Keeping Connected with Rabbi Perry
May 2018 Newsletter Article
Harvest! Revelation! Celebration! These are spiritual themes of synagogue life, particularly during the springtime in the days surrounding Shavuot. Fifty days after Pesach, Shavuot is the holiday that marks Matan HaTorah, the Giving of Torah, as well as being the festival of first fruits and fully ripened grain.
From a spiritual perspective, I think it is very meaningful to think of our synagogue’s “crop” as our students; together in a partnership between our families and school, we plant the seeds of Torah, identity and joy. Each and every day that we teach our children about their religious, cultural and ethical heritage, we are planting seeds, raising up and nurturing the Jews of the future. This is holy work and truly worthy of celebration and affirmation.
It is in this spirit, that I hope you will join us in May and June for many significant celebrations and life-cycle events. Each of these services will lift up the members of our congregation and affirm to them how important their achievements are and how much their participation in the life of our community matters. When I ask our B’nai Mitzvah students what is important to them about becoming adult Jews, they often immediately say that they will now be counted in a minyan; that they COUNT! I would say that this is a message to all of our members at Congregation Shalom. More
March 2018 Newsletter Article
As Jews, what is the relevancy of our spiritual and ethical tradition? How often do we turn to Torah and other Jewish texts for guidance as we wrestle with the challenges of our lives? One of the more difficult issues that many of us are grappling with today has to do with civil discourse and communication. How can we have open lines of communication with those who have very different opinions than our own? Can we engage in dialogue that actually shifts our own thinking or the views of another? Can we offer critique in a manner that is respectful? Do we need to go a step further and offer rebuke in the face of behavior and views that we believe are destructive and dangerous and if so, can we do this while staying connected to those we rebuke? These questions seem particularly relevant for the world we live in today and Judaism speaks to these very questions. These questions are not new to our generation; they emerged in the earliest days of our ancestors and I would venture to say, have been around as long as humanity has lived in community. In the text of the Torah these very questions were addressed and they were expanded upon throughout Jewish texts and throughout every generation.
February 2018 Newsletter Article
For over ten years I have participated in a monthly Spiritual Direction group with colleagues. We have been witnesses to each other’s spiritual questions and struggles. We have respectfully listened to each other and because of this collaborative journey, we have been blessed with periodic moments of personal insight. More often than not, we have been strengthened by one another’s companionship and friendship. In rare moments, perhaps we have even felt a presence of something that some would call grace, some would call holiness and some might even call God.
The experience of participating in this group has taught me many things about my personal spiritual journey, one element of which I would like to share with you. For me, one of the greatest gifts that Judaism has given to me is the presence, responsibility and opportunity of hope. Many Jews call themselves the “People of the Book”. For me, although, clearly there is truth in that sentiment, I resonate more the sense that as Jews we are people of hope. More
January 2018 Newsletter Article
Almost two thousand years ago, Rabbi Hillel was recorded as sharing two essential teachings about Jewish life. The first is a simple mandate – “Do not separate yourself from community.” The second, and perhaps the more famous of the two, being – “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” Both of these teachings, which emphasize the core Jewish value of community, have helped to guide, sustain and enrich the Jewish people through history.
In a temporal and spiritual sense, Jews connect to community THROUGH time. We see ourselves as standing at Mt. Sinai, just as our ancestors did. Each year at Pesach, we say that WE/OURSELVES went forth from Egypt. We relish celebrating the achievements of Jews through time and in other parts of the world, and in feeling such pride, a small part of us feels as though these achievements happened in our “extended family”. We also feel as though the dark chapters of our history are somehow also our own. The significance of the expression “L’dor Va’dor” takes shape in this understanding of community.
November 2017 Newsletter Article
It is with gratitude that I write to thank all the members of the congregation as well as the members of the 50th Anniversary Committee for planning such a wonderful Gala and year of celebrations. I was very touched to be honored at the Gala, along with Rabbi Bard, the founding families and past presidents. For those who were not there I wanted to share my words of thanks with you as well.
It has been a privilege to serve Congregation Shalom since 1998 and I am deeply grateful to all the lay leaders and especially the presidents who I have worked with as we have pursued the mission of our congregation. Many synagogue communities think of themselves as “special”. After having worked in many synagogues since 1986, I know that Congregation Shalom is special and I feel blessed to be a part of a community that is so caring of its members and the pursuit of Tikkun Olam. More
July 2017 Newsletter Article
The first part of Congregation Shalom’s mission statement reads, “Congregation Shalom is a Reform Jewish community committed to education, spiritual growth, and Tikkun Olam (healing the world).” As one reads this, it is easy to separate out the categories–Education, Spiritual Growth, Tikkun Olam, as if they are distinct and non-intersecting endeavors. For instance, if we were to reflect on the pursuit of Education, we might conclude that studying Jewish texts, reading in general, attending lectures and classes, watching movies, reading newspapers, discussions with others, etc. would all be actions that fulfill this mission. If we were to think about a path towards Spiritual Growth, we might consider that prayer, ritual and meditation would fall into this category. As for Tikkun Olam, we would probably think about tzedakah and performing acts of gimilut chasidim–acts of loving kindness. For instance, helping at Mitzvah Day, cooking for the food shelter, donating clothes, teaching English to refugees, and more, would all be examples of Tikkun Olam. More