Bookclub: The Bridge Ladies: A Memoir by Betsy Lerner

bridge ladiesShomrei Book Club

With all the Jewish holidays in October, we will meet next on Monday, Nov. 14 at 7:30pm to discuss “The Bridge Ladies:  A Memoir” by Betsy Lerner.  This is a charming intergenerational story based on a bridge club that is well into its 6th decade.  The author’s mother is one of the stalwart members , all Jewish women.  Naturally, there is some family tension revealed in the story. Each woman has chosen a conventional path for her time, but each also has a complicated past. Please join us in reading this book which will make for an interesting discussion.

Josie Zeman

All are welcome to join us. Contact Josie Zeman at email hidden; JavaScript is required for more information if you are interested.

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Just Keep Dancing: Chol Ha-Mo`ed Sukkot/ Shemini Atzeret/ Simchat Torah

Just keep dancing

Hol Ha-Mo`ed Sukkot/ Shemini Atzeret/ Simhat Torah
Exodus 33:12 – 34:26;
Numbers 29:26-31

Sukkot is called “the Season of our Rejoicing – z’man simhateinu,” and it concludes with great rejoicing as we dance and sing with the Torah on Simhat Torah. But there is also an element of wistfulness and even some sadness at this moment. When the holiday of Sukkot draws to a close, with it, all the holidays of the New Year draw to a close. The intensity of the festivals dissipates. The season moves into the colder months. The days grow shorter. In Israel the rains begin. Continue reading

Out of Darkness, A New Day: Kol Nidrei Sermon 5777

Editor’s Note: Rabbi Greenstein originally gave this sermon at the Kol Nidrei service 5777 (October 2016).


Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement – has begun.

Like the world itself, each day begins with darkness. First there was darkness over the face of the Deep. Then God said “Let there be light!” Just so, Shabbat begins on Friday night, and Yom Kippur has begun this evening. First the dark; then, the light.

This is not the way most of us experience time. We arise each morning to greet – or to confront – a new day, and we reach the end of our strength as the sun sets and the day wanes. For our bodies, the day is bound up with sunlight. Our own energies flourish under the rays of the sun’s energy, and with darkness comes fatigue and time for much-needed sleep. Thus it has been since the beginnings of human living. Historically, humans have engaged in a long, drawn-out struggle with darkness and the night. First we tried to manage the night. But with the relatively recent triumph of modern technologies, we have seemingly conquered the darkness and have gradually brought about the demolition of our biologically based sense of time.

Continue reading

Time to Rejoice


Though the weather is unseasonably warm, it is perfect for Sukkot in New Jersey. How often do we search the skies, hoping against hope that the storm clouds don’t settle above our small corner of the earth during this time of our rejoicing.

Sukkot deserves to get much more attention than it does in our hectic twenty-first century suburban world. Camping out, parades, singing, good food…great elements for an all out celebration.

Below are some books to enhance your Sukkot celebration and the last holiday in this Tishri sequence, Simhat Torah. Continue reading

Please Stand Up


Editor’s Note: This talk was originally given at the Kol Nidre Service 5777/2016.

May you be sealed in the book of life.

As one of the leaders who brought the Sustaining Share Membership model forward, I realize I have done a bad marketing job – and given that marketing is my profession, I need to address this.

We always talk about Sustaining Share in terms of the financial aspect – this actually doesn’t do justice to what Sustaining Share means.

Sustaining Share is more than a financial commitment; it is an Emotional commitment that you want to be a member of this community. The Pledge form is a “promise” that you want to Sustain the Shomrei community. The reason we ask people to Pledge is that , although the pledge is a tangible financial commitment (financially it takes $2,500 per adult member), it is also saying you are making a choice to stay within our community. Everyone makes this choice for a different reason – but it is still a choice. Continue reading

Kitchen at Shomrei: Kugels and Souffles


The weather is changing; it’s cooler; the radiators have begun their early morning clanking. It’s time to de-emphasize the salads and look to hearty soups and sturdy fare.

But we have one last fling with Sukkot which bridges the seasons. So, this selection of recipes includes a variety of year round kugels and an easy to make souffle. Continue reading

Stars Below the Mountaintop: Parashat Ha’azinu/Sukkot

Parashat Hazinu 2016
Parashat Ha’azinu/Sukkot
Deuteronomy 32:1-52

This year we read this Torah portion right before Sukkot. After putting his affairs – and the affairs of the people – in order, Moses chants one more song. That song takes up most of this portion. But, when he is finished, God tells him to ascend the mountain so that he may gaze upon the land that he will never enter, the land which the Israelites will soon attain thanks to his tireless efforts. His gaze is described in the next portion, the final portion of the Torah, read on Simhat Torah. He will look all around, and then he will die.

We see the image of a solitary figure, standing on a mountain top and gazing into the distance below, to the land stretching across the river. This is a man who has been to heaven and back, but he will not be able to step on the ground of that land.

Continue reading

Telling and Listening: Yom Kippur Sermon 5777

Editor’s Note: Rabbi Greenstein originally gave this sermon on Yom Kippur morning 5777 (October 2016).


Barukh she-amar v’hayah ha-olam – Blessed be the Eternal, Who spoke and the world came to be.

Our Torah begins by telling us about the creative potential of words. It was through words that God built the world. As I have explained throughout our years together, Yom Kippur is a day that seeks to sensitize us to the power of our words, beginning with the Kol Nidrei declaration of last night, through the multiple times that we fall flat on our faces when God’s awesome Name is pronounced, and throughout this long day of soul-searching prayer.

But, at present, the constructive power of words is being severely put to the test. Our times are hard times, difficult times. We are inundated with upsetting news and cacophonous, conflicting voices. Even in the relative comfort of our own community, we heard this Rosh Ha-Shanah a startling sound, more startling even than the sound of a shofar blast in the midst of our silent prayers. We said on Rosh Ha-Shanah – “mi lo nifqad ka’ha-yom hazeh – no one is spared these days.” Continue reading

The Hardest Word vs. the Easiest Word

hardest1Let’s imagine that you were a huge, clumsy, well-meaning but not very sophisticated bird…a Ziz, a creature from Jewish mythology. You accidentally destroy a children’s garden and don’t know what to do about it. Your creator-God- advises you to go searching for the hardest word to make it right and you find all sorts of words that are difficult to spell or to pronounce. But none of these words is the one that God says is the hardest word. Finally in frustration you call out” I’m sorry.” Continue reading