Tell Us What You Thinkby Mike Heiberger, Chairman - TSLT Steering Committe
It has been a long time (no one can quite remember how long) since the congregation and Board of Temple Beth El (TBE) have been formally surveyed. The Temple Board has committed to TBE’s participation in a survey and has selected the Thriving Synagogue Learning Tool (TSLT).
TSLT is a tool developed and tested by researchers at the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University. The process is supported by the SYNERGY program of UJA-Federation so there is no cost to TBE. It measures the extent to which a synagogue is thriving in key areas of congregational life. In addition to a congregation and a board survey, it includes a fact sheet about synagogue membership, practices, and operations.
Data from these three sources are arrayed in a Profile of Thriving that shows the synagogue where it stands on various dimensions of thriving. The profile is a first step in appreciating where the synagogue is today and where it might head in the future. It begins an ongoing process of reflection and action that is undertaken with coaching and guidance from SYNERGY professionals. Results will be shared with the congregation. Survey responses are anonymous. They are treated as confidential and stored on secure servers maintained by Brandeis University. Access to these files is restricted to members of the research team. Only aggregated data will be used to create the profile of thriving for TBE. The synagogue will not have access to individual level data. If data files are shared with UJA-Federation, these files will be scrubbed so that individuals cannot be identified.
Online access to the survey will be available in early March and will remain available for four weeks. Emails and announcements in TBEvents and other temple publications will provide a link and password. All adults over eighteen years of age within each household should take the survey individually. It takes about fifteen minutes. Provision will be made for those who do not have online access.
The Board feels that this type of feedback is essential to our future and that it will provide guidance to the leadership as we move into a new era of growth. However, for the survey to be reliable requires at least a fifty percent response rate from all adults in our community. Watch for further announcements. Email Heiberg7@gmail.com with any questions.
Where is Nachshon When We Need Him?by Rabbi Jeffrey Clopper
At the Congregational Meeting in February, I had the chance to recount a favorite Midrash (rabbinic tale) – the Story of Nachshon.
In case you were not able to attend the meeting, a quick recap: Nachshon is a relatively unknown man, one among the many tribes of Israelites. However, in the story of the Exodus from Egypt, upon reaching the Sea of Reeds, we are told the people stood waiting for the sea to part. The great leader, Moses, raised his arms as God had instructed him to do. And in that exciting moment, as Pharaoh’s charioteers drew closer and closer, and as the people grew more and more fearful…Nothing happened!
As they waited, Nachshon bravely came forward and step by step, began walking into the sea. Just as the waters covered his nostrils and everyone believed he might drown, the waters roared apart, and the Israelites marched forward to freedom.
I always have loved this Midrash and appreciated the underlying message. It is hard when facing difficult times to fathom that you should remain hopeful. Despite everything that had happened, all the miraculous events that had taken place to that point, many of the ancient Israelites saw no reason to be positive. They thought it was the end! And then, even as the waters parted (thanks to Nachshon) and the people reached the other shore, it was not long before the misery and negativity crept back into their outlook.
Perhaps it is my general proclivity for being an optimist, but I still choose to be like Nachshon. I believe there are still so many reasons to feel buoyant and enthusiastic. Regardless of the challenges that come our way, it is still possible to face them with a sense of confidence and trust. When it comes to all of our challenges – be they financial or medical, with friends or with family, in politics or policies, and everything in between – if we all could take a little inspiration from Nachshon and be willing to take a step into the waters, for ourselves and for others, we just might be able to make our way to the other side.
To me, that is the unrelenting force that can come from this community. Regardless of the challenge, we can support and encourage each other. Each of us has that ability to be Nachshon if only for a moment. And as we saw with the Israelites, doing it even just once can have a Huge Effect!
So let’s all try to be the first to take the leap of faith – in each other and in our amazing community. Who knows…maybe we will all find our way together to a dryer ground.
Whirlwind Weekendby Howard W. Schneider, Temple President
If some of our leadership looked slightly “windblown” the first week in February, I hope you will forgive us. What a whirlwind weekend we have just had here at Temple Beth El.
In case you missed it, the weekend began with our Religious School families celebrating Chinese New Year Shabbat with the tastes and flavors of Chinese food and culture; moved on to a healthy dose of social justice on Saturday; and culminated with our Mid-Year Congregational Meeting on Sunday.
Saturday, February 4th saw the launch of Temple Beth El’s OneCommunity initiative.The purpose of our OneCommunity initiative is to provide community oriented programs that foster solidarity and a sense of unity among Long Island’s various religious, ethnic and LGBTQ groups. What a way to start! More than six hundred and thirty people from the greater Huntington community and from all over Long Island attended an inspiring presentation on social justice by Joseph Levin Jr., the Co-Founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Our audience included Huntington Town Councilwomen Susan Berland and Tracy Edwards, Suffolk County Legislator Dr. William Spencer, the current and past Presidents of the Huntington NAACP, as well as many other local religious and community leaders. Our committee: Rich Schoor, Nanci Weber, Patti Kresner, Rabbi Clopper and myself look forward to bringing more OneCommunity events to Temple Beth El and ask you to please share any ideas you may have for future programs with us.
At our Mid-Year Congregational Meeting on Sunday, February 5th, seventy-nine of us came together to enjoy breakfast, hear about the state of our temple, and to chart our congregation’s course into the future. We passed The Sustaining Partnership Initiative (with one abstention, one negative vote), and selected the members of this year’s nominating committee. Over the next two months this committee will be looking for new congregants to join our Temple Board, as well as nominating my replacement as president (wow, the two years have gone fast).
This weekend demonstrates the innovative ideas that come to life when our Temple Beth El family gets together. I am so proud to be a part of this progressive Jewish Community.
Where is the Love?by Cantor Alison Levine
Love is an essential part of our heritage. Love your neighbor as yourself is a key teaching from our Torah. Love is also an important part of our liturgy. I would like us to look at two prayers that speak of love. Love, between us and God. These prayers surround one of our most important prayers, the Sh’ma. The two prayers I am writing about are Ahavat Olam and V’ahavta. The text of Ahavat Olam, translated as Everlasting Love, is the version that can be found in the evening service. In the morning, its sister version of that prayer is Ahavah Raba, or Most Loving. But today, we will be thinking about the evening version. The text of Ahavat Olam is:
Everlasting Love, You offered Your people Israel
by teaching us Torah and Mitzvot, Laws and Precepts.
Therefore, Adonai our God,
when we lie down and when we rise up,
we will meditate on Your Laws and Commandments.
We will rejoice in Your Torah forever.
Day and night we will reflect on them
for they are our life and doing them lengthens our days.
Never remove Your love from us.
Praise to you, Adonai, who loves Your people Israel.
God loves us and shows that love by teaching us Torah and Mitzvot. Like a parent who shows they care for their children by providing structure, teachings, and guidelines. This prayer about God’s love for us is immediately followed by the Sh’ma, our doxology that declares that God is one. After the Sh’ma we recite the V’ahavta. This prayer is made up of sections of our Torah including verses from Book of Deuteronomy and of Numbers. The text of the V’ahavta is:
You shall love Adonai your God with all Your heart,
with all Your soul, and with all Your might.
Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day.
Impress them upon Your children.
Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away,
Bind them as a sign upon Your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead;
inscribe them on the doorposts of Your house and on Your gates.
Thus you shall remember to observe all My Commandments
and to be Holy to your God.
I am Adonai, Your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt to be Your God:
I am Adonai Your God.
The text of this prayer is about our love for God. How we love God fully and teach our children to love God as well. In our liturgy we have Ahavat Olam, the prayer that says God loves us. The Sh’ma is our declaration that God is one. Then the V’ahavta, is the prayer that says we love God. This important section of our service is a “Love Sandwich”.
A Weekend Can Make All the Differenceby Diane E. Berg, RJE
When I was in ninth grade, my Dad made the decision that I should attend a conclave. Of course I didn’t want to go, but my dad signed the papers and off I went. My dad was a wise man because that event changed my life. I saw for the first time, teenagers who were excited about learning and praying. They were committed to social action and they loved being Jewish. I was astounded. This experience was so different from my Hebrew School days. Teens had not only written the programs but led the singing and prayers. Everyone was totally invested and loving it.
I have been attending conclaves with our Temple Beth El students since the early 1970’s and have witnessed how such an experience can change them. So here are a few quotes from this year. Hopefully, they will inspire our seventh grade parents to sign their child up for next November’s conclave.
- Sam, grade 11: I had a great time at conclave this year! This year, it was about decision making and we all learned that every choice we make matters. I made a ton of new friends and I can’t wait to come back next year.
- Josh, grade 11: Conclave is always a great time. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life allows everyone to think more about deeper, more important subjects. It also makes for some awesome fun and games (including an eloquent collection of haikus written to the rabbis and Mrs. Berg). It’s an unforgettable experience every year.
- Jordan, grade 12: Out of all the conclaves I’ve been on, this was my favorite, and not just because I’m a senior this year. Conclave itself is a great way for kids who normally don’t talk to each other to not only become friends for the weekend, but forever. It was amazing.
- Ben, grade 10: This year was my first conclave and I thought it was great. I really enjoyed the activities, especially the “make your own adventure.” And, to top it off, we had the perfect snow for a snowball fight.
- Jack, grade 12: This trip was so amazing I can’t even put it into words. The friendships I have made, the people I have become close with, and the times we have spent together will never be forgotten. The only thing I wish is that I could come back next year.
- Gabe, grade 8: Thank you everyone for a great first conclave. I can’t wait to come back next year. I will miss all the seniors and I hope to make many new friends next year.
And lastly, we’re pleased to thank Gary Kelman for organizing the first in the “Journey through Time” series.
Looking to do Something Different with Your Time?by Robin Zucker, Vice President Community and World
Do you want to participate in an activity more meaningful to you, your community and the world?
More than three million people in the US joined the Women’s Marches on January 21st. Jan Singer stated that she had an “exhilarating experience” marching in Washington with her husband and other family members. Many of us demonstrated in NYC, joining together with women, men, children, people from all walks of life. These marches energized many of us to begin (or continue) the daunting task of contacting senators and congressional representatives, urging them to support women’s rights and civil rights for all.
The URJ suggests that we should not be afraid to speak out, but we need to educate ourselves so that we have articulate arguments to support our positions. We can then make phone calls, send letters and emails, lobby members of congress. Organization can be joined at local and/or state levels. Work can be done with other volunteers to make changes. The RAC and WRJ can be followed for updates and action alerts.
Members of Temple Beth El’s Sisterhood are involved in endeavors that touch every level. We recently held a successful Blood Drive, collecting at least twenty seven critically needed pints of blood, despite battling a horribly rainy night in January. Our next one will take place in July. On Thursday, April 6th at 6:30 p.m., we will again be hosting a Women’s Seder which will be led by our Cantor Alison Levine and Director of Education Diane Berg. It is a wonderfully meaningful Seder that encompasses the roles of our ancestors, as well as contemporary Jewish women.
Our next Rummage Sale will be held at the end of April. This is a very worthwhile event, where we can discard items no longer needed by us, but possibly of great use to others in our community. Volunteers are always needed for set up.
So you can see that there are many things in which we can be involved, either politically or socially. Sisterhood at our temple is the perfect place to start. Please join us for one of our upcoming activities or events. Hope to see you soon!
Hope Springs Eternalby Richard Schoor, Men's Club Brotherhood President
Winter is ending, the days are getting longer and the Sun is getting stronger and with that so does my hope for a healing in our community and nation. To that effect the Men’s Club had a great winter and look forward to a wonderful spring.
As I write this, our Southern Poverty Law Center event is shaping up to be a major happening in our temple and community. So far, more than three hundred people have responded in the affirmative that they will attend. In addition, numerous religious, educational, political, and legal leaders have agreed to attend the event. Hopefully the weather will hold and the evening will prove to be as special as it possibly can. Rabbi Clopper, please see what you can do about the weather.
On January 21st we hosted the first of what we hope will be an Annual Gaga Tournament. Twelve kids and their parents attended. It was terrific. The kids played each other. Parents played parents. Parents played kids. Brother vs brother. Just like the Civil War, only without the fighting.
Unfortunately, there will not be a Spring Wine Tasting event this year. This is somewhat disappointing to those of us who have enjoyed the event in the past, but hopefully future interest will revive this terrific night enjoying the spirits. Other events are planned as well, but have not yet been finalized.
If you have questions or suggestions contact me firstname.lastname@example.org. .
Again, Happy Springtime.
New Order of Service for Temple Beth Elby Burt and Sandy Masnick
If you have been to Shabbat Evening Services recently you probably noticed that the old blue Order of Service has been replaced by something new – a threesome. The first item is a booklet which contains the date, a message from the Rabbi, Bar or Bat Mitzvah information, names of those who have died in the past year and the Yahrzeit List for this Shabbat. On the back cover is a prayer for Temple Beth El and a statement of our purpose. The second item is a letter size yellow sheet with an explanation of every part of our Shabbat service. This sheet allows those of our members and guests not fluent in Biblical or liturgical Hebrew to understand the name and reason for each prayer or song. The third component is a half sheet with the schedule of upcoming events at the temple.
Why did we do this? There are several reasons. First, the old blue order of service looked as though little thought or attention went into it. It didn’t represent Temple Beth El well, whereas the new version received a lot of design thought. The most obvious sign is the use of color to liven it up. Second, we felt that our members and guests deserved a more attractive and more informative document more closely aligned with who we are and what our service is all about.
Who did this? A new informal group in Temple Beth El named Beiteinu (Our house) formed almost two years ago to find ways to help the Temple. A forthcoming article will tell in detail more about who we are, why we formed and what we are doing. Several Beiteinu members commented on their dissatisfaction with the old blue order of service. In consultation with Rabbi Clopper, President Howard Schneider, Cantor Levine, Temple Educator Diane Berg and the Ritual Committee, several prospective designs were considered. Temple Secretary Lisa Bennett did an incredible job translating our design ideas into reality and continues to provide new tweaks to improve the appearance.
Social Action Newsby Paula Klein, Social Action Committee Member
The Social Action Committee – with your help – works hard all year to provide hundreds of people in the local community with adequate food, clothing and shelter.It’s a tall order, even in our affluent town, and it’s the reason for our many dinners, our HIHI program and our supply drives. There’s also much work and many Mitzvahs going-on behind the scenes to support individual families, shelters and programs in-need on an ongoing basis.
At the same time, we are individuals committed to Tikkun Olam – repairing the world and social justice and equality for all. We understand that we are privileged to drink clean water, enjoy beautiful open spaces, have adequate jobs, live in comfortable homes, and walk the streets in safety. We may face difficulties, but we generally have choices and support networks.
While the Social Action Committee doesn’t focus much on state, national or international needs, our eyes are wide open to the endemic problems of poverty and injustice due to race, religion, gender and politics. And we’re particularly concerned about taking steps backwards in this country with the new Administration in Washington. That’s’ why we were very happy that temple hosted the Southern Poverty Law Center’s co-founder, Joseph Levin Jr., for an insightful and important discussion.
In January, many of us exercised our right to protest the new government at demonstrations in New York and Washington, D.C., and we expressed our opposition to the rollback of women’s rights, human rights, and the threats to health care and the environment now underway. There’s much more to do. I hope you will be motivated to take additional actions – locally, nationally and globally – to protect these rights and not take them for granted. Like many of you, I’ve fought for decades so that our children and grandchildren can live in a better world. But we have to continue fighting so that everyone’s children can have access to the same basic rights. Whether you start locally or globally, get involved and take action – it’s not easy, but your efforts do count!
I am a Minorityby Rabbi Jeffrey Clopper
I don’t often use words having been written previously in bulletin articles, but find myself still thinking both of the recent election and the transition of power that will take place this January. The following is an excerpt from the sermon given shortly after the election took place. As much as they did then, they still reflect a sense of uncertainty.
I am a minority and I always have been…Being part of a Jewish family, I knew what it was like to be different. Since those childhood days, I have been pretty comfortable in my own skin. I may have been a minority, but did not think in those terms nor did I dwell on my “different-ness”.
Not only was it not my Jewishness that made me feel this way recently. Rather, it came from the recognition that my ideals, my progressive values and the way that I imagined this country to be were not so widely held. I am reminded as part of a smaller community, one whose ideals and paradigm for living does not match-up with a large percentage of this country. It isn’t so much that my candidate has won or lost, but that there are so many people whose values are so different.
On election night, listening as the news anchors and pundits waxed on about why the vote shifted, they spoke of possible motivations for traditionally “blue” states adopting a more red hue. In the end, the reasons why they turned that way are multi-layered. Regardless, the result is the same, and I cannot help but feel a deep uncertainty as to what the next four years may bring.
Now I have a lot of new worries.
I worry for what this will mean for programs designed to help people, like Affordable Care Act.
I worry about the ramifications for the planet and the environment.
I worry about the health of those Supreme Court justices, who will probably consider retirement in the coming months.
I worry for women who will be denied access to adequate health care, not just abortions, but family counseling and pre-natal care.
I worry for immigrants who will be looking over their shoulders, wondering if they will be deported back to their native lands.
I worry for Muslims who already have faced cruelty, fear and anger, and now have to question whether it is wise to wear a hijab or any other articles that demonstrate their religious identity.
I worry for the gay and the trans-gender community; just when it seemed they could come out of the shadows, be who they are; I can only imagine how they will be treated moving forward into the next four years.
These are just some of the worries that eat away at my Jewish soul. The ideas that I believed in were so widely held, the values that seemed to be taking hold in this country – it is as if they have been cast to the wind. There are those who might find solace knowing that the popular vote indicates a greater number who felt the same way I did. However, that doesn’t matter. For the next four years, my values will be in the minority.
Rabbi Hillel taught, “In a place where people are acting inhuman, each and every one of us must strive to be even more human.” A week ago I was hopeful that we would have the next four years to relax, and now I know there is much work to be done. We must be the humanity in a world that can so easily turn cruel and heartless.
This election season has brought out the worst in our nation. We have seen the face of bigotry, we have heard the voice of anger, and have released the ugliness that exists in some Americans.
Perhaps “the worst” will bring out the best in the rest of us.