Keeping Connected with Rabbi Perry
November 2018 Newsletter Article
Each month I invite the 11th and 12th graders to study with me at my home for Post-Confirmation class. Over brownies we converse about topics in which there is an intersection between Judaism, social justice, current events and identity. The conversations, which are wide ranging, make clear to me that our teens are growing up in a world in which they need to navigate issues that are truly challenging.
At our first class of the year I did a mixer with the teens. I opened up a pack of 50 postcards called Act Now! – Protest Postcards. Each teen was supposed to take one or two postcards which display an image that they care about or one that they care about and one they disagree with. The postcards were either photographs of actual signs for protest marches or pictures of people holding signs. We had a great conversation about the issues that are on their minds.
Two students picked cards that I think are relevant for all of us. One teen chose a card that has a picture of the earth from space and it says, “There is NO Plan B” with the earth being the “o” in NO. The second student picked a sign that says, “Science IS REAL”. Both of these teens spoke about the fact that although they cared about many of the other issues that were written on the other cards, the issue of climate change was so scary and important to them that they could not think of another more important issue. More
October 2018 Newsletter Article
HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, was founded in 1881 originally to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe. In the 130 years since its founding, HIAS has touched the life of nearly every Jewish family in America and now welcomes all who have fled persecution. HIAS continues to work around the world to protect refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of who they are, including ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. For more than 130 years, HIAS has been helping refugees rebuild their lives in safety and dignity.HIAS has a remarkable history and if you would like to learn more you can read about it at their website:www.hias.org/history
HIAS, shared this meaningful reading for the High Holidays, and although I did not use it in our services, I’d like to share it with you now:
At once plaintive and energizing, the shofar calls us to remember the depths of suffering that still exist in our world as we are drawn out of our complacency and into action.
The uninterrupted call of tekiah guides our thoughts to the 68 million people around the world still making terrifying journeys away from violence and persecution to search for freedom, sometimes without an end in sight. More
September 2018 Newsletter Article
Although I did not grow up speaking Yiddish, there are a few fun and colorful phrases that I love. One of them is “a bissel of this and a bissel of that”, meaning a little bit of this and a little bit of that! There is so much going on at Congregation Shalom in these early days of 2018-2019 that I want to share a bissel about a lot of different things!
Selichot Program/Service: Although many Jews think that the High Holiday season begins with Rosh HaShanah, the true preparation begins in the prior month of Elul during which time we are supposed to engage in a process of self-reflection and soul-searching. During Elul and throughout the holiday season, Jews may recite selichot (forgiveness) prayers, emphasizing the inner work of the Days of Awe. In addition, many congregations have developed the tradition of observing Selichot on the Saturday evening prior to Rosh HaShanah. There is usually some type of program of study as well as special Selichot service. One of the more moving moments of this service is when we actually change the Torah covers from those used during the year to the special covers designed for the High Holidays. These covers, usually white, represent purity and renewal. More
June 2018 Newsletter Article
June is the time of year when we start to think about wrapping up the school year, slow down for the summer and actually gear-up for the High Holidays – ALL at the same time!
As we wrap up the year, I always like to offer some words of thanks to all those members who have helped support our community in the last year. It would be impossible to thank all those who have been involved from participating on committees by setting up for events, bringing food for oneg, cooking for the shelter, participating in our social justice/action programs, re-supplying our paper supplies, gardening around our building, organizing events like break-fast and the seder, helping to raise money for our community, and so, so, so much more. If one were to actually count the volunteer efforts, we would be amazed. One particular mission that took a huge amount of effort had to do with updating our kitchen. To all the people who participated in the effort: Jerry Lotto, Susan McHugh, Cayla Maguire, Tamar Wexler, Joanna Myers, Mitch Hyatt, Cris Shuldiner, the graduating class of 2018, Congregation Shalom Sisterhood, past B’nai Mitzvah classes and more…..Thank you for your contributions and generosity of spirit and time. More
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.