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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.

The New Day Fellowship: A Creative Bridge-Building Endeavor (Vol. 89, No. 5)
By Allison Tick Brill, Assistant Rabbi

Temple Emanu-El’s Religious School Tefilah curriculum asks students to grapple with big-picture questions about prayer. Recently, we asked the central question of monotheism: What’s so great about having only one God? Theologians and philosophers have wrestled with this question throughout the ages, but perhaps an 8-year-old said it best. “If I had a different god than my friend, we could get in a fight about whose god was better,” one of our enthusiastic Third Grade students explained. “But since we have one God, we’re all connected.”

Our student’s comments are a profound reminder during these dark days of rising intolerance and anti-Semitism that we are part of one human family. After bomb threats to Jewish institutions, cemetery desecrations and a swell of hate crimes, Jonathan Greenblatt, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, wrote in November: “The American Jewish community has not seen this level of anti-Semitism in mainstream public and political discourse since the 1930s.”

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

Offering a Sanctuary in Uncertain Times (Vol. 89, No. 4)
By Rabbi Amy B. Ehrlich

In the corner of my desk is a dog-eared Post-It note — part reminder, part inspiration. It reads: Redeem the Brokenness of the World.

In January, after Dr. Mehnaz Afridi, a Muslim scholar of Holocaust Studies, spoke so beautifully about unsung ordinary individuals — many of them Muslim — who did extraordinary things by acting as “protectors” during those dark days, I returned to the bimah. It was filled with a display of posters provided by the organization “I Am Your Protector.” I was drawn to the image of one man whose unusual name sounded very much like my husband’s, Jakob Finci. And then I learned his story. A Bosnian Jew who was born in a concentration camp, Jakob Finci became a prominent lawyer and, most significantly, a founding member of the Inter-Religious Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which includes the country’s Islamic, Christian and Jewish communities. His many accomplishments include establishing the truth and reconciliation committee after the Bosnian War and multiple humanitarian projects thereafter.

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

Shabbat Shira: Jewish Soul Music (Vol. 89, No. 3)
By Cantor Mo Glazman

If you were told that you hastily needed to leave your slavery-stricken home and could bring only one object with you, what would it be? A family heirloom? A piece of jewelry? Your cell phone?

According to Jewish tradition, Miriam was presented with this very scenario minutes before she left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. And while many people might be seized with anxiety, fear and uncertainty having to make such a choice — Miriam, of all the objects she could have taken to the wilderness, chose her timbrel, the ancestor to the modern-day tambourine...a musical instrument.

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

Giving Thanks (Vol. 89, No. 2)
By Robyn Weinstein Cimbol, Senior Director of Development & Philanthropy

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were “late” this year. Of course, they always fall on the same dates in the Hebrew calendar, but most of our lives follow a different calendar. This year, coincidently, we shall light the first candle of Chanukah on Christmas Eve. That, too, is somewhat unusual but quite convenient for shopping and gift-giving. Thanksgiving, however, always falls on the fourth Thursday in November.

Some years ago, a very wise Temple Emanu-El member gave me a piece of good advice: When your daughters are married, and it becomes harder to coordinate holidays, take Thanksgiving. Besides, who says you can’t serve brisket on Thanksgiving! I’ve yet to encounter that situation, but she sparked me to consider how the American holiday of Thanksgiving aligns with and incorporates many Jewish values. For example, the celebratory feast of the Pilgrims and Native Americans in November 1621 has similarities with Abraham’s welcoming of the “strangers” into his tent and the ensuing birth of Isaac. But, if we dig deeper, we can find many more instances of shared ideals.

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

Keeping the Fire Burning (Vol. 89, No. 1)
By Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson
Do you know the story about the small-town synagogue where a fire breaks out? One of the firemen happens to be a congregant, and the rabbi spots him.

“Hello Jimmy. Thank you so much for coming.” And then the rabbi laughs, “Come to think of it, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you in the shul.”

“Well,” answers the fireman, “it’s been a long time since there’s been a fire in the shul.”

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

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