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.