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Temple Emanu-El Bulletin Blog

Each issue of our Temple Emanu-El Bulletin features a commentary written by a member of our clergy or senior staff based on important themes in our lives. We invite you to become a part of the dialogue by posting your thoughts on the issues being discussed. Check back each month for a new entry.

Emanu-El Cares! (Vol. 88, No. 6)
By Rabbi Amy B. Ehrlich

In his most recent book, Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned About Life, Rabbi Harold Kushner reflected on his years in rabbinical school, during which he concentrated on learning theology, among other things. Early in his career, when it came time to comfort someone who had been devastated by a diagnosis, he found that his greatest gift was not all the theology he had learned but the comfort he provided by being present for another. That lesson marked his entire rabbinate. It’s one that we have been embracing at Emanu-El, as well, through our Caring Community initiative, under the leadership of Marlene Yokel and Carol Hess.

At a recent Shabbat, in the middle of worship, Rabbi Davidson did something extraordinary, which epitomizes the power of community. A member of our congregation who had been ill — and therefore absent for too long — rejoined our community and came to services. While all those around her celebrated her return with the largest of smiles, Rabbi Davidson paused to welcome her back and then led the congregation in saying the Shehecheyanu, marking this joyous moment with prayer. It was a powerful moment in the Emanu-El community, speaking volumes about our care for each member.

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Sunday May 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)


How Do We Know When Jewish Education Is Successful? (Vol. 88, No. 5)
By Saul Kaiserman, Director of Lifelong Learning

When Rabbi Mordechai died, his son, Rabbi Noah, took his place as leader. Many of his followers found that in several matters he did not act as his father had, and they asked him about it. “I act,” he said, “Exactly as my father did. He never imitated others, and neither do I!”
— Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim

At Temple Emanu-El, we employ two complementary approaches to engage our students in their cultural heritage: instruction and enculturation. While we often emphasize instruction — deliberate and systematic skill building, training and sharing of knowledge — equally important is enculturation — providing our students with a sense of belonging within our community. Our program must show our students what it means to behave as a member of our synagogue and of our people. These values are not only taught explicitly; they also are embodied in our architecture, our music, how we dress, how we treat one another and many other subtle ways.

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Tuesday March 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)


Creating Bridges Between Religious Traditions (Vol. 88, No. 4)
By Allison Tick Brill, Assistant Rabbi

Watching the news today, it’s easy to think that different religious groups cannot get along. Too often we are bombarded with images of interreligious violence and conflict. But walk the halls of a hospital, and you see a more hopeful picture of interfaith affairs. I worked as a multifaith chaplain at a hospital in New York City before joining Temple Emanu-El.

Day after day, the Pastoral Care Department served the needs of patients from all religious backgrounds, but during the weekends, interfaith cooperation reached a new level. On Fridays, the Muslim imam delivered Shabbat candles to patients. On Saturdays, the Zen Buddhist responded to emergencies from patients of all faith backgrounds. And on Sundays, I arranged for Catholic patients to receive communion. Learning about other peoples’ faiths strengthened my own, and experiencing their prayers, traditions and stories enriched me.

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Friday January 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (1 comments)


Making Your Year-End Gift Count (Vol. 88, No. 3)
By Robyn Weinstein Cimbol, Senior Director of Development & Philanthropy

As we count down the number of days remaining in the calendar year, charities frequently ramp up their fundraising appeals. Worthy institutions and organizations compete for our attention and our donations. We are presented with seemingly endless opportunities to support the arts and education, alleviate disease and hunger, and preserve our environment. Each presents a compelling opportunity, but economic realities temper our enthusiasm.

No matter where you choose to give, your charitable contribution will make a difference, and you will derive pleasure knowing that you are “doing good.” Giving to organizations and institutions we respect, and whose values we share, makes us feel good.

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Sunday November 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)


Judaism, Your Way (Vol. 88, No. 2)
By Dr. Gady Levy, Executive Director, The Temple Emanu-El Skirball Center

The High Holiday season is not only a time to reflect on the past but also a chance to use an accounting of our life to begin afresh with optimism and hope. In doing so, we have the opportunity to renew our commitment to a rich and deep Jewish life.

The Talmudic Sages long ago affirmed that there are Shivim Panim l’Torah — 70 facets to the Torah — realizing that the Torah’s innate complexity lends itself to endless interpretations. Although the Sages chose the number 70 quite arbitrarily, this number signifies immensity, suggesting that every letter and line of the Torah can offer fresh insights and perspectives leading to multitudinous ways to be Jewish while simultaneously affirming that Judaism is an ever-evolving journey.

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Thursday October 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)


Two Pockets: Spiritual Preparation for the Days of Awe (Vol. 88, No. 1)
By Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson

Rabbi Simcha Bunam taught we should carry with us two statements: one from Genesis, V’anochi afar va’eifer, “I am but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18:27); and the other from Mishnah Sanhedrin, Bishvili nivra ha’olam, “For my sake the world was created.”[1] One goes in our left pocket to impress upon us our smallness; the other in our right pocket to remind us of our greatness. This tension “between vulnerability and action,”[2] as Rabbi Milton Steinberg called it, confronts us throughout the High Holy Days.

“I Am But Dust and Ashes”
One Kol Nidrei Eve, a rabbi decides to model repentance for his congregation. Humbly he approaches the ark. Beseeching the Almighty for forgiveness, he beats his breast, proclaiming, “Before You, God, I am nothing. I am nothing.” The cantor sees him and joins in. “I am nothing. I am nothing,” she cries. The temple president, sensing that he too must get in on the act, now comes up. “I am nothing. I am nothing,” he sobs. In the silence that follows, the rabbi turns to the cantor and whispers, “Look who thinks he’s nothing.”

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Tuesday September 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (1 comments)


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