Emanuscript

August 2020

Looking Forward

Letter from Rabbi Elizabeth B. Hersh

Since March I have felt the days and months transition from one to the next without much distinction. Days seamlessly blended together. It took tremendous focus and concentration to distinguish a Monday from a Thursday. Shabbat brought new meaning to my life as it was the one period during the week that was unique.

          

As I write this article, the temperatures are high, the air is steamy, and storms threaten the interruption of the afternoon calmness we have come to welcome. In other words, the High Holidays are quickly approaching. It is the time where I am completely focused on services and sermons. My emails to Earl, our choir director, are fast and furious. My heart, mind and soul anticipate these Days of Awe as soon as Passover is finished. It is a timeframe in which I daily build upon to bring enrichment and wholeness to our congregational family.

          

And yet, I wonder how this year may be different from all other years (to borrow from the Haggadah). My sermons have a more subtle, nuanced tone this year. I see and feel the pain of those around me. There is loneliness, fear and uncertainty. Families are separated by social distancing. People are isolated in ways we have never experienced. Will we kiss our children goodbye when they walk through brick and mortar to enter school or as they sit down at the kitchen table to boot their computer and learn via Zoom? If only I had not misplaced my crystal ball.

          

Someone asked me if my High Holiday sermons have a theme and how I decide when a particular sermon is given. Much of my approach is visceral, and much is intentional. And often I cannot distinguish between the two. What I do understand is people are hurting. Many are scared. And we are tired on varying degrees of levels and intensities. And yet, there are the pressing issues of the day.

          

I am fond of stories. I appreciate images that linger in the heart and imagination long after AMEN is spoken. I always desire that the stories are made your own and shared. The narrative should be adopted and brought to life in your words with your enthusiasm and passion for the tale. One of the reasons I am fond of midrash is for this very reason. The rabbis utilized parables and stories as a way of teaching and imparting lasting lessons.

          

Recently, I read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Near the completion of this love story, the author wrote, regarding stories, "It's in the listener, for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them, and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift."

          

Each of us has a story to tell. Some share the chronicles of family and history. Others relate anecdotes heard from others. I cherish the fables, midrash and allegories of our people. And it is with great pride that I pass them along to you in the context of lessons of our day.

          

A year ago, we could not have imagined the decisions we continue to make today. We are challenged in ways our generation has not known. David Harris wrote in The Times of Israel about Winston Churchill, "his speeches combined realism and hope...they always offered a glimmer of better days ahead..." And that is our story, my friends. We are hopeful and we are realistic. It is the story of the Jewish People and the story of the Temple Emanuel Family. The storms may threaten the serenity of the day, but this, too, will pass.

          

Stay tuned as, quill in hand, we continue to inscribe our stories.

Let It Go

Letter from President Val Turner

On the Sunday prior to this article being written I experienced an amazing coincidence. In the morning, Harriet and I visited the gardens of Ken and Sue Cohen along with numerous other TE members. That evening we decided to relax by retreating down memory lane for a bit by rewatching the movie "Frozen". Little did I realize at the time just how much those two experiences had in common.

 

Some time ago, the Cohens found a significant amount of their backyard being reclaimed by outside forces. I don't know what the triggering moment was, but the Cohens decided to go to war with the invading troops of honeysuckle and weeds. After months of work, endurance and sheer force of will the Cohens have turned an encroaching backyard of brambles into the beautiful array of gardens that they have today.

 

The Cohens should be our model in how to fight outside forces that constrain us, that push us toward isolation. Because of the pressures of the invading forces of pandemic, social upheaval, economic uncertainty and even a heat wave, many are unaware of the many models we have within Temple Emanuel:

 

The force of will of Rabbi Hersh who hasn't wavered in her effort to comfort, nourish and guide the congregation. She is the eternal light of Temple Emanuel.

 

The vision of the House and Grounds Committee, headed by Michael Freund and Barb Lewington. The Committee has worked for months, working with Mercy to restore the parking area, and working to renew the foyer and kitchen area. They are diligently working to reclaim the building from the encroachment of time.

 

The newly-created Tikkun Olam Committee headed by Michele Marcus, from the humble beginnings of food baskets in the Sanctuary to planning activities for the future that remove the confining forces that others face.

 

The scheduling of Dr. Darryl Diggs to speak at the Friday Evening Services of August 14 is an opportunity for our community to directly confront important matters of race and education.

 

The August Board of Trustees Meeting on August 17, where the leadership of the Temple will determine plans for the High Holidays and the extent to which individuals can determine their own course of action.

 

Oh, and I almost forgot. What is the connection between the Cohen's garden and the movie "Frozen"? What is the moral of this story?

 

                                    When outside forces are harshest,

                                    The greatest power lies within each of us,

 

                                    Let it go, Let it go.

 

Lechu L'Shalom,

Val

August Update

Letter from Executive Director Andrew Goldfeder

By now you should have received your 2020-2021 annual dues invoice. Thank you to all that have sent in your membership renewals. We appreciate your financial generosity, dedication and commitment to Temple Emanuel. For those who have not sent in their renewals, we look forward to receiving them in the coming weeks.

 

For those who request reduced dues, this is an application process and you must request a new Reduced Dues Form whether or not you filled one out last year. If you have any questions or concerns please contact me.

 

Please reach out to me anytime. I understand that needs continue to change - please know that I am here for you, and I am happy to help support you in any way I can. I wish you and yours continued good health; stay safe and well. 

Creativeness in Jewish Education

Letter from Director of Education and Community Engagement Emily Cohen

"When Rabbi Yehoshua asked his students what new idea they had learned that day, the students replied that they could not tell their teacher anything new that he did not already know. Rabbi Yehoshua responded, 'Ei efshar l'beit ha-midrash b'lo hiddush, A place of Jewish study cannot exist without new creative ideas.'"  -Hagiga 3a, part of the Babylonian Talmud

 

When I studied this text in a professional development Zoom session this summer, I felt like Rabbi Yehoshua was speaking directly to me as a Jewish educator in 2020. Even without a global pandemic, we need creativity to keep Jewish education fresh and relevant in a constantly changing world. With Covid-19 affecting every part of our world, creativity has become even more vital. Over the past few months, adults, children, and teens in our community have found innovative ways to stay connected, worship, learn, and support each other from a distance.  

 

Some good news for the fall is that mounds of research and articles are now available for how to make remote or socially distanced programming as impactful as possible. In my portfolio at TE, this means I am using all of these teachings to plan for religious school, adult education, youth activities, and holiday celebrations. And I'm not doing it alone!  I am grateful to have a talented and diverse Education Committee, other lay leaders, and a fabulous faculty of teachers to help with this sacred task. In fact, TE's President Val Turner participated with me in a cohort of other educator-lay leader teams this summer from synagogues across the country to think about what's next in Jewish education.  I really enjoyed studying and brainstorming with Val and we learned a lot. The sessions pushed us and challenged our thinking in good ways. I look forward to sharing the fruits of this learning with the TE community in the coming months.  

 

While our fall programming may look different than we are used to, we are determined to to make it meaningful and safe. I look forward to sharing more creative Jewish moments with you in the coming months. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns. Stay well!

Emanuscript

July 2020

We Miss the u

Letter from Rabbi Elizabeth B. Hersh

For the past couple of months, I have accidentally omitted the letter u when typing the word, you. It has happened frequently and consistently. And then I realized it was an unconscious message of how much I am missing YOU, my congregational community.

            

I applaud the various ways we are remaining in contact. We have grown creatively and with enthusiasm to care for each soul including our own. We are learning a tremendous amount about one another and each other's interests.

 

Like you, I find myself much more in tune with the smaller things in life. Details are in greater focus. I appreciate the rhythm that a slower pace demands. How much our "to-do" list has changed since early March.

            

The ability to focus on one person, if a social distance visit is permitted, is a gift. Not running from activity to activity has restored a welcomed sense of equilibrium. The errands that once exhausted us are almost an activity of the past. For some, it is. For now.

            

And yet, we miss the physical presence of company. We miss the u. I encourage you to stay connected through the various activities, services, and classes we offer. Call or email someone you miss. I appreciate hearing from you after Shabbat services or when your birthday or anniversary bag has been delivered. I am grateful for the books and shows you recommend. I welcome new faces on Shabbat Study. I want to see and hear from u!

            

Thank you for being YOU and for all that you bring to our sacred community.

NOW STREAMING

Letter from President Val Turner

CHAI FREQUENCY RADIO


ORIGINAL INTERVIEW

 

Eric Berger with Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh. A new and timely interview with one of the most dynamic rabbis in the country. Rabbi Hersh talks about the challenge and her strategy of leading a congregation during the pandemic. Hear amazing insights into what the Rabbi has learned during this difficult period of time. Berger draws the best out of the best to reveal a core of determination and dedication.

         

This amazing interview is available here: https://www.stljewishlight.com/multimedia/temple-emanuel-rabbi-talks-faith-during-pandemic-on-chai-frequency-podcast/article_d84a21e0-b593-11ea-9ebf-6f2e5c20d5d2.html or just Google "Eric Berger Rabbi Hersh Interview".

 

MELTON SCHOOL OF ADULT JEWISH EDUCATION

 

ORIGINAL CLASS

 

MEDICAL ETHICS: Following the Federation's cancellation of all adult education offerings, Temple Emanuel has stepped in to become the official home of Melton In St. Louis. The first course offering will begin in July and will cover the topic of medical ethics from a Jewish perspective. Rabbi Hersh, a member of the Melton faculty for many years, will lead the class, which promises intriguing insights and numerous in-depth discussions. Classes are open to the St. Louis community as well as Temple Emanuel congregants. For more information on Melton classes, contact Emily Cohen at the Temple Emanuel office. All classes will currently be utilizing Zoom.

 

BOARD OF TRUSTEES

 

NEW SEASON

       

For its new season, the Temple Emanuel Board of Trustees has added three new members to its cast. JoAnne Bronstein, Warren Davis and Cindy Kessler have graciously agreed to add their knowledge, experience and dedication to help benefit the entire congregation. All members of Temple Emanuel are invited to view any performance of the Board. Simply ask Andrew Goldfeder to provide you with Zoom access information for the next upcoming meeting. By the way, audience participation is encouraged.

 

NEW TO TEMPLE EMANUEL

 

For the health of it, Denny Rubin is now directing a Zoom exercise class for the Temple. The class meets Mondays at 2:30 pm. The class requires no equipment or fitness level in order to participate. To participate, simply check the Wednesday "What's Happening" email for the Zoom access information.

 

A review of the class recently described Denny as having the energy of Richard Simmons combined with the knowledge of a highly experienced trainer.

July Update

Letter from Executive Director Andrew Goldfeder

Happy Summer! As we enter our new fiscal year on July 1, be on the lookout for your 2020-21 dues letter and invoice. Thank you for your continued dedication and financial generosity towards Temple Emanuel. You are the heart and soul of our congregation, and we appreciate you so much. Please email me at andrew@testl.org or call me at 314.432.5877 if you have any questions or concerns regarding dues. I am always happy to speak with you.

 

I hope you've marked your calendars for our Virtual Oneg on July 3 where we will raise a glass to Rabbi Hersh on the eve of her "Triple-Chai" Birthday! I know you join me in wishing our beloved Rabbi Hersh a healthy and happy year ahead! 

 

Please reach out to me anytime. I understand that needs continue to change - please know that I am here for you, and I am happy to help support you in any way I can. I wish you and yours continued good health; stay safe and well. 

Learning from our Teens

Letter from Director of Education and Community Engagement Emily Cohen

 

"I have learned much from my teachers and even more from my friends, but from my students I have learned the most." -Rabbi Hanina in the Babylonian Talmud, Taanit 7a

 

Teen leadership is core to Temple Emanuel's youth engagement efforts. Our teens guide the direction of our youth group (TEDY). Madrichim (teen teaching assistants) play a major role in our religious school. Teens even have a seat on the synagogue's Board of Trustees and a couple reps on the education committee. Teen voices are important as we make decisions for the synagogue, as teens have much to teach us.  

 

In my position, I have the joy of working closely with teens and facilitating these leadership opportunities. Over the past few months, between the pandemic and the renewed fight for racial justice, our teens have stepped up in big ways. They have reached out to their peers, initiated a rich dialogue on racial justice between teens from TE and the Riverview Gardens school district, and planned social and religious opportunities for teens, such as a Havdalah and game night, even a virtual Pride celebration.   

 

In the spirit of Rabbi Hanina, I have indeed learned much from our teens. Seeing issues through their perspective has enriched my approach to our next steps, and for that I am grateful. For this month's Emanuscript, I invited two of our TEDY board members to share some thoughts on an issue of importance to them so the whole congregation can experience their point of view:

 

In this time of increased discussion and protests, it is now more important than ever to turn to our Jewish teachings. The themes we teach our children, tikkun olam (repairing the world), b'tzelem elohim (the idea that everyone is created in the image of God), and tzedek tzedek tirdof (justice, justice, shall you pursue), continue to become more important. In returning to these principles, we see that they command us to engage in social action and help make the world a more just place for all who inhabit it. 

 

In that engagement, we must not only look outward but inward in our community as well. Intersectionality is an aspect of social justice that we sometimes forget about. Where do we see multiple groups or cultures interact? How can we make our Jewish community open to all races, sexualities, abilities, and ages? Oftentimes, we see the Jewish culture as one of Ashkenazi descent, filled with matzo balls, Kugel, and stories from Europe. While this is a beautiful and important part of Judaism, our culture is not just made up of this demographic. We are a widespread peoplehood, filled with individuals of all backgrounds. In order to truly create an intersectional Judaism, we must not only acknowledge, but actively learn about and celebrate other Jews. 

 

So I urge you to learn about Ethiopian Jews and their practice of Judaism. To me, they are one of the most beautiful groups of Jews. Learn about the multitude of Jews living together in the land of Israel today. Their coexistence is a lesson we can all learn from. At your next Shabbos meal, try a Sefardic recipe! Acknowledge their contributions to this beautiful collective culture that we have the pleasure to be a part of. Once we start to embrace intersectionality, we can truly fulfill these commandments. We can continue to repair the world from hate, see every human being in the image of God, and pursue justice for all. 

 

-Izabella Reichert-Corso and Sophie Horowitz, 

high school students and TEDY board members

Emanuscript

June 2020

I Will Be With You

Letter from Rabbi Elizabeth B. Hersh

I am pleased to share my Annual Meeting speech with our members.

 

Our Annual Meeting is a time we look forward to gathering. We thank leaders who have tirelessly served our community and install new volunteers who embrace the mantle of leadership. Presidents carefully craft a speech often sharing his or her vision for the year. We are invited into the souls of this leader to learn about who he or she is and a lay leader's philosophy for steering our sacred community in the coming year. It is a celebrated and honored afternoon in the Temple Emanuel annals of who we are.

 

How our world has changed. And like the bearers of Judaism upon whose shoulders we so humbly stand, we are evolving. We do not look like who we were three months ago. And yet, we continue to serve our community with faith, dignity and passion. 

 

Judaism's survival has always depended upon the ability to evolve. It reflects the realities in which each generation has lived. We are a part of this heritage. From streaming services to Zoom classes and chats and increased communication through email and the telephone, we are striving to meet our congregational needs. It may look different, but I promise you the heart and essence of TE remains constant. 

 

I was reminded of a clever story I am going to share with you. "Once a lion fell ill of a bone that had lodged in his throat. He promised vast rewards to anyone who could cure him. Along came the crane and offered its services. The great jaws were open, the bird stuck its bill down the beast's throat and took out the bone. The lion coughed with relief, rolled over on his side, and promptly fell asleep. The crane squawked demanding its compensation. The lion did not answer. The crane shrieked; the lion did not hear. The crane opened its puny beak and prepared to tweak the lion, to peck at him, or to twist his fur. Then the lion decided that matters had gone far enough. 'You want your reward? You have your life. Go brag to the birds of your feather that you put your head in my mouth and that it is still on your neck.'"

 

The context in which this story was utilized in As a Driven Leaf by Milton Steinberg, was to teach that one should not force the Divine hand; do not force the end. Do not pick the fruit before it is ready. To us, it means we will not open the doors of the sanctuary before our leaders deem it is safe to do so. Commandments were given to us to live by. Our religion is about life. To save a life is the highest principle. 

 

We are dedicated to making sure our community is safe. We will continue to serve you in new and creative ways. Standing together, albeit at a distance, makes us stronger and healthier. 

 

There is a Talmudic saying that we should "Go out and observe what the people are doing." I understand this to follow the principle which has been a foundation of Temple Emanuel. We embrace everyone's decision to be where he or she is whether religiously, politically, and otherwise. Our tent of prayer as well as our doors are "open" for all to feel comfortable. There is no agenda to make you more observant or attend classes. I go forth to stand where you are. And, I have always stated I would walk the journey with you, if you desire. I go forth to see and learn where you are as well as your hopes and goals, your thoughts, and feelings. Today it is different from three months ago. And yet, the intention is present albeit in different forms.

 

We are fortunate to be in an intimate community where every voice is heard. As your rabbi, I am devoted to knowing who you are and what is integral to you. I am accessible to every individual to walk with you through daily moments, your joys, and sorrows. I go forward to meet you with an emotional and spiritual embrace, even if it is virtual at this moment in time. As a member of this sacred community, you are never alone.

 

In addition to a spouse and child, there is one other person who truly understands the position of a rabbi. The president is my co-pilot. This leader understands how the metaphoric plane runs. He or she is privy to behind the scenes and knows when a word of comfort or support is needed or just a kind presence. I have two such figures. Val and Lynn have been valiantly present especially during COVID-19. They are pillars of compassion. They are sounding boards and creators of policy. We engage in visions of hope, programming, and services. Furthermore, many of our past presidents and leaders have called and offered support in many wonderful ways. And to the entire EC, thank you. Each of you has provided me with gifts of knowledge. The creative and healthy energy we share is a gift.

 

To all those who are devoted to the operations of Temple Emanuel, I appreciate your given tasks. It is always the people who make this a community. Our staff is committed to helping us function daily. To Robyn, David, Vicki and Yolanda, your devotion to our members is noteworthy. Emily, thank you for a wonderful school year. You brought a tremendous energy and increased academic level to our religious school. I know you are working on creative options for the summer and autumn. I appreciate the way you see us all as a team. Andrew, your enthusiasm for service is an integral part of our community. You are steadfast in your dedication and support for my rabbinate and TE. My heartfelt words of appreciation. Malachi and Earl, you bring prayer into our sanctuaries through music. Our High Holiday choir also includes Dan, Karen, and Mary. You move my soul. Rabbi Joe, your presence is everlasting. Thank you for being an outstanding colleague. 

 

And to Robert and Noah, you are my staff and sustenance. You are the quiet heroes and source of my strength. You are my light and inspiration. You ensure that I can serve this community as well as the greater public.

 

In the Book of Exodus while standing before a bush that burned unconsumed, Moses asked, of God, whom am I that I should go? . . . And God said, I will be with you. 

 

I promise. I will be with you. I will go out to meet you wherever you are. I am your devoted servant. I will be with you.

Celebrating 7

Letter from President Val Turner

I am pleased to share my Annual Meeting speech with our members.

 

I'd like to thank all of you for being with us today and welcome to our 2020 Annual Meeting. Yes, it is a different kind of meeting, an odd meeting, and hopefully it will be the last Annual Meeting where we are separated.  

 

What can I say? It has been a hard year, a complicated year, a year where planning for the future often had to be put on hold in order to wonder and to guess what tomorrow might bring. It was that kind of year for the Temple, it was that kind of year for all of us.

 

When I first became president my primary goal was to reestablish and to reinvigorate our Temple's system of committees. Many of the committees did not exist and others were not fully functioning. I am very proud to report that the Temple now has a complete and operational committee structure. Sadly, just as the committees were beginning to meet and beginning to plan we were hit with an unexpected obstacle, a pandemic. You may have noticed a change in the Annual Report from previous years. Normally the committees present their accomplishments in the Report. Because many of the committees never had a chance to recommend and implement, this year I wanted to honor the individuals who volunteered to serve on committees rather than their accomplishments which will be many but, for the time being, will be delayed. These individuals are part of the glue that holds Temple Emanuel together and are deserving of our sincerest thanks. Thank you to each one of them.  

 

I can't believe the number of members who have offered me support, guidance and a share of their wisdom. They are far too many to name individually and far too important to inadvertently forget one. I will make it my goal to thank them personally several times during the coming year. Thank you to the Rabbi, the staff, the Executive Committee and the Board. Without you collectively, to take liberties with Annie, chaos was only a day away.

 

Where is the Temple today? The Building remains closed to the public but we have made significant progress this past month. Andrew, Emily and Vicki are working back into the building gradually within guidelines. And the Rabbi? The dedication of Rabbi Hersh continues to amaze me. I should have realized that she is, in fact, the captain of the ship and will forever be the last to leave.

 

Where will the Temple be tomorrow? With the guidance of the Executive Committee and the approval of the Board, it is my hope that we will continue our steady progress toward whatever might be considered "normal" in the future. We may well begin to allow smaller groups to return to the building gradually and will follow the safety guidelines of the county and state. I will keep you apprised of our progress in future writings. What I want you to know is that I can already begin to see what the Temple may look like in the future: yes, it will be different AND it will be better. Your patience will be rewarded.

 

Seven is only a single digit number, but in Judaism it is a very big number. Shabbat occurs every seventh day and the Sabbatical Year occurs every seventh year. Shabbat and the Sabbatical Year share a common big idea, they are both periods of time when we are told to release our control over certain activities of our regular everyday lives. As might be expected, I have seen several rabbinical comments online comparing the Sabbatical Year to the pandemic which has forced us to give up a great deal of control over our lives. By now many of you are wondering what I'm talking about? Today marks the final day of Rabbi Hersh's Sabbatical Year at Temple Emanuel. Today marks a full seven years that Rabbi Hersh has led Temple Emanuel. A very significant accomplishment.

 

Over the past several months I have seen Rabbi Hersh give up control of many things; earned vacations, deserved conference time, days off and time with family.  All given up in order to better serve the congregation. Keep in mind the big idea of Shabbat and the Sabbatical Year; we give up things not to weaken ourselves, but to actually make ourselves stronger in the future. If you see a person's true character in difficult times, Rabbi Hersh has become the model for hope, creativity and the belief in a future that will be better.

 

I would like to thank Andrew for putting together the video you are about to see. It was my intent for the video to remind the congregation of what Rabbi Hersh has meant to the Temple, to congratulate her on completing her seventh year of leadership and to inspire us that we have better days ahead.

 

I think I can speak for the entire family of Temple Emanuel at this time.  Thank you Rabbi Hersh and congratulations.
 

NEXT YEAR, IN THE SANCTUARY!   

June Update

Letter from Executive Director Andrew Goldfeder

I hope this message finds you and the ones you love safe and well. The weather has warmed up and my family is enjoying every moment we can outdoors. Being able to watch our daughter and son grow during this pandemic is truly a blessing for us. They are curious, funny, always hungry and full of energy. 

 

Another blessing in my life is our TE family. I enjoy my correspondence with you and always look forward to connecting on Zoom. This month begins our new and exciting weekly Virtual Happy Hour on Mondays. Pour a beverage, enjoy a snack and get ready for some wonderful and lively conversation. 

 

Please reach out to me anytime. I understand that needs continue to change - please know that I am here for you, and I am happy to help support you in any way I can. I wish you and yours continued good health; stay safe and well. See you soon!

A Time to Pivot

Letter from Director of Education and Community Engagement Emily Cohen

 

For the sake of the most sacred value of health and safety, we have all had to pivot in the way we work, care for our family, socialize, pray, and gather.  I appreciate the way the members of our congregation have handled these seismic shifts with resilience and compassion.  You do it well, and we know it is not easy.  

Another scene from Friends that has repeatedly played in my head recently is the chorus of the theme song, "I'll Be There for You."  Your TE family is here to support you in any way we can.  In my conversations with leadership, staff, and congregants over the past couple months, I have heard people offer support and vulnerability that has been truly touching.  Please don't be shy about reaching out if you have needs big or small.  This is when a kehillah kedoshah (a holy community) becomes even more important.  We'll be there for you!

As we move into the summer, we prepare for more pivots with the cancellation of camps, vacations, and other summer plans.  These losses can be heartbreaking for children and teens, and present challenges both practical and emotional for them and their families.  Such a major challenge requires partnership and a community-wide response, and the Jewish community of St. Louis is working together to support families as best we can. 

Summer and Mental Health
Recently I was part of a call with many of the youth professionals and camp directors from St. Louis synagogues, youth groups, overnight camps, and day camps.  Staff from Jewish Family Services also joined to educate us about the many services they provide, including counseling, food, and financial assistance.  We found two main themes in the questions and concerns we're getting from families across the community.  The first, what are my kids supposed to do all summer?  How am I supposed to entertain them without camp and all the activities we had planned?  Organizations across town are working on options for this, some in person for essential workers who need child care, and many remotely for those who seek quality activities they can do from home, whether virtually or "in real life."  If you are looking for any of those options, feel free to reach out and I can connect you.

The second question we hear is how this will affect the mental health of our children and teens.  Nothing could have prepared a child (or an adult for that matter) for the situation we are now facing.  Between the isolation from peers, grieving of summer plans, spending more time in close quarters with family and all the dynamics that brings up, increased anxiety, or dealing with loss or illness within one's family or friend group, this question about mental health is critical. 

The Youth Professionals Council and Jewish Family Services worked together to create this list of resources for youth, teens, and families.  Feel free to use it and share it with anyone who may benefit. It is important to acknowledge that we are living in a tremendously challenging and stressful time, and we all can be vigilant and gentle with our own mental health and that of the people we love.  We are here to support you in that in any way we can.  

Thank you for your constant support and pro-level pivoting!  I look forward to connecting soon.  

Emanuscript

May 2020

Your Decisions Matter

Letter from Rabbi Elizabeth B. Hersh

"Things are not as easy to understand or express as we are mostly led to believe; most of what happens cannot be put into words and takes place in a realm which no word has ever entered." - Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, 1903.

            

I return to these sage words in order to remind myself we cannot always comprehend and place our circumstances into a neat order and construction. The human need to categorize and understand the world fails when we lose our perceived control. Structure provides a sense of normalcy but what really is normalcy? Isn't what we consider normal always in flux? 

            

If Rilke was correct, and there are places no words ever enter, then how can we make sense of our surroundings? Isn't language an opportunity, a vessel, to understand who we are and where we fit into the world? Allow me to share a story from the Talmud. It happened in the second century C.E. during the time of Roman occupation. It is part of a larger story we recall on Yom Kippur afternoon of the Ten Martyrs. The Romans punished our rabbis for continuing to teach our traditions.

            

Hananiah Ben Teradyon was wrapped in the Torah scroll he had been holding when he was arrested. As the flames engulfed him, his students asked him what he saw. He replied, "The parchment is burning, but the letters are ascending to heaven." The scroll burned. And the words and the teachings survived.

            

Are we indestructible? Do the words of Torah survive even though individuals and communities bar their entrance into daily vocabulary and literature? Is it our job to return the letters of Torah to earth in order to create and build once again? What do we do with the words we are given? What is Torah and what is its meaning? 

            

Rabbi David Wolpe wrote in 2003, "The most important event in the world today is probably unknown to us. But we can hazard a guess: in decades or centuries our descendants will see again that the mind outlasts empires, that the word endures and that God gently nurtures miracles out of small seeds of creativity and of faith. That is the Jewish certainty. What does that knowledge call upon us to do? Not only to cultivate our souls, but to understand that seemingly small decisions and actions can have a profound effect on history."

            

Our words, our actions, and our responses to the pain in our world will have a substantial effect on history. We are living in a time with access to many gifts and opportunities. How are you utilizing yours? Have you abandoned the words of Torah or do you gather them to build community, faith and a future? There is much we cannot comprehend and so much more we do understand. 

            

Later this month we celebrate the Festival of Shavuot. Seven weeks after Passover, we stood at Mount Sinai to receive words to guide our lives. The words were given to us to live by. The words were given us to act upon and to enrich a world around us. They may have ascended to the heavens under the occupation of the Romans. Surely, they have returned for us to actualize and implement.

            

A story. "When an engineer builds a bridge, he figures on three loads that the bridge must bear: the dead load, the live load, and the wind load. The dead load is the weight of the bridge; the live load is the weight of the traffic on the bridge; and the wind load is the pressure of the wind on its superstructure. This is a parable of life. Life's 'dead load' is concerned with managing one's self; its 'live load' is the pressure of daily wear and tear; its 'wind load' is adversity and unalterable circumstances."

            

Today we are feeling the additional loads of life. As a rabbi, I look to texts and teachings as well as humanity for words, understanding and meaning. I search for inspiration and comprehension knowing as Rilke wrote, "Things are not as easy to understand or express as we are mostly led to believe..." Perhaps that is just the way it is right now. And if so, I look towards that mountain and time when holiness descended upon all of us whether or not we were ready.

L'Chaim

Letter from President Val Turner

Sometimes there is great power in a simple phrase. L'Chaim, to life. The ability to live within tragedy and yet grab life. The strength to not only persevere within hardship but to realize the opportunities it has presented. Much has been lost during the past several months and yet every Monday and Thursday Zoom session, every Shabbat Study, every streamed service and much more has become our L'Chaim.

 

As I write this article, it appears that our recovery from the current pandemic may take longer than expected. Our battle with a life-threatening virus is now compounded with serious economic issues. All of our community will be affected in some way and in varying degrees of severity. If you are looking for Jewish guidance, it may well be contained in the belief that during troubling times the most effective way of helping yourself is to help others.

 

In this spirit we are establishing a new short-term fund at Temple Emanuel called the 2020 Assistance Fund. This fund will provide assistance to members affected by the current medical/monetary events, ranging from assistance with financial issues to help in securing needed medications or food. The list of what we are capable of helping with and the volunteers available is far too long to list within this article. If you or someone you know needs assistance, please ask.

 

If assistance is needed the point of contact with the fund is Rabbi Hersh. Rabbi Hersh will maintain strict confidentiality and is the best person to know and appreciate the needs of our membership. Simply contact the Rabbi by email at rabbihersh@testl.org to initiate a conversation about what is needed.

 

For those who would like to contribute to the fund simply write a check to Temple Emanuel and in the memo line of the check write "2020 Fund." There will be no listing of contributions in the Emanuscript in order to maintain confidentiality as well as the highest level of tzedakah giving.

 

It is important to keep in mind that the root of the Hebrew word tzedakah does not mean charity. The root meaning is justice and righteousness, or in simpler terms the act of doing the right thing. Within Jewish tradition both parties involved, the giver and the receiver, benefit. We are a community, we are a family. With each act of generosity, with each acceptance of generosity, we stand together and say...L'Chaim!    

 

Lechu L'Shalom,

Val

May Update

Letter from Executive Director Andrew Goldfeder

It's so refreshing that Spring is upon us. I cannot recall a time when I have had the opportunity to watch flowers blossom, trees budding and birds build their nests. These small moments that I have missed for years remind me of the beauty that exists, even in the darkest of times, when we look for it. Another occurrence I am enjoying is sitting in our front yard every Wednesday around noon with my son in my lap watching the trash compactor pick up our garbage. The driver loves the excited expression on my son's face! We choose to create special moments during these uncertain days. We must.  

 

I certainly miss seeing my colleagues at Temple Emanuel, but I've gained three new "colleagues" at the Goldfeder home. My wife Nikki, four-year-old daughter Ilana and two-year-old son Ethan fill my days with joy, laughter, energy and enthusiasm. Working full-time from home, being a preschool teacher, with recess and lunch duty added to my job description, has been an interesting adjustment.

 

In addition to missing my colleagues, I also miss you! Thankfully, Rabbi Hersh has found creative ways to help our community stay connected. I am thoroughly enjoying our Monday and Thursday TE Community Chats. I always find myself laughing, learning and loving our human connections. Zoom has truly proven to be an effective tool for our virtual meetups, Shabbat Study sessions, education classes, etc. and I will say that Rabbi Hersh's leadership continues to shine bright during these extremely difficult days for our nation and world.

 

Please reach out to me anytime. I understand that needs continue to change - please know that I am here for you, and I am happy to help support you in any way I can.  I wish you and yours continued good health; stay safe and well. See you soon!

Staying Connected

Letter from Director of Education and Community Engagement Emily Cohen

While this past month has not looked the way I (or any of us) pictured when we planned this year, learning and engagement is very much happening with TE families.  Every Sunday of religious school we have been gathering online in one form or another.  Whether we have a conversation with Israeli teens, celebrate Havdalah led by teens, or play a family version of Newlywed Game, TE students and their families are continuing their Jewish journeys online.

 

One of the gatherings that especially brought hope and excitement was the 8th grade welcome Zoom session.  To welcome them as incoming 9th graders for the fall,  the TEDY (youth group) teens led an afternoon of online games and talked about the rich variety of opportunities for Jewish engagement in high school.  Teens have tons of options for Jewish travel, social justice work, even sports and fine arts opportunities.  Even if you don't have a teen, the list of programs is exciting.

 

One thing that struck me on these virtual gatherings is that our students and teachers have truly become a community.  The bonds formed throughout the year were especially clear when each class had their own Zoom meeting.  It was such a treat to watch everyone's faces light up when another friend joined the call.  Teachers led a "circle time" or "morning meeting" to see how each student was doing, read stories, sang songs, even celebrated birthdays virtually.  The warmth felt on these Zoom sessions is a testament to the connection our community has formed. 

 

This connection is possible because of the dedication of TE families and faculty.  This year it has been my privilege to work with TE's teachers and madrichim (teen assistants).  This group of dedicated professionals shows up each week at religious school with energy, compassion, and creativity.  While we were not able to honor them in person as we'd like, I want to share the list with you so you can thank these fabulous educators next time you see them. 

 

Teachers

Suzanne Burack

Jordan Chazen

Mark Cohen

Hannah Dayan

Cantor Josh Finkel

Elaine Goldman

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

Sondra Horowitz

Kevin Lee

Jacob Marks

Alyssa Person

Anita Schwartz

 

Madrichim (Teen Assistant Teachers)

Lily Dayan

Jane Goldman

Sophie Horowitz

Noah Kleinlehrer

Joel Lazarow

Izabella Reichert-Corso

Carrie Sandler

 

I want to add my personal gratitude to the religious school families.  I appreciate the support you gave all year, and especially your patience as we adapted an in-person program to an online model.  Thank you for making my first year at TE so special.  As we move in to May, I wish you a month full of laughter, learning, and good health.

  

Emanuscript

April 2020

The Power of Yizkor

Letter from Rabbi Elizabeth B. Hersh

 

The very first time I was part of a Yizkor service was High Holidays 1989 in Lafayette, Louisiana. I was a second-year rabbinical student. In my more conservative, bordering on superstitious, world, I didn't know what to do. Both of my parents were living. Yet, I was the one conducting services, and expected to recite the traditional prayers on Yom Kippur afternoon.

 

Growing up, my family was active in a progressive Conservative congregation. My rabbi, of blessed memory, introduced the kaddish by telling us that we were each saying it for those who perished in the Shoah, leaving no one to say it for them. The mourner's kaddish (earlier in the service) was only recited by the mourners. And children were not permitted to be a part of the Yizkor service, lest they place an ayin ha-ra [the evil eye] on their living parents. I remained in the lobby with other children. On Yom Kippur afternoon the sanctuary was crowded, perhaps even moreso than on Kol Nidre. Inside, men and women alike were remembering their loved ones, and beseeching God that their names, of blessed memory, be bound up in Eternal life.

 

The first time I needed to be present for Yizkor, according to Jewish tradition, was in 2009 after my father, of blessed memory, died. It was the most powerful religious services I have participated in or conducted. I stood, albeit from the bima, amongst my fellow congregants, in tears and smiles, engulfed in a sea of memories. And I was not alone. I truly understood and embraced the power of my community reciting the Yizkor service.

 

Yizkor [may God remember] is the first word of the memorial prayer we recite for our loved ones. The tradition is to recite this four times a year in the place of worship. Originally, it was only recited on Yom Kippur. The custom expanded to holding a memorial service also on the last days of Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot. 

 

The custom of praying as a community for our loved ones began in the eleventh century in Germany when the Crusaders annihilated Rhineland Jewry. In the fourteenth century, Jews were massacred because their non-Jewish neighbors believed they were the source of the Black Plague. What was once personal prayer recited by the family developed into a communal prayer service on Yom Kippur.

 

Moreover, I recently read, "Polish Jews supplemented it with a prayer remembering the Jewish victims of the 1648 Cossack massacre under the leadership of Bogdan Chmielnicki." It was practical to include a Yizkor service on the three Festivals, as it was a time for communities to gather. We now include a passage for those who were murdered in the Shoah. As Jews, we   remember those who came before us, of all faiths and nationalities.

 

This year, I am introducing an opportunity to gather for prayers on the last day of Passover, which includes a Yizkor service. Please join us for live streaming services on Wednesday, April 15th, at 11:00a.m. I hope, if your schedule permits, you will join me as well as your fellow congregants to read the prayers that have sustained generations before us.

A Passover Tutorial

Letter from Rabbi Elizabeth B. Hersh

In Judaism, there is never one answer to a question. Rather, there are a multitude of legitimate responses. Our sages offered various answers to questions of Jewish law and custom. There are what I denote as the "practical" answers as opposed to the lovely, more spiritually engaged answers. For example, "Why do we have a blessing over spices at Havdalah?" (Havdalah is the brief service that concludes Shabbat, separating sacred time from mundane time.) In rabbinical school, we were taught that we are blessed with a second soul on Shabbat, in which to enjoy this time. When Shabbat concludes and the additional soul departs our being, we are naturally saddened. The aroma of the spices carries us joyfully through the week until once again we welcome our bonus soul. Are you smiling? It is lovely, isn't it? Turn 180 degrees. For almost 25 hours, there is no manner of work in the home, no fire, electricity, washing, cleaning...You can only imagine after this period, the home may have needed a little "refreshing." Spices were certainly welcome at this moment. Sentimental and practical. 

          

Why have I written two Emanuscript articles for April? In the manner of a Jewish dialogue, I have two answers. First, the charming, but very real, response. l always love communicating with my TE family. How much moreso (another rabbinical concept) at this difficult time of social distancing. It is one of the ways I can be in contact with you. 

            

Turn 180 degrees. Many of you know I work well in advance of deadlines. When time and creativity present themselves, I embrace the opportunity to write articles, prepare classes, and the like ahead of schedule. I wrote my April Emanuscript article in early March. I was, and am, excited to begin a last day of Passover/Yizkor service for our community. 

            

When I began my communication with you prior to the mandatory isolation, many of you expressed dismay about the unfortunate, but wise, decision to cancel our community Passover Seder. Saving a life takes precedence over observing mitzvot (commandments). While we are looking into the possibility of having a ZOOM Seder, I am sharing information, stories and new writings about Passover. 

 

This is no substitute for gathering as a TE family. I do hope it provides some inspiration and ideas for you. Hence, two articles. Please note that many notes I have in my Hagadah are from various sources and are not marked as such. It is with tremendous humility that I share commentary with you.

            

There are many debates in the Talmud (Jewish law) between Rav and Shmuel. A relevant one during this time of year is over the approach to the Exodus. Shmuel believed the exodus is a physical redemption. Rav held it is spiritual. Maimonides presented a third distinction. "There are two elements to the Seder service: there is the story we tell our children, and the story we tell ourselves. Shmuel focused on the story as told to a child. Rav spoke of the story as an adult reflection. It takes an adult to understand the journey from polytheism to monotheism, from myth to faith." (The Jonathan Sacks Haggada 2003, 2013). 

            

The Seder is a festive meal. We can only share food when we are free. The one who fears where tomorrow's food will come from cannot offer to others. (A tremendous lesson for today; I am certain our food pantries need collections.) On Passover, the custom is to pour wine (four goblets) for others. In the custom of royalty, we do not pour our own. On Passover we sit for the blessings over wine. On Shabbat we stand. 

            

The Four Children - the wise, the wicked, the simple and the one unable to ask a question. Think of the four individuals as a scope of the Jewish people. One inquires because she wants to hear the answer. The next does not want to hear the answer. The third asks because she does not understand. The fourth doesn't understand that she doesn't understand. And yet, we hope. We can disagree because we are family. We can sit at the same metaphoric table and tell the same story while disagreeing. We draw strength from one another. We argue and struggle to understand each other, not to convince we are correct. Moreover, we must answer each question according to the ability of the listener to comprehend. Be sensitive to your audience.

            

The Seder involves the act of remembering. Each generation must add to the story. Hagadah comes from the root meaning to tell, connect and join. The Seder is an invitation to tell your story of your exodus or Jewish journey. The Hagadah tells us who we are, where we came from and what we stand for in life. Passover is a "mind" holiday. We must free ourselves spiritually and emotionally. Beware that ideas may enslave us!

            

Chad Gadya - One Only Kid and Who Knows One are meant not only to keep children alert, but to teach. Who Knows One is a counting game involving learning from our history. One Only Kid dates to the Middle Ages, and initially was only recited by Ashkenazi Jews. Each symbol (cat, dog, stick, water, etc.) is meant to represent one of Israel's oppressors. It addresses a world where various forces control or harm one another. In the end, evil will be banished. God is the ultimate victor. 

            

The following is a reading I created for our Seder, focusing on Miriam's Cup which we set on our table and fill with water.

            

Fearless Miriam was one of the few women in our tradition to be described as a prophetess. She sang and danced before God leading the women in thanksgiving at the Sea of Reeds. Her name is derived from mar, meaning "bitter," and yam, "sea." In Arabic, her name is born from ra'im, meaning "to love tenderly." In Egyptian the root of her name is mer, implying she was beloved. Miriam is associated with water. She watched her brother from afar as he was set upon the Nile. She praised God upon crossing the Sea of Reeds. Legend tells us she had the gift of finding water while traveling through the barren wilderness. The story of Miriam's Well is what brings meaning to our lives tonight. Water is life. Miriam, you inspire us to contribute to the well-being and life of others without whom life and hope may be lost. We begin with an empty goblet, passing it from one to the next, taking from our own cups to contribute water. Each of us can save a life. Each of us can nourish a soul and bring life to parched individuals. Each of us is beloved.

 

The Mishnah lists five species of grain native to the Land of Israel subject to the prohibition against leavening at this time of year. They are wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. The rabbis fixed 18 minutes as the maximum time for making matza from the moment water and flour are mixed. This teaches us to be precise about time. And, do not procrastinate to perform a mitzvah. 

 

Leaven is more than a food matter. The Talmud uses leaven as a metaphor for the evil or unruly impulses in our hearts. Yeast came to symbolize arrogance. It can be the restless force of the evil inclination. Matza is simple. Abarbanel declared this simplicity as a spiritual quality we should desire. In the days before Passover, search for chametz in your homes. It is a cleansing process. Remove not only the breadcrumbs from the corners of your kitchen but the chametz from your hearts and souls. We can devote ourselves to this task anew. And next year in Jerusalem, in a healthier and safer world.

 

(Please note there are various English spellings of the Hebrew word, Hagadah. In the reference to Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sack's Hagadah, I respectfully used his as was published.)

Back To The Future

Letter from President Val Turner

 

"Roads?  Where we are going we don't need roads."

 

Dr. Emmett Brown - from the original "Back to the Future"

 

This will be a very odd "From the President" because these are very odd times.

 

I have a very embarrassing confession to make. Before the original version of "Back to the Future" was released, I would watch the previews and wonder, how can you go back to where you have never been?  The question consumed me.  After having seen the movie several times, I knew what was meant by the title, but from time to time I would still ponder how you could go back to where you have never been. I must admit, over thirty years later, two or three times a year while walking the dog or watching an uninteresting rerun my mind will return to the question of how can you go back to where you have never been?  In the past several weeks my mind has returned to that question dozens of times.

 

As most of you, over the past weeks I've talked with many different people and the conversation almost always includes comments on the Coronavirus pandemic.  The majority of the time these conversations will express the strong desire of being able to go "back to normal."  The phrase "back to normal" always triggers my mind to wonder how can you go back to where you have never been?  If you are fortunate enough to live a long life, you reach a point  where you have experienced births and deaths, marriages and divorces, children and grandchildren, several crisis events and of course, aging.  Looking back on your life, you realize that there was no "back to normal."  After each significant life event you were forced to adjust, to redefine normal and to eventually live within a new normal. There never was a going back, only making adjustments and moving forward.

 

During this current crisis, please keep your eyes open for what I will call the super helper.  This is the person that rises above most of the complaining, the criticisms and the bad moods by occupying their time with helping others.  I would guess we all know at least one super helper. The person that immediately comes to my mind is Rabbi Hersh.  I have watched her work tirelessly and devote endless hours toward keeping people and things together.  Working toward keeping a congregation and a family together.  Whoever it is that comes to your mind as a super helper, remember them.  

 

We all need help in some form during times like this. Help can range all the way from a comforting smile to life-saving intervention by a medical professional.  What we have learned from the past, however, is that the super helper will need help after the crisis is over.  We will adapt, adjust and endure to eventually accept the new normal.  The super helper hasn't had the time to go through this process; they have been too busy helping others.  After you have reached the new normal, remember the super helper.  Thank them profusely, avoid criticism and be kind.  They are the ones responsible for us being able to go back to where we have never been.

 

Lechu L'Shalom,

Val 

April Update

Letter from Executive Director Andrew Goldfeder

We are certainly living in precarious times. As I write this note to our Temple Emanuel family, I am sitting across from my wife as she also works remotely. We are both in helping roles professionally, and it is hard for us to grasp that we can help the most by staying away from people whom we care so deeply for. Our four-year-old daughter, Ilana, does not understand why she cannot hug her grandparents; and our two-year-old son, Ethan, has already adopted this lifestyle as his new normal. These are challenging times for all of us, no matter our circumstances. Please know that you are not alone. We are a strong community, filled with strong individuals, and together, we will support each other through this unprecedented time. 

 

We might not be able to predict the exact trajectory of the days to come, but I will tell you what I know for sure: Rabbi Hersh has been a phenomenal leader and friend during this period of time. As a supervisor, she understands her staff and truly cares for our health and welfare. As our Rabbi, she has reached out to each household, checking on our well-being and the well-being of our families. As always, she is in full control, and her outreach, care and messages of hope are blessings to us all.

 

Furthermore, I have been impressed with the leadership of our President Val Turner. His communication to the congregation is clear, effective and thoughtful. Thank you, Val, for all you are doing!

 

I would like to also recognize our Director of Education and Community Engagement, Emily Cohen. Emily is a creative and enthusiastic educator. She is finding ways to connect with students to help them stay connected to Judaism and each other during this challenging time. As a leader, Emily steps in when needed, rolls up her sleeves and is a wonderful teammate. Thank you, Emily, for all you are doing!

 

Finally, our Office Administrator Vicki Watson has been working hard behind the scenes to help our operations run as smoothly as possible while we are away from the building. Thank you for your dedication, Vicki. 

 

My family and I extend our warmest wishes for continued good health and for a Zissen Pesach (Sweet Passover)! I hope to "see" you all soon through our Zoom sessions.

Staying Connected

Letter from Director of Education and Community Engagement Emily Cohen

The kindness and strength of the TE community has really stood out over the past couple weeks while we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.  I have been blown away by the generosity of our members and the dedication of Rabbi Hersh, TE's President Val Turner, and Executive Director Andrew Goldfeder.

 

Here is an update on all that is happening in TE's education and community engagement efforts:

  • Religious school classes met virtually to check in and find strength in community.  We will schedule future virtual meet-ups based on the feedback from the first round of online gatherings.  

  • The TEDY board is meeting and planning a fabulous year of programming for next year as well as a special welcome for the current 8th graders to the high school youth group and the rest of the rich variety of Jewish programs available to them.  

  • TE members are connecting in a private Facebook group where they can share conversation starters, talk about how they are coping, and ask for help and recommendations.

 

The sweeping stay-at-home orders have brought to light the rich virtual Jewish learning content for children, teens, and adults.  Whether you want to hear some new Jewish music, study a Jewish text or holiday, cook a Jewish dish, or simply meet other Jews, I can help you find a resource online.  Feel free to reach out any time, emily@testl.org.  Your TE community is still very much here for you even when (especially when) we cannot be together physically.  Stay well!