Reaching Out to Newtown

On December 14, 2012 a troubled youth, Adam Lanza, fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members in a mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in the village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut. Following that horrific event many of us felt lost and without hope. Our core beliefs were shaken; we had seen the destruction of innocence and had come to learn that evil possesses no boundary. Shortly after the horrendous tragedy in Newtown a congregant, Louise Stoll, approached me and asked what we as a congregation could do on behalf of the Newtown community.

Noah Pozner was the youngest victim of the massacre. Noah was a Jew and his family a member of Adath Israel, the Conservative congregation in Newtown. I shared with Louise that it might be nice to reach out to his congregation in some meaningful way. Perhaps we, as a community, could sponsor an Oneg or Kiddish following a Sabbath service thus demonstrating that even at this dark moment they were not alone.

Congregation Adath Israel was very moved by our offer and shared, to my surprise and disappointment that no other congregation had made an effort to reach out. Here is the Congregation's response to our offer:

"We are in the midst of arranging a program for Sunday May 5th following which we would like to provide a reception. I was thinking that perhaps Temple Sinai might like to sponsor that reception rather than an ordinary Oneg. The program on the 5th is related to the events in town following the December 14 shooting and might even be of interest to you and/or some of your congregants. The invited speakers are Rabbi Seth and Sherri Mandell. I don't know if you are familiar with them or their story. They lived in CT for a time, and moved to Israel in 1996. They run the Koby Mandell Foundation, named for their 13 year old son who was murdered in Israel in 2001. Their foundation provides therapeutic programs for families who are victims of terror, and summer camp experiences for bereaved and traumatized children. They will be speaking on the general topics of a Jewish response to surviving terror, trauma and tragedy, recovery, resiliency, and how to care for the families of our town. I am currently finalizing the program. But I do think this would be a wonderful way for your congregation to show its support of our congregation and of our greater Newtown community. And we'd of course be thrilled if any of you were able to attend this program."

After speaking with leadership I heartily accepted their request. The cost of the reception is $300. If you would like to contribute we would be most grateful. Additionally members of Temple are warmly encouraged to attend.

Reaching out to those in need feels very good.

A Friendly Hello

Some years ago I needed to get in touch with a colleague in New York City. At the time this colleague was working in a rather large congregation in the city. When I called I was taken aback when the phone was not answered by a human being rather an electronic switchboard. It was the kind of electronic switchboard that required you to go to a directory if you didn't know your party's extension which of course I didn't. I then dialed the extension. The extension rang and rang and rang that is until I got the voice mail of my colleague's secretary asking me to leave a message which I did. I got off the phone and thought I'm so glad I don't work in that congregation.

I know electronic switchboards save money. I know that they also enable more work to be accomplished. However there are certain enterprises (doctors' offices, police and fire stations and most assuredly synagogues) that should never adopt their use even for the most principled reasons.

I believe in the power of first impressions. So then what is the first impression a person gets when he/she calls a synagogue and hears an electronic voice? A cold institution, a place where people are not well received, a synagogue that heralds expediency over human contact? When a person calls a synagogue there should be a warm receptive human voice answering that call.

Our world is cold and insensitive enough. Things often are given more importance than people. It's nice to know that synagogue can be warm and sensitive. It's nice to know that in synagogue people are always valued more than things. It's nice to know that whenever you call us here at Temple we will embrace you with a warm and friendly "hello."

Saint Michael's Students Explore Judaism

Since the last week of August I've been teaching at St. Michaels College. The subject I teach is a Survey of Judaism. The majority of my students are juniors and seniors with majors in religion. No one taking the class is Jewish. It's been something of an eye opener as well as a home coming to be back on a college campus. It's a home coming of sorts given that I was once a student at a Catholic college. I attended Boston College in my hometown of Newton, MA. And it's something of an eye opener given the many changes that have occurred in higher education. The use of technology is everywhere, computers and LCD projectors in all the classrooms, posting class readings online and the ability to contact my students individually or collectively via email is just a key stroke away. Yet what hasn't changed over the course of time is the eagerness and intelligence of the students. When our studies began it was apparent that my students had very little prior knowledge about Judaism. I initially found this surprising. But then quickly realized how much of my life is within a Jewish bubble. I work in a synagogue, most of my friends are Jewish and I read mostly Jewish journals and novels. I see the world with "Jewish eyes." How do I teach my students the width and breadth of Judaism in a one semester course? That's the challenge! (Little wonder why someone converting to Judaism requires a year of study!) Within a few short weeks the semester will be over and I will have completed my teaching at least for this academic year. I feel very positive about this new experience as well as the knowledge gained by my students. It also feels wonderful that more young people have a better understanding about our faith and practice.

In Peace,

Rabbi James Glazier

Shalom and Happy New Year!

Rabbi-at-kids-servicesIf you've arrived at my blog via Temple Sinai's website you couldn't help but notice the page's wonderful new design. Over the course of this past summer Kate Wolinsky, graphic designer extraordinaire, redesigned the congregational website with new pictures, beautiful graphics, pull down tabs, up-to-date calendars and new information. Many thanks are due for her outstanding work.

Our web page is of critical importance for those interested in our congregation. For those interested in membership, for those who are interested in our programming and for those who wish to know more about the tenets of Reform Judaism the newly designed web-site is a vital source of continuing information.

The site is still under construction and more work needs to be completed however it is a vast improvement over what we had previously presented. I invite you to wander through the site and if so moved share with us your impressions. What works, what still needs attention, what would you add, what would you remove?

Simchat Torah Services

On a different note this coming Sunday night is Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah. Our newest religious school students will be consecrated, the Torahs will be marched and a pot luck dinner will be served. Please come and join in the festivities.

Happy Sukkot,

Rabbi

Thank You for Your Patience...

For some time communications from Temple have come via the internet (weekly updates, emails and our web-site).  The Shofar has been incorporated into the weekly update and “click throughs” within the update transport us to the appropriate page in the congregational web-site.Initially some people were put off by the change from paper mailings to electronic ones.  However due to the enormous expense associated with paper mailings the Temple Board decided electronic mailings would be the general means of communicating information to the congregation.

Change is never easy yet I am pleased to share that over the course of the past year more and more of our congregants have embraced electronic communications. Readership has increased by fifty percent and “click throughs” have increased by thirty percent.  This acceptance of our financial reality is heartening and for that I am grateful. 

Read more: Thank You for Your Patience...

A Wonderful Weekend

Shalom. What a wonderful weekend we had at Temple. First we celebrated the Bat Mitzvah of Chelsea Wright. Chelsea did a wonderful job leading the congregation in worship. She made us all very proud.

Additionally over the course of this past weekend we welcomed our Scholar in Residence, Rabbi Michael Cook. Rabbi Cook spoke four times, first to area clergy (21 attended), then after Sabbath eve worship, next for our Aleinu series Saturday evening and finally on Sunday morning during a catered breakfast. By the way the breakfast was delicious. Rachel Jacobs of Kosher Vermont put out a fantastic array of food.

Read more: A Wonderful Weekend

Celebrate Our Graduates

Two circumstances have contributed to the shaping of the Jewish experience. The first was the Talmudic rabbis' attitude regarding mind and body. The rabbis of the Talmud emphasized the importance of sharpening the mind while placing little importance on physical development. In fact to call a person an "Ish Guf," a person with a well developed body, was to be understood as a major insult. The classical norm was and regrettably still is in certain Jewish communities a pale, scrawny, even wimpy yeshiva bocher (Talmudic student). Think of all the inroads Jews have made in the field of sport in just the last one hundred and fifty years, the boxers, baseball players and the Olympic champions. Moreover the establishment of the State of Israel and the image of the Sabra have done much to change the classical thinking of the significance of mind over body.

Read more: Celebrate Our Graduates