Log in


<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
  • September 23, 2021 11:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sept. 23, 2021

    Dear Friends,
      The holiday celebrations continue!
      Our Shabbat-Sukkot Evening Service (7:30 PM) features a lively blend of festival and sabbath music.
     
       Then our Sukkot-Simchat Torah Celebration: This Sunday we begin with a free outdoor Subs-for -Sukkot Meal (5:00 PM) by reservation no later than tomorrow (email doriskampwhite@verizon.net), followed by an abbreviated Simchat Torah Celebration(6:00 PM), and capped off by a Sukkot Folk Concert (6:30 PM), featuring Iris Karlin, Peter Hayes, Elka Oliver, Michael Scowden and Scott Dennis!  The sanctuary events are in-person but will also be livestreamed.

       Zoom Shabbat Morning Torah Study (10:00 AM) is off and runningThis year we delve into the epic history that birthed our people- The Rise and Fall of Ancient Israel- and you are welcome to join anytime. Contact me if you need the Zoom link.

       Sunday morning religious school (9:00 AM) includes the start of Confirmation class (11:00 AM).

       My sermons of the High Holidays are once again available at our website thanks to Lance Strate.

        Mark your calendar now for the next Adas Emuno Book Club on Nov. 8 and order Moshkeleh the Thief- A Rediscovered Novel by Sholom Aleichem at 40% off by contacting me. The same applies if you would like a copy of my new children's book Jonah's Tale of a Whale
         Speaking of books, you can return your High Holiday prayer book at any time by placing it in the blue bin on the school porch.

    Shabbat shalom and Hag Sameach,
    Rabbi Schwartz.
  • September 22, 2021 3:22 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    AMERICA

    Yom Kippur, 5782

    Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz


    What a year it has been!

    On the bright side, we are thankfully over the worst of the pandemic. A year ago at the High Holidays we were still in near complete lockdown. We livestreamed the service from an empty sanctuary. Now we are mostly vaccinated. We have reopened, albeit with capacity limits and other restrictions. Children are returning to school. We are not back to normal as we knew it, but we have turned the corner and are heading in that direction.

    So too most of us would say that politically. The presidency, at least, is back to normal. The administration in Washington is functioning more or less as we expect. Though Democrats and Republicans remain at loggerheads, key legislation is squeaking by Congress. The economy is improving; employment is slowly returning to pre-pandemic levels. Again, we are not back to normal as we knew it, but here too we have turned the corner and are heading in the right direction.

    That’s on the bright side. Now for the dark side.

    The pandemic is not over. The virus is still wreaking havoc here and in far corners of the world. Variants and the unvaccinated still pose a threat. Re-openings are still fraught with challenges. The economic recovery is highly unequal, with the already well-off benefitting the most. Congress is hopelessly dead-locked. One of the two major political parties appears to have gone off the rails. The threat to our democracy has not gone away. If the Jan. 6 insurrection was overt, the attempts to undermine our country are now covert. But they are happening.

    Racism in all its manifestations, is alive and well. Anti-Semitism has seen another spike. Anti-Asianism has skyrocketed.

    Israel experienced another war with Hamas, which this time included anti-Jewish rioting within Israel by Israeli Arab citizens. Israel experienced four elections in two years and none has resulted in a viable governing coalition. The Jewish State is as divided as never before and the Jewish people are as divided as never before.

    Then there is the present debacle and tragedy in Afghanistan.

    Not to mention, hurricanes, wildfires, and a climate crisis that is growing exponentially and existentially.

    Wait a minute, you’re saying. Having devoted about a minute to the bright side, is the rabbi going over to the dark side? Is this going to be all doom and gloom?

    Well, mostly yes. What better time to commiserate than on Yom Kippur? We’re supposed to get down and dirty⏤about our sins that is. We’re supposed to ruminate on the dark side… in order to repent on our way back to the bright side.

    I think I am not different than most of you as a proud, and as a deeply concerned, American citizen. I’ve always felt the need to be politically aware, to be reasonably well read and reflective. But since the election of 2016 I have been consumed by what is happening to our country. Politically speaking, I have not had a good night’s sleep since that November earthquake five years ago. And my sleep is still disturbed.

    And I think I am not different than most of you as a proud, and as a deeply concerned American Jew. That means worrying about all things Jewish and all things Israel. Here too I lost much sleep.

    In my line of work, I suppose I am fortunate that I get to voice my concerns out loud more than most people. I’ve lost track of the number of times I have opined about what is happening to America, to Israel and to the Jewish people.

    And here I go again. Why? Because things are not getting better and it is Yom Kippur and because my friend, the prophet Isaiah, says in the Haftarah portion of this holy Day of Atonement that we should, raise our voice like a shofar.

    I’m still haunted by the last words of Heather Heyer, the young women killed in Charlottesville in 2017, who was not Jewish, but said something in the spirit of Isaiah. She posted on Facebook that fateful morning: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention. So what should we be outraged about? What is lacking our attention?

    This morning I can only focus on one issue. As much as I would like to talk about the Jewish people, I’m not going to do that now, because of the urgency I feel about talking about the American people.

    Here is what keeps me up: I think democracy is dying in America in plain sight. I think it is dying and we are letting it happen. There are two paths forward in this crucial post-election period. The first path is labelled diversity. The second path is called disunity.

    The path of diversity will save our democracy. The path of disunity will kill our democracy.

    The path of diversity teaches us to respect our differences. The path of disunity teaches us to exacerbate our differences.

    The path of diversity strengthens community as we realize we are all on the same team. The path of disunity threatens community, since we no longer believe we are on the same team.

    Respected columnist Thomas Edsall minces no words when he wrote this past May:

    [We] confront an adversary willing to lie about past election outcomes, setting the stage for [Republican] legislatures to overturn future election returns; an opponent willing to nurture an insurrection if the wrong people win; a political party moving steadily from democracy to authoritarianism; a party that despite its liabilities is more likely than not to regain control of the House and possibly even the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections. (NYT 5-19-21)


    What is at stake is civil society as we know it. Here’s the thing: in any relationship, if we can’t talk reasonably to one another, the relationship breaks down. In a marriage, the relationship breaks down and divorce ensues. In a congregation, the relationship breaks down, and the congregation splinters and dissolves. In a country… well, what happens? At the most extreme, there is civil war. On the way, there is civil strife. Unrest. Insubordination. Insurrection. Micah Goodman is a leading Israeli intellectual. I know him personally, having published his first book in English. Here is how he describes our toxic political discourse:

    Across much of Europe and the United States, political debate has stopped functioning. What is meant by a “functional” political debate? A disagreement between people each of whom believes the other is wrong: I think you are wrong, and you think I am wrong. That’s how a good political debate ought to work. But what if I think you are not only wrong but evil? Reasonable disagreement collapses. Social media tend to amplify this dynamic. People are increasingly concerned with labeling others, instead of thinking about their arguments… When each side thinks that the other’s beliefs are not only wrong but illegitimate, the capacity to listen vanishes, and reasonable disagreement collapses.


    Goodman goes on the conclude that the basic purpose of politics has metastasized:

    Politics is no longer the field in which [citizens] express their positions. Politics has turned into the field in which they [proclaim] their identities. Political discourse no longer pits idea against idea, but tribe against tribe. When politics ceases to rely on arguments and stops offering ideas, all it can do is channel identities. So it was that the disintegration of ideas of the left and right… did not abolish the rift between the two camps⏤they aggravated it.


    It’s sad and it’s scary that so many Americans now view politics as a zero-sum game. A recent national opinion poll posed this question: Do you think the goal of politics is more about enacting good public policy or ensuring the survival of the country as we know? Almost half of Democrats (47%) said policy, yet a significant number (38%) said survival. But among Republicans it was the reverse, with 46% saying survival and only 25% saying policy.

    And it’s sad and scary that if I’m honest with myself I’m not even sure how to answer. Let me put it this way: I’m a liberal. But I respect conservatives, who act out of principle. I don’t agree with them. They are my opponents but not my adversaries. I have this respect because we agree to abide by the same set of rules. Not only do we love our country, but we are sworn to uphold our Constitution and protect our democracy. We are not in it to win in any way, but to win the right way. But if you are not going to play by the rules, if you are willing to trample democracy and trash civility, how can I deal with you?

    That is our dilemma. How can we deal with our fellow Americans who are forsaking democracy by perpetuating a big lie, refusing to prosecute an insurrection, restricting voting access, and setting the stage for overturning the next election, if it is not in their favor? Yet how can we not deal with our fellow Americans, who comprise wide swaths of a major political party? How can we give up the search for common ground and the quest for the common good?

    Here is how I respond in the brief few minutes I have remaining. While I will resist every action that is anti-democracy, I will engage in every effort that is pro-democracy. I will call out every action that is racist and unjust, but I will listen to every critique of my own views. I will defend those who are powerless, but I will hold my nose to compromise so we can live together.

    I will do this in the spirit of tolerance and diversity that is the best of America. And I will do so in the spirit of worthy debate that is central to my Jewish heritage.

    The great debate of the Talmud was between the school of Shammai, which would equate to modern day conservatism, and the school of Hillel, which would equate to modern day liberalism. The debate went on for centuries. Shammai and Hillel and their disciples disagreed on just about everything. Yet time and again the view of Hillel prevailed in Jewish law. Beit Hillel was able to convince the majority to side with them over and over. The Talmud itself poses the question: how could this be? And the Talmud itself answers its own question in a now famous passage:

    Elu v’elu divrei Elohim hayimm, begins the passage. These and these are the word of the living God. Both schools of thought have their place. Both are precious; each is to be valued. How about if we could start there in our modern political discourse?

    But the reason Beit Hillel prevailed, the passage goes on, is because they were agreeable and forbearing, showing restraint when affronted. “And when Beit Hillel taught the law,” says the Talmud, “they would teach both their own statement of position and the statement of Beit Shammai. Moreover, when they formulated their teachings and cited a dispute, they prioritized the statements of Beit Shammai to their own, in deference to Beit Shammai.”

    How about that! The House of Hillel cited their opponents before themselves. They showed honor and respect to those they disagreed with. They refused to engage in negative campaigning. They actively listed to the other side, and in some cases, were ready to compromise or amend their position.

    Is political civility like this dead? Is decency dead? Is compromise dead? Not if we are determined to affirm that eilu veilu divrei elohim hayim; that a spark of divinity resides even in our cantankerous and contentious neighbor, that I might not like my neighbor but I most learn to love my neighbor as myself.

    That same fundamental teaching of the Torah, from Leviticus 19, the holiness code, also says to rebuke your neighbor when the need arises. “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Love your neighbor. Rebuke your neighbor. Love your neighbor again.

    Let it be said that we chose love and that we chose diversity over disunity.

    Let it be said that in the famous words of President George Washington to the Newport Hebrew Congregation in 1791, that we gave to bigotry no sanction; to persecution no assistance.

    Let it be said that we sought the common good; and that in the words of the prophet we did not rest until, every person shall sit under their vine and fig tree, and none shall make them afraid.

    Let it be said in the midst of darkness we brought light; that in adding our light to the sum of light, a new day dawned in the America we love.


  • September 22, 2021 3:04 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    JONAH

    Kol Nidre, 5782

    Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz


    Twenty-five hundred years ago a brief, but radical folktale was written down in ancient Israel. A mere four chapters and 1082 words long, the tale would be canonized a few centuries later as one the shortest but most remarkable books of the Hebrew Bible. The story would be especially beloved by children down through the centuries. Yet the sages saw something profound in the tale for people of all ages, and assigned it as the Haftarah reading for the afternoon of Yom Kippur. In every synagogue in the world, including our own, we will read The Book of Jonah tomorrow afternoon.

    Although I will give a brief introduction to Jonah tomorrow as I always do, I’ve never devoted an actual sermon to the Book, as I am doing now. I have a good reason for doing so⏤two actually.

    The first is because the message of this little book has never felt more provocative, and timely, then now. The balance of this sermon will explain why.

    The second is that Jonah is the subject of my newest book. It’s a creative retelling of the biblical tale for little kids, with dynamite illustrations. As with my first picture book, Adam’s Animals, I take the credit for the text but none for the illustrations. So a shout-out to James Ray Sanchez, and to my editors for finding such a talented artist. Families at our children’s service tomorrow will be receiving a copy as a gift. All others desiring a copylet me know and you will receive one with a maximum discount. It’s a great children’s book, but enough self-promotion for the moment!

    As I will mention tomorrow: Don’t be deceived by this deceptively simple folktale. The Book of Jonah reads like a fable. People do not normally get swallowed up by a whale and live to tell the story. But, by the way, as I was thinking about this sermon over the summer, it actually happened off the coast of Massachusetts. You might have missed it, but on June 11 veteran lobsterman Michael Packard was swallowed whole by a humpback whale who was feeding nearby. He estimates he was in the mouth of the whale 30-40 seconds, when it surfaced and spit him out, which was witnessed by his crewmate Josiah Mayo. “I was completely inside; it was completely black,” Packard said. “I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m getting out of here. I’m done, I’m dead.’ All I could think of was my boys—they’re 12 and 15 years old.” Packard suffered soft tissue damage but no broken bones. The last reported account of a whale swallowing a human was 150 years ago.

    People do not normally get swallowed up by whales… and bad people do not normally repent overnight and are forgiven. So what motivated the sages to read this somewhat fantastical fable on the Day of Atonement?

    What they saw, I suggest, wrapped in a folktale, is a profound statement on the possibility of both individual transformation and communal transformation. Jonah changed, and the people of Nineveh changed. We, too, have it in our power to choose and to change.

    Jonah is the reluctant prophet. He hears God call, “Go to Nineveh,” and takes a boat in the opposite direction. He is the classic denier, evader, shirker. He does not want to face himself, never mind the enemy. When the storm arises, he just wants to head below deck and sleep it out. But eventually, Jonah sees the light, answers the call, faces himself, and faces his responsibility. Not all at once, but slowly and painfully he learns his lessons. Why does Jonah hit me so hard this year?

    Understand that Nineveh is indeed the enemy. It was the capital of the Assyrian empire, they who viciously attacked Israel and banished the Ten Lost Tribes of the north. No wonder Jonah does not want to go there, to the heart of darkness. But the first message of the Book of Jonah is that even the enemy may change. Even our adversaries may repent. It may not be likely, but it is possible.

    Jonah wanted to give up on the people of Nineveh, but God didn’t. The universe of our forgiveness is often narrow and shallow. But the universe of God’s forgiveness is deep and wide. That’s the second message of the Book of Jonah.

    We and Jonahwe’re the same. Forgiveness does not come easily to us. Jonah wanted to see Nineveh punished. They had done wrong, a lot of wrong, and they deserved to be punished. They had to learn their lesson. Jonah had no problem prophesying their doom. He did have a problem accepting their penitence.

    We’re reluctant to let go of grudges, to shed resentments, to step down from “holier than thou” high horses. We often posit, without admitting it, that our forgiveness is conditional. You want me to forgive you… you owe me an apology. You want me to forgive you… you need to make a reparation. You want me to forgive you… promise you will never do that bad thing again.
    Make no mistake about it, there is nothing wrong about asking for an apology, for a promise, for an act of amends. In fact, our tradition teaches the three Rs of true repentance: remorse, restitution, resolve. That is the obligation of the wrongdoer.

    But if we are always going to wait for the sinner to repent; if we are always going to withhold repentance until the wrong has been righted… the world is not going to change as we would like. If we are always going to stand on ceremony, we are going to miss precious moments with family and community. If we are always going to wait until someone says: “You know, I was wrong and you were right,” “You know, I have made amends,” “You know, I promise never to do it again,” the world is going to pass us by.

    If you are like me, you may still be waiting for some apologies from family members. You might still be waiting for some amends from friends who hurt you, colleagues at work who embarrassed you, or acquaintances who insulted you (or who voted for the wrong candidate!)

    A long time ago, when I was a rabbinical student, I remember a marriage counselor telling the class that there comes a time in every marriage when you have to say to yourself: do I want to be right or be married? In a similar fashion we need to ask ourselves: do I want to insist that I am right or stay connected to my child, or sibling or colleague or countryman?

    How about if we try a radically different tack? Instead of waiting for an apology, find something to apologize for ourselves? Instead of waiting for amends, take the initiative to offer our own. Instead of waiting for a promise, make a resolution we can keep.

    I’m not saying this is easy. Jonah wanted to see the guilty punished. He wanted to see them sweat then repent. He had trouble with God’s compassion. We’re the same way. For especially heinous crimes there does need to be process of redemption that takes time. But for the majority of slights, affronts, insensitivities and generally boorish behavior…

    Can we seize the initiative and err on the side of forgiveness?

    Can we let it be and let it go?

    Can we agree that a leap of compassion is greater than remaining stuck in endless stalemates and standoffs?

    The Book of Jonah is also about our propensity to procrastinate. We’re on that boat with Jonah in the opposite direction. We’re fleeing the calling to be our highest selves. The bigger the challenge the more we evade it.

    We descend down, down, down and bury ourselves in the deepest hold of the ship. We sleep, or feign sleep, when it should be all-hands-on-deck. We hide behind the claim of being non-confrontational. To the other person it sure feels like we are being non-communicative. When the sailors cast lots to learn who has caused such a storm, and the lot falls on Jonah, they ask him: Where have you come from? (1:8)

    Its an echo of the very first question of God to Adam when he was also running away: Where are you? (Gen.3:9)

    It’s the question we need to ask ourselves, when we take stock of where we are on the Atonement Day.

    What are we ignoring and evading? What are we running away from; hiding from?

    Even when Jonah faced up to his calling; even when he accepted his mission and went to Nineveh, he still had to learn that lesson of compassion. The Book of Jonah ends in a strange way. Jonah goes off to a hilltop overlooking Nineveh to basically sulk. He sits under a tree for some shade from the burning sun. God makes the leaves wither.

    Jonah is already emotionally distraught and had gone so far as to pray to God, “Take my life, for I would rather die than live.” To which God has replied, “Are you that deeply grieved?” In other words: are you that upset that I have forgiven the Ninevites, after they repented? You are saying that I was wrong to do the right?

    Now Jonah is both emotionally and physically strung out. He becomes faint, and again he begs for death, saying, “I would rather die than live.” And again God asks Jonah: Are you so deeply grieved…about the plant over your head? “Yes,” Jonah repeats, “so deeply that I want to die”.

    And then comes the final words of the book and the final lesson to Jonah. God says, “You care so much about a tree… and I should not care about a whole city? Nineveh, this great city of more than a hundred and twenty thousand souls?

    The question is left dangling in the air as the book ends.

    And we are left dangling in the air as one year ends and the next one begins.
    To forgive, or not to forgive, that is the question.


  • September 22, 2021 2:56 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    ROSH HASHANAH PRAYER

    Rosh Hashanah, 5782

    Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz

    Eloheinu, velohei avotenu

    Our God; God of all generations:

    Help us to thoughtfully reflect on the year just past and to courageously embrace this year just born.

    Let us begin by remembering the tragic and the hopeful.

    We mourn the four million souls who have perished in the Covid pandemic worldwide; the 600,000 here in our own country; the 26,000 here in our small state of New Jersey.

    Open the gates of healing for the bereaved and the bereft. There are so many mourners whose lives will not return to normal… even as most of us take those steps.

    We bemoan the loss of lives and the loss of livelihoods⏤families shattered, businesses shuttered; jobs lost, dreams dashed… even as most of us regain our footing.

    Open the gates of our compassion for the hungry and the homeless, for the dispersed and the displaced⏤for all those suffering economically and emotionally.

    Yet at this New Year let us also recall the points of light that illuminated our way⏤the heroic healthcare workers, the valiant front-line workers, the bus drivers and the grocery clerks who went to work to save lives and to sustain lives; the scientists who developed the vaccines; the corporations that produced them; the businesses that distributed them, the aids who administered them.

    Open the gates of our gratitude for all the essential people in our families and communities.

    At this new year we are also witnessing the suffering from mother nature at her most ferocious and deadly.

    Open the gates of recovery for those battered by flood and fire.

    At this new year a great tragedy is unfolding in Afghanistan after twenty years of spilt blood and treasure.

    Open the gates of refuge and peace for the forgotten and the forsaken, the oppressed and disposed⏤in that troubled place and in all lands.

    At this new year unprecedented assaults on our voting rights and personal rights, and on democracy as we know it, continue in broad daylight.

    We are compelled, too, to acknowledge the plague of racism that has never gone away in our country and still profoundly vexes us as Americans and as Jews.

    We must contend with our collective sins of commission as well as our sins of omission… for have we not all stood idly by?

    In a free society, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminds us, some are guilty, but all are responsible.

    Open for us the gates of insight and courage for the hard work of reconciliation that lies ahead if we are to form a more perfect union befitting our country.

    Open for us the gates of freedom and equality; the gates of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, for all of us, rich or poor, documented or undocumented.

    Let us be grateful for a free and fair election of a new president, and for our democracy that grapples and survives in the pursuit of truth and justice.

    In a nation so richly blessed make us more compassionate, more generous, more just.

    In our own little community, we greet this New Year in deep gratitude for our milestone sesquicentennial anniversary⏤one hundred and fifty years of our “community of the faithful” gathering in fellowship, study and good deeds; fifty of them here in Leonia.

    Our God; God of all generations: At this New Year of hope and possibility may we find common purpose to do Your will; to rise to our greatest potential; to reflect our creation in Your image… and to walk forward, to peace and purpose.


  • September 22, 2021 2:30 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    SESQUICENTENNIAL

    Rosh Hashanah Morning, 5782

    Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz


    The year was 1871. Ulysses S. Grant was president. The Civil War had ended just 5 years before. The great Chicago Fire killed 300 and left 100,000 homeless. The first major league baseball game was played on May 4 and the first home run was hit on May 8. Across the pond Queen Victoria ruled England. Lord Stanley located a missing explorer in Africa and greeted him with the words, Dr. Livingstone I presume.

    In Hoboken a group of German Jews founded a congregation that they called Adas EmunoThe Assembly of the Faithful. Twelve years later, in 1883, they built a synagogue, a Gothic Revival building that still stands today and which the Hoboken Evening News called, a credit to the city. We have a yad, a Torah pointer, from that dedication that is kept right behind me in our ark; and we still read from the Torah with the help of this 135-year-old yad.

    While most of our congregational records have been lost over the decades, the original minutes from our first years survive. They were hand written in German, in an old style few people can read today. But one person who can is our very own Kurt Roberg, whom many of you know. Kurt, a refugee from Nazi Germany, with a remarkable story that he has written a book aboutand possibly our most senior member at age 97has been reading and transcribing those minutes.

    At the Annual Meeting of the congregation on Sunday, Oct. 20, 1872 the president praised the generosity of the members in acquiring a Torah and other sacred objects, of raising some $1385 against total expenses of $1088 for a cash-on-hand balance of $297. Two weddings were held that year, and two b’nai mitzvah. Two funerals were also held that year. The second, writes the president, “for my little son.” The president concludes his address to the congregation, saying,

    I have now given you an overview of everything that concerns our congregation, and even though there are somethings that we still wish to accomplish, we may be proud of the advances we made in one year. Don’t hesitate to sacrifice whether time or money to complete the task we have begun.

    By the 1890s the congregation had tripled to a hundred families. The flourishing community included a religious school, a choir, and a benevolent association to aid the poor called the Hebrew Ladies’ Aid Society.At the turn of the century a Hanukkah menorah was dedicated to the congregation on December 13, 1900. Our 121-year-old menorah is in the vestry room and we still light it every year.

    On May 27, 1917 a teen named Esther Cohn was confirmed at the Temple. She must have misplaced her Confirmation Certificate because I found it behind some books in the vestry room a few years ago. It was signed by the rabbi, Moses Eckstein and by the president, Samuel Neuberger. Evidently, each student picked a “motto” for their certificate. Esther chose a verse from the 23 rd Psalm, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. A hundred years later we still have a Confirmation Class and each year I ask my students to pick a verse for their Confirmation essay.

    Records grow scant as the 20th century progressed. We do know that in 1919 dues were set at $30 a year. They rose to $45 by 1924. But High Holy Day seats were extra, and the ones closest to the bimah cost another $15. We no longer sell seats.

    The congregation joined the Union for Reform Judaism in the 1920s and has remained in good standing since then.

    On October 4, 1951, Milton Neuman, who was chair of the Eightieth Anniversary Committee of the congregation, received a congratulatory letter from President Harry Truman. Milton Neuman’s nephew, Michael Levy, is an active third generation member of our congregation. His parents and grandparents were members, and two of his grandchildren became b’nai mitzvah here.

    Every time we enter this synagogue, which became our home only after a century in Hoboken, we are reminded of our origins. We pass the dedication plaque at our entrance to the left most often without noticing it. Then we enter the sanctuary and see the memorial plaques from our original building. The names of our predecessors and their loved ones are not forgotten.

    We are now just over a month away from what our past president Lance Strate reminds us is our sesquicentennial. 150 Years! We made it!

    The congregation persevered through the great pandemic of 1917-18. So too we persevered through the great pandemic of 2020-21.

    The congregation weathered the Great Depression of the 1929. So too we weathered the Great Recession of 2009, eighty years later.

    Demographic changesthe shrinking Jewish population of Hobokencompelled the congregation to relocate after a century. Demographic changesthe shrinking Jewish population of Leonia and environsonce again challenge our future.

    No doubt, Congregation Adas Emuno will have to come up with a strategic plan to address its future. But for now, as we emerge from the pandemic and as we reach our sesquicentennial, we pause to give thanks and to celebrate.

    In the Torah, a half century is called a Jubilee. So this year is the triple Jubilee of our founding and our first Leonia Jubilee.

    Fifty years of marriage also has a special name. So this year is the triple Golden Anniversary of our founding and our first Leonia Golden Anniversary.

    I wish we could celebrate this milestone year with no restrictions. We’re not there yet. So our 150th Anniversary Committee decided not to have one gala event, but a series of anniversary celebrations spread out over the entire year. You’ll be hearing much more about them in the coming months. We decided to announce the year now at the High Holidays. The actual date of our founding, Oct. 22, happens to be a Sabbath evening this year. At that service we will dedicate a new Torah cover commissioned for the occasion. Debby has finished making that cover and so I can tell you it is special. Hanukkah, Purim, Pesachall our holiday celebrations will have anniversary themed tie-ins. And, God willing, a year from October we will conclude the anniversary year with a true gala.

    Milestone anniversaries are certainly a time to look back, and savor treasured memories. Our president, Michael Fishbein, assisted by others, is assembling a history of the congregation to the best of our ability, and we hope to have an exhibit later this fall to be viewed at the Leonia Library.

    But I suggest that anniversaries are also a time to look forward. That is why we created the Adas Emuno 150th Anniversary Fund and launched it three years ago. Our goal was two-fold: $150,000 and 100% participation. I’m delighted to report that regarding the first, we have exceeded our goal. In fact, due to the generosity of member families, we have raised over $220,000 to bolster the creative programming and reserves of our congregation. What a tribute to our membership.

    That generosity has come from approximately fifty families, or about 60% participation. Can we get to 100%? It’s not too late to give to AE 150. Please join us… at any level.

    Our hardworking AE 150 committee, chaired by past-president Beth Ziff, and including past presidents Virginia Gitter, Alan Spector and Lance Strate; current president Michael Fishbein, vice-president Elka Oliver, and  Susan Grey and Richard Alicchio, has not only come up with a year full of celebrations. I also happy to report that two wonderful projects have been suggested, and just approved by the Board.

    The first will be an enduring physical enhancement to our synagoguethe creation of a patio and pergola in the space in between the Temple and our school. The patio will serve as an outdoor classroom and worship space. During the pandemic, the need for such a space became all the more apparent, and in fact, we conducted the final two sessions of school in this area. Now it will be all the more inviting and safely accessed for people of all ages. You will have the opportunity to help complete this project by having pavers inscribed with your name.

    At the same time, AE 150 will also fund an exciting outreach proposal led by our amazing student cantor, designed to attract young Jewish families from the area, including dozens of Israeli-American families that moved to Bergen County from NY during the pandemic. What better time to do this than this year with Cantor Karlin!

    When our founders first established this congregation in Hoboken, they were thinking about the next generation of Jewish life beyond New York. They were thinking about their children who would grow up in the new world, and speak English. They were thinking about the next generation when they established a religious school and a youth group.

    When the leaders of Adas Emuno made the difficult decision to move to Leonia, they were thinking about the next generation as well. They were thinking about how Jewish life was now growing beyond the first-tier suburbs to the promising frontier of Bergen County. They knew that Congregation Adas Emuno was never big or rich and might not survive the move. But they also knew that Adas Emuno was a dedicated and down-to-earth assembly of the faithful.

    So what does it mean for us to now think about our next generation? Let’s be honest. Our numbers are diminishing. The demographic tide in our little corner of the world is turning against us. Yet here we are, a progressive, inclusive Reform Jewish community. We are a congregation that welcomes interfaith households and blended families. We are a congregation that is heimish and humble. In our post-pandemic world there is no more urgent a time for creating community than now. Adas Emuno is a community.

    The Talmud records the life of an unusual and remarkable sage in ancient Israel named Honi the Circlemaker. Nobody knows why he received that name, but he is said to have gone around the land of Israel planting carob trees, a Jewish Johnny Appleseed, if you will. When asked why he took upon himself such an adventure, Honi responded that one day when he was still a young man he saw an old man planting a carob tree. Honi said, “Old man, why are you planting that tree. Don’t you know that it takes a carob tree seventy years to bear fruit? The man paused, looked up at him, and said, “Just as my ancestors planted for me, so I will plant for my children.”

    That piece of wisdom changed Honi’s life. And it just might change ours. If we embrace the realization that we are not here solely for ourselves; if we stand in gratitude for what those before us have done for us and decide to pay it forward to the next generation.

    Join us for our Jubilee and Sesquicentennial. Get others to join us as well. Let us give thanks for our past while embracing our future. Just as my ancestors planted for me, so I will plant for my children.


  • September 22, 2021 2:04 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    WHO SHALL LIVE?

    Rosh Hashanah Evening, 5782

    Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz


    Rosh Hashanah is a time when we celebrate the past even as we embrace the future. We mark the arrival of the High Holy Days by honoring the old while welcoming the new. We chant ancient words but often add new melody and translation.

    This Rosh Hashanah I again partake of the old/new by continuing a tradition that I established some five years ago. Now, on the eve of the Holiday, I’d like to offer a davar torah, a commentary, on one of the key prayers in our holiday liturgy.

    After all, we recite these prayers year and year, sometimes by rote. They form the backbone of our service. They move us in an emotive, nostalgic way… but what do they mean? What are we saying? Why are they important?

    This year, as we slowly emerge from the pandemic that upended our lives so dramatically, I find myself wrestling with the prayer that contains the most haunting and memorable line of the High Holy Days liturgy. Quite honestly, it is also the prayer that makes many of us the most uncomfortable. It is the prayer that we would most like to ignore or at least reinterpret.

    “Who Shall Live; Who Shall Die”.

    B’rosh Hashanah yikatevun, u’vyom tzom kippur yayhatemun… mi yichiyeh u’mi yamut

    On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed… how many shall pass on, how many shall come to be; who shall live and who shall die.

    We chant it in the Hebrew tomorrow morning, plaintively; almost resignedly.

    “Who Shall Live; Who Shall die” is a centuries old lament that seems to suggest that our fate is sealed, that judgment, on this Day of Judgment” has been cast. It is found in the section called U’netaneh Tokef, which literally mean Let Us Proclaim the Severity of this Sacred Day. As I say in my introduction to the prayer each year, It is at once the most archaic yet relevant, humbling yet empowering prayer of these Days of Awe.

    At times during the height of the pandemic it seemed like our fate was indeed out of our hands. We seemed powerless to stop the plague. Day to day we didn’t know who will live and who will die. We took extreme measures to try to avert the severity of the decree.

    Let me read you the full text of the prayer in English, which we don’t do in the morning service, since we chant it in the Hebrew. It is raw and graphic:

    On Rosh Hashanah it is written; on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

    How many shall pass on; how many shall be born;

    Who shall live and who shall die;

    Who shall see ripe age and who shall not;

    Who shall perish by fire and who by water;

    Who by sword and who by beast;

    Who by hunger and who by thirst;

    Who by earthquake and who by plague;

    Who by strangling and who by stoning;

    Who shall be secure and who shall be driven;

    Who shall be tranquil and who shall be troubled;

    Who shall be poor and who shall be rich;

    Who shall be humbled and who exalted.

    Our ancestors were all too schooled in hardship and suffering and the many ways we can die. Remember that these prayers originate in the early Middle Ages, when life expectancy was barely half of what it is now, and when war and famine and plague were constants in the life of our people. It is no surprise that they would compose prayers that understood that our fate was essentially out of our hands.

    What is surprising is that we choose to preserve and recite these same words. And with all the advances in science and medicine over the centuries, is our destiny any more in our hands than before? I’ve talked with people about this over the years, and it is interesting that some people say yes and some say no. I talk to modern, educated people who insist that we alone determine our fate, while others are adamant that our fate remains largely beyond our control. Can both views be right at the same time? Look how we were initially powerless in the face of the pandemic in the early months, but how we were able to finally turn the tide with vaccines created with our most advanced scientific knowledge coupled with state-of-the-art production and distribution.

    Note how this prayer subtly moves from the bodily threats to life to how we respond to these challenges. In other words; from our physical health to our mental health. Who shall be secure; who insecure; who tranquil; who troubled?

    Then in the last lines the prayer shifts yet again, to our economic well-being and status. Who shall be poor; who rich; who humbled; who exalted?

    The prayer, having compelled us to confront our mortality, concludes in a surprising and provocative way. It acknowledges roah hag’zerahthe severity of the decree. Our fate can be harsh and capricious. So much is beyond out control. But not everything. The decree can be tempered. Not wholly, but to some degree by our actions, which always have consequences, and can alter our destiny.

    And what are these actions? They are teshuva (repentance), t’filah (prayer), and tzedakah (charity).

    The liturgy of the High Holy Days leave no question that we are fallible; we are flawed; it is not if we will make mistakes but when, and the need to forgive and be forgiven is fundamental to our well-being. So it is no surprise that repentance occupies a key place on the road to redemption.

    So too the importance of helping our fellow in need. We reach the highest rung of ethical living when we transcend our own egocentricity and serve the other. When we are guided by the better angels of our nature we make for a better world. Tzedakah, with its root in the Hebrew word for justice, means so much more than the charitable impulse when it strikes us, but the insistence of sharing of our wealth and working for a just and equitable society.

    Less apparent to the majority of us for whom prayer is not a central but a peripheral part of our lives, is the power of supplication. But to the religious mind, prayer can indeed be life altering. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel expresses it in an oft-quoted passage from our Shabbat siddur:

    Prayer invites God’s presence to suffuse our spirits…. Prayer may not bring water to parched fields, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city. But prayer can water an arid soul, mend of broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will.

    Rabbi David Teutsch writes:

    In our everyday lives, we live with an illusion of control. [This prayer] forces us to admit how profoundly our lives can be altered by random occurrences over which we have no control. I cannot control the unexpected blows that will affect my family, my job, my health. But I can control how I live with them. T’shuvah, t’filah and tzedakah will mitigate the bad in the decree. They will not stop the blows that come our way, but they can radically transform how we are affected by them.

    We have collectively been through a harrowing year and half, but we know that life’s challenges are present in our lives all the time.

    In this regard I think it is appropriate to cite another, very well-known appeal, often referred to as the Serenity Prayer:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

    May our acts of repentance, charity and prayer temper the decree at this New Year, or at the very least, give us strength to strive and solace to accept.


  • September 21, 2021 1:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    An Evening of Community, Celebration, Food and Music

    We hope you can join us this coming Sunday, September 26, for some or all of the planned festivities. RSVP is required for "Subs-for-Sukkot" only.

    • 5:00 pm - Subs-for-Sukkot
    • 6:00 pm - Simchat Torah Celebration
    • 6:30 pm - Sukkot Folk Concert
    Subs-for-Sukkot will include individually wrapped meat and veggie sandwiches, beverages and snacks. Join us for some or all of the fun filled activities!

    RSVP for Subs-for-Sukkot

    Look for additional information in the "This Week at Adas Emuno" email on Thursday, September 23, or under "News" on this website.


  • September 15, 2021 12:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sept. 15, 2021

    Dear Friends,
      This weekly message is arriving a day earlier than usual since Yom Kippur begins tonight.
       Books and food drive bags are available in bins on the school porch at any time.
       School families- here is a link to a PDF of our children's prayer book, so you can follow along at Thursday’s children's service (2:00 PM) if you are not to attend in-person: 
    https://adasemuno.org/resources/Documents/YK%20Children%20Siddur.pdf

      The day after Yom Kippur is already Erev Shabbat and a good opportunity to gather remotely via our Zoom Shabbat Evening Service (7:30 PM). 

       The next morning our Shabbat Morning Torah Study (10:00 AM) commences (now happening via Zoom). This year we delve into the epic history that birthed our people- The Rise and Fall of Ancient Israel. 

       Sunday morning religious school (9:00 AM) outside will also feature our monthly Tot program (9:30 AM).

       Sunday afternoon the annual Leonia International Day of Peace event takes place (4:30-6:00 PM) on the lawn of the Methodist Church, and I am always happy to participate in the ceremony. (The Methodist Church lawn is on Broad Avenue.)

       Mark your calendar now for our Sukkot-Simchat Torah Celebration on Sunday the 26th. We begin with a free outdoor subs-for-sukkot meal (5:00 PM) by reservation (email doriskampwhite@verizon.net), followed by an abbreviated Simchat Torah Celebration (6:00 PM), and capped off by a Sukkot Folk Concert (6:30 PM), featuring Iris Karlin, Peter Hayes, Elka Oliver, Michael Scowden and Scott Dennis! 

    Shabbat shalom,
    Rabbi Schwartz

    For Livestream Services:
    Go to YouTube.com and enter Adas Emuno Streaming in the search box. About 5 minutes before the service is set to begin, find the service that is "live" and wait for the service to begin.
  • September 09, 2021 8:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sept. 9, 2021

    Dear Friends,
      This Sabbath, in between the High Holidays, is known as Shabbat Shuva, the Sabbath of Return, and is a beautiful blend of holiday and sabbath melodies.

      This year, it also corresponds to the 20th anniversary of 9-11, and I will share a very personal story in that regard at our Shabbat Evening Service (7:30 PM).

      On Sunday morning we hope to see many of you bright and early for our Gathering in the Garden  along with our Religious School Opening Day (9:00 AM). Come for a song-fest, snacks, fellowship and your free t-shirt!

       Our Monday evening the Adas Emuno Book Club (7:30 PM) will discuss the epic novel As A Driven Leaf. The discussion should be enlightening (even if you did not read or finish the book).

         Finally, there are families in Leonia, including in our congregation, who continue to deal with the flooding from Hurricane Ina. If you would like to add to the contribution already made by our congregation to assist these families please let me know. 

    Shabbat shalom and shanah tovah,
    Rabbi Schwartz

    For Livestream Shabbat and Holiday Services:
    Go to YouTube.com and enter Adas Emuno Streaming in the search box. About 5 minutes before services are scheduled to begin, find the service that is "live" and wait for the service to begin.
  • September 02, 2021 8:28 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sept. 2, 2021

    Dear Friends,
       This is the last Shabbat of the Jewish year, as well as Labor Day weekend, and the unofficial end of summer.
       Our Zoom Shabbat Evening Service (7:30 pman unexpected change of format) will preview the upcoming holidays. 

       High Holiday books will be handed out this Sunday from 10-12 and then anytime from a bin on the school porch.
        From the ritual committee: all reservations and choices for all services that have been received have been approved. 

        Make sure your calendar is marked for our Gathering in the Garden on the 12th (9-11AM) and our Book Club on the 13th (7:30 PM). We are reading “As a Driven Leaf” by Milton Steinberg.

      Whether in-person or via livestream,  I look forward to seeing you Monday evening and Tuesday at our Rosh Hashanah Evening Service, Morning Service, Children's Service and Tashlich!

      With warm wishes for a safe and joyful new year of peace and blessing,

    Shabbat shalom and shanah tovah,
    Rabbi Barry Schwartz

    For Livestream Services:
    Go to YouTube.com and enter Adas Emuno Streaming in the search box.
    About 5 minutes before the service is scheduled to begin, find the service that is "live" and wait for the service to begin.
       
<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 

Cantor

Iris Karlin

Religious School Director

Shira Friedman

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software