Friday, October 26, 2018

Soldiers and Stamps

Soldiers and Stamps
At Touro Synagogue
also on facebook

It was a busy week.

On Friday evening, October 19, I attended a community dinner at Young Israel of Sharon.  At the dinner were fifteen Israeli army reservists. They were visiting for a week of intensive group therapy with two psychologists, 40 hours. The visit was sponsored by the local Jewish community and was part of the Peace of Mind program for soldiers who were on the front line, in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West bank.  The program is designed to help soldiers to talk about things that most soldiers don’t discuss.

Rabbi Noah Chesis introduced the group. He referred to the parsha, which said that before the flood, “Noah was righteous man.” After the flood Noah planted grapes, made wine, and became אִ֣ישׁ הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה…a man of the earth.  Noah underwent a lot of stress. He had seen almost all leaving creatures killed. We all handle stress in different ways, ways that we are not always aware of. If, Rabbi Chesis said, there had been a Peace of Mind program, Noah might have avoided becoming a man of the earth.

Rabbi Chesis knows Rabbi Mandel. They are in the same cohort for continuing education at Yeshiva University. 

On Shabbat at Touro Synagogue, we had the usual panoply of locals and visitors. Rabbi Marc Mandel told us the Noah was a complex individual. Was he good or bad? A little bit of both. That’s why, he said, that we read the Tanach and Shakespeare, “Because they both portray people as complex individuals.”

On Tuesday, October 16, I attended the Hanukkah Stamp dedication in Newport.  It was a good day for Touro synagogue, and for the United States Postal Service. Actually for two postal services! Israel used the same design! 

The stamp was based on a paper cut by Tamara Fishman. I met her and the post office employee who was given the task of finding an artist. I was very curious to learn how an artist gets a job and how the post office chooses a venue. Watch the video at to find out. 

One visitor had some souvenirs from Touro.  They probably came from the library of Rabbi Kirshblum. However, there is more than one rabbi with that last name. A book about Touro Synagogue is with the complements of B. C. Friedman, President of the Society of Friends of Touro Synagogue, dated 1951! 

Shabbat Shalom from Jewish Newport!


Friday, October 5, 2018

A Blast From The Past

A Blast From The Past
At Touro Synagogue
Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret 2018
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Talk about a blast from the past!  Last Saturday Rabbi Marc Mandel had a little surprise. One of the visitors was a bunkmate of Rabbi Mandel at Camp HILI White Lake. What was life like at camp? View some pictures

In 1961 Howard Rosenman was a waiter at Camp HILI. He and his friends liked to visit nearby Grossingers. One day Rosenman ‘borrowed’ a picture of  Elizabeth Taylor- Eddie Fisher-Jennie Grossinger that was hanging on Grossingers’ wall, and, as he recounted in an article in the Los Angeles Times, it still hangs on the wall of his home in West Hollywood! You guessed it. Rosenman became a producer and motion picture executive.

We almost had an off-day, sermon wise, but not quite. Rabbi Mandel discussed the Torah reading for Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot. Why was the story of the Golden Calf featured? It seems a bit discordant for a joyous holiday. Rabbi Mandel told us that the Children of Israel were sincere, and the calf idea was not totally off base. After all, Aaron, high priest and brother of Moses, went along with the idea.

We know that it was a bad idea, and it became clear to the participants when Moses lost his temper and smashed the Shenei Luchot HaBerit, the two tablets of the Covenant. We learn something that should always be on our minds. The difference between the right path and the wrong path is not large, and it is easy to make the wrong choice.

On Monday, Shemini Atzeret, Rabbi Mandel told us that the message of Sukkot is embodied in the Sukkah. A Sukkah is a temporary dwelling, built to last only a short time. Dwelling in a Sukkah, which goes back to the Exodus and the trip through Sinai, was a short term expedient to provide a minimum of comfort.  And that is the message of Sukkot, Rabbi Mandel said. Sometimes, although we would rather stay under a solid roof, we need to go out of our comfort zones to accomplish things.

Two of our visitors, Rabbi Mandel observed, have also gone out of their comfort zones. Rabbi Harold Bernstein has had a long career as an attorney in Stamford, Connecticut. Now he is also dean of a jewish school in Stamford, the k-8 Bi-Cultural Day School.

Rabbi Bernstein also happens to be a cousin of Senator Joe Lieberman. In 2000, when Marsha Greenberg of Stamford made a “GORE-LIEBERMAN 2000” kippah for Lieberman when Al Gore chose him as a vice-presidential running mate, she got it to the Senator by giving it to her friend, Rabbi Bernstein. There was a bit of a hang-up. When Al Gore saw the kippah he appropriated it, and another one was made Senator Lieberman. I guess it was a double-kippah ceremony!

Professor David Machlis has taught finance and economics at Adelphi University for many years. His classes have no more than 35 students and he knows his students by name. He even gives the students his cell phone number so they can ask him questions about the course. At 100% of the students say that they would take the course again!

Dr. Machlis is not content to be a professor. He has gone out of his comfort zone repeatedly.

In 1982 during the Reagan administration, Machlis was appointed to the President's Council on Bilingual Education. “A major goal for myself here,” he said, “is to show the economic value of bilingual education both to the individual and to society. As you know, the President's policies today are seeking to cut back on so many social programs and educational programs, and bilingual education is one of the areas where they're cutting. And I am currently involved in developing research material that will show that expenditures by the Federal Government for bilingual education are perfectly compatible with supply-side economics, or Reaganomics.”

In 1988, Professor Machlis was asked to become the vice chairman of the International March of the Living before the first annual march. The march combines a visit to Auschwitz followed by a visit to Israel during Israeli memorial and independence days.

His role is not just administrative. For example, he came up with the idea of having concentration camp liberators accompany the teenage groups. He has also opened the March of the Living to non-Jews. “We never anticipated,” he said, “the tremendous impact it [the March of the Living] would have on Jewish identity, bonding with Israel, and commitment to Jewish heritage.”

May you have a Gut Shabbos both in and out of your comfort zone!