TSTI Today for March 25, 2020

A Message from Alon, our Rishon

Hi Everyone,
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was required to return to Israel. I am hopeful that I will  be able to come back to NJ soon! Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel has become my second home for the last six months and I am so thankful for everything we have learned and experienced together. I already miss everyone I met and experiences we shared. You are all part  of my heart, so for now I’ll say “l’hitraot” (see you soon) and not goodbye. Please stay in touch and stay healthy!
Alon
Rishonim 17 

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Alon was part of a program, Rishonim, that brought talented young adults who are embarking on a gap year between high school graduation and their mandatory IDF or national service to our area. They volunteer throughout our community in schools. Alon was our Rishon this year. He participated in the preschool, …

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TSTI Today for March 24, 2020

 

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Update: TSTI’s Building Closure

Continued connection is what we have strived for as our temple family moves into an unprecedented second week of state-mandated social distancing. Even without the benefit of the physical structure of Temple, we are one congregation and one community.

We have made every effort to bring TSTI to you to bridge the physical distance required to keep this virus at bay. With Zoom gatherings as diverse as Shabbat streaming services, morning coffees with Clergy, Hebrew School, Shabbat songs and blessings, Torah Study and educational programs like Cantor Moses’ recent discussion of Leo Frank, we are delivering the best of Temple directly to you in your home. Continue to check “TSTI Today” for daily updates about programming.

But in addition to keeping members engaged, our priority is to keep our TSTI family safe. For this reason, we have made the decision to continue with our ZOOM …

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My Shabbat Message March 13, 2020

Dear Friends,

As Shabbat approaches I want to begin by thanking all of you for your understanding and support for the decision by our Board of Directors to shut the building effective last night. The current closure is in effect until March 29. At that time we will assess next steps.

Many years ago my teacher and thesis advisor Rabbi Laurence Kushner wrote a book entitled, “Invisible Lines of Connection.” It is an excellent book whose title captures a great truth- we may not see the myriad ways in which we are connected but that does not mean they are not there. That truth has become clearer than ever in recent days. We are connected- not just within our synagogue, not just within our community but, ultimately, all people everywhere are connected one to the next. The irony, of course, is that the current “proof” of our connection also requires …

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Maintaining Community, Being Safe

Dear Friends,

From the start of this crisis we have been doing our best to put in place steps that were prudent but measured. Unfortunately, recent developments over the past 24 hours require a more urgent response.

After meeting with both our Executive Committee and our Board of Trustees this afternoon we have come to the determination that the best option to keep everyone as safe as possible is to close the building effective immediately. This closure will be in place through March 29th at which time we will reassess to determine if we should extend the closure into April.

We hoped to avoid this step but the continued spread of COVID-19, and our concern for community members leave us no choice.

Lifecycle: The building will be open with a small staff on hand for a bat mitzvah this Shabbat. We will make a determination with regard to other lifecycle …

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My Shabbat Message for August 23, 2019

Dear Friends,

It has been another week of outrage in the US. This time, the strong responses were, in part, the result of comments made regarding Jewish dual-loyalty. They were outrageous, offensive and dangerous. I have little doubt they were intended to create a firestorm of response, and once again the media and the Twittersphere fell for it.

A great deal has been written in response to these comments regarding Jewish loyalty. I’ll be addressing one aspect of this during services tonight but, for now, I want to invite you to join me in being part of a much needed counter culture.

I want to invite you to begin reading social media posts with a skeptical eye. What should be platforms to enhance connection and facilitate debate have, instead, been weaponized by those seeking to do harm to the Jewish community specifically and our country as a whole. And it …

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Shabbat August 16, 2019/16 Av 5779

Dear Friends,

A well-known Jewish story tells of a boy who spread gossip only to find himself feeling badly for doing so. He went to his rabbi to ask how he might make amends. The rabbi instructed him to take a feather pillow, go into a field and cut it open. The boy did so and watched as the wind took the feathers in every direction. When he returned to the rabbi the boy asked what to do next.

The rabbi instructed him to go collect the feathers. “But they have been carried in every direction,” the boy argued, “there is no way to collect them all.”

“Exactly,” said the rabbi, “so it is with the words we say. Once they are out in the wind there is no way to take them back.”

I was reminded of this story when I awoke to news that Prime Minister Netanyahu was …

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My Comments at the 2019 TSTI Annual Meeting

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Good evening. It is truly an honor to attend TSTI’s Annual Meeting for the 27th time. I first attended as a rabbinic intern in 1992 and it has been and continues to be a privilege to serve this sacred community.

Most years I use my time during this meeting to talk about the state of the congregation from my perspective. And I could easily do so this year, particularly considering how much is going on.

But tonight, I want to take a slightly different approach. I want to talk about why we do what we do. And I want to do so through the lens of a few experiences I have had this year.

 

It is a quiet Shabbat afternoon in October. Suddenly my phone starts buzzing with reports of the synagogue shooting in Squirrel Hill. Within minutes I’m on the phone with my colleagues and a number …

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Our Visit to Neve Michael Children’s Village

Dear Friends, 
Happy 2019! Our TSTI in Israel 2018 group had the chance to welcome the New Year in Jerusalem. (To be fair, we welcomed the New Year with a drink in the hotel lobby at 10:30pm. Few of us actually made it to midnight.) I hope our Facebook posts captured a bit of the experience but know that no pictures or video can do such an experience justice. 
While I am away on Sabbatical this month I want to share a few of our experiences in a bit more depth. Today’s stop is Neve Michael Children’s Village. 
Neve Michael is “the only multi-disciplinary children’s home in Israel to offer a wide range of professional services on one site, such as psychiatry, psychology, occupational therapy, social work, conventional and para-medical therapies and education.” The village was established in 1943 as “a safe haven for children 5 to 18
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A Post-Thanksgiving Shabbat Message

Dear Friends,

Happy day after Thanksgiving! I hope the turkey was delicious, the pies were tasty and your time with family and friends was meaningful. Most of all, I hope yesterday was an opportunity to slow down and take the time to express gratitude for all of life’s blessings. While Thanksgiving is a truly American holiday, it embodies one of the core Jewish values- gratitude. The rabbis of old encouraged us to recite 100 blessings a day. Within our tradition, a blessing is an opportunity to pause from what we are doing, recognize the good that surrounds us, and express our thanks for it. Thanksgiving may be just one day of the year, but Judaism encourages us to make each and every day a day filled with gratitude.

At its most basic, gratitude is the result of our recognizing the ways in which we impact one another for good. But …

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