleagues at Scheidt shared that they were nowhere close to being able to start such a program. At Temple Sinai this program is already an important part of our culture. This is just one example of why I feel we are in a great position to lead change, thus ensuring we are a strong, vibrant congregation for years to come.

     Recently I went through the many pages of notes I took while at Scheidt and reflected upon the ideas generated there. One of them was to establish realistic goals for each member of Temple Sinai’s Leadership Team (formerly the President’s Executive Council). During our Leadership Team Retreat this past summer, we spent time thinking about what those could be. In the coming months, I’ll be sharing the goals of the Leadership Team with you. For now here are my goals. In addition to the “normal” responsibilities of being your president, I’m going to focus on the following:

  • Along with Rabbi TelRav: moving forward the importance of kehilah kedoshah, building our sacred community, in every aspect of Temple Sinai.
  • Board development: ensuring that every board seat is filled with a committed member who is authentically engaged in Temple Sinai.
  • Fund raising and marketing: establishing a development and marketing committee that will guide these two functions. Would you like to join Seth Diamond, Shelley Leibowitz, Mike Stone (Chair) and Roberta Sultzer on this newly formed committee? If so, please let me know.
  • 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 determine which capital improvements we need/can undertake this year and beyond.


     We’re off to a fantastic start and I’m inspired by the work that many of you are doing. I look forward to learning, praying and developing sacred partnerships with many of you as we make sure that Temple Sinai is poised for the future.

Growth happens here!


Marc Friedman
president@templesinaistamford.org

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The President's Messages
October, 2017

 

Our Temple Sinai family has just completed our most sacred time of year. Starting with Rosh Hashanah and continuing through Simchat Torah we came together for prayer, reflection and spiritual growth. I hope that you and your family were inspired as I was by all of our services.

Annual Giving Campaign

     As I mentioned during Rosh Hashanah services, it is Temple Sinai’s tradition to reach out to you now and ask for your support of our Annual Giving Campaign. We are coming off an extraordinary year at Temple Sinai. We enjoyed a spiritually uplifting music program, a dynamic religious school experience for our youth, and a UNITY Project that brought us all together. We studied Mussar, retreated and prayed with our growing family. Our Rabbi, Cantor and Educator led us through a year that was welcoming to all. And, thanks in part to our Gala and your support throughout the year, we ended the year with a modest surplus.

     During the High Holy Days Rabbi TelRav shared with us his vision for building our kehilah kedoshah – sacred community. His vision is filled with new programs, innovative learning opportunities for all and, led by Cantor Morgovsky, a music program that will help us build our community.

     In order for this to happen I am asking for your support for our Annual Giving Campaign. Keep in mind our membership contributions cover only a portion of our operating budget and we rely heavily on supplemental fundraising to finance our programs.

An Additional Request – Chapel / Library Project

     Also, it is with great excitement that I share with you an extraordinary opportunity to help build our future. Our plan is to fully enclose the existing courtyard in our school building and transform it into a light-drenched multipurpose space that will serve as an intimate chapel, meeting space, adult and child educational classroom and small dining space. The adjacent space will become an updated, 21st century library that will serve as a learning center for students of all ages.

     To make this vision a reality, I am asking you to help make the Chapel/ Library Project a reality by pledging an additional gift that can be paid over two years. The Chapel will be built entirely with capital contributions, so our operating budget will not be affected. Several congregants have already come forward with leadership gifts to get this project off the ground. Now we need everyone’s support, at whatever level of support is comfortable, to make it happen.

     A few weeks ago, you should have received a letter from me with a pledge card. If you have not returned your pledge card please do so this week. Or, mail in the form at the bottom of this page. You can even make your donation online by selecting Temple Sinai Annual Giving Campaign on our web site, www.templesinaistamford.org.

     On behalf of your board, clergy and staff, thank you in advance for joining me in building our kehilah kedoshah – sacred community. Growth happens here!

 

Marc Friedman
president@templesinaistamford.org

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The President's Messages
September, 2017

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,

Dream Anyway — Laughing and Crying in the Face of Adversity is the theme of this year’s Cantor’s Concert, scheduled for Sunday, December 17 at 4:30pm. As the title implies, we are living in challenging times globally, nationally and personally, but we mustn’t allow the struggles to diminish our hope and tarnish our vision for a better future. Music is always a powerful and effective means of expression. It helps give voice to our pain, our frustration, our yearning and our joy. Through it all, the power of a beautifully crafted lyric and a stirring melody can bring tears to our eyes, enable us to laugh at our failures or missteps, and fill us with awe and wonder. A song can remind us that we are not alone and can give us the strength to keep moving forward, despite hardships and loss. The music chosen for this year’s show will surely inspire all these feelings and more, bringing us together for what has become one of Temple Sinai’s favorite events. In conjunction with our celebration of Chanukah, we’ll join with our temple family to illuminate the dark of winter, as we kindle our festival candles and bring a joyous noise into the world.

     All of the proceeds from this benefit concert support Temple Sinai’s vibrant music program. Choose from the level of sponsorship and support that is comfortable for you. Please join us and give as generously as you can. Together we’ll laugh, we’ll cry and we’ll dream anyway…

B’Shira, in song,


Cantor Micah Morgovsky

 

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The Cantor's Messages

October, 2017

Dear Temple Sinai Family,

Yes, I’m a cantor, but I’m also a Jewish mom, complete with all the stereotypes that come with the title. I worry too much, I offer food (often and lots of it) to anyone who comes near me, and I unabashedly wield that age-old weapon – Jewish guilt – if someone ever lets me down. As a Jewish mom, I also care deeply about imparting our traditions, values and beliefs to our children, Ayalah (age 9) and Jonah (age 5).
 
     My husband, Ben, as many of you know, is also a rabbi, so our children are blessed (read the sarcasm here) to live in a dual clergy household. Not only that, they attend a Reform Jewish Day School, at which their father serves as the Rabbi-in-Residence. So one might think we’ve got the Judaism bit covered, that there’s no need to worry about our children’s Jewish identities.

     On the contrary, perhaps, even more than most, Ben and I scrutinize the Jewish choices we make for our family. Sometimes that may mean we decide to hold back on our home observances because our children are bombarded with Judaism all the time. To make sure that we don’t send them running in the opposite direction, we mete out our traditions quite carefully and intentionally.

     Yet, there are some Jewish practices that are an integral part of the rhythms and rituals of our household and that are intrinsic to who we are as a family. I was reflecting on these things recently, as Rabbi Jay was speaking to a group of parents at the opening day of Religious School last month. He was encouraging families to not only engage in Jewish education and practice at the temple, but also to bring Judaism into their homes, to “do Jewish” more often, and to make their Jewishness more a part of their everyday lives, both as parents of their children, but also personally, as individuals.

     As Rabbi Jay spoke, I realized it’s easier to “do Jewish” than one might think. He was not asking families to become Shomer Shabbat, to keep kosher, or even to attend services every week. Living Jewishly can be as simple as bringing moments of awareness and sanctity into our everyday lives. While there are many ways to do this, in our home, we have three Jewish customs we do every single day.

     For us, the day begins with each of us answering the same two questions, “What are you thankful for?” And “What are you excited for?” The acknowledgement of blessings in our lives and the expression of gratitude for those blessings sets the tone for the entire day and echoes the liturgy of the traditional morning prayers. Similarly, at every meal that we share, no matter what we’re eating, we say the blessing, “Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha’olam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.” Blessed are you, Adonai, Sovereign of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Once again, we express gratitude for the food we are about to eat and bring a moment of mindfulness to the meal before us. And, lastly, every day ends with the singing of the Shema – the watchword of our faith – which declares that God is One and that each one of us is a part of that Oneness. In this way, we all end the day knowing that there’s something bigger than ourselves and that we, and everything in this universe, is all miraculously connected.

     Of course, there are myriad other expressions of Judaism one might chose to adopt: lighting candles on Shabbat, singing the Havdalah blessing on Saturday evening, or engaging in acts of social justice and tikkun olam, the repair of the world.
I encourage you, in the coming weeks and months, to try bringing one new Jewish ritual into your lives. Was it challenging or uncomfortable? Did it have a positive impact on you and your family? See how it feels, and then I’d love to sit and talk with you about it.

B’Shira, in song,


Cantor Micah Morgovsky

 

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The Cantor's Messages

September, 2017

Dear 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

This month, parsha Vayera will be read in synagogues around the world. It talks about Abraham’s generosity and hospitality when he sees three strangers approaching his tent, Abraham rushes out to greet them, offers to wash their feet, and gives them food and a shady place to sit. This scene is one of several in the Torah that illustrate the hospitality of the Jewish people. As a matter of fact, showing hospitality to guests is considered a mitzvah. In the Passover Haggadah, we read “whosoever is in need let them come and eat” and we open the doors to our homes.

     The legendary importance of hospitality in the Jewish communities was demonstrated when Roman Emperor Julian ordered the building of hostels for transients, using the example of the Jews “in whose midst no stranger goes uncared for.”

     As I read the commentary on Vayera and Jewish hospitality, I started to think of all the times I brought friends home from college who had no place to go on the holidays. While there was always a tableful of people on Passover, we also had quite a few guests on Thanksgiving. Upon further research, I found that there are not only guidelines to being a host, but also how to be a guest. As many of us will fall into one of the two categories this Thanksgiving, I thought I would share my findings.

     As a host, you are expected to be cheerful and to make your guests feel at home. One midrash teaches that “it is better to offer a guest but a little in a gracious tone than large portions proffered grudgingly.” It is appropriate for the host to serve the guest, but not be so attentive that the visitor may refrain from eating as much as they would like. In some homes, it was the custom to place all the dishes on the table at once, so that the guest could choose to eat whatever they wished, instead of being compelled to eat something they did not desire. Good hosts anticipate the needs of guests, removing any discomfort they may feel in asking for something. Finally, when your guest leaves, it is considered a mitzvah to escort your guest to the airport, bus, train or from your homes entrance, showing that beyond caring for them in your home, you want them to get to their next destination safely.

     As a guest, you should avoid causing the host extra work and you should comply with your host’s requests. A guest should not bring along another, uninvited guest. Guests should leave some of the food on their plate, to show that they have had more than enough. However, if the host asks that the portion be finished, it is not necessary to leave any. The Rabbis strongly denounce the habitual guest, one who takes every opportunity to share in meals at the house of another. One article I read quoted Midrash Tehillim, “On the day a guest arrives, a calf is slaughtered in his honor; the next day, a sheep, the third day, a fowl, and on the fourth day, he is served just beans.” The implication is that after three days a guest should be on their way!

     Whether you are a host or a guest, I wish you and your family a very happy Thanksgiving.

L’shalom,

Morah Amy

 

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The Educator's Messages

September, 2017

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 November
Wed 22
12:30p
 
Canasta
Thu 23
Thanksgiving Day
Fri 24
Thanksgiving Friday
Sat 25
9:00a
 
Rabbi Eugene B. Borowitz Memorial Bible Study
Mon 27
4:00p
 
Hebrew School
6:45p
 
Mah Jongg & Canasta

 

 

 

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Tue, November 21 2017 3 Kislev 5778