Village Temple Blogs

This is some blog description about this site

Seeking the Light

On January 16, 2015, The Village Temple honored the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. by remembering our shared commitment to peace and justice for all. It was an evening of legacy.  Anita Hollander was joined in song by the children’s choir she guides so beautifully, as well as her daughter Holland Hamilton, whose marvelous voice often graces our services.  Anita also invited a special guest performer—the magical Rebecca Naomi Jones,  a rising star in the New York theater, whose mother Susan Rosenberg Jones is a former VT co-president and an accomplished photographer. The presence of these exquisite young performers was just another remember of the many gifts and talents our congregants bring to our community.

It was an evening to look inward and outward. The Village Temple continues to blossom. It’s been gratifying to watch the growth in attendance at services, thanks to the spiritual depth of our clergy and musicians, as well as the diversity and vibrancy of our programming.  Our office staff is doing an excellent job of keeping the machinery running.  We have committed volunteers, including our engaged and hardworking board of directors.

Still, our sweet and lovely MLK commemoration couldn’t entirely block out the barrage of hatred out in the larger world. Even as we enjoyed and appreciated the spirit within, we couldn’t ignore the murderous assaults in Paris. Less publicized here but no less vicious than the Parisian attacks, was an Al Queda car bombing in Yemen that killed 37 people. The victims included Jews, Christians, agnostics and Muslims.

 Our service was dedicated to respect for individuals and groups, at a moment when Muslim extremists have dominated the news.  Yet, as Times columnist Nicholas Kristof pointed out in a thoughtful column nyti.ms/155NaGC  we can’t fall prey to what he calls “religious profiling.” As a congregation, we are continually working to make The Village Temple live up to our aim of kesher, or connection, and to always seek the light of knowledge and tikkun olam.

As Dr. King said so eloquently: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 

Share this article:

Continue reading
3761 Hits

In Memoriam - Cantor Jenny Izenstark

jenny izenstark

On Friday, November7, 2014, with the untimely death of Cantor Jenny Izenstark, The Village Temple lost a dedicated teacher and a brave friend. She was fifty years old.

Born in Chicago, Cantor Jenny was a Fulbright Scholar and then an opera singer in Europe before she became a  graduate of Hebrew Union College and an ordained cantor. For the past twenty years she guided countless students through the process of becoming B’nei Mitzvah, including those with learning issues and challenges.

In the spring of 2013, at age 49, Cantor Jenny was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that she battled with courage and humor .“I pretty much have my mojo back,” Cantor Jenny told a reporter for the hospital newsletter during her stay at Columbia University’s Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. “But it’s been quite a dramatic and humbling experience. Certainly I didn’t expect to almost die before I turned 50.”

Despite the physical toll the disease extracted from her, Cantor Jenny rallied to teach her students at The Village Temple and elsewhere,. Less than a week before her death she was working with young people,, determined to pass her knowledge to the next generation.

Her humble courage was inspiring. “Have you heard the saying, man plans and God laughs?” Cantor told the hospital reporter.”To me it means you just have to roll with it. Whatever life brings you, turn it into lemonade. I’ve always been good at doing this—but I didn’t know I’d have to be quite this good.

We are grateful for all she gave us. Her family has requested that memorial donations in her name be made to Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center, www.ndbc.cumc.columbia.edu.

Share this article:

Continue reading
5602 Hits
0 Comments

The Embrace of Community

In a sharply crafted article in the October 23, 2014 issue of The New York Review of Books, http://bit.ly/1vkxUB2 the brilliant writer Zadie Smith writes of a harsh individualism she sees in Manhattan, gentrification gone wild, celebrating singular success and “happiness” without regard for those who don’t have this luxury. She writes: “Manhattan is for the hard-bodied, the hard-minded, the multitasker, the alpha mamas and papas. A perfect place for self-empowerment—as long as you’re pretty empowered to begin with.”

Updated and incisive as her essay is, Smith’s observation isn’t a revelation. New York has always been perceived of as a tough and often heartless town—because it can be. In her Brain Pickings blog last year, Maria Popova quotes a 1934 letter from Anais Nin to her then-lover Henry Miller http://bit.ly/1yr69rH:

“New York is the very opposite of Paris. People’s last concern is with intimacy. No attention is given to friendship and its development. Nothing is done to soften the harshness of life itself. There is much talk about the ‘world,’ about millions, groups, but no warmth between human beings. They persecute subjectivity, which is a sense of inner life; an individual’s concern with growth and self-development is frowned upon.

Subjectivity seems to be in itself a defect. No praise or compliments are given, because praise is politeness and all politeness is hypocrisy. Americans are proud of telling you only the bad. The ‘never-talk-about-yourself’ taboo is linked with the most candid, unabashed self-seeking, and selfishness.”

And yet, now as always, New York offers another kind of energy,  embodied by countless people whose ambitions are just as relentless as the “hard-minded” success seekers, but with a different definition of success.  Maybe you don’t notice them as much because selfishness stands out more than kindness, in the way you remember the person who shoves you more than the 100 people who passed by, mindful of your space as well as theirs.  We tend to revisit/analyze/dwell on the sting of rejection more often than the embrace of approval.

So in the spirit of embracing warmth between human beings and celebrating the empowerment of community, Jerry and I thank all of you who make The Village Temple such a welcoming corner of our sometimes harsh city. The warmth was palpable this past Friday at our Succoth service, with the sanctuary and Succah filled with people of all ages, from a wide range of socioeconomic circumstance, to join Rabbi Koster and Anita Hollander and our amazing children’s choir.  For a couple of hours the clock stopped ticking as we celebrated the great gift of stepping outside the usual demands and concerns imposed by our hectic lives, to recognize that we are not alone.

Share this article:

Continue reading
4101 Hits

A Rare Glimmer of Hope

On September 12, 2014 The Village Temple was honored to host Avshalom “Abu” Vilan as our speaker for Shabbat services. Mr. Vilan—a former of the Knesset, founder of Israel’s PEACE NOW movement, veteran of the Israeli armed forces, father of a soldier who fought in Gaza—provided a rare glimmer of hopefulness—however tiny—from the Middle East. Hearing about his family’s generational commitment to Israel—three generations now fighting in so many wars—was so moving.  He brought a fresh perspective that you don’t often hear—vehemently pro-Israel/anti-Hamas/pro-peace—presented with knowledge, political savvy, enormous sophistication.

Seventy people attended services and engaged in a respective, provocative post-service Q&A in the social hall. We hope this is the beginning of an ongoing conversation: How do we maintain security for Israel and her citizens while promoting peace in the region? This isn’t just a question for Jews but for everyone in the world at a moment when so much madness is raging.

Share this article:

Continue reading
3932 Hits

Feeling With Our Minds

It may seem like a busman’s holiday for an author to read books about writing, but I do it--often. Right now I am engrossed by Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. Yesterday I came across this wonderful passage, meant for writers but meaningful  to anyone who takes respite in reflection—and  a fine prelude to the meditative spirit of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

“We are part of a great tapestry of those who have preceded us,” Shapiro writes. “And so we must ask ourselves: Are we feeling with our minds? Thinking with our hearts? Making every empathic leap we can? Are we witnesses to the world around us? Are we climbing on the shoulders of those who paved the way for us? Are we using every last bit of ourselves, living these lives of ours, spending it, spending it all, every single day?”

Share this article:

Continue reading
4011 Hits