Toda Raba

Thank you to everyone who helped with the Sukkot kiddushes. The special Shabbat kiddush was a huge success with well over 100 people sharing a scrumptious meal together in our lovely sukkah on a perfect fall afternoon.

Kudos to Dale Russakoff who spearheaded the effort and to Suzanna Grobman and Katie Teladano who made it all work along with a superb crew of volunteer sous chefs who chatted and chopped from Thursday ‘til Saturday. Continue reading

Helping Families Facing Homelessness

Dear friends and faithful volunteers,

Here is a great opportunity to get fresh air and exercise and bond with friends and family for a crucially important cause — helping the growing number of Essex County families facing homelessness and housing insecurity. As you know, Family Promise of Essex County (formerly the Interfaith Hospitality Network or IHN), has been on the front lines of the fight against family homelessness for more than 30 years. Although we are no longer able to host families in our congregations, FPE continues to serve hundreds of adults and kids a year with shelter, expert social services and housing assistance. As you may know, I’m now on the board of FPE and I understand better than ever how much friends like you mean to the families we serve.

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A Welcoming Kiddush on Sept 10

Thank you to the outstanding help in preparing and cleaning up last Shabbat’s special kiddush honoring Rabbi Julie.

Led by Aileen Grossberg kudos go to food preparers Barbara Gollob, Beryl Hiller, Carol Katzman, Zen Lucey, and Lindsay Sag.

The clean up crew included Andy Ely, Rachel Kanter, and Rabbi Julie ably helped by our wonderful custodian Javier.

A special THANK YOU to Michael and Lindsey Sag, Andy Ely and Rachel Kanter, Matt  Purdy and Dale Russakoff for sponsoring this kiddush. Continue reading

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

IHN

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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