Letter to the Congregation: Helping and Praying for Israel

Dear Beloved Shomrei Community,

When we began Shabbat morning services, there were reports of 40 Israelis killed by Hamas; by the Torah service, the number had risen to 100. Today, there are estimates of over 800 Israelis dead, thousands more wounded, and at least 100 hostages – both soldiers and civilians, including children. Fifty years after the Yom Kippur War, more Jews were slaughtered in a single day than on any other single day since the Holocaust. Continue reading

Yom Kippur, Sermon: Thank God it’s Shabbat

Rabbi Julie’s sermon on Yom Kippur, 2023/5784 

The film opens with four palm trees swaying in the wind and a fiddler playing dramatically in the background.   In Palm Desert, California, Roberta Mahler, age 87, is driving her golf cart, her bleached blond hair blowing in the wind, with her black poodle in her lap.  Her wrinkled cheeks smile when she says, “One of my friends said to me, come on, we’re gonna go to Wendy’s for Shabbat.  I said (incredulously), Wendy’s Shabbat?  I couldn’t believe this.”

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Kol Nidre, Sermon: Ein Lanu Eretz Acheret – We don’t Have Another Planet

Rabbi Julie’s sermon on Kol Nidre, 2023/5784 

This past summer, my family visited Makhtesh Ramon, the massive crater in the Negev desert in Israel, the largest such crater on planet Earth.   The view of the Ramon Crater from above, from the lookout in Mitzpei Ramon, is breathtaking and otherworldly.  I have been privileged to see it with my own eyes three times in my life.

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Rosh Hashanah Day 2, D’var Torah – The Cat’s in the Cradle

Rabbi Julie’s introduction to the Torah Reading for Rosh Hashanah Day 2, 2023/5784 

This year, I’m reading the familiar and haunting story of the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, through the lens of one of my favorite folk songs, the Cat’s in the Cradle. Written in 1974 by Harry Chapin, the song speaks of a father who was so busy pursuing his career, he didn’t have much time to spend with his son.

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Rosh Hashanah Day 1, Sermon – Forgiveness in the Rear-view Mirror

Rabbi Julie’s sermon for Rosh Hashanah Day 1, 2023/5784 

In my first year as a rabbi, I had to say ‘I’m sorry’, ‘I messed up’, ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you’ more times than in the first 32 years of my life combined.  In my lifetime, I have apologized privately in person, by phone, and in writing, and on one occasion, publicly to thousands of people at once.   Even though I have a lot of practice apologizing and it comes relatively easily to me, I never look forward to it – it still feels embarrassing, painful, and humbling, even at times, humiliating. 

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Rosh Hashanah Day 1, D’var Torah – Pastoral Care

Rabbi Julie’s introduction to the Torah Reading for Rosh Hashanah Day 1, 2023/5784

This morning’s Torah reading celebrates the birth of Isaac with laughter.  But soon after, the laughter of Isaac and Ishmael playing together is replaced by tears of despair.  Hagar, the maidservant, the mother of Abraham’s first-born son, is cast away into the wilderness with Ishmael.  Given only a skin of water and some bread that quickly disappeared, Hagar is overwhelmed and distraught.  She leaves the child under one of the bushes, moves away some distance, “And sitting thus afar, she bursts into tears.” Continue reading