A community of communities

November 2014

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 3:56pm -- Rabbi

This has been a painful week as we heard about the horrific terror attack on a synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood of Jerusalem. We mourn for the loss of  Rabbi Aryeh Kopinsky, Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg, Rabbi Kalman Levine, Rabbi Moshe Twersky and Police Officer Zidan Nahad Sayif. This coming Sunday, November 23rd, we will gather for a memorial service for those killed in the attack. Rabbi Zeff will be present from Israel (via Skype) as we offer psalms, prayers and teachings, and create a space for us to grieve together. Following the memorial service, Rabbi Zeff will report on what is happening in Israel in the wake of the attack. There will be an opportunity to ask questions. The service and conversation will take place from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM in the Quitman Library. 


In the midst of the heartbreak, I was touched by a letter sent out by the widows and families of those killed in Har Nof, in which they call for a Shabbat of Ahavat Chinam, the outpouring of love across divides, in memory of their loved ones. The text of the Hebrew letter is posted above and the English translation follows below. May we honor the families' request, bringing compassion and peace, wherever we are.  


From the depth of our broken hearts and with tears over the murder of the holy victims, the heads of our families, we turn to our brothers and sisters, every Jew, wherever you are, and request that we all join together as one, to bring heavenly mercy upon us. Therefore, let us accept upon ourselves to increase our love and brotherhood with each other, between each of us, between different groups, and between different communities.


We request that each person endeavors this Friday afternoon before Shabbat Parshat Toldot to sanctify this Shabbat (Erev Rosh Chodesh Kislev) as a day of causeless love, a day on which we all refrain from talking about our differences and grievances against others, and refrain from any slander or evil gossip.


Through this may there be a great merit for the souls of the fathers of our families who were slaughtered for the sanctity of God.


May God look down from above, and see our grief, and wipe away our tears, and proclaim 'enough with the suffering!', and may we merit to see the arrival of the Messiah, may it happen speedily in our days, Amen.


Chaya Levin, and family

Brayna Goldberg, and family

Yakova Kupinsky, and family

Basha Twersky, and family


(translation by Rabbi Pini Dunner)

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Mon, 11/17/2014 - 11:39am -- Rabbi


As we open our Torah scroll this week, our patriarch, Issac, sits in darkness. In the aftermath of being bound to the altar by his father, Abraham, Isaac now mourns the loss of his mother, Sarah. Abraham is bent on making a match for his son in order to continue the family line and sends his servant Eliezer on a mission. Eliezer returns with Rebecca, who is known for her loving generosity to strangers and kindness to camels. Midrash offers a powerful description of Isaac's connection with Rebecca and the life-giving presence she provides for him: "Three years Isaac mourned for his mother. Every time he entered her tent, and saw it in darkness, he would tear his hair. But when he married Rebecca, and brought her into the tent, the light returned to its place" (Midrash Ha-Gadol 24:67). In her teaching for the Institute of Jewish Spirituality this week, Yael Shy comments on this midrash: "Rebecca brings Isaac back to life after the death of his mother. She literally illuminates the place in his life that was in darkness and despair." This Shabbat, as the nights grow longer, I am reminded of the healing possibilities that can arise when we are able to sit with one another in the darkness until sparks of light can be found again.

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Fri, 11/07/2014 - 9:21am -- Rabbi


"God heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." 

                                                                    -Psalm 147:3


These past few weeks have been tense in Jerusalem, with two deadly terror attacks at light rail stations and clashes over access to the Temple Mount. This past week, we also marked the 19th yahrtzeit of Israel's Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. With broken hearts, we pray for peace and healing for a region where too many people have suffered the loss of loved ones at the hands of violence and extremism. This Sunday, in our "More Tough Social Issues in Israel" course, we will be watching a film that addresses how Israelis and Palestinians most deeply affected by the violence are calling for an end to the conflict. The film, Encounter Point, tells the story of an Israeli settler, a Palestinian ex-prisoner, a bereaved Israeli mother and a wounded Palestinian bereaved brother who risk their safety and public standing to push for a new way forward. The film features Ali Abu Awwad, a grassroots activist and advocate for non-violence who visited our community over Sukkot. In addition to watching the film, we will discuss the topic of bereavement and trauma among Israeli and Palestinian families and look at the efforts of the Parents Circle Families Forum to bring about peace during the war this past summer.  All are welcome to join us in the Quitman Library from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM to view and discuss the film.

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Mon, 11/03/2014 - 2:29pm -- Rabbi

Israeli flag mosaicThis coming Sunday morning, our "More Tough Social Issues in Israel" adult education course will kick off, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM in the Quitman Library. Rabbi Zeff will be skyping in from Israel, joined by Masorti Rabbi Idit Lev of Rabbis for Human Rights. Rabbi Zeff and Rabbi Lev will talk about Anti-Arab racism in Israel. They will also address how combating racism has become the signature issue of Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin. Join us this weekend and Sunday mornings over the next month to engage in learning and conversation about the challenges facing Israeli society today.  

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