Home

Being home… Nothing like being home.

As I return from 20 days away in Argentina, I feel so blessed to be back in my home. Yes, being a tourist in the country you were born, enjoying the extended family, the traditional foods, the old and new friends, a good asado (BBQ), hugging my dad, playing with my nephews and nieces, seeing my kids enjoying them as well and doing it all with an amazing group of Beth El families! All that is great, but nothing compares to the excitement I saw in my kids (and myself as well) when we arrived home. Their smiles, their running to get there as soon as possible, their feeling when their saw their beds, their things that made it home.

It is not a surprise then, that many (if not most) of the synagogues I know of have the word bait, home, in their name.

Why is this so? Continue reading →

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

Summer Grandeur

person reading a book near a lakeI love the pace of summer.  People are enjoying stay-cations and far off travel.  The neighborhood ice cream truck magically pierces the heat and humidity which is finally upon us.  Even at shul, the summer stride is different.  I am afforded space to read, think and plan which is hard to find during the normal year.

During the year, the focus of the entire staff is far more than simply services, religious school or a few lifecycle events.  Simply put, the mission of Beth El is to bridge Jewish wisdom and practices to today’s lifestyles and circumstances.

This is no easy task. Continue reading →

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

Is the Constitution Judeo-Christian?

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

ConstitutionThis week, all eyes have been focused on the US Constitution.  Not only did we hold primary elections this week (refer to Article 1 of the Constitution) but we began to absorb the implications of Chief Justice John Roberts majority opinion on upholding President Trump’s travel ban.  Further, we learned of the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court.

Opinions about the severe consequences of all these matters is pervasive but I thought it would be good to step back and look at the Constitution itself. Continue reading →

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

When does it matter?

There are so many pictures and now there’s even audio to go with it, thanks to Pro Publica’s recent release this week.

Kids in cages, kids screaming for their parents, and sad to say, it’s nothing new. What’s new, is the vicious policy of ripping small children from their parents.

That’s because the Trump administration decided to prosecute every family coming over and therefore the children had to be held separately from their parents while the parents are processed through our legal system, which can mean spending some time in prison.

But there are pictures of kids in cages from 2014 and earlier when Bush and Obama occupied the White House.  They just detained kids for different reasons. They also said they would tackle immigration. Continue reading →

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

Expect the Unexpected

Casa Rosada

Casa Rosada, “The Pink House”

Our trip is about to start. On Wednesday June 20th, B’ezrat Hashem, Gd willing, a group of 22 Beth El congregants will leave Washington and go to Argentina, my native country, where we will spend 10 days together traveling, learning, eating a lot and enjoying all that the country offer.

We will visit many meaningful places. For example we will be welcomed by the government as  an “official trip” at the Pink House (the equivalent of the White House), we will go to Iguazu, to see the famous falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Even as a native I’ve never been either to these attractions, so the trip will offer some new experiences for me too!

As we communicated details of the trip and worked to build new relationships with the group, I also tried to explain how different it is in Argentina; the customs, the economy and the lifestiles are very unlike the US.

To put it in simple words: the group of travelers should expect the unexpected. Continue reading →

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

David and Jonathan

David and Jonathan, St. Mark’s Portobello, Scotland

David and Jonathan, St. Mark’s Portobello, Scotland

St. Mark’s Portobello is an Episcopal church in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was one of the first Episcopal churches to be built after the Jacobite risings in the 18th century. While I have never visited, there are many pieces of art which adorn this church.  Of particular interest is a stained glass window of the biblical figures David and Jonathan.  The window’s inscription reads, “The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David” (1 Samuel 18:1).

Many believe David and Jonathan were not just comrades but lovers.

People have grappled to understand the Tanach’s “opinion” on same sex relationships.  The reality is there is not a single clear statement.  Leviticus has an opinion (Lev 18:22) while Genesis acknowledges we are created in God’s image (Gen 1:27).  Thus, as homosexuality is not a choice but simply how we are created, this too must be in God’s image.  I believe Judaism expects us to nurture consensual, respectful and caring relationships – regardless of your partner’s gender.

I appreciate there is not unanimity in the Jewish world around acceptance of same sex relationships.  But as we continue to strengthen the Beth El community, I want to be clear that loving relationships focused on building Jewish homes are all welcome. Continue reading →

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Rabbi Greg Harris, 4 comments

This is also Judaism

Do you think you know what prayer is?

It’s a tough question, and one we try to answer during our Jewish meditation sessions.

Maybe it’s time spent in quiet thought, sitting alone in your room, an office maybe or of course, a sanctuary.

I’ve found recently, that people of all ages have a really hard time defining prayer and even more so, connecting with it and with God. Continue reading →

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

Remembering on Memorial Day

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders drawn from throughout the Jewish world. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter. 

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend.  Memorial Day should not be just another day for hot dogs and barbecues though.  Memorial Day originated following the Civil War and was called Decoration Day.  Some claim it began in Waterloo, NY on May 5, 1866.  In 1971, Memorial Day became an official national holiday.  Too often, we are not sensitive enough to the true sacrifice men and women in uniform make in the name of our country.  Memorial Day is an opportunity as a nation to honor those who have died in the service of our country.  Jewish soldiers are among them. Below is a blog post from the National Museum of American Jewish History.  The museum is located in the Dupont Circle neighborhood.

Cpl Roger Briskin

Cpl Roger Briskin

I hope you are touched by these letters and remember the deeper meaning of Memorial Day.  Many Jewish men and women have been moved by core Jewish values to service within the military. As Corporal Roger Briskin wrote below, we’re going to play quite a significant role in bringing this world to a place of peace.

May the memories of all the fallen ones bring humility, gratitude and an appreciation for the demands of a free nation.

Excerpt from “Friendship stronger than bullets”:

A small position, but put us all together and we’re going to play quite a significant role in bringing this world to a place of peace; knowing this I don’t mind the war so much, although I don’t really like being shot at… Click here to continue reading “Friendship stronger than bullets and bombs: the message of Cpl Roger Briskin.”

 

Posted by Rabbi Greg Harris in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris, 3 comments

Circus

Going to a circus has been always a great experience for me. First as a child and more recently as a parent, I’ve always had fun and lots of laughs when the circus is in town. All that a circus can offer can make long lasting memories.

I have been always impressed by two of the attractions that, until recently, you could find in almost every circus. The elephants and the trapeze artists.

I remember when I was a child, one particular time we went to the circus, we arrived before the show and we had a chance to see all the animals up close. I was especially impressed by the size of the elephant. I was even more impressed by the tricks the elephant was able to do. I wondered back then why the elephant would not try to escape. At the end of the day, when I saw the elephant, chained with a very simple and plain chain to a post, that the elephant could break it and easily escape.

Later in life I read a nice explanation about this very situation. Apparently, when circus elephants are born, they are chained and they typically try very hard to pull away and escape from this bondage. The young elephants cannot do it and after several attempts, they get tired and give up. The calf knows the chain is stronger and therefore learns not to try again – they remain chained. Of course, the chains do not prevent the elephants from performing nicely.

The trapeze artists are also always great attractions for me. They’re appealing not only because of theit amazing tricks but also because they have long, wide strong nets that they use for protection. As they finish their performance, they let themselves fall on the net; they rely on it and then come down to the main stage to receive their due applause. I was always fascinated by how much they relied on that net to end their show.

Why am I telling you all this? What does a circus have to do with a spiritual reflection? Continue reading →

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

Thoughts and Prayers?

The Prayer for the State of Israel was instituted right from the beginning of it’s formation. Credit is given to Rabbis Ben Zion Meir Hai Uziel and Yitzchak HaLevi Herzog for it’s institution.

According to the Times of Israel, it was only recently confirmed that Rabbi Herzog is the true author, while Shaya Agnon is credited as the editor of this sacred text.

We could certainly use this prayer more than ever, as long simmering tensions between Israel and Iran have bubbled over in the wake of President Trump’s declaration that we plan to void the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Those on the right think it’s long overdue, the withdrawal that is. Those on the left think it’s a broken promise and a slap in the face to our allies.

Either way, Iran is state sponsor of terror and conflict with them seems inevitable.

I’m wondering about our relationship to this prayer for Israel, or any prayer for peace really. I don’t think praying for peace is going to end a war. Continue reading →

Posted by Hazzan Asa Fradkin in Hazzan Asa Fradkin, 2 comments