Rabbi Greg Harris

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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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.  

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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.

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Praying Outdoors

This is the fifth week of the month and allows for another outside blog.  This 2011 post in eJewishPhilanthropy was written by Rabbi Michael Comins, the founder of TorahTrek: The Center for Jewish Wilderness Spirituality.  As we are shifting to summer, we will have many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Make sure to appreciate the natural surroundings, the awe of the world and to be open to the possibility of a different type of spiritual / religious experience. 

Tomorrow night (May 31), we will enjoy the Kol Haneshama Friday night service under the evening sky.  Join us at 6:30pm at Beth El.  Later in the summer (tentatively Friday, July 12), we will meet at Greenwich Park for an evening picnic and service as well.

We connect with each other, our surroundings and the Divine differently when we are outside so let’s seize each opportunity.  Enjoy the blog.

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