Sounding the shofar is a beloved feature of celebrating the Jewish New Year. Each year we enjoy gathering together in our building to hear the shofar’s piercing, mysterious sounds.
This year we need to be creative. While we will livestream the shofar service from Shomrei, we also want to “think out of the building.” So we are hoping to gather a group of volunteers who will be able to blow shofar at various designated spots in Montclair, so as to make it possible for as many people as possible to hear the real thing. Imagine – you, along with so many of your friends and neighbors – taking a few moments to walk to a spot close by, or to just open your window, and hear the traditional shofar blasts heralding the New Year!
It has been my sacred privilege and responsibility to serve Congregation Shomrei Emunah as its Rabbi for almost 11 years. I have always taken on my role as the community’s authority on Jewish Law and as its spiritual leader with a sense of reverence.
The present crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic has placed extraordinary strain on all of us as individuals and families and on our entire world, our society and our synagogue. I am thankful for all of our community members for their extra efforts in helping the Shomrei community meet this challenge. And I am aware that I bear a heavy responsibility in making decisions on behalf of our community that will guide our policies and actions in accordance with my best understanding of what the Torah – Jewish Law and Tradition – demand, permit or forbid. Continue reading
With great sorrow and great outrage, I join with all people who steadfastly stand for the ultimate value of every human life. The murder of Mr. George Floyd is one more obscene crime in a long history of crimes committed against people of color in our society, crimes that have been ignored and dismissed for too long, crimes that seek to declare that Black lives just do not matter. Black Lives Matter.
During this time of global pandemic, we are under incredible strain to protect our own lives, the lives of our loved ones, and, if we take this situation seriously, the lives of all people. But we must realize that we have been exposed, not only to a deadly virus, but also to long festering failures in how we live as a society. So, it is doubly tragic that in this time when saving a life is so paramount in our thinking, the wanton disregard for human life, systemically entrenched in our society, still continues to thrive. Continue reading
Celebrate Beautiful Nature on Shavuot!
A Message From Rabbi Greenstein:
There is a wonderful custom of decorating synagogues and homes with flowers and leaves and pictures of nature on the holiday of Shavuot, the festival celebrating our receiving the Torah. While we are still not able to celebrate within the walls of our synagogue, we can create a wall of photos and images of nature’s beauty to enhance our joy.
Thank you to photographers in our community, Judith Antelman, Bruce Baff, Nancy Breslin, Aimee Brooks, Sarita Eisenberg, Aileen Grossberg, Rabbi Richard Hammerman, Laura Monka and Merrill Silver who have submitted their images in honor of Shavuot.
What a beautiful way to welcome our holiday! May we always take to heart the world’s great beauty!
I am delighted to share that the Conservative Movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards has officially accepted a teshuvah (responsum), by Rabbi Gail Labovitz, that offers egalitarian alternatives to the traditional, non-egalitarian, marriage ceremony commonly in use. This new responsum offers two possible ceremonies. As the responsum acknowledges, one of them is based substantially on my own writing and teaching on this topic over many years.
It is a bittersweet privilege to invite our entire Shomrei community to mark the special milestones of two of our younger members – Nathan and Ben – becoming Bar Mitzvah.
The Shabbat of May 2 has long been on our calendar for the Nathan’s celebration and the Shabbat of May 16 has been long reserved for the Ben’s celebration. Each has put in lots of work to learn their Torah portion and their haftarah (prophetic) reading. And they have studied and thought about their Torah portions in order to share their own teachings with the community.
As we continue to wander in an uncharted wilderness of caution and concern, we are called to meet so many responsibilities to ourselves and to others. I am moved by the dedication and caring exhibited by all members of the Shomrei community, professional and lay members, both. I am very grateful to be part of this strong and healthy community!
An additional challenge facing us is to prepare for and to celebrate the holiday of Passover (Pesach), the first of our sacred festivals. This is a time when we usually feel the full weight of our traditions, religious and familial. These traditions add special significance to our lives and special sweetness. We have invested much energy and creativity over the years to find ways to honor those traditions while we also add our creativity and add novel (- a word that has taken on a dark resonance these days!) customs, songs, insights and foods to our seder. After all, this is the Festival of our Freedom!
Prayer is a deep response to crisis, even as it can also be a profound vehicle for expressing gratitude for the blessings we still enjoy, and it can be a strong reminder of the values we hold precious and that make our lives sacred. Many find prayer a way to ground the self and calm the spirit.
Saying Kaddish is one of many challenges Jews and Jewish communities are facing in this time of quarantine and social isolation. The practice of saying kaddish for a loved one is very meaningful and comforting for many people. But the practice is traditionally situated within a community – a minyan. In fact, that is the essence of kaddish – that the mourner turns to the community and calls them to join with the mourner in praising God (even in times of loss and sadness). So the lack of a minyan can be a very painful impediment. Therefore, I am sharing this prayer, adapted from one that was written by Rabbi Dov Edelstein z”l, originally for Kehillat Hod veHadar and later included in SIddur VeAni Tefillati of the Masorti Movement. Continue reading