Rabbi Gross and his family are on vacation this week. In his absence, Shabbat Services will be led by Mike Kahn who has participated in many services at HCRJ. Please join us on Friday at 6:30pm as Mike leads us in a service accompanied by his beautiful voice and the music of Donna Cameron and Jane Becker. An oneg will follow.
It has been a week since the hate-driven attack on a Bible study group at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston took the lives of nine innocent victims. Within days, communities around the world responded with empathy and love, and a nationwide dialogue has arisen seeking ways to combat festering pockets of hatred which are so detrimental to the fabric of a multi-cultural society.
Acts of hatred have a universal affect. Every time an act of hate is committed, we are reminded that all people are vulnerable. It is therefore incumbent upon each of us to find ways to respond which promote goodness, understanding and wisdom in the place of such darkness.
This Friday night at 6:30, HCRJ will be welcoming a group whose mission is cultural and religious understanding. Their request to join us in worship and learn about Judaism came long before the murders in South Carolina, and in the aftermath of this act of terror, their presence with us becomes even more significant.
Join us Friday night for Shabbat services followed by a light nosh and discussion as we seek to find ways to build understanding and goodness in the world.
In the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, we declare that “justice and liberty for all” is something that we hold as an unalienable right, and with the decisions of the Supreme Court last week, the reach of these liberties has been extended to a broader spectrum of our people. For many in our country, shared pride in the Stars and Stripes is stronger than ever.
While the pursuit of freedom for all people may be an ongoing task, this weekend we have a unique opportunity to pause and reflect on how far we have come over the course of our history as a nation. Dignity has prevailed over degradation. Love has prevailed over fear, and on this Fourth of July we can take a moment to consider what is possible when we stand together to affirm our national pledge to defend “liberty and justice for all.”
It has not even been a month since major parts of our city were devastated by catastrophic flooding and, as the media continues to report the increasing probability of more rain. At this time of lingering fear, it is important to remember that as quickly as the rains have come and gone, communal responses for help have been just as fast.
I am currently at the Greene Family Camp for a week and, as your Rabbi, I am extremely concerned about the wellbeing of everyone in our community. Please know I have full access to the internet and will be checking my phone calls daily. If this storm hits, please keep HCRJ at the top of your list of places to call to find help.
We may not know for certain whether these predicted storms will cause the kinds of damage that the storms of Memorial Day weekend produced, but we can be certain that the community is very well prepared to respond. May we all find comfort in knowing that whatever may come our community is there to help us.
The flood waters may have ebbed, but in their wake there has been so much loss and destruction. At such times, the knowledge that others care about us can lift our spirits and enable us to find strength and hope.
In our Torah portion this week, Moses offers the shortest prayer found in the Torah. In response to a plague that has fallen upon his sister, Miriam, Moses calls out to God: “El nah, r’fah nah lah!””Please God heal her.” (Numbers 12:13)
During this period where members of our community feel like they have been plagued with the pains which come from catastrophic loss and the burdens of cleaning everything up, we collectively express these same sentiments on their behalf as we cry out to the heavens: “Please God heal them.”
If you know someone who is in need, please let us know. May all who have suffered find support and sustenance in the love and care of family, friends and the community.
Monday’s storm destroyed many homes and cars within the HCRJ community, and we are trying hard to reach families who may be in need. If you or someone you know has suffered damages, please let us know by responding to this message.
In the coming days we will be working with Jewish Family Services in efforts to create an organized response to the needs of those who have lost so much. If you are able and interested in offering assistance, we are currently collecting names and numbers. Please let us know by responding to this email.
Thank you for any and all assistance you can offer as we respond to the needs of our community.
At our Shabbat services this Friday we will be observing the Festival of Shavuot at HCRJ (the actual day for the holiday is Sunday). This ancient festival, commemorating the receiving of Torah at Mount Sinai, marks the moment in our history when we became a people defined by the laws and teachings of Torah. This year our Shavuot observance will be framed by two Torah-centered celebrations.
The first celebration is Confirmation. Through Confirmation, our 8th and 9th grade students take the opportunity to publicly declare their commitment to Judaism, thus providing all of us with a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the centrality of Torah in our lives.
We will also rejoice in revelation as we join Abby Perkins and her family in celebrating Abby’s becoming bat mitzvah. Through this ancient rite of passage, we communally recognize new found leadership and religious responsibility in our youth.
Join us this for two beautiful ceremonies celebrating the newest links in a chain of leadership in our tradition that reaches back to Sinai.
When it comes to the music used in our worship services, everyone has a favorite melody. Some feel more spiritually connected with they hear the sound of the guitar and piano, while others prefer the organ and choir. Whatever your preference may be, every musical composition has a composer, and it is interesting to learn the vision and inspiration involved in setting prayers to music.
Our Sabbath services this Friday night will provide us with a window into this unique spiritual craft. Join us as we welcome internationally acclaimed composer and scholar Cantor Meir Finkelstein to the pulpit.
Cantor Finkelstein, who is the Cantor at Congregation Beth Yeshurun, has composed some of the most widely used melodies in Judaism today. Through a sermon in song, he will demonstrate how he has approached the art of translating the words of prayer into strains of sacred music. Don’t miss out on this truly special Sabbath for the soul.
This week the Jewish community celebrates the 67th Anniversary of the establishment of the modern State of Israel. Founded in the face of enormous challenges and in the shadow of the atrocities of the Holocaust, Israel has given us much to be proud of over the course of 67 years. In this short period of time, Israel has become a global center for technology, industry, medicine, agriculture and science. It is also the only democracy and one of the only dependable allies of the US in the entire Middle East.
Yet, despite its centrality to global economics; despite its strategic importance for the United States; despite its spiritual and historical centrality to the Jewish people throughout history, a major sense of apathy is rapidly growing among large sectors of the American Jewish populace. This is especially true with the younger generations of our faith. This trend toward apathy is something that should concern all of us.
Addressing this concern starts with each of us. Whether we agree or disagree with Israeli politics, as Jews we cannot disregard the significance of Israel in our lives or the realm of geopolitics. Our history and faith are linked to the land and the people of Israel as Israel is and always has been central to our understanding of who we are and how we are connected as a people.
At our Friday night Sabbath services this week, we will honor these connections with music and mediation as we celebrate the 67th Anniversary of the modern State of Israel.