The serpent and the firefly

Some years ago I rushed to downtown Roanoke for a picture. I learned that an artist was taking pictures of people and printing them as big posters to be hung all over the city. I wanted to see myself on a big poster I hurried so I could be included in this exciting project.

 

Three weeks ago the United Synagogue calendar arrived at home and again, I was pictured (nicer this time!) in a big poster. My face is included in a high profile way in homes across the country!

How can a person manage his/her ego? How is it possible not to succumb to the temptation of pride or egotism?

Maybe, being “sameach b’chelko”, happy with your own share, helps a bit. It helps at least to reduce jealousy and envy.

I wanted to share with you a story that may help to illustrate this point. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 1 comment

From Dayton to El Paso: Rediscovering the value of human life.

It’s hard to know what to say anymore. 253 mass shootings in 2019 alone in America and people are devastated. Just check out this Time Cover listing every city with a mass shooting this year.

America is sick, it is polarized, it is nasty, it is angry and it is deeply wounded. Some people blame angry white men. Some people blame the NRA and some blame President Trump’s race baiting rhetoric towards immigrants, although the Dayton shooter was apparently affiliated with the far Left.

One thing is certain, this self imposed mass destruction must end. And for us to achieve something real, we need to speak in words of unity, of the value for human life.

The Talmud teaches the following lesson on the precious nature of life. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments

The ‘Magic’ of Jewish Summer Camp

Camp Swig no longer exists.  It was the summer camp I attended in the 70’s and 80’s in Saratoga, CA.  Established in the 50’s, it was long the only Jewish summer camp of the Reform Movement on the West Coast.  The grounds held a camp that my father attended when he was a youth but with the 2008 economic turn, the need for extensive seismic retrofitting and newer camps in the area (Camp Newman, Camp Towanga, Ramah Galim), it was time for Camp Swig to close its gates. Continue reading →

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Intermarried Jews are not a Second Holocaust

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is an Orthodox rabbi in Phoenix, AZ.  In 2012 and 2013, he was named one of the 50 most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek and The Daily Beast.  Rabbi Yanklowitz was featured in a 2018 Reflections Off the Bimah post titled “Donating Life” about the importance of organ donation.  This post was in response to the statement of Israeli Minister of Education Rafi Peretz. At Beth El, we continue to embrace and support all families committed to building a Jewish home.

Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 0 comments

Outage

Sometimes it is very difficult to cut the umbilical cord. This may be true literally, but in this case, I’m not talking about something physical – though it does feel like a physical separation sometimes. One example of this separation anxiety happens to me when I read or watch the news. I read news from the U.S., and from around the world, but every day I also try to read news from Argentina, Israel, and Colombia – countries that have been my home. And I feel a deep connection with those places even though it has been many years since I’ve lived there.

Something very unusual happened a few weeks ago in South America. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 1 comment

The Cantors Take Italy- And You’re Invited!

Question- and stay with me here- have you ever hung out with a group of Cantors?

You might be thinking “ Wow, I’m imagining a bunch of people talking over each other, singing over each other, comparing Tfilah and Trope styles and their favorite old time Hazzanim.”

And you’d be somewhat right! Or, well, kind of right; it depends heavily on which kind of Cantors you are hanging out with. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments

Skee Ball

skee ball gameI love skee ball. My family and I have made this frivolous summer activity into a competitive, ticket hording sport. Rehoboth’s Funland costs .25 cents per game for 8 balls and a long runway before the jump to the targets. Zinky’s, also on the boardwalk, is .10 cents per game with 6 balls and a shorter runway. We have examined the pros, the cons, the prizes and the techniques of the game and the arcades. My younger sister has a t-shirt with Joseph Fourestier Simpson’s 1908 patent for this classic boardwalk game.

While competing for the family Skee Ball Championship title is certainly motivating, the laughter, ice cream cone(s), walks along the beach and afternoon naps makes this summer ritual truly special. It is a chance to reconnect with each other and reground ourselves. Continue reading →

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Add Some Jewish to Your Summer Reading

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. As we are entering summer, I offer the Jewish Journal’s summer reading list.  Before I get to this list, I will finish Karen Bender’s collection of short stories, The New Order.  Remember to check the recurring articles in the Scroll for our Library Committee’s recommendations too.  Click here for their reading list.  

Continue reading →

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Expanding Our Jewish World Through Music

At the WUST Jewish Community Radio on May 17 to preview the Bima to Broadway to Beltway Concert

At the studios of WUST Jewish Community Radio on May 17 to preview the Bima to Broadway to Beltway Concert

As I sat in on the final rehearsal for the Bima To Broadway To Beltway concert listening to a rendition of “Gesher” by Judith Silver, I couldn’t help thinking how cool this concert was going to be.

Yes “cool” is absolutely the word for it.  Hazzanim Arianne Brown, Elisheva Dienstfry and Hinda Labovitz created this show for the DC Jewish Music Festival last spring and clearly spent a lot of time considering music that was parts modern, playful, soulful and funny as well. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 0 comments

Refocusing on the ‘Big Picture’

Celebrating high school graduation

In parenting, it is too easy to forget the ‘big picture.’  The immediate overwhelms the senses and focuses my attention on the messy room or the homework assignment not yet begun.  Maybe the fabrication of short term emergencies causes an adrenaline surge reminiscent of our ancestors’ ‘fight or flight’ responses… except they were fleeing wild beasts and pogroms.  With the intense focus on the present, it is common to miss a larger perspective.  Life’s milestone moments can help shift our view.

I was unprepared for the effect “Pomp and Circumstance” would have on me.  The high school orchestra had been playing various musical selections.  I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were because just a few weeks prior I had attended an elementary school’s instrumental performance.  The delta between the musicianship of each group was apparent.  That alone should have emphasized for me that over time, people and skills develop in beautiful ways.

Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Rabbi Greg Harris, 1 comment