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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.”
One of the more remarkable attributes of the Jewish calendar is its sense of balance and proportion. As we depart from Yom Kippur’s gravity and solemnity, we move, almost immediately, into the joy and possibility of Sukkot. Just as we break free from Yom Kippur’s tug on our mortality, we are given a new lease on life – the observance of a holiday that commands us to revel in the beauty and majesty of God’s wondrous creation.
Of course, the Sukkot experience in Rhode Island’s unpredictable autumn isn’t always a walk in the park. This week, with the wind howling, and the schach (the branches on top of the sukkah) falling down, it seemed as if our prayers for rain were being heard just a little too well. But even if the weather this week sometimes conspired against us, we still gathered here at Temple on a gorgeous night to decorate the sukkah, eat “pizza in the hut,” shake the lulav, smell the etrog, and sing festive holiday songs. Even on a holiday known for its abundance and prosperity, it surely felt as if our cup was overflowing.
But, if all of the fun and hospitality of Sukkot were not enough, there’s still more! The Jewish calendar takes us immediately from this eight-day outdoor house party to the unadulterated happiness of Simchat Torah; a time for sharing the end, and the beginning, of our Torah’s eternal cycle. This Sunday night, September 30th, come and join us as we sing, wave our flags, and encircle our children in a fully unrolled Torah scroll. We will consecrate our first graders, bless our new religious school students, and dance to the music of our delightful klezmer band. As we conclude this season of rebirth and renewal, let us join together to celebrate God’s creation, in both our world and our Torah.
One of many changes in our new High Holiday prayer books, Mishkan Hanefesh is found in the Avinu Malkeinu prayer. The phrase that was translated as “seal us for blessing in the Book of Life” in the old Gates of Repentance, now reads, “enter our names in the Book of Lives Well Lived” (I thank Fred Franklin for pointing it out to me.)
This subtle change in language reflects a significant difference in theology. Only we ourselves determine how well our lives are lived. While we cannot control what befalls us in this new year, we can choose our response.
Rabbi David Hartmann taught, “Teshuva is grounded in the idea of an open future, in the belief that the possibilities for human change have not been exhausted, that the final chapters of our personal narratives have not yet been written. The sense of empowerment felt on Yom Kippur reflects an underlying faith in the power of the human will to break the fixed cycles of the past and to chart new possibilities for the future.”
This truth is inspiring because it reminds us of our endless capacity to grow and transform for the better. The next chapters in the narratives of our lives have not been written. As we enter 5779, it is up to us to write the book of a life well lived.
A Blessing for the First Day of School by Rabbi Michael Latz
Source of Wonder in the Universe~As our children begin school open their minds and their hearts
to learning and books and the exhilaration of discovering something ancient or something new, something ridiculous and something utterly sublime. Give them verses of poetry to stir their curiosity and teachers intoxicated with creativity and wonder. Make their fingers sticky with the glue of integrity and their toes limber to climb their way through complicated theories and artistic endeavors and mountainous reams of wisdom.
Let them fail regularly and learn the power of compassion and struggling to pick themselves and one another up again.May they eat fresh vegetables and drink a feast of books and color the color of their souls. Please: Help them be safe enough to take enough risk to learn and stretch their minds and grow their hearts–and wise enough not to harm themselves or their classmates or teachers.
Most of all, Source of Discovery, endow these children with the deepest love for each others beauty- and their own remarkable creation.
Looking forward to starting another wonderful year at the Rabbi Leslie Yale Gutterman Religious School!
-Joie & Rachel
As we approach the High Holy days, I have been hard at work preparing with the musicians and vocalists that help make our worship so powerful and meaningful. We sing songs by composers spanning hundreds of years of history here at Temple Beth-El. Music connects us to generations past and inspires us for the future. It transports us to the sacred and grounds us in community. As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah in a few days, here are some things you might not have known about the music we sing at Temple Beth-El:
Salomone Rossi (1570-1628) wrote not only secular music, he was also the first Jewish composer to introduce three to eight – voice compositions into synagogal music. On Erev Rosh Hashanah, you can hear his Esa Enai (Psalm 121) in all its choral splendor. Rossi began his long association with the Gonzaga family in the court of Mantua in the late 1600’s, initially as a singer and violinist and later as a leading composer and director of the court musicians. Rossi was a great inspiration to Jewish composers of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The Great Aleinu was first introduced into the Malkhuyot (“Sovereignty”) section of the Rosh Hashanah additional service (musaf) liturgy. This original placement is certainly fitting, as Aleinu calls for a time when all people will accept God as their Sovereign. By the twelfth century, the text found its way into the daily morning service as a concluding prayer, and was later added to the end of the afternoon and evening services. That popular melody was composed by Solomon Sulzer in the 19th century. The melody you hear from the Malkhuyot portion of the Rosh Hashana service is a Mi-Sinai tune: a cherished melody developed in the Rhineland between the 12th and 15th centuries. As the name suggests, these songs are held in such high esteem that they are traditionally believed to have originated with Moses on Sinai. They include the High Holy Day Barchu and Kiddush, the Kol Nidre, and many other melodies specific to the Festivals and High Holy Days.
If Not Now by singer/songwriter, Carrie Newcomer, is a contemporary piece that you will hear following the rabbi’s sermon on Yom Kippur morning. Ms. Newcomer’s composition is beautiful and her lyrics remind me of Rabbi Hillel’s inspiring words: “If I am not for myself, who is? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Ancestors, 1:14). You can listen here.
Oseh Shalom by the group, Nava Tehila, bridges our relationship with Israel. This composition has become quite popular at Beth-El and many other synagogues around the world.
You can listen here.
We hope that you will be nurtured, inspired and uplifted by the music of the season. As we enter this season of reflection and repentance, remember that the most important voices in our sanctuary are yours. We invite you to join us in song and hope that these melodies stir your soul as they have ours.
Cantor, Judith Seplowin.