Monday, August 4, 2014

Thinking About Science, Judaism, Time Machines

The following article is reprinted from

Note in the picture on the right is our very own Peyton Coel, who incidentally, had the greatest time at this camp.

Until a few days ago, I had never thought about building a time machine. I had never thought about flying a drone. I had never thought about editing files (other than Word Documents or Excel spreadsheets) in the guts of a computer. Now, I’m thinking about all of those things.
Why am I thinking about these things now? A few days ago, my 25-year-old daughter Alyssa and I went to visit a Jewish summer camp. It’s something we’ve done a few times over the years, but this time was different. This time, we visited the Union for Reform Judaism’s newest overnight camp, URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy. Though we only spent several hours at camp, I was profoundly impacted by what we saw and experienced while there.
I’ve always believed that Judaism can and should be able to be integrated into one’s passions – that no one should have to choose between being an athlete and participating in Judaism, between being a dancer, a musician, or a scientist and integrating Judaism into their life. In yesterday’s society, that was challenging. In today’s, it is less so. Many people in the Jewish community are committed to finding ways to help young people integrate their passions with Judaism, and the opening of URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy is a great example.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What is your child doing this summer? What about you?

Chances are pretty good that you'll be spending time in the car with a smart phone or on a computer.  While you have this 'downtime' take the time to learn something Jewish with Jewish Interactive Applications

  • Learn about Sukkot with the Sukkah Challenge.
  • jiConnect lets you see how Jews all over the world celebrate holidays and lets you learn their customs
  • Shabbat Interactive brings you into the magical, enticing and fun-driven realm of shabbat
  • Go on a Mitzvah Hunt in this interactive game, filled with music and animation that encourages children to look for the good in other people.
  • iThank You teaches children the importance of gratitude
  • JI Studio encourages children to let their imaginations run wild.

Start downloading and let me know how it's going.  Have a great summer!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Reincarnation is a word that to most Jews screams of foreign cultures. What is not common knowledge, however, is that the reincarnation of souls is a concept found in Judaism known as gilgul.

Before discussing any aspect of gilgul, Jewish Treats feels that it must advise you that this is an extremely complex kabbalistic idea, which we can only present in a broad and superficial manner.

Gilgul is not mentioned in the Torah, nor is it a focus of the sages of the Talmud. In fact, the concept of gilgul only became a topic of study in Medieval times. It was discussed by scholars such as Saadia Gaon (882-942) (who rejected the idea) and Nachmanides (1194-1270) (who accepted it). It was the kabbalists of Safed, however, who delved into the depths of the idea of reincarnation. The teachings of the Arizal (1534 -1572) were published by his disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital (1543-1620), in the book Shaar Hagilgulim. These teachings then gained prominence in the early Chassidic movement.

The basic kabbalistic understanding of gilgul (which comes from the Hebrew word for cycle) is that every soul has a purpose. When a soul does not complete its purpose the first time it enters the physical world, it is returned to this world again in order to create a tikkun (repair). It is placed in a new life in a new body where the flaws of the previous life may best be rectified. And while chassidic/kabbalistic texts discuss reincarnation, it is not a primary focus in Jewish life because it then becomes a distraction to those creating the tikkun.(Sometimes, however, dramatic stories have arisen of special souls that made themselves known.)
Today's Tip:
No Assumptions
Before assuming that a concept is foreign to Jewish life, ask a rabbi, Jewish scholar or write to
Jewish Treats (

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Making Meaning of the March

The “March” reminds us that the Jewish educational engagement of all Jews must remain an enduring goal.

by Dr. Gil Graff for eJewish Philanthropy

For the third time over a period dating to 1996, I have joined thousands of Jews from dozens of nations around the globe in the experience of “March of the Living.” Initiated by Israeli Jews, a “Holocaust to Redemption” theme is palpable: 70 years ago, Jews were, fundamentally, powerless and millions perished; today, there is a powerful, sovereign State of Israel. This very theme is often – including in his Yom ha-Shoah message – invoked by Binyamin Netanyahu, with reference to the threat of Iranian nuclear capability: “Unlike our situation during the Holocaust, when we were like leaves on the wind, defenseless, now we have great power to defend ourselves….”

Juxtaposition of the Holocaust and a powerful, sovereign state, understandably resonates with most Israelis. Jewish sovereignty, after two millennia, is a remarkable phenomenon. For Israelis, sovereignty and the responsibility of power are realities that call for serious reflection. The experiences of “March of the Living” provide a springboard for such reflection.

Data released shortly before Israel’s Independence Day showed an Israeli Jewish population of 6.135 million, representing 75% of Israel’s 8.18 million residents. The opportunity of shaping a Jewish democratic state, drawing upon values rooted in Jewish teaching, extending to the public sphere in the 21st century, is a unique chapter in Jewish history. Though thousands of North American Jews have chosen to move to Israel, the overwhelming majority of American Jews – no less numerous than our Israeli counterparts – feels quite at home in the land of their birth and citizenship. America is not viewed as a nation in which anything akin to the events leading to the Holocaust – let alone anything resembling the Holocaust – might ever occur. While appreciating the significance of Israeli sovereignty through the lens of the “March,” what, for North American Jews – teens and adults – is the directly applicable take-away of March of the Living?

As there are “seventy faces to the Torah,” there are multiple approaches to making meaning of the “March.” The horrors of genocide and the imperative of responding to the sorts of rhetoric and action that can lead in that direction, are clear. In addition, I would suggest that a key message for North American Jewry is the enduring importance of Jewish learning.

Poland was, for hundreds of years, home to the most populous and, arguably, the most culturally rich Jewish community in the world. Apart from sites that one (hopefully) visits over the course of a “March”-associated week in Poland that reflect this past, a magnificent museum of the Jewish experience in Poland has recently opened, in Warsaw, devoted to sharing this legacy. The vitality of Jewish life was grounded in communities that valued and nurtured Jewish learning which, in turn, related to and influenced daily living. By the latter half of the nineteenth century, hasidim, mitnagdim, maskilim, hovevei zion, socialists, the musar movement and new yeshivot each drew in their own way from a shared heritage of learning. Despite ideological divides, most of these groups were sustained by the rich wellspring of Jewish learning, though – to be sure – differently filtered. “Marchers,” who proceed to Israel, recognize that there, too, elements of shared language undergird the ferment that is part of Israel’s vitality.

Jewish learning represents a shared language that connects Jews of those dozens of countries – including Israel – from which Jews “march.” Moreover, it enables bringing accumulated Jewish wisdom and experience to bear on issues of life and society in the communities of which Jews are a part, ennobling our lives in the process. In the absence of Jewish learning, the fabric of Jewish living – including the capacity to contribute the richness of our heritage to the body politic – will surely fray.

Near the close of this year’s March of the Living ceremony in Birkenau, a Torah scroll was publicly completed. Fittingly, Holocaust survivors shared in transmitting this torch of Jewish learning by filling in some of the last letters of the scroll. If we are to remain a people with a purpose, our actions must be grounded in Jewish learning. The closing words of the Torah are: “before the eyes of all Israel.” The “March” reminds us that the Jewish educational engagement of all Jews must remain an enduring goal.

Dr. Gil Graff is Executive Director of BJE: Builders of Jewish Education.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Testing Positive for Judaism: Unlocking a Family’s Genetic Secret

A genetic test for Tay-Sachs revealed surprising results—and helped my husband and me discover what Judaism means to us

By Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy

Being tested for a genetic disorder is usually not a laughing matter, but that’s exactly what we were doing when my husband had his blood drawn to see if he, like me, was a carrier for Tay-Sachs. His being tested was a formality for us as Jewish prospective parents. We didn’t take it seriously because we didn’t have anything to worry about: Matt had been born and raised Catholic in a rural town in northeastern Pennsylvania. He converted to Judaism before we got married two and a half years before. He had told me that loving me meant loving everything about me, including my Judaism. He had told my parents that he felt a resonance in Judaism that he had never found in Catholicism. He had told our rabbi that he felt personally committed to helping ensure that there would be future generations of Jews in the world, to parent and raise Jewish children of his own. And yet Matt’s commitment to his new faith didn’t alter the statistical improbability of his being a Tay-Sachs carrier.

Which is why we were shocked, stunned, speechless when we learned that he was a carrier. Not just because of what that test result meant for our efforts to have children, but because of what it meant beyond that: My husband, the Jew-by-choice, had been Jewish all along. Genes don’t lie; a genetic counselor told us that Matt had, without a doubt, a specifically Ashkenazic version of the mutation that causes Tay-Sachs.

The news was explosive, but also revelatory. While my husband found himself obsessed with discovering the origins of this long-buried family secret and strangely comforted by a new feeling of understanding with his connection to Judaism, I felt like I was, in many ways, meeting my husband, and my own sense of my faith, all over again.

Keep reading.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

End of School Year

Shalom Everybody,

This time of year always seem to pass so quickly and before you know it, it's summer!  Some events to keep in mind in the coming weeks and months:

19th – Tot Shabbat at 9:30 a.m.
20th-27th – Spring Break; no classes on the 23rd or 24th
27th – Community-wide Yom Hashoah/Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration is here at Temple Sinai at 2:00 p.m.  Our students who have studied the Holocaust may find it particularly pertinent.

For the grown-ups:  Bruce Chalmer’s class on “Reality, Faith and Meaning: Jewish Views on Science and Religion” begins April 27th at 10 a.m and runs for 4 consecutive Sundays.  You may contact Stacie in order to register.

2nd – Teacher Appreciation Shabbat/Folk Service - please come and show our teachers how much you and your family appreciate all they do for our children.  Chinese dinner follows services.  There is a fee and you do need to RSVP - greenfieldp24
4th – Story Hour 10 a.m. – our last of the season
10th – Tot Shabbat at 9:30 a.m.
15th – the last day of school –6:00 p.m. dismissal
17th – Bat Mitzvah of Elise Norotsky
24th – added service; Aufruf of Eli Chalmer and Jessie Karsif

Looking ahead to June – Note, all Friday night services starting in June and through August begin at 6:00 p.m.

Just because school ends, doesn’t mean the activity at Temple ceases.  Please note these events that are happening in June and show your support for our students by attending

3rd – Confirmation/Shavuot Service at 7:30 – Ben Silver and Erica Issenberg have attended Religious School and then Chai School.  Ben’s family has been schlepping all these years from Benson—I’m always awed by their steadfast commitment.  Ben also attended Brandeis’s Genesis program last summer and plans to return this summer.  Erica has been active in both our Temple and as President of the Mazkirut/Executive Board of Young Judaea.  I hope you will come and show them how much they are valued as members of our congregational family.

We also have 2 wonderful young ladies having their Bat Mitzvahs in June:

14th – Talia Loiter
21st – Liza Segal-Stone

6th Grade families note:  the Kallah/Retreat scheduled for June 7-8 has to bechanged.  I’ll be contacting you specifically regarding this.

Have a wonderful week and see you soon,
Morah Judy

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Some Fun Videos to Get You in the Mood for Passover

Google Exodus

Best Seder in the USA (The Passover Song)

The Fountainheads INTERACTIVE Escape from Egypt Video

Passover Rhapsody - A Jewish Rock Opera 

Uncle Jay Explains Passover for

Thanks to Kim Dauerman for sharing this one with me, "Chozen" (for fans of Frozen)