Co-Presidents' Blog

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Jerry Arbittier and Julie Salamon are the Village Temple Co-Presidents.

Kol Nidre remarks from the co-presidents

I am Fred Basch, Co-President of the Village Temple with Julie Salamon. I am very grateful to be here to share this evening. It has been a tough week. My father was admitted to hospital on Sunday evening with potentially life threating problem in Cape Cod and while my Sister and I struggled to find out what happened and make our way to the hospital I received a phone call from the Rabbi that could not have been better timed. So thank you.

My father Sheldon is a fellow congregant at temple and in the last week we received a host of good wishes from temple members, the Cantor, Rabbi and staff. We felt the love some 300 hundred miles away and I think it made a difference. So thank you.

While in the hospital we had time to remember what happed at Cape Cod hospital during this same week of September in 2015. My mother was admitted to the hospital with nasty case pneumonia. Today is the second anniversary of my mother’s death. Today is also the yartsite of my grandmother Elizabeth Woloshin my mother’s mother. My Dad, my sister and I all wanted just one thing this last week and that was to leave the hospital before the 29th. On Wednesday evening, I was able to take my Dad back to his house and we had a meal of penne with garlic and oil heavy on the garlic and for that I am thankful to the staff and particularly the nurses of cape cod hospital who made that happen. So thank you.

I would not be here tonight if it were not for the efforts of my Wife who was able to get me off jury duty while I was with my Dad in Hyannis. There is a legal limit to how often you can postpone serving but she worked some magic and that was a load off of my mind. I am also grateful that my Sister who cleared her schedule to stay with my Dad so I could join you in services tonight. So thank you.

 Given the events of the last week and the last two years I take nothing for granted (mostly I still complain about some things) so when I say I am grateful to be able to spend the next 23 hours fasting with you I mean it. I appreciate the help I received this last week and in a moment, we are going to ask you to help this congregation. We, none of us, can make it just on our own. So thank you.

 

I am Julie Salamon, Co President of the Village Temple with Fred Basch.

I am so thankful to be here this evening with all of you.—for many reasons. Above all, my mom. She lives in St. Petersburg Florida, less than 100 yards from the beach.  I am thankful to say she faced down Hurricane Irma and got here in time to celebrate her 95th birthday with us—yesterday.  And to hear her grandson play the Kol Nidre—beautiful job Eli.

On Monday she will speak to 100 high school seniors who are immigrants.  They are students at Flushing Internatoinal, a high school in Queens for students who are new immigrants, where our daughter Roxie teaches.

My mom will talk to those students about her life as an immigrant and a Holocaust survivor.  She has spent her life inspiring people. After Auschwitz, she could have turned her back on Judaism. Instead, she has always encouraged our family to be part of a Jewish community.I am grateful to be part of this one—for all of you.

Thank you Rabbi  Hirsch and Cantor Bach for these services, which mean so much, and to Vica Schwartzman, our wonderful pianist, and Eli.

And thanks to the many who have already stepped up to support the synagogue with a High Holy Day donation. For those who haven’t given yet, I hope you will do so tonight.   Your contributions are essential. Dues and ticket sales and religious school tuition cover only two-thirds of our costs. The rest comes from your donations.

So I will close with a joke I heard on Sunday, when I stopped by to visit Harriet Zimmer, one of the founders of The Village Temple.

When I told her my mother was here for her 95th birthday, Harriet said, “Oh, a youngster.”

Harriet is 98.

But that’s not the joke.

Here it is:

A minister was trying to raise money to build a new sanctuary for his church. At services, he announced to the congregation.“We have enough money for the sanctuary!”

As people murmured, he said, “That’s the good news.”

“The bad news is, the money is still in your pockets.”

So please help your Village Temple thrive by reaching into your pockets now and making a pledge. While the Gates of Repentance close tomorrow at sunset, our website remains open. You can always donate there.

With all best wishes for an easy fast and a good and hopeful year.

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Primal Connections

Clifford Krauss, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote a moving article on Saturday about the physical and emotional process of repairing his home after Hurricane Harvey. 

Since we are approaching the High Holy Days, I found this section particularly relevant: 

“I am not particularly religious, but on the first Friday night after the flooding I went to my synagogue to find some solace, “ wrote Mr. Krauss. “Congregants embraced, and I went over to hug a woman I know casually because she was crying. I asked if she had lost her house; no, her mother had just died days before. It dawned on me that hers was a real loss, compared with the material things.”

Mr. Krauss continued.

“Rabbi David Lyon, in his own eloquent way, beseeched those in need to reach out for help and for everyone to assist one another. ‘Hate is not the opposite of love,’ he said. ‘Indifference is the opposite of love.’                                                                                                                    

Because of the flood that ravaged his home, Mr. Krauss experienced what so many of us usually only experience as Yom Kippur approaches—the need to connect with our tradition and community. It seems like a primal instinct, something we just need, even if we can’t explain exactly why. 

On Friday night, The Village Temple community was offered another example of why the institution of the synagogue matters. Speaking at Shabbat services, Carole Rivel told the congregation about her visit to the synagogue in Charlottesville, Virginia—the only synagogue—two weeks after congregants there watched Nazi-supporters and alt-right activists march through their city chanting anti-Semitic slogans. They were armed with assault weapons and violent purpose that resulted in the death of a young woman. Carole, who is married to Rabbi Hirsch, is a musician and was in Charlottesville with other musicians from around the country. They  had gone to Virginia for a special service celebrating good will and music—and the importance of community. More than 250 people gathered in that small synagogue, hoping to create an antidote to hatred through good will and standing together.

Finally, very close to home, came a personal reminder of the need for connection. A VT member lost her father. He was not a religious person and neither is his daughter. But at this time of loss she felt compelled to ask Rabbi Hirsch to conduct a shiva service and spoke beautifully about how grateful she was to have this ritual at this moment of transition, from one way of being to another.

We look forward to seeing all of you at High Holy Day Services, and learning about what draws you there. And if you know someone seeking a place to explore that primal need to connect, invite them to come as well, just speak to Sandy Albert in the office about tickets.

 

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Excerpts from Jerry Arbittier’s June 30 reflection on his four years as Village Temple co-president, delivered at Shabbat services

When I took this job, I thought it would be easy.  I figured that it had to be easier than running a company with 100 employees. I was wrong.  

Being Co-President of the Village Temple (and I think any Temple because I have heard this from others) was just as emotionally challenging for me as worrying about the 100 people.   

So why is that?  I think the reason is that no one person is really ultimately responsible for a Temple.  The first time that I came to this realization was 5 years ago, when we were having issues with our previous Rabbi and we had engaged a Temple Consultant for advice.  I asked him who is responsible for the Temple:

Is it the Rabbi/Office Staff that are here every day who are responsible?  Is it the Co-Presidents who were  elected to be volunteers in charge but for whom it is really a second job?  Is it the Board who votes on issues?  Is it the Congregation who pay the money and have the ultimate vote?  When I asked the Temple Consultant the question. He responded in one word – “Yes”.  In other words, we all are ultimately responsible and somehow this collective shared responsibility is supposed to make concrete decisions.

This is a very emotional place.  People get born here, Bar/Bat Mitzvah here, married here, parents allow us to teach their children here and people die here.  It does not get more emotional than that.  

The combination of the shared responsibility in making the ultimate of emotional decisions, makes this job harder than managing 100 people at work.

However, these same two factors is what makes this job so wonderful.

Every time the smallest kidl in the choir stands up on the bench each year and perfectly sings his or her solo, every time a Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech is made, the times I looked in on the soup kitchen, every sermon, seeing 600 people at a High Holiday service – When any of this happened, I realized that I played a part in making that happen.  You know something – that feels really good.

But it is even more than this, maybe more for me then for others, because I am a geek.  I mean when I was a kid, while kids were playing outside with others, I was adding up the price of every item that was in those old Sears catalogs of 1,000 pages.  I spent days doing this alone and I enjoyed every minute of it. 

Here; as Village Temple president I am in what I feel is the ultimate job of sharing opinions, emotions and ideas.  And I realized about myself that I like to Give but I do not like to Share.  And yet here I was.  I found that while this process is personally really difficult for someone like me, sharing also led me to making many close friends.  This would never have happened if I GAVE from the side lines.   Being part of a community requires investing yourself into the community but the relationships you form are worth it.  

 

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From Mensch to Mensch

This Friday night, June 30, marks Jerry Arbittier’s final Shabbat as co-president of The Village Temple. For the past three years (and a previous one year term a few years earlier), Jerry has demonstrated true leadership with his clear vision, commitment, intelligence and dedication. He helped guide our congregation through a difficult and emotionally draining transition that led us to a new beginning with Rabbi Deborah Hirsch, who has proven to be a rare and wonderful gift to our synagogue.  Week in and week out Jerry and his wife Lisa bring love and warmth to Shabbat services, classes, special events and social gatherings—and lots of fun as well! In keeping with his sense of responsibility, Jerry continues as a board member and has taken on the task of leading a newly formed group of our former presidents—12 of them!—to bring their collective wisdom to our journey to the future. Please join me in thanking Jerry!

And please welcome Fred Basch as new co-president of The Village Temple.  Fred is an architect, specializing in the design of theaters and non-profit venues; his award winning projects include the American Airline Theatre Renovation, the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre and the Central Park Precinct renovation. Fred  joined the VT with his wife Sue and daughter Emma nine years ago; his dad Sheldon is also part of the VT family. Fred has been a member of the board for seven years, overseeing our building issues, from roof repairs to air conditioning overhaul. Daughter Emma has been a member of the children’s choir for years and a regular star of the Purimspiel. He is eager to get to know everyone in the community.

 

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The Secret Ingredient

Before I became co-president of the Village Temple four years ago,  my dog Maggie and I stopped by Harriet Zimmer’s house to ask for advice. Harriet was 94 years old at the time, and had been a member of the VT for 62 years, so I figured she could tell me what I needed to know about the Village Temple.

What was the secret ingredient that has made it tick all these years?

Harriet didn’t hesitate. “It’s the people,” she said.

At first, that surprised me. Surely it was the rabbi, the music, the range of programming, the services. Surely Harriet would focus on the soup kitchen, which she ran for many years.. But recently Rabbi Hirsch introduced me to a book called Relational Judaism. The author Ron Wolfson summarizes his thesis like this: “What really matters is that we care about the people we seek to engage. When we genuinely care about people, we will not only welcome them; we will listen to their stories, we will share ours, and we will join together to build a Jewish community that enriches our lives."

Harriet has always understood what makes a temple work. So with the Village Temple approaching its 70th birthday I decided to record one of our conversations. Our educator Alex Tansky will be posting excerpts on the front page of the website, where you can meet Harriet, who is now 98 and vibrant as ever. You can hear her talk about how the Village Temple got started. She’ll tell you why the synagogue was important to her late husband Dr. Max Zimmer—who never went to services—and to her, who went every Friday night with her sons Robert and Richard. Both of Harriet’s boys became b’nai mitzvah here. Richard grew up to become a psychiatrist and lecturer at Columbia Medical School; Robert is the president of the University of Chicago.

Thank you Harriet, for being the secret ingredient who makes a difference.

Click here and meet Harriet Zimmer.

 

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A Candle and a Rose

On Sunday April 23, 2017 Rabbi Hirsch and Cantor Nancy Bach, together with pianist Hila Kulik and members of the Village Temple religious school, led a profoundly moving Yom HaShoah service. Rabbi Hirsch invited an extraordinary speaker, Max Lerner, to talk to the 100 people gathered in the sanctuary about his experiences during World War II—first as teenaged refugee from Austria, then as part of the U.S. Army intelligence forces. Mr. Lerner, who is 92 years old, is a wonderful story-teller who connected his experiences to contemporary issues of social justice and individual responsibility. Though he dealt with painful history, his humor and strength were always evident. A measure of how inspirational he was: when the service was over, he was surrounded by kids from the religious school who had so many more questions they wouldn’t let him leave!

Rabbi Hirsch began the service by asking people who lost relatives in the Shoah—or had family members who were forced to flee their homes and countries—to come to the bima and light a candle in memory. But along with each candle, she asked each person to place a rose in a vase, to remind all of us that strength comes from remembering hardship while honoring life.  Survival isn’t merely about escaping death but also appreciating life—a message that resonated in a sanctuary filled with so many respectful and curious young people and their parents.

Mr. Lerner ended his talk with a most relevant quote widely attributed to the philosopher Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  It is a message that the Village Temple takes very seriously, as we continue our efforts to find meaningful way for congregants to learn and act on behalf of social justice.

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A Room Full of Love

At last week’s human rights Shabbat, Ruth Messinger offered wise counsel on how we as individuals and a community can combat bigotry of all kinds in our country.  In her words: “Despair is not a strategy.”

That lesson has been lived by Anita Hollander, our children’s choir director and musical force, who this past Shabbat was celebrated for her 30 years at The Village Temple.  It was a perfect Anita evening—bursting with life, wonderful music, a packed room full of love.

At age 21 Anita was diagnosed with neurofibrosarcoma, a former of cancer of the nerves. After surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and 5 years of walking and dancing in a leg brace, the cancer recurred. Ag age 26, her left leg was amputated.

Anita went on to pursue her musical theater career, and became a tireless advocate of fellow performers with disabilities. She built a wonderful family with her husband, the actor Paul Hamilton and her daughter, Holland Hamilton, a gifted performer and teacher ( and former member of the Children’s Choir!). Along the way she joined The Village Temple, first providing special music programs and then becoming children’s choir director.

Preparing for Anita’s 30th anniversary celebration was a remarkable experience. The process has given us a chance to quantify (in a way) the unquantifiable—namely, what she means and has meant to The Village Temple all these years. We’ve seen an outpouring of love and respect from the choir kids and families who have learned so much from her, musically and otherwise. These feelings were beautifully captured by the Dorzback family, in a letter they contributed to the celebration. This excerpt captures the feeling shared by so many, l’dor v’dor:

Whenever our mother said  “the choir taught you this, the choir taught you that,” we used to roll our eyes -– choir seemed like just another activity.  But now we recognize the habits that we formed, the skills that we developed, the support that we received and passed on, the Jewish history and values that we learned through song, and the incredible role model that you provided.  We are proud to be part of the scores of children whom you instructed, engaged, and inspired, and we hope to be able to influence others in our careers as you have influenced us. 

And there is that large constituency of people whose children were not choir members, but who are huge Anita fans because of everything else: the beautiful music she has created for Shabbat services, the young musicians she has cultivated, all those Purim Spiels, Jazz Shabbats, Martin Luther King celebrations,  her one woman show “Still Standing,.” Et cetera, et cetera.

The groups are overlapping, which makes sense, because Anita brings people together.  All of us have been inspired by her talent, her ability to integrate the personal and professional, her courage,  her toughness,  her honesty, her tenderness.

Year in and year out she has made us better.

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A Call to Action!

On Friday night, The Village Temple community had the privilege of hearing from Ruth Messinger, lifelong advocate for social justice and civil liberties. The synagogue was packed with people of all ages, including our wonderful 7th grade class whose members contributed their  hopes for tikkun olam to the service. This is a moment of great turmoil for our country. This service, dedicated to human rights, created a much-needed feeling of hope.  The evening combined powerful ingredients for a spiritual community—a wise and forceful rabbi, beautiful and inspiring music, a thought-provoking speaker, engaged young people (and parents and grandparents and everyone else), delicious food and an atmosphere filled with warmth, good will, and intellectual curiosity.  Our synagogue has become a real haven for those in need of personal reflection and restoration. Can we carry this message outward, to join others dedicated to protecting civil liberties and social injustice? Our job now is to build on this strength and use it for the greater good through personal service and collective action.

Though we are approaching Chanukah, the season of miracles, the success of this evening was not a miracle. It came about through the hard work of many people: Rabbi Hirsch and Cantor Bach created a deep and meaningful service, with the help of our terrific seventh grade class and talented musicians, Eli Salamon-Abrams and Hila Kulik; Bill Abrams, who brought Ruth Messinger to The Village Temple and did great work publicizing the event; Nelly Slzachter and Arthur Rovine , who sponsored the Kiddush, and Nelly, Sandi Knell Tamy and Judy Schiff, who created the lovely oneg; Alex Tansky and Liotte Greenbaum, who oversaw the contributions of the students; Sandy Albert for juggling all the moving parts; Santiago Astacio and Ivette Torres, our dedicated custodial staff.

In the days ahead, the voices of spiritual communities will be of great importance in the fight to uphold constitutional rights, environmental and personal safety, and respect for one another throughout our country. Please be part of the conversation, participate in the action. Your thoughts and ideas most welcome!

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L’Shana Tovah

Thanks to everyone who participated in our High Holy Day services—with special thanks to all of those who volunteered. Rabbi Hirsch brought wisdom, kindness and intellectual force to the Days of Awe. You can read her sermons by clicking here.  And when our cantorial soloist Gerard Edery had to go undergo emergency back surgery in Poland,  where he is still recovering, Rabbi Hirsch on very short notice arranged for two wonderful substitutes—Cantor Nancy Ginsberg for Rosh Hashanah and soloist Ellen Allard for Yom Kippur. Here is an excerpt from our Kol Nidre co-presidents speech, which we offer here as a reflection on the place of The Village Temple in the lives of many people:

When Jerry and I tell people we are co-presidents of our shul we usually get one of two responses.

Pity.

Or abject pity.

But tonight, on this night of self-examination, we can honestly say you shouldn’t feel sorry for us at all!

I’m not saying there haven’t been very tough moments over this past year, as we began a transition.

It was a difficult process, to be sure. Passions were aroused. Feelings were hurt. Throughout it all, Jerry and I were impressed by how much people cared.

We have been gratified to see how many of you were willing to engage in conversations with Rabbi Hirsch about what the synagogue means to you. It has been a privilege to hear what the Village Temple has meant for you—at times of celebration and at times of stress and sorrow.

When I first became co-president more than three years ago, I paid a visit to Harriet Zimmer. Harriet is one of the founding mothers of The Village Temple and is now our oldest congregant—97 years old. I asked her what I needed to know about our congregation.

She didn’t hesitate.

“The temple is the temple,” she said.

I was taken aback at this Yoda like response. The temple is the temple?

Then she explained. “the Village Temple has been around since 1948,” she said. “Rabbis change, cantors change, people come and go. But The Village Temple is always there for all of us.”

So here we are, on this Kol Nidre evening, here for one another, so we don’t have to reach inside by ourselves.

And the Village Temple is here for all of us, as it always has been, for generations before us.

Wishing you an easy fast, and a hopeful New Year.

 

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The New Year begins…

We just read an article on a syndrome called Election Stress Disorder. Not kidding, you can google it.  As we near the end of this long, disturbing presidential campaign, it will be a relief to join one another at Cooper Union for the High Holy Days. We all need a chance to pause, to take stock, to consider what our values are. For our congregation, the High Holy Day services this year feel particularly momentous, coming at the end of a trying period of disruption and the beginning of an exciting process of change.

 

We have been blessed to have Rabbi Hirsch come to us as our interim rabbi, to guide us through a process that, while difficult at times, is invigorating and will make us a stronger, more self-aware congregation.  We look forward to her wise and comforting words during the Days of Awe, and the inspiring music of Cantor Nancy Ginsberg for Rosh HaShana and Cantor Ellen Allard for Yom Kippur.

 

As for the rest of the year: Every week at Shabbat services and in between we are reminded how lucky we are to have the musical and spiritual gifts of Anita Hollander and Cantor Nancy Bach and the smart and gracious administrative talent displayed every day by Sandy Albert! In the summer’s conversations with congregants, there was enormous praise for our Hebrew School and Alex Tansky, who never faltered in the most difficult times and who is so enthusiastic about building for the future. Liotte Greenbaum is doing a wonderful job engaging our teenagers and has jumped into her new position with energy and creativity.  Our board of trustees has been incredible—giving unstintingly of  their time while supporting our community financially.  It is a privilege to be part of such a committed, thoughtful and good-hearted group.

 

These will be the thoughts on our minds as we enter the Great Hall at Cooper Union during the High Holy Days and throughout the year at our spiritual home at The Village Temple.

 

Wishing all of you a sweet, healthy and hopeful New Year.

 

L’shana tovah,

 

Julie and Jerry

 

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As the New Year Approaches….

Photographers talk about the magic hour, that ambiguous time just after sunrise and right before sunset, when the light is soft, full of possibility. As the Jewish New Year approaches, The Village Temple is experiencing a spiritual magic hour, a time of beginnings and endings, of transformation, of contemplation. As our congregation begins the search for a new permanent rabbi, let’s consider what kind of a community we are and who we want to be.

Over the summer, more than seventy of you participated in discussions held in small gatherings at congregant homes. These conversations, led by Rabbi Deborah Hirsch, had two purposes: to gather information that will be useful for the rabbi search committee and, just as important, for you to meet fellow congregants.  If you weren’t able to make it to one of the summer gatherings, not to worry. There will be other opportunities this fall and throughout the year to connect to one another, to learn more about why each of us has chosen The Village Temple as a spiritual home. The reasons can change. People who join out of a sense of duty—perhaps the desire to see children become b’nei mitzvah-- may find something else that appeals: -music at Shabbat services, a challah-baking class, a social action project, the chance to make friends who might be asking the same questions

In this moment of transition, the trick will be to preserve the traditions we hold dear while being unafraid to create new ways of approaching worship, learning and community-building. Rabbi Hirsch is working with musical director Anita Hollander and Cantor Nancy Bach to keep music front and center of our services. Rabbi Hirsch, who became the spiritual leader of The Village Temple on July 1, will lead High Holy Day services at Cooper Union, beginning October 2, 2016 with Erev Rosh Hashanah. If you haven’t yet renewed your Temple membership, please do so we can send you your tickets for the High Holy Days. Unfortunately, Gerard Edery will not be joining Rabbi Hirsch on the bimah as planned. He underwent emergency back surgery end of August and will not be able to recover from physical therapy in time for the High Holy Days.. We hope all of you will say a prayer for Gerard’s quick recovery. However, Rabbi Hirsch quickly reached out to her substantial network and has found two top-notch replacement cantor/soloists. We are honored to have Cantor Nancy Ginsberg for Rosh Hashanah and Cantorial Soloist Ellen Allard for Yom Kippur, who will bring excellent voices, experience and warmth to our services.         

Looking forward to a sweet and inspired New Year!

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In Memoriam

We received the message below from longtime Village Temple member Mimi Abrams, whose beloved father Sol Abrams died last week, on August 31, at age 92. Mr. Abrams led a fascinating life, worth reading about. His obituary noted: “Throughout his life, he helped those in need and championed civil rights, becoming one of the first theater owners in Georgia to integrate. His daughters said his sense of fairness came in large part from being the son of immigrants in the wave of Jewish merchants in small Southern towns who understood the injustice of discrimination.” You can read the entire piece by clicking the link in Mimi’s note: 

 

Dear Family and Friends,

See link below for Sol Abrams (my dear Daddy) Obituary in Atlanta Journal Constitution today.  There is also an Athens Obituary:

google:  online athens obituaries and type in Sol Abrams. 

://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-obituaries/sol-abrams-92-cinema-owner-loved-movies-music-fami/nsSLk/

May his memory forever be a blessing!

Thank you all for your love, kindness and support!

Love,

MIMI and Family

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New Beginnings

On Friday night Rabbi Deborah Hirsch stepped onto the bimah for the first time as spiritual leader of The Village Temple. As it happened, that Erev Shabbat coincided with Erev Fourth of July weekend, not quite propitious timing for starting a new job!!  Happily, a great many of you chose to begin the holiday by welcoming Rabbi Hirsch to our community. The sanctuary was delightfully full—not just with people, but with good will and open hearts. Accompanied by the beautiful music of Anita Hollander and Holland Hamilton, Rabbi Hirsch conducted a moving, intelligent service that invited participation as well as introspection. With eloquence and respect, she spoke about the importance of healing, for our little congregation and for the large, troubled world around us. 

This summer you have the opportunity to have a voice in directing the future course of The Village Temple. Please come to one of several small gatherings taking place in congregant homes for conversation and connection with fellow congregants. Rabbi Hirsch will lead discussions that will allow you to talk about your experiences and hopes for the synagogue, what would make you feel more engaged, why is it important to you. Supper will be served at the evening get-togethers.

Two dates have already filled up. Please reserve as soon as possible, so your hosts can begin to plan. To RSVP please email Sandy Albert in the VT office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call 212-674-2340.

Tues. morning 7/19—11 a.m to 12:30 a.m

Thursday evening 7/21  6:30 pm to 8:00 pm

Tues. morning 7/26—11 a.m to 12:30 a.m

Tues. evening 7/26 – 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm

Mon. evening 6/6 6:30 pm to 8:300 pm

Thursday evening 8/11 –6:30 pm to 8:00 pm

Please indicate your top two preferred dates and times. You will be notified of the date, time and location a few days in advance.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to come to services when you can over the summer. Anita and Cantor Nancy Bach and guest musicians will join Rabbi Hirsch in making Shabbat at The Village Temple inspirational and engaging,  a lovely respite from the hubbub of everyday life.

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Summer Plans

While Religious School may be finished for the year, The Village Temple is open all year round. Our summer services are always a special pleasure, with guest appearances by wonderful musicians and the opportunity to meet Rabbi Deborah Hirsch, our interim rabbi. Rabbi Hirsch’s official start date is July 1, which happens to be Erev Shabbat. Skip the holiday traffic and start July 4 weekend at The Village Temple. Come to Friday night services on July 1 to welcome Rabbi Hirsch and then head out for wherever you are going!!

We have emerged from this difficult year stronger and smarter about community engagement. You are invited to participate in one of several opportunities to meet with Rabbi Hirsch in small groups, to discuss what you would like the Village Temple to be. Most of these gatherings will take place in the home of members, and will be part business, part social. This will allow you to be part of an important conversation about the synagogue’s purpose and meaning, as well as the chance to get to know fellow congregants. Please attend these sessions, so your voices can be heard. 

The information gathered at these meetings will provide guidance to the search committee for a full time rabbi. Thanks to the following congregants who have volunteered for this important task. They represent the spectrum that makes up The Village Temple: long-time and recent members; grandparents, families; singles; interfaith families; experts in Jewish ritual and those at the beginning of their learning journey: Sarah King, Marina Levin, David Caceres, Rachel Glube/David Friedman, Gabrielle Haskell, Esther Siegel, Alizah Brozgold, Mickey Rindler, Adrienne Koch, Jamil Simon, Fred Basch, Larry Klurfeld, Sandi Tamny, Dean Chavooshian. (The co-presidents will be ex-officio members.)

This group will have the task of creating a job description, based on your input, and then managing the process outlined by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. They will be reporting to the congregation along the way, to keep you fully informed.

Please let us know if you have any questions. Look forward to seeing all of you soon.

 

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Rabbi Hirsch on the Tragedy in Orlando

Dear Village Temple community,

We are sharing a note Rabbi Deborah Hirsch sent to her congregation at Shararay Tefilla yesterday upon learning of the tragic events in Orlando (Rabbi Hirsch begins as our interim rabbi on July 1.)

From Rabbi Hirsch:

It was with disbelief that I woke on this Shavuot morning and heard the news of the mass shooting at the Pulse Orlando Bar.  When I left for services this morning, the death toll was at twenty.  When I returned home three hours later, the number had climbed to fifty dead and fifty-three injured—many who are listed in critical condition. 

Today, Jews across the world listened to the chanting of the Ten Commandments, a set of rules embraced by multiple faiths.  The sixth commandment, Lo TIrtzach—you shall not murder, was transgressed at least fifty times early this morning. The president and media called the slaughter ‘the worst mass shooting massacre in American history’.  Today’s tragedy must lift up for us the value of human life and we must raise our voices against senseless violent acts that not only cut short the lives of innocent men and women, but eclipses God’s presence in our world. This deadly assault occurred in the shadow of the upcoming first anniversary of the historic gay legislation that secured the rights of LGBT citizens in our country.  Sadly, we know we can legislate laws but we cannot legislate an end to hatred.  Clearly, today’s terror was a hate crime—a reminder that it is incumbent upon all of us to champion the rights of those who face discrimination in our land. 

I know there are gun debates across our country and there are those in our congregation who represent both sides of that debate.  Having said that, I truly hope we can all raise our voices in solidarity against horrific mass murder—that we can distinguish between the possession of a gun and the possession of an assault weapon, whose sole purpose is not to defend, but to snuff out dozens of lives in a single breath—leaving carnage and pain and misery for so many. 

May God grant comfort to all who are in shock this day—to all who are wounded—to family members who will mourn the loss of loved ones—to first responders who forever will be haunted by the images they witnessed.  May God grant them strength to endure their pain and may God send healing that will embrace them with memories of love. 

L’shalom,

Rabbi Deborah Hirsch

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Parshat Emor: Dvar Torah by Alizah Brozgold

This week's Torah portion from Leviticus names and describes the sacred festivals of the Jewish year: Shabbat, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. As Elyse Goldstein writes in her commentary on the URJ website, these sacred festivals invest time with holiness and declare ourselves as active partners with God.

In another commentary by Rachel Mikva, she adds the point that these holy days are holy because they don't "await our convenience" and don't accommodate our own personal schedules.  As Jews celebrating a holiday, "We have an appointment, so we drop everything and show up. That's part of what makes it special." 

She also quotes the Midrash Tanchuma that asks "whether we keep these appointments for God or for ourselves. The paradoxical response is that they are wholly for our own enjoyment . . . because the Holy One wants us to keep showing up (B'reishit 4)."

The question of showing up is an important one and is critical to how we define ourselves as Reform Jews in 2016.  How do we create spiritually and socially meaningful experiences in our shul that will get people to show up? One way is clearly....Jazz Synaplex! Jazz is the perfect musical medium for Jews because it's all about improvisation - something that is central to Jewish culture and religion and our historical status as wanderers, as we constantly needed to adapt to the mores and traditions around us. We are always striking a balance - between our ancient melodies and our new riffs on those old tunes.

Jazz, too, has some Jewish roots. Reading about Jews and jazz in one of Nat Hentoff's JazzTimes columns, for example, he wrote about how Artie Shaw's longtime jazz theme song actually was based on a cantorial niggun. The improvising chazzans in Orthodox synagogues sang a kind of "soul music" that connects us not only to jazz but to American blues as well.

Every generation of Jews needs to find its own voice to remain vital, its own ways to inspire people to show up. This year, as our community collectively and metaphorically composes what songs we want to sing, I imagine there will be lots of improvisation.

And all of your voices are needed! As Henry Van Dyke, an educator, once said, "Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang best."

We need all your voices and we need you all to show up...because the shul must go on!

Shabbat Shalom!

 

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After the Holocaust

At last Friday night’s Shabbat services, The Village Temple commemorated the Shoah with quiet power and poignancy. Through words, music and poetry, Alizah Brozgold, Cantor Bach and Anita Hollander created an evocative stream of memory that connected the hopeful beauty of Shabbat with the horrible events being recalled. Perhaps most touching were the readings and songs from the children of the Terezin concentration camp, brought back to life by choir members Rachel Hendrickson and Emma Basch. It felt appropriate that on this memorial evening we were also celebrating the bat mitzvah of Sasha Beutler, looking to the future as we remember the past. These young people may be the best answer to the question hauntingly posed by Elie Wiesel:  “But who will be the last survivor, the last to tell the tale, the one who, like the prophet Jeremiah, said, “I am he, I was there.” Who will be our witness? What will happen to our legacy?”

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Interim Rabbi News

On Wednesday, April 13, the Village Temple community voted (51 yes, 1 abstention) to approve Rabbi Deborah Hirsch as our interim rabbi, beginning July 1. This is a poignant moment, as we move toward our congregation’s future while appreciating the past 17 years under Rabbi Koster’s leadership.

The next year will offer our congregation an opportunity for self-examination and renewal. Rabbi Hirsch will be an able guide through this process. She brings an impressive array of experience, with more than 25 years as a congregational Rabbi, including 15 years at East End Temple and 6 years at Sharaay T’fila. In addition, she has worked for the Union of Reform Judaism, and has a deep well of knowledge about the wider Jewish world. Those who meet her are struck by her wisdom, ability to listen deeply, intuition, warmth, and sense of humor. You will have many opportunities to meet her and her wife Carole in large groups and small. Please join us in welcoming this exceptional leader to our community.

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Restoration and Remembrance

In her poignant, exquisite book Beloved Dog, the artist/author Maira Kalman says this about the death of her husband:  “When Tibor died, the world came to an end. And the world did not come to an end. That is something you learn.” Kalman’s words came to mind on Sunday, April 3, during the memorial gathering for Village Temple member Ze’ev Mehler, husband of Nathalie Horowicz-Mehler, father of Elan, Jessye, Sarah, Yoav, Noa and Yael.   At an evocative service led by Rabbi Koster, Ze’ev’s family and friends recalled what the world was like with Ze’ev, a passionate man who made every minute matter. Friends were his oxygen, Nathalie said. He lived for his family, his friends said. He taught by example that what you loved had to be embraced. Besides his friends and family he loved music, motorcycles, New York, history, conversation, community and the pure excitement of making things happen, lighting a spark. This was not a man who dipped his toes in the stream of life. He dove in with relish—and made everyone want to jump in with him. When Ze’ev died, the world didn’t come to an end and neither did he. That was evident in the memories shared, the inspiration he gave.

Ze’ev’s memorial was part of a weekend of restoration and remembrance at The  Village Temple. At Friday night services the community officially thanked Judy Steinman for underwriting the refurbishment of the synagogue’s Torahs in honor of her late husband Ralph Steinman, a longtime member who served twice as temple president. Artist and sofer Neal Yerman spoke eloquently about the relationship between the physical Torah and the meaning contained in the letters and words. Sofer Yerman returned to the VT Sunday morning to demonstrate his craft and the concepts behind it to religious school students and their families. Having this event take place the same day as Ze’ev’s memorial felt like a consecration of our community and what it stands for.

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On Being Grateful in the Moment: Dvar Torah by Alizah Brozgold

Dvar Torah

Parshat Tzav

3/26/16

This week's Torah portion, Tzav (from the Hebrew word, 'command') continues the commandments related to ritual sacrifices. Remember there were different kinds of sacrifices for different circumstances, and one was called the "sacrifice of well-being" or "peace offering". Nehama Leibowitz, a contemporary biblical commentator, points out that the sacrifice of well-being was unusual for having no request or petition connected to it. The offerer brought a gift, yet asked nothing of God, motivated simply by, in her words, ". . . an abundance of joy and gratitude."

The people were commanded to eat the sacrifice of well-being on the day in which it was offered. We read (Leviticus 7:15), "And the flesh of the thanksgiving sacrifice of well-being shall be eaten on the day that it is offered; none of it shall be set aside until morning." 

So why would we be required to eat the sacrifice of well-being on the day in which it is offered? If the sacrifice symbolizes a miracle in the life of the one who brings it - as some biblical commentators have argued - it makes sense to me that the ceremony of eating the sacrifice would be done on the same day. It emphasizes that a moment of gratitude and well-being needs to be acknowledged 'in that very moment', without delay. In so doing, it emphasizes the importance, immediacy, and primacy of our thanksgiving. 

This led me to muse on the times in my life that I hadn't stated my gratitude 'in the moment'. How many times did I think about the love and support given me by my family, friends, and colleagues without saying a word, perhaps planning a special future acknowledgement or expression of gratitude? How many times did it come to pass that I never had the chance to express it and deeply regretted that missed opportunity? 

It also made me think of how the expression of gratitude and well-being can quickly become a wonderful chain reaction. It's like holding the door for someone with a smile and seeing the person behind you doing the same thing for the person behind them. Similarly, when we express our gratitude to someone, it often leads to their acknowledging their gratitude to us. The gift of well-being and gratitude is truly a gift that 'keeps on giving'.

Knowing human psychology, even if we do express our gratitude 'in the moment', we are often back to our old complaining, ungrateful selves a few minutes later. This is exemplified by the story of Sadie and her grandson. One sunny day, as they were walking along the beach in Miami together, an enormous wave suddenly came along and swept up little Joshua into the ocean. Sadie looked up at the heavens and railed at God. A moment later, another wave came along and safely deposited her precious grandson on the shore. Sadie looked toward heaven in gratitude, then looked down again, yelling back up to God, "He had a hat!"

May our offerings of well-being and gratitude be given in a timely way and may they, in turn, evoke well-being and gratitude in others. Amen.          

Shabbat Shalom!

 

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