Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book of Bereshit Quiz

This quiz is courtesy of

This quiz was made in partnership with Check out their Unscrolled: 54 Writers and Artists Wrestle With the Torah, a unique and delightful collection of Torah commentaries.

Take the quiz and see how much you and your family know about the Book of Genesis. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

What is Your Hebrew Literacy Part 2?

Every year I give a Hebrew reading course for adults through the National Jewish Outreach Program.

They developed a list of over 100 words that every Jew should know, I guess you could say basic Jewish literacy.  I've included the list here, you may also check it out at their website since they have some of the words/phrases linked for further explanation.   Last week I gave the first 62.  Here are the rest.  See how many you can identify:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What is Your Hebrew Literacy?

Every year I give a Hebrew reading course for adults through the National Jewish Outreach Program.

They developed a list of over 100 words that every Jew should know, I guess you could say basic Jewish literacy.  I've included the list here, you may also check it out at their website since they have some of the words/phrases linked for further explanation.   I've included the first 62.  I'll do the rest next week or you can go to their website.  See how many you can identify:

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Jews of Keifeng

The destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD would create a wave of Jewish diaspora as Jewish rebels were sold into slavery or exiled to locations all over the Roman Empire.

However the spread of Jewish peoples would expand beyond the borders of the Roman world, as Jewish genes can be found all over Europe, Africa, and Asia.  One far flung Jewish community can be found in China, one of the most extreme examples of Jewish immigration in the ancient world.

After the Jewish revolt against Rome many thousands of Jews headed east to enjoy the wealth and riches of the Silk Road to Asia.  Jewish merchant communities sprang up all over Persia, Afghanistan, and Northern India.  One Jewish group traveled as far as Henan Province (Eastern China) and settled in the cosmopolitan city of Kaifeng between 600 – 900 AD.  By the year 1100 the Jews of Kaifeng had established a large and healthy community with a synagogue, communal kitchen, kosher slaughterhouse, ritual bath, and Sukkah (special building used to celebrate the festival of Sukkot).  

During the Ming Dynasty the Kaifeng Jews took Chinese surnames which corresponded with the meanings of their original Jewish names.  One Kaifeng Jew, Zhao Yingcheng (Moshe Ben Abram) made his mark in Chinese history by being named the Director of the Ministry of Justice by the Emperor in the mid 1600’s. The religious traditions of the Kaifeng Jews remained the same through most of their his tory, corresponding exactly to the religious practices of Jews in the west.  However, in the 1860’s the community would be uprooted due to the chaos caused by the Taiping Rebellion.  The synagogue was destroyed and much of the ancient practices of the Kaifeng Jews were lost or forgotten.  The war caused a mini-diaspora of Chinese Jews as they sought refuge all over China.  After the war many Jews returned to Kaifeng to rebuild their community.  Today the Kaifeng Jews still maintain a small community with a rebuilt synagogue.  Today 1,000 Jews still maintain a prosperous community in Kaifeng.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Visit from Abayudaya Community

This past week Temple Sinai was proud to play host to Shoshana Nambi, a Jewish woman from the Abaydaya community in Uganda.

This event, co-sponsored by Sisterhood, Hadassah, Ahavas Gerim, Beth Jacob, Hillel, Ohavi Zedek Synagogue brought many members from all over Vermont to listen to Shoshanah talk about her community and to raise funds for their small but growing Jewish community. 

If pre-Bnai Mitzvah students are looking for a project or would like to partner with Kulanu--the organization responsible supporting isolated and emerging Jewish communities around the world, please let me know and I will give you information.

If anyone else is interested in supporting this worthwhile cause, you can visit their website at or purchase items the communities makes, included tallises, kipot, CDs and other beautiful items at

Kente Cloth Tallit

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hobby Lobby’s Hanukkah Decoration Fiasco

My blog this week comes to you via

The company inadvertently reminds us the meaning of the holiday.

Hobby Lobby will now carry Hanukkah items.

The giant craft-store chain announced this about-face after a blogger accused it of anti-Semitism because it refused to carry Hanukah or Jewish-themed craft products, a claim the company denies.

Claims that Hobby Lobby is somehow anti-Jewish have been filling the blogosphere, ever since a Jewish shopper in New Jersey asked a Hobby Lobby sales clerk why there were no Hanukkah items in their “holiday” display, and was allegedly told because “we don’t cater to you people”.

The story quickly went viral.

When it landed in my in-box, I wondered if it was true. Why not call up my own local Hobby Lobby, myself, I thought, and see what they had to say?
“Um” I began, feeling very self-conscious, “I was just wondering – do you carry Hanukkah decorations?”

“No” the saleswoman said immediately.

“Really?” I asked, intrigued, all traces of embarrassment gone – “why ever not?”

“I don’t know” the woman replied, again a little too quick, I thought.

“Do you sell any Jewish-themed decorations” I pressed? “Like – um – stars or cards or stuff?”

“No,” came the brisk reply.

“Do you think you’ll be getting any in?” I groped.

“I don’t know” was her quick answer, and our conversation was done.

The publicity over Hobby Lobby’s refusal to carry Hanukkah items came to light when a blogger in New Jersey, hearing about his friend’s allegedly rude treatment in her local store, called the company headquarters in Oklahoma and was told – bizarrely – that Hobby Lobby had a policy of not carrying Jewish items due to the strong “values” of the owner, Steve Green.

If that name is familiar, it’s because Hobby Lobby owner and multimillionaire Mr. Green has been in the news a lot lately. A committed Christian, he’s currently a litigant in a case that’s been sent to the Supreme Court over the right of his private company not to fund employee health plans that include contraception.

And in the midst of the Hobby Lobby Hanukkah decoration flap, Mr. Green – who is an avid collector of religious works – unveiled a 1,200 year old Jewish prayer book he’d just bought from a private collector.

Wondering how he’d explain his refusal to stock Jewish items – and if it is in fact a policy at all – I e-mailed Mr. Green, asking him if it was really true he objected to Jewish objects being sold in his stores.

Steve Green didn’t reply, but someone named Joel Jackson of customer service did. No, Hobby Lobby doesn’t carry Jewish items, he explained, but my “request has been shared” with his product buyer: they also, he added, appreciate my business.

“What business?” I huffed, as I pressed delete on his e-mail.

As soon as I did, though, I had to laugh at the irony. Here I was, irate that Hobby Lobby won’t sell me Hanukkah supplies – when Hanukkah itself is all about having the strength to be separate, to resist the pull of being just like everyone else.

Perhaps Hobby Lobby’s refusal to stock Hanukkah supplies outraged me so much because in so many other areas in the United States and other countries today, it can feel effortless to be Jewish. In the US, where we don’t have to risk our lives to worship freely, where Jews are accepted as another ethnic group out of many, encountering a chain store that refuses to cater to Jews comes as a rude shock: one of the few reminders we have that in some senses, we still might be separate.
The most prominent symbol of Hanukkah is the menorah: the eight-branched candelabra that we light each night of the holiday.

It recalls the miracle of the oil, when a small band of Jewish fighters – after defeating the mighty Syrian-Greek army – rededicated the holy Temple in Jerusalem. Finding nearly everything defiled, they were able to locate one remaining jar of oil, which they used to kindle the Temple’s menorah: instead of burning for only one day, it lasted for eight days.
It’s customary to light our menorahs in a window, to publicize this miracle. And their miracle is ours too. When we light the Hanukkah lights, the blessing we say is in the present tense: we thank God for performing miracles of our ancestors, and equally today.

Friday, September 27, 2013

V'zot Habracha: The Four Giants

This Dvar Torah comes from Rabbi Jay Kelman of Torah in Motion.  Since we just completed reading the Torah and begin again, let us contemplate what makes for a good life, as Rabbi Kelman cites in this drash.

"And Moshe was one hundred and twenty years when he died" (Devarim 34:7). It is a beautiful, if somewhat unrealistic, custom to offer blessings to those celebrating a birthday that they should live to be 120. While this quantity of life is (currently) unrealistic, the blessing to live to 120 relates not only to quantity, but to the quality of life; "his eyesight did not diminish and his strength did not wane" (ibid). 
The Midrash notes that three other giants of Jewish history also lived to be 120; Hillel the Elder, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zackai, and Rabbi Akiva. And like Moshe, the Midrash claims that they, too, "gave sustenance to the Jewish people for forty years", forty being the number representing transformation. These four are the transformative figures of Jewish history.
It takes forty days for fetus to develop, the flood lasted forty days, Moshe spent forty days receiving the Torah, and we wandered for forty years in the desert, fulfilling G-d's promise to Abraham that we would be strangers in a land for four hundred years.
Not surprisingly, the Midrash divides the lives of these four heroes into three periods of forty years, with the culmination being their service to the Jewish people for forty years. Moshe, the Midrash notes, spent forty years in Egypt, forty in Midian, and forty "sustaining the people". Rabbi Akiva became interested in Torah at the age of forty, and Hillel arrived in Israel from Bavel at forty.
The message of the Midrash is not to convey their age at death[1], but to link these four great heroes of Jewish history. Each led at a time of great historical crisis, and they literally "sustained (parnesh) the Jewish people for forty years" (Sifri 36:7). Without their efforts, there would have been no Jewish history.  Not only did Moshe redeem the people as they came perilously close to total assimilation--something the Midrash claims did indeed happen in the case of at least 80% of the people--he spared them from the destruction due them for their sinning. Hillel established the "house" (Beit Hilllel) that set up the contours of Jewish law. He was extolled for his great humility like Moshe, and had an uncanny ability to relate to all. His student Rav Yochanan ben Zackai perhaps single-handedly saved the Jewish people by not attempting to save Jerusalem, affording the opportunity to rebuild Judaism from the ground up in Yavne. With the Temple lost, many groups of Jews disappeared; and if not for Rav Yochanan's understanding that the Temple is only a means to an end, we would not be here today.
While Rav Yochanan ben Zackai saved Judaism, it was Rabbi Akiva who developed it. It was to his Beit Midrash that Moshe was "transported" at Sinai--to witness Rabbi Akiva "expound on every thistle and thistle, mountains and mountains of Jewish law" (Menachot 29b). His willingness to sacrifice his life in order to worship G-d with all his soul is the (tragic) model that was emulated by many. It is he and his students who are the primary teachers of the Mishnah and halacha.
Anthropologists generally divide life into three stages; growth, maturity and decline. Yet that is true in the physical realm only. If one is immersed in "sustaining the Jewish people", something each of us can do in some form or another, the legacy we leave for our people will endure for all time.

[1]Even Moshe may not have been exactly 120 years old at death. The Torah tells us he was eighty when he first spoke to Pharaoh, and if we add the forty years in the desert, that leaves no real time for the ten plagues and the Exodus. Biblical numerology is often meant not as mathematical or historical certitude, but to convey certain ideas rooted in the symbolic nature of numbers.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Don't let your child get stuck in Juvenile Judaism

I want to share with you 2 articles which recently came out about Hebrew high schools.  The first one deals with one school in New Jersey that changed its curriculum to appeal to more students.  Here’s a quote from the article:

The new curriculum puts a modern, topical spin on the traditional Hebrew language, holiday, and ritual-centered program. Based on an eight-semester program developed by Brandeis University’s Institute for Informal Jewish Education, the curriculum will include courses on Jewish bioethics, modern and historic Israel, and “Who Wrote the Bible?”

In other words, they’re doing EXACTLY what we’ve been doing here for years – in fact we have offered all of these courses and are presently offering the first 2 this semester.  Read more in:

This next article deals with the cost of Hebrew High Schools.  As you will note, since we are a member of NAACCHHS, we have the lowest cost of any of the high schools in the country.

With our innovative programming and no/low cost, you’d think parents and teens would be knocking down our doors to get in.  You’d be wrong.  Each semester it’s getting more and more difficult to get students to sign up for our innovative and interesting program.  We expend much energy querying the students as to what their interests are – many of whom express a desire to come to Chai School, and yet when the time comes they do not come to Chai School.  The feedback we receive from students who’ve taken the program is so positive – I know we are competing with many other after-school activities – but when all is said and done, isn’t it important to engage your child in a program that will make him/her feel positive about her/his heritage and give him/her a greater understanding of our Jewish history, culture, Israel and one’s place in the world today?

I hope you will consider enrolling your teen in the Chai School and if you know of other Jewish teens in the community who have not been to Hebrew school, ever, but would like to explore their heritage, please share with them the information about our Vermont Chai School.  After all, secular education doesn’t end after 7th grade, why should Jewish education?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Learning Judaism as a Native Language Requires More Than Synagogue Once a Year

I wanted to share with you this article from Tablet Magazine, an online Jewish ezine with great articles:

Becoming fluent in your own religious tradition is like playing an instrument or a sport: It takes time, dedication, and practice.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Post Labor Day Whites

When is it fashionably acceptable to wear white after Labor Day? On Yom Kippur!

Many people have the custom of wearing white on Yom Kippur. In the synagogue you will often see women dressed in white suits or dresses and men bedecked in a white garment known as a kittel (Yiddish for robe).

There are several reasons for this custom:

1) Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the day on which we ask God to overlook all of our mistakes. Consequently, it is customary to wear white as a way of emulating the angels, who stand before God in purity. In Hebrew, angels are known as "malachim" (singular-mal'ach) which means messenger(s). 

The malachim were created as God's spiritual messengers and are pure, totally spiritual creatures. Human beings, on the other hand, were created of both matter and spirit. It is this combination that gives us "free will," enabling us to make choices that, unfortunately, are not always the best. These unwise choices are what require us to engage in teshuva (repentance). On Yom Kippur, one wishes to emulate the malachim, the pure spirits who exist only to serve the Creator.

2) White garments, especially the kittel, are also reminiscent of the burial shroud. On Yom Kippur, one's life is held in balance by the greatest Judge of all. When one is reminded of one's mortality, a person is more likely to engage in honest introspection...Did I really act properly? Was there anything I could have done better? etc.

3) And of course, on Yom Kippur you don't have to worry about food stains!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

How To Bake the Ultimate Challah—for Rosh Hashanah or Anytime

For Rosh Hashanah, I'd love to share with you Joan Nathan's video on baking a challah.

לְֹשָנָה טוֹבָה תִּכָּתֵיבוּ

Have a Sweet and Happy New Year

Monday, August 5, 2013

Guest Blogger

Shalom Chaveirim,

I'm back from my vacation and revving up to get ready for High Holidays, Religious School, Chai School, Adult Education Classes and all that comes with fall.

I read this wonderful newsletter from Nigel Savage, the Executive Director of Hazon, a Jewish organization dedicated to sustainable communities. With the holidays approaching so early this year, I hope you'll take a moment and read through what Mr. Savage has to say about community.

Morah Judy

Elul, my Grandma, the Tomato Hornworm,
and the Talmud
Dear All,
It's great to be at Isabella Freedman. Adamah Farm Vacation is underway – parents and kids hanging out here and having a whale of a time. I picked some of the last of the raspberries. I learned about the minimum temperature for a compost pile to legally be certified as safe to use (over 130 degrees, for at least two weeks). And I saw a tomato hornworm for the first time and learned about the wasp larvae that eat the hornworms – and thus enable the tomatoes to grow without having pesticides sprayed on them to kill the hornworms.
And meanwhile, even as it's the start of August and the middle of summer, it's also about to be the start of the Hebrew month of Elul.
I'm particularly conscious of the timing because my Grandma died – ten years ago this month – on the last day of Av. Confusingly the last day of Av is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Elul; ie the day before thesecond day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, which is in fact the first day of Elul. That in turn is the first day we blow shofar, and thus the official start of the season of teshuva – of returning to our best selves.
So, in honor of my grandma, and lest the holidays catch you unawares, a few things to think about in the forthcoming season of teshuva.
First: I don't want to mythologize either our grandparents, or the world in which they grew up. They were human, which is to say no less flawed than we are ourselves. I have no desire to go to a dentist of 60 years ago. I don't wish to smoke as they smoked. I'm glad I have google maps – even though I know it lessens my already weak sense of direction. I wouldn't have wanted to be gay when my grandparents were my age now. I don't mythologize living through the Great Depression or the Second World War – let alone the Great War that all four of my grandparents lived through, and that my father's father was injured fighting in.
But with these caveats, it's worth thinking, I think, about aspects of their lives that they took for granted, that many of us need to learn or relearn, and that underpin the building of healthier and more sustainable communities. Here's one in particular that I've been thinking about:
A sense of duty and obligation. I think the single greatest difference between my grandparents' generation and mine is in relation to a sense of duty and obligation. I don't think they were all great, and I don't think that we're not. And duty and obligation have their downsides. Nevertheless: there is something corrosive and damaging about how we relate to many institutions of Jewish life today (and, indeed, to many institutions in the wider society). Jewish tradition's foundational questions are not "is this meaningful to me?" or "what will I get from it if I go to services on Rosh Hashanah?" Jewish tradition starts not with rights but with obligations; not with the search for personal meaning, but with ol malchut shamayim – the notion of taking on certain responsibilities, even certain burdens, because the tradition expects them of us.
One of my favorite parts of the traditional morning service is that, very early on, you say a bracha (a blessing) for learning Torah and then – because you've said the bracha and you need, as it were, to complete it – you then learn a series of Torah texts. One of them is from the Talmud, 127a:
"These are the things which someone performs and enjoys their fruits in this world, while the principal remains in the world to come: honoring one's parents; doing acts of lovingkindness; going early to the house of study, morning and evening; welcoming guests; visiting the sick; accompanying the bride; escorting the dead; focus within prayer; and bringing peace between someone and their fellow; and the study of Torah is equal to all of these."
So I love a whole slew of things about this text, but I want to share just two:
  • I love that it doesn't just say you have to do them. Rather the text is saying: these are reallygood things to do – they're so good that you'll be, as it were, doubly rewarded for doing them. But the obligation to do them is still, in some sense, internalized. We have a choice. Do we choose to do these things – or not?
  • I love the mix. Things that divide out very clearly in contemporary life are all mixed up together here. Visiting the sick, acts of loving-kindness – those things are "social justice" – doing good by others. Focus in prayer – isn't that about my personal spiritual journey? Making peace between two friends who've argued – that's not religion, that's being a good friend, surely? Going early to shul – whose business is it if I go early to shul or not? The rabbis of the Talmud didn't draw such sharp distinctions.
And, even as I'm writing this, I suddenly remember something I had learned from Reb Shlomo Carlebach z"l, which I'd forgotten. In reference to this text, I once heard him say: "If it's a mitzvah to accompany the dead, how much more so is it a mitzvah to accompany those who are alive – but really struggling…"
So as the sun beats down, and the farmers pick our food for us, it's not too early to think about Elul, and your grandparents, and the lead-up to Rosh Hashanah and the Jewish New Year. What are those aspects of your grandparents that you want to emulate? And which are the mitzvot that you choose to take on, or to take more seriously — not simply for what you might get from them — but for what you might give?
Shabbat shalom, chodesh tov,

Nigel Savage
Executive Director, Hazon

Tuesday, July 9, 2013



I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer.  

By now you've probably read the Rabbi's blog and received a letter from the Temple outlining our new no-tuition policy for Religious School.  I am so thrilled that our Temple has committed its resources and philosophy to the education of our children.  We also have some wonderful new activities planned for schoolchildren and younger.

Each month starting in October we will have:

     A Saturday Morning Tot Shabbat at 10:00 geared for infants-5 year olds
     A Friday Evening Youth Service at 5:30 geared for ages 5-10
     A Sunday Morning Story Hour at 10:00 geared for 2-5 year olds

Another change you will see this coming year is a move to have all classes of Religious School on Thursday -- that’s all grades, Ganeinu through Chai School.  We appreciate all who responded to the survey, your voices were heard and the Education Committee made the changes.

Stacie is sending out a link to a  Registration Form.  We do need you to fill this out for each student (except Chai School) who will be enrolled this year.  This will enable us to know how many teachers to hire, books to order, etc.  We ask that you have registration into us by August 15th.

I’m very excited about these changes.  If you would like to join the Education Committee, please let me know.  New voices always provide new ideas and energy.

Have a great summer and stay tuned for more information on the start of the coming school year, we have something very special planned for September 26th


Judy Alexander

Director of Congregational Education 

Monday, June 3, 2013

What Does Temple Sinai Mean to Me?

On May 14th three of our Chai School students were Confirmed.  Rabbi Glazier asked each of the Confirmands to prepare a speech on the topic above.  Here is the second speech, from Andrew Levite 

First of all I would like to thank everyone for being here today to attend my confirmation, as well as Eli’s and Natan’s.

For my conformation speech, Rabbi Glazier asked me to talk about Temple Sinai, and how it has helped me through my life and what role it played in me being here today. He prompted me by asking what Temple Sinai has done for me. Now that I am here at the point of my confirmation, I can look back on my past experience here and reflect what this place has provided me with.

Temple Sinai has provided me with so much. I have learned basic Hebrew, have been taught several prayers, have attended many classes, and have grown to be a Jewish adult. Through the generous help of Rabbi Glazier, Morah Judy, and the several other teachers that I’ve been lucky enough to have, I’ve extended my Jewish studies past my Bar Mitzvah for another three years to my confirmation.

Earlier in my life, I attended a Sunday school here. I learned what it meant to be Jewish and a lot more about Judaism through Sunday school. Once a week during the school year I came here to learn more about my religion and what makes it so special. Eventually, I made my way to my Bar Mitzvah. And just over three years ago, I had it here at Temple Sinai.

Temple Sinai has become a symbol of Judaism for me over my life. This is the place where all major events relating to Judaism have taken place for me.  It is incredible the amount of support that has been provided to every kid who is starting out, or finishing their Jewish studies.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What Does Temple Sinai Mean to Me?

On May 14th three of our Chai School students were Confirmed.  Rabbi Glazier asked each of the Confirmands to prepare a speech on the topic above.  Here is the first speech, from Eli Rachlin:

Ever since I moved to Vermont from France in the year 2001, Temple Sinai has been the place I have most associated with Judaism. Now while I know that is a fairly obvious statement, I think that it has the most to do with what the temple means to me. Although my first memories of Jewish holidays or traditions do come from the age of 4 or so in France, whether it is the search for the afikomen or the lighting of Hanukah candles, the most memories, and certainly the most vivid and meaningful, come from here.  

Coming every Sunday, Wednesday, Tuesday, or Thursday for Hebrew school may have not always been how I would prefer to spend my afternoons, but looking back, I really do value the knowledge I received about my heritage, as well as the ability to meet up with others in the Jewish community in my area. Now it is true that for the past five summers I have gone to a Jewish camp, but in truth I don’t go to that camp for Judaism as much as I do for the people that go there. 

It is here that I find more of an association with my Jewish identity, most of all because here is where I had my Bar Mitzvah. And when I think about my Bar Mitzvah, I am reminded of how in no way could I have been prepared for that special day if it weren't for all the amazing people at Temple Sinai that got me there. Beginning with learning the Hebrew alphabet and how to read in the younger grades, and then the prayers of the service in 4th and 5th grades, and then learning how to chant in the year leading up to my B’nai Mitzvah, it really shows me how that fantastic was a culmination of everything that was given to me by this great establishment. 

And I think overall, that is what Temple Sinai means to me. To be a place of giving. Temple Sinai is more than just a place that holds the Torah, or a Sanctuary for prayer, or school for Jewish education. It is made up of a congregation, or community, that gives back to all that are a part of it in order to create a richer and more meaningful tradition that I myself have benefited from.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What is a Confirmation?

This Tuesday Three of our Chai School students will be confirmed.  We hope our Temple community comes out to show support for their continued commitment to Jewish education at Temple Sinai.

Confirmation is a Reform-originated ceremony for boys and girls that is tied to the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. It constitutes an individual and group affirmation of commitment to the Jewish people. Confirmation, one of the “youngest” Jewish life cycle ceremonies, began less than 200 years ago. Most scholars attribute the creation of confirmation to Israel Jacobson, a wealthy German businessman and a nominal “father” of Reform Judaism.  In 1810, expending more than $100,000 of his own money, Jacobson built a new synagogue in Seesen, Germany. He introduced a number of then radical reforms, including the use of an organ and mixed male-female seating. Jacobson felt that bar mitzvah was an outmoded ceremony. Accordingly, when five 13-year-old boys were about to graduate from the school he maintained, Jacobson designed a new graduation ceremony, held in the school rather than the synagogue. In this manner, confirmation came into being.

At first only boys were confirmed, usually on the Shabbat of their bar mitzvah. Because of the controversial nature of the confirmation ceremony, the earliest rituals were held exclusively in homes or in schools. In 1817, the synagogue in Berlin introduced a separate confirmation program for girls. In 1822, the first class of boys and girls was confirmed, a practice that became almost universal in a relatively brief period of time. In 1831, Rabbi Samuel Egers of Brunswick, Germany, determined to hold confirmation on Shavuot, the festival of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, also the widely accepted practice today.
At its inception, confirmation reflected a graduation motif. After a specified period of study, students were subject to a public examination. The following day, in the rabbi’s presence, students uttered personal confessions of faith. The rabbi addressed the class, recited a prayer, and then blessed them. It was a simple service with no fixed ritual. As confirmation moved into the synagogue and as its ties to Shavuot strengthened, the ceremony became more elaborate.

In the early 1900s, confirmation took on an air of great pageantry, boys and girls wearing robes, bringing flower offerings to the bimah, and participating in dramatic readings and cantatas illustrating themes of dedication and commitment to Judaism. Preparation for confirmation still included a period of study, but public tests and confessions of faith gave way to more normative exams and papers, and speeches reflecting a deeper understanding of Jewish teachings and values. Wide variations exist in congregational practice, from an elaborate synagogue service to a private individual ceremony with the rabbi. Many confirmation classes undertake social action projects as part of their year of preparation. While 10th grade confirmation remains the norm in Reform Judaism, a number of synagogues now mark the event in 9th, 11th, or even 12th grade. Since the 1970s, adult confirmation programs have existed in many Reform congregations.

The first recorded confirmation in North America was held at New York’s Anshe Chesed Congregation in 1846. Two years later, New York’s Congregation Emanu- El adopted confirmation. The ceremony grew in popularity, and in 1927, the Central Conference of American Rabbis recommended confirmation as a Movement- wide practice.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Remarks from Elon University's 2013 Spring Convocation

Elon University hosted its Spring Convocation, titled "Sacred Space: The Promise for Peace and Understanding in Our World - A Multi-Faith Conversation," in Alumni Gym on April 30, 2013. Moderator Lara Logan challenged the panelists to consider some of the roadblocks in creating interfaith dialogues. She also asked them to look at some of their own biases and what bothers them about other religious viewpoints. Here are excerpts from the panelist responses.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Yom Yerushalayim

Around 1130 C.E. Yehudah Halevi, a Jewish physician, poet and philosopher from Toledo, Spain wrote these beautiful words:

My heart is in the East*

My heart is in the East, and I am at the ends of the West;
How can I taste what I eat and how could it be pleasing to me?
How shall I render my vows and my bonds, while yet
Zion lies beneath the fetter of Edom, and I am in the chains of Arabia?
It would be easy for me to leave all the bounty of Spain --
As it is precious for me to behold the dust of the desolate sanctuary.

In 1948 Israel became a State and in 1967, Israel recaptured Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Day marks the 1967 reunification of Jerusalem and The Temple Mount under Jewish rule during the Six-Day War almost 1900 years after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.

This year, on May 8th, our Jewish community joins together to celebrate Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day, with a great celebration of games, singing, dancing, eating, face painting, craft making and schmoozing at Oak Ledge Park (rain location: Temple Sinai) from 4:30-6:30.

I hope the entire Jewish community will come out and support this event.

*Translation provided by Zionism and Israel On the Web.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Updated Upcoming Events

Note, School is on vacation this week.  Torah Study is at the home of Bev Bettmann; 7 Aspen Drive

1.  May 3rd – Folk Service and Teacher Appreciation Shabbat; dinner afterwards sponsored by Membership and Marketing Committee
2.    May 5th – Newtown, CT memorial service; for information on attending or making a donation see:
3.    May 5th – 1-4 p.m. Young Judaea Teens – Lasar Tag
4.     May 8th – Communitywide Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day celebration at Oak Ledge Park (rain location, Temple Sinai); 4:30-7.  Activities & BBQ, EVERYONE invited. Last day of school for grades K-5
5.    May 9th – last day of school for grades 6 & 7
6.   May 11th – Bat Mitzvah Renee Dauerman
7.   May 14th – Shavuot/Confirmation services 7:30 p.m. Please join us as we confirm 5 of our Chai School students
8.  May 18th - Bat Mitzvah Bella Firman
9.   June 1st  & 2nd – Kallah/Retreat for 6th Grade
10.  June 15 – Bar Mitzvah Cooper Birdsall
11.   June 29 - Bat Mitzvah Amy Laskarzewski

Note:  In June Friday night services go on summer time and begin at 6:00 p.m.

Other ongoing:

Cooper Birdsall needs your help for his Bar Mitzvah project:

Have you started your ChaverWeb account?  You should.  It will make things so much easier for you at Temple Sinai.  Need help?  Call Stacie.  862-5125

Friday night oneg sign up:

Discounted passes to ECHO Science Center – see or call Stacie

Help raise money for Temple Sinai when you order products from Amazon by signing in through the Temple Sinai website-Amazon link.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Upcoming Events

1.     April 5th5:30 Folk Service
2.     April 6thBat Mitzvah Marissa Needleman
3.     April 7th – community ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day; 2:00 pm at OZ (Ohavi Zedek Synagogue; 188 North Prospect St.)
4.     April 9 – 7 pm here at Temple: The Humanitarian Crisis in North Korea: A Documentary Film and presentation.
5.     April 12th – 5:30 Tot Shabbat with a special dinner afterwards by our Brotherhood.  I understand they have quite the feast in mind so come and let them know what you think.
6.     April 13thBat Mitzvah Holly Issenberg
7.     April 14th – Sisterhood Mah Jongg Marathon – 9:30 a.m., everyone welcome
8.     April 14th – Young Judaea Teens Ice Skating at Cairns 1-4 p.m.
9.     April 18th – Screening of documentary with discussion:  Losing Our Sons, geared toward teens and adults about the growing presence of fundamentalist Islam in the U.S. and the devastating effects on families and society.  At UVM Billings North Lounge. 7-9 p.m.
10.    April 21-28 – School vacation
11.  May 3rdFolk Service and Teacher Appreciation Shabbat; dinner afterwards sponsored by Membership and Marketing Committee
12.    May 5th – Newtown, CT memorial service; for information on attending or making a donation see:
13.    May 5th – 1-4 p.m. Young Judaea Teens – Lasar Tag
14.     May 8thCommunitywide Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day celebration at Oak Ledge Park (rain location, Temple Sinai); 4:30-7.  Activities & BBQ, EVERYONE invited. Last day of school for grades K-5
15.    May 9thlast day of school for grades 6 & 7
16.   May 11thBat Mitzvah Renee Dauerman
17.   May 14thShavuot/Confirmation services 7:30 p.m. Please join us as we confirm 5 of our Chai School students
18.  May 18th - Bat Mitzvah Bella Firman
19.   June 1st  & 2nd – Kallah/Retreat for 6th Grade
20.  June 15 – Bar Mitzvah Cooper Birdsall
21.   June 29 - Bat Mitzvah Amy Laskarzewski
Note:  In June Friday night services go on summer time and begin at 6:00 p.m.

Other ongoing:

Cooper Birdsall needs your help for his Bar Mitzvah project:

Have you started your ChaverWeb account?  You should.  It will make things so much easier for you at Temple Sinai.  Need help?  Call Stacie.  862-5125

Friday night oneg sign up:

Discounted passes to ECHO Science Center – see or call Stacie

Help raise money for Temple Sinai when you order products from Amazon by signing in through the Temple Sinai website-Amazon link.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What are you doing this Shabbat?

Why not join us in worship as our Kitah Hey/5th Grade students lead services this Saturday morning?  One of our post-Bnai Mitzvah students, Joshua Kalfus, will be chanting some Torah.  We hope you can join us.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Family Education Workshop

Today the 5th Grade had their Family Education workshop on the theme of Passover.  Here are some students hard at work:

Their plates were just delightful too.  Here are a couple:

Wishing you all a Happy Passover