A Shabbat Message for March 17, 2017

Dear Friends,

An assortment of kiddush cups sit on the wall unit in Raina’s and my living room. There is a beautiful hand-hammered silver cup from Israel. It was an engagement gift from my sister and brother-in-law. On the shelf below it sits a white glazed ceramic kiddush cup. It too is from Israel but, in this case, it was an engagement present from our friend and rabbi, Robyn. Next to it sits a shiny metal kiddush cup that was a gift from Cantor Ted and Sonia Aronson. Next to it is a simple silver cup which Raina received upon becoming a Bat Mitzvah. There is also a glass kiddush cup that is part of a havdalah set and a carved glass cup that is a replica of the one given to me by the congregation when I was ordained in 1993 and used beneath our chuppah. (The original was …

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An Update on Recent Bias Incidents From Rabbis Cohen, Cooper and Olitzky

Dear Friends,
As you surely are aware, our community has not been spared from the recent uptick in bias incidents that have been seen throughout our nation. In addition to the swastikas and other hateful graffiti painted on a pedestrian bridge in the South Mountain Reservation, there have been numerous expressions of anti-Semitic and racial bias in our schools. Swastikas have been drawn on walls and desks, students have been heard to invoke the name of Hitler and have even made a Hitler salute toward other students. There have also been reports of bias against African-Americans and transgender boys and girls in the schools.

As part of their response to these incidents, Dr. John Ramos, Superintendent of the South Orange and Maplewood School District, and his staff convened a meeting yesterday with local clergy. The purpose of the meeting was not only to enable the clergy to hear, directly from …

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My Shabbat Message for Friday, March 10, 2017


Dear Friends,

This past Thursday, I, along with Rabbi Jesse Olitzky of Beth El Congregation and Rabbi Mark Cooper of Congregation Oheb Shalom, had the opportunity to spend the day at South Orange Middle School and meet with each of the 8th Grade Social Studies classes. I came away impressed with both the teachers — they are caring, creative and passionate — and the students themselves.

We had been asked to come speak about Judaism in general but, in light of the recent bias issues that have taken place in the school, the conversation was largely focused on the recent increase in anti-semitism, racism and Islamophobia. It is one of these exchanges that I want to share with you this Erev Shabbat.

During one of the sessions, Rabbi Olitzky asked everyone present to raise their hands if they have ever been on the receiving end of any sort of biased …

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My Shabbat Message for March 3, 2017

 Dear Friends,

The Torah portion this week is Terumah/Offerings. In this section of the book of Exodus the Torah records the various instructions necessary for the building of the Mishkan – the portable Temple carried by our ancestors throughout their desert wanderings. This building, once complete, became a focus for the community and a symbol of God’s presence among the people.  
The rabbis of old looked at the structure of this portion and discovered something rather intriguing. Just as the story of the Creation unfolded in six days with each of the six sections beginning with the phrase, “And the Lord said. . . .”, so, too, do the instructions for building the Tabernacle unfold in six sections with each of the six beginning with the identical phrase. In this case the phrase is, “The Lord spoke to Moses…” 

There is, however, an additional similarity that ties the two …

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