Friday, September 29, 2017

Rosh Hashanah 2017 at Touro Synagogue Newport, RI

Rosh Hashanah 2017

At Touro Synagogue, September 22-23, 2017 

[regarding the video, which is at there is a discussion including the lyrics at As sung, the following verse was omitted,
"A year has now passed in misery and fear
Your child is swimming in blood
Innumerable pogroms and war all the time
Butchered without any sin at all
Those without a father, without a mother,
they feel desolate as a stone
We beg you, God, in your holy name,
That this shall never happen again."]

When people meet, they try to find something in common. Do they share the same interests? Who do they know? Where have they been? We know this as playing Jewish geography. I overheard one of our Navy students, “If you are in the Navy, there is an additional  commonality. Have you been to Touro Synagogue? Have you met Rabbi Mandel?” From shore to shore, the reputations of CJI and Rabbi Mandel sail high above the waves!

Among our visitors during Rosh Hashanah were Moshe Bar-Z'ev and his wife, Carol Fuchs. Moshe and Carol both made Aliyah during their youths, Moshe from the United States and Carol from Toronto. Moshe has a special link with Newport, since he can trace his routes to Dokshitz, like many Newporters. They are inveterate travelers, and were in Orlando during the Hurricane Jose. They regaled us with tales of visiting Luxor Egypt.  

To help us concentrate, at Touro Synagogue, we listened to the battle of the Shofars. Rabbi Marc Mandel’s blasts pierced our hearts. Saul Woythaler's shofar is a Stradivarius of shofars, and Saul plays the bassoon. He not only pierced our hearts, but filled the room and perhaps went even higher.  

Rabbi Marc Mandel spoke succinctly on both days of Rosh Hashanah. He focused on two words, on the first day, “צחק” (laughed)  and on the second day, “shanah” (year). 

First Day

Rabbi Mandel started with a famous quote from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” 

“What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  

In the interest of full disclosure, Juliet most likely said, 
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,By any other word would smell as sweet.”
She was telling Romeo he should change his name from Montague. To Juliet, names did matter!

“On Rosh Hashanah we have the custom of wishing each other a Shana Tova, a good year. The word shanah means year. But the word shanah has various other meetings.

“Shakespeare said, ‘What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’ But names are important.

“Rosh Hashanah has several different names. It is known as Yom Ha-din-the day of judgment. The Mishnah tells us that the whole world is judged on Rosh Hashanah. It is known as Yom Teruah, the day of the shofar. We will make 100 sounds on the shofar. 

“It is also known as Yom Hazikaron, a day of remembrance. Being remembered on Rosh Hashanah? Who is doing the remembering? One answer to this question is: God remembered Sarah on Rosh Hashanah, and she was able to have a child, as she was promised.

“Let's remember–How did Sarah react when she heard that she was going to have a child at her old age? What was her reaction? She laughed. She was laughing! And when her child was born-what did she name him? Yitzhak, which means laughter, to laugh.

“Some philosophers believe that the essence of humor lies in its incongruity. We laugh at things that surprise us because they seem out of place.

“That's why Sarah laughed-it seemed impossible for her to have a child-she was an older person at the time. 

“But why are we focusing on humor on Rosh Hashanah of all days? Rabbi Sampson Rafael Hirsch, rabbi in Frankfurt, Germany during the 1800s noted that in Hebrew, the word for laughed, צחק, is very similar to the word for scream, צעק. We have two virtually identical words for two opposite emotional expressions. There could be an important lesson for us on this New Year. 

“When we look at the world around us we could either scream or laugh. When we look at the world and see North Korea with its nuclear arsenal, or the threats that climate change and global warming post to our planet, we want to scream.

“But, we can also look at the world and see how much medicine has improved the lives people all over the world, and how rapid change in technology are making the world better–we want to laugh.

“Rosh Hashanah tells us to be like Sarah and laugh. When Sarah heard that she was going to have a child at her late age, she could have screamed and said, “Who is going to take care of this child? How will I survive the birth of this child?” But she didn't scream. She laughed. 

“And that’s who we have to emulate-as we begin the New Year, full of challenges and worries and concerns-let us be like Sarah the woman of valor – and let us laugh and be optimistic as we begin the year of 5778. Shana Tovah!”

Second day

“On Rosh Hashanah we have the custom of creating each other with the phrase Shanah Tovah!  Shanah means year, and Tova means good. We wish each other a good year. But the word Shanah has other meanings too.

“The prophet Malachi wrote, describing God (Malachi 3:6,
 אֲנִי יְהוָה, לֹא שָׁנִיתִי   ‘I, the Lord, do not change.’ The word  שָׁנִה means to change. But we are obliged to change. That is the essence of the High Holy Days. Rosh Hashanah is when we commit to change. 

“So what holds us back from changing? It’s the very same word, שָׁנִה, which also means to repeat. The Jewish collection of laws is called Mishnah, because when they studied it, they repeated it so many times-they knew it by heart.

“Human beings are creatures of habit. We repeat the same things over and over again. So we have two opposite powers at war with each other-change and repetition. We want to be different and we want to change, but we are programmed to repeat. 

“How do we win this battle? For one thing, we sound the shofar. When was the shofar sounded? During wartime it was a rallying call. This is an existential war that we are all fighting and the battle in earnest on Rosh Hashanah. 

“What else do we do during Rosh Hashanah to help us win the battle? We pray together. Longer and more intense prayer are supposed to stir us up and create the desire for change.

“That's really all we can do on Rosh Hashanah. We rally and pray together to emotionally support each other, as individuals and as one nation.

“Let us hope and pray we win the battle, and if we do, we will be partnering with God to repair this fragile and vulnerable world. Shana Tova.”

Jewish Newport wishes you victory in the existential battle we fight with ourselves. Shana Tova!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Yam Tov and Shana Tova

Yam Tov and Shana Tova

At Touro Synagogue September 15-16, 2017

On Friday many of us enjoyed a Shabbat dinner after services at Touro Synagogue, thanks to an anonymous benefactor. The food was not the only attraction. A visiting group from Israel led by coach Israel Altman, Yam Tov (Good Sea) was in Newport to sail with "Sail to Prevail," which is led by Paul Callahan. The group had a very busy week in Newport, and Friday night dinner was a much more relaxing affair. 

The visitors were gravely affected both physically and mentally by military service or experiencing terrorist incidents. Recovering from a wound can take years, and from the trauma of going from health and strength to sickness and dependency also takes a long time to heal. 

Many people worked together to make the visit of Yam Tov a success.

Sailing is one way to help people readjust. Sailing with others means team work…and being with similarly affected people…but working on something unrelated also helps the healing process. Our guests shared their experiences and impressions of Newport. 

On Saturday, Rabbi Marc Mandel spoke briefly about the double parsha. Rabbi Jeremy Bruce, head of school at the Hebrew High School of New England, where his son Carmi goes, had pointed out the two parshas had contradictory names. Nitzavim means to stand while Vayelach means to walk.

Rabbi Mandel applied this to the High Holidays. “Conceptually,” he said, “they don’t go together. That is the human condition. We try to move but we are frozen.  Teshuva (repentance) is a mechanism to solve this dilemma.”  

During the Yamim Noraim (Days of Awe), we have a chance to decide. Will we remain frozen in our ways, or will we move forward?

Shana Tova Umetuka. A good and sweet year to all of Jewish Newport! Let’s move forward together! Kadima!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Everybody can't sit in the front row!

At Touro Synagogue September 18, 2017
by Aaron Ginsburg BLOG   FACEBOOK

While I am gathering the latest news, I want to thank the seating committee for trying to keep everyone happy. I have my eye on a column half way down to the right so I can daydream but still be in a position to keep an eye on the action on the bima and at the ark...

I want to thank Sherm Palan for making sure I received this form so I get my preferred seat.
Anshei Emuna Congregation
During the last holiday season, many individuals expressed concern over the seating arrangements in the synagogue.
In order for us to place you in a seat which will best suit you, we ask you to complete the following questionnaire and return it to
the synagogue office as soon as possible.

1. I would prefer to sit in the... (Check one)
___ Talking section
___ No talking section
2. If talking, which category do you prefer? (Indicate order of interest)
___ Stock market
___ Sports
___ Medicine
___ General gossip
___ Specific gossip (choose one)
___ The rabbi
___ The cantor
___ The cantor's voice
___ Fashion news
___ What others are wearing
___ Why they look awful
___ Your neighbors
___ Your relatives
___ Your neighbors' relatives
___ Presidential Election
___ Other (e.g. single guys/ girls)
3. Which of the following would you like to be near for free professional advice?
___ Doctor
___ Dentist
___ Nutritionist
___ Psychiatrist
___ Child psychiatrist
___ Podiatrist
___ Chiropractor
___ Stockbroker
___ Accountant
___ Lawyer
___ Criminal
___ Civil
___ Real estate agent
___ Architect
___ Plumber
___ Golf pro [tentative; we're still trying to find a Jewish One]
___ Other
4. I want a seat located (Indicate order of priority)
___ On the aisle
___ Near the exit
___ Near the window
___ Near the bathroom
___ Near my in-laws
___ As far away from my in-laws as possible
___ As far away from my ex-in-laws as possible
___ Near the pulpit
___ Near the Kiddush table
___ Where no one on the bimah can see/hear me talking during services
___ Where no one will notice me sleeping during services
___ Where I can sleep during the rabbi's sermon [additional charge]
5. I would like a seat where:
___I can see my spouse over the mechitza
___ I cannot see my spouse over the mechitza
6. Please do not place me anywhere near the following people:
(Limit of six; if you require more space, you may wish to consider joining another congregation.) 
Your name:________________________________
Building fund pledge: $________________________

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Exaltation of Ululation

At Touro Synagogue September 2, 2017
by Aaron Ginsburg BLOG   FACEBOOK

On September second over 60 members of the Danesh and Hakim families, originally from Iran, visited Touro Synagogue for an aufruf. It was a joyous occasion.  The video has the same spirit that we experienced.

The Exaltation of Ululation 
to the tune of the theme song from "The Sound of Music"

The shul is alive with the sound of ruach,
A sound we have heard for a thousand years.

The Danesh and Hakim families fill the shul with ululation,
To wish Jessica and Danny simcha and mazel tov.

We gladly join them to celebrate,
The aufruf of Danny Hakim,
On this very special day.

From the balcony to the bimah,
Our voices rise up to the sky!

To make that long wavering high pitched sound,
Resembling a trilling howl,
We make a high pitched noise,
With rapid movement of the tongue and uvula.

We shower the groom, 
With candy and raisins,
For sweetness and fruitfulness in the days to come.

As they create a bayit
Like so many before them,
Jessica and Danny join B’nai Yisrael
L’dor v’dor, l’dor v’dor.

B’nai Yisrael=the children of Israel

L’dor v’dor=from generation to generation
The poem can be sung to the theme from “The Sound of Music.”  

Friday, September 1, 2017

George Washington and Morton Glasser

George Washington and Morton Glasser

At Touro Synagogue August 26, 2017

Rabbi Marc Mandel welcomed everyone and made brief remarks,

“This week, millions of Americans witnessed a rare event-a total solar eclipse. As reported in Business Insider, Rabbi Martin Hier, my neighbor in Los Angeles, had this to say about the eclipse. ‘The moon is 400 times smaller that the sun, yet the moon had the capacity to do a complete eclipse on the sun. Now that should teach us about bigots and haters who started out as small groups.’ He said that fanatics and bigots can darken our planet. The United States ‘caught on late’ to the Nazi movement in Europe in the 1930s. ‘Let’s not catch on late now.’

“Rabbi Hier is delivering an important message. We have to be on guard because, even though George Washington wrote to our community in 1790, ‘That the United States gives to bigotry no sanction and to persecution no assistance,’ things don’t always turn out that way. 

“In fact Gordon Wood, who used to be a professor at Brown University, points out that George Washington was exaggerating, because in 1790 it was only the national government that had forsaken all religious tests and qualifications, but a majority of the states still had an established church and many of them continued to discriminate against some religious denominations.

“In our society today, there are those who are not tolerant and are not interested in a society that embraces all cultures. And what about the worlds of social media? On Facebook and Twitter people can write whatever they want-and very often there is no tolerance at all for other people, just anger and hatred and even threats. So we need to be careful about the future. The Talmud says that an eclipse can be a warning of things to come.

“Let us hope and pray that the upcoming year will bring us blessings and success and let us continue to work together, with all people of good will, to build a just society where all people can sit peacefully under their fig trees, with none to harm them.”

The Kiddish was sponsored by Drs Irene and Morty Glasser in honor of their family. Dr. Morton Glasser spoke about how the Generations Family Health Center in Connecticut, where he is the Chief Medical Officer, has helped people rid themselves of their addictions to prescription opiates for chronic pain and/or refrain from initiating the use of prescription opiates for chronic pain. The use of prescription opiates is one of the many causes of the current US drug epidemic.

It’s a weighty topic. Dr. Glasser traced the abuse of prescription opioids to a couple of things. There was a belief, since discredited, that prescription opioids had a low abuse potential, and there was a belief that pain was under-treated.  

Drug companies knew a good thing when they saw it. They funded the American Academy of Pain Management and the American Pain Society. The number of pain clinics increased. Medical guidelines were published in 1998 and 2004 that were widely adopted and made the use of opioids a standard pain treatment. Under the guidelines, a doctor could be accused of malpractice if he failed to prescribe. 

A chart posted in doctors offices and emergency rooms explained to patients a way to describe their pain on a scale of 1-10 with a smiley face at one end and a sad face at the other end. People who were addicted quickly learned how to manipulate the system to get their meds.

The result of all of this was a large increase in the number of prescriptions for opioids, and of people addicted to them.

Dr. Turner, an emergency room doctor visiting from Florida, confirmed what Dr. Glasser said. The visiting doctor mentioned that many of the deaths from opioids are among former addicts who relapsed. They overdosed themselves  by going back to their original dosage, not realizing that their bodies were no longer acclimated to high doses.  Both doctors agreed that patients who became addicted to prescription narcotics often turn to illegal drugs such has heroin and illicit versions of fentanyl, which are much less expensive than prescription drugs if they are not covered by insurance. 

About 5 years ago, Dr. Glasser realized that his clinic was overprescribing opioids. He gave the clinic’s doctors six months to wean their patients off.  The patients were in an uproar at first, but eventually felt much better. They would be offered alternate methods of treatment including physical therapy, non-opioid pain medications, and TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) units.  About 27% of the patients left the practice to try to obtain the medications elsewhere, but many of them eventually returned. 

From  "The Medical Merry-Go-Round, A Plea for Resonable Medicine," by Morton Glasser and Gretel Pelto, 1980
Dr Glasser and his clinic were a bit ahead of the curve, and there were complaints from emergency rooms that his clinics lack of prescribing put more pressure on the ERs.