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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My Shabbat Message for February 24, 2018

This week’s Torah Portion, Mishpatim, offers a series of detailed laws which were to guide the Israelites as they sought to build a covenanted community. Many of these laws are outdated and, thankfully, no longer relevant. These include the laws regarding the treatment of slaves and the social standing of women. There are other laws, however, that seem more relevant than ever. Chief among them is this:
And you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Eִgypt. You shall not oppress any widow or orphan.
The Torah is clear. A community is responsible for welcoming the stranger, is prohibited from taking advantage of guests, visitors and “strangers” and is required to protect the most vulnerable in society. The rabbis of the Talmud went even further. They extended this level of care and respect to all people teaching,”Great is human …

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My February 17 Shabbat Message

Dear Friends, 
In this week’s Shabbat Message I offer an invitation and share some Torah.

An Invitation- As I wrote a number of weeks ago, Reform Judaism’s commitment to social justice gave rise to the Religious Action Center in Washington DC. Drawing on the moral teachings and commitments of Judaism, the RAC educates, advocates and lobbies on a variety of issues. This past weekend eleven of our TSTI teens spent a long weekend at the RAC along with Rabbi Klein and Erica Shulman. While there they studied, debated, shared and, on the last day, went to Capital Hill to lobby our members of Congress. At this evening’s service (which is at 6pm because it is a holiday weekend) three of the participants- Amy Nadel, Ian Lowenthal and Sarah Wish- will be speaking about their experience and sharing some of what they learned. Please join us to welcome Shabbat and …

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My March Bulletin Article…

“Any dispute which is for the sake of Heaven will ultimately endure, and one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not ultimately endure. What is a dispute for the sake of Heaven?” Pirke Avot Chapter 5, Mishna 20 

In one of his many books, psychologist M. Scott Peck comments that there are only two reasons for marriage, one being the emotional friction between partners. It is, he wrote, through the process of two individuals navigating a life together, negotiating their differences, learning to listen to one another when they disagree and finding a need to compromise, that each partner in a marriage pushes the other partner to grow.

Two thousand years ago the rabbis of the Talmud already understood this lesson. That is why discussions and debates in the Talmud are recorded in detail. That is why we find pairings of opposing teachers such as Shammai and …

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In the News- NJJN “Second refugee family adopted by South Orange synagogues”

by Johanna Ginsberg-

NJJN Staff Writer February 15, 2017
Rabbi Dan Cohen of Sharey Tefilo-Israel said he was proud his community was able to welcome a family of refugees with only three days to prepare for their arrival… 

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Liba Beyer said her committee received a call asking if they could help settle an Iraqi family of six, with four children ranging in age from six to 23. The family would arrive on Friday. 

Beyer is part of a committee comprised of members from three South Orange synagogues partnering with the World Church Service to adopt refugee families and help them adjust to their new lives. 

The mad rush was necessary as this was the family’s second attempt to come to the United States. 

The family had already been approved by U.S. government agencies and were preparing to depart from Istanbul — where they fled when …

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In the News- NJJN “When politics came to synagogue”

by Johanna Ginsberg-
February 15, 2017
Anat Cohen of Livingston and her family dropped their membership this year at the Conservative-affiliated Congregation Agudath Israel of West Essex in Caldwell. Her increasing discomfort as a Trump supporter in a liberal environment was one of several factors that went into her family’s decision.

“It was annoying that there was not another voice,” said Cohen, who asked that her real name not be used to protect her family’s privacy. While she said the rabbi and cantor were “very careful” in their rhetoric, nonetheless, “The message got across that we are terrible Jews if we do not open our border to refugees. The social action aspects of Judaism just take precedence over Judaism.”

Not too far away, West Orange resident Matt Greenwood, an avowed socialist and member of the Orthodox Congregation Ahawas Achim B’nai Jacob & David (AABJ&D), quipped that he and the …

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Why I Demonstrated… One TSTI Member’s Perspective

Sunday, I marched to voice my opposition to the recent executive order regarding immigration from several, but not all, predominately Muslim countries. I ran into Rabbi Cohen there and he asked me to write about why I came. Why had I decided that it was time to become openly politically active?  

Marching was almost instinctive. For me there was instant clarity that this is a time when it is imperative to stand up and fight for what is right. It is my moral duty as a citizen not only of America but of the world to fight for myself, my loved ones, and most importantly for those who do not have the voice. America was not designed to be a place to discriminate against people of different religions. A clear separation of church and state is stated in the Constitution, the very document that defines us as a nation. …

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What I Learn From My Grandfather’s Painting

On the wall of my study at the synagogue is a painting my grandfather Alex did in the early 1920’s. It depicts the Leviathan, the ship that brought my grandfather from Europe to this country. Both he and my grandmother, also an immigrant, came here fleeing persecution. My grandmother spent weeks, if not months, in fear of the next pogroms. It was a hard life and one that they rarely spoke of. Instead, they spent their entire adult lives as proud citizens of these United States.

That painting sits on my study wall as a constant reminder that my sister Martha and I have the life we have because of our grandparents’ decision to come to America. The painting is there to ensure that I never forget that I am the grandchild of immigrants and that, as a result, I not only owe this nation a debt of gratitude, but …

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SoMa Resettlement Project Update From Our TSTI Chairs

This past Sunday Rabbi Klein and I had the privilege of meeting the Syrian family our community is helping to resettle. It was truly a priviledge to meet them and to begin getting to know them a bit. It was clear to us that they had been through a great deal. Knowing that their lives will be so much quieter and more secure now truly warmed my heart. Our TSTi Chairs Sheryl and Alan have done an amazing job. We are grateful to them, and to all of you who have and continue to volunteer, for doing this important, and holy, work. 

Here is their most recent update. 


This week, the Syrian family we are sponsoring started their life in America. Every outing has been an adventure. So far, they have been to the library, many stores in downtown Maplewood and Target! Seeing everything new through their …

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Shabbat January 20th, 2017

Dear Friends-

As Shabbat arrives this evening our nation will have entered a new era. No matter where one sits on the political and social spectrum I do believe today is a day when we see the strength of our nation. The peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of our great nation and is worthy of appreciation and respect. And while I hope the spirit of national unity extends beyond today, at least for today we have been able to see those with vastly differing perspectives standing together and celebrating our country’s democracy. We will see that democracy in action tomorrow as well, as hundreds of thousands of Americans make their voices heard as they call for respect for all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic standing. 

Etched on the cornerstone of our middle building are words from the prophet Isaiah: “My house …

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