Rocky Mountain High

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I know it’s cliche, but really, you should have seen the view from up there on those snow capped mountains, 2 miles in the thin Colorado air.
I thought snow tubing would be a fun idea for the choir to do as a local activity while we were “on tour” in Denver.
As you may know, the Gesher chorale- our new middle school singing group at Beth El- traveled to Colorado to sing in a gala concert with the Colorado Hebrew Chorale this past January.
While there, we of course wanted to take advantage of some of the local tourist activities, including snow tubing in the Rocky Mountains.
I actually didn’t envision it as a team building activity, but that’s exactly how it turned out. At one point, one of the kids suggested we do a snow tube train of all eight choir members plus myself.
What ensued was a particularly ridiculous and crazy fun way to get down the chute, while screaming along with my eight singers.
I would be remiss, if I didn’t share the best moment of that experience – at least for me – when John Denver‘s famous song came on the loudspeaker and I couldn’t help singing along.
I wouldn’t even have to tell you about the rest of the trip to explain what a magnificent experience it was to travel with these amazing kids and parents, sing at local synagogues and perform in a major fundraising concert for over 200 people. Because it’s really all evident just in that snow tubing train.
These trips are always the highlight of the year for me and the kids as well, because we get to spend precious time together, develop numerous inside jokes, and make ourselves into a family.
In the coming weeks, we will make lots of the pictures and video available that have already been shared widely on Facebook. Just suffice it to say, that I am thrilled I could continue the tradition of my choir trips here in Bethesda that I started back in Greenwich Connecticut in 2015.
I hope the kids will keep fond memories of these trips, I know that I treasure each one and often think of the indelible impact it has on all of us.
Next year, LA! ( No but seriously)
Shabbat shalom
Hazzan Fradkin
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Bringing My Voice Against Hate

One of many panels on aspects of anti-semitism

(This blog was written in Tirana, Albania but could not be posted till I returned.)

Albania was never on my travel bucket list yet here I sit at a cafe in Tirana, Albania on a break from the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) on anti-Semitism.  Two weeks ago, I former student of mine called to invite me to attend this conference.  She has been living in Warsaw and we had lost regular touch.  When she described the gathering though, I knew I wanted to juggle my schedule to be here.  (Thank you Fabian, Asa, Sheila, Ricardo and the b’nai mitzvah families whose meetings were rescheduled.)

This international gathering to fight anti-Semitism brought together 150 people representing 45 countries.  The formal sessions include security experts discussing work in securing Jewish institutions and coordination with law enforcement.  Younger people talking about social media platforms being leveraged to promote hate.  Discussions on balancing freedom of speech and limiting hate speech are bringing out different legal tools available in various countries.  And Bethesda resident Elan Carr, U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, spoke passionately about responding to hate against Jews and others with boldness.  He said, “There are always short term reasons to be quiet from pushing against anti-Semitism.  We must be very clear that we remain quiet at our own peril.”

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

Anti-Semitism: Searching for a Global Response

Antisemitic image portraying a Jewish shopkeeper as greedy and devious

This is the fifth week of the month and allows for another outside blog. I am focusing this week’s blog on the relentless scourge of anti-semitism.  The hatred of the Jewish People and its morphing into the hatred of the State of Israel continues to be dangerous around the world.  From college campuses in America to grocery stores in France and synagogues being attacked around the globe, antisemitism persists.  It incorporates overt attacks and subtle acts of hate and bias.  Below are resources shared by the European group – the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to challenge anti-semitism.  They have been produced in multiple languages.  I share these because this Sunday, I will be traveling to Tirana, Albania to attend the OSCE’s international conference on combating anti-semitism.  I have been invited as a delegate to speak about security measures in American synagogues as well as the robust efforts to nurture interfaith dialogue and cooperation.  Beth El is vigilant in both these arenas. 

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

The Ordinariness of Auschwitz

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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. As yesterday was the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, I share this blog by Alex Benjamin published in “The Times of Israel.”  Benjamin is the director of EIPA, a multi-disciplined pro-Israel advocacy group based in Brussels, with offices in Paris and Berlin.

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

The cow doesn’t give milk

The cow doesn’t give milk.

Both of my grandfathers Z”L were cowboys. The lived in a small town in the rural Argentina called Moises Ville. They spent most of their lives riding horses, taking care of their cattle and working hard. Their hands were not smooth at all and I think that as I grow older, I appreciate their rough hands more and more.

The cow doesn’t give milk. I learned this lesson from my beloved Jewish cowboy grandparents and from my parents as well.

Yes, this is not what you may have learned when you were younger but it is the truth. The cow doesn’t give milk. You need to milk it. In order to milk it, you need to wake up very early, walk through a field, usually filled with excrement, tie the cow’s tail and its legs, sit down on a low stool, place the bucket in the appropriate spot, and then do the right movements (because you do not know how to do it, it takes longer, much longer). Continue reading →

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

Israeli Stories

One of my greatest wishes  since I began taking conversational Hebrew in college has been to speak Hebrew fluently, well enough to converse with Israelis, read Hebrew newspapers and teach my children Hebrew.

As a singer, I have a particular affinity for languages, and the  classical repertoire in particular, demands we learn at least French, German and Italian ( not to mention Russian) in order to sing the most beloved works in the Western cannon.

When I moved to Israel for the first year of Cantorial School in 2003, I found myself in an introductory level Ulpan ( Hebrew Immersion) at the Yeshiva, but eventually I began skipping class to speak with the Shomer-The Yeshiva Guard- who I spoke with often and whose impromptu Hebrew lessons during our conversations, I found much more interesting and helpful than classroom study.

My Hebrew during that Yeshiva year progressed dramatically and I could have basic conversations with most Israelis on any number of subjects. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 1 comment

Buses to Solidarity March in New York

This Sunday, buses will be traveling from around the country for a solidarity march in New York.  Horrified by the antisemitic Chanukah attack in Monsey, NY, the New York Federation and JCRCs around the country are organizing a march across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Buses will leave from the JCCGW in Rockville promptly at 6am. There is a cost of $25 for the bus and a kosher lunch.

Pre-registration is required.  To reserve you place and for more details, click here.


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Refusing to Cower

“Why do people want to hurt Jews?”  That was the question a group of 5th grade Religious School students asked me recently.

What a distressing question to hear children ask.  How discouraging that our efforts to protect their childhood have been pierced by acts of violence covered intensely by social media and news outlets.  Fear, anxiety, confusion, instability and insecurity are emotions being absorbed by adults’ and children’s psyche.

It might feel easier to retreat from the dangers in the world.  Even houses of worship are not pure sanctuaries.  Just this past week we heard about the horrific Chanukah stabbing attack in Monsey, NY and the church shooting in the town of White Settlement, TX.   The emotions of the psalmist who wrote 2,500 years ago resonate with me: God, confront those adversaries who confront me, give battle to my foes, take up shield and armor and come to my defense, ready the spear and javelin against my pursuers… (Ps 35:1-3)

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Sorkin Teen Trip 2019

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. This week’s guest article comes from our very own Tali Moscowitz, who is currently in Israel with Hazzan Fradkin and 12 students who are participating in our annual Sorkin Teen Trip to Israel.


“The universe is celebrated through acts.”
-Quote found on Tel Aviv Graffiti

Shalom from Israel! Hazzan Fradkin and I are currently here on the second annual Sorkin Teen Trip with 12 students from this year’s Religious School 10th grade confirmation class. This experience has been realized in part due to the incredible generosity of Beth El members. In just the last week, these teenagers have cultivated an understanding of the people, culture, sights, sounds, and tastes of Israel.


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Posted by Tali Moscowitz in Guest Post, 0 comments

Lost ten days

Imagine that the highest religious authority in the world (Dalai Lama, Pope Francis, Chief Israeli Rabbi?) announces tomorrow that ten days of the 2020 calendar will be wiped out. Instead of having 365 days, we’d only have 355. Think about the turmoil this would create… Instagram, Facebook and Twitter would buzz; traders at the stock market wouldn’t know what to do; conspiracy theories and governments would point fingers accusing each other. Don’t even mention physicists and astronomers. It would be chaos!

Whatever you imagine, this scenario is not new for human beings. It already happened in history.
In the year 1582, the world changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, the one we use today. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Fabián Werbin in Rabbi Fabián Werbin, 2 comments