Monday, December 18, 2017

New Adult Education Course: Israel's Milestones and Their Meanings: The Legacy of the Past and the Challenge of the Future

UPDATE: Please note that the dates of the course have changed this this was first posted. Our start date it Feb. 4. See Temple Sinai's webpage for the correct dates.

From the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, the URJ and ARZA:

Israel's Milestones and Their Meanings: The Legacy of the Past and the Challenge of the Future

Memory is a central element in defining modern Jewish identity. As we look to Israel's future, we need to engage anew with our past and explore its meanings and consequences. Through the consideration of major historic moments, this iEngage series grapples with the different ideas and values that shape the meaning of Modern Israel, Zionism, and Jewish identity today.

This innovative course explores the pivotal events of 1947 and 1967 - following the 1917 Balfour Declaration - as key moments when Zionism unleashed new thinking about the meaning of Jewishness for generations to come. The course engages Jews in an open and pluralistic discussion about issues of Jewish identity, peoplehood, ethics and theology as they relate to nationhood, land, sovereignty, Jerusalem, occupation, and moral red lines.

Classes are at 10:00 a.m. on the following dates: 
  • Jan. 14 & 28 
  • Feb. 4 & 18
  •  Mar. 11 & 25
  •  Apr.  8
  • May 6 

 Additionally, there are three webinars led by Scholars from the URJ and Israel on March 1, April 12, and May 17, all Thursdays, all at noon.

These video sessions originate from the Hartman Institute and are facilitated on site by Bruce Hicken.

This course is made possible by a generous grant from the URJ and ARZA and is being offered for free to Temple Sinai members and non-members.  Source readings will be provided for free in PDF format.  These readings are also available in a printed book, which you may order yourself from the Hartman Institute for $20.00.

Donations are gladly accepted. All participants do need to sign up in advance, even if you cannot attend all classes. 

To sign up, please email

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:

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Reflections on The Six Day War on its 50th Anniversary


The year was 1967, 50 years ago. It was June. I know because I was looking forward to the end of the school year, which for a 9 year old who hated school and loved summer, can't come soon enough.

I went to an Orthodox Yeshiva, the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach. That meant when we got to school each morning at 7:30 we had a half hour of prayers, followed by a full morning of Hebrew studies, (Torah, language, grammar, Prophets) lunch, then a full afternoon of secular studies. We were dismissed at 4:00.


This was not my first introduction to Israel. I came from a home that was ardent Zionist. When he was growing up, my father, Sam Alexander, z"l, was a member of the Hashomer Hadati, a religious Zionist group.  His mother, Minnie Alexander, was a founding member of a women's Mizrahi chapter in Brooklyn, a women's Zionist volunteer organization. My dad, a WWII veteran, joined a garin of like-minded Americans in 1947 with the specific purpose of making aliyah, and trained to be a medic, which came in handy when he joined the Haganah (the pre-Israel Army) and fought in the War for Independence in 1948. Both my mother, Leila, and her mother, Freida Blum, were active members of Hadassah, another women's Zionist organization.  It was in my blood.

I was raised on this, plus all the songs I learned as a child were songs of longing for Zion, Jerusalem restored, about Israel being the beating heart of the Jewish people, such as HaKotel (The Wall)

Hakotel - eizov v'atzevet             The kotel, moss and sadness.
Hakotel - oferet vadam               
The kotel, lead and blood.
Yesh anashim im lev shel even. 
There are people with a heart of stone.
Yesh avanim im lev adam.         
There are stones with a human heart.


By the waters of Babylon
We lay down and wept for thee Zion
We remember, we remember, we remember thee Zion


But then something happened in early June. The entire faculty was abuzz.  We learned that Israel was under attack from all sides. Five surrounding Arab nations started bombing and attacking Israel.

As the news reports came each day, our entire school gathered together in the cafeteria for special prayers.  It was the first time I saw grown ups collectively weep and also the first time that I realized how vital prayer was to a people. If anything could stop that war, it was the voices of the hundreds of students and teachers in our cafeteria; our prayers.  My prayers.

Later that week I went into New York City with my best friend and I'm sure there was a parent involved but whose I don't remember. We ended up at the Magen David Adom (The Israeli Red Cross), and made endless phone calls asking for money that was so dearly needed.  To this day, I don't know how they let two 9-year-olds do this, but no one asked questions, they were grateful to have us. As I recall we got may pledges.

Skip to the latter part of the week. A miracle occurred.  Our prayers were answered.

By the time of the June 11, 1967 cease-fire, the Israelis had captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza from the Egyptians, the Golan Heights from the Syrians and the West Bank from the Jordanians. But the real prize was the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordan, which had ruled it since 1948. David Rubinger’s famous photograph [see left] of a few young soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces reaching the ancient stones of the Western Wall, the most sacred spot in Judaism, has become the iconic Jewish image of the past 50 years. Multiple generations have been raised on this tale of triumph.

Elie Weisel wrote: For Jews around the world, these last events are a deep source of pride. Every Jew witnessed and survived this trial together. Rarely, as a people, do we feel such a deep connection to each other, of loyalty to the purest principles driven by our shared history.


And yet, Israel still struggles, for whenever there is a victor, there are those who lose: sometimes their lives, their homes, their land. There remains the problem of the Palestinians, who claim the same area of land. Did you know that only about 1% of the world’s refugees and displaced people are able to return to their homes each year? Yet we hear no criticism of most nations on Earth, save Israel, and always hear: why isn't Israel doing more?  Israel is not perfect, and continues to look for a partner in peace, one that does not insist the map of Palestine occupy the entire area from Jordan to the Mediterranean, but one that makes way for Jews and recognizes Israel as a sovereign, Jewish nation.

At the end of every Passover Seder we say L'Shanah Haba-ah Beyrushalayim, Next Year in Jerusalem. Let us continue to hope and pray for the day when Israel and her neighbors can find and live together in peace.

Am Yisrael Chai!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Summer Time and the Choices are Many


By now many of you have decided what your child(ren) is doing this summer.  But in case you're on the fence, please consider several choices of Jewish camping, social activism, and academic programs.

Did you know...

The URJ (Union of Reform Judaism) runs 16 summer camps?  Everything from your regular old sleep-away to sports academies, science academies and much more.

Check it out.

Did you know...

Right here in Vermont there is an Eco-Jewish Education and Mentoring program called Roots & Trails?  This is a camp for girls, women, and all who identify as female. This hiking adventure and runs programs all year long for multi-age groups. There is also a summer program.  Check it out.

Did you know...

The URJ runs a Mitzvah Corps each summer where social activist-minded teens can participate in many community-based programs to enhance social justice and racial justice.  One of our teens, Rachel Rovner, recently spoke at services about her experience this past summer. One of our Religious School teachers, Holly Issenberg, participated several summers ago. If you'd like more information for your teen, let me know. Check it out.

Did you know...

Brandeis University runs a summer program for teens, the Brandeis Genesis program?

Connect with motivated students from around the globe and learn with professionals in their fields for a life changing summer of intensive study, experiential learning and vibrant Jewish community.

Courses at Genesis are unlike any high school classroom learning experience.  The courses examine areas of knowledge that begin with an academic discipline as seen through a uniquely Jewish lens.  Our faculty lead you through complex, compelling topics that encourage critical thinking and challenge assumptions. Jewish texts, traditions and perspectives infuse your study of subjects ranging from gender to technology to world religions and cultures. This year Genesis will offer:

Shape what and how you learn. Explore new perspectives, develop and strengthen your voice, pursue your interests within a dynamic community, and discover how Judaism informs the way you see and approach every part of your world.

Check it out and watch the video.

There are so many wonderful programs for your children.  See which one is right for them.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Faith in the Flesh

This posting comes courtesy of Commentary Magazine. It is a particularly poignant read for Interfaith families, written from the non-Jewish parent's point of view. I hope you'll take the time to read it and feel free to discuss. -- Morah Judy

At her coming of age, an observant Jewish daughter feels the full blow of intermarriage; so does her devout Christian…

R. R. RENO for Commentary Magazine

That Saturday morning in January, I watch as the winter sun angles through the window to break upon my daughter’s hair, pulled back in a tight, neat bun. Beside my daughter stand her mother, her grandmother, and her great-grandmother. Three generations of women come to hear a fourth, my daughter Rachel, read from the Torah scroll.

We rise as the words roll out. Vay’daber elohim et kol ha-d’varim ha-eileh leimor. Rachel’s shoulders are draped with a shimmering cloth. She has a silver pointer the size of a large pen in her hand. She is following the verses as she chants them in Hebrew, tracing out in her mind the figures of musical ornament that she has learned for singing this portion of Scripture. My parents are behind me, along with sisters and brother, nieces and nephews, and row after row of friends who fill the sanctuary.

Continue reading.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Learning and Teaching Torah through Literature

I want to bring your attention to a blog: 

Learning and Teaching Torah  through literature. 

I will say that this site is run by an Orthodox woman so some of the choices may not be in keeping with your philosphy, but often the books recommended are really good, such as this week's The Family Midrash Says The Book of Daniel by Rabbi Moshe Weissman.

If you'd like to subscribe to the email you may do so by going to their website:

BTW, speaking of reading, if you have a child under the age of 8, are you subscribed to PJ Library? If your child is older, are aware of PJ Next?