Letter to the Editor: How We Treat Refugees & Immigrants

Nick Levitin Makes IntroductionsBeing a member of this community, which I love so much, I can’t help but wonder what these times demand of me as an individual and of us as a community.

From my perspective, the essence of what we learn here at Shomrei during our Shabbat services and our various religiously oriented classes is that we are required to be holy –– as we attempt to be with MESH and IHN –– to respond to the world in such a way that makes it a better place, especially for the less fortunate among us.

My grandparents could not enter the United States as refugees. They died as a result. My parents were refugees and because of what this country made possible for them, they lived safe, productive and meaningful lives. They were always grateful and never forgot, for a moment, the safety and the new world that America provided them.

In part because of that history, I feel called upon to simply do something in response to recent events. I would like to know if there are others at Shomrei who feel as I do and if they would be willing to work together as members of our community to address issues related to refugees, immigration and other critical areas of concern. Continue reading

Hearing Advice: Parashat Yitro

Parashat Yitro 2017

Parashat Yitro 
Exodus 18:1 – 20:23

Our Torah portion can be divided into two parts, two stories. The Torah is central to each one. In the classic, second part we read of the miraculous gift of the Torah by God to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. But the first part tells us about new rules of administering Torah teachings and justice, initiated by a human being, Yitro (Jethro) – and a non-Israelite, to boot! Of course, the giving of the Torah by God is foundational to Judaism. But the first part of our Torah portion is also crucially important. I have written about the significance of the Yitro story last year (Torah Sparks 2016) and I am tempted to simply repeat that message for its continuing relevance.

Still, I want to add a comment to appreciate more fully the juxtaposition of these two parts of this portion, a juxtaposition that joins these two parts into one larger story. In each story the main actor who gives us Torah teachings explains the reason for the gift, its purpose and goal. Continue reading

Mesh Cafe Feb 14, 2017

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From Captain Lynne Kurzweil:

Last Tuesday night we welcomed 17 appreciative guests to the MESH Cafe at Shomrei. Lynne Kurzweil and Aileen Grossberg put together a remarkable meal. First course was homemade smoked whitefish salad with crackers and crudités followed by minestrone soup and homemade whole wheat challah. Main course was citrus glazed salmon, red cabbage slaw and farro pilaf with sautéed carrots, onions, red pepper, peas and mushrooms. Rounding out dessert was chocolate pudding and fresh fruit cup. Continue reading

Choosing Not to See: Parashat B’Shalah/Shabbat Shirah/Tu BiSh’vat

blindnessParashat B’Shalah/Shabbat Shirah/Tu BiSh’vat
Exodus 13:17 – 17:16

Our Torah portion tells of the first steps in freedom taken by the fledgling nation of the Children of Israel. Aside from miraculous salvation from terrifying danger (- the splitting of the Red Sea), God also gives the people some advice and guidance: “If you will take care to listen to the voice of the Eternal, your Almighty God, and you will do that which is right in His view, and if you give ear to His commands and guard all His laws, then all the sickness that I put on Egypt I will not put on you, for I am the Eternal, your Healer.” (Ex. 15:27)

God presents the Torah as a healing prophylactic, saving us from the disease suffered by the Egyptians. But what disease was that? The plagues are called “plagues” not illness. So what illness can be meant? I suggest the disease is the affliction of hard-heartedness. That was the chronic condition that prolonged Israel’s bondage and Egypt’s suffering.

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A Culinary Tribute

Aileen's mom 1My mother was a disinterested cook. Still, for many years she put three hot meals a day on the table. Breakfast was frequently eggs or oatmeal, from scratch, of course. We came home for lunch from school in those days and there was always something hot and hearty. Dinner was at 5:30 soon after my dad returned from a day’s work and was complete from appetizer to dessert.

She wanted no help in the kitchen so that she could speed though the drudgery of every day cooking. But she loved to bake and give parties. Her brownies were delicious. And the Passover sponge cake, based on my grandmother’s, was legendary and often served on my April birthday. We still make her mock blintz rolls. And she made good pudding, too. Continue reading

Mesh Cafe Feb 7, 2017

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From Captain Lynne Kurzweil:

Shomrei’s MESH Cafe welcomed 15 hungry and appreciative guests this past Tuesday night. Melissa Elbaum was Chef du Jour and when the menu was announced there was hearty applause. Along with Sous Chef Bridget Placek, Melissa prepared a delicious Red Lentil and Barley Soup, Teriyaki Salmon with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Brown Rice with fresh herbs. Fresh Fruit Salad and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies completed the meal. Continue reading

Sadism as Power: Parashat Bo

Parashat Bo 2017

A Syrian refugee from Deir Ezzor, holding his son and daughter, breaks out in tears of joy after arriving via a flimsy inflatable boat crammed with about 15 men, women and children on the shore of the island of Kos in Greece


Parashat Bo
Exodus 10:1 – 13:16

Over the last several weeks readers of our Torah portions have been struck by how strongly they speak to our present situation in the United States. The political and societal developments of our moment exert an irresistible pressure upon us as we read the story of the collision course run by a powerful leader of a powerful nation against the Eternal God Who stands by the enslaved, the downtrodden and the weak. We read of different persons who must choose which side they will join, who must decide what is right and what is wrong, and whether they are willing to fight for their values or join those in power who seek to oppress, enslave and even murder those they fear.

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Open Discussion: Israel and the Diaspora


Shomrei is establishing a partnership with a Masorti community in Israel through a program called Rav Si`ach (“open discussion”). The community is Minyan Mishpachti Masorti (Masorti Family Minyan) a congregation in the northern Galilee village of Kfar Vradim. Their new rabbi is Rabbah Nathalie Lastreger who will visit Shomrei the evening of Wed. Feb. 22. We’ll have a discussion and dairy dinner. Cost $10 per person (to cover food cost) RSVP Here by Feb 18.

Rabbah Nathalie will be in the States at the end of February. She is excited about meeting the Shomrei community in person so as to begin our relationship on a more personal basis.
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