Keeping Connected with Rabbi Perry
Meet Rachel Jackson: Soferet, Designer, Artist
October 2021 Keeping Connected
I remember learning in rabbinical school that every Jew is commanded to write their own Sefer Torah (Torah scroll). The Talmud teaches that this commandment is actually the last mitzvah found in the Torah and the Talmudic scholar Rava, (3rd-4th century sage) based this on a passage from Deuteronomy 31. In this text, Moses and Joshua were commanded: “So now write this song and teach it to the children of Israel. Set it in their mouths, so this song will become a witness for me among the children of Israel.” (Translation by Richard Elliott Friedman). In time, this mitzvah came to be interpreted in many ways and most people fulfill this mitzvah by either helping to pay for the actual writing or purchase of a Torah scroll for their synagogue.
When I learned about this mitzvah I was very inspired and imagined that at some point in my life I would learn the traditional Hebrew calligraphy of the Torah scroll as well as the many rules that guide the scribal artist in creating a scroll. This past summer I had the opportunity to put my big toe into this process when I studied with a soferet named Rachel Jackson. In addition to being a bookbinder, designer and artist, Rachel is a full-time scribe and wonderful teacher. Below my letter you can learn more about her and see some of her work at the links provided.
A Torah scroll should be checked every few years to make sure that it is in good condition. In this way, small repairs can be made before any larger problems develop that might make the scroll unkosher. This year, I am excited that Rachel Jackson, will be coming to our community at the end of October and early November, to review our scroll and make any necessary repairs. She will also be leading education programs for the students in our school as well as the adults in our community. Keep a look out in the weeks ahead for more information regarding her visit to our congregation. I hope you will join us for this amazing opportunity.
Rabbi Shoshana Perry
Let’s Come Together to Help Afghan Refugees
September 2021 Keeping Connected
It has been hard to watch the news these last few weeks. Images from Afghanistan are heart-breaking. In particular I want to honor our fallen service members who were engaged in a truly heroic effort of saving lives. May their memories be a blessing and may their families find comfort in knowing that they were serving their nation and working to preserve the lives of innocent people.
Most of us have listened to interviews with veterans and active duty military professionals over the last week. All those I heard strongly believed that as Americans we are obligated to help the Afghanis who bravely worked with American troops over the last 20 years. They believe that not only is it the moral thing to do, but that it is in our national interest to demonstrate that we will protect those who help us during time of war.More
There are some truths in the world…
August 2021 Keeping Connected
There are some truths in the world: the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, this has been amongst the rainiest summers in the history of the Northeast, people will debate about the quality of their favorite ice cream stand with a fierceness that is unbending….AND any newsletter article I would have written a week ago is already out of date AND any newsletter article I write today may have information that will need to change in a week’s time. Even with the survey we sent out, those who answered at the beginning of the week had a different sensibility than those who responded on the last day of the survey. I am sure you can all relate to the sense of vertigo we are feeling with the emerging Covid recommendations, restrictions and concerns. Most of all I want to share that we received over 150 responses, which was excellent. Thank you for participating. Because the survey was anonymous, we cannot tell if folks answered one reply per household or if two people responded. We were able to get a general sense of where the community is at and we will integrate your ideas and concerns into our decision making in the next couple of weeks.
Usually in my August newsletter I am able to write about the upcoming holidays. By this time of the year I would know the schedule for services exactly, who is doing what parts and more. Even last year, knowing as we did by the end of June that we would be completely remote, I was able to share details about our holiday season in August. This year, with 5 weeks to go, there are still great uncertainties and our Re-Opening Committee continues to evaluate our synagogue’s procedures. When I talk with other rabbis around the country I can assure you that the word most on people’s mind is “pivot”! How can congregations pivot and adapt their plans on short notice if needed? Thank you for your flexibility as we work through these next weeks.More
B’nai Mitzvah Program Update
JUNE 2021 KEEPING CONNECTED
I wanted to share with you all information about a staffing change and update in Congregation Shalom’s B’nai Mitzvah program. After many years of helping to train our students, Barbara Rennert has decided to say good-bye to our community in order to pursue other interests. It is with incredible gratitude that I thank Barbara for all she has done to help our students and families during this important life journey. Barbara has been a deeply committed and conscientious teacher to our students, and she has passed on a love for Torah learning and respect for our ancient tradition. I have been honored to work with her during her tenure at Congregation Shalom and would like to say, thank you Barbara. Good luck with your future endeavors.
It is also with enthusiasm that I would like to introduce you to my new colleague who will be taking over the role of B’nai Mitzvah coordinator/tutor at Congregation Shalom. Cantor Rachel Reef-Simpson has been serving at Temple Emanuel Sinai in Worcester, MA for the last few years and has now moved to York, Maine to pursue a chaplaincy training program. Yes, she is a friend of Sue Horowitz’s and they will enjoy being neighbors when Sue in on the east coast! Some of you may have met Canto Rachel earlier this year when she helped to lead a havdallah service for our community.
Cantor Rachel will continue to work in a very part-time position as a cantor in the greater Boston area. She loves working with B’nai Mitzvah students, however, and is looking forward to teaching the students in our community through the amazing technology of Zoom. Cantor Rachel received her investiture as a Cantor in May 2016 at the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR in New York and received a Cantorial Arts Certificate at Hebrew College in Newton in 2007. Before that she served congregations as Cantorial Soloist for in the Greater Boston area for many years. Welcome Cantor Rachel.
Rabbi Shoshana Perry
Jewish Insights into Leadership
April 2021 Keeping Connected
The book of Exodus shares many insights about the Jewish understanding of leadership. Exodus opens with a story we are all familiar with. A new Egyptian leader arises; one who is threatened by the Israelites seeing them as the “other” and a risk to Egyptian society. As a leader the king is guided by fear and animosity and as a result decides not only to persecute the Hebrews but to actually engage in a genocide. Pharaoh’s first command of violence towards the Israelites, however, is met by another model of leadership.
Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives, Shifrah and Puah, to kill all the baby boys that they deliver. My rabbinic thesis was about these two women and I have always been in awe of their bravery and integrity. The Torah says, “The midwives, fearing Go, did not do as the king of Egypt had told them: they let the baby boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, letting the boys live?’ The midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: they are chayot , like animals and are vigorous. Before the midwife can come to them they have given birth’.” The text of the Torah tells us that Shifrah and Puah were rewarded by God for their heroism and resistance to violence; even though they were standing up to the leader who had the power to take their lives.More
March 2021 Keeping Connected
Just over a year ago I signed onto a Zoom gathering and said to a screen filled with little boxes: “Mah nishtanah halailah hazeh…? Why is this night different? To these two rhetorical questions I offered some answers.
- “We are not wondering about opening day and Fenway”
- “We are not with family and friends in a physical sense”
- “We are not celebrating the second night seder in our synagogue building for the first time in over 40 years”
- “We may or may not have all the traditional Passover foods in front of us”
- “We are feeling strong emotions and experiencing personal challenges that are new to many of us”
- “We are all learning to use a technology that is new to us”
Ironically that night, I was quickly booted off the internet and could not sign back on without rebooting my router; thereby experiencing a new kind of panic. It was not long after that that I added a new word to my pandemic vocabulary: ethernet cable!More