A Stronger and Holier Community

Rabbi David Greenstein’s tenure as spiritual leader of Congregation Shomrei Emunah started not with a bang but a silence. A sanctifying silence. On his first Shabbat on our bimah, in August 2009, he introduced us to the practice of maintaining absolute silence until all congregants finished reciting the Amidah to themselves. No kibbitzing with your seat-mate about afternoon plans. No rabbi moving on to the next reading once most of us were seated. At every Shabbat and holiday service for the next 13 years, if anyone was still praying, the rest of us held the silence. In time, the silence itself felt like prayer. It was an early lesson from our new rabbi in achieving communal holiness, not through words or deeds but through respect. A community of all for one, as well as one for all.

Rabbi Greenstein announced upon his arrival that his greatest value was building Jewish community. And in a recent conversation, that is how he looked back on his years as our rabbi: “I tried as hard as I could to share my love for living a Jewish life, for studying Torah, for connecting people, to be there for people. That’s what I tried to do.”

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Bat Mitzvah L’dor Vador (from Generation to Generation)

Last week, synagogues across America marked the 100-year anniversary of the first official bat mitzvah. The ceremony occurred on March 18, 1922 and was created by Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, to welcome his12-year-old daughter, Ruth, into the family of Jewish adults. While that sounds like a long history, it pales alongside the roughly 1,000-year longevity of the bar mitzvah. Moreover, it took almost 60 years for the bat mitzvah ceremony to attain equal stature with the bar mitzvah at synagogues in the U.S.

To explore this evolution — and what it says about the role of women and girls in Judaism — assistant JLC education director Lily Lucey invited Shomrei women of several generations on Sunday, March 19 to recount for the b’nai mitzvah classes what the bat mitzvah represented when they were 12 or 13. Continue reading

Kiddush is Back

For the first time in almost two years, the Shomrei family gathered after Shabbat services for a communal kiddush..

The sun shone so despite the cold, the atmosphere was warm and friendly as we gathered to celebrate shabbat and welcome our first rabbinic candidate and his family. Continue reading

Being There for Family Promise

FP

As so many of you know, Shomrei has hosted homeless families with young children in our synagogue since 1988 as part of the Interfaith Hospitality Network (now Family Promise). Twice a year, for a week at a time, for over 30 years, 50 caring volunteers have cooked food for the families, entertained the children and slept over as nighttime guardians. Because of the pandemic, we have not hosted families since December 2019 and the entire congregational shelter network remains shuttered. For 18 months, Family Promise (FP) has been sheltering families in hotels and shifting more resources into its other missions — stabilizing those on the verge of homeless with rental assistance  and case management. FP needs even more financial support to continue to support vulnerable families, particularly as the moratorium on evictions is lifted and many more parents and children face homelessness.

Even though we can’t host families for now, we can be there for them and for Family Promise. Here are two wonderful opportunities to help: Continue reading

Seeking Help for IHN families

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Dear friends,

I’m writing to everyone who has helped host homeless families at Shomrei Emunah in recent years. As you probably know, IHN stays actively involved with families who have moved into their own homes. Quite a few of the adults in these families are now essential workers and others have lost their jobs and are struggling to get by.

Our contacts at IHN just let us know that several families badly need help paying for basic purchases, including everything from hand sanitizer to summer clothing for their children. If you can help, please send a check in any amount you choose to Brenda Myrick, IHN’s Director of Social Services, at 46 Park St. Montclair, NJ 07042.

Finally, here are some other requests: One of the families badly needs a car. If you or someone you know is willing to donate or sell a car at a very low price, please email Melissa Perales, IHN’s new head of community engagement, at email hidden; JavaScript is required. Please also let Melissa know if you can donate a dresser.

Thanks to all of you for being faithful supporters of IHN. I know it’s a tough time for everyone, but with relatively small individual donations, this is an opportunity to come together and really help struggling families — including some we have hosted at Shomrei.

My very best,
Dale

Tributes to Vivien Lichter

VivOn Sunday, April 19,  there was a touching memorial for Vivien Lichter. Many of the speakers at the service were Shomrei people – Rabbi Greenstein, Toby Stein, Aileen Grossberg, Dale Russakoff and me [Shirley Grill] – and our stories were about Viv and Shomrei…It felt like a story of Shomrei as well as Vivien.

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Shomrei’s Younger Generation Rises to the Coronavirus Challenge

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Last Friday, I had an alarming call from a member of Shomrei. Between bone-rattling coughs, she told me that both she and her partner had Covid 19 and were quarantined in their home. Both over 60, they desperately needed groceries and didn’t know whom to call since all of their friends are in the age group vulnerable to the Coronavirus. (The couple requested that their names be withheld.)

As coordinator of the Mensch Squad, I was braced for such calls to come eventually, but this was our first, and I warily reflected on the demographics of our squad – most of us tilt toward the same vulnerable age group as the couple who needed our help. Indeed, some of our more faithful members are in their 90s. Continue reading

Baby Food, Meals for New Parents

72E078369135D065C3F12F46DCDCCCF0_7581205Announcing: Baby Food!

For any member who has a new baby in the house, we will deliver one meal a week for the first 6 weeks after the baby arrives.  Because the pre-school is an important part of our community, any pre-school family that has a new baby in the home will receive a meal to welcome their new one.

This is an all-volunteer effort, which means each one of those meals must be cooked (or purchased) and delivered. It’s a wonderful way to share in the joy the new parents are experiencing, and to give them a little help during those tiring first few weeks. If you like to cook, or you like to visit new babies, and would be interested in joining the pool of volunteers who provide this service, please sign up at Shomrei.org/BabyFood .

Dale Russakoff is organizing the effort but Dale would love some help.  So, if you’ve been looking for the right volunteer activity, perhaps this is for you – Dale is waiting to hear from you.

Questions: Dale Russakoff, email hidden; JavaScript is required

signup: Shomrei.org/BabyFood

Meaningful Work Choices — New Frontiers – @nourish, Sat, Feb 2, 2019, 10:30am

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Sat, Feb 2, 10:30 am
Free and open to everyone

Good Coffee and Nosh!

It takes courage to leave the known world for new frontiers. The panel members will share their experiences and open up the discussion to the audience so that we can all explore the journey of finding meaning in work and life.

Our panel, led by Dale Russakoff, who left her longtime job as a reporter at the Washington Post in 2008 to become a freelance writer, will consist of:

Alison Wininger
A public interest lawyer who represented low-income clients in the Bronx, Harlem and London, then chose to become a stay-at-home mom to her two daughters.  She has begun to share her passion for social justice with her older daughter, Abigail, now 3, and together they volunteered with IHN for the first time in December. Continue reading