Letter from Shomrei President Miriam Haimes – High Holiday Update

IMG_0397To Our Shomrei Community,

As summer nears an end and we start to see signs of fall, I wanted to reach out to you and update you on our plans for High Holidays 5781.

What do the holidays hold in store for us? In July, Rabbi Greenstein and I wrote to tell you that we made the difficult decision to not have in person services and that we would spend the summer creating a memorable holiday experience that would include the entire community rather than just a few that could be accommodated in the social hall or sanctuary.  We promised a series of programs for adults and children of various ages to be experienced not only on the holiday but in the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah and during the Days of Awe.  We also told you that we would be reaching out for your participation.

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Greetings from Miriam Korn Haimes – New President of Shomrei

IMG_0397Hello! I wanted to introduce myself to those who don’t know me and to say hello again to those who do. When Shirley Grill, representing the Nominating Committee, called me in mid-December to ask if I would consider becoming President of Congregation Shomrei Emunah I was in the middle of volunteering at an event. My first reaction was “why me” but that I needed some time to think about it. Afterall, I had just retired from a 40+ year career in finance and banking and I was already busy volunteering and travelling. My husband David had retired a few years earlier from a career in Restaurant Equipment and there are still many items in our synagogue kitchen that he donated when he was working. So here we were, both retired and both amazingly engaged in so many activities that we never made the time for before. So why now?

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2020 Annual Meeting Report

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The 2020 Annual Meeting of Congregation Shomrei Emunah occurred on Monday, June 22, 2020.  Members voted on a number of items including the budget and election of new members of the Board of Trustees.

Results of the meeting:

  • 2019 annual meeting minutes were approved as submitted.
  • Audrey Levitin and Romy Rost were elected to the Board of Trustees and Miriam Haimes was elected as President.
  • Special thanks to outgoing board members  Fern Heinig & Lynne Kurzweil.
  • The 2020-21 budget was approved as submitted.

2020 Shomrei Annual Meeting Package which includes reports from outgoing President Sara Ann Erichson and Director of Education, Heather Brown.

Breaking the Hate: White Supremacy and Immigration

IMG_7797Shomrei members attended a session about immigration led by Reverand David Shaw of the Union Congregational Church on March 4.  The session is part of the Interfaith “Break the Hate ” series developed by Union Baptist Church. Several of the people who attended share their recollections and thoughts about the evening:

Aileen Grossberg

Reverend David Shaw presented a concise and illuminating history of immigration and immigration restrictions. We were all reminded that, despite what Emma Lazarus’s poem on the base of the Statue of Liberty might say, the U.S. policy on immigration has been restrictive for much of our history. To be reminded of this was very disillusioning.

I also thought sharing with a small group was effective. The activity broke up the intensity of listening, made the history become real, and helped us examine our own relationship to the idea of “American.”

Linda Ariel

I was not sure what I expected from last night’s program, Impact of White Supremacy on Immigration. Each of the two previous programs seemed to be more of a reflection of the presenter’s personality, perspective, and background. As such, I am becoming more knowledgeable about the different faith communities in Montclair, the people, their history, and their spiritual perspective.

Reverend David Shaw was an engaging speaker who was comfortable in sharing his experience in coming to the United States as a ‘migrant’, the verbiage he most often used to discuss the people who come to live in the United States of America. He interspersed didactic information with allowing us to discuss our own experiences in smaller groups. This allowed us to form ties with congregants of different religious institutions throughout greater Montclair, which for me broke down the anonymity of the people attending the presentation. Indeed, in attending the three meetings of this series and being engaged in an interfaith women’s group on our town, I am beginning to recognize people who used to be strangers to me and feeling more and more connected to other participants who share common values.

History is not my strong suit, so Reverend Shaw’s review of the history of migration in the US and the evolution of our country’s attitudes to newcomers here was very informative and enhanced the discussions in the small groups.

I continue to learn not only from the people who present each evening, but from listening to the others attending the series. It is important to listen closely to our neighbors and move from being strangers, to acquaintances, and hopefully in the long term to being friends.

Sarita Eisenberg

Several things struck me during the evening. I’ll highlight one – the discussion about who is a “real American”. 

Reverend Shaw is an immigrant. He pointed out, however, that his is not the prototypical immigrant experience as he came from England. No one has ever questioned his right to be here and, now that he is a citizen, no one suggests that he is not a “real American”.  This was also the experience an older gentlemen in my breakout group who came to the U.S. from Scotland about 25 years ago in response to a job offer. No one has ever suggested that he was taking a job away from a “real American”. Although he speaks with a noticeable Scottish accent, everyone he meets assumes that he is a U.S. citizen (which he is not) – a “real American”. I couldn’t help contrasting this with my family’s immigration experience as Jews fleeing from Eastern Europe or with how refugees and asylum seekers are being treated.

Click here for information about additional Break the Hate sessions

Photographs: Courtesy of Union Baptist Church

Breaking the Hate: A Discussion about Racism and Antisemitism

BTH PIC 1Sixteen Shomrei members attended a discussion about antisemitism and racism facilitated by Rabbi Greenstein and Pastor Singleton at Union Baptist Church on February 13. Several of the people who attended share their recollections and thoughts about the evening:

Miriam Haimes
Pastor Singleton welcomed the participants and immediately engaged everyone by asking which congregations were represented. Many local synagogue and church members were present. This brought a feeling of inclusiveness from the beginning. He then opened with a recitation of the Sh’ma noting that there is only one G-d regardless of how we worship or what we look like.

A question and answer between Rabbi Greenstein and Pastor Singleton ensued where each shared some history of hate. Rabbi Greenstein spoke about the history of the word antisemitism and that this was an invention of recent history. He noted that there is no such thing as semitism so the word should not be hyphenated. He also spoke about the long history of the Jewish people and their ability to survive after many struggles and attempts to wipe them out. Both the Rabbi and the Pastor spoke about the change in teaching regarding the death of Jesus and the Pastor explained that the Union Baptist Church of Montclair teaches that sin killed Jesus, not the Jewish people.

Pastor Singleton asked the Rabbi to explain about the Jewish people and also encouraged the participants to be hopeful and helpful rather than hateful and hurtful. The Pastor noted that education and awareness were key to understanding. Also there was discussion about understanding individuals as humans and not generalizing all people of a color or religion.

The participants then split into groups to answer some questions about racism and antisemitism. The group work was very rewarding as people shared personal stories and in a few short minutes shared experiences and some laughs as well. Understanding individual experience is key to “breaking the hate”.

While progress was made at the gathering in building connections, both the Pastor and the Rabbi agreed to continue the conversations and that they would get back to the participants with future plans.

Overall, the evening was a beginning for members of various local communities to begin to gain understanding of one another and each other’s struggles.

Ann Lippel
I realized that the most difficult thing we have to do in order to really understand the perspectives of other people is to listen. It is not so much listening to the words of someone with whom we happen to share the same physical space at any given moment- although surely the words give us the context for understanding – it is more listening beyond the words. Hearing the feelings that must have engendered the words -or sensing the expanse of time the speaker has been grappling with this notion – this helps me feel I am getting to know the speaker. If we can listen that way, we will naturally be reticent about reacting too quickly or making quick judgements. Listening is the challenging part; really knowing is the reward.

BTH PIC 7Zelda Greenstein
Hate is an ugly word.
I think both the Rabbi and the Pastor made that very clear with their very honest approach to the discussions and I believe that what I experienced in my little group discussion was very affected by their approach and that a true attempt was made to erase the hate.
I would love to continue participating in this process.

Nick Levitin
For me the evening had an impact beyond anything I could have imagined. When we broke up into groups I was with 6 woman – 3 of whom were white and 3 who were African American. We were asked to respond to several written questions. One of them was how racism in Montclair had effected us. Two of the African American participants were young women, congregants of the Union Baptist Church where the meeting was held. The first spoke movingly about the pain she suffered as the result of growing up as “the other.” She spoke from from heart, more with a sense of puzzlement rather than bitterness or rage about the pain she had experienced. Most of what she said, I had heard before in documentaries or on television. But, here was someone sitting two feet from me telling me her story and it was devastating. How invisible she felt growing up in Montclair, with few if any among the white community who understood what it was like being viewed as so different. I was moved to tears. Her friend who was a light skinned African American shyly described what it was like growing up being referred to as “not like the others” “a good black.” Others in our groups also shared moving stories of their experiences. Although I think of myself as someone who knows about racism, the evening was a revelation to me. I was shaken and couldn’t return to “normal” life as if nothing had happened. I had been sensitized to something I had an intellectual understanding of, but not an emotional one.

Rabbi Greenstein’s talk about anti-semitism was also powerful. To hear him say that one of the origins of anti-semitism was the Church’s teaching that the Jews killed Jesus was something that I didn’t expect and went to the heart of how pernicious anti-semitism can be. Pastor Singleton was a warm, welcoming host committed to creating an atmosphere were people could be heard. It was an important evening. One which will lead to other evenings at different churches and synagogues around town. I hope that Shomrei members will make a major effort to attend. The times we live in demand that we challenge prejudice, not just by the way we think, but by our actions as well. Meetings like this have the possibility of not only changing the way we think, but creating community beyond our own where we can learn and grow together with our neighbors.

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Click here for information about additional Break the Hate sessions

Photographs: Courtesy of Union Baptist Church

Call to Action: Helping Immigrants in Essex County

Protesters have targeted the Essex County Correctional Facility, which holds about 800 people who have been arrested on immigration charges. Photo credit: Mel Evans/Associated Press

Protesters at the Essex County Correctional Facility. Photo credit: Mel Evans/Associated Press

Dear Friends:
I hope everyone is having a great holiday season. I am writing to let you know about two social actions you can take to help immigrants in Essex County.

1) Join Faith in Essex on 10/23 at 7pm at the Newark Hall of Records for the Board of Chosen Freeholders meeting to insist on ACLU-endorsed civilian oversight for Essex County Correctional Facility. This is a very important meeting where I believe the ordinance for the civilian oversight board that the ACLU is recommending will be introduced.

Please let me know (email hidden; JavaScript is required) if you plan to go to the Freeholders meeting and if so, let’s work in car pooling.

2) Send the email below to County Executive Joseph D. Vincenzo and the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Continue reading

Immigrant Demonstration in Newark

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On Thursday August 29, several individuals from Essex County joined clergy from several towns to support Faith in Essex, a multifaith group,  for a peaceful demonstration in front of the Hall of Records in Newark – where the Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo and the Essex County Freeholders maintain offices.  We delivered letters requesting that there be a Civilian Oversight Board and a Detainee Advocate for the Essex County Correctional Facility.  Recently, there have been several incidents of abuse of detainees and most especially, immigrants that violate human rights.

Rabbi Greenstein from Shomrei Emunah, along with several clergy from various faiths around Essex County participated.  Letters need to continue to be written to support this effort.

What you can do: Please contact Essex County Executive and Freeholders, Below is a suggested message as well as the emails for our Essex County Executive and Freeholders. Continue reading