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Rabbi's Messages

 

 

 

 

 

 


April, 2019


Shalom L’Kulam (Peace Everyone),

My kids’ school is one (of the many) that has been discovered to have a mold problem. We also receive heartbreaking notes home asking parents to consider sending in boxes of tissues or glue sticks so the teachers will not have to purchase these basics out of their own pockets. The enrichment programs that are so important in ensuring the proper education of all our students are non-existent and the classrooms are overcrowded to the point that our precious teachers have a near-impossible task. There are plenty of problems and opportunities for improvement right here in our own neighborhood. So why, then, did we go across the pond to live with, work with and fund a school for people who could not be more different from us?

In fact, the Shulchan Aruch (the definitive code of Jewish Law from the 16th century) would have us handle it differently. One is commanded to provide support first to their parents, then children, then siblings followed by other more removed family members. If there is still capacity to give further, then one may consider a neighbor and strangers from their own community. Finally, we are permitted to look outside the poor of our own family and our community to give beyond our own circles (Yoreh Deah, 251). By these guidelines alone, perhaps we should not have undertaken the efforts in Senegal. But there is also a Talmudic concept called, “mipnei darchei shalom – for the sake of peace.”

I used to understand it to mean that there are choices that we are directed to make which seem contradictory with tradition, at first in order to establish strong and healthy relationships with our surrounding community. We are to allow the non-Jewish poor to gather the gleanings of our fields along with the hungry Jews to ensure peaceful relationships (Mishnah Gittin, 5:8). And today, Jews are encouraged to donate their bodies to science after death to demonstrate our partnership in striving for advanced medical understanding. This is surprising since we also avoid any desecration of the body, but we do it mipnei darchei shalom.

Upon my return from the village of Nerane Diarrere, I understand yet another benefit of pushing beyond my own myopic view of the world. I was reconnected with what it means to be guided by the principles of Jewish values. I was reminded how proud I am of our tradition that demands prioritization of education. Working with and on behalf of a village of not-yet-literate, black, African Muslims was, perhaps, the most important opportunity because it was so stark in its juxtaposition to my day-to-day world. While I was acquiring a little understanding of them, I was sharpening my understanding of us: We are members of a tradition that demands more than the pursuit of personal wealth, more than our self-interest and more than the path of least resistance. I was already a proud Jew before Africa. Now, I’m proud of Judaism.

Does that sound like an outcome you’d want? Who’s ready to go on the next service trek, as a member of a Jewish community, with us?!?

Rabbi Jay TelRav

 

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March, 2019

January-February, 2019

December,2018

November, 2018

October, 2018

September, 2018

July-August, 2018

May-June, 2018

April, 2018

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President's Messages



 

 

 

April, 2019

As many of you know, I’ve been part of buildOn (a non profit organization) since its founding in 1991. Our mission, to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education, has inspired hundreds of thousands of people to rise up and take action.

Some have built schools in remote villages in developing countries. Some have served hot soup to those who are homeless. And some have worked with kids who have learning disabilities. From the South Bronx to West Africa and from Detroit to Nepal, over the past 28 years I’ve been fortunate enough to do all of these types of service and more.

You’d think that after all of these years, nothing would surprise me. Well that was not the case when I joined some of my brothers from Temple Sinai and went to Senegal to help build a school in Nerane Diarrere Village this past February. Under Rabbi TelRav’s leadership, 12 of us joined together with the people of Nerane Diarrere to break ground on a primary school. We worked hard each day, digging the foundation and latrines, making bricks (boom-boom, tap-tap), tying the rebar, and carrying water. All of these tasks were essential components for building the school. After one week our progress we impressive. We completed digging the foundation and made hundreds of bricks. Over the next three months community members will carry on, completing our collective work under the watchful eye of the buildOn team.

Rabbi TelRav asked us upon returning to the States, what will likely endure as a symbolic representation of our time in Senegal. I’m not sure if it was digging the latrine along side the women and men of Nerane Diarrere under the blazing hot sun; or being among so many children who were helping us carry the rocks to make the cement, knowing that soon they would have a new school to learn in; or if it was the women who were sharing how important the school would be to ensure their children became literate. And how could I leave out Bif, the very large and intimidating cow who stood guard outside the door to the latrine making that even more of an adventure. All of these are enduring representations of my time in Senegal.

But that’s not what made this trip meaningful for me. It’s that fact that we, as Jews, went into this Muslim community and worked along side of the women and men to build their school. It was singing Sim Shalom and dancing the hora with our host family kids. It was having Shabbat Services in this West African village while many of you were doing the same in Stamford, CT. It was sharing Jewish and Muslim prayers with the community as we broke ground on the school. It was bringing two of my passions, Temple Sinai and buildOn, together as ONE. That’s what made this trip meaningful for me. It was a life-changing experience that I will never forget.

I want to thank Lee Bowbeer, Henry Bubel, Alan Cohen, Bob Dorf, Peter Ebstein, Gary Gepner, Todd Palker, Carl Rosen, Anthony Stark, Aaron Stark, and Rabbi TelRav for stepping up and answering the call of Hineni (Here I AM). I have enormous gratitude for the trust and faith that each of you had in me and the buildOn team. Together we are breaking the cycle. Growth Happens Here! 
   
Marc Friedman
President

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March, 2019

January-February, 2019

December, 2018

November, 2018

October, 2018

September, 2018

July-August, 2018

May-June, 2018

April, 2018

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Cantor's Messages

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April, 2019

Are you a skilled knitter or artist, but suffer from carpel tunnel syndrome as a result of too much of this activity? Are you a fast runner or an accomplished skier, but struggle with tendonitis or chronic joint pain from overuse?

Perhaps you are sensitive and empathetic, which both allows you to create deep connections with those around you, but may also mean you often have your feelings hurt. Like the concept of Yin and Yang, the balance of light and dark within us, sometimes our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses.
This past November, as I was preparing for our annual Cantor’s Concert, I awoke one morning and found I had lost my voice. Now, after ten years as your cantor, you know that, unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence. But what was most distressing about this case of laryngitis was that I was not sick. I didn’t have a cold or a sore throat, no coughing or fever. I just couldn’t phonate - no sound came out. I rushed to an ENT who scoped my throat and told me I had hemorrhaged a blood vessel on one of my vocal cords. He said it was like a sports injury and that with time and rest it would fully heal.

As I was recovering, it got me thinking about my voice and the blessings and challenges that come with any singing career. I realized that my voice is both my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. Whenever I am stressed or tired, or whenever I get sick, the first place I experience symptoms is in my voice. It is frustrating and infuriating and I sometimes wish I did something else that didn’t require singing. And yet, my voice allows me to express my Judaism and my spirituality. It connects me to my past and I use it as a tool to help lead the future of our people. Singing allows me to connect with others and hopefully, encourages others to find their voices too.

All too often, we take our gifts, our strengths, for granted. We don’t nurture and care for them and we assume they will always be there for us when we need them. But, that may not always be the case. Whenever I lose my voice, it becomes a struggle to do my job and it’s humbling to attempt to sing or lead services when only croaks and tiny whispers come out. I’m always incredibly grateful when my voice returns and I’m reminded to try to take better care of my health and my voice.

So, at this season of renewal and rebirth I invite you to take stock - what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Is it possible the two are one and the same? How can you better acknowledge and care for those gifts within you to ensure you can enjoy them for years to come?

B’Shira, in song,

Cantor Micah Morgovsky

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March, 2019

January-February, 2019

December, 2018

November, 2018

October, 2018

September, 2018

July-August, 2018

May-June, 2018

April, 2018

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Educator's Messages

 

 

 

April, 2019

In speaking with my daughter the other day I mentioned that I was trying to come up with a subject for this article. She rattled off a few ideas, one of which was “10 ways to be free this Passover season.” Inspired, I started to think about what I could do to be more free.

The definition of freedom according to Webster’s dictionary is 1: the quality or state of being free: such as a: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. b: liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another: independence.

Hmm … This is actually much harder than I thought. I mean, I’m free to choose what I have for lunch, but what about the bigger decisions like a car, a house, or how to raise my kids? I’m married, big decisions require agreement or compromise. If I compromise, does that imply coercion? If you can’t afford to do what you want, is that constraint in choice or action?

At first glance, slavery does not seem to apply, but I am a slave, to my family, to my job and to technology. I can’t just ignore my responsibilities to my family and to my job, and my cell phone pretty much guarantees that I don’t. If I exercise my freedom and do as I please, there are consequences. I may miss an important call in an emergency or I could lose my job. Is there always a cost in the pursuit of freedom, and if so, are we truly free? Did freedom from slavery just set the scene for a whole new bunch of constraints for the Israelites? I don’t know.

Maybe I’m being too literal with the definition of freedom. I suppose that if our freedom of choice and action brings consequences, it is our choice to accept them. So let’s get back to the 10 ways to be free this Passover. I could:
1. Turn off my phone for an hour each day (probably not)
2. Restrict checking my e-mail to 3x a day (probably not)
3. Increase my use of the word “no” by 50%, when asked to do a favor (possibly)
4. Make time to do something I truly enjoy once a week (doable)
That’s it, that’s all I can come up with.  How would you fill in the remaining six? I would love some input. Otherwise, it will have to be “4 ways to be free this Passover season”.

Have a very happy Passover and enjoy your freedom!

L’shalom,
Morah Amy


APRIL DATES TO REMEMBER:

April 7    
School Passover Celebration
4th Grade Chavurah JFS Food delivery
Schiff Tichon Sinai

April 14-21    
No Religious School or Tutoring

April 28    
3rd Grade Chavurah Planting at Scoffield Manor
Schiff Tichon Sinai
6th Grade Wedding

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March, 2019

January-February, 2018

December, 2018

November, 2018

October, 2018

September, 2018

July-August, 2018

May-June, 2018

April, 2018

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The Week Ahead

Upcoming this week in April
Wed 24
Chol Hamoed Passover
12:30p
 
Canasta
4:00p
 
Religious School
Thu 25
Chol Hamoed Passover
Fri 26
Passover
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 27
9:00a
 
Rabbi Eugene B. Borowitz Memorial Bible Study (in the Poch Family Study)
Mon 29
4:00p
 
Religious School
6:45p
 
Mah Jongg & Canasta (Room 2)

 

 

 

 

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Wed, April 24 2019 19 Nisan 5779