Thursday, April 25, 2019

Who will answer my questions?

Who will answer my questions?
At Touro Synagogue
April 19-20, 2019
also on facebook

Who will answer my questions?

On Friday, April 19th, I joined 60 people for the CJI seder.  We had services in the Levi Gale house in the Avas Achim chapel. Rabbi Mandel made a point of not dallying so people who were going home for their seder could get off to an earlier start. The rest of us decamped to the basement.

David Jolley
There was a good mix of visitors and locals. I had to make a difficult choice. At which table should I sit? I picked the one that was nearest to the door. At my table were repeat visitors Marc and Carol from Long Island. They were happy to learn that our member David Jolley and Marc both teach at Stony Brook University. David teaches at many places, helping students learn how to toot their horns.

At our seder, Rabbi Marc Mandel kept things moving. The seder is an opportunity for a wide ranging discussion about Judaism. In the haggadah we read about a seder in Bnei Brak almost two thousand years ago. Rabbis Eliezer, Elazar ben Azaryah, Yehoshua, Akiva and Tarfon continued their discussion until dawn. In a bit of Jewish humor, their students hinted to their masters that maybe they went on a little too long, “Nu, why don’t you get up and look out the window? It’s time already to daven Shacharit.” In Judaism, no one is exempt from having their balloon punctured.

A couple of people told me that our seder was too short. I replied, “Rabbi knows best!”

Under the leadership of Marcia Cohen, we were well fed with food prepared by Zayde's Market and Paula. Our chairs were decorated with white covers along with a blue sash for 2019, which made us feel like we were in a new venue.  

The next day, we had a guest speaker deliver the sermon. As usual Rabbi Mandel managed to pull a rabbi out of a hat. The reason this time was that Rabbi Mandel‘s voice was a bit hoarse.

Rabbi Cary Friedman
Rabbi Cary Friedman had almost 12 hours warning. He has written six books, and is particularly interested in prisons. After he gave a lecture about Musar, he was invited to create a course by the FBI for its agents. People who join law enforcement are very idealistic, and the reality can hit them hard. Rabbi Friedman shares the lessons of Judaism in language that is universal.

In his d’var Rabbi Friedman began by saying how overwhelmed he was by Touro Synagogue’s rich history.

He divided Jewish holidays into two groups, biblical (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot) and rabbinical (Purim, Hanukkah, Tisha B’av). In the biblical holidays, everything is about God. The Jewish people are passive and go with the flow, sometimes under duress. God redeems us (Passover), God gives us the Torah (Shavuot) and God safeguards us during forty years of wandering (Sukkot).

For example, the Almighty said, “Hey guys, I have this wonderful Torah for you. Hope you like it.” While he waited for a response, the Almighty suspended a mountain over the Israelites. They took the hint, and, glancing skywards, said, “We accept your generous gift.”

In rabbinical holidays the jewish people take an active role. The Hasmoneans rebelled against the Syrian Greeks, and sacrificed their lives to make it happen. We celebrate their success during Hanukkah. During Purim we learn that Esther risked her life to put her people’s case before her husband, King Ahasuerus. Tisha B’av highlights the our suffering and our actions when the second Temple was destroyed.

Rabbi Friedman said Sukkot was related to Hanukkah, Shavuot to Purim, and Passover to Tisha B’Av.

The Talmud tells us that Hannukah was a delayed Sukkot, delayed because the Hasmoneans had not yet seized control of and purified the Temple.

Shavuot and Purim each feature books. After he descended from Mt. Sinai Moses read us the Torah. On Purim we are commanded to listen to the Megillah.

The mutual theme of Passover and Tisha B’av is redemption. Passover celebrates our redemption from Egypt. Tisha b’Av, the destruction of the Temple, was a nadir for the Jewish people. Although we were brought low, we look forward to redemption, as took place in Egypt. There are other connections. The Pesach sacrifice that became the Passover meal and ultimately the seder and haggadah, took place at the Temple. The Temple was built on Mt. Moriah, where a ram took the place of  the sacrifice of Isaac. This set a pattern for the future; no human sacrifice, and worship of the Holy One. The Akedah, Passover, and Tish’a b’Av all relate to Mt. Moriah, to Zion, and to God and are seminal moments in our history. They are all about how to worship God in our own way.

During the seder, we learned about the four sons...really about four different kinds of people, and how to respond to their curiosity, or lack of curiosity.  Sometimes it is not only hard to know what question to ask, but who to ask.

My sister Beth suggested I say kaddish on the yahrzeit of our aunt, Sadie Ginsburg Green. I was near Temple Beth Shalom in Roslyn Heights, New York. Their page for daily services gave two different times for morning minyan. It was already Monday evening. I emailed Associate Rabbi Uri Allen and got an immediate response. When I went to Shacharit at 6:30 AM, the greeter told me to follow the person behind me. Someone greeted me upon  entering the chapel. Then I was gently told that tefillin were optional.

Cantor Ofer Barnoy
World Wide Wrap at Temple
Beth Shalom Chapel
World Wide Wrap at Temple
Beth Shalom Chapel
Cantor Ofer Barnoy greeted me. I was offered an aliyah. Later in the service Cantor Barnoy made an announcement welcoming me. What a welcoming cantor and synagogue! I should not have been surprised. On the clergy page at the Temple website, Cantor Barnoy begins, “Hi, this is Cantor Barnoy. I welcome you and I look forward to greeting you in person when you visit Temple Beth Sholom!” I felt right at home. It really makes a visitor feel good!

May you be welcomed wherever you go!

Gut Yomtov

Thanks to Beth Ginsburg Levine for editing

Friday, April 19, 2019

Avadim Hayinu, Remember That You Were Slaves

Avadim Hayinu, Remember That You Were Slaves
At Touro Synagogue
April 13, 2019
also on facebook
On Saturday at Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island we were down to bare essentials, with nary a visitor in sight. 
Passover has many themes and it is easy to get lost in the details and the preparation. On Shabbat, Rabbi Marc Mandel spoke about one of Pesach’s important themes,
“Today, the Shabbat before Pesach, is known as Shabbat Hagadol, the great Shabbat. At our lecture last night, we explained the reasons why it is called Shabbat Hagadol, so we won't go into that today. 
“It is customary on Shabbat Hagadol for the rabbi to discuss themes of Pesach. Last week, I saw an article on YU Torah, by Rabbi David Etengoff. Rabbi Etengoff suggests that one of the main themes of Pesach is social justice. 
“Five times, the Torah tells us to remember that we were slaves in Egypt, and therefore, we need to be careful how we treat the vulnerable people in society. In fact, Maimonides teaches us, if someone rejoices on a holiday, but neglects to take care of the needy, they have not performed the mitzvah correctly. 
“I am very proud that at our Hebrew School, once a month, we make sandwiches for the needy and deliver it to them. I am very glad that the Hebrew School has incorporated social justice into its core curriculum. This is one of the main themes of Pesach. Shabbat Shalom.”
loaded and ready to go
At Zayde's Market
Canton, MA
If you signed up for the Seder at Touro Synagogue, you will be happy to know the food has made its journey from Zayde's Market in Canton, Massachusetts to the Levi Gale House in Newport. The bill was carefully checked against the boxes before departure to make sure nothing was missing. From small pieces of horseradish to the charoset, the order is complete. 
marshmallows by the sea
Have shankbone, will travel!
A bag of kosher for Passover mini-marshmallows found its way into the order for a desperate Newporter who was cast adrift by the strike at Stop and Shop, and wanted pieces of the white stuff in her morning beverage. On arrival, a crew efficiently unloaded the car and carried the goodies downstairs.
Under the leadership of Marcia Cohen, the culinary aspects of our Seder are under control. The tables are set and Paula and crew are preparing to warm things up and make a few additional items.
The view from Battery Park, Newport, RI
After dropping off the food, I headed down to Battery Park to rest and enjoy the view that my mother, Dorothy Pokross Ginsburg, delighted in on many a day while she ate her bag lunch. This being Newport, the Newport Bridge vanished in fog bank, accompanied by the incessant sound of a fog horn.
Washington and Battery Str.
Newport RI
An army, and the Jewish people, cannot march without food. A complete Passover journey has an additional need, food for the soul. Tonight we join the Jewish people of yesterday, today and tomorrow in the quest for a better life and a better way to live that life. For each person, that journey has a distinct beginning and end, but as a people the journey continues as we try to learn from the errors and successes of the past. That journey is the theme of Pesach.
Chag Sameach from Jewish Newport!
Thanks to Beth Ginsburg Levine for editing, to Rabbi Marc Mandel for his Torah message, and to the employees and volunteers that help us on our journey.

Friday, April 12, 2019

A Season of Renewal

A Season of Renewal
At Touro Synagogue
April 6, 2019
also on facebook

Last Saturday at Touro Synagogue I was startled to hear Rabbi Marc Mandel begin his words of Torah with, “When we picked up our son at Logan Airport on his way home from Israel, we stopped in Boston. I was looking at a newspaper when I saw Aaron Ginsburg’s picture on the front page. Aaron had written an article for the Boston Jewish Advocate.”
It is always nice to be mentioned at Touro Synagogue. The funny thing about the picture is that the editor of the paper decided he didn’t like it, and asked me for a new shot.
Rabbi Mandel continued,
“Thank you to Aaron Ginsburg for writing a front page article in the Boston Jewish Advocate newspaper about the desecration of the Fall River Hebrew Cemetery. We have a copy of the paper if anyone wants to see it.
“In the article Aaron wrote, ‘The damage to the stones reflects the damage to our hearts. Both will be repaired. But both the stones and our hearts will remember.’
“Thank you Aaron for writing this article and for creating a Jewish Fall River Facebook group.
“This week we took out three Torahs; it’s a rarity. The theme of this Shabbat is renewal. Rosh Chodesh is a new month and today is Shabbat Hachodesh. Hadosh means new. Pesach is a holiday of renewal. 
“When you see a friend you say, “Ma Hodosh?” What’s new? Unfortunately, antisemitism is not new. It has been around a long time. But why the sudden increase??
“According to a recent article in the New York Times, in today’s political world, antisemitism is an ideology where the far right can intersect with the far left.
“After WWII and the Holocaust, antisemitism was mostly found within the political fringes, which is no longer the case. So as we enter a new month and a new season of freedom, we find new dangers and new challenges for the Jewish people around the world. Previously we mentioned Aaron’s family at the cemetery in Fall River. There was news this week of another cemetery.
“This one was in Israel, where Zacky Baumel, an Israeli soldier whose body was missing for 37 years-was returned this week and buried. He was 21 when he died in the Lebanon war. He was buried in Jerusalem’s Mt Herzl military cemetery. 
“And so, as we observe Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the month of redemption, let us hope and pray that it will truly be a month of redemption for Jews all over the world, and that the holiday of our freedom will help spread the ideas of freedom around the world.”
 l-r Reps Jason Knight and Rebecca Kislak,
Charlie Bakst, Rep Mia Ackerman,
and Aaron Ginsburgphoto: 
William White
There is a sequel to the Hebrew cemetery desecration. On Thursday March 28, I was invited by a Pokross cousin, Rebecca Kislak, a member of the House of the Rhode Island Assembly to attend a session. We met, for the first time, at Sydney Coffee. After Rebecca gave me a brief tour of the State House, the short session began. A colleague of Rebecca’s, Representative Jason Knight, introduced a resolution condemning both the desecration of the Hebrew Cemetery and antisemitism in general, 
“RESOLVED, That this House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby honors the memory of those at the Hebrew Cemetery and stands united in rejecting and condemning these vile and intolerable acts of anti-Semitism and hatred...”
Rebecca spoke next about being personally affected by the desecration of the Pokross family stones, and then introduced Charlie Bakst, who grew up in Fall River, and is a member of the Horvitz family, and me to a standing House. After a brief interlude about quahogs, the resolution passed unanimously. The House graciously provided a video, sans clams!
Among the visitors on Shabbat was Rabbi Yael Romer of Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley, Kingston, NY and her husband with a group of Hebrew School students.
At kiddish Rabbi Romer said that as a reform rabbi, “Touro Synagogue is the only Orthodox synagogue where I feel fully welcome.” 
That message turned a season of renewal into a season of joy, and of pride in our congregation and rabbi. 
Thank you to Capital TV for the video and picture, and to Beth Ginsburg Levine for editing.

2019 -- H 5927
JANUARY SESSION, A.D. 2019 ____________

Introduced By: Representatives Knight, Kislak, Ackerman, Filippi, and Shekarchi Date Introduced: March 28, 2019
Referred To: House read and passed
WHEREAS, In the 1950s and 1960s, Fall River had a strong, vibrant, and visible Jewish community connected to the textile industry; and

WHEREAS, As loved ones passed, many were interred at the 300-plot Hebrew cemetery on McMahon Street in Fall River; and

WHEREAS, Overnight, on Saturday, March 16th into Sunday, March 17th, 2019, 59 gravestones at the Hebrew cemetery were defaced with vicious and cruel anti-Semitic language and swastikas, and others were brutally toppled; and

WHEREAS, This anti-Semitic malevolent attack was not only an affront on the memories of the families of those buried at the cemetery, but was a hate crime perpetrated against all Jewish people, and an assault to humanity; and

WHEREAS, Anti-Semitism in any form breeds violence and is eminently sad, disrespectful, and unconditionally condemnable; now, therefore be it

RESOLVED, That this House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations hereby honors the memory of those at the Hebrew Cemetery and stands united in rejecting and condemning these vile and intolerable acts of anti-Semitism and hatred; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the Secretary of State be and hereby is authorized and directed to transmit duly certified copies of this resolution to Jeffrey Weissmann, President of Congregation Adas Israel, Stephen Silverman, President of Temple Beth El, and Robert Trestan, Director of the Anti-Defamation League of New England.

@RIHouseofReps @tourosynagoguenewport