Exciting Chanukah Event!

Three Chanukah menorahs fully lit

Temple Emanuel Sinai is hosting a Chanukah event on Sunday, December 18, 2022, at 5 PM featuring an interactive musical performance by Boston’s Premiere Post-collegiate Jewish a cappella group Honorable Menschen!

The celebration, open to people of all ages and backgrounds, will be filled with music, food (a full meal), special Hanukkah activities for kids, and plenty of fun! Invite your family and friends! Just link to this page!

If you would like to take part in a group candle lighting please bring your own menorah and candles to help us create a beautiful and memorable display.

We request that people RSVP here so that we can plan for an appropriate amount of food. The event is open to the public with a suggested donation of $10/person to cover food costs (children under 6 are free). Please note that the suggested donation amount is a suggestion — you may donate more, less or not at all — nobody will be turned away, but please RSVP so we can plan accordingly. (If you cannot donate the full amount, please email office@emanuelsinai.org or call 508-755-1257 to register)

Temple Emanuel Sinai is a warm, welcoming community that exemplifies the broad tent of Reform Judaism. We embrace and celebrate diversity. Learn more about Temple Emanuel Sinai at https://emanuelsinai.org/who-we-are/join-us/

The event is in-person at Temple Emanuel Sinai at 661 Salisbury Street Worcester, MA. Please review the current TES Covid Policy before attending the event.

Parking for High Holy Days 5783

L’Shana Tova!

As we have returned to in-person services for these High Holy Days, please review the following information for parking at TES during these busy services.

The following parking lots will be available for all High Holy Day services:

      1. Lower lot in front of TES entrance: reserved for mobility-impaired attendees. Although a formal handicap pass is not required to use this lot, we ask that you respect the need to individuals who have difficulty with longer walking distances to use the lower front lot.
      2. Lower lot to the side of TES entrance: General parking.
      3. Upper lot behind the TES building: General parking. Do not park on the driveway between the lower and upper parking lots – it is a legally-mandated fire lane and keshers/police will require you to move your vehicle.
      4. Overflow Parking: available at the JCC. Please wear appropriate footwear, as the path between the JCC and TES is only partially paved.
      5. Some street parking is available on Whisper Drive and Salisbury Street. We ask that you avoid parking in front of the houses on Whisper Drive, and leave enough room for smooth traffic flow off of Salisbury St.

Keshers in orange vests and uniformed Worcester Police Officers will be available on-site to help guide traffic and ensure event security. Please obey all instructions from these individuals.

Worship Committee August 2022

Shalom from the Worship Committee!

Once again, members of our congregation made services more meaningful by participating and being a part of the Worship experience. Ways to participate include candle blessing, kiddush, an English reading, Torah blessings, Torah readings, sponsoring an oneg, or helping out as a greeter. Participating in these honors is a meaningful way to acknowledge the yahrzeit of a loved one or to celebrate a simcha in your life such as a birthday, anniversary or other milestone or special occasion. If anyone would like to participate in a service, please contact us at worship@emanuelsinai.org

In August we continued to have the Summer Institute and would like to once again thank the Lifelong Learning Committee for organizing this event and inviting speakers from non-profit organizations throughout the city. Thanks also to the members who participated and shared their stories working with these important organizations.

The following members are contributed to service in August, and we appreciate their time and effort:

      • Margot Barnet and David Coyne
      • Paula Selvitella
      • Helene Freed
      • Don & Patty Jacobs
      • David and Marlene Persky
      • Karen Kagan
      • Dan Margolis
      • Debbie Bunker
      • Patti Gould
      • Germán Chiriboga
      • Felicetti Family

Thanks to each of you for completing these honors and helping to enhance our services and strengthening our community.

TES COVID Policy

Temple Emanuel Sinai COVID Policy

Starting September 1, 2022, Temple Emanuel Sinai will become “mask friendly.” Mask friendly means that a mask mandate will no longer be enforced at TES. However, we strongly encourage congregants to continue wearing masks at all indoor events.

Please note the following exceptions to our mask friendly policy. You will be required to continue wearing a mask if either of these situations applies to you:

•             You have been recently exposed to someone with COVID
•             You are not fully vaccinated (including boosters)

Although we will not be checking proof of vaccination anymore, we expect that everyone will abide by our updated requirements regarding masking if you are not fully vaccinated.
 
If you are experiencing any symptoms, please stay home
and join us on livestream. Additionally, if you have been recently exposed to someone with COVID, we highly encourage you to stay home and join us on livestream, for the protection of other members of the community.

The TES community continues to hold the protection of life, bodies, and souls at the highest value. We hope that we will all continue to protect ourselves and our community.

Stay tuned to your e-news and other Temple communications for any potential future changes, particularly as we enter the month of Elul and prepare for High Holy Days.

Thank you.

Pride Shabbat 2022

In the book of Leviticus, one of the most well-known passages of the Torah begins: And the Eternal spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the whole community of the People of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1-2)

We are all holy.
We are holy in our coming home and in our coming out,
In living with honesty, integrity, and openness to diversity.
K’doshim nih’yeh, ki kadosh Adonai Eloheinu
We will be holy, for the Eternal our God implanted holiness within us.
(taken from a passage in Mishkan Ga’avah, by Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi)

June is Pride Month, and we celebrate those in our community and beyond who identify as LGBTQIA+. Pride Month began as a commemoration of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, a response to the harassment and discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community and the resulting police raids of the time. One such raid in Greenwich Village turned the neighborhood’s response from frustration to action, and the neighborhood responded with anger, protests, and eventually riots which lasted several days. This event was one of the galvanizing forces for LGBT political activism which eventual led to our modern LGBTQIA+ movement.

Sometimes, change requires righteous anger and strong action, although it’s not where our Jewish values demand us to start. We start with collaboration, remembering that every human being is holy, and move from there if necessary.

Every year, I remember the stories that my father-in-law told about spending the night in his father’s paperback bookstore in the middle of Greenwich Village during the riots. Knowing someone who witnessed the chaos and turbulence of the time – which represented how dehumanized people were feeling – makes it more real to me.

What I also think about every year is how the LGBTQIA+ community and others built upon the memory of the Stonewall Riots and created a time of pride and celebration. They knew that they needed to be louder and more visible in order to make a difference. From the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March in 1970 (a march, protest, and celebration) to our now established June Pride Month, they did make a difference.

As we celebrate Pride Shabbat tonight at Temple Emanuel Sinai, we do so in this spirit: to support and affirm our LGBTQIA+ loved ones and others; to celebrate diversity and how far we’ve come; most of all, to dedicate ourselves to continuing the fight. There is much work to be done.

Shavuot 2022

It wasn’t until High School that I became aware of the holiday of Shavuot, and even then it barely took up any space in my brain much less my calendar. After Passover, and in the hectic flurry of Memorial Day, graduations, and the beginning of summer, Shavuot often gets overlooked.

Because Shavuot is a holiday that has everything!

      • Drama: the giving of the 10 Commandments along with fire and thunder on the mountain
      • Environmentalism: connection to the land as a harvest festival
      • Science Fiction/Fantasy (sort of): from the prophet Ezekial, God’s chariot, the pavement like sapphire… you have to read it to believe it
      • Feminism: the book of Ruth
      • Memory: Yizkor (Memorial) at the Festival Service
      • A Wedding: Shavuot celebrates the Covenant between God and the People of Israel and is seen as a wedding by some mystics
      • Rule-breaking: we get to stay up all night long (for Tikkun Leil Shavuot)
      • Learning: Torah L’shma, Torah for its own sake as we interact with our text all night long
      • Food: the tradition of serving a delicious dairy meal; don’t worry, we’ll always have something for those who are lactose intolerant

What’s not to love about Shavuot, except maybe the poor timing on the calendar?

Temple Emanuel Sinai celebrates Shavuot every year with Tikkun Leil Shavuot and a Festival Service with Yizkor. This year we’ll begin Saturday night at 6:30pm with Kabbalat Shavuot in person, welcoming the holiday with a dairy “snack.” We’ll continue by joining other congregations in our first study session, followed by Havdallah. Then everyone is invited to continue the joint congregational Tikkun Leil Shavuot at home, returning to temple Sunday morning at 10:30 am for our Festival service and Yizkor.

The Shavuot fun doesn’t end there! I recently learned that rainbows have a unique connection to Shavuot as well. (Remember I said that Shavuot is the holiday that has everything?) Our last visiting musician of our series, Shira Kline, will lead a Rainbow Garden Party for our families on Saturday, June 11, at 9:00 am in the patio.

In any case, don’t let Shavuot pass you by unacknowledged! Google it, check out the Shavuot music videos on YouTube, or best of all, join us in celebrating Shavuot at TES. A communal gathering for Shavuot could be exactly what we all need to lift us up after the difficult and sad weeks we’re leaving behind.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.

Uvalde Texas Shooting

I used the words “tragic irony” last night to begin our security training that was scheduled over a month ago.  As we learned about how to protect our congregation, we carried the city of Uvalde, Texas in our hearts as the news about Tuesday’s school shooting weighed heavily on us.  And not quite yet forgotten was the Buffalo supermarket shooting just ten days prior, with some of the victims still not buried.

Protecting human life is one of the most important values in Judaism – in many religions. The Talmud teaches, “Human beings were created as a single individual to teach you that anyone who destroys a single life is as though that person has destroyed an entire world, and anyone who preserves a single life is as though an entire world has been preserved.” (Talmud Sanhedrin 4:5)

How did our society – our country – forget that life is precious? When did some people stop caring? Over a week ago, my daughter told me that she didn’t feel safe at school. I was both surprised and a little resigned that my strong-willed and outspoken daughter felt unsafe in the place where she spent most of her time, second only to home. She described other students talking about guns and LGBTQ teens being targeted and harassed in the bathrooms.

My heart is broken and keeps breaking. My grief is wound up in writing yet another one of these eNews articles as we all try to find a path to healing. Some of us have children who feel unsafe, some of us have been personally touched by gun violence, and for others – we want better for our community.

Last night, we gathered and prayed, but most of all we took action by learning concrete safety measures. We each walked away with at least one security strategy we felt we could do ourselves, thus reclaiming our power. As a religious community, we need prayers to hold us together. As a community that values social justice, we need to act in order to reclaim our power and repair our world.

I implored our congregation last night: vote your values, vote your Jewish values. We need courageous leaders who will put into place what the majority of our nation wants – common sense gun laws. 

We have a lot of work to do, internally and externally. I pray for the future of our children and for the healing of our breaking world.

 

Opening Prayer for the Colorado State House in the Aftermath of a Tragedy February 15, 2018
By Rabbi Joe Black
(and still applicable today, 4 years later)

Our God and God of all people,
God of the Rich and God of the poor.
God of the teacher and God of the student.
God of the families who wait in horror.
God of the dispatcher who hears screams of terror from under bloodied desks.
God of the first responder who bravely creeps through ravaged hallways.
God of the doctor who treats the wounded.
God of the rabbi, pastor, imam or priest who seeks words of comfort but comes up empty.
God of the young boy who sees his classmates die in front of him.
God of the weeping, raging, inconsolable mother who screams at the sight of her child’s lifeless body.
God of the shattered communities torn apart by senseless violence.
God of the legislators paralyzed by fear, partisanship, money and undue influence.
God of the Right.
God of the Left.
God who hears our prayers.
God who does not answer.

On this tragic day when we confront the aftermath of the 18th School shooting in our nation on the 46th day of this year, I do not feel like praying.

Our prayers have not stopped the bullets.

Our prayers have changed nothing.

Once again, a disturbed man with easy access to guns has squinted through the sights of a weapon, aimed, squeezed a trigger and taken out his depraved anger, pain and frustration on innocents:  pure souls. Students and teachers. Brothers and sisters. Mothers and fathers- cut down in an instant by the power of hatred and technology.

We are guilty, O God.
We are guilty of inaction.
We are guilty of complacency.
We are guilty of allowing ourselves to be paralyzed by politics.
The blood of our children cries out from the ground.
The blood of police officers cut down in the line of duty flows through our streets.

I do not appeal to You on this terrible morning to change us. We can only do that ourselves.
Our enemies do not come only from far away places.
The monsters we fear live among us.
May those in this room who have the power to make change find the courage to seek a pathway to sanity and hope.
May we hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.

Only then will our prayers be worthy of an answer.

AMEN

Caring for Ukraine

It’s hard to believe that five weeks ago, Russia invaded Ukraine in their campaign to take over the country. The ongoing “breaking news” flashing on our TVs and on social media describes the latest on the devastation that Russia is bringing to Ukraine and the escalating humanitarian crisis. It is hard to watch, to listen to, or to read about, but we can’t hide away.

This war affects us all – in the present and in the future. Not just in inflated gas, wheat and other food prices, or through the influx of Ukrainian immigrants to the U.S., or in our heartbreak for human beings needlessly suffering. The war is not just about Ukraine; it is about all of us.

Our Jewish values demand that we reach out to care for Ukraine and her citizens and to help those countries who are overwhelmed with assisting over 4 million refugees who have left Ukraine. Many of us have helped in different ways: we have contributed money to relief efforts, contacted our representatives, featured the blue and yellow colors of the Ukrainian flag in a variety of media to show support. And still we ask: What can we do?

We can look back through Jewish history and heritage and see our people’s ties to Ukraine. Some of us can look to our own family history for the same link. At Temple Emanuel Sinai, we have fellow congregants who were born in Ukraine and made their way to the United States much more recently. What can we do? We can reach out to them especially, show our care and support, inquire how they are doing and ask about family and friends directly impacted. Then we can ask them our question: What can we do? What should we do?

Tatyana and Jacob Gorodetsky grew up in Ukraine and came to the United States in the early 1990’s via Belarus. Their family has been part of our TES community for many years. They welcome your questions and have some concrete ideas on how we can all help. Feel free to contact Tatyana through email: tghm1155@gmail.com.

I often find it meaningful for prayer to be the last words that linger with us – on our lips, in our ears, on our hearts and minds. These lines from “A Prayer for Peace in the Ukraine” by Rabbi Sabath Beit-Halachmi articulate what I’ve been feeling and what I imagine many of us have been feeling.

…We stand together with our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine,
the birthplace of so many of our ancestors,
a place where the Jewish people has known both light and darkness.
We pray for a quick end to the raging conflict and the senseless bloodshed.
May our people remember that wherever a Jew is in danger or hurt,
we all feel that danger and pain as well.
As they seek cover from the life-threatening missiles
and fire falling from the sky, as they help the elderly
and hug their children tightly, and defend their homeland,
we pray that they can maintain hope that a Sukkat Shalom–
a canopy of blessing and peace–
will soon emerge above them.
May all the innocent people in the Ukraine and throughout the region
know that we are with them. Even from afar, we hear their cries.
May they know that we will continue to advocate for peace among nations
and that we will strengthen our commitment to aid and protect
every human being…”

Amen.

Gratitude Practice at Shabbat Services

Help. Thanks. Wow.

In the book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, author Anne Lamont brings prayer to its most basic meaning and makes it accessible to all.

Help, Thanks, and Wow are the themes of all Jewish prayers whether expressed alone in personal prayer or as part of a structured worship service.

Today, I want to focus on Thanks – gratitude.

In addition to being part of our liturgy, gratitude is important because it puts everything in perspective. Giving thanks reminds us of our blessings and all that is good in our lives. A gratitude practice – articulating what we are grateful for on a regular basis – can lift our spirits and bring us joy. Research shows that regular acts of gratitude can even improve our physical and emotional health.

Through many of the blessings in our worship service, we have the opportunity for a regular gratitude practice. Of those blessings is unique as it combines an individual blessing with a congregational affirmation. In our Torah service, right after our prayer for healing, it is customary to say a thanksgiving blessing, called the Birkat haGomeil. Traditionally, this prayer is said by individuals who have survived life-challenging situations, for example: recovering from an illness, returning safely from travel, and overcoming a tragedy.

Even though Birkat haGomeil doesn’t traditional extend to other things we may be grateful for, like a simcha (happy event), or appreciation of nature, or the kind act of another human being to name a few, the wording of the text can apply to any reason for gratitude.

The text of Birkat haGomeil invites an individual to recite in front of the entire community: “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has bestowed every goodness upon us.” Then the congregation responds, “Amen. May the One who has bestowed goodness upon us continue to bestow every goodness upon us forever.” (Translation from Mishkan T’filah)

The unique nature of Birkat haGomeil is that it brings our gratitude to the public, and lets the congregation know what good things are happening in our lives. Then all of us can be grateful for each other’s blessings as a community.

This Shabbat, we’re going to begin this custom of inviting participants to share something they are grateful for in a short sentence. We’ll have index cards for you to write on before the service and there will be an opportunity to share out loud for those who are comfortable doing so. We hope to invite our online worshippers to participate once we determine the best method for that communication.

Even in our turbulent world, we have so much to be grateful for. Let us share our blessings with each other so we can rejoice together. Amen.

Purify Space and Make it Holy

I wrote my rabbinic thesis on the magic and demonology found in a 13th century book called Sefer Hasidim, The Book of the Pious. One of my favorite stories from the text describes how to expel demons from a space where you want to build a house. 10 men, one of whom carried a Torah scroll, were required to walk a grid over the space so they covered every inch of ground while reciting psalms. Other instructions designated how to consecrate a new home with a variety of rituals involving salt and bread. It is a wacky book.

This may sound like a wacky ritual from a wacky book, but the principal remains relevant today. These Jewish men wanted to ritually cleanse a space so they could build a house. They needed to purify it in order to create a holy space. I’d like to think we don’t have or believe in literal demons today; perhaps our “demons” are bad memories or negative feelings tied to a space. So, creating an emotionally safe space today is equally important – whether at home, at work, at school, at temple or other special places. Just like hundreds of years ago, we can design ways to remove negative feelings and memories from a space and infuse it with positivity.

Our Torah portion this week, Tzav, addresses the same concept, although it is a brief comment that could be easily overlooked. In chapter 8 of Leviticus, during a discussion of the priests’ ordination, one verse describes how Moses uses parts from the animal sacrifice to “purify the alter” and “consecrate it.” Why were both purify and consecrate mentioned? Aren’t they the same thing? When I looked at the Hebrew, I realized they had different purposes. Consecrate is easy: the Hebrew word vay’kadesheihu means to make holy. But the Hebrew words for purify, vay’chatei comes from the same root as sin, which can also be translation as expiation or even redemption. In Biblical times, when a sin offering was made, it was to repair or redeem the mistake that was made; from a ritual perspective it was almost as if the mistake was taken away with the sacrifice.

Perhaps the Hebrew vay’chatei can teach us that when we want to purify a space, we need to perform a ritual to take away any bad memories or feelings that we might associate with the place. If every time we walk into a certain place, we relive a bad memory, that space will never feel good or safe. To make a place holy, we need to repair the space. What a concept! I don’t necessarily have a ritual to offer for the purification; I think it depends on you, your memory, and what you need. It’s in our power to transform spaces into something holy.