The “God” Survey

As a member of the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) TBA has received many benefits.  Rabbi Holtz and I are both graduates of Hebrew Union College which is the movement’s seminary.  Many of our kids are involved in the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) and attend URJ summer camps.  As part of their reorganization they have reached out to our very own Allison Fine to help them become more relevant and effective.  As a member of TBA you receive their publication Reform Judaism(RJ) magazine and I hope that you have already read about the “God” Survey.  If not here is what you need to know so that you can participate:

The “God” Survey

As you may know, Reform Judaism magazine is conducting The God Survey-a survey of the personal God beliefs of Reform Jews-which we plan to report on in a future issue. Thus far, nearly 750 people have taken the survey, which was adapted from Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro’s survey of his congregants at Sinai Temple, Springfield, Massachusetts. Click to read his article.

If you haven’t yet filled out the survey and would like to be part of the official results, the RJ magazine staff asks that you please take a couple of minutes to complete it. They can speak from experience that it makes you think.  It’s also anonymous. And it will provide important information about where Reform Jews are theologically today. Please forward this survey link to congregants, friends, and colleagues.

Do you read your copy of RJ magazine?  What has been your favorite topic or article?

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Remembering Cantor Jerome Holland

It is with great sadness that the TBA family says goodbye to Cantor Jerome Holland.  It was my pleasure to sing with him during our 100th anniversary celebration.  I wanted to share his bio with you from that event:

Cantor Jerome Holland

Prior to my Cantorial training, I enjoyed an extensive career initiated as a teenager on Radio and after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps, I studied voice for two years at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City with the renowned Irish Tenor Harry Wilson.  The next four years – under scholarship from the Metropolitan Opera Guild – were spent studying with Leo Braun (Ass’t Conductor – New York Metropolitan Opera Co. Orchestra).  This was followed by five years of study under the musical tutelage of Oscar Julius (Renowned Composer, Conductor and Music Director).  Concert performances throughout the United States to Tsing-Tau, China – interpreting the Songs of all nations – from Folk to Opera – for the Lecture Bureaus, as well as Stage, Clubs, Recording, Television and the USO for our Troops around the world.

I received my Orthodox background by studying for five years with the very same renowned Choral/Choir – Music Director Oscar Julius.  This is the famous Oscar Julius who worked with Kapov Kagan, Moshe Koussevitsky, David Koussevitsky, Robert Merrill, Richard Tucker, Zim Brothers, et al.  I was graduated from and earned my B.A. in Cantorial Studies, a Cantorial Certification and a Principal’s Certificate in Hebrew Studies from the School of Sacred Music of Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion.  I continued with Temple Beth Abraham (Temple of Twin Chapels), Tarrytown, New York wherein I spent 16 years in residence and left as Cantor Emeritus.  Prior to this, I officiated throughout New York State, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


May his memory be for a blessing!

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Shabbat Greetings from Cantor Margot Goldberg – July 13

Shalom!  Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, and Tzippora; these are the names of the women in the Torah that you probable recognize. But what about Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzahb better known as the daughters of Zelophehad? In this week’s Torah portion, the daughters of Zelophehad petition Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chieftains, and the whole assembly, at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for their right to inherit their Father’s property rights in the Land of Israel.  Zelophehad’s daughters argued that were they not to inherit, then Zelophehad’s name would be lost to his clan.  Moses took their case to God.  God told Moses that the plea of Zelophehad’s daughters was just, and that they should be granted their father’s hereditary holding (Wikipedia).  The daughters of Zelophehad are amongst the few women that we hear about in the Torah and we should be proud that they saw an injustice and stood up for what is right.

This Shabbat, we announce Rosh Chodesh, the coming of the new moon.  Rosh Chodesh has long been considered a special holiday for women. There are a number of reasons. First, according to legend, the holiday was a reward given to the women of Israel because they refused to surrender their jewelry for the creation of the Golden Calf (which, the biblical book of Exodus says, the Israelites worshipped in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt). Because of their righteousness, the women were exonerated from working on Rosh Chodesh (  Click here for more information on Rosh Chodesh.

This Friday evening, I have chosen settings for many of the prayers that we chant by women composers.  I hope that you will join me in song as the women did with Miriam at the Red Sea in celebration of Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh.


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Learning Opportunity in Greenburgh

Hadassah has a summer film festival that will take place on four consecutive Thursdays beginning July 12 at the Greenburgh Public Library.

An article about it may be found in the Greenburgh Daily Voice

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

Though some Jews seem to have arrived in Morocco with the Phoenicians shortly after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE, the earliest hard evidence of a Jewish presence dates to the Roman period.  Volubilis, near present day Meknes, was a very large city that followed the typical Roman layout, and dates to the first century.  It allowed the Romans to control the fertile valleys between the coast and the Middle Atlas mountains which helped make North Africa a breadbasket for the empire.  In the ancient cemetery, archaeologists have found a Jewish gravestone, which may mark the burial site of one of the many Jewish refugees exiled to the far reaches of the empire after the unsuccessful Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE.

On a totally separate note, neighboring Meknes became an important imperial city under Moulay Ismail, whose reign began in 1672.  Driven in part by deep paranoia, his building program was extremely ambitious, and included tremendous city walls, a huge granary and reservoir to defend against lengthy siege, and a stable for 12,000 Arabian horses.  This is the breed that enabled the Muslims to conquer so much territory so quickly.  Today, the descendants of those proud horses can be found giving rides to tourists in the town market.  The owner of the horse in the picture below gave him the fine Arabic name of Mario.

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Welcome to Rabat

Jewish participation in Moroccan society goes back a very long way. When the Arabs arrived in the 9th century, many Jews were silversmiths. When the Arabs arrived, they introduced gold, and the silversmiths became goldsmiths. Thanks to their metalworking abilities, they were commissioned to mint the money. When they asked what symbol should be on the back, they were told, “something lucky,” so they put the magen David, the six-pointed star. This “lucky symbol” was part of the Moroccan flag until the French colonialists insisted on removing it. Today the flag has a five-pointed star, representing the pillars of Islam

Under most – though not all- Moroccan dynasties, Jews have fared well, or at least better than in other Arab countries. The Jewish quarter in most cities, the melah, was next to the palace. Here in the capitol, Rabat, the area still exists, but all of the city’s 110 Jews live in a newer part of town, near their synagogue.

During WW II, Morocco fell under the collaborationist Vichy government. The Nazis had two labor camps built near Rabat to gather Jews, and they delivered a shipment of yellow stars. King Mohammed V was told that they were for his Jewish citizens. He said, “we have no Jewish citizens; in our country we have only Moroccans.” When pressed further he said, “however many yellow stars you have, make fifty more for me and my family.” The Jews of Morocco never wore stars, and none were deported. His grandson, Mohammed VI requires school children to learn about the Holocaust, and students in Casablanca visit the Jewish museum (the only one in any Arab country) to learn of the 2000 year-old Jewish presence. We made that visit today, and saw artifacts from 62 different communities, including a Torah scroll from an 1100 year-old synagogue in the Sahara!
All this evidence of Jewish-Muslim co-existence gives me hope that one day it could be recreated throughout the Middle East.

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Hello from Morocco!

After an uneventful flight on an aging Royal Air Maroc plane, we arrived early this morning. Once settled at the hotel, we went out for a stroll, and ended up in the Ancienne Medina (the Old City). Wandering in the souk (market), my eye caught this sign (below) down a small alleyway, marking the home of a 19th century rabbinic scholar. It’s evidence of the long-standing relationship between Jews and Muslims here in Morocco. More about that tomorrow. The Jewish community here dates back 2000 years, and now includes descendants of Berber tribesmen who were attracted to Judaism. A second major wave of immigration – about 40,000 people – came from Spain with the retreating Muslims in the 1480’s. It should surprise no one that there was conflict between the original Jews and the new immigrants, and the separation between the two remains.

From a high of about 350,000, the current Jewish population of Morocco is 5000, of whom 3500 live in Casablanca. This city boasts 28 functioning synagogues, 6 kosher restaurants, 18 kosher butchers, a network of Jewish schools, and old-age home and more. I’ve been here only 14 hours, and I’m very impressed!


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New Windows in the Sanctuary

No rest for the dusty! The renovation of the sanctuary continued this week, and you can see the progress, particularly the creation of windows on the back wall, in the photos below. The carpet and asbestos tiles have also been removed, so we’re safe and sound moving forward!

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Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – July 6

Wherever we have lived throughout our wanderings, Jews have been extraordinarily loyal citizens of our adopted countries.  In part it is to combat the frequent charge of dual-loyalty that followed us from country to country.  But even more it has been out of love and appreciation for our adopted homelands.  The Jewish love affair with America goes all the way back to our arrival in New Amsterdam over 350 years ago.  America has been very good to the Jews.  So it is fitting that we take some time on the Shabbat closest to July 4 to acknowledge all that America has meant to us.  Tonight we will be outdoors, and tomorrow we’ll be in the chapel.  Celebrate Shabbat and America with us!

One other note:  on Sunday I leave for a familiarization tour of Jewish Morocco.  If the hotel wifi works, I hope to post photos and thoughts on the blog at our new website.  Please take a look beginning Monday evening at

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Our Sanctuary Renovation Begins!

Here we go, the first week of renovation work in the sanctuary has begun! Here are a few photos of the demolition work that began on Monday. Glad it’s not in my house!

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