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Happy Thanksgiving!

On Friday night a group of high school students from Cincinnati visiting NYC attended Shabbat services at the Village Temple.  Throughout the month of November, Rabbi Hirsch has been explaining “minhag,” customs that develop in individual congregations, focusing on our practices at the Village Temple. So she asked the visitors how our services were different than theirs. Someone mentioned the music. They don’t have a cantor in their synagogue, while we are led by Cantor Nancy Bach.  Someone mentioned that they don’t turn toward the entrance and greet the Sabbath bride during the singing of L’ha dodi, as we do. A couple of the kids raised their hands and said, giggling, “At our synagogue we don’t dance during services!”

The kids from Cincinnati nailed it. Music and the occasional dance lie are at the heart of Friday night services at The Village Temple.  For this community, Shabbat is a time to unwind and reflect, to take stock in the company of friendly souls. But it is also a time to celebrate our tradition.  It’s okay to giggle a little—even necessary, especially  in this moment of history when angst and anger are overwhelming public discourse.  Inside the sanctuary, we can step outside ourselves and the troubles outside, to learn how our ancestors survived harsh times and to connect with the values that bring us together.

Wishing all of you a peaceful Thanksgiving. There will be services at the Village Temple Friday night, a  nice way to digest.

 

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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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