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Rabbi's Messages

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


January-February, 2019

Shalom L’Kulam (Peace Everyone),
 

I imagine that, like myself, you find it curious to look at yourself as a work-in-progress and note the changes that have taken place along your journey. I thought I might share with you one interesting change I find has emerged for me. When I was a young adult, I had no use for horror movies or those with happy endings. I still don’t understand why anyone would wish to imagine the most frightening scenarios, keeping themselves on the edge of their seats just waiting for the absolutely-predictable-but-no-less-terrifying BOO! But I’ll admit that now my feelings about the satisfying resolution of a storyline have changed.

 

I used to argue with everyone: Life doesn’t have happy endings – why would you wish to delude yourself that things will turn out hunky-dory? We all have the “one that got away,” so why pretend that the actors we love are going to end up finding their way back to each other and live happily ever after? And don’t get me started on the classic formula of a sports movie! We have all been crushed when the team we root for fails to achieve and, while we hope for different outcomes, every fan is regularly dismayed by the defeat of her favorite players. The uncertainty of sport is the point! In the movie, we know with great certainty that the boxer or the underdog or the race car driver is going to overcome all odds and achieve the most amazing of achievements – where’s the “sport” in watching a movie like that?!?

 

I used to choose movies in which the hero dies a disappointing death. I wished to see a portrayal of a hero vanquished, the terminal illness that ends a love just getting started or the ending that leaves you saying, “wait, that’s the end?!” Because, as I told people, “that is the real world.” I used to prefer to witness people in portrayals of the real world and to exercise my empathy for their experience.

 

Maybe it is because I have kids now. Or, maybe it’s because the “one” that I got turned out to be a great fit. Maybe I’m simply getting a bit older. Or, maybe it is because my job provides a regular vantage point from which to witness others struggle. But, I find that now, my appetite is for a different kind of cinematic experience. Now, I like a movie such as Star Wars: the end of each film allows for the momentary victory in a much longer narrative; the Death Star is destroyed but the Empire is still strong. Now, rather than Luke Skywalker, a brash and idealistic young hero, I look to Yoda or Obi-Wan as the seasoned veteran who, through ups and downs, has maintained his hope.

 

As some age, their willingness to see the world through the lenses of possibility and optimism occludes whereas others seem to take heart in the whimsy of humans and the long-view that things are certainly getting better. As with the stock indices whose volatility leaves day-traders frazzled and exhausted while those with the ability to be (vigilant but) patient know that the market has always recovered its sanity and continued to head upward.

 

Torah told us it was going to get bad before it got better… Abraham was alerted to the future slavery in Egypt. And the Bible certainly stops short of promising that all will be OK. But, and this is important, it maintains the possibility of personal development. Not the avoidance of pain, tragedy and disappointment but the ability to use those human experiences for growth. May this new year grant us the ability to pay attention differently to those who schrei the End of the World and instead to stay (vigilant but) patient as we recover collective sanity and stability.

 

What genre of movie do you prefer and what does that suggest about your worldview?

 

L’Shanah Tovah - Happy New Year,
Rabbi Jay TelRav


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December,2018

November, 2018

October, 2018

September, 2018

July-August, 2018

May-June, 2018

April, 2018

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The President's Messages
President's Messages



 

 

 

 



January-February, 2019

On December 2 we consecrated our new chapel with the major donors who supported the project. It was an inspiring and emotional night for many of us. Below you will see my remarks from the night that I wanted to share with the entire congregation. Enjoy!

Think back about 12 months and remember what the space we are about to consecrate looked like. It was a curious garden, overrun with weeds and never used. Below it sat our religious school wing, that was suffering from slow leaks creating black mold, causing us to fail with the state health inspections done for the preschool.

We knew we needed to fix the leak and that was going to be costly. We also knew that we did not want to sink significant funding into fixing the leak without realizing a better return on our investment. We discussed several options with many of you and came up with an exciting plan. Let’s build a new space which can serve as an intimate chapel, social and meeting space. Great idea, but would that be possible? Many of you said yes and encouraged us to move forward.
We set an ambitious timeline. We set an equally ambitious fundraising plan. We recruited a very dedicated committee and asked them to execute at the highest level. We explained that we had a limited window of time to complete this project before our religious school started in the fall. And that the biggest unknowns included our contractors and our ability to get the building permits from the city in a timely manner. That did not seem to discourage any of you so we moved forward.

Under Rabbi TelRav’s leadership we launched the Chapel Project Fundraising Campaign. Our goal was to raise $600,000. Thanks to his remarkable fundraising skills and your generosity, we exceeded our fundraising goal. We are grateful to Amy & Henry Bubel, Edward & Susan Greenberg, the Lapine & Lapin Families, Kathryn & Gerald Poch and Richard Silver and Family for your extraordinary leadership gifts.

We are also grateful to each of you in the room for your generosity. And to the congregants who responded to our direct mail and on-line solicitations, thank you. I was looking at the revenue yesterday and pleased to see that 103 Temple Sinai families responded to our fundraising requests. It was truly a balanced campaign and an unprecedented showing of financial support from our congregants.

Simultaneous to launching the fundraising campaign, we asked Betsy Blumberg to Chair the Chapel Project and form a committee. She did so without hesitation. She was well organized, meticulous when it came to adhering to a budget and a confident leader. As we transitioned leadership of the project to Arlene Rosen, we saw seamless continuity and we want to thank both of you for stepping up at such a critical time. And thank you to the Chapel Project Committee (Betsy Blumberg, Henry Bubel, Dennis Gehr, Bruce Heller, Jeff Pardo, Allan Paull, Arlene Rosen, Julie TelRav, Rabbi TelRav and Shelly Welfeld) many of whom are with us tonight for never giving up and overcoming so many obstacles. Your gift of time and talent was invaluable and very much appreciated.

Today we will consecrate this space. In my mind, this is a true indicator of growth at Temple Sinai and cause for celebration. Our congregation is fiscally healthy and eager to keep improving our shul. We are willing to step up financially in support of our vision for an even stronger Temple Sinai. And we are willing to give of our volunteer time to ensure we minimize our direct costs. My hope is that each of you shares as much excitement and joy as Rabbi, Cantor and I do over the potential use of this space.

Thank you again for believing in our congregation. Growth Happens Here!

Marc Friedman
President

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December, 2018

November, 2018

October, 2018

September, 2018

July-August, 2018

May-June, 2018

April, 2018

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The Cantor's Messages

Cantor's Messages

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January-February, 2019

Ever since I first heard them perform at the URJ Biennial last December, I have been enthralled with the Guy Mendilow Ensemble. They are a group of musicians from all over the globe who bring world music to life through musical artistry and creative story-telling. Their unique sound and energy are something we all thought the greater Temple Sinai community would love, too so we’re bringing them in as musicians-in-residence this coming February 8-10.

To kick off the weekend, they’ll share their music with us on Friday evening during Shabbat services. Then, on Saturday morning, they’ll lead a discussion called Listening to Lost Voices, with musical offerings, teachings, stories, and lively conversation. Saturday evening, they will gift us with a concert entitled, The Forgotten Kingdom, during which they will lead us on a “journey through former Ottoman lands starting in Sarajevo and winding through Salónica in a narrative-driven performance reimagining the historical record of Sephardic communities of the Balkans and Mediterranean. In this sweeping adventure brought to life by an “international tour-de-force” (Bethlehem Morning Call) from the Middle East, South and North America, music and storytelling conjure an imagination lost to war, recorded in a language that blends archaic Spanish with Turkish and Greek. The bittersweet yearning of fado, the rhythmic and emotional intensity of flamenco combine with cinematic arrangements stirring those familiar with the culture and those new to it. Rendering stories and songs of an older age with drama, humour and heart, The Forgotten Kingdom finds highly resonant, deeply moving connections to contemporary struggles, debates, and dilemmas. It’s a performance that “explodes with artistry, refinement, and excitement.” (Hebrew Union College, OH) And then, on Sunday morning, the entire Religious School, children and parents together, “become part of the music-making in Around the World in Song! Through colorful songs, stories and games, the Guy Mendilow Ensemble transports families on an exhilarating, interactive adventure through Ensemble members’ diverse homes worldwide. Families encounter vibrant characters and some of the band’s most fascinating “stars:” instruments like overtone singing, the munnharpa (jaw harp) and musical bow and arrow.

You can learn more about this extraordinary group at guymendilowensemble.com,  and be sure to watch your inbox for more information about the weekend as we get closer.

B’Shira, in song,

Cantor Micah Morgovsky

 

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December, 2018

November, 2018

October, 2018

September, 2018

July-August, 2018

May-June, 2018

April, 2018

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The Educator's Messages

Educator's Messages

 

 

 

 



January-February, 2019

In November, Temple Sinai was joined by Brett Hausler, Assistant Director at URJ Crane Lake Camp, for a camp style Shabbat. If you were unable to attend the service, here is the message we wanted you to hear:
Students who participate in Jewish summer camp oftentimes build lifelong friendships and grow to become adult leaders in their Jewish communities.

The same is true for youth group participation. Temple Sinai offers two ways for your family to take advantage of these opportunities, the Temple Sinai Camp Scholarship Program and SoSTY.

The Temple Sinai Camp Scholarship Program was created to assist families who could not otherwise afford to send their children to a sleep-away camp without financial assistance. The scholarship funds are designed for children who attend Union for Reform Judaism camps: Eisner and Crane Lake Camps, Six Points Sports Camp, Kutz Camp, the Six Points Science Academy Camp in North Carolina, or the Six Points Sci-Tech Academy in Boston. Many children of Temple Sinai families already attend these camps. If you would like more information about Eisner and Crane Lake Camps, or any of the others, please check out their website at: urjcamps.org/camps.

Temple Sinai camp scholarships are open to children of Temple Sinai members in good standing. To qualify, your child must be entering 2nd grade in September 2019 and be no older than entering 10th grade in September 2019. There is also limited scholarship money for teens who participate in a NFTY in Israel program. Please contact the Temple office for scholarship forms.

During the school year, our older students are invited to become members of SoSTY (Sinai of Stamford Temple Youth). SoSTY is Temple Sinai’s senior youth group open to students in grades 8-12 for Temple Sinai teens as well as their friends (non-members). Events include but are not limited to; shul-ins, Lounge Nights and the Chanukah Chooplah. Last year, SoSTY led a Lag B’omer field day for our religious school students that included outdoor races, games and s’mores. For more information on SoSTY, please contact our Youth Director, Erica Quamily at youthdirector@templesinaistamford.org.
When you support your child’s decision to attend a youth group function or summer camp, you are building the foundation for their Jewish future.

L’shalom,

Morah Amy

JAN/FEB DATES TO REMEMBER:

January 12    6th & 7th Grade Service
January 13    K/1st Grade Family Education
    Schiff Tichon Sinai (10:30am: note change in time)
January 20-21    No Religious School
January 26    Shabbat Family Program
4th & 5th Grade Service Living Museum
5th Grade Chavurah
January 27    5th Grade Lasagnas with Love
        7th Grade Chavurah
        Schiff Tichon Sinai
February 2    2nd & 3rd Grade Service
February 3    Schiff Tichon Sinai
February 9    Family Shabbat Program
February 10    6th Grade Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser Pajama Day
February 17-18    No Religious School
February 24    4th Grade Lasagnas with Love
    Schiff Tichon Sinai



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December, 2018

November, 2018

October, 2018

September, 2018

July-August, 2018

May-June, 2018

April, 2018

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March, 2018

What is the “whole megillah?” Well, megillah is a Hebrew word meaning scroll, but if you check out the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a megillah is a long-involved story or account. Clearly, the phrase refers to the reading of the Scroll of Esther on Purim. If you have ever sat through the entire reading in Hebrew, you can appreciate why the graggers are truly necessary; they keep us alert and awake. Without them, we might just drift off to sleep, because the whole megillah is very long.

     As I continued to research the phrase, I came across a website called “World Wide Words.” According to WWW, “the English translation of the phrase started to be heard and written about the middle of the 1950’s.” By whom? American television performers, night-club hosts and others in the entertainment business (um…Jews). So, I started to think about what other words and phrases we have introduced into the English mainstream.

     There are plenty in Yiddish that you will often hear uttered by Jews and non-Jews alike: oy vey, schmutz, schmooze, chutzpah, maven, and schlep. But Yiddish is not Hebrew. What about words with Hebrew origin?

     According to writer James Harbeck, a lot of English was influenced by Hebrew due to the Bible. “Early translators took many words straight from the Hebrew because European languages didn’t have a good equivalent.” I’m thinking that’s the same reason we see so much Yiddish in our everyday communications. There’s just no other way to say “oy vey” and have it come across the same. Harbeck goes on to list several words that illustrate his point. Words like amen, hallelujah, cherub and sabbatical have obvious Hebrew connections; however, other words on Harbeck’s list, like macadamia (combo of Gaelic & Hebrew), cider (started as shekar in Hebrew, and went through a Greek, Latin and French transition to its current state) and jacket (French from the name Jacques that came from Ya’acov, in the Bible) take quite a few turns to get to their Hebrew roots.

     Be it Yiddish or Hebrew, we seem to have a way of expressing ourselves that speaks (no pun intended) to the masses. So this year, when we read the whole megillah on Purim, we can be grateful to Queen Esther for saving the Jewish people and for her indirect contribution to the English language.

L’shalom,

     Morah Amy

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The Educator's Messages

January-February, 2018

Statistics support that there are two things that keep students connected to their Judaism: belonging to a Jewish youth group and attending Jewish camp. Students who participate in Jewish youth groups and/or Jewish summer camps often build lifelong friendships and grow to become adult leaders in their Jewish communities. 

     The Temple Sinai Camp Scholarship Program and SoSTY are ways for your family to take advantage of these opportunities.

      The Temple Sinai Camp Scholarship Program was created to assist families who could not afford to send their children to a sleep-away camp or without financial assistance. The scholarship funds are designed for children who attend Union for Reform Judaism camps: Eisner and Crane Lake Camps, Six Points Sports Camp, Kutz Camp, the Six Points Science Academy Camp in North Carolina, or the Six Points Sci-Tech Academy in Boston. Many children of Temple Sinai families already attend these camps. 

     If you would like more information about Eisner and Crane Lake Camps, or any of the others, please check out their website at: urjcamps.org/camps, or you can join us on Sunday, January 7, when a representative from Eisner and Crane Lake Camps will be here to play a few games with the kids and answer your questions in person.

     Temple Sinai camp scholarships are open to children of Temple Sinai members in good standing. To qualify, your child must be entering 2nd grade at least and be no older than entering 10th grade in September, 2018. There is also limited scholarship money for teens who participate in a NFTY program in Israel. Please contact the temple office for scholarship forms.

     SoSTY is Temple Sinai’s senior youth group open to students in grades 8-12 for Temple Sinai teens as well as their friends (non-members). Events include but are not limited to, shul-ins, Lounge Nights and the Chanukah Chooplah. This year Temple Sinai will be hosting NFTY’s Winter Kallah. For a glimpse of what goes on, stop by during the weekend of January 26-28, or better yet consider hosting a couple of visiting teens. For more information on SoSTY or the NFTY Kallah, please contact our Youth Director, Erica Quamily, at ericasantiago28@gmail.com.

     When you support your child’s decision to attend a youth group function or summer camp, you never know what kind of amazing things you are setting in motion!

L’shalom,

     Morah Amy

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December, 2017

This month we will celebrate the Festival of Lights by eating foods fried in oil and burning candles in a Chanukiah for 8 days, and it got me to thinking. “What is it about candles and light that make it a staple of Jewish observance?” We light candles on Shabbat, for Havdalah, on every major Jewish holiday (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, Sukkot and Shavuot), on each night of Chanukah and for the yahrzeits (the anniversary of the death of a loved one). And, of course, we have the Ner Tamid: the eternal light, found in most synagogues throughout the world, that remains lit all the time.

     I looked up the word light in the dictionary. While I never really thought about it before, I guess I always knew the versatility of the word. It can be used as an adjective, a noun or a verb. The word even has multiple meanings within each category. As an adjective, there is illuminated, blond or fair, not heavy, small in amount, simple or easy, funny or cheery. As a noun, it is the luminescence from the sun or another source, it can mean point of view, or understanding, and as a verb it can mean to illuminate, or literally start on fire.

     In Judaism, candles and light also represent a variety of meanings. Light represents the beginning of creation. Originally there was only darkness and our first gift from God was the gift of light and He proclaimed that it was good, making light a symbol of all that is good, positive and beautiful. An article in the Jerusalem Post states that, “Light as a positive symbol is so prevalent in Biblical Hebrew that redemption, truth, justice, peace and even life itself ‘shine,’ and their revelation is expressed in terms of the revelation of light.”

     The light of the seven branch Menorah and the Ner Tamid are symbols of the holiness of the space they occupy. Originally, the light of the Shabbat candles was for practical purposes, used to eat the Shabbat meal by lighting the darkness of the evening. Today, the Shabbat candles have come to be a symbol of Shabbat itself.
Chanukah candles are considered “holy,” and are not to be used as a light source, but rather to observe. The lit candles in the Chanukiah represent a miracle and the triumph of light over darkness.

     The braided Havdalah candle itself is said to represent the diversity of the Jewish people, banded together displaying strength. We celebrate this unity by lighting the Havdalah candle at the end of every Shabbat. The act of extinguishing the Havdalah candle also makes a distinction between the relaxation of Shabbat and the new week.
Probably my favorite description of the symbolism of light in Judaism is the reason behind lighting a yahrzeit candle. The candle’s flame is thought to symbolically represent the human soul. Like a human soul, flames must breath, change, grow, strive against the darkness, and, ultimately, fade away. The flickering of candlelight helps to remind us of the fragility of our life and the lives of our loved ones.

     So, while the meaning behind the use of light and candles in Jewish observance seems to be dependent on the situation, there is no denying that they are both important to us.

     When you light the Chanukiah this December, what will it mean for you?

     Wishing all our Temple Sinai families a healthy, safe and bright New Year!

L’shalom,

     Morah Amy

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November, 2017

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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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 February
Mon 18
President's Day
6:45p
 
Mah Jongg & Canasta (Room 2)
Tue 19
Purim Katan
Wed 20
12:30p
 
Canasta
Fri 22
12:00p
 
Beginners' Torah Study (in the Poch Family Study)
Have you always wanted to learn about Torah but don’t have the time? Or maybe you think it might be too difficult? Every Friday at noon a beginners’ Torah study group meets to have basic discussions about the Torah, its laws, its stories, and the ancient people. Bring your lunch, make some new friends, and learn a little Torah!
Sat 23
9:00a
 
Rabbi Eugene B. Borowitz Memorial Bible Study (in the Poch Family Study)
9:00a
 
Shabbateinu - Our Shabbat
Not all services are equally satisfying to all attendees. Families with school aged kids often find Friday night services difficult to make work. This new service, full of stories, Torah and music, will find its way into every heart and you’ll start your weekend easily and peacefully, ready to go on about your day. All are welcome – kids and kids at heart.

 

 

 

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Sun, February 17 2019 12 Adar I 5779