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From the Rabbi

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

From the Rabbi - April 2017 PDF Print E-mail

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!” In many ways this could be the moto of the Jewish approach to text and prayer.  In a world in which we tend to want the new and the latest innovation, Judaism likes to go back to the classics and remind us of eternal truths.  Even in the Reform and Conservative movements, in which we like to be creative and dynamic in our ritual practice and philosophy of Judaism, we are always rooted in the texts and prayers that have been the cornerstones of our people’s lives for centuries, if not millennia.  Perhaps this is why we return again and again to the same stories in the Torah and recite the same prayers at our regular prayer services – we understand that we may not succeed in grasping all that that we can learn and experience of those texts in one go, or even in one lifetime.  Every time we delve back into the study of our texts we are continually trying again and again to find greater depth and meaning in these great writings that are our inheritance. 

And one of the greatest texts to which we return again and again every year is the Haggadah of Passover, retelling the story of the Exodus from Egypt.  Surely, we may think we know this story.  We have heard it many times.  What could we possibly learn from it now after so many repeated readings?  The answer of course is that no matter how many times we read it there will always be more to learn.  Partly this is because the text is rich and deep and varied, full of details we may not see until we have read it many times.  And partly it is because as we grow older and our lives change and we experience and read things differently.  As my daughter gets older I am introducing her to many of the books, movies, and TV shows  I loved as a child, and experiencing them again.  As I do so I see new messages and nuances that I could never have understood as a child but do now because of the experiences I have had in my life.  Every year we return to the Haggadah text and every year we are different and so our experience of the seder is different. 

And, of course, we return again and again to the same text of the Haggadah and the same story of the Exodus because some truths need to be told and retold until we truly get them right!  Human nature is such that  it is often easy to forget these lessons when we do not continually return to them to refresh our connection with our tradition.  We need to hear the stories again and again to truly understand them and to truly ingrain them as part of our lives.  We need to be reminded every year that we are part of a great tradition that has helped us survive and thrive as Jews for thousands of years.  And we must each year remind ourselves that this great tradition began in slavery and oppression, so that we never become arrogant and entitled.  It reminds us to never forget that our tradition is great because it reminds  us year after to year to remember what it was like to be slaves in Egypt, to be downtrodden and thus to conduct our lives with compassion and in pursuit of justice for all.  

           Rabbi Ilan Emanuel

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