Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Join Us for a Screening and Discussion on Aaron Swartz



A nice Jewish boy.

An internet pioneer.

A genius.

An activist.

An outlaw.






Join us on Saturday April 11th at 7:30 PM for a film screening and discussion on the life and death of Aaron Swartz, and the ethical, legal, and personal issues that his story raises.

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, is an American biographical documentary that premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, depicts the life of the American computer programmer, writer, political organizer, and Internet activist.

A discussion will be led by Dr. Lance Strate, professor of Communications and Media Studies at Fordham University. Open to the public. Free admission. Light refreshments served.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Let Our People Go!

After a very frozen winter season, it seems only fitting to celebrate the springtime festival of Passover with a couple of parodies from the hit song from Disney's Frozen, "Let Me Go" (sung by Idina Menzel). This first features Moses in confrontation with Paraoh:





And here is a charming version featuring young children, and a song about God's summons to Moses:




And now for a lighter touch, here's one set at the Seder, with some humor in place of leavening:




And now a solo version with some nice beach scenary:




And a young chorale version:




And one that depicts Passover as a spring cleaning for the soul:




And another with a domestic touch:




This one incorporates scenes from the animated Prince of Egypt film:




And for a zissen Pesach, a sweet version featuring a beautiful bunch of children:




And here's one with some nice imagery:




And how about one more, this one with a bit of Yiddish included in the chorus:




And there's still more, but that should suffice for now! 

Next year in Jerusalem!

Chag Sameach! Happy Passover!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Second Night Funk!

Whether you'll be joining us for our congregational Seder tonight, hosting your own, heading over to family or friends, or just chilling, let's get in the mood with some Pesach funk from Six13, Uptown Passover:







Chag Sameach! Happy Passover!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Happy Passover!

From Congregation Adas Emuno to you and yours, and to all the world:  Best wishes on this, the Season of our Freedom! A sweet and happy Passover all around the world!





Just a reminder that there will be no Shabbat services at our shul tonight. That almost never happens, but once in a decade or so, the first Seder falls on a Friday night. And there will be no Torah study tomorrow morning because we will be taking part, along with other Reform congregations in our part of Bergen County, in the community festival morning service at Temple Beth El of Northern Valley, at 10:30 AM. And for those of you who reserved a place at our Congregational Seder right here in Leonia, tomorrow evening at 6 PM down in our social hall, we look forward to seeing you there!

And as we prepare for our first Seder tonight, here's something to help us get into the spirit, a new video by The Maccabeats:





Chag Sameach! Happy Passover!




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock

The March 6th issue of the Jewish Standard included another op-ed by Adas Emuno president Lance Strate, in conjunction with the recent passing of actor Leonard Nimoy, best known for his portrayal of Mr. Spock on the Star Trek television series and motion pictures. Appearing under the title of Live Long and Prosper, with "Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock" as the subtitle, the piece goes like this:


The death of Leonard Nimoy on Friday, February 27, at 83, marked the passing of an American icon—indeed, a star of global renown, and a Jewish hero as well.




Nimoy’s accomplishments were many. He was an author, poet, musician, photographer, philanthropist, educator, and director, and of course an actor who played many roles on stage and screen. But he is best known for his role as Mr. Spock on Star Trek, the television series that first aired in 1966. It is a role he reprised in the various sequels, spinoffs, and remakes that appeared after the original series went off the air in 1969.

Nimoy was a Boston native, fluent in Yiddish, whose parents were Orthodox Jews who escaped from the Soviet Union. As he related in various interviews, his background informed his portrayal of the sole alien being on the Starship Enterprise. Spock hailed from the planet Vulcan but was also half-human, making him an alien on Vulcan as well. His status reflects that of immigrants and their children, first-generation Americans who, like Nimoy, grow up in a household, community, and culture that still has one foot in the old world.

As a child attending Orthodox services, Nimoy observed the Cohenim delivering the priestly benediction, and as an adult he appropriated their hand gesture when he introduced the Vulcan salute. The greeting that he added to the salute, “live long and prosper,” echoes the sentiment of the benediction, as well as the simple greeting “shalom” (further echoed in the ritual response, “peace and long life”). There is certainly cause for pride in this small Jewish contribution to global popular culture, but does this mean that Star Trek incorporates Jewish undertones, as Haaretz writer Nathan Abrams insisted in an article published the day after Nimoy’s death? Certainly, Jewish fans can take pleasure in the fact that Nimoy and co-star William Shatner are Jewish. So were several of the series’ writers, and we can assume that they all brought some elements of a Jewish sensibility to the program.





But let’s be clear that Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry, who was not Jewish, and who included characters from a variety of different backgrounds—Scottish, Irish, French, Italian, Russian, Japanese, and African—but never one who was identifiably Jewish. Indeed, the only characters with any real Jewish identity in the Star Trek universe appeared in a few of the many original novels published under license from Paramount Pictures. No doubt this is not because of any bias or prejudice on Roddenberry’s part, but rather because he associated Jewishness with religion, rather than nationality. His vision of the future was one in which science and progress reigned supreme, and any seemingly supernatural phenomena would inevitably be revealed to be a product of a highly advanced science, or biological evolution.

The conspicuous absence of any Jewish characters from Roddenberry’s melting-pot future can lead viewers to search for them in disguised, symbolic form, to look for what Sigmund Freud referred to as the return of the repressed. And the obvious form for a crypto-Judaic character to take would be that of an alien being. Indeed, while Shatner had the kind of looks that allowed him to pass as a WASP from Iowa, Nimoy’s features gave him what was considered at the time to be a relatively interchangeable “ethnic” appearance, so that earlier in his career he played Spanish, Mexican, and Native American characters. And certainly there are Jewish elements incorporated into Nimoy’s man from Vulcan, and into other aspects of Star Trek. Consider the episode called “Patterns of Force,” in which an alien planet patterns itself after Earth’s Nazi Germany, and is trying to wipe out their neighboring planet, called Zeon (an obvious reference to Zion).

But I want to suggest that Abrams and others are wrong about Spock being implicitly Jewish. It perhaps is revealing that Abrams mistakenly refers to the character as “Dr.” Spock, a mistake not uncommon among those not very familiar with the series. Nimoy’s character usually is referred to as “Mr.” Spock, in keeping with naval tradition about first officers, and occasionally by his rank, which was at various times commander, captain, and ambassador. Dr. Spock was, of course, Benjamin Spock, the famous pediatrician whose bestselling book, Baby and Child Care, served as a bible to the parents in the postwar era. Like Roddenbery, Dr. Spock was not Jewish. The name Spock is Dutch, originally spelled Spaak.




Spock’s home planet, Vulcan is named for the Roman god of fires and forges, and Vulcans are revealed to be related to another alien race, the warlike Romulans, named for the founder of Rome. Vulcan philosophy, which venerates logic above all else, represents a view that is very much in keeping with Athens rather than Jerusalem. Vulcans revere Surak as the founder of their philosophy. Surak has little in common with Moses but quite a bit with Socrates, with some Gandhi thrown in for good measure. So while Spock’s home planet is depicted as having the kind of hot, dessert-like climate that we associate with the Middle East, the stronger connection is to the European side of the Mediterranean.

Abrams associates Vulcan intellectualism with the people of the book, but the aliens do not seek a balance between faith and reason, in the fashion of Maimonides, but rather enforce a strict discipline, suppressing all emotion, in a way that is very much in keeping with another branch of ancient Greek philosophy, Zeno’s Stoicism. Moreover, suppression of emotions often is linked to dehumanization, as a means of forcing individuals to adapt to mechanization and industrialism, yielding a technological being well suited to being a cog in a machine, rather than a mensch, a real, well rounded human being. We may therefore identify with Spock’s struggles, and admire his superior physical and mental abilities, but it is his human side that is the most Jewish part of him.

Following a long tradition in western culture, Roddenberry used orientalism to convey a sense of the alien, and this includes Jewish as well as Arabic, Persian, and Chinese elements. With his raised eyebrows, Spock bears a certain similarity to Ming the Merciless, the alien villain from the old Flash Gordon serials. But it was not until long after Roddenberry’s death in 1991 that a Jewish film director, J. J. Abrams, who was recruited to reboot the series, invokes the destruction of the Temple and subsequent diaspora by having the planet Vulcan destroyed by Romulans. In that 2009 film, called simply Star Trek, time travel is used to generate an alternate timeline, and Leonard Nimoy makes a cameo appearance as the original, now-elderly Spock, while Zachary Quinto takes on the main role as the new Spock. (Quinto is of Italian ancestry, and Italians and Jews often have been cast interchangeably in film and television.) Nimoy’s final film appearance was in the 2013 sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness, also directed by Abrams.

 

As a science fiction fan, I can appreciate Star Trek in all of its iterations, and I can enjoy it as a form of American entertainment and popular culture without exaggerating its Jewish undertones. And as a Jewish-American, I can feel pride and affection toward Leonard Nimoy, as a landsman, as the producer and star of the TV movie about a Holocaust survivor, Never Forget, as the author of the photography book Shekhinawith its erotic Kabbalistic theme, and as the originator of the Vulcan salute and the saying “Live long and prosper.”


Friday, March 13, 2015

Upgrade Your Seder

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





From the desk of …                    
 Rabbi Barry Schwartz
    






Upgrade Your Seder





Your Seder is hopefully a warm and welcome family get­together. But is it in need of an upgrade?

The following are some of my personal suggestions. I am always trying to add something new to keep the ceremony both timeless and timely.*


1. Add new music­: How about a medley of American spirituals and freedom songs, like Go Down Moses, If I Had a Hammer, Oh Freedom, We Shall Overcome?

2. Add new readings:­ Old and new, like excerpts from Exodus, Thoreau, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

3. Add new languages: Try asking the Four Questions in multiple tongues based on the knowledge of your participants.

4. Add new drama­: Ask the thespians among you to act out the Exodus, or try scenes from the story “charades” style.

5. Add new food­: Sephardic haroset, for example, is really delicious, and there are many variations.

6. Add a quiz­: Make those kids work for their afikomen treat by taking a holiday quiz.

7. Add social media­: There’s some funny stuff on the web, so use those phones and tablets to enhance the holiday rather than detract.

8. Add new ritual: Fill Elijah’s cup by having everyone pouring a little from their own and offering their own personal prayer for peace.

9. Add new discussion: How do we imagine that we were slaves and set free, as the Haggadah commands? Where in the world do we need more freedom? What can we do about it as individuals, as a community, and as a nation?

10. Add new guests: “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” Who might you invite to your Seder this year in need of companionship? Or, to strengthen a friendship?

* I’m preparing a PDF of my own supplement; contact me if you would like it. And this year you can sample some of these ideas first hand as we revive the Congregational Seder (Saturday evening April 4 at 6:00 PM, details forthcoming)...

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Religious School News

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

Cantor Sandy Horowitz
Religious School Director


RELIGIOUS SCHOOL NEWS

The Talent Show was a great success, and a lot of fun! A special thank­ you to everyone who worked so hard in the planning, including our class parents, as well as to those who participated ­ especially those of our students who shared their talents. We’d love to get even greater student participation next year! Lastly, thank you for your support of this event; the primary fundraiser for our school was also a financial success.

By the time you are reading this, our March 1 congregational­and­-school­-wide Purim program will have come and gone. This year we made every effort to include the religious school in the festivities. As I write this, we are planning to have students take part by singing not only traditional Purim songs, but they will also round out the chorus for a couple of the songs in the actual Purim Shpiel. Once that’s over–it will be time to start planning for Passover!

Our final two Family Shabbat services of the year will take place on March 20 (Grade 2­3) and April 24 (Grades K­-1). Won’t you put those dates on your calendar? Our youngest students would be so excited to see their older classmates and other congregants coming out to support them!


Here are some important Religious-­School-related dates to note for March and April: 


Sunday March 1
Purim Program! (during School hours)

Sunday March 15
Tot Mitzvah

Friday March 20
Shabbat Family Service
featuring the Grade 2-­3 students 
Sunday March 29
Creative Seder Program

Sunday April 5
No School–Spring Break

Sunday April 19
Tot Mitzvah

Friday April 24
Shabbat Family Service
featuring Grades K­-1
and a Celebration of Yom Ha’Atzamaut

(Israeli Independence Day)

Confirmation Class Dates:
Sunday March 8 and 22, April 12 and 26