Enjoying the Harvest: Cooking for Sukkot

I did not grow up celebrating Sukkot. Lou built our first sukkah when our son was 2 years old. Each year Lou drags the sukkah pieces up from the basement and our now 36-year-old son comes over to help him put it together. We cut the schach from grasses that we grow in our yard and Lou spreads it on top of the sukkah. And then I hang the decorations – stained glass and metal ornaments that we’ve collected over the years. Continue reading

Opening our Doors Even Wider: Yom Kippur Sermon 5783/2022

Editor’s Note: Rabbi Julie originally gave this sermon during the Yom Kippur service, Oct 2022.

This past March, during women’s history month, a reporter from the Montclair local news interviewed me together with Miriam Haimes for an article about Shomrei appointing its first female rabbi.  There was something important and memorable that our past president said during that conversation that didn’t end up being quoted.  Miriam said, “our congregation was open to hiring a rabbi of any gender.”  I remember feeling a sense of pride that I was coming to a very open and progressive community, that was ready for a rabbi who identified as female, male, non-binary, or trans.   And then on my first day of work at Shomrei this past August, I walked into the building through the first set of doors and noticed for the first time a sign that reads, “all males please wear a head covering while in the building.”   I remember thinking, well I guess it doesn’t matter if the rabbi remembers to wear a kippah. Continue reading

Shomrei is Our Namesake: Kol Nidre Sermon 5783/2022

Editor’s Note: Rabbi Julie originally gave this sermon during the Kol Nidre service, Oct 2022.

In 1918, at the age of 5, Joe Fine started attending religious school at Shomrei Emunah in the original building on Bloomfield Avenue.  He remembers being sent home a few years later, at the age of 8 or 9, for coming to High Holiday services dressed in a new cardigan sweater and trousers made by his grandfather because he wasn’t wearing a suit jacket.   When asked what the town of Montclair was like in the 1920’s, Joe described Bloomfield Avenue, starting at the corner of Maple, store by store, beginning with Wilensky’s department store, which was owned by Louie and his three brothers, Morris, Sammie, and Haimie and then continuing up the street to the pharmacy. Continue reading

Elul, Like A Passing Shadow – 9/29/22

Elul Message from Guest Prayer Leader Talia Lakritz

The Unetaneh Tokef melody that we sang together on Rosh Hashanah and we’ll sing again on Yom Kippur was composed by Israeli songwriter Yair Rosenblum, inspired by a kibbutz’s heavy losses during the Yom Kippur War. In 1990, Rosenblum visited Kibbutz Beit Hashita in northern Israel, which lost 11 members during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. During his visit, he was inspired to write this melody to Unetaneh Tokef and stayed up all night composing it. The tune is unique in that it contains Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and modern Israeli musical influences. Continue reading

Helping Families Facing Homelessness

Dear friends and faithful volunteers,

Here is a great opportunity to get fresh air and exercise and bond with friends and family for a crucially important cause — helping the growing number of Essex County families facing homelessness and housing insecurity. As you know, Family Promise of Essex County (formerly the Interfaith Hospitality Network or IHN), has been on the front lines of the fight against family homelessness for more than 30 years. Although we are no longer able to host families in our congregations, FPE continues to serve hundreds of adults and kids a year with shelter, expert social services and housing assistance. As you may know, I’m now on the board of FPE and I understand better than ever how much friends like you mean to the families we serve.

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Open Door Judaism: President’s Remarks on Rosh Hashanah

Editor’s Note: This speech was originally given on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (Sept 2022)

L’Shana Tovah!

It is wonderful to see so many of you in this space.

I want to speak with you about Open-Door Judaism, how Shomrei epitomizes the spirit of the open-door philosophy and how we can each engage with it, and Shomrei during this new year. Open Door Judaism at Shomrei means the active and ongoing removal of barriers to find comfort and spirituality in the Judaism each member wishes to explore.

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Reaching for Royalty: Rosh Hashanah Sermon 5783/2022

Editor’s Note: Rabbi Julie originally gave this sermon during the Rosh Hashanah Day 1 service 5783 (Sept 2022).

In 2005, the year I was ordained as a rabbi, Queen Elizabeth II was out for a walk in the hills near her Scottish castle Balmoral together with her royal protection officer, Richard Griffin. They came across two American tourists and one of them struck up a conversation, asking the queen where she lived, so she said London. He then asked whether she’d ever been to this area before. She said she started visiting this part of Scotland when she was a little girl, more than 80 years before. Aware that the castle was in the vicinity, the hiker then asked her if she had ever met the queen. “Quick as a flash she said, ‘I haven’t but my companion meets her regularly.’ Continue reading