Friday, July 14, 2017

Kurt Roberg's 80th Bar Mitzvah Anniversary

On Friday evening, May 12th, Kurt Roberg, our eldest member, celebrated the 80th anniversary of his bar mitzvah, which took place in Nazi Germany. Kurt was called up for the aliyah, there was a Torah readying from Kurt's portion, and Kurt delivered a special bar mitzvah speech to mark the occasion.

Kurt has been kind enough to share his address with us, for publication in our newsletter, Kadima, and here on our congregational blog. And we are pleased now to share his address with you:

80th Bar Mitzvah Anniversary Address

Kurt Roberg

I am so happy to welcome you all this evening, this certainly is a much bigger turnout than at my original Bar Mitzvah 80 years ago, when in our small congregation in Germany we struggled to assemble 10 men for a minyan.

It is funny how some events in our lives are permanently etched into our memory, and for me that Shabbat in May 1937 certainly is one of them.

I had prepared for my Torah portion for a year under the weekly tutoring of our Hebrew teacher and cantor, and as a result my Torah reading did turn out very well. Then our cantor addressed me, reminding me of my obligations as a Jewish adult; and there were cautions about the difficult times that could lie ahead for German Jews. As a token of my coming of age, I was presented with the traditional Bar Mitzvah gift: a copy of the Holy Scriptures.

After the service had concluded, our family went back to our apartment for a dinner celebration that my mother and Aunt Babette had prepared in advance. My aunt had come from Mother’s birth village near Heidelberg, and my god-parents, Aunt Hedwig and Uncle Robert, had arrived the day before from Paderborn. During those couple of days, we all lived at improvised close quarters in our apartment, because during those Nazi times Jews were no longer allowed in hotels. My brother Harry could not be at my Bar Mitzvah; he had already emigrated a year earlier to my mother’s brother in Holland, and my Uncle Wilhelm refused to travel to Nazi Germany.

Before dinner, everybody gathered in the living room, where another important part of the day's events took place: the presentation of my Bar Mitzvah gifts. Mother had carefully arranged every gift on a table⏤in those days gifts were not wrapped⏤everything was displayed in one overwhelming vision of bliss. There was a fountain pen with a fourteen carat gold tip from Aunt Babette, a Sterling silver pencil from Aunt Hedwig, and a pocketknife from the Salomon family. Uncle Wilhelm had sent twenty Dutch Guilders from Holland and Cousin Helma five Pounds from Palestine. There were some books and sweets and "practical" things like shirts and socks. I was overwhelmed with all those wonderful gifts, but especially the secretly hoped for fountain pen.

As some of you may know, Congregation Adas Emuno was founded in the year 1871 in Hoboken by German/Jewish immigrants. We still have some of the old congregational records, all hand-written in a German script, discontinued long ago. All congregational meetings were held in German and the religious services were performed in German and Hebrew, as were their weekly Religious School classes.

A custom we did not have in Germany, or in Hoboken in those days, but that has become a very laudable tradition in America, is a Bar Mitzvah project. So as my belated Bar Mitzvah project now, I have recently started to study some of those old congregational records. I have deciphered, translated and transcribed the first annual report of its president to the Board of directors, dated October 20, 1872, and an 1873 Report of the School Committee.

Since Tradition and Remembrance are an integral part of Jewish custom and survival, I think it may be of interest to some members of our congregation, as well as our next generation of Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s, to know something about the origin and background of our German/Jewish ancestor congregation. To celebrate my 80th Bar Mitzvah anniversary, in a reversal of procedures, I want to present to you a wonderfully informative book for our library, an illustrated History of the Jews in Germany since Roman times, including the origins of the Reform movement in early 19th century Germany.

In closing, let me thank our Congregation and the Ritual Committee for sponsoring the Oneg Shabbat, Rabbi Schwartz for his caring support and Cantor Horowitz for reading my Parshe today; hopefully I can do that on my 90th anniversary.

Thank you all for sharing this day with me,

Shabbat shalom!

Leonia, May 12, 2017 16 Iyar, 5577

To which we can only add, thank you Kurt, and mazel tov!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Fear and Mostly Hope on the Fourth of July

Here is the latest op-ed, appearing in the June 30th issue of the Jewish Standard, written by Adas Emuno president Lance Strate, and entitled Fear and Mostly Hope on the Fourth of July:

It was the summer of 1974, I had just graduated high school and was looking forward to starting my first year of college in the fall, and I had been accepted into a special summer program called Torah Corps, sponsored by what was then known as the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now the Union for Reform Judaism. It was an intensive learning experience for a small group of students, all of whom had just completed 10th, 11th, or 12th grade. Most of us were from the United States, but the group also included several students from Canada.

The program was held at a lodge in Littleton, New Hampshire, and I well recall how we all gathered around the lone television set available to us on the night of August 8 to watch President Richard Nixon deliver a speech to the nation. We knew that he was in trouble over the Watergate scandal, but it still came as a tremendous shock when he uttered the words, “I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.” We vocalized our sense of dismay at this unprecedented development collectively, through gasps and cries and the like. At least those of us who were Americans did so, in response to what we perceived to be a somber and tragic event. But in a somewhat irreverent manner, one of the Canadians started to say, “Yitgadal v’yitkadash…”

Reciting the first few words of our Mourner’s Kaddish did succeed in breaking some of the tension of the situation and injecting a note of humor. But many of us were not amused. There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, and this was a time to shed a tear, not for Nixon himself but for the way in which he had tarnished the institution of the presidency and tried to undermine the democratic process.

And yet, somehow, we survived Watergate and moved forward as a nation. Just as we had survived the assassination of John F. Kennedy 11 years earlier. Apart from the loss of idealism and proliferation of conspiracy theories, some commentators started to point to historical parallels between the United States, characterized at that time by the intensifying social and political unrest of the 1960s, and the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. This especially was the case after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 at the hands of a Palestinian immigrant, Sirhan Sirhan, just two months after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a white supremacist, James Earl Ray.

The decades that followed certainly were not free from scandal. Ronald Reagan gave us Iran-Contra and Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about the Monica Lewinsky affair, narrowly avoiding a conviction and removal from office. But neither event seemed to threaten the viability of the American republic as a whole, and in between we witnessed the sudden collapse of the Communist bloc, first in Eastern Europe and culminating with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The end of European Communism came about so quickly that it seemed almost unbelievable. We celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall and the coming of freedom and democracy to Russia, and presumably to the other former Soviet republics (prematurely in some cases). Some wondered what would happen to the United States without its one-time adversary serving as a foil and contrast. And some even wondered if the sudden collapse of the Soviet Union might be followed by an equally sudden collapse of the West at a later date.

But for the most part, we emitted a collective sigh of relief at what some philosophers referred to as the end of history, that is, the triumph of liberal democracy.

But we also live with a historical consciousness that has been rare in human history. As the late Elizabeth Eisenstein explained, the ready availability of books, pamphlets, and periodicals, made possible by the printing revolution that began in the 15th century, eventually resulted in widespread awareness of the chronology of calendar time. (Calendars also were produced by printing.) Especially starting in the 19th century, more and more people came to recognize and understand their place in world history. As limited as the historical knowledge of the average American may be, everyone learns about the years 1492 and 1776. And we study history in grade school, and learn about our Civil War, and other events such as the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, the scandals associated with the Ulysses S. Grant administration, and the Teapot Dome scandal during Warren G. Harding’s presidency.

At a time when we are witnessing an unprecedented number of scandals and improprieties associated with the White House, and the election of Donald J. Trump has been described by some as an extinction level event for American democracy, history may offer some solace by reminding us that our republic has weathered many storms in the past. And on this Fourth of July, at a time when many of us fear for the future of our country, I think it only fitting to recall the fact that we have survived the legal, moral, and ethical failings of more than a few of our elected officials, and that we have done so while expanding civil liberties, human rights, and the rule of law.

Taking the long view of American history gives us cause to be optimistic. At the same time, taking the much longer view of Jewish history can provide a somewhat different perspective, as we have seen the great nations and empires of the past come and go over the millennia. We, the Jewish people, have seen the rise and fall of great powers, and from that deep historical consciousness we know that nothing in the temporal realm lasts forever, not even the American republic that we love so much. And so, we cannot so easily dismiss the possibility that the end is nigh. Or the understanding that we just don’t know when the end might come, or if it might come as suddenly as it did for the Communist bloc and the USSR.

Once, long ago, I attended a lecture given by a major scholar and intellectual, and during the question and answer session, he was asked if he was optimistic or pessimistic about the future. His answer stuck with me, because it expresses my own sense of ambivalence. He said that on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays he was an optimist, and on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays he was a pessimist. Or was it the other way around?

Either way, for this Fourth of July, I think it only fitting to be an optimist, and to underscore the resilience of our republic. We have seen dark times in the past, and survived, and if we the people are willing and able, and with the help of divine providence, our great Enlightenment experiment will continue for generations to come.

May it be so.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

YAHRZEIT⏤The Mitzvah of Memory

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

From the desk of …                    
 Rabbi Barry Schwartz

YAHRZEIT⏤The Mitzvah of Memory

For some time I have wanted to write a column about an unlikely topic⏤Yahrzeit.

This Yiddish term refers to the anniversary of a death of a loved one.

Traditionally, yahrzeit is observed according to the Hebrew calendar. But many, if not most, Reform Jews find it easier to remember the civil date and prefer that designation. So our data-base has been adjusted accordingly, and each issue of our bulletin lists these dates, and the Shabbat service which follows them.

Customarily, the observance of yahrzeit has two components: one that is designed to be private, and the other that is intended to be public. The former is the lighting of a memorial candle at home; the latter is the reciting of the memorial prayer (kaddish) at the synagogue.

Traditionally, yahrzeit is also marked by visiting the grave of our loved one.

Another venerable custom is to give tzedakah, to make a charitable contribution in memory of our relative. For some of our members this takes the form of sponsoring the reception (oneg) after the service.

Each week I dutifully and reverently read the yahrzeit names at our service. It makes me sad when I read these names and no relative is present to hear them or join in the kaddish. In the same way that visitations to cemeteries have declined markedly over the years, so too has yahrzeit observance at the synagogue. I cannot say whether this extends to the lighting of a candle at home… but I suspect it does.

I know that we can summon the memory of our dearly departed at any time, but Judaism is all about designating certain times as sacred and special. Like the Sabbath and holidays, we are asked to pause from our frenetic routines and remember. The mitzvah of memory is a powerful one in our tradition⏤a key to our survival. Although we live in an anti-ritualistic age, we have come to learn that rituals survive because they bind us together and help us remember.

We do not desire for our loved ones to be forgotten. Perhaps it is time to recommit to our observance of yahrzeit, not only for the sake of our departed, but for our sake as well.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Buildings and Grounds

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

A Message From Our President

Dr. Lance Strate

Buildings and Grounds

As a religious tradition, Judaism emphasizes the importance of spiritual communion and transcendence. Unlike many other religions, however, for the most part we do not advocate complete separation from the material world. Jewish teachings generally do not focus on the nature of the divine or the hereafter, or on trying to know the unknowable, but rather ask us to direct our attention to the world we inhabit and the question of how we should live in our lives, on the practical concerns of education, ethics and social justice.

In other words, we are asked and tasked to remain well grounded, even as we acknowledge the presence of something greater than ourselves, and aspire to the heights of religious experience. We enter the sacred space of our sanctuary, and observe the sacred time of the high holy days, festivals, holidays, and Shabbat, only to return to the profane space and time of our everyday lives. As others have pointed out, the Fourth Commandment not only directs us to "remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy," but goes on to instruct us that "six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Adonai your God." We are commanded both to observe the Sabbath and also to fulfill our earthly responsibilities and get our work done.

With this in mind, I would like to point out that our labor, as a congregation, includes the maintenance and repair of our buildings and grounds. This includes our sanctuary and social hall, our religious school building, the rabbi's residence next to our religious school, the garden area alongside and behind the religious school, and our front lawn, driveways, and sidewalks. We are fortunate indeed that our congregation owns these properties outright, with no mortgage or liens against them, and to have our Buildings and Grounds Committee ably chaired by Michael Fishbein for many years.

The tasks that fall under the heading of buildings and grounds are familiar and numerous, and as profane as they come, whether it's taking out the garbage, cleaning bathrooms, changing light bulbs, shoveling snow, mowing the grass, fixing and maintaining heating and air conditioning, painting, replacing worn carpeting, fixing and replacing school equipment, and so on, and so on, and so on. I think we all pretty much know what it's like, after all.

It's not the sort of stuff we associate with a house of worship, and it's not the sort of stuff we like to think about anyway, but it's an important part of our earthly responsibilities, it's work that has to get done if we want to have a sanctuary, social hall, and school. And I think we all know that the costs associated with this sort of maintenance have only gone up over the years.

At our April Board of Trustees meeting, we took a long hard look at our revenues and expenses, and our membership dues, religious school tuition, and b'nai mitzvah fees. And we also looked at the building maintenance fee we ask all of our members to contribute to. And the funny thing is, no one could remember when it was last adjusted. Was it a decade ago? More? No one knew, but in the end, it didn't really matter. A long time ago the fee was set at $200, and it might as well have been a galaxy far, far away, given how much has changed since then.

I want to be honest with you. No one on the board wants to raise any of our dues or fees, we agonize over the issue, and over our fiduciary responsibility to our temple. The truth is that we are running at a deficit, and we need to increase our revenue to reduce the degree to which we are in the red. For this reason, the board voted to raise the building maintenance fee to $350, while agreeing not to raise membership dues, religious school tuition, and b'nai mitzvah fees. As this is the first time this fee has been raised in many, many years, we hope that you will understand and support this decision.

Our buildings and grounds are not our congregation. Our congregation consists of you and me, of us, together. But our buildings and grounds make most of what we do as a congregation possible. They are our common inheritance as a congregation, and our common responsibility, and it is incumbent on us to take proper care of our properties, so that we can pass them on to future generations.

I end this message with a further plea for donations above and beyond our dues and fees, because membership, tuition, and the like do not cover all our expenses. If you can afford to give something extra, please consider supporting our little shul on the hill, so that we can continue to be the little shul that could.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Religious School Wrap-Up

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

Religious School News 


Cantor Sandy Horowitz

Religious School Director

There is a tradition called “counting the omer” which involves blessing and counting each of the 49 days between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot. On Passover our ancestors were freed from slavery, on Shavuot they received the Ten Commandments.

As another religious school year comes to a close, we will have counted 31 school days since we began last September. 31 days of parents making sure your children made it to Adas Emuno on a Sunday morning; 31 days of coming together as a learning community; 31 days of endeavoring to inspire the hearts and minds of our next Jewish generation.

A special thank you goes out to the religious school parents for all the ways you have volunteered this year–as “parent in charge”, helping with holiday celebrations, class pot-luck dinners and more. Gratitude abounds especially to the school committee for their constant leadership and support.

We are grateful to each of our teachers for their commitment and creativity. Ably assisted by the madrichim, we owe thanks to them as well for helping out in the classroom and acting as role models for the younger students. A special shout-out goes to seniors Steven Chartoff, Julian Pecht and Ollie Racciatti who are heading off to college in the fall. We will miss you!

Lastly, we acknowledge the rebirth of our teen Youth Group this past spring; appreciation goes out to Rabbi Schwartz for leading this effort, and to the group leaders Sabina Albirt and Samantha Rosenbloom for making it happen each month.

We want to keep this good thing going, and growing: Please spread the word about our wonderful Religious School! If you know of families with children from preschool age through seventh grade who might be interested in a dynamic Jewish education, please reach out to them and encourage them to contact us at adasschool at


Saturday May 6
7:30 PM School Committee Meeting

Friday, January 20
10:00 AM Bat Mitzvah of Lily Futeran

Friday May 19
7:30 PM Shabbat Family Service
Confirmation Ceremony

Saturday June 24
10:00 AM Bar Mitzvah of Jack Schuller

Confirmation Class Schedule:
Sunday May 7
Sunday May 14
Thursday May 18 (rehearsal)

Sunday, April 30, 2017

On Being Weary and Wary of ‘Awareness’

As this is a very personal statement, I think it best to post my latest op-ed written for the Jewish Standard myself. It was published in their April 28th issue, the title of the piece is On Being Weary and Wary of ‘Awareness’ and it addresses an issue that particularly hits home here in Bergen County, and throughout Northern New Jersey, as we are ground zero for autism:

April is Autism Awareness Month. As we are close to the end of the month, chances are that you’ve already seen or heard that statement.

So let me ask you: Are you more aware of autism now than you were at the beginning of the month? And what do we mean by this vague thing we call “awareness” anyway?

I looked online and found a “Cause/Awareness Monthly Calendar,” which confirmed my suspicions that almost every month of the year has multiple causes assigned to it. April has six listings, including Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If there’s a cause out there that does not emphasize the goal of awareness, I have yet to come across it.

And yet I don’t see much in the way of assessment of this goal. How is awareness measured? Who measures it? How are the results distributed? I believe that awareness actually refers to attention, which is the basic currency of our electronically mediated environment. The primary question is: Is the cause in question getting enough attention from the news media, the entertainment media, and our social media? And secondarily, are the audiences and participants paying enough attention to these messages?

My daughter turned 21 this winter. When she was 2½ years old, she was diagnosed with autism. Looking back some 18 years ago, I know that what we call autism awareness was not very widespread, not even here in northern New Jersey, where there are the largest numbers and the greatest concentration of children with autism in the United States.

Back then, most estimates ranged from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 500 children with autism nationwide. Increased awareness coincided with increased incidence, and now the estimates range between 1 in 45 and 1 in 68. And given the higher numbers in our region, this means that chances are you know someone with autism, or someone with a family member who has autism.

As the numbers grew, autism advocates began to call it an epidemic. Specifically, they referred to the epidemic of childhood autism. And it was an epidemic that affected families from all walks of life, from every income bracket and socioeconomic status, as well as every race, ethnicity, and religion.

A major turning point in autism awareness came when a grandson of Bob Wright was diagnosed with autism. Wright was the CEO of NBC at the time, and he and his wife, the late Suzanne Wright, founded Autism Speaks in 2005. Through his influence, autism suddenly received much more attention in the news and entertainment media than it ever had before.

It is worth asking ourselves why social problems only receive attention when the rich, the famous, and the powerful are touched by them, when the problem is experienced by someone close to a media professional or politician. Of course we are grateful when someone with a public platform finally speaks out. But why do awareness and attention have to depend on a contemporary variation on noblesse oblige?

And again, what is “awareness” all about? It is certainly a far cry from understanding.

I recently spoke with a friend and colleague whose son, about 10 years older than my daughter, also has autism. And we talked about the fact that our children will never really grow up, be able to live independently, have their own place, hold a normal job, marry, or raise children. About how much they depend on us and continue to depend on us. And about how uncertain their future is as we grow older, grow less and less able to care for them, and eventually will become unable to provide them with a home and necessary supervision.

We talked about what will happen to them when we’re gone.

It is so very hard for us to watch the parents of typical children celebrate the usual rites of passage and talk with mixed feelings about becoming empty nesters, knowing that fate has something else in store for us. Our special needs children require so much more of their parents than typical children as they’re growing up, and their special needs do not magically disappear when they become adults. The pressure never lets up, and it never goes away.

Awareness? Feh! Let’s face it, if you don’t live it, you just don’t understand, just can’t understand, not really. Not fully. So forgive me if I find all this talk about awareness to be awfully shallow, promoting the illusion that something real is happening merely by calling attention to causes on our news, entertainment, and social media.

I remember when Ronald Reagan was elected president, budgets were cut, policies were changed, and all of a sudden we saw schizophrenic individuals who previously had been institutionalized winding up on the streets, homeless and helpless, unable to take care of themselves. It was a shonda, a national disgrace.

Now think this through with me. For the past two decades, we’ve been made aware that there is an epidemic of childhood autism, with numbers steadily increasing. And be aware that there is no cure for autism. So now, be aware that we are facing an epidemic of adults with autism. And let me ask you, are you aware of what is being done to deal with this ticking social time bomb?


Local school districts are required to provide people with autism with an appropriate education until they age out after their 21st birthdays. After that, services are limited, if any exist at all. And for all but the most severe and violent individuals, we parents will try our best to take care of our children for as long as we are physically and psychically able.

How much longer do you think that will be?

We could have begun to prepare for the problem when Barack Obama was elected president. He had the right outlook. But the economy had just crashed under George W. Bush, Obama understandably was preoccupied with recovery from recession and with affordable healthcare, and he was faced with an obstructionist Congress for most of his tenure. Now that we have a Republican president, House and Senate, our government is back to cutting social services, so I doubt we can expect any proactive measures in the near future.

No, in all probability nothing will happen until the time when the parents of adults with autism no longer are able to provide them with a home, and the streets again are flooded with homeless people helpless to take care of themselves. When that happens, in the not too distant future, awareness will become more than a matter of news reports, feel-good films and TV programs, and social media memes. Awareness will become a face-to- face reality, an embarrassment, a source of guilt for the more enlightened, a source of fear for others. And only then will the public demand action, and public officials respond in kind. That’s what happened with the schizophrenics on the streets back in the 1980s.

So what does awareness mean to you? I guess it means that you’re aware that it’s Autism Awareness Month. I guess that amounts to awareness of awareness. And maybe, maybe, if you’re really made aware, that can lead to being informed. Maybe.My guess is that how well informed you are about autism depends on how close you are to an actual person with autism. And even then, after all, being informed is a far cry from actual action.

So please forgive me for being weary and wary of awareness. But please be aware of what’s coming down the pike, and when it happens, be aware that you were warned about it. And be aware that it was a failure of understanding, compassion, and foresight, and above all political will, that caused the problem.

That is the kind of awareness that we need to get across right now, in this month of April.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Disgrace of the Western Wall

Following up on our previous posts, Our Letter to Netanyahu and A Response to Our Letter to Netanyahu,we are pleased to share with you an op-ed written by Adas Emuno Trustee Norman Rosen that was published in the April 21st issue of the Jewish Standard. Entitled, The Disgrace of the Western Wall, the piece can also be found online on their Standard's Times of Israel website (just click on the title), as well as here on our congregational blog:

Imagine a place that is the holiest spot on earth for the Jewish people.

Now imagine a place where peaceful worshippers are pushed and shoved, stones are thrown at them, and they are insulted, spit upon, and cursed.

Sadly, the Western Wall of the Second Temple in Jerusalem—in Hebrew, the Kotel—fits both these descriptions. For literally decades, fruitless efforts have been made by women and the Reform and Conservative movements to remedy this situation, but to no avail. Even the decision of the Israeli government on January 31, 2016, which endorsed a compromise agreement that would have permitted women and Reform and Conservative Jews to pray at Robinson’s Arch, a somewhat removed section of the Western Wall, has been frustrated.

The Minister of Religious Affairs refuses to issue the needed regulation, and the Israeli government has done nothing to enforce its decision.

During a recent trip we took to Israel to see our daughter and her family, who live in Modi’in, my son-in-law described to my wife and me how he was pushed, shoved, and abused by ultra-Orthodox men when he tried to pray at the Wall with a group of other Reform and Conservative Jews. Fortunately, he was not hurt. Next time he may not be so fortunate.

His experience brought back memories of what happened to me in 1996, when I was harassed at the Wall as I quietly tried to do a drawing of it on a Shabbat afternoon. As an American Reform Jew, accustomed to freedom of religion, I was deeply offended when I was forced to obey someone else’s interpretation of Judaism, especially in a holy place that should be welcoming to all Jews, whatever their beliefs.

In December of last year, Congregation Adas Emuno in Leonia, of which I am a member, wrote to Prime Minister Netanyahu to express our concern about the situation at the Kotel. The letter very respectfully pointed out that the Kotel was built more than 1,000 years ago, is sacred to all Jews, and as our common heritage does not and cannot belong to any one sect or subgroup within the Jewish people; that it was recovered in the Six Day War in 1967 through the bravery and the blood and sacrifice of soldiers who represented all branches of and approaches to Judaism; that the Israeli government, as steward of the site, has an obligation to insure undisturbed access to all who wish to worship there in peace, and that the government’s failure to do so will damage Israel’s reputation for religious freedom and respect for the rule of law and will undermine the support of the diaspora community.

In January, Congregation Adas Emuno received a reply from the Prime Minister’s Bureau. It said that “The Western Wall is indeed the beating heart of the Jewish people…,” that Prime Minister Netanyahu “… is still committed to finding a solution to prayer arrangements at the site,” but that “…recent steps taken by all parties have made reaching a solution more difficult than it already was.” There was no explanation as to what those “recent steps” were. My Israeli relatives inform me that they know of no such recent steps, and people I have contacted within the leadership of the Reform movement also do not know of any.

A recent survey by the American Jewish Committee and the Jerusalem Post determined that 70 percent of American Jews are in favor of an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel. It is high time that the Jewish people’s holiest spot on earth becomes a welcoming place for all Jews, irrespective of their gender or denominational affiliation, and that the Israeli government implements the Robinson Arch agreement and protects all peaceful worshippers from interference with their God-given right to worship as they see fit.

Only then will this holiest of sites cease to be a place of discord and division and again become a place of unity and peace for the entire House of Israel.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Happy Passover!

On behalf of Congregation Adas Emuno, we wish everyone a very sweet and joyful Pesach!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Response to Our Letter to Netanyahu

As we explained in detail in our previous post, Our Letter to Netanyahu, the Board of Trustees sent a letter to Israel's Prime Minister expressing our concern over the situation regarding egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall.

We did finally receive a response, which we would like to share with you here on our congregational blog:

Our goal was to make a statement, register our protest, and add to the pressure for an equitable solution, and while this response is pretty much pro forma, it does acknowledge the fact that we have added our voices to those of so many others in the Reform and Conservative movement. We hope, and pray, for a just resolution to this issue.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Bonds of Faith

Congregation Adas Emuno has certainly been in the news quite a lot recently, and while much of it has involved the controversial resolution to declare Leonia a sanctuary city, Bergen County's monthly 201 Magazine ran a feature about our shul's history in their March issue. Here's how it looked:

And let's take a closer look at those photos:

The color photo is of last year's spiel, and this came out just in time for Purim, which we just celebrated on Saturday evening and Sunday morning! 

We are most certainly the little shul that could!

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Lukewarm Resolution

In a series of posts, we have been sharing the story of the Sanctuary City Resolution proposed by the interfaith clergy of Leonia, and spearheaded by our own Rabbi Schwartz. Here they are in chronological order:

In the end, the weaker proposal to declare Leonia a "welcoming community" was approved by the borough council, as reported in the March 6th issue of the North Jersey Record, in article by Michael W. Curley, Jr., entitled, Leonia Adopts 'Welcoming Communities' Resolution. Here now is how it begins:

The council adopted a resolution Monday night declaring the borough a "welcoming community," pledging to encourage police not to question a resident's immigrant status except if they are charged in a criminal offense.

The move comes after executive orders from President Donald Trump that target undocumented immigrants and seek to punish sanctuary cities by withholding federal funding. Last month, the borough first discussed the possibility of declaring sanctuary city status, spurred by a letter from a resident, and two weeks earlier agreed to vote on a "welcoming community" resolution, drafted by Mayor Judah Zeigler.

Some in the audience at the March 6 meeting urged the Borough Council to include "sanctuary city" in its language, with Rabbi Barry Schwartz of Congregation Adas Emuno in Leonia suggesting the council use the term as a symbolic, if not legal, gesture. The resolution adopted did not use the term.

We are, of course, quite proud of our rabbi's moral and spiritual leadership on this issue. Even though the interfaith resolution he proposed was not approved, an important statement was made. 

The article continues:

Others, such as Marine veteran Richard Lundquist, urged council members not to declare the status, saying it would go against their oaths to uphold the Constitution and would violate federal law.

Zeigler said that while he believed the president's executive order would not stand up in court, he was not willing to gamble Leonia's tax dollars in a legal battle. He added that although the borough does not receive a lot of federal funding at the moment, it may need it in the future.

"We don't want to put ourselves in that kind of harm's way, but we should stand up and say that we cherish our diverse community, and we're committed to making sure that all who live here are welcome, feel safe and know that this is their home," he said.

Council President Maureen Davis said she had done research on the issue and Leonia's own practices, as head of the police committee, in preparation for the vote. She said it is current practice by the department not to ask immigration status except in the case of an indictable offense, citing then-Attorney General Anne Milgram's directive 2007-3, which advised police departments to ask only in that circumstance.

She said she wanted to put residents' minds at rest that the practice will not change unless the law changes. She added that Chief Thomas Rowe has advised that the borough not participate in the president's directive to have Immigration and Customs Enforcement deputize local law enforcement, even if grants are offered as incentive.

Before voting on the resolution, Councilman William Ziegler presented three amendments. The first was to include a paragraph saying that undocumented status is not a crime, and to substitute the term "undocumented" where the draft used "illegal"; the second, a paragraph endorsing the Leonia Police Department's current policy of not asking for immigration status except in the case of a criminal indictment; the third, a paragraph affirming that the borough is duty-bound to cooperate in criminal investigations and to share relevant information with local, state, county and federal authorities to keep the borough safe.

"I think that a symbolic reinforcement of the welcoming resolution and the amendments that I'm going to offer — did offer — are important, because they reinforce a value statement we need to make," he said. "I think they define and further clarify our conduct as a municipality consistent with our borough's values and our obligations."

Mayor Zeigler said he agreed in principle with the second suggested amendment, but recommended a change in language, as the police do not have a written policy but are following the attorney general's directive advising the practice. Councilman Ziegler accepted this modification.

The mayor objected to the first amendment, however, as undocumented status is a violation of federal law. Ziegler said he felt it was important to distinguish that undocumented status is not an indictable crime that would, by itself, warrant asking about undocumented status. After some discussion, Borough Attorney Brian Chewcaskie offered the distinction that while undocumented status is a violation of federal law, being of undocumented status is not a crime punishable with imprisonment, which Ziegler accepted.

Councilman Pasquale Fusco said he agreed with the mayor's suggestions, adding that the policy of the Leonia Police Department is one of support and the department should be commended for its behavior.

The resolution passed unanimously, with Councilman Greg Makroulakis absent from the meeting.

Of course, we all know that our congregation has always been a welcoming community, and one that is not afraid to take a stand when it comes to social justice! 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Politics and Religion

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

A Message From Our President

Dr. Lance Strate

Politics and Religion

It used to be said that you should never talk about religion or politics, at least not in polite society, or mixed company. And maybe many still consider it rude to do so. Of course, these are topics that were never entirely taboo, but rather reserved for private conversation among intimate associates, confederates, that is to say, like-minded individuals.

Of course, within the confines of our houses of worship, congregants have no compunctions about engaging in conversation on the topic of religion. As Rabbi Schwartz has so eloquently explained, discussion and debate for the sake of heaven is central to the Jewish tradition. And anyone familiar with Jewish culture would find it hard to imagine us refraining from voicing opinions on matters of mutual concern.

But the rule regarding politics is another matter entirely. Members of our shul who share the same religious heritage may differ significantly in their political views, and the clergy and temple leadership generally try to respect those differences. We do not want the temporal issues that may divide us to overshadow the essential, ancient, spiritual relationships that bind us together with one another.

At the same time, as a religion, we are asked to adhere to a set of moral and ethical standards, and to speak out when they are violated. Leviticus (19:16) famously admonishes us, "do not stand idly by while your neighbor's blood is shed." And our tradition also includes the Kabbalistic notion of tikkun olam, the repair or healing of the world, as our central obligation. This is a precept that has become central for the Reform movement that we are a part of (a movement that is sometimes also referred to as Liberal or Progressive Judaism).

And we well recall the words of Hillel, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?" We recognize that Hillel's three sayings represent a call to stand up for ourselves and our principles, to seek justice and compassion for others, and as a call to action.

Last year, one of our Trustees, Norman Rosen, voiced his concern over the way that the Israeli government has handled egalitarian worship at the Kotel, the Western Wall, which represents the holiest site in Judaism. This is a longstanding controversy, and the Reform movement has been especially supportive of and involved in the Women of the Wall movement. The Knesset approved a compromise regarding the site, which has been under Orthodox control, but the Israeli government has failed to enforce the compromise.

Norm was deeply disturbed by what he had witnessed firsthand at the Wall, and asked the Board of Trustees to send a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Following in-depth discussion by the board members and clergy, the proposal was approved, a letter was drafted, signed by the vast majority of the board, and delivered to the Prime Minister's office. [Editor's note: See out previous post,
Our Letter to Netanyahu.] No reply has been forthcoming so far, long delays are commonplace, but the Jewish Standard will be publishing an article based on Norm's experiences that led to this effort.

Equal rights for women is, of course, a political issue, as is Israel's governmental policy regarding administration of the Temple mount. But the subject of our letter is also a religious issue, and the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist branches of Judaism have long been fighting for official recognition by the Israeli government, for example in regard to marriage, conversion, etc., and egalitarian worship at the Wall is another issue that directly concerns our standing and legitimacy in the Jewish state. In this instance, we are standing up for ourselves as much as for others. If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

At our February board meeting, Rabbi Schwartz brought to the board a resolution crafted by Leonia's interfaith clergy in response to Donald Trump's January 27th executive order that barred people from 7 Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, and stopped all refugee admissions. In addition to criticizing the ban, the resolution asks the Borough of Leonia's Council to designate Leonia as a sanctuary city. Just as his colleagues were doing with their own church leaders, our rabbi asked the board if we would sign onto the resolution on behalf of our congregation.

An in-depth discussion of the legal and moral considerations ensued, followed by a vote in which the rabbi's request was approved by a supermajority of over ¾ of the board members present. This was a rare instance in which the board was asked to take a stand on a political issue, and most felt that the actions of the government were so extreme as to merit making a statement, even if it is only symbolic. If I am only for myself, who am I?

One of the questions that came up in our discussions was whether getting involved in any kind of political issue would endanger our 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. Here is the explanation that board member Michael Fishbein provided: "The activity that could jeopardize tax exemption is essentially taking sides against or in favor of a particular candidate during an election. Commenting on social issues or issues of human freedom is not barred. So, for example we could advocate in favor of gay marriage, just as another religious organization can advocate against gay marriage. However, we cannot endorse a particular candidate because he or she is pro gay marriage."

Personally, I usually favor having our congregation avoid political controversies, whether it has to do with Israel or the US. What makes any given topic an issue is the fact that there are pros and cons, reasons for and against. Not everything is an issue for that reason. No one is really pro-illness for example, or pro-poverty. But there are reasons why some favor apply Orthodox strictures to the Kotel, and a strict ban on immigration to the US.

But there are times when it is difficult to stand idly by, and I believe that these two instances are exceptions to the rule about not speaking out when it comes to politics and the polite company of our congregation. They are two instances in which the board felt it important to stand up for ourselves, to stand up for others, and to take action and make a statement. If not now, when?

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Gold Standard Resolution

In our previous posts, we shared the Leonia Interfaith Sanctuary City Resolution that our own Rabbi Schwartz helped to compose and that our Board of Trustees voted to endorse, along with the North Jersey Record's report on its introduction at a meeting of the Leonia town council, which we characterized as A Lukewarm Welcoming.

The resolution, and the reasoning behind it, rooted in our religious tradition, was discussed in depth by Rabbi Schwartz in his newsletter column, also posted here, “For You Were Strangers in the Land of Egypt”.

And we are pleased to share with you the fact that the story was also picked up by the USA Today Network, and covered in their local publication, Gold Coast Life, on March 3rd. Here is how it looked:

Regardless of the outcome, we are proud of our rabbi for taking a stand and upholding our long tradition of social justice and ethical conduct. Without a doubt, he has met the gold standard when it comes to spiritual leadership!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Join Us on Saturday for Our Purim Service and Spiel

Come celebrate Purim at Adas Emuno with singing, reading from the Megillah, and a world premier performance of this year's original Purim Spiel, "The Festival of Lots," written by Lance Strate.

A cast of characters features Ahashverosh as the king who gets no respect, Vashti as the queen who would rather be a star, Haman as the villain we love to boo, Mordecai as our favorite good guy, and Dr. Esther as the shrink who cures the kingdom's ills. With special guest star Judah Maccabee, and introducing Purim Person, the spirit of the holiday.

With song parodies of Time Warp, Mack the Knife, Beat It, Achy Breaky Heart, Suffragette City, I Gotta Be Me, Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen, Hello by Adele, 1999 by Prince and many other crowd favorites, this spiel will entertain revelers young and old alike.

There'll be pizza at 5:30, and our Purim service will begin at 6:30, with singing and a reading from the Megillah, immediately followed by the spiel. Hammantaschen and other refreshments will be served following the spiel. Open to the community!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Spring into Social Action

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


A Report from Annette DeMarco
Social Action Committee Chairperson


Hello to All!

Team A.E. 101 and Team Hunger 0!  That was the final score for our "Souper Bowl ll".  Thank you so very much to everyone who donated soup items.  This is definitely the time of year to eat soup and 101 cans, cartons, etc. of this comfort food went a long way to warm up and fill up some hungry folks. 

Happening now: our Adas Emuno community, giant-sized Shaloch Manot Basket Food Collection!  The basket area, in the vestry, will be adorned with fun, bright, Purim decorations, so it can't be missed!  Any food collected through March will be donated to the Jewish Federation's March Food Drive (if it is held this year) or to the Center for Food Action in Englewood.  Coming for the Purim Spiel?  That would be a great time to bring a food item for each person in your party… just a thought!

Ever wonder what to do with your extra, kosher for Passover, non perishable foods left after the holiday ends?  Well, here's the solution!  Bring them to the vestry room in the temple by the end of April and they will be given to Helping Hands, located in Teaneck. 

New Event for our Congregation: Family Promise, the organization in Bergen County that shelters and supports homeless, working families with children, will be holding their annual "Hike or Bike" event on Sunday, May 5th, in Ridgewood.  Three of us from the temple took part in this program last year. It was great fun for a great cause and the people in charge could not have been more helpful, caring or grateful. So, we decided to try it as a temple event for this year. The "hike" goes for 3 miles (think "walk through the neighborhood"!) and the "bike" is 15 miles, with at least part of it along a bike path.  There is also a "hike or trike" for little ones under age 5, plus food, music, games, etc. for all. Please save the date, and look for details to come, including how to register, fees (this money is used for the many programs/assistance offered by Family Promise) and times of the events.  It's a wonderful way to spend a day with family, friends and fellow congregants.

  Our next Social Action Committee meeting will be on Wednesday, March 15 at 7:30 PM in the Social Hall. All are welcome to join us to bring ideas for future programs and input on our current projects. A happy and healthy new year to all! 

Annette – acheryl21 at

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Religious School News: Purim & Passover

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

Religious School News 


Cantor Sandy Horowitz

Religious School Director

There is a fun song we teach at this time of year, called “Mishenichnas Adar”⏤it celebrates the Hebrew month of Adar, the month of Purim. The words of the song mean, “When Adar arrives, our joy increases!”

To quote another song, “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles: “Little darlin’, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter.” Indeed, it has. So Purim comes just in time to lift our spirits, as the Religious School gets ready to celebrate this holiday in style on March 12th. There wll be costumes and songs, a skit and⏤thanks to the efforts of some of our parents⏤the Purim Carnival is back! We hope to see you as well on Saturday evening, March 11th, to watch adults acting silly in this year’s Purim shpiel, “The Festival of Lots”! We look forward to having some of your children take part that evening, by lending their singing voices.

Next month our joy increases further with the celebration of Passover. For our annual school Passover program, each grade contributes a song or presentation regarding one aspect of the Passover holiday. We could use more help providing food and setting up, so if you are available please sign up!

In other news, our monthly Youth Group program for post b’nei-mitzvah students is off to a great start. Thank you to Rabbi Schwartz, Jody Priblo, Sabina Albirt and Samantha Rosenbloom for their capable leadership! It’s never too late to join the fun, teens can sign up anytime.

Family Services featuring Grades 2-3 and K-1 are coming up this month and next. Check out the dates below, and mark your calendars⏤it means so much to have students supporting each other at these services. Let’s share the joy!


Thursday, January 12
7:30 PM School Committee Meeting

Friday, January 20
7:30 PM Shabbat Family Service led by the Fourth Grade

Saturday March 11
10:00 AM Bar Mitzvah of Joshua Gereb

Saturday March 11
5:30 PM Pizza + 6:30 PM Purim Service & Shpiel

Sunday March 12
School Purim Celebration; Carnival begins 11:30

Friday March 24
7:30 PM Shabbat Family ServiceGrade 2-3 students

Saturday March 25
10:00 AM Bat Mitzvah of Haley Aleksic

Sunday April 9
School Passover Program

Tuesday April 11
Adas Emuno Community Passover Seder

Sunday April 15
No Religious School⏤Spring Break

Friday April 28
7:30 PM Shabbat Family Service⏤Grade K-1 students

Confirmation Class and Youth Group meetings: March 26 & April 23