Monday, December 4, 2017

Why I Light My Chanukah Candles

A Chanukah Reflection by David Gregory

This piece is part of AJWS's Chag v'Chesed publication series. 
For more Chanukah resources, visit their website

Every winter, as the days shorten and darken, I look forward to Chanukah. The sight of the candles over eight nights helps us create those sacred moments that daily life so often crowds out. The flicker of the flame evokes history, identity, shared experience. I see in my children their innocent excitement and their respect for a special moment we share. My wife and I are always so proud to hear them sing the prayer—the glue that binds generations of Jews. 

The candles create a circle of light around my family that grows brighter each day as we add another candle to our menorah. This is a truly intimate experience—the flames pull us inward toward the light and toward one another. And yet, the rabbis of the Talmud declare that the menorah should be placed “at the entrance to one’s house on the outside, so that all can see it.”1 The sages push us to make our private ritual public, because the very purpose of the candles is to publicize the miracle of Chanukah. 

I have always felt great pride in placing my menorah in the window—and in Washington, D.C., where I live, my candles mingle seamlessly with the other lights of the holiday season, a multi-cultural mix of traditions all aglow. At my synagogue Chanukah party, we make this ritual even brighter and bolder. Everyone brings their own menorah. We light the candles, turn out the lights and put on 3D glasses, enjoying a spectacular light show. Thousands of tiny flames burst in their multi-dimensional glory—lights upon lights burning for all to see. 

But in the days of the rabbis who created the Talmud in the third century CE, lighting the candles in full public view was not always safe. Right after the mandate to place the Menorah in the window, the Talmud says:  

And in a time of danger, [when it might be dangerous to be seen practicing Judaism], placing it on the table is sufficient to fulfill the obligation. 

Continue reading on the AJWS Chag v'Chesed site. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How to Talk to Your Kids About God

So your kid wants to talk about what?

Lots of parents find it difficult to talk to their kids about God. In this short video, Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, an American rabbi and author, gives us some tips for how to approach this conversation and reassures us that it’s okay to not have all the answers.

Watch this wonderful video from BimBam, digital storytelling that sparks connections to Judaism for learners of all ages.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Is Halloween Right for Your Jewish Family?

Do Jews celebrate Halloween?
Well, it depends on whom you ask.
Reform Jews seem to be particularly divided on the subject of celebrating the spooky, now-mostly-secular holiday of Halloween. In “Tricks, Treats, and Tradition: Being an American Jew on Halloween,”Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr shares some of the holiday’s known origins and explains what makes her uncomfortable about the holiday – namely the “tricks” element of trick-or-treating (through she writes that, ultimately, she does allow her children to celebrate Halloween, albeit in an understated way).

So what’s the norm among American Jewry? Well, first of all, let’s get something important out of the way. People often ask, “Is Purim akin to a Jewish Halloween?” Rabbi Victor Appell is here to answer the question (spoiler alert: The answer is no) and explain why.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Sukkot in Jerusalem: A Precarious Balance

This article is from by BY 

I grew up in a Reform Jewish community in eastern Long Island. Sukkot was the holiday after Rosh HaShanah when we finally said “farewell” to summer. The weather turned cooler, heavy coats emerged from moth-ball encased slumber, and the screen doors were replaced with storm windows. There were two sukkot (plural of sukkah; a small outdoor hut used during Sukkot) in the neighborhood synagogue – one on the bimah of the synagogue and one in the synagogue’s parking lot. They were decorated with local flora – pine branches, maple leaves, and bull rushes from the shores of the Great South Bay. As a religious school student, I remember going into the sukkah, singing songs, and chanting the blessings, but we never ate in the sukkah or slept out there – it was just too cold.

When I moved to Los Angeles and began my tenure as the cantor at Temple Isaiah, my husband Rabbi Donald Goor and I embraced the yearly building and decorating of our sukkah. Our home sat on a hill overlooking the entire San Fernando Valley and the Santa Monica Mountains provided the perfect backdrop for our seasonal structure. We invited friends to help decorate and each year the sukkah had a theme: one year it was super heroes, another year it was famous Jewish women, and in 2001, just weeks after the attack on the World Trade Centers, we decorated the sukkah in red, white, and blue.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

News for the New Year

26 September, 2017/6Tishrei 5778

Shalom Mishpachot/Dear Families:

October 5, we are having our first MISHPACHA of the year, a parent/child family education program, centering around the holiday of Sukkot. For grades K-2, it is from 4:00-5:00.  For grades 3-7, it is from 5:00-6:00, and we do need an RSVP for these older grades (if you already RSVPed, you do not need to again; you 3 know who you are). Morah Saragail is leading this wonderful program.

The following week, October 12,  is our Consecration/Simchat Torah service and dinner, during school hours, from 4-6:ish. This is for everyone as we welcome our newest students into the school. Please let me know if your child did not get a mini-Torah (little kids) or a prayer book (older kids) last year. We also celebrate the completion and beginning of the Torah reading cycle. Additionally students in grades 3+ will receive a $200 gift certificate towards their first overnight summer at a URJ camp.
 For the dinner following the service on Oct. 12, we ask that families in 
  • grades K-4 bring a main dish
  • grades 5-6 bring a salad 
  • grade 7 bring dessert and beverage.

Weekend of Oct 6-7-8: Sukkot on the Farm from the LivingTree Alliance. Those of you who have participated in their programs in the past know how much fun they are while celebrating outdoors with Jewish families from all over the state of Vermont. Note, they have moved from their farm in Monkton to Moretown. So many wonderful events during the weekend, come for Shabbat and stay all weekend or come to any of the activities during the weekend.  BTW, at 2:00 on Sunday our own Saragail is leading a community drum circle!

Do you shop at Price Chopper? If you’re not already enrolled in their Tools for Schools program, please do. You will need your Advantage Card #. You can register at their Customer Service counter or online: You will need our school code: 39618. We earn points toward school supplies every year through the purchases you make.

One last thing, no one from 7th grade has signed up for snack this week. Only two families have signed up so far, so please check your child’s classroom door next time you’re in the building.

See you this Thursday.

Ktivah v’Chatimah Tovah/May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year (a traditional greeting between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur),

Morah Judy

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why Bother? A Religious School Manifesto


I hope everyone is enjoying this wonderful summer.

On occasion I've reprinted articles of interest. This lastest one from eJewishPhilanthropy is so spot-on that I just had to share it with you.  Enjoy! --Morah Judy

By Rabbi Nicki Greninger
*This goes out to all parents thinking of sending their kids to a (Jewish) religious school… to parents who were raised Jewish, those who chose Judaism, and those who aren’t Jewish but married a Jew.*
In the last month, I’ve had several conversations that got me thinking. One friend asked a group of us who went to Jewish summer camp together (we are now grown up with kids of our own), “Are you going to send your kids to religious school?” In another social situation, a friend innocently asked “Why do kids go to religious school twice a week starting in third grade?” In both cases, these friends of mine are connected to the Jewish community and are already committed to raising Jewish kids. But they (along with many others) wonder about the value of religious school, and about the time commitment required to take part in it. Is it worth it?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Reconciling Science with Religion

Mayim Bialik is not only a scientist (and she plays one on TV), she is also a thoughtful, observant Jew.

I'd love to share this video with you about her take on science and religion.  It would be wonderful to share and discuss with your children.

For more from Mayim Bialik, follow her on her website: