TES Summer Institute 2022

I imagine I should probably make appropriate rabbinic comments about yet another mass shooting in Highland Park on July 4th, just one of over a dozen that took place this weekend, but I just can’t. I am angry and afraid and disheartened, and I have no more words.

Instead, I want to write about the goodness and beauty that exists in our world, created and nurtured by compassionate human beings. Some work to provide for others the necessities of life – food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare. Others focus their energy on improving the quality and availability of education, arts and culture. As Jews and as human beings, we are commanded to repair what is broken, and to contribute to these efforts of caring for each other.

In our prayerbook, Mishkan T’filah, there is an English passage that stopped my breath for a moment. You know that feeling when you are so struck with awe and clarity that an internal flame sparks?

We pray for love to encompass us for no other reason save that we are human…”

This one line and the theology it represents is the prooftext, so-to-speak, of why each one of us deserves love, joy, and dignity as well as the more concrete rights mentioned above and many more. Our humanity, made in the image of God, is holy, and we deserve no less than to be seen and known, face-to-face, as Moses saw God – holy.

Worcester is blessed to have so many organizations filled with staff and volunteers dedicated to this mission. For this year’s TES Summer Institute, the Lifelong Learning Committee chose to highlight some of the more unique organizations so you can learn about our community’s needs and how our neighbors are making a difference. Some of these organizations may be new to you, and all of them are connected to our congregation or particular congregants. In this way, they are part of our family.

During July and August, we encourage you to not only attend our Shabbat Services to learn from staff and volunteers of these organizations, but also to welcome those who are visiting Temple Emanuel Sinai – some for the first time. Let us be gracious hosts, fulfilling the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim, as they share with us how they perform acts of lovingkindness – gemilut chasadim – every day.

I look forward to celebrating Shabbat with you throughout the summer, both in person and online.

Meatless Summer Grilling: Avocados

A grilled avocado is elegant in its simplicity – simply brush with lime juice and place on the grill to infuse the earthy fruit with savory smoke. The grill marks make for a delightful presentation and you can really up the ante in serving the salsa smack dab in the middle, replacing the pit.

This recipe comes to us from Patrice of Circle B Kitchen.

Serves 12


For the salsa:

  • 1 15 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 jalapeño*, stemmed and seeded

For the grilled avocados:

  • 3 avocados, halved
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • salt, to taste
  • low-fat sour cream, for garnish* or low-fat Greek yogurt, for garnish*



To make the salsa:

Combine the tomatoes, diced onion, garlic, pepper, salt, cilantro, vinegar or lime juice and jalapeño, if using. Pulse in a food processor or blender until the salsa is chopped and blended to preference.

To complete the grilled avocados with salsa:

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.

Remove the pit of each avocado by cutting into the pit with a large sharp knife and turning the knife counter-clockwise. Once the knife is properly wedged into the avocado pit, it should be easy to remove the pit from the flesh of the avocado, as you twist and remove the knife.

Whisk together the lime juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Brush each avocado half with the lime juice marinade.

Place each prepared avocado half, flesh side down, over the hot grill. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, or until grill marks appear and the avocado is warm, but not overly mushy.

Remove the avocado halves from the grill and fill the hole, left by the pits, with salsa. You will have salsa left over after all the holes are filled. Reserve the leftover salsa in the fridge for a future snack or entrée topping.

Squeeze the wedge of lime over the avocado halves and sprinkle lightly with salt. Top the salsa with a dollop sour cream or Greek yogurt, if using.

Consume with a fork or use baked pita chips as your utensil.

Earth’s Embroidery

Earth’s Embroidery by Solomon ibn Gabriol (11th century poet, Spain)

With the ink of its showers and rains,
with the quill of its lightning, with the
hand of its clouds, winter wrote a letter
upon the garden, in purple and blue.
no artist could ever conceive the like of
that. And this is why the earth, grown
jealous of the sky, embroidered stars in
the folds of the flowerbeds.

The official first day of spring was almost two months ago, but today really feels like spring is here. Instead of one or two random days of warmth, we have many days of higher temperatures to look forward to, with both sunshine and rain as their companions.

Our Jewish texts have long acknowledged both the importance and beauty of nature. The miracle of life, of God’s creations, is a source of connection to the Divine. In a moment of exceptional natural beauty, we are struck with awe and motivated to express words – or be present in the powerful silence of gratitude.

I have recently rediscovered our medieval poets, like Solomon ibn Gabriol and Yehudah ben Levy, among others. I had forgotten how well they paint pictures with words, transforming our feelings into a concrete form that brings them forward. As winter turns to spring outside my window, I can imagine the contest of colors happening between the sky and the earth, and the earth saying, “it’s my turn now.”

I look forward to searching for the stars among the flowers.

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, oseh ma’aseh v’reishit.

Praise to You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, Source of creation and its wonders.

Supreme Court Leak, Reproductive Rights, and Jewish Values

I was not surprised to hear about the brief that was leaked from the Supreme Court on Monday, but that doesn’t mean I was any less devastated. Okay, maybe I wasn’t surprised that these five Supreme Court Justices were willing to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but I am still in disbelief about what was written in the opinion and the long-term ramifications for women’s health and so much more.

But I  am not a lawyer; I am a rabbi, a dedicated Jew, a woman and a mother of a young woman, so I can only speak to the subject of reproductive freedom from my perspective with Jewish values as my guiding principles.

Access to abortion is a Jewish value and essential health care. From the Torah to the Talmud to Maimonides, there is profound support within Jewish sacred texts and scholarly teachings for the right to abortions and for prioritizing the life and wellbeing of the living woman over the rights of a fetus.

The Jewish community overwhelmingly agrees with the need to protect abortion access. Polls show that 80-90 percent of Jewish Americans believe that abortion should be legal in most or all cases.

For a Jewish perspective on abortion, you can read this excerpt on from The Social Justice Jewish Commentary by Rabbis Joshua R. S. Filler and Emily Langowitz; https://ravblog.ccarnet.org/2021/09/abortion-and-reproductive-justice-jewish-perspective/

The Reform Movement, including Reform rabbis, support and defend a person’s right to control their own reproductive health decisions. We believe that all people should be equipped with the information they need to make the choices that are right for them, in consultation with their loved ones and health care providers. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) have affirmed these rights on record going back to 1967 through multiple resolutions and Reform Responsa (answers to questions about Jewish law).

We have a lot of work to do, and I’m not even sure where to start. I just knew I had to start somewhere so I started here. We hope to provide more Jewish resources and ways to be involved in the future. As someone said to me just this morning, as Jews we have a responsibility to be a “light unto the nations,” to be role models for improving society and lives of individuals, to repair the world.

Kein Yehi Ratzon – May it be God’s Will and our own.

Central Conference of American Rabbis Statement on Draft Supreme Court Opinion Overturning Roe V. Wade, May 3, 2022


Haggadah through the Ages

I love teaching. One of the things I love most about teaching is that I always learn something new, both from my preparation and from the participants in the class.

This is exceptionally true for my most recent class, The Story of the Story: History, Art, and Culture of the Haggadah. We have discovered so many interesting tidbits as we take a journey alongside the development of this “book” – a text that continues to change.

In 2011, Edward Rothstein wrote in a New York Times article that over 5,000 editions of the Haggadah had been published since the invention of the printing press. Considering that 5,000 doesn’t include the many illuminated manuscripts created in the Middle Ages nor does it include the vast number of editions that have been published in the past 10+ years, I can’t even imagine what the real number is. And with the explosion of online and DIY Haggadot… the number is incalculable.

Why so many editions? The liturgy in the Haggadah is not exactly mandated or required. The main goal is to tell the story, to relive the Exodus, to celebrate our freedom and commit to working toward the freedom of all people.

The “traditional” text of the Haggadah wasn’t fully in place until the late Middle Ages. Although some basics were outlined in the Talmud, there was no book or instructions. In the early Rabbinic period, they held a study session instead of telling the story of the Exodus, and they were forbidden for taking part in the Afikomen. What? No searching for the Afikomen? In those times, as the Passover Seder was modeled after Greco-Roman banquets, “afikomen” or “dessert” referred to the post-dinner revelry that we should most definitely not participate in. Parents were encouraged to create a game of matzah snatching to keep the children engaged; perhaps that was the precursor to the Afikomen search.

Some tidbits we have discovered is that the order of the Passover Seder wasn’t written down until the 12th century; that Maimonides wrote the passage Ha Lachma Anya – the “bread of affliction; and the Seder Plate itself didn’t make an appearance until the 16th century.

The most interesting to me – so far – was a question asked and later answered (through some research) by a class participant about a fox seen in an illuminated manuscript. It turns out that many illuminated manuscripts include the motif of a rabbit or a hare being chased by dogs or hunters or even a fox. In every image, the hare escapes. Why is this non-kosher animal in our Haggadah? It could be that the hare was a common image for the time. But in the context of the Haggadah, the hare symbolizes the Jewish people being persecuted and surviving time and time again. From one odd image almost hidden in Haggadah illustrations, we find the main theme of Passover symbolically represented: freedom.

There’s so much to learn, so many creative ways to explore our past, our present and our future in this holiest of days.

Chag Sameach – Happy Passover (almost)

Moroccan Vegetable Soup


  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced small
  • 2 stalks celery, diced small
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced small
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp harissa paste, or 2 tsp harissa spice blend (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ¾ cup dried chickpeas (soaked overnight), or 1 (15 oz) can
  • ½ cup French green lentils, rinsed
  • ½ cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 6 medium tomatoes, or 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 8 cups vegetable stock, or water with 1 added bouillon cube
  • ¼ bunch fresh parsley, stems and leaves chopped fine
  • ¼ bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves chopped fine
  • 1 cup fine egg noodles or vermicelli
  • salt, to taste
  • lemon slices, for serving (optional)
  • olive oil, for serving (optional)


  • For stovetop: Add oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the diced carrot, celery and onion to the pot. Sauté for 5-6 minutes, or until starting to soften. Add the minced garlic to the pot and sauté for 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the harissa, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, pepper and salt to the vegetable mixture. Stir until everything is well coated and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste to the pot, stir and sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Add the soaked chickpeas (if using canned chickpeas do not add them at this point) and stir. Add the green lentils and red lentils to the pot. Stir everything so that it is well coated in the tomato paste mixture.
  • Add the diced tomatoes, vegetable stock, chopped parsley stems and chopped cilantro stems to the pot, then increase the heat to high. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Allow the soup to simmer for 60-90 minutes, or until the chickpeas are tender and the soup is starting to thicken.
  • Add the noodles and simmer for 15 minutes. If using canned chickpeas, add them along with the noodles. Taste and season as needed, add more liquid if needed. Turn off the heat and add the freshly chopped parsley and cilantro.
  • For Instant Pot or slow cooker: Combine all of the ingredients except the noodles in a pot and cook according to the manufacturer’s recommendation for soups and stews. Add noodles to the soup after it is cooked; simmer for 15 minutes or you cook the noodles separately and add them to the soup when serving.

Meatless Mondays Climate Update 12-9-21

This week’s climate change update: climate change comes to the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states:

In a document issued this fall, the Smithsonian Institution warned that increased flooding on the National Mall threatened to outpace the Smithsonian’s ability to defend those museums and their priceless contents.

Just take this summer, for example: Massachusetts and eight other states experienced the hottest month of June on record!

Jeff Geddes, a BU College of Arts & Sciences Assistant Professor of Earth and Environment says the rise in temperatures has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people per year in the northeastern United States.

Meatless Chili

Prep time: 22 minutes
Cook time: 38 minutes
10 oz. (283g) king oyster (or other) mushrooms
1/2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 large tomatoes, diced (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 cups (360ml) tomato sauce
2 (15oz / 425g) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup (240ml) water or vegetable broth
1 1/2 tsp sea salt, to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
Optional Toppings:
Chopped fresh cilantro
Corn chips
Coconut yogurt
Vegan sour cream
Sliced jalapeño
Grilled corn
1. Clean the mushrooms with a damp paper towel or a mushroom brush.
2. Using a fork, hold the mushroom from one end and shred it into pieces. Place the shredded mushrooms in a mixing bowl.
3. Sprinkle the mushrooms with chili powder, paprika, cumin, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix well to coat.
4. Prep the remaining veggies. Chop the carrots, tomatoes and dice the onion.
5. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large heavy pot over medium-high heat.
6. Add the mushrooms, onion, and carrots to the pot. Sauté, stirring often, until the veggies begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes.
7. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.
8. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, and water or broth.
9. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low.
10. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until the beans are very tender and the flavors meld.
11. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.
12. Serve with toppings of choice. Enjoy!

Meatless Monday Recipe

Chickpea FattehYotam Ottolenghi Recipe:

12 ounces/350 grams dried chickpeas
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
Kosher salt and black pepper

1 round white or whole-wheat pita (about 3 1/2 ounces/100 grams), pocket opened up, roughly torn into small 1-inch/2-to-3-centimeter pieces

5 tablespoons/75 milliliters olive oil
1 tablespoon za’atar
¾ packed cup/30 grams roughly chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves and tender stems
⅔ packed cup/30 grams roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
⅔ cup/30 grams roughly chopped fresh chives
2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed using a garlic press
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted, then roughly crushed
⅓ cups/80 grams tahini
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed using a garlic press
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
Kosher salt and black pepper


1. Place the dried chickpeas and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda in a large bowl. Top with enough cold water to cover by about 1 inch/3 centimeters, and let soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours or up to overnight.

2. Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/190 degrees Celsius.
3. Drain the chickpeas well and add them to a large saucepan along with the remaining 1 teaspoon baking soda. Add 6 cups/1 1/2 liters water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to medium and let cook until chickpeas are soft but retain a slight bite, 30 to 35 minutes. (The cook time can vary greatly depending on your chickpeas, so check them at the 20-minute mark to determine how long you need.)
4. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and continue cooking until the chickpeas are supertender, 5 to 10 minutes more. Use a slotted spoon to set aside 2/3 cup/100 grams strained cooked chickpeas. Keep the rest warm on a low heat until ready to serve.
5. While the chickpeas are cooking, prepare the toppings: Toss the pita with 2 tablespoons oil, the za’atar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a good grind of pepper, and spread out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, tossing halfway through, about 12 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Make the tahini sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk the tahini, lemon juice and garlic with 1/3 cup/70 milliliters water and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth and pourable. The tahini sauce will thicken as it sits.
Make the chile oil: Add the oil and red-pepper flakes to a small frying pan. Heat over medium until gently bubbling and fragrant, about 4 minutes, then add the paprika and remove from heat. Set aside.
When ready to serve, add the reserved 2/3 cup/100 grams chickpeas to a food processor along with the fresh herbs, 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, the garlic, cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, a good grind of pepper and the remaining 3 tablespoons oil. Blitz until smooth, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Drain the warm chickpeas using a sieve set over a bowl. Add the chickpeas and 3/4 cup/170 milliliters of their liquid to the herb mixture, mixing well to combine. You want the chickpeas to be well coated and the whole mixture to be saucy (but not overly wet), so add a couple more tablespoons of chickpea liquid if you wish (discard the remaining).
Transfer to a large platter with a lip. Drizzle lightly with some of the tahini sauce, then all of the chile oil. Sprinkle with half of the pita and serve warm, with the extra tahini and toasted pita alongside.