Monday, February 5, 2018

URJ Biennial in Retrospect, by Jennifer Ellett

Twice this year I have stood surrounded by my people. Once secular, at GenCon (largest tabletop gaming convention in North America), and once spiritual, at the URJ Biennial in Boston this past December. There is an indescribable joy in being surrounded by those who understand you and whose stories are like your own. We all experience it on a small scale at services and temple events. It is something else when it is at a convention hall full of people. It is easy to forget, living in the Northeast, how few we are. We should embrace the opportunities we have to congregate.

To say I am glad that Adrian and I went would be an understatement. The week at Biennial was full
of learning, spiritual growth, and the opportunity to make new friends. I spoke with Jews from California to South Africa. Adrian made a new friend from NJ. There were classes on all aspects synagogue life, and many worship opportunities. It is the latter that were my favorites. The weekday services, though very early, were
well attended and spiritually uplifting. Though the Friday service, with its 6,000 attendees, was an experience, my heart belongs to the smaller services. It amazed me to see the variety of ways that Reform Jews worship. I even saw both men and women wearing tefillin. It reminded me what differentiates us from the other Jewish movements, and what makes the Reform movement so exceptional and welcoming.

The classes varied widely and covered all aspects of synagogue life. They ranged from diversity and inclusivity to finances. If anything, there were too many good options to choose from. That's not to say all were perfect.  I went to seminars that inspired and ones that I could have slept through. This happens at all large conventions where you have a variety and depth of speakers.  What is important to me is that that I left most of them with something useful or a new insight.

I don’t know that I’ll go to the biennial in Chicago, but I would not miss another opportunity to attend a biennial so close to home.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Super Sunday

As we prepare to support the Patriots by gorging ourselves this Sunday, it's easy to forget how many people go hungry each day.  Fortunately, you can help your neighbors with one simple move: before you come to temple, visit your cupboard first, bring a can, box, or bag of nonperishable food with you, and put it in the food bin just inside the temple's doors.  Volunteers will deliver donations to local food pantries. And they'll do so every week.

You may not be able to block, tackle, or run an effective slant route. But you can eradicate hunger.  Please do what you can.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

ENCORE! An Evening of New and Classic Broadway Tunes by Cantor Steven Weiss

Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Have you ever wondered what Cantors enjoy singing when they are not on the bimah?

Many of us dream of singing on Broadway…..whether is it Jean Valjean or Les Miserables, or donning the mask and playing the Phantom, Broadway music has always been an important element of my career.

Add to that the enjoyment of welcoming fantastically talented friends and colleagues to join in song and you have the makings of an amazing evening of music.

Please join us on Saturday, January 20 at 7:30 pm for ENCORE!  An evening of new and classic Broadway music.  I will be joined by my good friends Cantor Nancy Kassel, Cantor Judy Seplowin and Cantor Vladimir Lapin for an evening of Broadway tunes.  We will once again be joined by Steven Hemingway on the piano.

Wine and desserts will be available as well as a silent auction, with all proceeds to benefit Congregation Sha’aray Shalom.

It promises to be an amazing evening of music…..please join us!!

Saturday, January 27, 2018

A Song Worth Singing – The 2018 Cantors’ Concert, by Jennifer Ellett

Another year, another Cantors’ concert! On Saturday, January 20, we had the joy of hearing

Cantors Steven Weiss, Judy Seplowin (Temple Beth El of Providence, RI), Nancy Kassel (Temple Beth Tikvah of Roswell, GA), and Vladimir Lapin (Temple Beth El of Great Neck, NY) sing accompanied on the piano by the ever-appreciated Steven Hemingway.

The evening began with a walk on the red carpet complete with a chance at a paparazzi photo. The social hall had been converted into an awards-themed cabaret in red, black, and gold. Fairy lights and white roses decorated the tables, adding an ethereal beauty to the room when the lights were turned down.

Once all were seated and quiet, never an easy task with a room full of people enjoying each other’s company, we were treated to the comic stylings of our congregation’s president, Scott Garland, who was dressed to the nines for the evening and introduced the event. Cantor Weiss and his fellow cantors then performed a range of Broadway music. There were songs from Rent to Spamalot to Ragtime. It was heartwarming to watch the audience stand for their rendition of God Bless America.

It was a lovely evening of music and socializing.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

(Almost) Missing Chanukah by Scott Garland

I missed most of Chanukah this year. I try never to miss Chanukah, or really any of the major Jewish holidays. But this year a colleague invited me to Macedonia to teach at a conference on cyber-evidence and terrorism, as well as to lecture on general cyber-investigations and protecting minority populations. I had to accept. The topics are all within my professional sweet spot, the colleague has helped me through the years, a new destination beckoned, and I would still return home just as my children returned home from college to celebrate the last two nights of Chanukah.

I was sorry to miss lighting the menorah for the first 6 nights. Not just at home with my family, but also at our congregation’s communal Chanukah celebration. When I attended that event last year, I was amazed at all the young families who showed up, how much fun the young children had playing together, and how I could eat an obscene number of latkes without reproach.

The trip to Macedonia was nevertheless worthwhile. I lectured at two law schools; one police academy; a three-day conference of investigators, prosecutors, and judges; and at an American-embassy sponsored event with civilian Macedonians as well. I visited the embassy, where I met the ambassador and enjoyed the embassy’s holiday party. I also enjoyed sight-seeing around Skopje, Macedonia. Skopje is surrounded by picturesque mountains that nestle not only the city, but also a beautiful long, narrow Matka Canyon on the outskirts, which I hiked --- mostly alone in nature --- the last day of my trip. My hotel was right in the city center, which is decorated with new, impressive statuary, and buildings faced with lit-up Greek-like facades, and impressive footbridges that span a river with several riverbank restaurants shaped like old ships. Adjoining this newer area is a winding bazaar of shops, restaurants, bakeries, and from which, during the right times of day, you can hear broadcast the call to pray at the local mosque.

Also in the city center was Macedonia’s Holocaust museum. This surprised me, because Macedonia is primarily Macedonian Orthodox Christian and Muslim. The Holocaust museum is a special tribute to the Jews who perished there, because, Macedonia claims, its Jews suffered disproportionately more during the Holocaust than did any other country’s Jews, with 98% of Macedonia’s Jews having perished. Unfortunately, the museum was closed to prepare for new exhibits. It was nice, however, to know that the Jews are remembered by a city overseen by the large, lit-up Millennium Cross on a close-by mountaintop and in a country with so few Jews remaining.

I did have a Jewish surprise one evening well into my visit. After work, a group of us Americans explored the old bazaar at some length and encountered a large and very old stone marketplace. People would gather here, tether their horses, get rooms, and sell and buy merchandise. Now it housed, among other things, a restaurant cozy with old timber, stone, and brick. We had a beer before seeking dinner elsewhere, and talked about the past week and what we did back at home. As we got up to leave, I looked in the large window decorated heavily with objects, some seasonal and some not. Here is what I saw:

Imagine my surprise. Have you spotted it? Look in the lower left corner, behind the chick and the eggs: what type of candle-holder has space for nine candles, with one holder raised above the others? A Chanukiah. I have no idea whether owners of the restaurant or the decorators of that window know what they have there. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. But it was a welcome sight to me.

The trip back was long: over 27 hours of flying. During a very brief stopover, I prowled the early-morning streets of Vienna. Among the many Christmas decorations, I found Vienna’s own large Chanukiah. It was unlit, but again lifted my spirits to see Judaism around the world.

Once finally back home, I got to light my Chanukiah one night with my family, and was glad to be back on the bimah the following Friday.

I offer all of this so you know that I missed spending Chanukah with my family and my congregation, I am very glad to be home, and I am also very glad to have seen some remembrances of Judaism and Chanukah in other parts of the world.

Scott Garland

President, Congregation Sha’aray Shalom

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Introducing Peter and Rachel Philbin by Marylyn Schultz

Rachel grew up in Massachusetts, Peter in Vermont.  After living most recently in Chicago (three blocks from Wrigley Field), Rachel and Peter have returned to New England and currently live in Hanover with their seven-year-old daughter Fiona, and their 15-month-old son, JR (Joseph Richard).

Fiona, a second-grader at Hanover’s Center School, is enrolled in our Hebrew school. She loves art, animals, swimming, playing with friends, and is looking for a place to do Krav Maga, having earned her yellow belt back in Chicago. JR has just started walking and, using his new-found talent as an expert climber, is now a finder of all things dangerous and a master opener of cabinets and drawers. He likes to help clean house but has a “love-hate relationship with the vacuum cleaner.”

Peter spent 20+ years working in finance and is now a stay-at-home dad, while hoping to start a new degree program next fall.  Rachel is an attorney who represents large corporations in matters related to eDiscovery, information governance, and privacy.  She is also studying to be a CPA.

Peter and Rachel enjoy travelling.  They have been all over Europe, Israel, Belize, Chile, and Mexico. Closer to home, their next goals are the natural wonders of Alaska and the Grand Canyon.  They also love live music concerts; this past summer they enjoyed seeing The Grateful Dead and James Taylor.  In Chicago, they spent many sunny days on the beaches of Lake Michigan and now look forward to enjoying the same on the beaches of the South Shore.  They enjoy baseball and, in their own words, “while this may be blasphemy, we are Chicago Cubs fans and got to enjoy a front row seat to the revelry and celebration when they won the World Series. Two of us are also Red Sox fans…shhh.”

Rachel and Peter heard about Sha’aray Shalom from congregants Steve (Rachel’s brother) and Lisa Dehner.  A hearty welcome to the Philbin family!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Blessing of The Pets: Noah's Ark Extravaganza by Deb Farber

On Sunday, October 22nd, we gathered as a community at the home of Kris and Michael Goldberg to celebrate The Blessing of the Pets Noah’s Ark Extravangaza.

This was timely, as the Torah portion that week was about Noah.  The religious theme pervaded the day. The Rabbi, Cantor, and religious school students studied Torah and learned about how Judaism teaches us to care for animals.  The Rabbi and Cantor also offered a blessing for our pets, and said kaddish for pets we have lost.  There was also a fun craft project making rainbow arks run by some of our teens along with the chance to make misheberach cards and thank you cards. In the spirit of Tikkun Olam, we raised money and gathered donations for the Scituate animal shelter, whose representatives informed us about the animals waiting for “forever” homes.

We can’t wait to do this again next year!



URJ Biennial in Retrospect, by Jennifer Ellett

Twice this year I have stood surrounded by my people. Once secular, at GenCon (largest tabletop gaming convention in North America), an...