In 1964, Rabbi Al Vorspan was jailed with a group of Reform rabbis who responded to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s call to join in the civil rights protests in St. Augustine, Florida. He would later write of the experience:
This year, Temple Beth-El is asking questions. We know WHAT we do, we know HOW we do it, but now, we need to know WHY we do what we do. If you seek change. If you want to forge a new path to set us apart and lay the foundation for the future, you are ready to discover your WHY.
We are living in an era when many long-lived assumptions are being questioned: Can I count on having a good job with benefits? What does it mean to live more simply? How does this all affect my children? At times, it seems there are many more questions than answers, and it may take some time for answers to evolve. What we DO know, is that our lives will most likely be different from the past.
I have met with some congregants affected in different ways by the changes in the current political environment. I have heard their stories and it saddens me that there are so many members of our community struggling. We are all being touched in some way. I think that with this comes an “opening-up,” or an awareness that our lives will be forever changed and that we need to help each other through these transitions. That help may come through a renewed sense of interconnectedness.
So, what will all of this mean for us collectively as a synagogue? I think one very important thing, is that it makes us realize that we are all in this together! These challenging times of questioning and growth are an opportunity to have our own “Spiritual Stimulus Package.”
We are taught that the tent of Abraham and Sarah had an opening on each side to allow the entry of wayfarers – from whichever direction they came – to partake of their hospitality. As we read in Parashat Vayera this week, it was just such a visitor (actually, angels in disguise) who announced the future birth of Isaac. Hakhnasat Orhim – welcoming guests – is a time-honored tradition among Jews.
- Introduce yourself to people you do not know at a service or an event at TBE.
- Invite a new or prospective family for Shabbat.
- Invite an unaffiliated Jewish family to services or an event at the Temple.
This Sunday, October 28th, 12:30 – 2:00 PM, we have a great opportunity to open our doors to the community with the “World Series of Soup, Salad or Sandwich.” What better way to welcome to people to the TBE family – FOOD! Not only will it be delicious, but food always makes everyone feels better. Please encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to join us for this wonderful event!
This Sunday, October 14th, the TBE Youth Choir will rehearse at 12:45 for about 35-40 minutes. All students from 1st grade and up are invited to attend each Sunday after Religious School. Bring a snack. The choir will participate at monthly Family Shabbatot and is invited to join us in the annual Purim spiel but not required.
Speaking of Purim, my creative colleague, Cantor Jamie Marx, has penned another spiel, “Shushan Rhapsody,” an homage to the late Freddie Mercury, singer, songwriter, record producer and best known as the lead vocalist of the rock band, Queen . Cantor Marx describes “this wacky retelling of the Esther story will have everyone falling out of their seats with laughter and tapping their feet to parodies of Queen’s biggest hits, like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Fat Bottomed Girls,” “We Are the Champions,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
Adult auditions are scheduled for Tuesday, November 13th at 7 pm AND Wednesday, November 14th at 8 pm in the Board Room, lower level. Performance is on Wednesday, March 20, 2019. For more details, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 401-331-6070 X118.
B’shira (in song),
Cantor Judy Seplowin
There is a misconception that Sally Priesand, ordained in Cincinnati in 1972, is the first woman rabbi. Nearly forty years before, in 1935 Rabbi Regina Jonas became the first woman ordained in recorded history in Berlin, Germany. Rabbi Jonas felt called to serve the Jewish community from an early age. She studied for the rabbinate and completed a thesis on the topic, “Can a Woman Be a Rabbi?”
After the sudden death of her mentor left her without anyone willing to step forward to perform her ordination, she waited an additional five years for the title “rabbi”. Jonas asked to be called “Fraulein Rabbi” as “Frau Rabbi” was a title reserved for the wives of her male colleagues.
When the Nazis took power Jonas stayed and served the Jewish community until she herself was sent to Theresienstadt. She worked there alongside Viktor Frankl and Rabbi Leo Baeck until she was sent to Auschwitz in early October of 1944. Each year her yahrtzeit is commemorated this week, on Shabbat Bereshit.
Despite her accomplishments, Rabbi Jonas’ story remains a largely untold tale. This is partially because her writings were not accessible until the fall of the Berlin Wall. What remains a mystery is why there was nearly no mention of her work after the war, even by those who worked closely with her.
Today, women rabbis are nearly ubiquitous. Yet, nearly 75 years after Fraulein Rabbi Regina Jonas’ death, much work remains to be done with regard to gender equality.
Rabbi Jonas wrote these words that remain an inspiration for our own times:
“I hope a time will come for all of us in which there will be no more questions on the subjects of “woman”: for as long as there are questions, something is wrong. But if I must say what drove me as a women to become a rabbi, two elements come to mind: My belief in the godly calling and my love for people. God has placed abilities and callings in our hearts, without regard to gender. Thus each of us has the duty, whether man or woman, to realize those gifts God has given. If you look at things this way, one takes woman and man for what they are: human beings.”