Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Leonard Cohen & Facing the Darkness

Shalom Chaveirim/Dear Friends:

Many of you know of my love of Leonard Cohen, so when he died a few weeks ago I, and millions around the world, were saddened by his passing.  He left a great legacy of poetry and music, much of it very Jewish in character, particularly his final album, You Want it Darker.

  wrote a wonderful piece for aish.com,

Leonard Cohen & Facing the Darkness. 

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen has been on my mind a lot lately, as we approach the darkest time of year. Maybe it’s because Cohen was a man who seemed most at home in the dark and brokenness of this world. I first encountered him as a young girl in the back seat of a blue Volvo station wagon, on our annual family pilgrimage down to visit my Bubbie and Zaidie in Miami. In those pre-iPad and earbud days, whatever we did on that drive down, we did together: counting license plates, listening to stories and yes, singing together. And then, there was always a point in the late night drive when my father would sing to us. A Leonard Cohen fan, he would sing of Suzanne, and how “she takes you down to her place by the river”. As he went on to describe “she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China,” I had an image in my young mind of a canoe filled with clementines.

I next met Cohen as an angsty adolescent reading his poetry. I discovered a poet who reminded us that “there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”. The world might be deeply imperfect, but that didn’t mean it was bad. It’s this clarity that has me thinking about a man, whose grave is marked Eliezer HaCohen, and how he might help us to encounter the dark that meets us now – in the world, our lives and as we draw towards Hanukkah.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Time to say Kaddish for ‘tikkun olam’

This is reprinted from a post in The Times of Israel by Aaron Starr, a rabbi at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Michigan.

As  we welcome in this New Year, we know that we are at a critical juncture in American Jewish history. Synagogue affiliation continues to drop. Jewish ritual practice weakens with every passing year. Parents are far too often choosing for their children to attend soccer and gymnastics over Hebrew School and youth group. Even Israel — that one topic which used to unite the Jewish people — even Israel has become a lightning rod that divides, rather than unites us. Frankly, without a major course correction, the future for non-Orthodox Jews in America appears in jeopardy.

There is no question that American culture is partly to blame. Liberal religion as a whole is decreasing in our country, as fewer people of any religion attend worship services. We are blessed with so many freedoms and privileges that it is easy to choose to be an American first and a Jew second, or to choose not to be Jewish at all. I’m reminded of the story of when Napoleon was trying to conquer Russia. A group of Hasids went up to their rebbe and asked, “Rebbe, should we pray for Napoleon to win, with his promise of liberty, fraternity, and equality? Or should we pray for the Czar, and continue among all this anti-Semitism?” The Rebbe responded, “What is good for the Jews is not necessarily good for Judaism.” In America, it is surely good for the Jews, but it has not been so good for Judaism.

In response to the decline in Jewish life here in America, we have tried to reinvent religious schools and day schools. We have gone through revolutions in prayer styles and published new prayer books. We are ever trying to improve synagogue practices, becoming more welcoming communities and more caring congregations. Yet, somehow, the decline of Conservative and Reform Judaism continues.

Continue reading.

Monday, September 19, 2016

New School Year 2016-2017/5777

Shalom Chaveirim/Dear Friends:

Religious School was off to a great start this past Thursday. It was wonderful to see all the excited families in our building. 

After a fun exercise with our new teacher/educator, Saragail Benjamin, who by the way, is our K, Music & SuperSunday [more on that later] teacher, the students went off with their teachers and the parents and I did a fun ice-breaker activity and went over all the important info for the year. In case you missed it, here are the highlights:

Creating a community:  In all our lives, we inhabit different communities; our families; our children’s friends parents; schools, organizations, workplaces. Temple is one more community. And to feel like you’re part of a community, you need to more than just have a membership, you need to show up and become a part of it, much as you’re doing now.  Get involved; come to services and other Temple activities; women, join Sisterhood, men, join Brotherhood; everyone, serve on a committee, take a class, make phone calls to other class parents, invite another family over for Shabbat dinner or a holiday, even someone you barely know.

We are continuing the tradition we started lass year with class services on Folk Service Friday nights, with each class providing a congregational dinner, along with two committees to help. Get to know your committee members and see if their committee and you are a good fit for partnership. Speaking of Services: In the handbook I sent out it states the requirement for the number of services your child is required to attend per year. This requirement gets back to the concept of building community. It also familiarizes you and your family with the service. There is a black loose-leaf notebook in the lobby which you should use to sign in your child for Shabbat services


Getting your child here. On time. By 4:00.  3:55 if possible. I know it isn’t always possible to be here on time but it really is disruptive to the reacher and the rest of the class to have students straggling in at 4:05, 4:10, 4:15.  We’re going to be serving snack first thing this year from 4-4:10 so if your child comes in after that, there will be no snack so feed them before they get here.  And speaking of snack, there is a sign-up sheet on your child’s classroom door, and please keep it simple. If you’re sending a fruit, such as grapes, please wash them and cut them into smaller clusters.  You don’t need to send fruit AND cheese AND crackers AND chips. Keep it to one, simple thing.

Dismissal: We ask that you come into the building and sign out your child on the sheet on the classroom door.  Children are not permitted to wait outside the building or go into the parking lot unaccompanied. This is a safety precaution.

For grades 2-7, dismissal is at 6:15, except when we have parties, such as Chanukah and the last day of school, when it’s at 6:00.  Chilcren in preK & K are dismissed at 5 or 5:15 if it’s a Music day.  And starting October 20, students taking Torah Chanting go an extra 20 minutes, until 6:35.


Every month, starting with the Simchat Torah/Consecration Service on October 23 at 5:00 [along with a Pot Luck], Saragail Benjamin will be using all her talents as a drummer, singer, educator, movement teacher, and motivational speaker to engage anyone who comes in joyful, community-building activities. Check out her website: http://www.saragailbenjamin.com/

If you need a calendar, let me know.

So good to have your children back again. If you're able to, feel free to hang out, have a cup of coffee or tea [Keurig in the meditation chapel off the lobby], schmooze with other parents, volunteer in the classroom or library, and make this place your home away from home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Memories of Israel from my father

A few weeks ago Israel celebrated her 68th anniversary. I'd like to share with you some memories from my dad, Sam Alexander, z"l, who was an American volunteer for Machal, an acronym for Overseas Volunteers.

So here is an up close and personal memoir from Dad, who died 13 years ago.

As part of Machal history I would like to add a few (details) which will fill in the story.

I grew up in a religious Zionist home. My parents had been active in Mizrahi and I was active in Hashomer Hadati. Moshe Perlstein who was one of the Lamed He (the group of  Hebrew University Volunteers who were slaughtered by the Arabs when these 35 were bringing aid to Gush Etzion), was my dear friend in the Shomer as well as Carmie Charney (Tet Carmi) who became one of Israel's outstanding poets, and Miriam Hessel who just died were all part of our Shomer Hadati Chapter in Boro Park.

In order  to facilitate Aliyah it was arranged for me to go with L & L, the office in America that recruited for what became Machal. If I remember correctly, I was part of a group of 26 men which included __________. Toward the end of March, along with 2 Hagana shlechim we went to Camp Moshava in  NY for an orientation that went on the Marine Carp. When we landed in Haifa we were housed in the Carmeli Court H. on the Hadar Ha. While there we went through an orientation, a physical, and a swearing in. One of the highlights of this week was a social evening at the apartment of Abba Chushi, who at that time was one of the top men of the Histadrut and the Hagana commander of the whole northern region. We met a number of men at this gathering. I was one of the fortunate few who were pretty fluent in Hebrew. My intensive background in Hebrew (I was able to read at age 5) stood me in good stead as early as my being stationed in Iran and Egypt in the US Army at the end of 1945 until April 1946. While in Egypt in Jan, 1946 I took advantage of an opportunity to begin learning conversational Arabic. I met a number of Jews who were serving in the British and South African Armies including Abba Eban and Chaim Herzog. While in Egypt I met a few Hagana shlechim who were engaged in smuggling.

During the evening the telephone rang. Abba Chushi answered it. The voice at the other end gave him a report of the situation in Northern Galilee. It seemed that the British were supposed to turn over some installations to Hagana but instead reneged giving them to the Arabs. When Chushi hung up the phone he was quite upset. He picked up the phone and called someone asking to speak on an untapped phone to the “old man” (since I was pretty fluent in Hebrew I had no trouble understanding). When the other end answered Chushi said, “Gut Shabbas Zaken” and the conversation was continued in Yiddish. The city of Tiberias was called the “warm city” because it has warm springs and Safed was called the “city of the Zohar,” because it was the home of Jewish mysticism. I sat there enthralled listening to a part of current history. After the conversation with Ben Gurion nothing about it was said and I felt privileged to have been able to listen to such a classified conversation.
When the group left Haifa we headed down to Tel Aviv in an armored bus. We were shot at a few times but the bullets didn't penetrate. We arrived at a reception center. While there we received our uniforms which were British surplus and our I.D. Which was two printed booklets with our picture and our own I.D. number.

Since I was going to Kibbutz Ein Hanitziv in the Bet Shean Valley, I was taken to a hotel in Tel Aviv. That night I was taken to a going away party at the Habima where I was dancing with Golda Myerson (not Meir yet) and all the celebrities in entertainment and politics. A few weeks later I got a letter telling me that when Habima was in New York, my parents were invited to their opening play and reception and they told my parents that they were honored to meet the parents of a volunteer.

When I got to Ein Hanitziv I joined my garin. A few days later I was taken to the unit in which I would serve as a combat medic. In the US Army I was trained as a medic and graduated Surgical Technical  school. The unit was B  Company, 13 Battalion, Golani Brigade. We were known as the Gdad Ha'amakin, the Battalion of the Valleys, because the Battalion was founded by and included men from all the settlements in Emek Jezreel and Emek Bet Shean. At this early stage before the founding of the State, almost all of the men slept in their own settlements because there were incidents of intimidation and shooting by Arabs. When the State was created, soldiers from Haifa and other towns and villages joined us and camps were established. At this point the only American volunteer I knew was Phil Bock who was active in A.V.I. He died a few years ago. When my unit took over Nazareth, I met Dr. Harold Levine D.D.S. Brooklyn who was running a mobile unit following the troops. I don't know where he was stationed but months later I visited his apartment in Tel Aviv which he shared with his brother Phil who was also in the Army. At some point at Ein Hanitziv Si Spiegelman came and saw military service. If I remember correctly, we were guarding a hill south of Tirat Zvi which was the border for us and the Jordanians.

I was detached from Golani some time in October when my garin went down to Kibbutz Yavne which was south of Rehovoth. We joined survivors from Kibbutz Kfar Darom and a number of South Africans. I was assigned to the second volunteer battalion which was made up of men from kibbutzim in the South West. We were used primarily as reinforcements to units facing the Egyptians. I came across Machal when I met Lionel Drucker from Canada and Rabbi Sam Burstein from New York who flew reconnaissance out of Beer Sheva. He even gave me a quick ride.

In actuality I met very few Machal while performing in a unit or a combat zone. There were a couple more volunteers whose names I don't remember. One had a leg blown off when his jeep went over a land mine. Jerry Kaplan and Mendel Math (?) who were killed in the Battle for Latrun early in the war were part of the group I went over with on the Marine Corp.
I want to recall one historic occasion. In November 1948 on the anniversary of the UN resolution of Nov. 2, 1947, I attended a concert in Jerusalem conducted by Leonard Bernstein. I had no seat so I sat on the floor behind the podium. I yelled “Yea Lenny.” He turned around and told me to meet him after the concert for a cup of coffee. I'm sorry to this day that I didn't meet with him because I was joining friends. Look what I missed.

(Written by Samuel Alexander in 2003)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Are you looking for fun videos to teach your child about Shabbat, holidays, and Jewish values?  The same folks who brought you G-dcast now bring you Shaboom!, a brand new kids' series from Bimbam. Learn new Hebrew words, silly songs, and have fun with the whole family.

Thursday, April 7, 2016


Passover begins at sundown April 22

Pesach, known as Passover in English, is a major Jewish spring festival, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt over 3,000 years ago. The ritual observance of this holiday centers around a special home service called the seder (meaning "order") and a festive meal; the prohibition ofchametz (leaven); and the eating of matzah (an unleavened bread). On the fifteenth day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, Jews gather with family and friends in the evening to read from a book called the haggadah, meaning "telling," which contains the order of prayers, rituals, readings, and songs for the Passover seder. Today, the holiday is a celebration of freedom and family.

Enjoy this fun video and read more about the holiday, customs, celebrations, how to make matzah balls, charoset and other recipes; games and crafts for children, social justice causes to tie into the holiday and so much more.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

School Vacation Coming Up

Please note, all classes are on break this coming week, that includes:
  • Religious School
  • Chai School
  • Adult Hebrew class
  • Torah Study on Saturday the 20th and 27th
  • Wednesday Jewish History Group
  • Thursday Prophet Study Group
Have a wonderful vacation.