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)