Shabbat Greetings from Jen Povman – May 16, 2014 Chai Plus and Am Yisrael Chai

Chai Plus Candy Graphic“It feels nice to be invited.”   Six words.  Spoken to me by a congregant attending our Chai Plus Event combined with the Shuly Nathan Concert and reception this past Saturday evening.  Chai Plus is not an exclusive club, nor a committee, nor a thing to do.  It is just a subset of our TBA congregants who have been members for 18 years or longer.  And each of them received a party favor of a Chai chocolate with their free admission at the welcome table.   Capping a week chock full of seasonal celebrations and lifecycle events, over 75 TBA guests filled our Social Hall decorated in cabaret style.    In the glow of hurricane lanterns, while munching on apricots and almonds, we celebrated Havdalah. We ushered in a new week amidst caring friends of many generations.  We were serenaded by Shuly Natan, a lovely singer who brought Israeli culture and history to life with her charming narration and familiar warm, melodies including “Jerusalem of Gold.”

During intermission, Rabbi Holtz and Cantor Goldberg honored our long time members by asking them to raise their hands.  Rabbi asked, “How many of you have been part of TBA for 18 years? 20 years?  30 years?” and up until “50 years?”    After pausing for inspired applause he moved on, only to be interrupted.  “Excuse us, Rabbi, you stopped too soon.”   Indeed, we have folks who have been part of TBA for 60, 70, and even 80 years. People who have been members their entire lives.  We all chanted the Shehecheyanu in appreciation and gratitude for reaching this season.

 As I sat with Board members and parents of teens, I was overcome by this meaningful moment.  Men and women, grandparents and singles, widows and widowers, Reform, Conservative and interfaith Jews, survivors and sustainers, have all given consistently and selflessly.  Chai Plus folks have ensured that Temple Beth Abraham thrives as a Jewish community of connection, of religious learning, and practice.  And I thank you from my heart, for making it possible that our daughter, Molly has TBA, that she views as her second home, in Tarrytown, where she will soon become a Bat Mitzvah.

We then enjoyed a catered Oneg dessert reception, getting to enjoy the camaraderie. Late in the evening the room was filled with admiration and inspiration.  These three hours were among my favorite of the year at Temple.

And I know that we are all invited: to participate, to be Chai Plus, filled with life and meaning as we give– not just to a building– but to each other in this sacred community.

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Shabbat Greetings from Pam Barkley – Friday, May 9, 2014

pam barkleyWhen my girls were old enough to talk, we started a family tradition on Friday nights. At some point between lighting candles, singing Kiddush and eating challah, I’d say “OK, high/low?” And so we go around and tell each other the best and the worst parts of our week. It has always been a simple way of checking in and sharing with one another. Tonight, as we light the Shabbat candles, I know that the “high” of my week will be obvious to every member of my family: The party TBA threw for me Saturday night.

I cannot even begin to adequately explain how much it all meant to me. From the very idea of the party to the gifts I was given to the wonderful things people said about me at the event, it was all overwhelming and so meaningful to me. I have always felt like I did my very best to make our school all it could be. But to hear this reflected by you — the congregants — in so many ways, is something I truly will never forget.

So to all who planned the event, came to the party, sang to me, took out a journal ad or shopped for me, Todah Rabbah. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting your hearts into making me feel so appreciated and loved. I am humbled and honored by all you have done and know that this past week will remain on my “high” list for a very long time to come!
Shabbat Shalom!

Pamela Joy Barkley
Director of Education

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Shabbat Greetings from Cantor Margot Goldberg – Friday, May 2, 2014

Cantor-MargotShabbat shalom!  Spring is trying desperately to spring and with it comes the season for celebrations.  Join us at 7:00pm tonight for Family Shabbat Services including our High School graduation and moving up ceremony.  We say all the time that TBA is about lifelong learning and this evening we will honor our students who have chosen to continue their Judaic studies as we ceremoniously link them to our Chain of Tradition during a beautiful ring ceremony.  Several years ago Rabbi Holtz, Pam Barkley, and I created our High School graduation ceremony to include all of our High School students and to encourage our younger students to continue to learn about their heritage.  The ring that our graduates “received” when they were in 7th grade has been inscribed with their names and graduation date and we look forward to linking it with rings of past graduating classes all attached to our founders ring.  Our 8th-11th graders will once again be presented with the ring that awaits their names as they reaffirm their commitment to their Jewish studies and our 7th graders will be presented with their ring for the first time.  We are very proud of all our students and hope that you will join us to congratulate our graduates:

Emily Carter

Maxwell Freiman

Rebecca Hershman

Jack Nienaltow

Aram Peers

Hannah Prince

Madison Rifkin

Tess Weitzner

Rachel Zive

Then on Saturday night the celebration continues as we come together as a community at our annual fundraiser in honor of Pam.  If you haven’t yet RSVP’d please feel free to click here and make your reservation or just arrive at Vintage Saturday night at 7:30pm and register at the door.

The season has begun and I look forward to celebrating all of our simchas together as a community!

Shabbat shalom,

Cantor Margot

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Shabbat Greetings from Irene Metz – April 11, 2014

Irene Metz photoShabbat Shalom.  My name is Irene Metz and I am the new Clergy Coordinator at Temple Beth Abraham.
Although I have always had a connection to Judaism, it took a beginning Hebrew class some 15 years ago at Community Synagogue of Rye (CSR) to jumpstart my journey of Jewish discovery.  Now each week I look forward to Saturday morning Shabbat services.  It is my sacred time to exhale, count my blessings, talk to God, reflect on the week and think about my missteps.  The Torah discussion lead by the rabbis enables us to unravel and question the Torah portion of the week. Using ancient and modern commentaries helps bring relevance and present day meaning to the Torah.

Community Synagogue has given me the opportunity to meet new and interesting people and absorb a wealth of knowledge from the clergy. The learning opportunities are endless, but I also learned that a Temple does not run itself and that the professional staff is very important to the existence of a synagogue.

At CSR my personal volunteer involvement started small and has grown over the years.  I chaired the membership committee, served 6 years on the Board of Trustees, was a part of Reimagine, participated on search committees, and am currently recording secretary on the Community Synagogue’s Executive Committee.  When my 35 year professional career in supply chain management at Scholastic, Inc. (publisher of children’s books, including Harry Potter and Hunger Games) concluded, the logical step for the next phase of my career was to combine my prior work experience with my commitment to the Jewish community – Temple Beth Abraham seems like that perfect workplace.

My husband Jonathan and I live in Rye Brook in our almost empty nest. Our son Joshua, 26 years old, lives in Manhattan and my daughter Isabel, 20 years old, is a junior at Indiana University. I enjoy attending the ballet, theater and movies, reading, gardening, and spending time with my family and friends.

I look forward to meeting the TBA congregants and learning from Rabbi Holtz, Cantor Goldberg and the professional team.  How wonderful it is to have two synagogues to call home!

 

 

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Shabbat Greetings from Stuart Skolnick – April 4, 2014

Stuart SkolnickTazria (last Shabbat) and M’tzora (this Shabbat) are two weekly Torah parshiyot that I think we all have difficulty relating to. Just knowing that they are approaching in the annual Torah reading cycle with their images of skin disease, mold attacking our dwellings, child birth, and circumcision among other topics makes people wonder if they perhaps have other plans on those Shabbat mornings. All of the sacrifices that go along with these issues are covered as well. But in thinking about them this year, I have been trying to find some relevance to our contemporary lives.

Certain features stand out and can inform our lives even today. Those afflicted are ministered to by the priests including Aaron. Priests in ancient Israel took care of physical as well as spiritual concerns. Two conflicting interests are attended to in a very humane and caring manner. The afflicted person is removed from the community and held outside until healed. In this way the community does not become further afflicted so the greater good is maintained while the individual is allowed the time to heal. Throughout the process treatment is handled in a caring and careful manner. At no time does any of this treatment do anything that would challenge the dignity of the individual. Who better than those of the priestly class would know that each of us is created b’tzelem elohim – in the image of God? There is a mechanism in place which allows the individual to return to society and resume a normal life.

What also struck me was the idea that perhaps the individual wants and needs this time of separation. The concept in ancient Israel was that the afflicted person was ritually impure and unable to offer sacrifices – read: not able to approach God. And I think that someone in that condition is thinking about what it takes to recover and return to normalcy rather than performing their accustomed sacrifice. We all know how we feel with a cold or the flu on a Shabbat morning. Our minds are not in the right mode to daven.  The person with tzara’at must have felt similarly and the separation provided the needed space and time to bring one back to the frame of mind needed to get close to God.

We are fortunate to have our weekly Torah reading cycle and I hope that you will find some moments this Shabbat to look for a new meaning in these ancient texts. Shabbat Shalom!

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Shabbat Greetings from Pam Barkley – March 28, 2014

pam barkleyGeorge Bernard Shaw was wrong. Youth is not wasted on the young.

Watching our youth group kids do just about anything brings a smile to my face. They are enthusiastic, happy, responsible kids who truly want to share their passion for community and Judaism with any other child or adult who chooses to listen. Tonight, you are all invited to be part of a special Shabbat service that will be led by ZEETY, our senior youth group. There will be singing, there will be unique readings, and there will even be a video presentation created over the past few weeks with TBA kids talking about what community means to them. While it is of course fun to come and ”shep nachas” over our wonderful kids, it is also an opportunity for you, as a grown up, to experience a different kind of Friday night service.  You may just find yourself pulled in by their energy and therefore able to see certain prayers in a whole new way. Come see for yourselves what makes our youth so special. Let them share their passion and infect you with their joy.

Shabbat Shalom

Pamela Barkley, Director of Education

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Shabbat Greetings for Girl Scout Shabbat from Marla Peers – March 14, 2014

Girl ScoutsTonight we celebrate Girl Scout Shabbat, a Shabbat that has become an annual event for Temple Beth Abraham.  Girl Scouts from all around Westchester County are invited and each year sees greater numbers than the year before.

Girl Scout Shabbat takes place at the end of the week in which March 12 occurs.  March 12 is “Be Your Best Day,” and honors the very first Girl Scout meeting in the United States.  That first meeting took place in Savannah, Georgia, with Juliette Lowe, the founder of Girl Scouts USA, and 18 young girls.  Twelve of those girls were congregants of Congregation Mickve Israel, the third oldest synagogue in the United States.  Yes, 2/3 of the first Girl Scouts in America were Jewish!

It is fitting that TBA be home to the annual joyful remembrance of the beginning of Girl Scouting.  We have lots of Girl Scouts in our Temple community as well as leaders who guide girls to “be their best.”  Our Clergy celebrate the evening beautifully, engaging all of the scouts, Jewish and non-Jewish, alike and the Oneg is in honor of the scouts.  We will have a lovely display of famous Jewish-American women, all of whom were Girl Scouts, and we invite you to pray and celebrate Girl Scout Shabbat with us.

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Shabbat Greetings from Cantor Margot Goldberg – March 7,2014

Cantor-MargotShabbat shalom!  I love snow days!  There is something about a snow day that gives me permission to relax and take time for myself and my family knowing that everyone else is doing the same thing.  There is a quiet that comes over the world as the snow falls outside my window and a brisket roasts in the oven that makes me want to cuddle up with my family and relax.  I am guessing that for those who observe this is the same feeling that they get as Shabbat approaches.  Shabbat is that island of time during which they will eat a slow cooked meal, spend time with family and friends and relax.  But for many who didn’t grow up observing Shabbat it is hard to create that island of time because they feel that there is so much to get done that they can’t get done at any other time.  As I have said before I don’t imagine that anyone could all of a sudden begin to observe Shabbat as the Orthodox do but I wonder what it would be like to just change one thing about what you do during the 25 hours of Shabbat from sundown on Friday night to sundown on Saturday.  This weekend is National Day of Unplugging:

Do you have multiple cell phones? Take your iPad to the beach on vacation? Ever find it hard to get through a conversation without posting an update to Facebook? Is your computer always on?

We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our iPhones and BlackBerrys, chronicling our every move through Facebook and Twitter and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of “silence” that our earphones create.

If you recognize that in yourself – or your friends, families, or colleagues— join us for the National Day of Unplugging, sign the Unplug pledge, and start living a different life: connect with the people in your street, neighborhood and city, have an uninterrupted meal or read a book to your child.

The National Day of Unplugging is a 24 hour period – running from sunset to sunset – and starts on the first Friday in March. The project is an outgrowth of The Sabbath Manifesto, an adaption of our ancestors’ ritual of carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones.

On the National Day of Unplugging website http://nationaldayofunplugging.com they ask you to fill in the blank to this statement “I unplug to _______”.  Why will you unplug and what will you do instead of your usual Friday night and Saturday night activities?

Shabbat shalom,

Margot

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Shabbat Greetings from Rabbi David Holtz – March 7, 2014

Rabbi David 11After Shabbat services tomorrow morning, I will be joining our Confirmation class in Washington, DC at the annual L’Taken Social Justice weekend.  Run by the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, this trip is always a highlight of the 10th grade year.  Our students will be learning about important social justice legislation pending before Congress.  They will choose one area about which they feel passionately and, with the guidance of the RAC staff, write a lobbying presentation expressing their views.  On Monday, our 17 students, along with 280 other Reform Jewish teens, will go to Capitol Hill where they have appointments in the offices of our Senators and Representatives.  There they will present their case, lobbying our elected officials to cast votes which will help make real our vision of a truly just society.  Throughout their years at TBA our students have done many mitzvah projects, almost all of which involve direct service to individuals or groups:  feeding, teaching, clothing, etc.  On Monday they will have an opportunity to forcefully advocate for making our society one that is righteous enough so that we no longer have to collect food or clothing, no longer have to fight for equality for all Americans.  In short, our TBA youth will be speaking truth to power, and working to mold the America in which we all dream of living.

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Dues to Donations House Meetings Update from Allison Fine

Our house meetings to discuss the idea of changing from our current dues system to a Sustainable Membership Model ( I outlined the new model here) based on donations have been going great. There have been seven meetings so far and for the most part people are enthusiastic about exploring the new model, but, naturally concerned about the finances of the Temple moving forward. But rather than my reporting on the meetings, I thought you would be interested to hear reflections on the proposed new model from a congregant, Glen Markowitz. Glen is a new member of Temple’s Board of Trustees and hosted one of the house meetings.

Here is what Glen has to say: When I originally learned that the TBA Board of Directors was contemplating a switch from “dues” to “donations”, I thought the idea was crazy. In these complex times in which we have so many interests that compete for our attention and finances, how can we possibly consider the more optional “donations” concept? We hear so many people talk about the cost of living in Westchester and how it is compounded by the high cost of family travel, sleepaway camp, and TBA dues. Can you imagine if the cost of the less essential family vacation or sleepaway camp switched to a more flexible payment program? Over time, I have come to view the switch to “donations” more favorably, as there are quite a few good justifications for this approach. First, we have families who cannot afford the current dues structure and have the choice of going through the uncomfortable process of asking for a dues reduction or, even worse, discontinuing membership. We need to hold on to these members, and we also need to encourage those of greater financial means to do what they can to help the more modest. Since we already have a significant percentage of congregant families who are paying reduced dues and a fair number who are making contributions above and beyond, the basic concept of “dues to donations” is already occurring. Second, it really does feel better to donate. I grimace when we pay our annual dues, but feel good about contributing to the annual High Holiday fundraising campaign. Third, I am told that this approach has been carefully researched and has been successful elsewhere. Fourth, I am reassured to know that congregants will not receive an unstructured letter encouraging them to donate a random amount; instead, the annual contribution letter will clearly provide a sustaining level that the majority of families will hopefully target. Despite these considerations, I still consider the switch from “dues to donations” to be risky and worrisome. We are counting on our members to do what they can to sustain TBA. I believe the collective hope is that we will retain more members, bring in new families, and further engage our members in the TBA community. Only time will tell. For now, I offer one final consideration. I had a conversation with Rabbi Holtz a few years ago in which we discussed fundraising and I asked him how he would hope to use the proceeds of a successful fundraising campaign. Did he want to refurbish the social hall, the kitchen, or the lobby? Hire more staff? His immediate and unequivocal answer was that his first priority would be to retain members who could not afford to pay our dues, as this would serve to strengthen TBA and the larger Jewish community. I like the fact that “dues to donations” is reflective of this approach.

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