Toby in Her Own Words

Excerpts from Toby’s writings were provided by Nick Levitin. All of the written material will be turned over to Barnard College in line with Toby’s wishes.

I am still at work on a manuscript I began more than six years ago (written 12/9/23)

I am still at work on a manuscript I began more than six years ago. It’s about my religious journey–and what I’ve learned writing it. A friend who was a professor of religion once told me that it’s impossible to write well about God. Maybe I should have listened. But most days I’m glad I didn’t. And not only because when I’m at the computer, working, nothing hurts. Continue reading

It Takes a Minyan

Nick Levitin

In life, there are certain things that cannot be done alone. In Judaism, there are certain prayers that cannot be said alone. Kaddish is one of them – it takes a minyan. At Shomrei there are currently three regularly scheduled opportunities to say Kaddish: the services we have Friday night, Saturday morning, and Sunday morning.

To ensure that we always have ten people for the Sunday Morning Minyan, Linda Ariel will begin collecting names of those who would like to be called upon, or scheduled, to attend the Sunday morning minyan. Continue reading

A Guy Who Likes Everything: A Defense

Recently my positive comments about an event were dismissed with the statement “Oh, you like everything.” I laughed and said it was in my nature. But, the truth is I don’t like everything. In fact, I can be very judgmental and at times enjoy being so. But, the point being made by my “accuser” was that I was being indiscriminate, lacking in discernment, and therefore my judgement was suspect or not to be taken seriously. My father (of blessed memory) was also criticized for liking “everything.” After all, how could anyone take someone seriously if they like everything! Continue reading

Journey From Song to Solitude

Nick FB
Now Showing in The Shomrei Gallery: Journey: From Song to Solitude, The Photographs of Shomrei Congregant Nick Levitin

Dear Friends,

I’d like to invite you to an exhibit of my photographs currently on display at Shomrei.

This exhibit, entitled Journey: From Song to Solitude, is a reflection of my own journey with photography. Although, I started taking pictures when I was a young boy, the 70s was when I began in earnest. It was a volatile and dramatic time that offered up dramatic images of the passions of that decade. That is the first part of the exhibit. Over time, I have been drawn to more serene subjects and those make up the second half of this exhibit.

Net proceeds of any photographs sold goes to Shomrei’s Refugee Assistance Group.

The photos are on display in the gallery on the second floor. I do hope you will stop by and take a look.





Rabbis Ariann Weitzman, David Greenstein, Marc Katz, and Elliott Tepperman lead 200 members of the religious, political and social Montclair community at B’nai Keshet to mourn the victims of the Tree of Life massacre at a vigil of prayers, song and support, Sat. night, Oct. 27. Photo © Adam Anik

This past Shabbat the worst attack on Jews in American history took place. Many of us were stunned, horrified, angered and grief stricken. What does one do in such a circumstance?

One answer was provided by our rabbi and our community: Congregation Shomrei Emunah co-sponsored a vigil along with congregations Bnai Keshet and Temple Ner Tamid.

Unfortunately, due to the late hour of the email notice that went out to the congregation about the vigil (it could not be sent out earlier because of Shabbat) there were few Shomrei members in attendance. How I wished our congregants could have been there for this special evening – a chance to come together to share our pain and find comfort in one another’s embrace. Having spoken to a number of our congregants, I know many wished they could have attended.

Continue reading

Shomrei Refugee Assistance Group — A Renewed Call for Engagement

Refugees welcome

In March of 2017, a group of 30 Shomrei congregants met to explore ways we could be of assistance to refugees in the local area.  Our concerns at the time included how to find those families with needs and what our capacity was to provide help.

In the last 10 months, we have, in fact, provided vital assistance to five families, which include a total of 21 people. Our interactions with the families have taken a variety of forms, including:

  • Providing families with much-needed winter clothes, household furniture, and kitchen supplies (We have a current list of needs online)
  • Helping one family get library cards
  • Helping one family discover neighborhood recreational facilities
  • Finding a neighborhood preschool program for one child
  • Sharing a sumptuous lunch in one family’s apartment
  • Inviting the families to Shomrei’s Sukkot Syria Supper Club dinner and Hanukkah party
  • Inviting one family to a member’s house for a Thanksgiving dinner
  • Sending cards to one family marking the birth of a child; sending cards to the same family with condolences on the death of a parent in Syria

Continue reading

A Visit with Refugees

The Arabic version of Rosetta Stone Language learning software.

The Arabic version of Rosetta Stone Language learning software.

On a spring Sunday, Andy Silver and I delivered some much-needed clothing and a TV, provided by members of the Shomrei community, to a Syrian refugee family in Elizabeth, NJ. Bara’a and Tammam seemed tired when we arrived. That, of course, is understandable — being a refugee means once again being in a foreign land, not speaking the language and, for the most part, at least for now, being dependent on strangers. In addition, Bara’a and Tammam have two small children and are expecting a third and our visit came in the middle of the daily Ramadan fast! Continue reading

Shomrei Refugee Assistance Group Attends Vigil to Honor Refugees

Shomrei members in photo: Andy, Merrill and Dan Silver, Nick Levitin and Beryl Hiller of Shomrei Refugee Assistance Group.

(L-R):  Merrill,  Dan and Andy Silver, Beryl Hiller of Shomrei Refugee Assistance Group.

On Tuesday, June 6th several Shomrei members attend a vigil in Montclair in support of refugees to the US.  The vigil was held on the anniversary of the date the ship St. Louis full of refugees was turned away from American shores in 1939.

Continue reading

Building a Sacred Community – Sustaining Share

Nick LevitinAlmost two years ago, Shomrei Emunah adopted the Sustaining Share Membership Model.  Doing away with the traditional dues structure was a huge risk. The risk has paid off.  Shomrei has become a more diverse and and engaged spiritual community, in part because of the sense of ownership and energy provided by this model. It has also resulted in 18 new family members this year!

Continue reading

How We Treat Refugees & Immigrants: Shomrei Members Respond to a Need


Some of our congregants have been refugees, others have belonged to families whose members were refugees.

In response to a letter I wrote in Shomrei Week several weeks ago, a group of Shomrei congregants –– more than 30, so far –– have expressed interest in working on a project to support today’s refugees and other immigrants in need. As a result, we will be having an organizational meeting for the project this Sunday (March 5th) at 7 PM, at Shomrei. All members of the Shomrei community who are interested in helping are invited. Continue reading