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  • July 10, 2019 3:48 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    D’var Torah Korach, July 5th, 2019

    Lance Strate

    This week’s parsha or Torah portion is called Korach, which is the name of a Levite who challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Together with his two sons and 250 other community leaders, he challenged Moses and Aaron, saying to them, “You’ve gone too far. Why do you raise yourselves up above us?” By way of response, the Torah tells us that Moses fell on his face. Let me repeat that: He fell on his face.

    Falling on your face is not exactly a commonplace activity nowadays, at least not in the western world, so we are left with the question of, what exactly was meant by Moses taking up this posture? The Torah provides no further explanation, and as it turns out, no one is quite sure about what that action was supposed to convey. Consequently, the sages speculated on the meaning of the gesture. Back in the Middle Ages, the 10th century rabbi known as the Saadia Gaon gave it a mystical interpretation, suggesting that it was a means of achieving divine guidance on how to respond to the rebels, that it was a way of making himself open to receiving a divine vision. The 11th century rabbi known as Rashi suggested that Moses did it in a desperate attempt to stave off divine vengeance and obtain God’s forgiveness for yet another incident in which his people lost faith and engaged in rebellion against God’s will. More recently, the 19th century Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin believed that he did it “to remind others of when they themselves had fallen on their faces amidst an experience of profound awe.” In effect he was saying to the rebels what the Hebrew above our ark says, da lifnei mi attah omed, know before whom you stand.

    We can’t be entirely sure of what falling on your face means because most of what we call body language is not like a language at all. There is no dictionary where you can look up the meanings of body movements such as leaning in or out, crossing legs or arms, lifting eyebrows or showing teeth. Even nodding your head does not mean yes in every culture. And words may have dictionary definitions, but there still is a great deal of ambiguity left when we use them. When we’re talking with someone, we’re not always certain about what someone else means. In all honesty, we’re not always certain of what we ourselves mean when we say things. And sometimes when we are certain, we’re wrong.

    The problem is magnified by the distance in time. Some of you may have heard about what happened to Naomi Wolf, the progressive, feminist author, journalist, and activist, just this past May. She was being interviewed on BBC radio about her latest book, entitled Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love, which was about same-sex relationships. She mentioned that in her research she found that in Victorian England there were “several dozen executions” of men accused of being homosexuals, a statistic that her interviewer told her was incorrect. Wolf’s mistake was due to her misunderstanding of the British legal term, “death recorded”. As the interviewer, Matthew Sweet, explained, when this was entered into the record regarding an individual’s criminal case,

    It doesn’t mean that he was executed. It was a category that was created in 1823 that allowed judges to abstain from pronouncing a sentence of death on any capital convict whom they considered to be a fit subject for pardon.

    And he concluded, “I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened.” Embarrassed, Wolf thanked Sweet for calling her attention to the mistake, and said she would correct the relevant parts of her book.

    The problems are magnified the further back in time we go. If and when you hear one of Shakespeare’s plays performed, how much of that 16th and 17th century English can you really understand? Go back to the 14th and 15th century and the Middle English of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is in many ways alien to us. The Old English of Beowulf is all but unintelligible to most of us.

    Our ancestors had the same problem with the Torah. Here was our founding document, our Law, our constitution, but how should it be interpreted. What does it say and what does it mean? In that other great ancient literate culture centered in the Greek city of Athens, Socrates criticized the written word, arguing that it is inferior to dialogue because you cannot ask it questions, or at least you won’t get any answers from a document. Put another way, a written work is a dead thing, in contrast to the spoken word that is voiced through the breath of life. This understanding is central to Jewish ritual, as we place great emphasis on saying our prayers, on chanting and singing. Unlike the reading tests given in schools, with their multiple choice answers requiring number 2 pencils, our reading test is the b’nai mitzvah ceremony in which the words are uttered for everyone in the congregation to hear, with all of us participating in the call and response of the prayers.

    Unless you have the author present with you in the same room, you cannot ask questions of a written text, which means that some interpretation is required. The Torah has very limited punctuation, and the Hebrew aleph-bet has no vowels, which increases ambiguity and amplifies the need for interpretation. And again, there is the passage of time, so that in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, the latest books of the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, relating the events upon the return from Babylonian exile, we are told that the people could no longer understand the Torah, and needed it to be interpreted to them. After the destruction of the Second Temple in the year 70 of the Common Era, Hebrew as a mother tongue went into decline, and was gone by the 4th century. It survived as a learned language, one that was preserved through texts, just as Jewish identity, Jewish culture and Jewish religion, was preserved through texts, through learning, through teachers and students, through discussion, debate, disputation, and through prayer and ritual. Hebrew was also known as a dead language one of many, but the only one that has ever been successfully revived and resurrected.

    Returning to the problem of meaning, when it comes to communication in general, there is always some uncertainty. If we understood each other completely, we would probably not have any need to communicate in the first place. Complete understanding is an ability we reserve for the divine, not for human beings, who are always prone to error. At the same time, we have to have some understanding of each other, or else communication would be impossible. We share the same kinds of bodies, the same basic DNA molecules, the same kinds of physical structures, nervous systems, sensory organs, and brains. And we share similar experiences, subject to the human condition. In other words, all human beings have something in common, and that is what makes communication between us possible. We share a measure of common ground, and through our communication with one another we share our individual thoughts and feelings and memories, and in that way can increase what we have in common, enlarge our common ground.

    Common ground is a kind of context, and some kind of context is always necessary for making sense out of our experiences, for making meaning. The words I am saying to you now, in this context, would mean something different if we were in a bar having a drink, on a beach laying out in the sun, or waiting for a show to begin on Broadway, or just outside the synagogue on Broad Avenue. Context is essential.

    So, when the Torah says that Moses fell on his face, we can understand the gesture as one akin to bowing down, and more extreme than a mere bow. We may have seen a similar posture of lying prostrate in other religious traditions if not our own, and in social interactions in other cultures, and understand that it is a sign of respect, and submission. We can also relate it to the nonverbal communication of other animals, where displays of dominance and submission establish hierarchy. It follows that, rather than responding to Korach’s challenge with a display of power, say by asserting his status as leader, Moses displays humility, reverence, and contrition. But to whom? Certainly not to Korach and his followers.

    On Purim we tell the story of how Mordecai would not bow down before Haman, and we would certainly expect the same from Moses. And the parsha fills in more of the context by telling us what Moses then said to these people, which was the following:

    Come morning, God will make known who God is, and who is holy. You have gone too far, sons of Levi. Is it not enough that God has set you apart from the community of Israel by having you perform the duties of God’s Dwelling Place. Will you seek the priesthood too? Truly you rebel against God.

    What is going on here is essentially a civil war within among the Levites. Korach and his followers are rebels challenging the existing leadership structure that consists of Moses and his brother Aaron, and the House of Aaron as the cohens, cohenim or priesthood. They are the ancestors or forerunners of the priests of the Temple in Jerusalem, in charge of the rituals required by the Law, by the Torah. And more than that, they are in charge of the Torah itself, the written text, what they understand to be the word of God. They are its keepers, in the sense of preserving both the second set of stone tablets and fragments of the first, and preserving other sacred scrolls, and also its keepers in the sense that we speak of keeping the Sabbath, observing the commandments, carrying them out, which requires interpreting them. What is a priest, after all? Not a prophet, or shaman. Priests only come into existence after writing is invented, and they are set apart from the common folk by virtue of the fact that they learn how to read and write, and with that ability are able to decipher and interpret sacred texts. It is no accident that the name of one of the first writing systems, hieroglyphics, means priestly writing. The prefix, hier, means priestly, sacred, and also is the root in the word hierarchy. The original meaning was sacred ruler, a hierarch, and was used to refer to the different orders of angels and heavenly beings, which was first worked out by the great sage Maimonides, otherwise known as the Rambam.

    In the absence of writing, religious experience is pretty much common to all members of society, with some deference to singular individuals who were considered holy men and women. With writing and the introduction of sacred texts, an entirely new class of men, and they were almost always men, was introduced, a vocation known as the priesthood, who were raised all other members of their society, with the possible exception of royalty. In the story of the Exodus, Moses and Aaron are in conflict with the Pharaoh of Egypt, the God-King, who was supported by his own priests. At Sinai, the Israelites are established as a holy people. In Exodus, God tells Moses to tell the people that if we keep the covenant, “you shall be unto me a nation of priests and a holy nation”. And yet, within that nation of priests, the tribe of Moses and Aaron are set apart as priestly. And within the tribe of Levi, the House of Aaron is set apart as priests.

    There is a fascinating play with hierarchy in the parsha. First Korach asks of Moses and Aaron, “Why do you raise yourselves up above us?” Then Moses fall on his face, bringing himself down to the ground, perhaps in contrast to the claim that he is raising himself up. And later, Moses predicts that the ground will open up and swallow the rebels, their families, and their houses and property, and that is exactly what God does. Rather than being raised up, they descend to Sheol, the underworld realm of the dead.

    There are many ways to interpret this story. To relate it to current events, you might say that Korach and his followers were populists. And they were nationalists, looking to make the tribe of Levi great again. They had no respect for the rule of law, no respect for the division of power and authority. The parsha tells us that after the exchange between Korach and Moses, Moses sent for two of Korach’s followers, wanting to speak to them, and they refused to come. Again, we can see the parallel in current events, in the refusal to come before Congress and testify to the American public. Moses tries to speak with the rebels, tries to warn them against angering God, but over and over again they will not listen and will not learn.

    Respect for legitimate authority is necessary, or society falls apart. And yet, as we are celebrating the anniversary of American independence, and the Revolutionary War, we also have a soft spot in our hearts for righteous rebellion. As Jews who continually recall the liberation from slavery, we also recognize the need to challenge authority and fight for justice. The rule of law is based on the principle of equality, that we are all equal before the law, just as we are all equal when we know before whom we stand. And to be equal means that we do not raise ourselves above others, and neither are we lowered down or swallowed up.

    There was a time when most people did not know how to read and write, and the few that were literate were needed to read the sacred texts, not just to read for themselves, but to read aloud to the people, as we do with the Torah. And they were needed to explain the meaning of the text, to interpret the writing, and carry out the laws and commandments. But as literacy spread, the priests lost their monopoly over interpretation of the Torah, and this can be seen in the books of the prophets, in the beginnings of synagogue life during the Babylonian captivity, in the emergence of the Pharisees during the Second Temple period, in the emergence of Rabbinic Judaism following the destruction of the Second Temple, and for that matter, in the rise of Reform Judaism.

    Korach and his followers challenged authority for its own sake. They wanted to bring Moses and Aaron down in order to elevate themselves, and not to build a better society, one in which everyone would be raised up together. In contemporary Jewish life, we resemble those rebels when we dismiss Jewish learning and tradition and spirituality out of hand, for our own sake, or because it is too inconvenient or too difficult to work into our busy lives or stimulating lifestyles. We can become a nation of priests, but to do so we have to embrace Jewish learning and tradition and spirituality, Jewish life, embrace it as a way of life that is open to discussion and debate as a community, and open to interpretation as knowledgeable, well informed individuals. If you don’t make that effort, it is easy to find yourself just stumbling through life, and find yourself, eventually, falling on your face.

  • June 30, 2019 3:43 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    D’var Torah Sh’lach L’cha, June 28th, 2019

    Michael Fishbein

    In the first part of this week’s Torah portion, Sh’lach L’cha, the Israelites find themselves at a crossroad. Having left enslavement in Egypt they are now just outside the Promised Land. But before entering, God commands Moses to send a team to scout the land God has promised to the Israelites. The team includes one top man from each of the Twelve Tribes. Like Lewis and Clark, who were commissioned to explore the western portion of the United States and report back, these scouts—or spies as they are frequently referred to—are to see what kind of place the Promised land is; whether the people living there are strong or weak; whether their towns are fortified; and whether the land is suitable for agriculture. The scouts are also to return with some of the fruits of the land.

    The scouts go on their mission. Along the way they cut down a single cluster of grapes which is so plentiful it takes two men to carry. They also collect some pomegranates and figs.

    Forty days later the 12 scouts return from their critical mission, and immediately report to Moses and Aaron as well as the entire Israelite community. They show the fruits they have collected and famously proclaim that the land “flows with milk and honey.” They also report that the people who inhabit the land are powerful—indeed, essentially giants-- and their cities fortified.

    One of the scouts, Caleb, from the tribe of Judah, urges the Israelites to move ahead at once to conquer the land. But the other scouts—with the exception of Joshua, from the tribe of Ephraim—urge the Israelites to hold off attacking, arguing that the current inhabitants are stronger than the Israelites, made the Israelites looked like grasshoppers--worse yet, feel like grasshoppers--and could not be conquered.

    These reports of the great size and strength of the inhabitants are, as we know, lies—but sufficient to panic the Israelite community. Joshua advises the people to ignore these reports, explaining that God is on their side and would be in their midst, thereby assuring victory.

    But the Israelities lack Joshua’s confidence and courage, sending God into a rage. First, by the will of God, the ten dishonest scouts meet a swift fate, dying of plague. Luckily for the Israelite community, Moses is able to talk God out of killing all the Israelite adults for their lack of faith. Instead, God determines that none of the adults who left Egypt--other than Caleb and Joshua, who gave honest accounts of their explorations--would ever step foot into the Promised Land, but rather will, in the colorful words of this week’s portion, “drop their carcasses in the wilderness.” 

    At God’s direction, the younger generation will be forced to roam the wilderness for 40 years—one year for each day the deceitful scouts explored the Promised Land.

    When Moses tells the people their fate, they have a change of heart and declare their readiness to invade at once. Too late, however! Moses warns that this is not God’s will and that they will fail because God will not be present in their midst. Despite this warning, they march into battle without God’s protection. Neither the Ark of the Covenant nor Moses accompanies them in their attempt at conquest. As Moses predicted, they are crushed in their battle with the Amalikites and the Cannanites who live in the Promised Land.

    Certainly, a sad story of a scouting mission gone terribly wrong with severe consequences for the Israelites—both old and young.

    Five-and-a-half years ago, Congregation Adas Emuno was also at a crossroads. We needed to find a Cantor to lead us spiritually and an educator to lead our wonderful school. The Board of Trustees expressed its preference to find one outstanding individual to fill both positions as a way to bring together the ritual aspects of our congregation and the educational aspirations for our children.

    So what did the Board do? We formed a search committee, scouts if you will. Unlike the aftermath for the Israelites, who stood on the verge of entering the Promised Land but for the tall tales of their scouts, our scouts--our search committee lead by then-president Lance Strate--stayed faithful to their task and brought to us Cantor Sandy Horowitz. No wandering in the wilderness for us! Our new Cantor/Educator proved to be full of an abundance of “milk and honey"—both on the bimah as she has led us with joy on Shabbat and in reverence on the High Holy Days; and in the school, where a rekindled spirit of learning exists.

    Speaking on behalf of the entire Adas Emuno family, we are so grateful for what Cantor Horowitz has brought to us and will miss her very much.

    Shabbat Shalom

  • June 17, 2019 11:30 AM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    Congregation Adas Emuno Annual Meeting

    5779 (2018-19) Report by Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz

         Each year I submit brief remarks based on the three basic functions of the synagogue as reflected in its Hebrew names: Beit Tefilah (House of Prayer), Beit Midrash (House of Study) and Beit K’nesset (House of Gathering).

         Beit Tefilah: Our High Holiday services, per the usual, were full and joyful, thanks in no small part to the contribution of Cantor Horowitz and this year to a dramatically expanded cadre of Torah and Haftarah readers. We hope all our readers were gratified rather than traumatized, and will return to read this fall.

         Our Sukkot celebration was once again highlighted by our music night; this past year was the best ever, on a Sunday evening with pizza-in-the-hut and a packed social hall, and with special thanks to Peter Hays, Elka Oliver and some of our gifted teens.

         Combining our Simchat Torah celebration with a Family Shabbat service has dramatically increased attendance, and every grade participates by reading a verse from Genesis.

         Our Hanukkah celebration was enhanced once again by an improvisational theatrical performance by Elana Fishbein right in the social hall.

         While Purim did not feature another Lance Strate original spiel, the Megillah according to Hamilton was a rousing success.

         Once again I want to once applaud the parents and students of our school who have made monthly Family Services so invigorating. Four years into our not-so-new policy, it is working, and it is fun. The celebration of seven b’nei mitzvah was indeed cause to celebrate.

              Beit Midrash: Our year-long study of Path of the Prophets and Comparative Jewish Theology two highly recommended books, made for another wonderful Shabbat morning Torah study year. I am grateful for the remarkably strong support given Torah study week-in, week-out, and the vibrant discussion that takes place on a consistent basis.

         Our religious school concluded another excellent year, under the able leadership of the Cantor, the faculty, and the education committee. Our Sunday morning experience, beginning every week with our 9:00 gathering in the sanctuary, is vibrant. Drop by some time to hear our kids singing!

         The Confirmation Class got personal this year: the theme was “What We Believe: Our Reform Judaism.” I was curious to see how personal theology and ethics would fare, but from my perspective we had a very meaningful year, and at Confirmation I am always so proud of our students.

         Our youth group struggled somewhat this year. I’d like to see it strengthen next year, because we have teens who are not involved in the school who are willing to participate.

              Beit K’nesset:  Our social action committee nicely involved many in our congregation this year. While Forest and Andy, the service dogs who were the stars of our Mitzvah Mall two years ago were not here, Mitzie the Owl was (and I have a photo with her to prove it). The souper bowl was even more super.

         Somehow we survived the departure of Virginia Gitter. In this regard I want to single out the great work of Sandy Zornek in communications, and Marilyn and Judy in ritual, with Sandy and Linda organizing our oneg Shabbat recepetins.

         Lance Strate deserves quite a shout-out for the yeoman’s work he has done on a complete redesign of our website.

         It’s been a pleasure to work with our energetic president, Michael Fishbein.

         Before concluding this year, I’d like to pay tribute to Cantor Horowitz. As I wrote in the pages of Kadima:

          As the music leader the role of the cantor (hazzan) is crucial in setting the spiritual tone of our prayer. The cantor uplifts us when we listen to his/ her voice. At the same time, the cantor elevates our own voices when we join in song.

         After five years of dedicated service we bid goodbye to Cantor Sandy Horowitz, and are deeply grateful to her for her devotion to our congregation. In her dual capacity as cantor/educator Cantor Horowitz enhanced the integration of our school families into the life of the synagogue. As a newly ordained cantor serving in a newly created position, Cantor Horowitz succeeded admirably. 

             Last but certainly not least, I am so very proud of the response to our Adas Emuno 150 Campaign. Since our launch at the High Holidays we have already met our initial goal and we have two years to go. We have raised more than $180,000 for the reserves and special programming and needs of our congregation. The generosity of our membership says something special about this place; this holy place.

          I conclude, as always, with my sincere gratitude to the Temple Board, to the Cantor and teachers, and to our “family of families” for all you do to sustain our “assembly of the faithful” from year to year.

  • May 05, 2019 11:18 AM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    Social Action Committee News

    Annette DeMarco, Chair

    Souper Bowl IV⎯WIN!

    We requested, you provided; 215 soup items for "Souper Bowl lV!!!  We totally surpassed our score of last year, which was 183.  The staff at CFA was thrilled with all the soup so thank you, thank you to everyone who got in the game!! BUT, the shelves at many  of the local food banks are low on stock, so our work is not yet done.  Please read on.

    March Mega Food Drive⎯Mitzvah Madness

    The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is sponsoring a March Mega Food Drive, involving many local synagogues.  Donations will be divided among various food banks in the area.  For Adas Emuno, this is our "Community Purim Basket Collection".  Please bring donations to the vestry room and leave in the decorated baskets.  The JFNNJ considers this part of their "March Mitzvah Madness".  The JFNNJ also says that there are 900,000 people in N.J. who rely on food banks.  So, I say, please, let's do this (and thank you).  If you're planning to attend the Purim celebration, that would be a great time to donate some food.

    Do You Knit or Crochet? New Social Action at Adas Emuno

    Would you like to do so for organizations in need?  If you answered "Yes" and "Yes", please join us on Monday, April 1st, at 7:30 in the social hall.  There is much to discuss, including thoughts regarding meetings and projects.  We already have a "beginning project" but please bring other ideas.  Can't be at the meeting?  Just send me an email (feel free to include suggestions) and I'll let you know what is decided.  A very special thank you to the Rabbi, who has offered to use his discretionary fund to pay for the wool needed for the projects.

    Volunteer opportunities: Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey Great Family Program! Sunday, March 31st, 1pm at the JFNNJ office, Paramus.  The food being collected by the Jewish Federation during the month of March needs to be sorted and organized.  Want to help?  Register at <>. 

    For Nature Lovers

    A different kind of a project you can do on your time.  The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is considering listing the monarch butterfly as an endangered species.  What can we do?  Plant orange milkweed, aka butterflyweed, aka butterfly milkweed, etc. Suggestion for our youth: make it a B'nai Mitzvah or community service project.  Do some research then ask neighbors, friends and family members if you can plant seeds in their yards.

    Family Promise⎯Hike or Bike

    Sunday, May 5 th⎯Walk for 3 miles or bike for 3 or 15 miles through Ridgewood.  This event supports the working, homeless families of Bergen County.  There are fun-filled family activities plus food/drinks for all.  Details will be forthcoming regarding events, registration and timing.  Please mark your calendars.  It's a day of fun teamed up with a good cause.

  • May 05, 2019 11:12 AM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    Religious School News

    Cantor Sandy Horowitz, Religious School Director

    What does your child like best about being at Religious School? Is it class debates, discussions, crafts activities? Holiday celebrations? Snack? Is it singing during Tefilah, or listening to the Rabbi’s stories? Is it simply being together with other Jewish kids? What about you as parents: what motivates you to ensure a Jewish education for your children?

    One thing that inspires my commitment to Jewish education is the experience of being together in the sanctuary for Tefilah on Sunday mornings. It isn’t just the music, although as a Cantor of COURSE I LOVE hearing the voices of all your children! Rather, it’s the very experience of being in community⎯students (and sometimes their parents), madrichim, teachers and clergy. Each person has their own unique contribution that makes us the community that we are.

    Our tradition holds high the value of community. One of the central moments for our biblical ancestors was when they stood at Mount Sinai, recently freed from slavery, and received the Ten Commandments, the fundamental laws of our tradition. In that moment, they were transformed from a group of separate individuals into “Am Israel”⎯the Jewish People.

    Today, on Sunday mornings, we get to come together as “Am Adas-Emuno-Religious-School”⎯how cool is that! Based on the laws of our people, we try to instill in our students the value of living an ethically driven life, treating each other with kindness and respect and helping those who are in need. We must never forget that just a few generations ago millions of lives were brutally lost simply for being Jewish; but we’ve survived, we’re still here, and we are doing our best to make sure that the next generation will carry on our peoplehood.

    Speaking of peoplehood, and survival (along with having a good time), the upcoming holidays of Purim and Passover will soon be upon us! Please let us know if you can help out either with the Purim Carnival or the school’s Passover celebration.

  • May 05, 2019 11:02 AM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    A Message from the President

    Michael Fishbein, President

    Most people who are acquainted with me know that I like to bore people by talking about my hobby⎯juggling. So now I am going to use this opportunity to link this passion with another I have⎯Judaism.

    There are many of our faith who juggle and quite a few have achieved legendary status in the juggling community. Israel itself is home to a great many extraordinary jugglers who can be seen on YouTube and other sites that feature videos of jugglers. Watch, for example, Ofek Snir of Israel who set a World Record by juggling 5 balls nonstop for 2 hours 41 minutes and 27 seconds! The annual Israeli Juggling Convention draws about 2,000 jugglers every year, making that gathering the second largest juggling festival in the world.

    A little research establishes that the link between juggling and Judaism goes back at least two thousand years and is actually noted several times in the Talmud. The earliest juggling mentioned in the Talmud speaks of the feats of Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel (circa 10 BCE-70 CE), a great sage who was head of the Great Sanhedrin (court) in Jerusalem. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel was a direct descendant of King David and a great-grandchild of Rabbi Hillel. The legend is that, during the festival of Sukkot, Rabbi Shimon juggled as many as eight homemade torches in the courtyard of the Temple before thousands of spectators who had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. While thousands may have witnessed the Rabbi’s juggling, the account is likely exaggerated. Anthony Gatto, perhaps the greatest juggler in history, only managed to juggle seven torches.

    The Sukkot celebration continued even after the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. Levi bar Sissa (circa 150-220 CE), a sage who assisted in compiling the Mishna (the earliest major work codifying Jewish law), juggled eight knives before Sukkot celebrants. Levi bar Sissa later lived in Babylonia where he had a student, Shmuel bar Abba (180-275 CE), who became a great Talmudic scholar. Apparently, Levi and Shmuel had some spare time during which they had fun juggling together; Shmuel bar Abba reportedly could “manipulate” eight cups of wine without spilling a drop. (Shmuel had expertise in science and may actually have used his knowledge to produce this feat.)

    A little later, a Babylonian scholar, Abaye (280-339 CE), reportedly juggled eight eggs before his congregation. (Abaye was a successful farmer and must have also raised a lot of chickens!)

    The last mention of juggling in the Talmud involves a wedding at which the officiating rabbi juggled. He juggled three myrtle branches in fulfilling the mitzvah of “gladdening the bride and groom,” a juggling tradition⎯using modern props like balls, clubs, torches and knives⎯that continues at many orthodox weddings today.

    What we see from these examples of great Jewish sages and scholars is that fun, performance and commitment to a challenging art mixes well with study and teaching.

  • May 05, 2019 10:44 AM | Lance Strate (Administrator)


    Rabbi Barry Schwartz

    I am writing this brief column just days after the loss of my beloved father, Rudy Schwartz.

    As a rabbi I have witnessed the significance of family and community support so many times over the past thirty years, but this time it is personal.

    My father rallied rather miraculously to say goodbye to all his family. In turn, my sister and I, and all six of my father’s grandchildren participated in the funeral service that was such a tribute to his memory.

    The outpouring of support from extended family and from the community in Cherry Hill and in Leonia was gratifying and uplifting.

    We take for granted the importance of family at times of need (though sadly not all share in that blessing and we can often do better in sharing our gratitude for each other), but as a society today we often overlook the abiding contribution of community.

    There is an expression that I often share at our yizkor service that “shared joy is doubled; shared sadness is halved.” It may be nice to post simchas and sorrows on Facebook, but it is no substitute for the person-to-person celebrations and commemorations that happen in real community.

    The synagogue has been around for two thousand years of our history in every place where Jews have lived, and even in our day and age I can think of no better institution for the creation and sustenance of true community. My father, who was the child of penniless immigrants from Eastern Europe, and grew up during the Depression, always remembered his humble and challenging upbringing, and stood in endless gratitude for his family and community. Avi mori, my father and teacher, taught me well, and I echo his appreciation and thankfulness.

  • January 22, 2019 1:25 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    Social Action Committee News

    Annette DeMarco, Chair

    Mitzvah Mall–Held December 2nd

    The Adas Emuno Mitzvah Mall was a great success!  The Jewish Family and Children's Services of Northern New Jersey/Kosher Meals on Wheels, Tenafly Nature Center, Jewish Federation Emergency Relief Fund, and Hackensack Riverkeeper, were the four recipients of the funds raised.

    Mitzi (a barred owl) and her human Alex visited the Mitzvah Mall to teach us about the Tenafly Nature center. Rabbi Schwartz and Lauren Rowland grabbed a photo opportunity.

    Thank you to everyone who worked to put this program together. A special shout out to Lauren Rowland for lending her artistic talents to create our beautiful cards and charity inserts and to Sandy Zornek for never giving up on having the nature center bring our very special guest.  To our school staff and director, Cantor Horowitz, for relinquishing classroom time to attend this event and to everyone who shopped at the mall!  The major THANK YOU here goes to our students [and their parents] for the exuberance they showed throughout the presentation, their insightful questions their generosity in buying "gifts which keep on giving" in order to bring tikkun olam to the world.  Those whom you bought for received some very meaningful gifts.  And, todah rabah to Rabbi Schwartz for once again matching all mitzvah mall donations.  This is generous and appreciated by us and by the recipients!


    During the month of January, please bring soup of any brand and variety, any packaging and any size, to the vestry room. We collect through Super Bowl Sunday (February 3rd ). Donations will be delivered to the Center for Food Action in Englewood. It's Team A.E. vs. Team Hunger and we haven't lost a game, yet!  Thank you ahead of time for getting in the game and ensuring a win!

    Volunteer Opportunities:

    New Jersey Conservation Foundation
    Works to preserve/reverse wildlife decline by cleaning up/protecting habitats
    Contact Lauren Ramos: 908-234-1225 x 102 or lauren at

    Friendship Circle (for our teens)
    Opportunity to work with children with special needs in social, Judaic and educational experiences
    Orientation: Sunday, January 13th 10:30 AM [with adult]
    Contact: Zeesy Grossbaum at 201-262-7172 or Zeesy at
    Yeshivat Heatid, 1500 Queen Anne Rd., Teaneck

    Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy 2019!


    social action at

  • January 22, 2019 1:13 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    Religious School News

    Cantor Sandy Horowitz, Religious School Director

    As I write this column we’re still coming off of the excitement of December’s Chanukah Family Service, featuring the 5th Grade. The students did a great job as they not only led us in the regular Shabbat prayers and music and put on a Chanukah skit, they also lent their voices to some classic Chanukah songs.

    Family Services are always a lot of fun, and they are for all ages and all generations. We love seeing the sanctuary filled with parents and siblings, friends, board members, frequent Shabbat attendees and occasional visitors alike. It may be cold outside, but Shabbat warmth is a thing to be experienced, especially when we come together as a school and temple community. Save the date for the next Family Service led by the 4th graders on January 25.

    Meanwhile, soon we will also be celebrating Tu B’Shevat, known as the “New Year of the Trees”. Our annual Tu B’Shevat Seder is generally known as a congregational event – rather than a school event – but some of the families and children who have attended in the past will tell you that it’s a lot of fun for all ages. Taking place on January 18 this year, the seder (shorter than a Passover seder, I promise!) takes place in the social hall following a brief Shabbat service. There are special foods, special songs and special stories that pertain to this holiday, and you get to experience it all at the seder.

    Dates to note for January and February:

    Friday, January 18
    7:30 PM–Tu B’Shevat Seder

    Friday, January 25
    7:30 PM–Shabbat Family Service led by Grade 4

    Sunday, February 17

    Friday, February 22
    7:30 PM–Shabbat Family Service (theme to be announced)

  • January 22, 2019 1:06 PM | Lance Strate (Administrator)

    A Message from the President

    Michael Fishbein, President

    As Rabbi Schwartz often explains, Adas Emuno is a house of worship, a house of learning and a house of gathering. But there is something special about Adas Emuno—it is also a house of joy. For members who limit their participation to the High Holy Days, Adas Emuno is a house of spiritual renewal and a house of remembrance. These devoted members take inspiration from the wisdom of Rabbi Schwartz reflected in his service, leadership and sermons; their spirits are uplifted by High Holy Day melodies chanted so beautifully by Cantor Horowitz. What they are missing, however, is the joyful occasions that are part of Adas Emuno’s year-round observances.

    Consider our annual Sukkot celebration that begins with “pizza in the hut” and continues with singing in a packed social hall. What a fun evening that is! Songs from Woody Guthrie to the Rolling Stones fill the room, brought together with the musical accompaniment of accomplished guitarist Peter Hays. Thank you Cantor Horowitz, Elka Oliver, Skyler Oliver, and Stella Borelli for sharing your lovely voices with us.

    I’m pretty sure everyone who attended that evening is looking forward to next year’s Sukkot celebration. What is more lively than our monthly Family Services? These Shabbat evenings feature one of our Religious School grades leading us during the service. It is a delight to see these young students demonstrate their knowledge and enthusiasm. The students, their teachers, and the Cantor always lead us in robust songs of Shabbat. The joy is real—and contagious.

    How about our Hanukkah party? It begins with the lighting of the menorah in front of our temple, a couple of songs and a joke or two courtesy of the Rabbi. Later, we kindle our 118-year-old menorah. This year, we feasted on delicious latkes made by several of our members and Debby Schwartz. Back by popular demand, Elana Fishbein led improv games with the participation of both young and old.

    On Friday, January 18, we will hold our Tu B’Shevat Seder, a fun occasion on which we celebrate the “New Year of Trees.” We eat various types of fruit and nuts, and drink both red and white wine (or grape juice)—all in a specific order. This seder is based on Kabbalistic ideas and was developed during the 16th century in what is now Safed, Israel.

    Coming up in March is the celebration of Purim, highlighted by our annual Purim Shpiel. Previous shpiels featured creative scripts and songs written by Lance Strate, our immediate past president. Who knows what the next shpiel will bring? I know one thing—it will be fun. Consider joining as a cast member and you, too, can become an instant Adas Emuno star.

    Now that the dark days of winter are here, it’s a good time to introduce extra light into every week. Come to Friday night Shabbat services; attend the Rabbi’s popular Saturday morning Torah study group; be inspired at Family Services; enjoy the Tu B’Shevat Seder; laugh and make noise during the Purim merriment. Don’t wait for the next High Holy Days to come to your house of worship, your house of learning, your house of gathering—and, yes, your house of joy.

Student Cantor

Joseph Flaxman

Religious School Director

Annette De Marco

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