voice of truth
This month we will celebrate Hanukkah. Recently, I was asked why we eat latkes at Hanukkah, and I explained that we eat latkes, and jelly doughnuts (sufganiyot), and basically anything else that is fried, because of one of the big stories of Hanukkah.
It’s in the Talmud: When the Jews recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem from the Syrian Greeks, who had desecrated it, they rededicated it and lit the sacred menorah, or lamp. However, they could only find enough pure oil to last for one night. A miracle happened! The oil lasted for eight nights, and that’s why Hanukkah is eight nights long.
During Hanukkah, we eat foods cooked in oil, because the miracle was about oil. It’s one of the ways in which I find Jewish tradition to be delightfully literal. (Another example: In the Sh’ma, we chant that we should write “these words on the doorpost of our house and upon our gates.” We write those very words on a scroll, put them in a little box and attach it to the doorpost. That’s a mezuzah. So wonderfully literal.)
I admit that besides fried foods, which I love, I am ambivalent about some features of Hanukkah. We often gloss over the fact that the Maccabees did not rebel only against the Syrian Greek empire. They also fought fellow Jews who believed that they could integrate Greek culture and Jewish culture, taking advantage of the attractive aspects of Greek culture without losing their Jewishness.
When I think about that, I can’t help but think that we, as practitioners of Reform Judaism, would have been the people the Maccabees were engaging with in a civil war. After all, we do believe we can participate fully in the culture of the United States and maintain our Jewishness. I do also have to say that the irony of American observance of Hanukkah is not lost on me: This holiday that celebrates defending Judaism against participation in a dominant culture has transformed from a minor festival on the Jewish calendar into a major gift-giving holiday precisely because of its proximity to Christmas, a major holiday in our dominant culture.
In spite of my ambivalence, though, I am glad we have our festival of lights. It falls at the darkest time of the year, and 2020 has also been a year of darkness in many ways. We need this reminder that not only is there still light, we can bring that light to the world. The Talmud tells us we are to publicize the miracle. Unless it is dangerous to do so, we are to light our Hanukkah menorah where it is visible from the street, showing our lights to everyone who passes by.
One way we can publicize the miracle (metaphorically) is to bring light to the lives of others by reaching out to them, giving tzedakah to help them, offering them support in this time. We can’t do it in person right now, but there are other ways that we can shine our light toward other people. When we do it, we also bring more light into our own lives, as we benefit from human connection and the feeling that we’ve been able to do something for someone else.
Each night of Hanukkah, we add another light to our Hanukkiah, our Hanukkah menorah, increasing its brightness. When we take that first step of bringing light to someone else, we might inspire them also to do something for someone. And the light spreads.
This Hanukkah, there will be the opportunity to light candles each night together on Zoom. At 6:45 each night of Hanukkah (except for the Friday night and Saturday night, when the candle lighting will be during services and our Hanukkah Lollapalooza), you are invited to join on Zoom for candle lighting, blessings, and a brief Hanukkah story or reading. Zoom information will be sent shortly before Hanukkah begins.
This Hanukkah, may your light shine. May others shine their light toward you. Together, may we increase the warm glow of light in our world. I look forward to seeing you soon.
Rabbi Heidi Hoover
Volume IV Kislev/Tevet 5781 / December 2020 No. 30
Giving Tuesday is December 1st — Remember B'ShERT!
December 1st is Giving Tuesday — and you can express the thanks for the richness in your lives by donating to B’ShERT.
Last year, over $1,200 was raised for the Accessibility Fund. We look forward to multiplying that total in 2020!
Although we are fully aware that this is a challenging economic time for many in our community, we hope you will consider B'ShERT if you are making donations on Giving Tuesday. If your employer offers donation matching, remember that B’ShERT is a 501(c)3 non-profit; all donations are tax-deductible and should be eligible for most corporate match programs.
Note that there will be limited funds donated by Facebook, totaling $7 million, for all organizations. The first $2 million will be matched 100%. The next $5 million will be matched at 10%, so they can spread the funds around.
If we’re to benefit from the matching funds, you need to donate early.
Please be prepared at 8 am on December 1st to visit bshert.org/givingtuesday to donate.
Also, you can keep track of our Giving Tuesday progress and events on our website at bshert.org/givingtuesday anytime.
The Communications Committee is putting the final touches on the 2021 Membership Directory and we need your help. Please take a moment to look at the current directory (if you don’t have one, ask Alice for a copy). If the listing hasn’t changed, you need do nothing. If there are changes (address, phone, emails, children, etc.), send your requests to Sam Silverman at Silversam718@me.com by December 10th. If we don't hear from you, we will assume your listing is correct.
Please note: our format allows for a maximum of two phone numbers per entry. If there are two people listed, then it’s one phone number for each person (either landline or cell). You may also list your children’s birth year if you like. If anything changes during the year, let Sam know and he will update the directory. If you joined B’ShERT after January 2020 and are not listed in the current directory, let Sam know how you would like to be listed.
In January, you will receive a password to allow you to download the directory for your reference and/or print. Alice will have printed copies if you need one. Thanks for your help!!!
Sam Silverman, Co-Chair, Communications Committee
The 2021 B'ShERT Membership Directory Needs You
(Photos by Eric Platt)
Our new AC/heating system
The newly accessible electrical room
This Hanukkah, like every other holiday since our celebration of Purim in March, will be a Hanukkah that we have never experienced before. To celebrate as a community, we will be taking advantage of the new technologies to which we’ve become accustomed.
During the eight days of Hanukkah, join your B’ShERT family via Zoom as we light our menorahs. The week includes our traditional lighting of our menorahs at our Friday evening Shabbat service on December 11th and during Havdallah on Saturday evening, December 12th at our Hanukkah Lollapalooza. Although we won’t have the beautiful spectacle of seeing all our menorahs lit on the bima, it will be wonderful to see every Zoom box filled with a lit menorah prior to proceeding with our Shabbat service.
The Hanukkah Lollapalooza was conceived by our Membership Committee and promises to be a fun evening with many activities to choose from along with music and chatting. Please join your B’ShERT family for this wonderful event.
Immediately following Hanukkah, show your support for our Brotherhood on Friday, December 18th as they lead a nostalgic Shabbat evening service using the old Union Prayerbook, giving us a glimpse of Reform Judaism’s past.
I encourage you to attend the Semi-Annual Congregational Meeting on Wednesday, December 2nd to hear about the state of the congregation and our plans for the months ahead. You will also have an opportunity to express your concerns.
Our Religious School will be holding a Town Hall Meeting on Tuesday, December 15th. Parents, I ask you to please participate in this important meeting where you will have a chance to help shape the Jewish education and experience of your children.
The timetable for reopening remains unknown as the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic are constantly changing. As we will eventually be returning to our building for in-person activity, we have performed work on the sanctuary’s air handling systems to make the space safer. We continue to consult with both health and engineering experts on ways to minimize risk throughout our building. The recent encouraging news about vaccines being ready soon for distribution gives us hope that we can return to in-person activities toward the end of spring.
Much has been accomplished recently toward improving our building. The new air conditioning/heating system in the Banquet Hall (pictured above) has been completed and is operating. The installation of this system has allowed us to remove the existing deteriorating packaged air conditioner in the basement that was difficult to maintain and hindered access to our electrical room (shown at left).
We have hired consultants to assist us with the work included in our security grant and to survey and prepare a condition report for our stained glass windows so that we can apply for grants and sort through the restoration proposals that we have received.
We are also looking toward our future as the re-established Long Term Planning Committee has been charged with developing a long-range master plan for the restoration, renovation and reimagining of our building. A subcommittee is currently interviewing architects who will help us realize many of our hopes and dreams for what our building can become to enhance our spiritual, communal and educational Jewish experience in our home.
You recently received a survey requesting your thoughts on how these experiences can be enhanced. Your participation in this process is vital to its success as you will be the ultimate user of our building. I ask you to please complete the survey by Friday, December 4th. Rabbi Hoover will also be conducting B’Yachad sessions on this topic which will give you an opportunity to crystallize your thoughts in discussion with fellow congregants. Information about these sessions will be emailed and announced in advance.
I look forward to seeing all of you throughout the month. Stay safe and I wish you and your family a very Happy Hanukkah!
Get to Know Our Interactive Memorial Board
While our new Interactive Memorial Board is not yet physically installed in our sanctuary due to delays related to COVID-19, you can see the board virtually by visiting https://bsve.joltone.com/screen/. When you view the board, you will be seeing the yahrzeits for the current week and the following week of all the memorial plaques presently being displayed in the sanctuary and the PTBAS plaques that are now in storage.
The Board of Trustees has decided that the existing memorial boards in the Sanctuary will remain as is and all new memorial plaques will be digital. Please note that these digital plaques have the added feature of being able to link a biography and images of your loved ones (see photos of an individual plaque and a sample biography on the next page). To see an individual plaque, click on the Search tab under the yahrzeit candle, enter your loved one’s last name, and click on Search.
The following is the fee schedule for new digital plaques and the addition of biographies and images to plaques already uploaded into the boards database.
Digital Plaque $300
Enhanced Digital Plaque (with biographies and photos at time of purchase) $360
Addition of Biography and Photos to Existing Digital Plaques $100
We will be adding a digital order form to our website and mailing out physical forms shortly.
Eric Platt, President
(Photo by Eric Platt)
Note from the Ritual Committee
Many of you are unaware you can make a donation for a leaf, cloud or rock on our Trees of Life displayed in our Community Room in celebration of occasions such as births, graduations, engagements, weddings and milestone birthdays and anniversaries:
Leaves on Small Tree $100
Leaves on Large Tree $250
Rock or Cloud on Small Trees $300
(note that space remains for three rocks and three clouds)
Please contact the temple office for information.
— Eric Platt
Plaque with biography
Remember a Milestone on B'ShERT's Trees of Life
Sample of individual plaque
Just a reminder that we always invite people to say the wine and candle blessings on Friday nights. Even though we are now having Zoom services, we are continuing the tradition.
If you are interested in getting a wine or candle blessing, please let us know. You don't have to have candles or wine for the blessing. Rabbi can light the candles or hold the wine glass if you want to say the blessings.
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to let us know if you’re interested. We look forward to hearing from you!
Robin Bass & Fran Silverman
Co-Chairs, Ritual Committee
Brotherhood of B’ShERT
We hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving, even though many of us weren’t able to celebrate in person with our families and friends in the usual ways. In challenging times like these, gratitude helps to keep things in perspective. We on the Membership Committee are truly grateful for our B’ShERT community, which has been growing, adapting, and thriving throughout the past nine months.
On that note, we’d like to wish a warm welcome to our newest members: the May Family. In their own words:
“The May family is Larry, Sue, Evan and Maggie the dog. Larry is originally from Long Island and works as a musician/songwriter. He loves biking so you will probably see him riding around the neighborhood. Sue is from MA, previously worked as a elementary school teacher and health/fertility coach and currently works full time as a quality assurance coach for Progyny Fertility Benefits. Evan is a 5th grader at PS 130 and loves basketball. Larry and Sue both grew up Jewish and have been looking for a community to start Evan on his path to his B'nai Mitzvah and get a deeper understanding of his culture and community. They are happy to have found B'ShERT here in the neighborhood.”
In other Membership news, thanks to everyone who participated in the Congregational Survey last month — we received responses from 105 of our members. The Board of Trustees Self-Assessment and Financial and Operating Report have now also been submitted to the URJ.
This month, B’ShERT will begin working with a URJ Mentor to review the data and set goals for the future. We are excited to begin this very important work. A special thanks to the team that has contributed to this initiative: Warren Bloom, Amy Rhodes Froelich, Pam Glantzman, Eric Platt, Ellyn Rothstein, and Joanie Holland Schaffer.
We’d also like to express our thanks to Drs. Gail Levine Fried and Bob Fried for leading our members and friends in gentle yoga and meditative practice during “Finding the Peace Within” on November 8th. Participants found the session refreshing and relaxing, and we hope to offer additional sessions in the future.
On Saturday, December 12th, at 5 pm, we invite you to attend our Hanukkah Lollapalooza, an exciting event with something for everyone: havdalah, hanukkiah lighting, a cocktail/mocktail workshop, dreidel competition with prizes, an edible menorah craft, a weaving craft, Chanukah bingo, and songs and stories for kids. Learn more and register at https://bshertparty.eventbrite.com. Look for the flyer elsewhere in this newsletter.
And save the date for Sunday, January 24th at 3 pm, for a virtual workshop about Tracing your Jewish Roots at Home (Level 1). This interactive online presentation will be led by genealogy librarian Moriah Amit from the Center for Jewish History, who will offer expert tips and resources for getting started with online family history research and will answer questions from participants. More information and registration details to follow.
As always, if you have ideas about how we can reach potential new members, how we can continue to engage and connect our existing community members, or suggestions for programming, we want to hear from you. Our next committee meetings will be on December 3rd and January 7th at 7:30 pm. Please join us!
Ellyn Rothstein & Joanie Holland Schaffer
Co-Chairs, Membership Committee
Report from the Membership Committee
News from B'ShERT's Brotherhood Affiliate
On behalf of Brotherhood, I would like to thank all the men who attended our Brotherhood meeting in November. A special thank-you to Brotherhood and temple member Robert Fried for his fantastic tribute to his uncle, World War II hero Milton Wolfson, in commemoration of Veterans Day (see photo at right). I received a number of phone calls thanking Brotherhood for this event.
Coming up in December, there will be a Brotherhood meeting on Zoom on Sunday, December 13th at 10 am to discuss plans for the Brotherhood Retro Shabbat Service, which will take place on Friday, December 18th at 8 pm on Zoom. Please save the date! Boy do I wish we could have a Shabbat dinner before the service as we had the last few years. Hopefully we can have one next year.
Mark these dates on your calendar:
On Sunday, January 10th, we’ll have a Brotherhood meeting at 10 am on Zoom followed by a special historical remembrance at 11 am by Alan Zarrow on the plans to assassinate President Harry Truman. This is a chance to learn about an event very few of us ever knew about.
On Thursday evening, January 14th, starting at 7 pm on Zoom, our own beloved Mike Rose will host a special Trivia Night in which prizes will be awarded. I am sure you don't want to miss this.
We wish everyone a wonderful Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa celebration.
Please stay well and stay safe and pray for a vaccine that will help us return to some sort of normalcy.
Joel Moss and Brotherhood
Having watched the Lappin Foundation’s program on Sigd (the Ethiopian-Israeli holiday) on November 16th and having finished a course given by YIVO on two giants of Yiddish literature (I.L.Peretz and Sholem Aleichem), I am now ready for new Jewish cultural experiences in December, and I know that you are, too. Luckily, as usual, there are so many to choose, and they are on Zoom, so that you can watch and learn from home.
Are you taking our Tuesday Torah study classes? Start your learning a little earlier on Tuesday, December 1st and Tuesday, December 8th, with the American Sephardi Federation, for virtual tours of the Bukharian community in Queens and the Bukharian Museum, respectively, at noon. The cost is $10 per person per program. On Thursday, December 17th at noon, explore Hebrew and Arab calligraphy, also with the ASF and also for $10 per person.
The Other Israel Film Festival takes place from December 3rd through December 10th. The cost is $13 per ticket and $55 for a five-film pass. The films include A Common Goal (about a soccer team which is about half Muslim), Golda, Ma’aborot (about Israeli transit camps for immigrants in the 1950s) and 100% (about the Druze).
Also very exciting Is Yiddish New York, from December 26th through December 30th. This amazing festival features Yiddish language classes, tons of klezmer and Yiddish dance, and other interesting programs such as The Lost World of African-American Cantors and Exploration of Jewish Paper Cuts. There are many ticket options ranging from single session and day or evening passes to passes for the full program.
No, I did not forget Chanukah! Among the possibilities are A Celebration of Light, which will focus on Yiddish songs, and which is being presented by Kingsborough Community College from December 6th through December 20th on a “pay what you wish” basis, and Many Candles, One World, which is being provided by the World Union for Progressive Judaism on Sunday, December 13th at 8 pm and which features prominent cantors from all over the world as well as celebrity guests such as Mayim Bialik. There is no charge for this offering.
Our Committee’s activity this month is a continuation of our Jews Across the Pond series. David Goldberg, whom we met in A Visit to Jewish Cork (he is the poet and artist whose father was Lord Mayor) is being interviewed and will present his paintings. This program has been put together by the Massachusetts synagogue whose rabbi has been involved with the Munster Jewish Community for many years. A film about Jews in Dublin will be included. Please look for the flyer in this issue of The Voice of Truth and join us on Sunday, December 6th at 11 am.
Jewish Cultural Committee
Jewish Cultural Committee Report
On November 22nd, the Interfaith Coalition of Brooklyn (Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church, Turkish Cultural Center, East Midwood Jewish Center, and B’ShERT) celebrated its 20th anniversary through its annual Thanksgiving service.
There were many powerful moments, including the song Enough (expressing the anguish of separation from jailed loved ones in Turkey) and One Day (a celebration of hope for peace). Rabbi Heidi Hoover provided words of wisdom, Charlotte Russell and Joanie Holland Schaffer read famous quotes in support of resilience, and Tamara Kerner and Ellyn Rothstein offered heartfelt expressions of what this initiative has meant to them. Thanks to all who participated! — Yvette Pomeranz, Interfaith Coalition Liaison
In November, we had a wonderful Zoom meeting led by Rabbi Pinsky. She spoke about her childhood, education, family life, and how she decided to become a rabbi. She shared many stories about her experiences. She told us how she decided to play the guitar and then proceeded to teach herself. This was followed by some songs. A good time was had by all.
Rabbi Pinsky did all of this on a moment’s notice. She was originally scheduled to be our December speaker, and when Susan Sysler became ill, she took Susan’s spot at our November meeting in place of Susan. We send our good wishes to Susan for a complete recovery.
In place of our Tuesday, December 8th meeting, we suggest that you tune in to the Folksbiene Chanukah Spectacular. This will take place at 7 pm and you can register at https://nytf.org/spectacular/. Among the performers will be Barry Manilow, Mayim Bialik, Billy Crystal, Tovah Feldshuh, Joel Grey, Itzhak Perlman and Neil Sedaka. The event is free but donations are welcomed.
Enjoy Chanukah with friends and family, even if we have to do it virtually. All our best wishes for a happy season. Stay well and safe.
Mona Goldberg, Sara Meyer West, Charlotte Russell
Co-Presidents, Women of B'ShERT
Celebrating Gratitude at Interfaith Coalition Thanksgiving Service
News from Women of B'ShERT, a Sisterhood Organization
Harry and family at a temple luncheon
The Interactive Memorial Board
A few years ago, while doing research for my Temple presentation on the Lincoln assassination, I was actually ecstatic to discover that one of the major personalities from that 1865 night at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, is buried here in Green-Wood. Laura Keene was the lead actress in the play Our American Cousin and, as the story goes, after the shot rang out in the Presidential box, she ran up a back stairway, entered the box, and cradled Lincoln’s head in her lap while the attending physicians decided where to take him. Laura is now a permanent resident of Brooklyn, buried in Section 182 (Dale and Cypress Avenues) on a small mound all the way over on the subway yard side of the cemetery. She is NOT easy to find. Bonnie Greenbaum can attest to that!
Speaking of the Booth family, one of the many actors who performed with John Wilkes’ brother, Edwin, was David Christian Anderson. He is buried in Section 60 on Landscape Avenue under a stone placed there (probably more likely donated) by Edwin himself.
On a more modern note, there are many of us who never got to see the New York Philharmonic in person or who were not able to see a live Broadway show. Yet we still knew the name Leonard Bernstein from the “Young People’s Concerts” that aired in the 1960’s. Wow – the background tunes on so many of those Bugs Bunny cartoons WERE REAL musical pieces. Who knew?
Naturally, you can’t go to Green-Wood to seek out “show-biz” people without going “off to see the Wizard.” Frank Morgan is in Section 168 on Grape Avenue. As an aside, those of you who took my cemetery tour a number of years ago know that one of Morgan’s co-stars, Bert Lahr, is buried in Union Field Cemetery (also the resting place of actor Robert Lansing, toy train designer Joshua Lionel Cowen, ignominious lawyer Roy Cohn, and World Series game-fixer Arnold Rothstein).
Broadway show Cabaret lyricist Fred Ebb, as pointed out to me by Michael Tornick, is buried in Section 20 on Sylvan Water, just a few steps from organized crime figure Carmine Persico and the Pfizer drug company family.
More music comes from James Weldon Johnson, composer of Lift Every Voice and Sing. He is in Section 193, also on Grape Avenue, near the Fort Hamilton Parkway side of the cemetery.
What would music be without the instrument to play it on? The Henry E. Steinway family has what is said to be the largest mausoleum in Green-Wood with over 200 individual crypts. It is located in Section 46, Chapel and Locust Avenues, not far from both “Boss” Tweed and Samuel Morse.
Leaving Brooklyn, we go on a short (but traffic-filled) drive to Calvary Cemetery in Queens where we find comedian Dom DeLuise. His final resting place is actually under the highway in Section 45 of Second Calvary.
Over in Mount Hebron in Flushing, there is a treasure trove of talent. Yankee and Ranger fans will remember the sounds of Eddie Layton on the Hammond organ at both The Stadium and The Garden. He is in Section 4.
And while you are watching the game that Eddie was playing at, you would possibly be munching on Cracker Jack, right? The face of the Cracker Jack television ads, Jack Gilford, is in Section 76D which is a very short walk from organized crime figure Lepke Buchalter.
Also in Mount Hebron are Alan King in Section 104 and the Streisand family – Barbra’s father in Section 67 and her mother in what will be her future interment site in Section 104 which is actually the same section as Alan King. Yes, folks, you KNEW I had to sneak in an Erasmus Hall connection somehow.
Mount Hebron is also home to the Yiddish Theatrical Alliance plot (Section 67) which includes Molly Picon Kalich, the Bozyks (you’ll remember Reizl Bozyk at Bubbe in “Crossing Delancey”) and many others. If you know your Yiddish theatre, you will know the names.
Our last stop before returning to Brooklyn is Old Montefiore (we’ve been here before) in Springfield Gardens because that is where, along with Rebbe Schneerson, we will find movie and TV actor Fyvush Finkel (Block 28) and TV actor Herb Edelman (Block 13). Lots of “Jewish Mafia” people there as well but that is for another time.
The arts aren’t confined to the “performing” type. When it comes to the visual arts, you have to say that probably the most famous art prints of the 1800s were created by the firm of Currier and Ives. Returning to Brooklyn and, specifically, to Green-Wood, we see that Nathaniel Currier is buried in Green-Wood’s Clinton Dell, next to the tomb of Governor DeWitt Clinton. James Merritt Ives is also in Green-Wood, in Section 53 — nowhere near Nathaniel. Hmmmm.
There has been a lot of talk around the B’ShERT community about stained glass, but only one name comes to mind when referring to that medium — Louis Comfort Tiffany. He is buried in his family plot in Section 65, Landscape and Valley Avenues, just steps from the future burial place of Green-Wood historian Jeff Richmond (which we hope will remain vacant for many, many years to come).
Finally, there are the culinary arts. Brooklyn’s famous gas-lit restaurant on Fulton Street was, of course, Gage and Tollner. Charles Gage (l.) is buried on Cypress Avenue in Section 182. Eugene Tollner (r.) is buried in Green-Wood, in Section 90, nowhere near Gage. The restaurant was sold to Seth Bradford Dewey in 1919. Dewey is also in Green-Wood in Section 155 (l.) – within sighting distance of Coney Island’s original hot dog king, Charles Feltman (bottom r.), who is on Border Avenue by the Fort Hamilton Avenue gate.
That’s it for this installment. As always, I have to thank everyone who accompanied me and shared their knowledge with me. I keep walking and I keep learning.
Note: If there was any confusion last month about the Clinton family, I apologize and let me clear it up. Governor DeWitt was the son of American Revolutionary War General James Clinton, for whom Fort Clinton (now part of the USMA at West Point) was named. It is James who is buried in New Windsor, NY. DeWitt’s uncle (and James’ brother) George was the fourth Vice President of the United States who actually served under two different presidents and was the first Vice President to die in office. He is buried in Kingston.
(Text by Alan Zarrow. Photos by Alan Zarrow, Sheldon Greenberg & Joel Edelstein)
Luminaries of the Arts: A Walking Tour of Final Resting Places
At the beginning of the pandemic, Brooklyn’s historic Green-Wood Cemetery opened all of its gates seven days a week to encourage people to safely get out of their homes and walk its trails, admire the landscape, and take in a little history. Congregant and cemetery maven Alan Zarrow took full advantage of walking through not only Green-Wood but some of the other burial grounds in the New York City area, chronicling for Voice of Truth readers some of the famous folks he visited in his travels. This month’s installment in Alan's series features the arts — and not just the performing version. But we will begin with that. In keeping with the theme of this series, the graves featured are the ones seen during this year’s walks. Yes – there are many, many more.
This month’s installment features the arts – and not just the performing version. But we WILL begin with that.
More Glad Tidings from B'ShERT & Beyond
Mazel tov to Henry Levinson and his proud parents, Loren and Jeff Levinson! Henry celebrated his bar mitzvah at home on November 14th, and the warm and thoroughly engaging service was Zoomed to loved ones, friends and the B'ShERT community.
Yasher Koach, Henry, and a warm congratulations from your B'ShERT family!
Jan Lisa Huttner
Robert dos Santos Teixeira
Heidi Louise Yudelowitz
...and Happy Anniversary to Adrienne Knoll & Kenneth Brown!
Photos by Ellyn Rothstein
Happy Birthday, December Babies!
Torah Portions — December 2020
Report from B'ShERT's ARZA Committee
(The following article, Promised Wall in the Promised Land: Updates From Israel, was written by Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center.)
“So…the answer is that there is no answer.”
— Esther Hayut, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, during last week’s hearing on the Western Wall Agreement
The Western Wall is at the heart of ultra-Orthodox religious coercion in Israel. In giving the keys to the Western Wall exclusively to the ultra-Orthodox, the government is actively promoting the idea that that there is only one way to be Jewish. Every day that there is no egalitarian alternative for prayer at Judaism’s holiest site, the State is further reinforcing a message to girls that they aren’t worthy of reading from the Torah at their bat mitzvah, and to progressive Jews that their prayer is not valid or important.
When we last met in court, the government decided to freeze the agreement, but promised to follow through with the renovation of the prayer area by Robinson’s Arch on the southern Western Wall to make it a more permanent and accessible space.
Two long years have passed, and there has been no progress. The government claims that the small platform and adjacent access to the wall are available for use by the Reform and Conservative movements and Women of the Wall. However, the temporary platform is still in a state of disrepair, and there is no access to the wall itself. In addition, the area is open to Orthodox prayer groups who put up a separation barrier for gender-segregated prayer, which is explicitly against the agreement.
We will not accept the State’s false promises and unfulfilled commitments. We demand a solution that includes a complete renovation of the site so that it is safe and accessible, and that is an extension of the State-run main plaza; written policies declaring that the area is an egalitarian and pluralistic prayer space; management by the State in cooperation with the Reform and Conservative movements and Women of the Wall; and State funding to run and maintain the area.
The Supreme Court Justices hearing the case were not impressed by the State’s representative, who was unable to answer any of the Court’s questions coherently or provide legitimate reasons for why the government has not followed through with their promises for the past two years. The Court gave the State five months, until April 2021, to report on their progress in terms of the renovation, management, and funding of the site.
This has been a long, tough fight. But we are confident that we will prevail, and look forward to the day when we can all pray together at the Western Wall.
To learn more about the work of the Israel Religious Action Center, visit irac.org and subscribe to its weekly email newsletter, The Pluralist.
Submitted by Tamara Kerner
ARZA Committee Chair
December 4 - 5 Vayishlach Genesis 32:4 - 36:43
December 11 - 12 Vayeishev Genesis 37:1 - 40:23
December 18 - 19 Mikeitz Genesis 41:1 − 44:17
December 25 - 26 Vayigash Genesis 44:18 – 47:27
Photo courtesy of Lela Wang
My name is Lela Wang and I’m a 10th grader and B’ShERT congregant. When Emma Tattenbaum-Fine, Digital Media and Youth Outreach Coordinator, sent out information about the URJ Religious Action Center (RAC) Teen Justice Fellowship in August, I signed up. The RAC has worked to mobilize the Reform Jewish Movement to advocate for social justice. It was a wonderful program, and greatly helped me to do a civic engagement project. The RAC helped me learn about community organizing, how to start a movement and how to make change.
For the fellowship, I did a non-partisan voting advocacy project. I asked volunteers to make a voting sign to display in a window in either their home or a business. If the sign was displayed in a business, volunteers would ask that business about their history and struggles in this difficult year. Then everyone answered the question, “Does one vote matter, and why?” I think it is very important that everybody votes because that's the foundation of our democracy; we get to choose the people that lead our local government, state government, and our country.
There were many challenges. At first, it was difficult to start this project, and get enough volunteers. I found there were a lot of issues with businesses who were unwilling to participate, or took signs down after agreeing. They were reluctant to do anything remotely political, even if it was non-partisan.
I also discovered that many people really didn’t believe one vote mattered. I found the political divide in our community was much bigger than I thought. With the election rapidly approaching, I had to make it all happen and compile all the responses.
There were also successes. There were some really inspiring things that were said and I am so happy with the result of this project. I think something as simple as spreading the word and encouraging voting through posters can make a difference, especially because all the signs were individually made, expressing unique and community-based work.
I found this was also a tactic that was used when I did postcarding this summer, encouraging people to register to vote. The postcards had to be hand-written, which was quite tedious but much more personal. The posters were all very creative and I think that the project was a success. You can see the results on my project website Your Vote, Your Voice here: https://sites.google.com/view/vote-2020/home
Through this fellowship, I learned about community organizing and the many challenges involved. Civic engagement is difficult, but this was definitely a great learning experience and made me a more confident community organizer.
I also learned a lot about different political views and I realized there are many people in my neighborhood and in my community who think differently—they aren’t just in states I have never been to or places far away. They are people just like you and me who just think differently and that is okay. We must spread kindness no matter what and work to better the world together.
Lela Wang, B'ShERT Youth Group Member
(Editor's note: Lela is "excited to continue on with the RAC Social Justice Academy, which has three units in 2020-21: Civic Engagement, Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and Action & Advocacy.")
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