Dear Shomrei Community,
Last week, I met with the superintendent of the Montclair Public Schools, Dr. Jonathan Ponds together with a rabbi from each of our local congregations, B’nai Keshet, Ner Tamid, and Temple Sholom of West Essex. The meeting is referenced in this recent article in the Montclair Local. In our conversation, we talked about the need for increased education about antisemitism in the public schools as well as education about the Holocaust. I have already shared resources I piloted at Princeton for antisemitism education on college campuses including videos and workshops developed by Hillel International in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League. As I wrote about in The Forward last January, it’s our responsibility as Jewish leaders to provide the tools needed to recognize and respond when words and actions are antisemitic.
As I acclimate to the community, I invite anyone with recent experiences of antisemitism in the Montclair Public Schools or elsewhere to email me or arrange a time to meet.
This week’s Torah portion tells the story of the flood and the Ark that Noah built to save humanity and every type of animal. In the instructions to build the Ark. God includes a tzohar, a special feature described using a word that only appears this one time in the entire Torah. Some commentators understand this to be a window that would allow Noah to look outside the Ark to see when it finally stopped raining. But Rabbi Elie Kanfer remarks that it would have been too dark during the storm to see anything outside of the window. That’s why the Talmud (Sanhedrin 108b) identifies the tzohar as a source of light, a precious stone that shines on its own. Even in times of turmoil, we are instructed to build a source of light that shines in the darkness. The spirit of cooperation in the meeting I attended last week was such a source of light.
I hope you’ll join me for joyful singing at Zamru on Friday night at 6:30pm. We’ll sing a new melody for the words, or chadash al Zion taier, v’nizkeh kulanu meheyrah l’orah – a new light will shine on Zion, may be all merit to experience its glow.