Continuing the Conversation

Continuing the Conversation

Rabbi’s Message – July 7, 2020

Senior Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

Last week I wrote about the importance of having tough conversations about race, identity, equality, and implicit bias.  We must continue to unpack the meaning and history behind words like “white privilege,” “systemic racism,” and “white supremacy.”  These terms likely evoke strong feelings in all of us, and there is space for those feelings.  They can also mean different things to different people and if we share our thoughts, we are better able to understand each other on a deeper level.  Don’t get me wrong, this is hard work!  Fortunately, we don’t have to do this work alone.  

The Dayton Jewish Community Relations Council is teaming up with the YWCA to bring a special virtual event called The Jewish Perspective on Racial Equity and Social Change.  The conversations have already begun on a national level, but what is the local Jewish response?  How can we further the work of social justice in our own backyard?  Rabbis from all of the Dayton congregations and Chabad will serve as the panelists for this discussion on Friday, July 10 at noon.  I will represent Temple Israel and I hope you will be there too to join in on the discussion.  Register here for this discussion.

In the coming months, we will also have a small committee of volunteers actively seeking ways to positively improve the experience for marginalized individuals.  If this is something you are passionate about, let me know.  I will add you to the roster.

We are a holy community and together we can strive to create a better world for ourselves and for our children.

Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations
Rabbi’s Message – June 30, 2020

by Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

Each of us is created in the image of the Divine and each of our voices is important, and powerful.  In these turbulent times, this is the most important thing for us to remember.  Being in relationship with God means being in relationship with one another, and we honor this by leaning in and engaging in difficult conversations.  
This is hard, but essential, work.  And I am starting with myself as a part of a newly formed local clergy group meeting virtually to challenge and improve our understanding of racism and bigotry.  I strongly urge us all to embrace the vulnerability of being in honest conversations about these topics.
It won’t be easy.  We are hard-wired to be easily offended by expressions like “white privilege,” “systemic racism,” and “white supremacy.”  I, personally, believe we respond with discomfort because we have yet to unpack what these words and ideas actually mean.   There is plenty of room for  diversity of opinions.  But, first, we must move past our own emotional firewalls to enable us to engage meaningfully in these conversations.  
The YWCA’s 21 Day Racial Equity Challenge has been an excellent place to better prepare myself for deeper discussions on these issues.  Consider joining me in this effort.  Even if you haven’t participated in the first part of the challenge, it is not too late.  Click for more information.  
On Friday, July 10, I will be participating in a Jewish Community Relations Council panel with other Dayton rabbis to discuss the importance of the YWCA Challenge and our response as a Jewish community to what is happening.  If you are able to join us, register here.  
I look forward to continuing this work together as a congregation. 

Combat Voter Suppression

Doing Our Part to Combat Voter Suppression 

by Nancy Cohen
June 26, 2020

As Jews, we have a duty and an obligation to repair the world, and the work of tikkun olam manifests itself in many different ways.  In a democratic society, everyone’s voice should be heard, especially at the ballot box.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) reminds us that “voter suppression has long plagued the U.S. election system, particularly impacting communities of color. Today, underrepresented communities continue the fight for equal access to the ballot”.   As we look towards this fall, we will work towards including everyone in our democratic process of voting.  As the RAC says, “democracy is strongest when everyone participates—and it suffers when citizens are shut out from the democratic process or choose not to engage.” Working with RAC-Ohio, we have an opportunity to engage with potential voters in the greater Dayton community by educating individuals on the voting process, helping them to register, and encouraging them to show up at the polls.

For this initiative, RAC-Ohio is partnering with an organization called Ohio Votes, which is coordinating nonpartisan voter outreach activities. In this age of COVID, we are still able to reach out to potential voters in the comfort of our homes by phone- and text-banking. Ohio Votes has developed an app for reaching out to voters and has scripts available to help you complete your contacts. And best of all, they will provide us with a recorded Zoom training that we can use to learn about the process.

Please consider participating in this important work of our democracy, which will help us to reach our goal as Reform Jews of building a more just and compassionate world. If you would like to join this effort or would like more information, contact Nancy Cohen at or 937-307-4792. 

Our Covenant with the World

Rabbi’s Message – June 16, 2020

Our Covenant with the World

Last fall, with the support of our Board of Directors, Temple Israel signed on as a “Brit Olam” congregation of the Religious Action Center.  Brit Olam translates to covenant with our world” and is a promise to create a world in which all people experience wholeness, justice, and compassion.   In Pirkei  Avot we are taught: “Study alone is not enough, our tradition demands action.”   Brit Olam is our commitment to actively work for social justice.  By signing this covenant, we promised to foster a culture of sacred and civil dialogue in our community where all opinions are heardact in solidarity with vulnerable communities, build relationships across lines of difference in our local community, act at the local, state/provincial, and/or federal levels to address the root causes of injustice, advocate for systemic change, mobilize around issues that resonate with our community, and participate in state-specific social justice work with RAC-Ohio.   

We hear the voices all over the world proclaiming the urgency of this work.   We must continue to fight against racism and other forms of injustice, even if we are unable to physically do it togetherWe need to begin conversations about what this might look like.  Join me in this effort.  If you are interested in these conversations and becoming more meaningfully involved in social justice, contact me.  You may email me at or leave me a voice message at the TempleAnd if you want to dive in now, I strongly urge you to participate in the YWCA’s 21 day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge, which begins on Friday.  This is a great step toward deepening your understanding of systemic racism in America.  May every step we take bring us closer to fulfilling the work of Brit Olam.  To learn more about the Union for Reform Judaism’s Brit Olam communities, visit  

From Promotional Products to Personal Protective Equipment

How Shumsky Enterprises shifted to help our community and beyond

by Courtney Cummings

The ability to adapt and evolve is an important characteristic of the Jewish people, as we have had to do just that countless times throughout the generations.  In addition, our strong core value of repairing the world holds true from Biblical times.  Courtney Cummings sat down (remotely) with Temple member, Mike Emoff, to learn more about how his business shifted to help save lives during this pandemic.

A brief history of the company: Founded in 1953, Hy and Elsie Shumsky created Shumsky Enterprises with a few catalogs, a card table, and two chairs in a ten-foot room, here in Dayton, Ohio.  Fast forward 50 years to when Michael Emoff took over as the third generation owner of Shumsky Enterprises from his mother, Jayne Emoff Miller.  He quickly developed a passion for creative product development and solutions for their clients.  Creating and selling everything from apparel to drink ware to party supplies to personal care items and more, Shumsky became a leader in the market for promotional products. 

With their infrastructure in place at the beginning of this pandemic, the company shifted to help our Dayton community and beyond.  Mike Emoff, Chief Vision Officer, says:

“At the onset of COVID-19, we realized we had an opportunity to help repair the world. Listening to our customers, especially those in the healthcare industry, and what was going on around us, we learned that there was a real shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

We went all-in on an opportunity to adapt our business to PPE for the greater good. Leveraging our existing FDA registered and our trusted global supply chain, we were able to pivot from primarily selling promotional products to a heavy focus on face masks, hospital gowns, and hand sanitizers to support the fight against COVID-19.”

They didn’t stop at their customers, as friends and family learned of their new focus, and requested supplies for themselves and their businesses.  Mike says,  “To accommodate these requests, we made the decision to keep stock and we quickly built an online store for our friends, family and customers, making it simple and easy to get PPE for their employees, customers, members and the community. In addition to PPE supplies for small and large businesses, we’ve created an online store to serve your family and friends. If you’re looking for PPE items to help keep your loved ones safe, you can place individual orders on our website:” 

Mike’s core Jewish values are showing through, with the importance of pikuach nefesh – preservation of life – and tikkun olam – repair of the world.  He says, “We believe that this temporary transition to focus on PPE was not only our responsibility as a trusted source, but our purpose, as we continue to help and serve others in our community and beyond. We’ve worked with multiple charities, donating PPE product where we can. Clearly we don’t know what the future will look like. All we know is that we’re supposed to be here to help the process of repairing the world.”

We are proud to have Mike Emoff and his family as members of Temple Israel, modeling the way our Jewish community can and will protect one another.  

Honoring the Fallen

Honoring Those Who Gave All

by Scott Halasz

As Memorial Day quickly approaches, Ethan Zied wants everyone to remember that all gave some, and some gave all.

As part of his Eagle Scout project, Ethan created a database of the 2,500 veterans buried at the 25 Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati. The ultimate intention of the project was to be able to place markers and flags at each of the gravesites.

“We started working with the database,” Ethan said. “We started trying to get markers. We want to get flags before Memorial Day, which was the goal, but not part of the project.”

Close to 1,000 graves have been flagged and marked. About half of the Walnut Hills cemetery was marked last May and another chunk was completed within the last week. And Ethan, a crew of helpers from the Valley Temple Men’s Club as well as some other Cincinnati-area families didn’t let the coronavirus keep them from getting all of the Montgomery cemetery marked recently as well.

Ethan is hoping the job is completely finished by Memorial Day 2021. There are 23 cemeteries left but many are near each other, much like the Temple Israel and Beth Abraham cemeteries in Oakwood, and some may only have one or two graves to mark.

“The markers will stay at the grave forever,” Ethan’s father, Eric, said. They are hoping to have the flags stay up year-round as well, but Mother Nature may have something to say about that.

“We’re certainly experimenting at this point,” Eric said, adding that they will replace any flags annually around Memorial Day.

Ethan’s effort earned him the Dan Beard Council’s Eagle Project of the Year Award. There were more than 350 Eagle Scouts in the 2019 class.

“It’s pretty cool,” Ethan said. “I had a very good feeling. I think my project was pretty solid. Lots of projects aren’t really impactful or meaningful to the scout.”

Many projects are temporary and involve building something that may affect a small group.

“I think mine is meaningful, impactful, long lasting and sustainable,” Ethan said. “I figured it had a pretty good chance of winning.”

While marking graves, Ethan and Eric were approached by cemetery visitors asking what they were doing. 

“They were definitely moved by that,” Eric said. “People definitely appreciated it.”

Ethan also received some serious validation from a fellow scout, who had actually been working on a similar project but stopped because he thought it was too difficult.

“When he found out the fact that I won the award, I guess he tried to work on it again,” Ethan said. “That’s pretty neat.”

2020 Jewish Cultural Festival Cancelled

Temple Israel Cancels 2020 Jewish Cultural Festival

10th Annual Jewish Cultural Festival will be postponed to summer 2021

DAYTON, OH  (May 18, 2020) – Out of an interest for public health and safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Temple Israel has canceled the 2020 Dayton Jewish Cultural Festival, originally scheduled for Sunday, August 9, 2020. The 10th anniversary celebration of Jewish music, art, food and ritual will now be postponed to summer 2021. 

“The health and safety of our community is our top priority,” said Courtney Cummings, music and program director at Temple Israel. “Although we cannot gather this summer, we are looking forward to coming together again next year to celebrate and share our Jewish culture and tradition with the entire Miami Valley.”

The Oy Vey 5k run/walk, which traditionally kicks off the Jewish Cultural Festival, will be held in a virtual format. Participants can register online and create a route in their own neighborhoods. All proceeds from the Virtual Oy Vey will benefit Temple Israel’s Social Action Fund, which supports programs and activities designed to positively impact the entire community. For updates, visit the Temple Israel Facebook page. 

The Jewish Cultural Festival is a free, family-friendly festival featuring traditional Jewish food and drink, live music and dance performances, children’s activities, artisan crafts and goods, artwork and interactive presentations by local and national speakers. The festival opens the door to Judaism for all who wish to learn more about Jewish traditions and faith. 

About Temple Israel

With a rich tradition that spans more than 150 years, Temple Israel is proud to be the largest Reform congregation in greater Dayton. Our religious, cultural, educational, social and social action programs build on the legacy of those who have come before with innovations guaranteed to create a fulfilling and vibrant future for the congregation. For more information, visit

Stay Connected!

Be sure to check your email!  

A Message from Rabbi Bodney-Halasz
May 8, 2020
When this quarantine began, I chose to produce TIDBITS myself.  I wanted to communicate more directly and more regularly with you during these difficult times.  To call attention to these changes, my TIDBITS emails did not specify TIDBITS in the title and were sent from my email, not “Temple Israel.”  
As we know, change is never perfect.  It has come to my attention that for some of you, this has had the opposite impact.  You may not be seeing my communication at all now. Our computers are used to filtering out important messages in certain ways and this change may have altered the efficacy of this system.  So, our TIDBITS email today is in the more recognized format so that you might see the message and begin to look for TIDBITS on Tuesdays and Fridays (for Shabbat). 
Each of these TIDBITS is filled with unique and time-sensitive content and I don’t want you to miss out on what is happening at Temple.  Mention this to anyone who feels they haven’t heard from Temple in a while and please pay attention.  If you haven’t received TIDBITS by Wednesday or Saturday, be sure to run a search for any messages from my email address.
The several weeks have been incredibly hard for all of us.  Know that you are not alone.  You may always send an email to or call the Temple office at 937.496.0050. Your Temple is here for you.  

COVID-19 Resources

COVID-19 Resources for our community

Physical and Mental Health:

CDC (Center for Disease Control) is the source for how to protect yourself and what to do if you think you are sick as well as resources regarding travel, childcare, businesses, and community organizations

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) provides resources and information on topics ranging from anxiety to loneliness to helping with bills and getting prescriptions.

Child Mind Institute works to transform the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders.  Currently, they are providing daily videos of support for families with advice on how manage anxiety and talk with your children about the disease. 

The Mesothelioma Center also has a list of resources for managing anxiety during this pandemic for those who are struggling with a compromised immune system or battling the disease.

Jewish Resources: shares Jewish insight into this pandemic with historic references to our shared history and suggestions on how we can continue to live our lives Jewishly in the midst of social distancing. is the portal to Jewish experiences that are happening virtually during this period of social distancing caused by COVID-19.  Events and services are updated regularly every day, and you can sign-up to receive their daily email. is our Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton’s website where resources and links to services from Jewish Family Services are posted as well as other fun and free Jewish activities for you and your family.

Local Ohio and City of Dayton resources:

Ohio Department of Health is actively updating information regarding the outbreak in our state as well as answers to frequently asked questions about the virus. 

Our local Dayton government is helping provide information to those that need assistance with unemployment filing, childcare for essential workers, potential eviction, and emergency aid, food, and housing.

The Dayton Chamber of Commerce has compiled resources for businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including both state of Ohio updates as well as federal updates and how they impact businesses.

Volunteer Opportunities:

Temple Israel is currently matching those that need help with those who are able to provide help.  Jobs include delivering food or groceries, making “check-in” phone calls, and sending cards.  Complete an online form and let us know what you need or what you can do to help.  Nothing is too small!

Shoes 4 the Shoeless is organizing food relief efforts for those unable to access food during this pandemic in an effort they call Food 4 the People.  Contact them directly to serve as a food captain or information on items for the food boxes.

Temple Israel will continue to update and add to this list.  If there is a specific organization you would like to highlight, please contact Courtney Cummings –

Mi Shebeirach – A Prayer for Healing

Mi Shebeirach – Our Prayer for Healing

All of us could use some healing right now amid the COVID-19 outbreak.  We may feel isolated, overwhelmed, or concerned about the health of a loved one or ourselves.  To help ease your fears, listen to the calming voice of Courtney Cummings as she reads the Mi Shebeirach prayer for healing, and shares a comforting song from our tradition.  Each week in our TIDBits email newsletter and on our Temple Israel Facebook page, we will include the names of loved ones from our community in need of healing.  Click here to add someone to this list.  Be sure to indicate if he or she has approved of his or her name being read.  Wishing you all thoughts of wholeness, peace, and calm.