Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Winter Purim Spiel

Back in August, we posted A Summer Puim Spiel, featuring the video recording of the first performance of this year's Purim spiel, from March 1st. Here now is The Schnook of Esther (A Purim Spiel) Adas Emuno March 4, 2015, a recording of our second performance on Purim eve.  Just the thing to provide a little warmth (and merriment) on a cold winter's day).

Once again, this particular Purim Spiel, The Schnook of Esther, is an original work, and any other congregations or Jewish groups out there who are interested in using it for their next Purim celebration, you can contact us via email: <adasemuno at>.

And once again, this is just raw footage, not a professional video production, with one of the songs missing (the other video, posted on A Summer Puim Spiel, is complete). And yes, the players are not ready for prime time, by any means, but I think you'll agree that we know how to have fun here in our little shul on the hill in Leonia, Bergen County, New Jersey.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Musings on Jewish Identity at Christmastime

This past Friday, December 18, the Jewish Standard published another op-ed by Adas Emuno president Lance Strate. Entitled, Musings on Jewish Identity at Christmastime, it is altogether timely, so we are pleased to share it with you here and now:

Adam Sandler performed an update of his “Chanukah Song” last month at the New York Comedy Festival, with a second performance in San Diego available on YouTube. The new rendition is the fourth version of the song he debuted in 1994 on Saturday Night Live, a song that is as much about Jewish identity as it is about the holiday.
Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” is not without its critics, however. In an editorial published in the New Jersey Jewish News last month, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Andrew Silow-Carroll of Teaneck, expresses much ambivalence about Sandler’s listing of Jewish celebrities. He worries that while it reflects a sense that it is cool to be Jewish, that coolness is a shallow expression of ethnic pride, lacking the depth of religious commitment.

In my view, Silow-Carroll sells Sandler short.

But first let me note that I agree with the general argument that Jewish identity ought to be based on something more than ethnic pride. If Jewish identity is reduced to ethnicity alone, it eventually will be lost within the great American melting pot. Think of how many Americans today claim to have a Native American great grandparent. But the key to understanding “The Chanukah Song” is not in the list of Jewish celebrities, even though that constitutes the main part of the song.

Steve Allen once observed that the comedian is usually a person with a grievance, and Sandler explained the grievance behind “The Chanukah Song” when he first introduced it on December 3, 1994. “When I was a kid, this time of year always made me feel a little left out, because in school there were so many Christmas songs, and all us Jewish kids had was the song, ‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,’” he said then. And while Sandler goes on to say that he “wrote a brand new Chanukah song for you Jewish kids to sing,” in actuality the song actually has very little to do with the holiday.

Sandler does begin with a reference to religious tradition, as the first line of the song tells us to “put on your yarmulke,” and goes on to identify the holiday as the festival of lights. But for the most part, the connection to Chanukah is tangential, a list of famous people who are more or less Jewish, motivated by the mostly unstated implication that they also celebrate Chanukah instead of Christmas. In other words, the song is not about Chanukah itself, but rather about not celebrating Christmas, about feeling like “the only kid in town without a Christmas tree.” About feeling left out.

Certainly, the song’s appeal to ethnic pride is an effort to compensate for that sense of alienation, and there is something very Jewish about taking note when a prominent person is a member of the tribe. Indeed, doing so constitutes a link to our tribal roots, an expression of a group-centered communal sensibility, one that stands in marked contrast to the extreme individualism of American society. Moreover, it can serve not only as an expression of shared pride, but also of collective shame. For example, in the new version of the song Sandler expresses his disapproval of former Subway spokesperson and convicted sex offender Jared Fogle, and his disappointment that Fogle is Jewish.

To understand the peculiarity of American-Jewish life over the past century or more, it is helpful to consider how the equivalent of “The Chanukah Song” would work for other groups. A song pointing out the identity of African-Americans or Asian-Americans, for example, would seem pointless; it simply would state what is obvious to all. The same would be true, to a large extent, for a song about Italian-Americans naming Pacino, DeNiro, Stallone, DiCaprio, etc.; or for Hispanics naming Lopez, Garcia, Longoria, Montalban, etc. And yes, we have our Levines, Shapiros, and Cohens, but then there are also names like Gyllenhaal, Johansson, and LaBeouf, all named in Sandler’s recent update.

That Jewish identity is often not immediately apparent goes hand-in-hand with the fact that for most of the time, Jewish-Americans are privileged to feel and function as if we are part of mainstream American society. Even when we take off for Jewish holidays, fast on Yom Kippur, and avoid chametz on Passover, we may be diverging from the mainstream, but we do so by taking an alternate path, a detour, rather than running counter to its current. It is only at Christmastime that we find ourselves at odds with the vast majority of Americans and can feel like strangers in our native land.

And let’s be honest, generic phrases like “holiday season” and “season’s greetings” are essentially euphemisms for Christmas. The attempt to acknowledge that there is more than one holiday at this time of year essentially translates to “Christmas and others,” or more accurately “Christmases and others,” by which I mean not only the Orthodox Church’s Christmas that falls during the first week of January, but more importantly the distinction between the religious observance of the Christian holy day and what has become, for many, a secularized American holiday.

It is pointless to deny the power of secularized Christmas, whose elements include Christmas trees, magic snowmen and reindeer, elves, and of course Santa Claus as a figure akin to the tooth fairy. And Sandler doesn’t mention the fact that in an effort to avoid feeling left out, some Jews actually do celebrate some form of secularized Christmas.

While I don’t believe that Santa Claus ever can be fully separated from his origins as the Christian Saint Nicholas, or that Christmas ever can be the kind of pluralistic national holiday that Thanksgiving is, my point is not to criticize attempts to create a kosher Christmas. Rather, what I want to emphasize is that if it is possible for us to celebrate some form of secularized Christmas, then the decision not to celebrate Christmas becomes a conscious choice that we have to make, an act of resistance to the dominant culture, an affirmation of our group identity as a people, and most importantly, an affirmation of our faith.

The decision not to celebrate Christmas is much more than a matter of ethnic pride. It must be based on religion, and this is the underlying assumption of Sandler’s “Chanukah Song,” and the point that Silow-Carroll misses. We are defined by what we are not, as well as by what we are. Admittedly, it is not enough to define ourselves against others. We also have to define ourselves positively, by our beliefs and practices. But we should understand the hidden ground of faith behind Sandler’s humor.

We should also understand the grievance behind the song, stemming from a sense of isolation that may be felt only or much more acutely at this time of year. Sandler’s song counters isolation through the creation of a sense of connection, achieved by naming others who are “just like you and me.” What he gives us is an imaginary community of people who are known to us, but who do not know us in return. In doing so, he points the way to the real solution, which is to seek out a real sense of community, something we can only find through our Jewish congregations, synagogues, and community centers.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Don't Let the Light Go Out!

For this last day of Hanukkah, how about an inspiring local Hanukkah story?

We hope you've had a very happy Hanukkah, and remember to keep the flame going all year around!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Eight Candles Tonight!

As we look forward to the last night of Hanukkah, here are two of our favorite songs of the season:

Once again, our outdoor menorah lighting will take place at 7 PM, followed this evening by our monthly Poetry Garden meeting in the Social Hall. With that in mind, how about some Hanukkah poetry?

Here's one from 2013 that's quite exceptional, entitled The Black Miracle: A Hanukkah/Thanksgiving Poetry Slam:

And one from 70 years earlier, entitled Chanukah, 1943 - poem by Brenda Levy Tate:

And here's the write-up on this video:

Hélène Berr lived in Paris and actively resisted the Nazi invasion of her homeland. She attended the Sorbonne, played violin, fell in love and tried to make the best of her family's dire situation. Rather than trying to downplay her Jewish identity, she opted to wear her yellow star as a badge of pride in her heritage. Sadly, she was sent to Auschwitz in 1944 and died in the Bergen-Belsen camp only five days before the liberation. Her diary was retained by her fiance and passed on to her niece, who finally chose to publish it. In 2008, the newly-released journal touched and moved readers, causing Hélène Berr to be called "the French Anne Frank". I hope I have done justice to her memory. While this poem is not specifically about Ms. Berr, it was written in her honour to commemorate the experiences of many families in similar circumstances during that dark time.

On a lighter note for this Festival of Lights: Marcia Lawson recites her poem "Hanukkah Is No Jewish Christmas":

Happy Hanukkah, hope to see you this evening!


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Time to Spin Your Drey-Drey

Join us this evening for our annual Hanukkah party, following the 7 PM outdoor candle lighting. To get into the mood, here's a new video from Six13 called "Watch Me":

And how about this one, entitled "Nes Gadol,"  from the New York Boys Choir?

So, come spin your drey-drey at Adas Emuno tonight!

And join us tomorrow evening for our final menorah lighting at 7 PM, followed by our monthly Poetry Garden meeting in the Social Hall!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Eight Days of Love

Eight days of love, a perfect sentiment to get us in the mood for tonight's Hanukkah Shabbat, with services following the outdoor candle lighting at 7 PM.

This video, "8 Days (of Hanukkah)" by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, certainly bring out the soulfulness of our Festival of Lights. And join us tomorrow evening, after candle lighting, for our annual Hanukkah part in the Adas Emuno Social Hall.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Festival of Northern Lights

This marvelous video, Hanukkah in Alaska, with well known actress Molly Ephraim reading from the children's book by Barbara Brown, illustrated by Stacey Schuett, is an absolute delight! Wonderful for children, but a pleasure for everyone, of all ages, we promise you will never look at Hanukkah, or Alaska, the same way again!

Hanukkah in Leonia may not be quite as exotic, or exciting, but we do hope you are having a happy holiday nevertheless, and don't forget about our nightly five-minute outdoor menorah lighting, tonight and every night of Hanukkah, at 7 PM sharp! No moose sightings so far, but you never know...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Hanukkah Direction

And now for another kind of parody, here's the Manhattan Jewish Experience doing a mash-up entitled, A One Direction Hanukkah:

So, once again, Happy Hanukkah from Congregation Adas Emuno, and join us for our nightly outdoor candle lighting at 7 PM!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hello Hanukkah!

As we continue to say Hello! to Hanukkah, here's a parody of the hit Adele song, entitled Shalom (warning, this really does make fun of the original, while also continuing the latke theme of yesterday's post):

And here are the lyrics by Ari Blau:

Shalom, it’s me
I was wondering for Chanukah, would like to meet
To go over everything
The miracle of Chanukah and Judah Macabee
Shalom, can you hear me?
I’m in Synagogue dreaming about when you’d play with me
Light the menorah and eat
I remember you and I would made delicious latke treats
When you see Christmas amongst us
It is Chanukah time
Shalom from the other side
I must’ve spun a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry for beating you at this game
But I promise to go easy when we play dreidel again
Shalom from the Kosher aisle
We used to shop, we used to smile
We’d get onions, eggs and potatoes with starch
Matzo meal, veggie oil, and applesauce on the top
We need more…we need more applesauce
Shalom, how are you?
It’s the festival of lights, we need to celebrate together
The Jews, beat King Antiochus
And they shooed the Greeks right out of town like nothing ever happened.
And the biggest miracle
Oil lasted 8 nights
Shalom from the other side (other side)
I must’ve spun a thousand times (thousand times)
To tell you I’m sorry for beating you at this game
But I promise to go easy when we play dreidel again
Shalom from the Kosher aisle (Kosher aisle)
Now we shop, And now we smile (now we smile)
We get onions, eggs and potatoes with starch
Matzo meal, veggie oil, and applesauce on the top
We need more
We need more, ooooohhh
We need more, ooooohhh
We need more applesauce, ooooohhh
We need more, I love this applesauce
We need more, We need moreeeee
Shalom from the other side
I must’ve spun a thousand times
To tell you I’m sorry for beating you at this game
But I promise to go easy when we play dreidel again
Shalom from the Kosher aisle
Now we shop, And now we smile
We get onions, eggs and potatoes with starch
Matzo meal, veggie oil, and apple sauce on the top
We need more…
Mmmm, latkes and applesauce
Happy Chanukah, everyone…

And we echo that sentiment, Shalom you all on this happy season of Hanukkah, and Shalom to all, all over the world! And don't forget our outdoor candle lighting at 7:00 PM!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Festival of Latkes!

What would Hanukkah be without its special culinary delights? By which, we mean... LATKES!!! And sure, there are all kinds of different recipes out there for making them, but how about this musical Latke Recipe

This new song by The Maccabeats sure is a great way to enhance our appetite for celebrating Hanukkah! And a reminder once again, that our outdoor menorah lighting will be held at 7:00 PM sharp tonight, and you are invited to join us for five minutes of blessings, songs, and stories.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Happy Hanukkah!

Our Hanukkah holiday begins tonight at sundown. If you're in the neighborhood, come join us as we light our outdoor menorah promptly at 7:00 PM, tonight and for the seven nights that follow. we spend five minutes saying the blessing the blessings, and maybe a song or two, and a story. Join us... but don't be late.

And to get in the mood, here's a music video by Jewish a cappella group Shir Soul, entitled Lift Yourself Up

And with that, we wish you a very happy first night of Hanukkah!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Our Garden of Zen

Here are some photos from the latest addition to our Adas Emuno Garden, a Zen Garden! Here are Michael Cohen and Rabbi Schwartz working on the garden, pictures courtesy of Michael Fishbein:

And here is the finished garden, pictures courtesy of Rabbi Schwartz:



The perfect setting for a moment of Zen, prayer, and meditation, or simply a bit of quiet relaxation!


Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Jewish Trinity

Another op-ed by Adas Emuno president Lance Strate was published in the Jewish Standard on October 30th, inspired by and referencing the High Holy Day services at Adas Emuno. The title of the piece is, The Jewish Trinity, and here it is:

This past Rosh Hashanah, as I was sitting in the sanctuary at Congregation Adas Emuno, listening to the Torah portion known as the Akedah or, the binding of Isaac, my thoughts turned to the Avot prayer, and the phrase God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob.

It occurred to me that the patriarchs constitute a trinity, but we never call them that. We shy away from that word, trinity, no doubt because it is so strongly associated with Christian Trinitarianism, which posits one God taking the form of three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Christians do not have a monopoly on divine trinities, however. The Hindu religion also includes a doctrine of three-in-one, in which the divine Godhead is composed of Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. And then there is the Triple Goddess, a New Age notion based on ancient polytheistic beliefs, in which the three manifestations of the Goddess are referred to as the Virgin or Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone or Wise Woman, corresponding to three main stages of life.

Apart from religion, we encounter countless other trinities in many different realms, from Sigmund Freud’s id, ego, and superego to the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth; from Alexander Dumas’ Three Musketeers to the three little pigs of fairytale fame; from Julius Caesar’s veni, vidi, vici, to the French Revolution’s liberté, egalité, fraternité; from Abraham Lincoln’s government of the people, by the people, for the people, to Kellogg’s Rice Krispies’ Snap! Crackle! Pop! Lists of three are psychologically satisfying, conveying a sense of completion. They are especially quotable and easy to remember: blood, sweat, and tears; sex, lies, and videotape; and stop, look and listen.

The Jewish trinity, especially as expressed as God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, is certainly memorable in being a list of three, and even more so through the poetic technique of rhythmic repetition. Also, from an anthropological perspective, our trinity uses the motif of family to represent relationships between peoples, so that the Children of Israel share a degree of kinship with the other descendants of Abraham via Ishmael, and the other descendants of Isaac via Esau.

Of course, there is another trinity, of Noah, who, like Abraham, hears God’s voice and follows his commands, along with Shem, one of the three sons of Noah and the ancestor of the Semitic peoples, and Arpachshad, the father of the founders of the city of Ur and the ancestor of Abraham. But we don’t invoke that list of three in our prayers.

From a theological perspective, the parallel structure of God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob is interpreted to mean that each of the patriarchs had to form his own individual relationship with God. So, from a purely subjective standpoint, the God of Abraham is not the same God as the God of Isaac, and both are distinct again from the God of Jacob (referring to each person’s own personal conception or perception of the Divine).

So what are the differences? Abraham, who hears God’s voice commanding him to leave home and go forth to a foreign land, is a model of obedience. That is never more true than when he demonstrates his willingness to follow God’s command and sacrifice his son Isaac. A religion that follows Abraham alone would be one of submission. Submission alone, obedience to a higher authority, may include license to kill, without question, in God’s name. That is why a religion of Abraham is incomplete.

Isaac also submits to God’s will, but does so by playing the part of the martyr. The religion of Isaac therefore is one of sacrifice as well as submission. Certainly, Abraham also demonstrates a willingness to sacrifice by offering up his own son, but there is a world of difference between being the one who wields the knife and the one who is the sacrificial lamb.

Sacrifice alone threatens to privilege death over life, and rituals of sacrifice suggest that the appetite for such forms of submission may never be satiated or appeased. That is why a religion of Isaac also is incomplete.

Jacob does not reject submission and sacrifice, but adds the all-important element of struggle. His religion is one that is not only about a voice that commands, but also about a vision that inspires, of a stairway to heaven that suggests the possibility of reaching for a higher state of being. His story is one of laboring for love—he worked for 14 years to earn the right to marry Rachel. And as the patriarch who wrestles with God, he is renamed Israel, becoming the eponymous ancestor of the Israelites, the Jewish people.

Jacob adds the vital third element of struggle, not blind obedience, but questioning, grappling, reasoning, a raising of awareness, of consciousness, and that is what makes the religion of Jacob complete.

The Jewish trinity is an altogether human one, consisting of three different and distinct individuals, not in any way consubstantial, not a three-in-one, but rather three patriarchs who simply are related to one another by direct line of descent. And yet they point to what might be considered a divine trinity in Judaism, what might be thought of as three faces or aspects of God, but more appropriately as three relationships to God: submission to God in the religion of Abraham, sacrifice for God in the religion of Isaac, and struggle with God in the religion of Jacob.

Perhaps, then, there is a message of caution against the varieties of religious experience that include submission and/or sacrifice alone? Without the third person of Jacob, without the struggle, there is no Israel, and Judaism as a religion would not be complete.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sports Talk Sunday December 6th

Join us on Sunday, December 6th at 10AM in the Social Hall when the Congregation welcomes guest speaker, Dr. David Kristol, who will speak on “Jews in Sports.” 

Lite refreshments served

Sponsored by the Adult Education Committee

Friday, November 20, 2015

November Religious School News

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

Religious School News 


Cantor Sandy Horowitz

Religious School Director

As I write this, we just had our highly successful religious school fundraiser, “Treats and Treasures”—there was wonderful food and wine, a photo booth, cooking demo by Gibson Borelli, and many terrific gifts to bid on. But most of all was the atmosphere of camaraderie and enjoyment from the crowd of Adas Emuno members and friends, including religious school families as well as invited guests. This is what community is all about. Thank you to everyone who was involved in planning this terrific event!

In the meantime, religious school life is thriving. The first Tot Mitzvah program with Doris White was a great success. This year we have eight madrichim to assist the teachers in the classroom. Last month the Seventh Grade class helped to lead our first Family Service of the year, as they led prayers and spoke about endangered species as a reflection on the Noah story. With the new Family Service attendance policy in place, we were thrilled to see so many families of other grades in attendance! It made for a lively evening, followed the next morning by the Bar Mitzvah service of Cole Rosenthal
mazel tov Cole! We are all proud of you. Meanwhile, Confirmation class is also in full swing, as Rabbi Schwartz leads the class in ethics-related discussions of contemporary issues.

The school functions in large part due to the tireless efforts of our Religious School Committee, co-led by Elka Oliver and Michael Raskin with members Susan Grey, Marilyn Katz, Jody Priblo and Sandy Zornek. They handle a wide range of school-related matters from policy and planning to the most mundane and necessary tasks, including organizing parent volunteers and making sure there are snacks for the students each week. I could not do what I do without their help, advice and encouragement.

Dates to remember for November and December:

Saturday, November 7
Bar Mitzvah of Emery Jacobowitz

Friday, November 13
Family Service featuring the Sixth Grade

Sunday, November 29
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, December 10
7:30 PM
School Committee Meeting

Thursday, December 3
7:30 PM
New B’nai Mitzvah Parent Meeting For Sixth Grade Parents

Friday, December 11
Family Service featuring the Fifth Grade

Saturday, December 12
7:00 PM
Community Outdoor Menorah Lighting and Chanukah Party in the Social Hall

Sunday, December 27
Winter Break

Confirmation Class: Nov. 1, 8; Dec. 6, 20 

Tot Mitzvah: November 8 & December 6

Thursday, November 19, 2015

“Treats & Treasures” A Great Success!

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

“Treats & Treasures” A Great Success! 

Our fall fundraiser to benefit the Religious School was attended by close to 100 people... it was all we hoped it would be.... and more! With the help of a hard-working core committee (Richard Alicchio, Virginia Gitter, Annette DeMarco, Jody Pugach, Sandy Zornek, Doris White, and Marilyn Katz), October 29th turned out to be a magical evening indeed! 

An extra thank you to Richard for proposing the idea in the first place and for his amazing efforts in spearheading the donations drive! The numbers are still being counted, but we are estimating that we raised close to $6000 for our Religious School!

We are most grateful to Modiani Kitchens in Englewood for donating their beautiful space for this event.

The wonderful array of silent auction items added greatly to the excitement of the evening. Congrats to all of our “winners” who left with some amazing goodies! And thank you to our members who donated goods and services and solicited donations from local vendors.

A delicious assortment of food was enjoyed by all (thank you to all who donated food and desserts and to Samantha Rosenbloom for her help at the food and beverage counter)... but of course the line really started at the working kitchen, where our own celebrity chef Gibson Borelli kept busy cooking up some mouth-watering chicken tacos. Thank you to Gibby for sharing his culinary talents with us... and to his family who donated the food and made sure he got there with all of his ingredients and equipment!

Scott Lawrence was a very popular guy as he presided over the wine & cheese pairings bar! A huge thank you to Scott for his generous donation of wines and to Zabars for the wonderful cheese selection! And to Susan Grey for all her help setting up and keeping things moving!

Thank you to Vince Priblo for donating and running the Pop-Up Photo Booth; to our in-house graphic designers, Michael Scowden and Lauren Rowland for creating the publicity materials and bid sheets; and to Cheryl Alicchio, Fanny Fishbein and others who helped set up and clean up! 

And what would an evening like this be without the presence of Earle Ziff, our master of ceremonies. Thank you Earle for doing what you do best! 

We are grateful to all who supported this event, both from within the Congregation and the community. Thank you to our School Director, Cantor Sandy Horowitz and to our school committee, Elka, Michael, Jody and Susan, for reaching out to our families, and to our board members who made calls and spread the word! Kudos to all!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Garden Concert on a Blustery Day

September 20th turned out to be a blustery day, posing many challenges, but in no way deterring the Bergen County Chapter of the American Recorder Society from treating us to a concert in our garden once again treated (see last year"s post, Recorder Concert Coming Up!).

Here are some images from that windy but lovely autumn afternoon:

And that concludes our photo essay. We'll post more on the garden soon! 


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Spirit of '76


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

A Message From Our President

Dr. Lance Strate

The Spirit of '76

I think just about all Americans know that the year 1492 holds special significance, as the year that Columbus “sailed the ocean blue” and arrived at the western hemisphere. We used to say he “discovered the new world,” but now we view the event from a less innocent and less positive perspective. Moreover, for the Jewish people, 1492 represents one of the greatest tragedies in our history, the year we were expelled from Spain.

But this isn’t about 1492. And there may be other years in American history that most of us recall, 1812 for example (because of the war named for it), maybe 1929 for the stock market crash that marked the beginning of the Depression, maybe 1941 for the attack on Pearl Harbor, maybe 1945 for the end of the Second World War.

v But the year that especially resonates for us as Americans is 1776. Even through the American Revolutionary War began in 1775, 1776 is year of our Declaration of Independence. That’s why we consider it the year that the United States of America was founded, never mind the fact that the Revolutionary War didn’t end until 1783, that the 13 states were considered individual sovereign entities in a loose confederation until the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, and arguably were not completely united until the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865.

But this isn’t about 1776. This is about a year on a slightly older calendar, the year 5776. That, of course, is the year that just began on Rosh Hashanah evening, this past September 13th. The year 5776 holds no special significance in Jewish tradition, of course. Unless we choose otherwise.

So let's choose otherwise. Let's make 5776 a year to remember. A year to look back on. A year that we can be proud of. Let's create the Spirit of 5776 here at Adas Emuno. And that means getting active, getting involved, participating. In our social action initiatives, our adult education programs, our religious school, our fundraising and fun-raising events. And what would the Spirit of 5776 be without including a measure of spirituality itself. On Shabbat, Friday evening services, Saturday morning Torah study, and our festival and holiday celebrations?

When we think of 1776, we think of government of the people, by the people, and for the people, in the words of Abraham Lincoln. And along similar lines, Congregation Adas Emuno has a government that is of our members, by our members, and for our members. You can embrace the Spirit of 5776 by getting involved in our shul's governance, by volunteering, by serving on committees, by stepping up and making yourselves available for temple leadership positions. In 1776, the Continental Congress announced our Declaration of Independence. In 5776, wouldn't it be fitting if Congregation Adas Emuno proclaimed our Declaration of Interdependence. If we acknowledged that we depend upon each other to form a Jewish community, to support each other as members of that community, to maintain our 4,000-year-old, ever-evolving tradition.

We can't do it alone. We can't be fully Jewish by ourselves. We can't survive in isolation. We need each other. We need to join together as a congregation.

Renewing our commitment to our synagogue, declaring our interdependence as a congregation, establishing the Spirit of 5776. Maybe it's a revolutionary notion? Maybe it's an idea whose time has come? Are you ready?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Social Action in Action

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


A Report from Annette DeMarco
Social Action Committee Chairperson


During the month of October, the Social Action Committee, along with the Religious School, collected school supplies for Mitzvah Day. Thank you to all of our congregants who made this a successful project! Special thanks to School Director, Cantor Sandy Horowitz, for reaching out to school families and to the parents who helped by transferring donations left at the school to the Social Hall.

We recently cooked for and served 110+ folks at the shelter in Hackensack. Volunteers cooked extraordinary amounts of delectable dishes and graciously served the hungry guests. (Many of congregants who helped out had also worked on the "Treats & Treasures" event just days earlier!) To all who cooked, served, shopped and/or schlepped, please know that your culinary skills were greatly appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed by those who partook of the meal, as those of us serving witnessed. Thanks so very, very much to Jody, Randi, Archer, Pearl, Ron, Virginia, Kim M., Claudine, Lauren, Doris, Carol, Sandy Z., Norman and Michael F. Special thanks and recognition go to Ethan Irby and Tate Irby as the "youngsters" on our team. You represented Adas Emuno, as well as yourselves, with a presence to be proud of. And to Marilyn, who set this up with Family Promise and responded to my emails and phone calls with a" contagious calm"; your work each year regarding this dinner has been and continues to be invaluable; a very special thanks!

Coming up: Winter Clothing Drive, December 20th-January 17th. All winter clothing in good condition, from infant sizes on up. To be donated to the thrift shop in Bergenfield, run by the Council of Jewish Women. Please leave donations in the back of the social hall. Thank you!

Food drive is ongoing. Please leave in vestry room. Shalom,


Social Action Chairperson   ­ acheryl21 at

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Canopy of Peace

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

From the desk of …                    
 Rabbi Barry Schwartz


I write this with the “holidays” come and gone... and there seem to be so many special memories this year.

The splendid High Holy Day weather; the cantor’s stirring voice; Doris White’s moving appeal; the Tashlich crowd... and, yes, the tears on my wife’s face as I dedicated my sermon, The Work of our Hands, to her.

...the super-moon eclipse over the Temple and s’mores-in-the-sukkah, the fabulous evening of folk-songs in the “sukkah” (almost), when Stella Borelli sang “Hands” by Jewel (which she learned special for the occasion because I had referenced a line from it in the aforementioned sermon); subs-in-the sukkah, when sixty (count them) people squeezed into the sukkah to say the blessings and reach for a sandwich.

...the procession to the sidewalk with our Torah scrolls at Simchat Torah; the bursting bimah as everyone received an Aliyah by birthday; the consecration of our newest students. What beautiful memories and what vitality.

An aside: Debby sent a copy of the Hands sermon to the surgeon who performed the pioneering surgery on that little boy Zion. Within hours she received a reply, “I’m crying reading this in Honduras.” Dr. Scott Kozin was on a medical mission there, working more miracles. During Sukkot I sang a song with our youth, called "The Canopy of Peace (Sukkat Shalom)". As part of the song, we went around mentioning places in the world that need peace. Tragically, the stunning pictures of Syrian refugees streaming to Europe were also part of the holiday experience this year. So, too, the destruction of one of the world’s priceless archeological sites, Palmyra, by the scourge called ISIS.

And so, too, as the holidays came to an end, and continuing even as I write this, of images of Jews being stabbed by knife-wielding Palestinians in our beloved Israel. The year that I began rabbinical studies I lived on a wonderful old street in Jerusalem with the very name, Sukkat Shalom. The image of the Canopy of Peace actually occurs in our prayers every Shabbat as part of the Hashkivenu prayer. We never stop praying for peace and pursuing peace. We cannot stop now.

Yes, we are grateful for all the blessings in our lives and for the embrace of the special community that is Congregation Adas Emuno. At the same time, we pray that the Canopy of Peace be spread deeper and wider over a world so much in need of shalom.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Happy Torah!

Tonight we celebrate the end of the festival of Sukkot, and the holiday of Simchat Torah. Join us at Congregation Adas Emuno at 6 PM for Subs in the Succah (in the Social Hall in case of rain or hurricane), and 7 PM for our Simchat Torah observance and celebration, including the consecration of our religious school students.

And to help get in the mood:

It's time to rewind the scroll and start our Torah-reading cycle again, a chance for new beginnings with the new year. Come and be a part of the Spirit of 5776 at Adas Emuno!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pope Francis Holds Interfaith Prayer at 9/11 Memorial

In case you missed it, here is a video of the interfaith prayer ceremony held at the 9/11 Memorial in New York City on Friday, September 25th, in conjunction with the recent visit by Pope Francis. In addition to the prayers and meditations offered by Pope Francis, the service featured participation by the rabbi of our sister shul, New York's Park Avenue Synagogue, Elliot Cosgrover, side by side with Imam Khalid Latif, the Muslim chaplain at New York University. 

Also note the moving rendition, about 22 minutes into the video, of the Hebrew memorial prayer, El Malah Rachamim, as chanted by Park Avenue Synagogue's cantor, Azi Schwartz, followed by a rendition of Oseh Shalom in which others joined in, including New York's Archbishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

The Young People's Chorus of New York City, closing the ceremony with "Let There Be Peace on Earth," exemplified the spirit of interfaith tolerance, amity, and cooperation. To this, we can only say, amen, amen!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Doris White's Yom Kippur Appeal 5776

L’Shana Tova.

I have been chosen to give the Yom Kippur appeal for two reasons: (1) I was absent from the meeting when the speaker was chosen and (2) my fellow board members thought I might be a good candidate because I left Adas Emuno for a few years and then returned. In truth, I feel honored to be standing here. I can’t think of a more supportive place to help me overcome a bit of nervousness at speaking before a packed house.

Yes. I did leave this congregation for a few years. Sometimes we feel as I did that the person and the place are no longer a good fit, and I did feel that way. My daughters and I joined temples in their towns, and it was fine, but not the same. After a year or two, I met Eileen Cohen who said, “Come back. Give it a try. We have a wonderful rabbi. Drop by one Saturday for Torah study.” It took me a few months, but one Saturday I decided to see this wonderful rabbi. The rest, as they say, is history. Rabbi Schwartz had me from his first thoughtful comments, and I became a regular at Torah study. Then I attended Friday night services and a few special events, and yes—dear listener—I rejoined and became a member of a vibrant, thoughtful, intellectual, musical, inspirational congregation. Shortly thereafter my daughters and their children came with me. When Cantor Horowitz arrived last year, the picture was complete. We here at Adas Emuno call Rabbi Schwartz and Cantor Horowitz the dream team, and we are so lucky that they are here. Everyone who was at last night’s Kol Nidre service can attest to the words and music that took their places in our hearts and our minds. Sadly, Rabbi, another sports legend passed away yesterday, Yogi Berra, with his own way with words, but his legacy is pure gold—no asterisk there.

We can’t close our eyes to the fact that synagogues in our area are closing: a few years ago Congregation Sons of Israel and shortly Gesher Shalom in Fort Lee. My talk will not concentrate on asking you to keep Adas Emuno alive; I’d like you to witness with me that we are alive with great energy, great spirit and great heart. We cross the generations as is reflected in our board, we are inclusive of everyone who wants to be here, and our welcome is strong. Our board works diligently to keep abreast of the times and offers activities that we want you to join: upcoming a walking tour of the Lower East Side, a fund raising event for our religious school called Treats and Treasures which will take place on October 29th at Modiani Kitchen in Englewood with prizes ranging from restaurant and store gift cards to a week at a vacation home in North Carolina. There will even be a cooking demonstration given by someone I know very well. We have our fingers on the pulse of our members; we are thinking and planning speakers, songfests, celebrations and prayer. The whole megillah.

Did you know that we celebrate the holidays with joy and music? Please join us in the Sukkah on October 2nd for performances by our youngest to our most mature members. Then on October 4th we offer subs in the Sukkah followed by our annual Simchat Torah service which spills out of our doors as we read the last words of the Torah and then begin the ancient ritual of starting over with the first words of Genesis. Please join us; we need your voices and your hands as we raise the Torah high.

Did you know that this year’s Torah study theme is Jewish ethics? Come and join us Saturday mornings from 10-11:30. Rabbi Schwartz discusses each section with commentary, psychology, archeology, history and politics. Even on the coldest winter mornings the talk is lively and stimulating with the many different perspectives offered by our members and guests. Everyone is welcome.

Did you know that we have a Poetry Garden the second Sunday of each month from 7-8 PM? Those of us who love the sound of words gather in the garden when it is warm and in the social hall when it is not. We read our favorite poems, classic and current, or listen to what others read or even share our own poetic thoughts. This past Sunday as the darkness fell, we recited some children’s poetry , were introduced to a new poet, Chanah Bloch. Each month we are surprised and delighted by poetry. Come and join us.

Did you know that we have a lively adult education program that has brought us folk dancing, scholars, comedians, archaeologists, members from Israel’s IDF? Please enjoy these special times with us.

Did you know that we have an engaged and dedicated staff of Hebrew teachers under the direction of Cantor Horowitz and an enrollment of excellent students in grades K through confirmation? We even have a Tot Mitzvah program for 2-1/2- to 4-year-olds that meets three times in the fall and three times in the spring in conjunction with the holidays. I invite you to take a walk or ride past our Hebrew school at noon on Sundays and see the faces of the children as they greet their parents with talk of what they learned and enthusiasm for the several projects the school offers.

Did you know that the B'nai Mitvahs in this temple are such meaningful experiences for our students? I know because three of my grandchildren stood on this bimah as Bar/Bat Mitvahs in the Spring. I invite you to attend the next such event so you can join with me in watching as this temple, these children and their families, this “dream team” inducts our children so meaningfully and so joyfully into the rituals, obligations and beauty of coming of age in Judaism. I was passed the special Torah, saved from the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia, and then passed it to my children and kvelled as they passed it down to their children, my beloved grandchildren. There are no words for this; you have to come and experience it yourselves.

Did you know that 10 students are continuing their Hebrew education past Bar/Bat Mitzvah as they meet with the rabbi in confirmation class? This year they will explore and discuss the many issues and decisions facing Jews and their connection to and support of Israel: topics such as the Iran situation, the Palestinian state conundrum, capital punishment, euthanasia. What a range of thoughtful topics for our young people on the threshold of becoming adults.

I also invite you to share with me the feeling of Shalom when I enter the sanctuary for Friday evening services. Each Shabbat I marvel again at the wisdom of separating the work week of tension, hassle, racing the clock with the ushering in of a time for rest, reflection and prayer. I often enter bringing with me the problems of my week and I feel them evaporating as the songs and prayers offered by Rabbi Schwartz, Cantor Horowitz and our congregation take their rightful place in my priorities. Rabbi Schwartz always provides his thoughts on what is happening in the world outside of ourselves, providing thought and even action as I go through the following week.

Perhaps my favorite part of the service is the Mi Sheberach prayer when we all join hands and send our healing thoughts to those who need them. We say the prayer together with joined hands and then give each others’ hands a final squeeze. I hope you will make time on a Friday night to join us and share in this healing communal spirit.

So we are alive and well and residing at 254 Broad Avenue in Leonia, New Jersey. We are privileged to be here with our dream team, our families, our friends, each other. Please take a minute, look around and absorb the worshipful aura in this sanctuary. Please think of this sharing as you consider your donation for this Yom Kippur appeal, and think of how your donation will support all the excellent happenings that make Congregation Adas Emuno such a special place.

I will end with a personal story. This summer, when her brothers and cousins were at camp, my granddaughter Stella asked me for a sleep over. What could be better? Of course I said, Yes. Then she asked me what we were going to do: I said: we would get manicures and pedicures, eat dinner and see a play in New York, and go to Shabbat services. She looked at me, but she knew I was serious. And so on a hot summer night in July, we did just that. Cantor Horowitz had brought her guitar and her lovely voice into the garden, and we sat on chairs around the lovely pond—thank you Rabbi and Fred Cohen. After the service was over, Stella said, “Bubbie, that was really nice. I love the way Lance sings the prayers and is so into it.” The next morning as were heading out for the manicures and pedicures, she said, “You know, Bub, I’m really glad we came back to your temple. It’s so heart to heart.”

Please open your own hearts and help us to keep this great Adas Emuno heart beating. Thank you.