Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Haifa - Israel Days 2 and 3

So to catch up from last week, we spent Monday evening through Wednesday afternoon in Haifa, south of Nahariya. Monday evening we tried walkng around near the hotel but nothing was open. Tuesday morning we drove an hour south to Kfar Saba, outside Tel Aviv, because I wanted to tur and see Katznelson High Schiol, which has the outstanding music school. Also because HaZamir Israel practices on Tuesday evenings. I met with Ronit Katz, manager of the music program. She explained the music program in Israel ends at grade 6. Instrumentalists can continue, but there isn't really anything for vocalists. In Kfar Saba, students from the middle schools choose which high school they want to attend based on their interests. Ronit made vocal/choir mandatory for all music students. They also have a partnership with the Conservatory down the road, which students get to perform with several times a year. I sat in a trumpet group lesson where the students were rehearsing Henry Purcells theme in a quartets. I also sat in Ronit's voice class, where students were lecturing their project on a famous singer. I am going to figure out how to use that idea in my weekday job.

In the evening, we sat in for the HaZamir Israel rehearsal. We know Lior and Sima from when I,Ana was in HaZamir Bergen. We love this group because Lior works so hard with them. They were working on a piece for Gala and a piece that Lior arranged from Mamma Mia. It was a ridiculous arrangement in at least 7 parts. I can't wait to hear it in March. This chapter not only learns the regular material for Gala, but also the Chamber Music and their own set of music. They are the premier group. I hope to incorporate some conducting ideas I learned from Lior.

Wednesday we spent the morning the Leo Baeck Education Center. What a fascinating campus and program. I'll write about them in my next blog. If I moved to Israel, I would want to work there.

Until the next blog....
From Israel,

Monday, February 18, 2013

Nahariya, Israel - Day 1

I have been planning this trip for almost a year when we found out the date of our niece's bat mitzvah.  This is my second trip to Israel (David's fourth) and I wanted to see parts of the country that I hadn't see before, which was mostly the entire country. Our first trip we started in Jerusalem and worked out way down to Kibbutz Lotan (in the Arava near Eilat). I made this trip into a fact-finding mission to gather information about Israel's educational system (specifically curriculum), religious diversity (Reform movement), and synagogue life (Reform-based).

We landed Sunday morning in Tel Aviv and took the train to Nahariya, which is in the Upper Galilee near the Lebanon border.   It was started by a group of German immigrants, who settled there. There is also a large group of immigrants from Argentina and Russia.  In the evening we walked around our hotel's neighborhood on the main street to see some shops, cafes, and sites.  Since we didn't have a car, we didn't want to venture off too far.  Dinner was at this cute "diner" called Penguin Café. The schnitzel was wonderful. The street was buzzing with people, music, and it reminded me of Ventnor, NJ.

This morning our Israeli breakfast was awesome. Food that we Americans don't usually eat for breakfast like salad, halava (which I only eat in Israel), and pudding was my breakfast this morning. My first appointment was at K-6 Golda Meir School in Nahariya. The school is about 25 years old and the principal, Noga Gery, has been there for 10 years. The school enrolls about 550 students who pay tuition to attend. It is subsidized by the government. The government also determines what the curriculum will be. Instead of "180 days" of school like in New Jersey, the schools are given how many hours students should learn. For example, students receive 6 hours of Hebrew per week. The principal believes in a values curriculum. She believes that students don't need school to learn knowledge like Hebrew, Science, English because they can get on the Internet and find any information they are looking for. What the students need are teachers to teach them about values, community, and character. The programs and activities she offers the students turn them into mentsches. One program is Student of the Week. There are different categories that teachers can recommend students.  They also teach music and art interdisciplinary besides having separate classes. They have 2 choirs and an orchestra, which are very popular with the students.  We were introduced to 2 special education classes, saw the monthly Talent Show, a play area in memory of a former student who was killed by a Katshura rocket, the bomb shelter, which the students practice monthly, and the computer labs, which are not used because Ms. Gery needs the classrooms for instruction. The 40 computers are not used at this time. They need another room or 2 built or a trailer just for a computer lab. 99% of the students have access to Internet at home.  Anyone know how we can build a physical space for them so the students can use this new technology they bought?  The teachers also stay an extra hour a day to tutor students. The government created a program between high school and the army (like a gap year) for students to volunteer to work with children. We met Avraham, who loves the idea and loves the children. He spoke very highly of the opportunity he was given.

Following our school meeting, we met with a group of women from Congregation Emet V'shalom, the only Reform synagogue in the area.  The congregation holds Friday Shabbat services and holidays in a community center they share. The other programs are held at their physical facility, which is a bomb shelter. Nahariya is considered a dangerous area because they are so close to Lebanon.  They used to have an above ground facility, but had to give it up because they couldn't pay rent. They also had to let their Rabbi go because they couldn't pay his salary.  They receive some money from the Reform movement, but they don't receive much in membership dues. They have about 100 people attend events throughout the year. They do not keep track of membership or units.  The message the group of women wanted us to bring back was to make our congregation aware of their existence and the religious intolerance in Israel. They want equality with the Orthodox shuls. So I will be thinking about this problem and how we can help.

We are now in Haifa, an hour south from Nahariya. Tomorrow...Day 2.

L'shalom from Haifa,

Monday, February 11, 2013

Theology is Not Mathematics

We are pleased to share with you another set of comments from congregant Ludwik Kowalski on our most recent Saturday morning Torah study session, led by Rabbi Schwartz:

Due to Friday night's storm, only four people, plus the Rabbi, participated in Saturday's Torah study meeting. Here is what we read from Exodus 23:24: 
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel ascended; and they saw the God of Israel ...

This statement seems to conflict with our belief that Moses was alone with God, said the Rabbi. It also seems to conflict with God's words, quoted in Exodus 33:20:

for man may not see Me and live.  
Biblical quotations, we concluded, should not be taken literally. 
Demonstrated contradictions between two logical statements, for example, in mathematics, imply that one of them must be rejected. But theology is not mathematics. Statements about our spiritual world do not have to be logically consistent; they are open to new interpretations. "God loves debates," as our Rabbi wrote in his recent book.

Our Torah study sessions take place on Saturdays at 10 AM in our social hall. Newcomers are always welcome!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bagels and Boxing

This Sunday morning, February 10th, at 9:30 AM, Congregation Adas Emuno will feature a special adult education (and confirmation class) event in our social hall:  Bagels and Boxing. The breakfast nosh will not be accompanied by actual bouts of pugilism, we hasten to reassure you, but rather will feature the screening of a documentary entitled Impact: Jewish Boxers in America.

You can read about it on the film's official website, http://www.impactthefilm.com.  

And we are pleased to add that the filmmaker, James Ford Nussbaum, shown below left with boxer Dmitriy Salita, and below right with Rabbi Bekhor, will be present to answer questions and join in the discussion that will follow the screening of his half-hour documentary.

The story of Jewish boxers in America begins early in the 20th century, and includes boxing champions such as Benny Leonard,  Barney Ross, and Maxie Rosenbloom, as well as Ed Gersh, shown on the left, the oldest living Jewish Golden Gloves champion, who is interviewed in the film.

And the story continues to this day. with contemporary Jewish boxers such as Cletis Seldin, shown on the right. 

An article about the film by Matt Robinson can be found on the JNS.org news service website, entitled Film Tries to Make Jewish Boxing a Hit Again.  You can click on the title to read the article in its entirety, which includes an interview with the filmmaker. Here's an excerpt:

“The amazing thing about doing this film was that many people, when told about this project, would react in awe asking, ‘There were Jews who boxed?’” the director tells JNS.org. “It’s a part of our Jewish history that not many people recognize and accept.” 
In fact, Nussbaum suggests, in some circles Jews boxing  is considered to be “almost a taboo topic.” He says that, despite their good upbringings, many Jewish boxers historically fell in with organized crime and other less-kosher activities, as many of their gentile fellow sportsmen did.

“Most Jews got involved with this sport to make a name for themselves,” Nussbaum points out, “and the thing that they all share in common with Irish, black, and Italian boxers and other ethnicities is poverty. They all came up from nothing and used the sport to promote themselves in a way that would excel them to a new socioeconomic level.”
As such, the director/producer poses his piece not as a film about the dark side of a dimming sport, but rather as “an incredible American Dream story of being able to come up from nothing in this country and be able to become a success.”

So join us as we explore this often overlooked aspect of Jewish history in America, and learn how the "people of the book" participated in the sport known as the "sweet science" in the past, and how Jewish fighters are still fighting in the ring to this day!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Time to Give Those Aprons a Rest!

A Message to the Congregation  
from Annette DeMarco
 Social Action Committee Chairperson

Time to Give Those Aprons a Rest

Sincerest thanks to everyone who took part in the Social Action Committee's project at the shelter in Hackensack to feed it's residents and walk ins. There were shoppers and schleppers, chefs and chauffeurs, servers and scouts. There was cooking going on in a multitude of kitchens, reheating, organizing and coordinating happening in the social hall, lots and lots of action in the kitchen at the shelter and many of our families giving up a Sunday so that one hundred plus strangers would not go hungry that day. There must be one, giant sized, to be shared mitzvah in there, somewhere!

Marilyn Katz and Lauren Rowland started it all off as we planned the menu and then became scouts for the group as we observed another organization at work and took notes. Then the planning really took hold through conversations following Shabbat services, in phone calls plus messages left and via emails too numerous to count! The end result was remarkable as people asked, up to and including the day that we served, how they could be involved. This became a family activity for many, such as the Noorily-Katz family, which baked 300 chocolate chip cookies, the Bien family, cooking together, picking up and delivering donated cakes and bringing Alex to the temple to assist with prep work, and various "marrieds" who worked together in an assortment of ways, including cooking and serving, while in the case of Fanny and Michael Fishbein, cooking and bringing me to Restaurant Depot, an experience everyone should have at least once; well, maybe. Anyway, one could kvell but there was no time to do so!

The real test came on the day of serving. According to Ronnie, the supervisor at the shelter, we passed! The better way of knowing this, however, came from those whom we served. There were sincere thank you's from just about everyone as well as compliments about the food. One woman told us that she could not eat the pasta for dietary reasons so was given extra meatballs and was very grateful. As some of us walked around offering extra fruit, one shy, young man sheepishly took an apple with a look on his face which made it seem as though he were being offered great riches. Virginia Gitter, being the coffee expert she has become through our onegs, served cups of joe to anyone who wanted, with special requests taken, sort of.... Virginia, Starbucks is looking for you!

Here is the list of Adas Emuno's heroes of the day. If anyone is left out, please, someone let me know. Okay, here we go:

Rabbi Barry and Debby Schwartz, who bravely worked close to but never touched meat, Richard and Cheryl Alicchio, Bien Family, Robin Barth, who drove in from NY with a special delivery of food, Fanny and Michael Fishbein, Fischer-Rowland Family, Virginia Gitter, Noorily-Katz Family and friend Caroline, Claudia Portnoy, supreme cake cutter, Norman and Joan Rosen, Claudine Colmenar, who had a friend waiting in the wings incase she was needed, Phyllis Schwartz, Kate and Noah Scooler, Carol and Jerry Bodian, Doris White, Jody Pugach Priblo and Lisa Klein. Richard Alicchio reached out to Palisades Park Bakery which donated two frosted sheet cakes. Artie Cohen, my brother, asked his boss, Stuart Kaminsky, owner of Agri Exotic Trading, if we could buy some fruit from him at a discounted price. Mr. Kaminsky would not hear of it and instead donated two cartons of fruit, one being totally blemish free bananas and the other apples, the size of, well, huge apples.

Due to the kindness of so many people, there is a reward coming your way. Are you ready? Wait for it.... here it comes.... We are having a do over!!!! Date will be announced but we promise, it won't be for quite a while.

Okay, Everyone, now you can kvell!!!!

L' Shalom,
Annette DeMarco
Chairperson, Social Action Committee

And let's kvell as well about our Social Action Chair, Annette DeMarco, for the sensational effort she put into this project, and her amazing organizational acumen! We are very proud and grateful for your leadership, Annette, and send you our most heartfelt todah rabah!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Rambam and NOMA

Ludwik Kowalski has previously provided some of his responses to our Saturday morning Torah study sessions, led by Rabbi Schwartz, where the recent focus has been on the Mishneh Torah of Rambam, aka Maimonides, and his attempt to integrate the scientific knowledge of his time and Jewish theology derived from Torah and Talmud. You can read Ludwik's earlier comments in the posts, Thoughts on Torah Study and Scientific Vs. Theological Justifications. Here now is his latest commentary:  



The following advice is from page 47 of our prayer book:

"Pray as if everything depended upon God, act as if everything depended on you." 

I think that this is consistent with the idea of NOMA, formulated by the biologist Stephen Gould. We exist in the material world; God exists in the spiritual world. The context in which the idea of NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria) was formulated is summarized in my article about futile conflicts between theists and atheists:  Futile Confrontations Between Theists and Atheists.

Responses to Ludwik's thoughts are welcome, and we will be happy to post relevant comments on our Torah study and other matters here on our congregational blog.