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From the Rabbi
From the Rabbi - August 2017 PDF Print E-mail

Bulletin Article Edited Extract from Sermon given by Rabbi Charles Emanuel on the occasion of Mira Emanuel’s  Bat Mitzvah

What does bar or bat mitzvah really mean? There is a very interesting insight at the end of the Torah portion (Naso) which, while on the surface might seem completely unconnected, is actually very crucial to all of our individual Jewishness.

The end of the Torah portion tells us about the transport of the tabernacle by the tribe of Levy as the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness. Most of the tabernacle was transported on wagons but the family of Levy carrying the Holy Ark itself, was commanded to carry it on their shoulders 

Concerning this, Rabbi Morris Adler, a prominent 20th century American Conservative rabbi, wrote “we are told not only about a detail of transportation but …we are also being instructed [that]….when it comes to the very heart of religion, we must not try to find…a substitute for our own shoulders. We cannot transfer to anybody else or anything else the obligations that rest exclusively upon ourselves….”

And so it is for the bar and bat mitzvah. Up to now, their Judaism has been, for the most part, just that of their parents. But now, as the 13 year old begins his or her journey into Jewish adulthood, they will have to start to carry Judaism on their own shoulders. Like the Levites who carried the Holy Ark, the young adult needs to start to understand that Judaism can be a burden and a discipline, something that many people, especially teenagers, find difficult to accept. But if he or she seeks to carry a faith easily, shouldering no special tasks, making no distinctive sacrifices, the person will have a Judaism that is neither true nor helpful.  This is the real meaning of becoming a bar or bat mitzvah, shouldering the burden as well as the joys of our Jewish tradition. 

What does it mean to shoulder this burden? The 18th century Jewish mystical rabbi the Baal Shem Tov once wrote concerning the beginning of the Amidah prayer, “Why do we say, ‘Our God and God of our Ancestors’? He argued that there are two sorts of persons who believe in God. The one believes because their faith has been handed down to them by their ancestors and their faith is strong. The other has arrived at faith by dint of searching thought. And this is the difference between the two: one has the advantage that their faith cannot be shaken no matter how many objections are raised to it for their faith is firm, because they have taken it over from their ancestors. But there is a flaw in it: it is a commandment given by human beings and it has been learned without thought or reasoning. The advantage of the second person is that they have reached their faith through their own power, through much searching and thinking. But their faith too has a flaw. It is easy to shake it by offering contrary evidence. But the person who combines both kinds of faith is invulnerable.  That is why we say ‘Our God’ because of our searching and ‘the God of our ancestors”, because of our tradition.”

This is the hope we have as a person becomes bar or bat mitzvah. They have taken upon themselves this responsibility. They have learned a great deal from their teachers and from their parents and also from the wonderful atmosphere of this very special congregation whose members individually and collectively demonstrate by their actions the highest of principles of Judaism. But when a person becomes a bar or bat mitzvah, they will have to decide for themselves what their Judaism will be. This is the responsibility of the bar or bat mitzvah and it is the responsibility of each and every adult Jew. 

Rabbi Ilan Emanuel 


From the Rabbi - June & July 2017 PDF Print E-mail

Summer is here again and many will be traveling away from home and taking time away from work.  One of the wonders of the modern age is that no matter where we are we have access to all the knowledge of the world at our fingertips through the internet.  So as we look forward to the summer here are some great Jewish websites to keep in touch with the Jewish world on our travels. 

Our congregation is a merger of Reform and Conservative congregations and is a member of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) so we can start with websites that connect to those movements.  The Union for Reform Judaism can be found at URJ.org and reformjudaism.org and the Conservative movement is at USCJ.org.  Both sites give lots of information for what is happening in the movements and provide weekly Torah commentary.   For those interested in a good website from an Orthodox background you can’t do better than the website of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain whose extensive and thoughtful commentary on all things Jewish can be found at Rabbisacks.org. 

For general Jewish information and learning you can go to MyjewishLearning.com or Jewishvirtuallibrary.org.  Both provide excellent general resources and unlike Wikipedia they are both well sourced so you can see where the information came from.  Just enter in your query on any subject from Abraham to Zachariah and anything in between and you will surely find an answer to your question. 

For anyone wanting to know what is going on in the Jewish calendar Hebcal.com is the place to go.  The site allows you to check the Hebrew date, the Torah and Haftarah portion, festivals and many other aspects of the Jewish calendar that you might want to know about for any particular date.    And for Jewish texts there is no better pace on the web than sefaria.org where you can find Jewish texts of all sorts from Torah to kabbalah, to Jewish philosophy in Hebrew and English.

If you are in need of a Jewish ritual on the fly you can go to Ritualwell.org where you will find prayers and ritual for pretty much any occasion you can imagine.   For those looking to add a little Jewishness to their kids’ summer, Kveller.com is a great website for Jewish parenting. 

And no matter where you  are in the world you can follow along with Jewish news and views on sevral good news websites.  For general news there is JTA.org and Forward.com and for Israel news there is TimesofIsrael.com, Haaretz.com and Jerusalem Post (Jpost.com). 

Finally, as we enjoy our summer we can always continue to keep connected to our family of families here at CBI by checking our website Bethisraelcc.com and keep up with what is going on in our community on our congregational Facebook page.

Shalom Y’all and have a great summer! 
Rabbi Ilan Emanuel

Presiden'ts Message - May 2017 PDF Print E-mail

Friends, what a busy end of year we face.  Busy, but full of interesting things for us to think about, participate in, and look forward to doing.  Our calendar is full of activities and I hope each of you will participate in as many activities as you can. 

Looking backward and forward….this past month we cleaned up Hebrew Rest with a lot of help from 45 of you.  Just this week, the new fence is being installed.  It is a beautiful cemetery and looks fresh, clean, neat, and a place we can be proud to call ours.  Thanks to each of you who turned out to offer your time, your donations, and give some “sweat equity” to this project.
Our Second Seder was very well attended and greatly enjoyed by 110 congregants and guests.  Rabbi Emanuel did an excellent job and had participation from all the attendees, especially the large number of children that attended.  Food was delicious, and many thanks to so many of you who prepared our dinner.

We have a NEW MEMBER SHABBAT AND FAMILY DINNER coming up on Friday,  April 28 at 6:30 p.m.  I look forward to welcoming 20+ new member families to our Congregation from the past months.  We are so happy to welcome all our new members and hope you will plan to join us for dinner and Shabbat Services, so we can meet and formally welcome new members to Congregation Beth Israel. 

Mark your calendars for the Musical Program and reception honoring the memory of Andy Moore on Sunday, May 21, at 3:30 p.m.  This will be a beautiful tribute to our great friend and High Holiday choir member.
Our Temple has completed our new Board for the coming year.  We have all positions filled with very capable people who step forward to lead our Temple. Our congregational meeting and election of officers will be held soon, so watch for the date and make plans to attend.

Sisterhood has a full board.  They have plans for the entire year, plus leadership in place for a successful FOOD FEST, and other designated programs for our Temple.  We are so lucky to have dedicated people who are willing to volunteer and work in ALL areas.
We’re looking forward to summer camp for our students.  If you’re interested in a scholarship for your child (children), please get an application in to Michael Hiatt and committee asap…. 

Rabbi Roseman is presenting an Adult Lecture Series….entitled ISSUES FROM OUR PRAYERS. All too often we repeat the words of the prayer book without really thinking about or understanding the meaning.  The Sessions are on Sunday mornings, April 23, April 30, and May 7 at 10:30 a.m. at the Temple.  I promise you will find these sessions informative and enjoyable.  Please come and bring guests.  Oh yes, coffee and social time begins at 10 a.m.

Hope to see you all soon.  Make it a point to COME TO SHABBAT SERVICES.  We need you and your participation in our events. 

Chris Adler, President
Congregation Beth Israel

Presiden'ts Message - April 2017 PDF Print E-mail

WOW!!! What a marvelous Hebrew Rest Mitzvah Day Clean Up yesterday.  At least 45….45….members of CBI turned out to clean up the beautiful old cemetery. It was beautiful before, but after 45 of us working 4 long, hot, steamy hours, it’s really MORE beautiful.  Hope you had an opportunity to look at all the great pictures of the members, and guests, who came to work.  I’ll not point out specific folks, as all of us were Super Stars yesterday…THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

MANY exciting things going on at CBI….Lots of our members participating in many activities.  We are preparing for Second Night Passover Seder at the Temple.  Lots of “chicken pulling”, matzoh ball rolling, soup making, and other activities going on.  We hope you have made your reservations for the dinner.  If not, call today. We’re near capacity.

Social action committee is always active.  Thanks, Linda Snider, and your great helpers, for keeping us in the forefront of mitzvah work needed in the community.  The latest example is the action committee cooked dinner at Ronald McDonald house for the people staying there.

Suzy Hilliard, Membership Committee, reports we have 3 families as new members.  Yea for us….thanks, Suzy.

Mike Hiatt is chairing the camp scholarship committee.  His committee will be more active in the near future, as camp is just around the corner.  We already have several applications for scholarships for various Jewish Summer Camps.

Ongoing…..repairs to our Temple continue.  We’re facing some roof, leaky windows, compressors, water heater, and other repairs.  Thank you for your donation to our High Holiday 2016 appeal, we can keep our building in good working condition.

Special thanks to Richard Leshin for attending our CBI Board Meeting to discuss changes in documents for trusts and endowments this year.  Andy Lehrman will be joining Richard, and David Engel as Trustees of our legal documents.  (Thanks to Don Feferman who has served in this capacity for many, many years).

Chris Adler, President
Congregation Beth Israel

From the Rabbi - May 2017 PDF Print E-mail

I am a Jew Because…...

There is a beautiful poem in the Reform prayerbook that states beautifully what it means to be a Jew. 

The poem, written by Edmond Fleg in 1927, called “Why I am a Jew” declares: “I am a Jew because the faith of Israel demands no abdication of my mind. I am a Jew because the faith of Israel asks every possible sacrifice of my soul. I am a Jew because in all places where there are tears 
and suffering the Jew weeps. I am a Jew because in every age when the cry of despair is heard the Jew hopes. I am a Jew because the message of Israel is the most ancient and the most modern. I am a Jew because Israel's promise is a universal promise. I am a Jew because for Israel the world is not finished; humanity will complete it. I am a Jew because for Israel humanity is not yet fully created; humanity is creating it. I am a Jew because Israel places humanity and its unity above nations and above Israel itself. I am a Jew because above humanity, image of the divine unity, Israel places the unity which is divine.”

These statements weave together both ancient and modern aspects of Jewish tradition to paint a picture of Jewish meaning and purpose that resonates on many levels and is still as relevant today as it was when it was written.  A few ideas stand out in particular:

I am a Jew because the message of Israel is the most ancient and the most modern - Judaism is, I would argue, the deepest and most comprehensive body of spiritual and ethical wisdom ever devised. Over the course of more than three thousand years our ancestors struggled with the intricacies of human existence and the mysteries of the divine through prayer, study and ritual. It is an incomparable source of wisdom and guidance on how to live a life of meaning and purpose that is grounded in millennia of tradition and yet continues to be creative and dynamic in adapting to the realities of our modern world.

I am a Jew because in every age when the cry of despair is heard the Jew hopes - Despite so much tragedy in our history we have always maintained a sense of hope, a commitment not just to be hopeful for ourselves but to be a light unto the nations. As a people we are an example to all people and individuals of how to keep hope alive in dark times, to maintain hope despite all that may be arrayed against us and thus inspire all to maintain a sense of purpose no matter the challenges we face. 

I am a Jew because above humanity, image of the divine unity, Israel places the unity which is divine. I am a Jew because for Israel the world is not finished; humanity will complete it – Our modern world can often be bereft of a sense of purpose and meaning. That is what so many yearn for, so many continue to search for, and so few find.  Judaism reminds us that our existence is not selfish or bereft of meaning.  There is meaning all around us, in every act we take, every blade of grass, every smile, and the more we learn of our tradition the more we will be open to that reality and that purpose.  And for so many, searching for meaning, Judaism clearly and unequivocally gives an ultimate purpose for us all – to recognize the brokenness of the world and to be partners with G-d in the task of fixing it one act at a time.  

    Rabbi Ilan Emanuel

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Due to COVID-19, in-person services at CBI have been cancelled until further notice.

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