Rabbi Greg Harris

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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Join Interfaith Discussion on Forgiveness on Yom Kippur Afternoon

There was a wonderful feeling throughout Beth El during Rosh Hashana. People reconnected with each other, reflected on the past year and hopefully gained new clarity on issues or struggles they may be facing. We prayed together, learned together and sang together. Our community’s vibrancy was felt.

Next week is Yom Kippur and we will come together again.  From the sounds of Kol Nidre Tuesday evening to the final shofar blast Wednesday night (bring your shofar to join together), there is tremendous opportunity to think about how we will be different in the year ahead. Now that we have experienced the past year (5779), how can we be a better version of ourselves in 5780?

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Shana Tova 5780

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. I share this article from the Times of Israel as Rosh Hashanah begins Sunday night.

Let me also add that the entire clergy team and staff wish you a meaningful holiday season.  We hope you will join us not only in services but in many other events too.  Our synagogue is a vibrant community with numerous access points so we want to help you find yours.

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We Have to Rethink Elul

This is the fifth week of the month and allows for another outside blog.  As Saturday and Sunday begin the month of Elul, I offer this blog by Alon Goshen-Gottstein which was originally published in the Times of Israel (ToI). The ToI describes him as the founder and director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute. He is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading figures in interreligious dialogue, specializing in bridging the theological and academic dimension with a variety of practical initiatives, especially involving world religious leadership. to give a deeper framing of the month of preparation for the High Holidays.

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The Educational Benefits of Taking Kids to Museums

Click to enlarge.

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.  I share this blog after spending an afternoon with my daughters at the Boston Museum of Fine Art.  From mummies to Monet, the galleries prompted conversations about creativity, personal expression, modalities of expression, individual tastes, sources of inspirations and more. The museum staff created a fabulous bingo game for families to explore the museum. This “game” allowed the entire family to experience the museum’s vast collections.  Whether you are visiting The Jewish Museum in New York, the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia or the Jewish Historical Museum in D.C. when it reopens, don’t let the summer be the only time you explore the treasures held in the collections.  Of course, the greatest treasure will be the conversations you will have inspired by the museum’s objects.

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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.

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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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