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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.

Toward a Broader Vision of Sanctuary Worship (Vol. 87, No. 8)
By Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson

Our Rabbinic tradition teaches that during Creation’s first six days God fashioned the world as humanity’s dwelling place and that on the seventh day God rested and summoned the Israelites to build a sanctuary as God’s dwelling place, to infuse their lives with the knowledge of God’s presence.

In their fullest sense, this is what our sanctuary and our Sabbath worship strive to accomplish: to awaken in each of us an awareness of God’s presence in our lives. We can find God elsewhere and at other times to be sure, but in our sanctuary, on Shabbat, that is what the moment and place are for.

The Israelites’ desert tabernacle was certainly nothing like ours. No house of prayer conveys God’s majesty better than Temple Emanu-El. In our sanctuary, we experience God’s transcendence in the sheer magnificence of the space, in the power of the organ and choir, and the reverent grandeur of the Union Prayer Book.

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Monday June 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (1 comments)

Studying Our History to Build a Jewish Future (Vol. 87, No. 7)
By Saul Kaiserman, Director of Lifelong Learning

The most important thing you can do for your children, writes New York Times columnist Bruce Feiler, is to tell them true stories about your own family. The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the greater their resilience in the face of stress. By sharing our childhood memories and the stories of our parents and grandparents, we teach our children that they are part of something larger than themselves, something intergenerational and ongoing. As our children discover that they, too, can be storytellers, they learn how to make sense of the confusing and sometimes unpredictable world around them.

Stories of redemption — family narratives that tell of overcoming setbacks and recovering from failures — are the most beneficial, according to psychologist Dan McAdams. We help our children to be courageous in the face of adversity when we let them know that although we have had both good and bad times, we always have persevered. Telling stories about the times when we endured hardship without losing hope gives our children confidence in themselves and their capacity to succeed. Further, McAdams’ research shows that those who have both this sense of personal agency as well as intimate, caring relationships are most likely to demonstrate a concern for and commitment to promoting the well-being of future generations.

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Wednesday April 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)

Learn, Grow and Be Strengthened Together (Vol. 87, No. 6)
By Rabbi Benjamin J. Zeidman

Jewish theology is something special.
Ours is a tradition with a broad spectrum of belief about God’s existence, much less about God’s role in our daily lives. Throughout our history, theologians have formulated and debated many extremely different ideas, from God’s active presence in everything we do, to God’s complete absence (and everything in between).

Thankfully, our Jewish religious communities do not place certain belief requirements upon us. Ours is a heritage that always has been more concerned with practice and behavior. Notice in the Torah what really upsets God: when the people grumble or complain, when they do not abide by the rules, when they create the Golden Calf to worship in God’s place. Only one of the Ten Commandments says anything about belief: There is One God. And that’s less of a command and more of a simple theological statement. The other nine are all about what that means physically.

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

Looking Forward and Honoring the Past: The Bernard Museum of Judaica and the Stettenheim Library (Vol. 87, No. 5)
By Temple Librarian Elizabeth F. Stabler and Museum Interim Curator Warren Klein

Do you know that Temple Emanu-El’s library has almost 20,000 items? Do you know that our museum has more than 800 objects in its collection? We invite you to come explore these treasures of literature, history and art that are part of our Emanu-El heritage. Look into the future with us as the museum plans ground-breaking exhibitions and the library works with the Religious School to bring technology into the classroom.

On April 1, the Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica will open the exhibition Visualizing the Bible: Works by David Wander. This exhibition explores themes of Jewish myth and history through the works of New York-based artist David Wander and will feature illustrations in book format of biblical narratives and Jewish sacred texts, including Esther, Ruth, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Jonah, David, Judith and the Golem of Prague. This exhibit is the museum’s first venture working with a living artist, presenting us with many exciting opportunities such as lectures, curatorial tours and a class held in the museum through the Temple Emanu-El Skirball Center.

Coming up in the second week of February will be our second annual Nursery School exhibition. Jill Bernstein’s class will have the opportunity to present student artwork they created based on artists they have learned about in school. The exhibition will take place in the second gallery of the museum. Stay tuned for photos from the opening!

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

Less-Taxing Gifts (Vol. 87, No. 4)
By Robyn Weinstein Cimbol, Senior Director of Development & Philanthropy

As year-end approaches, our mailboxes and email in-boxes overflow with fundraising appeals. Worthy institutions and organizations compete for our attention and our dollars. We are presented with seemingly endless opportunities to support the arts and education, preserve our environment, and alleviate disease and hunger. Each presents a compelling reason for support.

No matter where you choose to give, your contribution will make a difference and you will be “doing good.” Giving to organizations and institutions we respect and whose values we share also makes us feel good. And the more we give, according to our personal financial abilities, the better we can feel!

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Monday December 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)

Make Your Vote Count! (Vol. 87, No. 3)
By Rabbi Amy B. Ehrlich

“In every place that I travel, I’m traveling to Israel,” so said Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. Since this past summer’s conflict, Israel has been a part of our conversations more than ever. While we think about ways to support Israel during times of strife, there is another Israel that is revealed when the crises abate. It is a nation living with day-to-day complexities shaped by politics and faith. From a distance, we may wonder what we can do to support and encourage a country with which we have an undeniable and enduring connection.

One of those routine tasks is voting. Just as we treat the opportunity to vote as one of our greatest civic rights and a way to shape our nation’s public agenda, we now have a similar opportunity to strengthen Reform Judaism in Israel by registering to vote in the World Zionist Congress elections, to be held in 2015. So much rests in the balance, and every vote has the potential to be influential in matters of religious pluralism, women’s rights and attitudes toward peace.

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

Choose Your Own Adventure (Vol. 87, No. 2)
By Dr. Gady Levy, Executive Director, The Temple Emanu-El Skirball Center

As a teenager, I paid little attention to the Jewish world around me. Growing up in Israel, where every aspect of life had been both intrinsically and effortlessly Jewish, I took my Judaism for granted.

The summer of 1986 proved to be life changing as my family had immigrated to San Diego, and my parents suggested I enroll in a Jewish summer camp in an effort to better connect with my heritage. Like most teens, I was not particularly interested in doing what my parents wanted me to do. After throwing an age-appropriate tantrum, my mother reverted to classic parental warfare: blackmail. Long before iPhones, iPads and iPods, Mom took my stereo hostage. I quickly changed my tune and packed my bags, boom box in tow.

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

Repairing a Relationship (Vol. 87, No. 1)
By Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, in late June when the three innocent Israeli teenagers kidnapped by Hamas had not yet been found murdered and the Jewish world still only feared the worst, the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly voted to “selectively divest” from three companies it claimed “furthered the Israeli occupation in Palestine.” In doing so, the denomination’s governing body cast its lot with the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that seeks to delegitimize the State of Israel and blame it for the conflict. The decision, while stunning in bias, was really not all that surprising.

With the denomination’s promotion of Zionism Unsettled (a congregational study guide on the conflict that is both anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic) and with its continual debate over divestment at each of its general assemblies dating back 10 years, the momentum seemed to be building toward this decision, close though it was. Maddeningly, even with all the resentment generated by the vote, on July 16, the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) issued another prejudiced statement blaming the abduction of those three Israeli teens on the “illegal Israeli occupation” — as if Hamas were not even involved — and asserted that Hamas rockets started firing only after Israel’s military began its pursuit of the kidnappers and Israeli terrorists brutally murdered a Palestinian teenager. The latter was an atrocious act of vengeance, but the claim is untrue. Hamas has been firing rockets for years. They’ve never stopped.

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Monday September 1st | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)

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