Can you help save a life?

Can you help save a life?

There is a beloved member of our community in need of a kidney. 

This member has taught hundreds of our children to speak Hebrew, know the Jewish holidays, learn Jewish songs. 

This person creates beautiful works of art, sculptures, paintings, that belong in a major collection.

It was once considered taboo to be an organ donor in the Jewish community. A widely believed misnomer that it’s not kosher to donate your organs because of Jewish burial laws.

But this has never been the case, and major orthodox organizations now promote kidney donation as a great mitzvah. See here 

https://hods.org/

Living donors are more and more common and recovery from the surgery is relatively quick- 6 weeks. The after effects are slim to none.

Read more about it here: https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/living-donation

If you are interested you should contact me directly at afradkin@bethelmc.org

The Johns Hopkins Transplant line is 410-614-9345

Please share this with whomever you can, our beloved friend needs your help.

Shabbat Shalom

Hazzan Fradkin

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Judaism as a Spiritual Odyssey

My edition of Gordis’ book

In 1995, a new book was published which I devoured.  God Was Not in the Fire: The Search for a Spiritual Judaism was written by Rabbi Daniel Gordis, then head of the Conservative Movement’s seminary in Los Angeles.  As I was considering rabbinical school myself, I became absorbed with his writing and ideas about Judaism’s relevance.  At the time, as I rode the metro from Bethesda to Union Station for work, the pages of my edition became highlighted, notated and dog-eared.

I periodically return to Gordis’ writing for inspiration and to remind myself of the questions which brought me to rabbinical school and Jewish communal life.

In a time of intense individuality, Judaism stresses we are part of something larger – a People, a history, a faith.  For eons, Jews have been part of an odyssey of meaning making, relevance and fulfilling religious obligations.  Throughout different time periods and communities, these characteristics were shuffled in priority.  In our busy modern lives, we continue to combine these “ingredients” in various ways.  Central to this odyssey has been the Torah.  It is our core text upon which each generation responds to, embraces, interprets and even pushes against.  Thus, as we become more familiar with the narratives of the Torah, we give ourselves the tools to be part of deep Jewish conversations across time.  From commentators like Rashi (click here for his commentary) to Avivah Zornberg (click here for an interview with Avivah about Genesis), our odyssey continues.

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Why Jews Love Thanksgiving

This 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. I share this article by Ruth Kaplan published last year in “Jewish Boston.”  May you have a grateful Thanksgiving!

 

November 26, 2018

By Ruth Kaplan

The most obvious reason? It’s the great equalizer—we are all invited to the party!

Thanksgiving seems to be the most popular American holiday for Jews. The most obvious reason? It’s the great equalizer—we are all invited to the party! Ironically, it has come to be regarded as the kickoff to the “holiday season,” which, of course, refers to the all-pervasive Christmas, with a touch of Hanukkah on the side.

Now, of course, there are many Jewish people who are not the least bit bothered by the Christmas season and don’t feel at all excluded. I just don’t happen to be among them. For me, Christmas makes me feel like “the other.” Despite guarantees of religious freedom, the reality is that, culturally, the United States is a majority Christian country, and during the Christmas season, I feel like I’m “not invited to the party,” even though I’m generally invited to and attend seasonal parties. But a part of me always sees myself from the outside looking in: I don’t have a tree, I don’t buy poinsettias or a wreath and I quickly tire of Christmas music on elevators. Bah, humbug!

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A new Iphone or my first tefillin?

The conversations and interactions we have throughout Beth El are often fascinating and thought-provoking.

Some weeks ago during my Wednesday morning Torah class, we talked about the price of tefillin and why they are so expensive. I took advantage of the conversation to spend some time learning about tefillin. I explained briefly the rabbinical approach and gave my spiel about how the tefillin are the connectors with God. Like small “walkie talkie” devices they “connect and carry” our

prayers to God.

I showed the class my old tefillin; I opened them and showed the inside, the compartments, the tendons used to sew, the parchments and the different types of tefillin.

Then I posed my class a question: “Why do we question the price of tefillin that we will use for a life-time but have no problem spending lots of money on a mobile phone that will be good for one or two years until a new operating system will make them slow?”

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Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 0 comments

The Men Who Spoke To God

 

The Men Who Spoke To God

 

When I was a boy, my grandparents were my most significant Jewish influence. We always spent parts of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur with them, going to the great shul on Hooks Ln in Baltimore, Beth El.

 

The Rabbi then was Mark Loeb, an exceptional human being who had rare oratory skills and was a living legend until his untimely death almost ten years ago. The Hazzan was Saul Hammerman, one of four brothers, all Hazzanim.

 

I couldn’t stand it, sitting there listening to the Hazzan singing on and on the same words! It just seemed like a gigantic show and I couldn’t wait to go back to my grandparents’ comfy apartment, have lunch and be with my family.

 

If I only knew what I was missing; I’ve never regretted my ignorance in those years more than I have these past few weeks.

 

That’s because I’ve been teaching a class for Scolnic entitled “Davening with the Divine”, a look at how the greatest Hazzanim of the Cantorial Golden Age ( 1920’s-1950’s) approached their art form, the liturgy and God.  What did these great Cantors do with their voices as they approached God?

 

Cried, whispered, deliberated, wailed; expressed the gamut of human emotion in a voice that could have only come from God Godself.

 

How could I have known that, sitting in that great sanctuary as a 9 year old boy? Well, if I had grown up in a home in Boro Park, I might have, but more to the point, I am saddened that I could not appreciate the brilliance, the utter humanity that Saul Hammerman put into his High Holiday Davening.

 

The tradition of Hazzanut may never return to the pulpit as a mainstay of Jewish culture, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the magnitude of it’s role in expressing the wishes of the Jewish soul.

 

Enjoy the beauty of these selections by two of the greatest voices of the Golden Age. I have no doubt that Cantor from my childhood had their voices in his heart as he davened his Tfilot.

 

May the memories of those sweet singers who spent their lives speaking to God, eternally be a blessing and inspiration.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Hazzan Fradkin

 

Leibele Waldman- Rtzeh from Shabbat Evening-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1gkULKMygx4

 

Moishe Oysher: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIrAYnAmNC4

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 1 comment

Caring for Our Bodies – Our Congregational Theme

Beth El’s theme of the year is Shmirat HaGuf – Caring for Our Bodies.  Across the congregation, we will explore our physical, mental, spiritual, and relationship health.

Our lives are pulled in so many directions and caring for ourselves often gets lowest priority.  There are countless podcasts and numerous articles encouraging us to slow down, eat right, be mindful, exercise more and to discover what ‘sparks joy,’ as Marie Kondo says.  The reality is our health, in all its facets, is complicated and difficult to manage.

Rabbi Marina Yergin points us to the verse in Deuteronomy which says: “Guard yourself and guard your soul very carefully” (Deut 4:9).  She brings the classic commentator Kli Yakar who explains: “‘Guard yourself’ means taking care of the body.” Continue reading →

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The ‘Chosen’ Sport

This is the fifth week of the month and allows for another outside blog. Sharing in the Nats’ World Series victory this week, let’s celebrate Jews involved in professional baseball including 3rd baseman Alex Bregman (Astros) and owner Ted Lerner (Nationals).  And for those worried about what to do in the baseball ‘off season’… pitchers and catchers report February 11, 2020 for Spring Training!

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Do a Mitzvah on Mitzvah Day – (this Sunday)

This 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. I share this article from Rabbi Danny Siegel.  Rabbi Siegel has been on a constant search for ‘Mitzvah Heros’ which he says are ordinary people doing extraordinary work, by simply trying to make the world a better place.

This Sunday at Beth El, you can join hundreds of others in Mitzvah Day activities. Click here for a link to the project list.  Others have preregistered and will join Rabbi Werbin for a one day solidarity trip to Pittsburgh on Sunday for the first yarzteit of the tragedy at Tree of Life synagogue.

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All of them

There are books that can make a great impact on people. I read one such book some years ago –Like Dreamers by Yossi Klein Halevi.

In the book, the author describes the lives of several paratroopers who liberated Jerusalem in the Six Day War. The book focuses on their lives after that milestone event in Israel’s history. According to the author, they reunited Jerusalem and divided a nation.

I want to share with you a short story the author highlights in the book that I believe is a beautiful message, especially at this time of year.

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

What Are We Building?

In about 15 minutes my Dad is going to arrive to help me put up my Sukkah.

It takes me back to our home in Baltimore circa 1995 when we built our first Sukkah on the deck of the townhouse while I blasted Hootie and The Blowfish from my boombox .

My Dad actually worked as a carpenter for a short time before changing careers and he’s returned to it recently, building tables, shelves and other types of furniture for members of our family. So this is going to be the easiest most efficient Sukkah build in quite some time. Continue reading →

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