Friday, November 10, 2017

Exclusively Inclusive

 From the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:



A Message From Our President


Dr. Lance Strate








Exclusively Inclusive



Adas Emuno is a small congregation, as we all know, and that means that membership in our shul is something of an exclusive club. Of course, the final word on exclusivity was uttered by Groucho Marx, who famously said, "I wouldn't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member." This harkens back to a time when many private clubs had a policy of deliberately excluding Jews and other minorities from membership.

Marx's mocking aside, over the past century and a half, our congregation has never aspired to be one of those big, impersonal temples with many hundreds or even thousands of members. We embraced the approach so well expressed by the British economist, E. F. Schumacher, small is beautiful. I hasten to add that we do have room to grow, and we wouldn't mind a few more members.

In keeping things on a human scale, we don't force congregants to fit into predetermined molds. We remain flexible, able to tailor our expressions of faith, learning, and action to the needs and desires of our members. Ours is a shul that is personal, custom-made for our members.

In this sense, we are also an inclusive congregation, open to all who want to join together with us in the practice of our Reform Jewish faith. We are open to all who seek to worship, learn, and work together to heal our world.

We are exclusively inclusive, or maybe it's inclusively exclusive? Either way, if you think there are any ways we can do better, that we can improve in being open and intimate, warm and welcoming, inclusive and exclusive, please let us know. Let's make sure this is a club that we all want to belong to, that we all are proud to be members of, that even Groucho would be happy to join.



Thursday, November 9, 2017

Staying In Touch

from the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:





From the desk of …                    
 Rabbi Barry Schwartz
    






STAYING IN TOUCH





I am a busy person, but I want to stay in touch with what is happening in my congregation and in the Jewish world. Just give me the most useful links, and I’ll mark them as favorites.

You asked… so here they are:

1. This Week at Adas Emuno—the rabbi’s weekly email; read before deleting!

2. AdasEmuno.orgour congregation’s website, with a calendar of events.

3. AdasEmunoblogspot.comsermons, photos, blogs all well kept by our president.

4. JewishStandard.TimesofIsrael.comdigital digest of our local Jewish newspaper.

5. JewishWeek.TimesofIsrael.comdigital digest of NY Jewish news and events.

6. TabletMag.comdaily roundup of trending Jewish issues and culture.

7. MosaicMagazine.comdaily collection of deeper Jewish culture issues.



Of course, you may also want to delve more actively into social media, such as our Facebook page… but checking in with these seven sites will at least give you the right to call yourself Jewishly informed and connected!





Saturday, November 4, 2017

Relgious School Autumnal News

From the pages of Kadima, the Newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:

Religious School News 

     from

Cantor Sandy Horowitz

Religious School Director


Things have been busy at Adas Emuno Religious School! We capped off the high holiday season with almost full student participation in the Simchat Torah service, as our youngest students led the Torah parade with singing and flags, and the other classes each chanted a Torah verse in both Hebrew and English–I felt so incredibly proud of them! That same night, the 7th grade class was responsible for leading us in Shabbat prayers and songs and they did a terrific job as well.

Last month we celebrated the bar mitzvah of Blake Klein as he read from the Torah and spoke to us about Noah–mazel tov to Blake and his entire family. Blake is an 8th grader and is one of our valued madrichim, along with the other teachers’ helpers Hannah Futeran, Lily Futeran, Emery Jacobowitz and Maddie Racciatti.

Looking ahead, our next Shabbat Family Service takes place on Friday, November 17th. At this special service, we will have a Consecration Ceremony for new students who joined our school last year and this year. Before services, the Membership Committee is hosting a Pizza Dinner at 6:30 in honor of this year's new member families. All school families are invited to attend the pizza dinner, but we ask that you RSVP by Wednesday, November 15th. Please email (indicating how many people in your family will be attending the dinner) to Virginia at vegitter at aol.com or text to 551-404-7486.

Please make sure to check out these other dates and special events coming up in November and December:


Sunday, November 5
11:00 AM⏤Confirmation Class


Friday, November 17
6:30 PM⏤Pizza Dinner welcoming new member families
7:30 PM⏤Shabbat Family Service and Consecration Ceremony. “Decorate your own cupcake” oneg!


Sunday, November 26
Thanksgiving Weekend⏤No Religious School


Sunday, December 3
11:30 AM⏤Social Action Mitzvah Mall for students and their parents




Thursday, December 7
7:30 PM B’nei Mitzvah Parent Meeting

Sunday, December 10
11:00 AM⏤Confirmation Class

Friday, December 15
7:30 PM⏤Grade 5-6 Shabbat Family Service



Saturday, December 16
7:00 PM Community Menorah Lighting/Chanukah Party



Sunday, December 17
Chanukah Party during Religious School



Sunday, December 24 & 31
No School





Friday, November 3, 2017

Social Action Activities

From the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:


 

A Report from Annette DeMarco
Social Action Committee Chairperson




 



Hi All!

There’s been a lot of activity surrounding Social Action and Adas Emuno!

On September 11th, Day of Service and Remembrance, a number of our congregants took part in the Center for Food Action's program of making up week-end snack bags for children in need.  Over 4,000 bags were made up.  Thank you to all who participated.

The food collection held during the High Holy Days yielded bags plus one case of groceries.  This year’s drive was in conjunction with Blake Klein's Bar Mitzvah project, in which he raised money, collected food (at the Leonia Rec Center) and also assisted in our collection… all for the CFA! Thank you to Blake and thank you to everyone who donated!

*****************************************

Social Action met a social evening out as over 20 of our members spent a fun evening at Ethical Brew, a musical venue sponsored by the Ethical Culture Center in Teaneck.  We listened to some great folk music, and half of all proceeds from ticket sales went to a social action program, chosen by the entertainers. It was a win-win evening!

*****************************************

Upcoming…

Sunday, November 5th—We will be cooking for and serving at the shelter in Hackensack. Please email acheryl21 at gmail.com if you can help and/or have not yet replied to the email sent to the congregation.  


Sunday, December 3Mitzvah Mall. Please come and support some very special organizations, all while you work on your holiday “shopping” list with meaningful “gifts” to share with those whom you buy on behalf of. The presentation is from 11:30-12 noon.  "Shopping" continues through 1:00 although the “mall” will remain open longer if you let us know you will be a bit late. If you recall from last year, this event was a great success.

January
We will be starting a knitting/crocheting group! The first project will be to make caps for newborn babies at Holy Name Hospital. Interested?  Email me so we can work out a time for all to meet.

*****************************************

Some volunteer opportunities to consider:

Ramapo-Bergen Animal Refuge, Inc.  Paws-in-Hand Program. This organization works to support schools for children with special needs through specially trained animals.  It provides the animals plus the education needed for the success of the program.  It is active in Bergen and Passaic County schools. Call 201-337- 5180 or email humaneed at rbari.org.

Aviation Hall of Fame of NJ
Its purpose is to educate about NJ's history in this field and to encourage young people to consider careers in the aerospace industry.  Various volunteer opportunities available, beginning at age 16.

Color A Smile
So easy even a child can do it... and many do! Consider for a community service/b’nei mitzvah project, rainy day project, getting together with friends for a special reason project, Youth Group project, etc. Go to colorasmile.org./volunteer, then click on Volunteer to Color, for further instructions.

Wishing everyone a fun-filled, stuffing-filled, Happy Thanksgiving!!

Annette
acheryl21 at gmail.com

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Call to Disarm

Once again, we would like to share with you the latest Jewish Standard op-ed by Adas Emuno President Lance Strate, published in the October 13th issue, and entitled, A Call to Disarm:



Let me begin with a thought that might sound like heresy to some citizens of the United States: The Second Amendment to our Constitution is not scripture.

Indeed, neither the Bill of Rights nor the US Constitution itself were handed down to us by God. Nor are they said to have been dictated from on high, or be the product of divine inspiration. Rather, they are the product of human beings, subject to human flaws and human error. And they are a product of a particular time and set of circumstances, some of which are no longer in effect, such as slavery, and some of which have changed radically, such as the likelihood of a solider being quartered in a private home, an infringement that is the subject of the Third Amendment.

The founders of our republic clearly were aware of their own limitations by including Article Five of our Constitution, which allows for the possibility of amending our governmental framework, and lists the procedures to be followed in order to propose and ratify a constitutional amendment.

Famously, new amendments have abolished slavery, granted voting rights to women, and lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Infamously, the 18th Amendment prohibited the manufacture, importing, transportation, and sale of alcohol in the United States. Thirteen years after it was established, this amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment, ending the period characterized by crime and violence known as Prohibition.

We the people can amend the US Constitution, and we can amend our amendments. In theory, we can amend our amendments to our amendments, and so on ad infinitum, but the important point is that amendments can be repealed. And I want to join the chorus of sane and concerned voices calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.

Bret Stephens, in a recent New York Times op-ed arguing for repeal, concluded with the following: “The true foundation of American exceptionalism should be our capacity for moral and constitutional renewal, not our instinct for self-destruction” ("Repeal the Second Amendment").

Everybody knows that the Second Amendment is written in a torturous manner that makes it impossible to determine its precise meaning: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Historians tell us that the first clause is the main point, to guarantee the right of individual states to maintain their own armed forces, as a matter of collective defense. In part, the motivation had much to do with skepticism about maintaining a standing army on the federal level. The idea that the Second Amendment refers to individual rights is a later interpretation, with its roots in the aftermath of the Civil War, and largely a 20th century innovation.

The Second Amendment is not scripture, and therefore should not have to undergo talmudic exegesis, just so that it can serve as a pretext for preventing any and all regulation of firearms. The initials NRA do not stand for the National Rabbinic Association, so that organization does not have the moral or intellectual authority to dictate its interpretation of the amendment to the American citizenry.

And what about scripture itself? Of course, there were no firearms in the ancient world, but there are references to other weapons. Look at the famous words of the prophet Isaiah: “and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks,” in reference to warfare; in another Jewish context, the Christian Bible’s Gospel of Matthew has Jesus admonish one of his followers by saying: “all who take up the sword, will die by the sword.”

Of course, we would expect to find messages of nonviolence dominating the sacred texts of our nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage. And we might well wonder how it is that so many people of faith in our country can resist any efforts to reduce gun violence so zealously. In another New York Times op-ed, David Brooks argues that “guns are a proxy for larger issues,” for “a much larger conflict over values and identity” ("Guns and the Soul of America").

In other words, it’s the culture war, stupid.

And let us make no mistake about it. Resistance to gun safety legislation is linked to the populist movement that gave us the Trump presidency, it is linked to the alt-right, to white supremacy and neo-Nazi movements, to anti-immigration sentiment, to Islamophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. It should be pretty clear which side we ought to be on.

If there is a passage in scripture that might be the ancient equivalent of the Second Amendment, it might be found in the Holiness Code in the Book of Leviticus, in the commandment “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor.” This suggests a right to self-defense that might translate to a right to bear arms. But it also implies a collective right to be safe and secure, the right implied by the prophet Micah, and alluded to by George Washington in his letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, that “they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid.”

Psalm 115 incorporates a polemic against idol worship, characterized as “the work of men’s hands,” concluding that “they that make them shall be like unto them, yea, everyone who trusts in them.” If people treat the Second Amendment as scripture, are they not in effect worshiping firearms as their idols? And consequently, doesn’t that transform them into instruments of violence, molded into the image of their molten gods, tools of their own invention?

This summer I published a book called Media Ecology: An Approach to Understanding the Human Condition. One of my central arguments in that book is that our tools and technologies are never neutral, that they have inherent characteristics and tendencies that influence how they are used. Just as objects tend to roll down rather than up a hill, and stones are hard not soft, so guns are inherently designed as instruments of violence. This is a tendency, not an absolute. In some instances, the presence of guns may deter violence, it is true, but on the whole, the more guns in a situation, the greater the potential for violence, and the greater the frequency and harm of violent events.







You may notice that I have made no reference to the specifics of the most recent mass shooting, and that is because the details do not matter. As of this writing, journalists covering the story are obsessed with the question of why it happened. In this instance, that question is proving to be harder to answer than usual. But in my view, the why is irrelevant. The why will always be different, individual, personal. Taking a media ecology approach, what matters is not why, but how. And the how remains consistent across the 131 mass shootings that have occurred over the past 50 years.

It’s the guns, stupid. It’s the firearms.

The answer to why often is some form of insanity, as if there were ever a sane reason to commit mass murder. But allowing for that, the same side of the culture war that defends the Second Amendment also opposes funding for research into the causes of gun violence, and funding for mental health in general, and funding for universal health care, which would aid the victims of gun violence. There is no moral equivalence between the two sides.

And while one side argues for the Second Amendment in absolute or near absolute terms, the other asks, you might say begs, for modest modifications that might not make more than a modicum of difference. Is there any wonder that the outcome is more of the same, over and over again?

It is time for a new abolition movement, one dedicated to the repeal of the Second Amendment, because that in turn would open the door to substantial Federal gun safety legislation. This is not a call for a prohibition on firearms, but rather to open the door for reasonable safety measures, so that we all can sit under our vines and fig trees, in our concert halls and movie theaters and night clubs and malls, and in baseball fields and schools and houses of worship, and in our streets and homes, and none shall make us afraid ever again.





Monday, October 30, 2017

Author Steven Hartov to Speak

Author Steven Hartov will be the guest speaker at Congregation Adas Emuno on Sunday, November 12 from 4:00 to 5:30 PM.









Hartov is an American-Israeli author of fiction and non-fiction works, journalist, screenwriter, lecturer in international security affairs and former Editor-in-Chief of Special Operations Report.

 His works include the Israeli espionage trilogy, The Heat of Ramadan, The Nylon Hand of God, and The Devil's Shepherd.




✾ 



His non-fiction works include the New York Times bestseller, In the Company of Heroes, co-authored with Michael J. Durant, The Night Stalkers, co-authored with Michael J. Durant and Lt. Col. (ret) Robert L. Johnson, and Afghanistan on the Bounce, co-authored with Robert L. Cunningham.

✾✾✾✾✾✾✾✾✾✾✾✾



His novel, The Heat of Ramadan, was adapted for the feature film, The Point Men.

 




Hartov served in the U.S. Merchant Marine Military Sealift Command and was a volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces Airborne Corps, serving as a paratrooper and later in a Special Ops branch of Israeli Military Intelligence. His latest work of fiction, The Soul of a Thief, set in occupied France in 1944, is due to be released in May 2018 by Harper Collins.






Open to the Public
Free Admission
 254 Broad Avenue
Leonia, NJ
201-592-1712

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Homo Moralis

We recently posted Rabbi Schwartz's Sermon for Kol Nidre 5778, which was entitled "Homo Moralis" and included a discussion of two books by Israeli history professor Yuval Noah Harari, and we are pleased to share with you that he followed this up with a book review in Tikkun, also entitled "Homo Moralis" and subtitled "A Review of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow" dated October 11th.

Based as it is on his sermon, there is much in one that bears repeating in the other. And so, here now is the review:


A child asked his mother, “Where do people come from?”
“Well,” the mother said, “Adam and Eve were the first parents on earth. They had babies who became grownups. Then those grownups had babies who eventually became grownups, and so on and so forth, until today.”

Later, the child decided to ask his father the same question. The father had a different explanation. “Long ago, there were no people on earth-just monkeys. Slowly the monkeys developed and changed into people. We call this process ‘evolution.’”

The children ran back to his mother and tearfully blurted, “You lied to me! You said people came from Adam and Eve, but Dad just old me that people came from monkeys!”

“I did not lie,” the mother replied calmly. “Your father was talking about his side of the family.”

Where do we come from? And where are we going? Those are two really big questions.. And the buzz these days is about a pair of books written to answer these questions that have become global bestsellers.

Yuval Noah Harari is a 40 something year old professor of history at Hebrew University in Jerusalem… and now an international celebrity. His first book is called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. His new book is called Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow. Both are on the short list of many a world leader, from Bill Gates to Barak Obama. You need a good block of time to read and digest these formidable tomes. But the writing is surprisingly accessible and the discussion provocative. The author pulls no punches and tells you where he stands. Soon enough you will discern that Yuval Harari is a secular Jew and a skeptical academic. He is a student of Spinoza, a devotee of Darwin, and an acolyte of Einstein. Harari has little use for the Bible in particular and religion in general.



א א א א א א א א א א א א א א   א א א א א א 




Harari’s provocative thesis about the future is embodied in the title of his second work: Homo Deus. To explain: The first humans on the evolutionary tree were homo habilis, “handy man” if you will, who mastered primitive tool making. They were followed by homo erectus, “upright man”, who not only walked solidly on two feet, but mastered fire. A long time later we finally arrived: homo sapien, “wise man” (or is it “wise guy”), who mastered language and writing and computer science. It is Harari’s belief that we will soon become homo deus, “god-man”; super-human, god-like creatures, part carbon, part silicon; part man, part machine; an indistinguishable blend of human and robot. This revolutionary-evolutionary great leap forward will ironically lead to the extinction of the human race as we now know it. As Harari says in his attention grabbing quote at the top of his website: “History began when humans invented gods, and will end when humans become gods.”

What does Harari mean when he says we will become gods? He explains that “The upgrading of humans into gods may follow any of three paths: biological engineering, cyborg engineering and the engineering of non-organic beings.” The first will involve the intentional rewriting of our genetic code and the altering of our biochemical composition. The second will involve the intentional merging of our organic body with non-organic devices such as bionic hands, artificial eyes, and nano-robots infused into our bloodstream. The third will involve the supplementing and eventual replacement of our neural network, meaning our brain, with artificial intelligence.

The reason we will want to do all this, according to Harari, is that it will be the final fulfillment of humanity’s three deepest desires: immortality, bliss and omnipotence. We want to live forever, we want to be happy forever, and we want to be all powerful. Harari points out that that the march toward this holy trinity is unstoppable. The desire is unquenchable. The progress is inexorable. The technology is inevitable. After all, Harari grandly notes, over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible: turn the uncontrollable forces of nature-namely famine, plague and war, the big three scourges of human history, into manageable challenges. Today more people die from eating too much then from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases, and more people commit suicide than are killed by war or crime.

Harari cheerfully cautions against calling this future world populated by homo deus dystopian. He emphasizes how homo deus will alleviate human suffering, enable us to survive on Earth, and embolden us to populate the planets. But in the process Harari does admit that freedom and equality, humanism, liberalism, rationalism- all the isms we cherish, will collapse and disappear. He further concedes that the rate of change is accelerating so quickly that we have no idea how society will truly function by the end of the century. Homo deus will be more different from homo sapien than we were from homo erectus. In the pursuit of health, happiness and power we will upend every assumption about human life that you can possibly make.

Harari has a sub-chapter heading “Can Someone Please Hit the Brakes?” Then he proceeds to say, um, no we can’t. Firstly, nobody knows where the brakes are. And secondly, our economy and society will crash if we try. It’s that first contention, I would offer, that reveals his not-so-hidden bias, or moral blind-spot; the malady of many a great thinker. Harari is heir to a great religious tradition even if he downplays it to a point just short of denial. Why do I say this about someone of such astute intellect and passion? Not because Harari doesn’t believe in God. He’s entitled, and anyway, Judaism is a big-tent religion that has room for believers and non-believers alike. Not because he is, evidently, a non-practicing Jew. He’s entitled, and anyway, Judaism is a big tent ethnicity that has room for secular Jews, cultural Jews, and Jews who, like Harari, embrace Eastern meditation. And not because Harari agrees with Marx that religion is an opiate for the masses, and the faithful simply deluded followers of now discredited myths.

Harari’s blind-spot is that he chooses to ignore the great ethical revolution of ancient Israel, known as Prophetic Judaism, which changed the course of Western Civilization. The Prophets who gave to the world a moral imperative that is as essential today as it was two millennia ago; who gave us the Golden Rule that we should do unto others as we would others do unto us; who gave us the Great Commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves; who gave us the Ten Commandments that forbid murder and theft; who gave us the charge to love the stranger, the widow, the orphan…those most vulnerable in our society; those without a voice; who gave us the demand “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly”.

We do well to ponder anew that old and famous distinction between Athens and Jerusalem. The Greeks gave us reason and science, the Hebrews gave us compassion and ethics. Leo Strauss opined that “Western man became what he is, and is what he is, through the coming together of biblical faith and Greek thought”. Matthew Arnold wrote that “Hebraism and Hellenism are the two essential philosophies of life between which civilized man must choose.” 

Solomon Freehof clarified that, “The Greek is interested in nature’s law; the Hebrew in nature’s lawgiver. The Greek is interested in peace of heart; the Hebrew in progress of character. The Greek said: Seek harmony and your will find serenity; the Hebrews said: Seek holiness and you will find nobility.”

As we hurtle toward the future we need Athens and we need Jerusalem. We need the Greek sensibility that the unexamined life is not worth living, and we need the Hebraic sensibility that the immoral life is not worth living. We cannot fear the advance of science, and anyway Harari is right that it will speed ahead whether we like it or not. But neither should we abandon the insights of religion that will tap the brakes, and slow us down just enough to temper knowledge with wisdom. It’s a touch ironic that the brave new world depicted by Harari was in a way anticipated by the opening myth of Genesis. Adam and Eve want to eat not just from the Tree of Knowledge but also from the Tree of Life; they want to be omniscient and immortal. That is why God says in Gen.3:22, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and bad, what if he should stretch our his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever!”

But remember that the full name of the second tree is The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. Humankind is unique in its moral discernment. That is why it God can pose the question to Adam and Eve, “What is this you have done?” (Gen. 3:13). And that is why the question is repeated to Cain (Gen.4:10), after he is explicitly warned, “Sin crouches at the door; its urge is toward you, yet you can be its master.” (Gen.4:7)

It makes no sense to judge ourselves if we don’t know right from wrong or to warn ourselves if we can’t control our actions, or to even question ourselves if we can’t take responsibility for those actions. When Cain asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” the answer is yes! “Your brother’s blood cries out to me!” (Gen.4:9-10). If we are going to reprogram our brains the software package better contain an ethical decision making file, or we will not become homo deus, but homo roboticus, mere robotic drones in human look-alike costume.

Read Harari. Take all the time you need; it’s worth it. You will feel challenged and exalted…but by the end of the second work, you will also be depressed. But remember that if we are truly homo sapien/wise the next stage of human evolution will not be homo deus, but homo moralis, moral man. And perhaps our brave new world will be not a nightmare, but a dream. Or as the poet Judy Chicago penned it, “And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.”