History and Memory – Rabbi Bodney-Halasz’s Message for April 6, 2021

History and memory are not the same.  Some have described history as “something that happened to someone else in the past,” and memory as “what happened to me in the past.”  This week we observe Yom Hashoah VeHagevurah, “Day of (Remembrance of) the Holocaust and the Bravery.”  When remembering the Holocaust, there are elements of both history and memory.  It simultaneously feels deeply personal as well as unifying for the Jewish community.  As a group we give honor to historical events and individuals that we ourselves may not have experienced or known.  Yet, in many ways we identify personally with these dark times.  Perhaps because of a letter we hold from a grandparent with the names of their relatives we never had the opportunity to meet.  Or candlesticks or chanukiot we use for our own candles that originated in Europe.  It saddens me that we have fewer and fewer relatives and community members left to offer firsthand memories of the Holocaust; but I feel fortunate that those survivors feel compelled to share their personal stories and lessons with us.  Whether we are Jews by birth or Jews by choice, the Holocaust plays an important role in our personal sense of Jewish identity.   These up-close encounters with the past help us to internalize and incorporate these powerful experiences into our own personal understanding of Holocaust.  

It is important that when we contemplate the personal meaning of Yom Ha-Shoah Ve-Hagevurah we recognize its intentional placement on the Jewish calendar.  Not only does it occur in the month that coincides with the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, but it takes places within our period of counting the Omer, marking the days between Passover and Shavuot.  This is a time when we, like the Israelites, pass through the lowest and highest spiritual moments of Jewish living. The Israelites spent their time in the desert trying to release themselves of painful memories of slavery while preparing to accept the Torah and find redemption.  Jews today seek meaning in the journey from the horror of the Shoah to the high point of celebration on Yom Ha-Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.  We, too, are asked to grapple with the complexity of Jewish sovereignty as we continue to work toward redemption.  

During this week of self and communal reflection, I encourage us all to think deeply about the role of the Holocaust in our own lives.  How does it influence our identity with the Jewish community?  How does it offer perspective?  How does it help us to weigh answers to difficult questions in the present?  How will we pass all of this on to the next generation in a way that will feel both communal and personal?

Perhaps one of these two opportunities to commemorate the day will help us to discover those answers.

This Sunday at 4 pm the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton offers us the opportunity to hear from our community Holocaust survivors.  Register here.

And on Thursday, April 8, at 10 a.m., we have the opportunity to virtually walk the 3.2 kms between Auschwitz and Birkenau with survivors of the camps and the March of the Living.  Register for this experience.

 

The Egg, the Matzah Ball, and Water

Change in the Face of Adversity: The egg, the matzah ball, and water

Rabbi’s Message – April 23, 2021

Rabbi Tina Sobo

Last year, 30 people gathered on Zoom for the Passover Seder.  In our household, Matt, the kids, and I attempted to navigate Zoom with Matt’s siblings and their children.  It was not the finest Seder of my life.  In fact, I was disappointed to be holed up at home, so accustomed to large holiday gatherings.  And now, here we are a year later, and my Seder is going to look just about the same – just Matt, the kids, and I, probably with some family on Zoom.  

Except, this year, it’s different because we knew it was coming.  This year, there are a vast number of digital resources, and using video conferencing software is an old trick for many at this point.  In culling through those digital resources, I found this one from The Blue Dove Foundation, which provides a mental health framework for Passover classics.  In this article, one thing that stands out is the description of the egg on the seder plate: “It’s traditional to roast or char the egg, leading to a fun interpretation – an egg, just like us, is resilient!  The hotter the flame, the tougher we get.  We aren’t weakened by struggle; we overcome it and become stronger.”  This interpretation reminded me of the lesson about what happens to a potato, an egg, and coffee beans when exposed to boiling water.  The potato – the biggest and strongest of them, becomes the weakest.  The egg, hardens, becoming perhaps stronger, as Blue Dove Foundation suggests, and the coffee beans, they change the water.  

We all respond to adversity in our ways, whether it be slavery in Egypt, a pandemic, or some other challenge. This Passover, the egg on the plate can remind us of how we can be strengthened by challenges – even if we get a little charred on the outside.  But maybe we don’t always become stronger, and that’s okay.  I also think of the matzah ball, that when cooked, becomes soft (and delicious), – unlike its unboiled original version.  Exposure to the hot water has changed not only the matzah ball, but the water around it has also become different.  What was once just plain water has become infused with the flavors of chicken and vegetables through the process of cooking and becoming soup.  The matzah ball and its environment have been forever changed.  And maybe we too, in facing adversity, changed the situation around us instead of ourselves – turning water into soup.  

We may be like the egg, the matzah ball, or the soup – stronger in the face of adversity, slightly softer because of it, or completely changed.  Each of these reactions are a part of who we are as individuals and who we are as a people.  And so, we will sit down this year and tell the story of Passover like we have for thousands of years.  Maybe we will reminisce over the seders that have been and fantasize the seders that might be next year, all the while experiencing the seder that is.  It’ll be different, but after all, isn’t Passover all about being different than other nights? 

One Year Later

Reflecting on the Last 365 Days

Rabbi’s Message – March 16, 2021

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

March 16, 2020:  This was the last day I sat side by side with my colleagues at 130 Riverside Drive. Our closing would be temporary, I thought.  We wanted to be cautious, announcing our reopening after Memorial Day weekend.  A hand drawn calendar stands on an easel in the corner of my office, with plans for a meaningful 2020-2021 fiscal year, filled with learning, worship, and gathering.  As I collected my resources to take home with me, I was blessed by an unexpected visit from a former student, who reflected on her life as a young Jewish adult.  A thoughtful token of appreciation still sits on my desk, waiting for me to find the perfect place to hang it.  My heart was filled with hope and uncertainty.  The staff and I began to prioritize the ways in which we could sustain Jewish life in our absence.  Technology was still a bit of a mystery, but were committed to finding ways for congregants to recite names of loved ones for Mi Shebeirach and Kaddish.  We would help meet the urgent needs of congregants and encourage new congregational relationships through a calling committee.  We would increase our communications –TIDBITS would go out twice a week, and be filled with updates from the synagogue, songs of comfort, practical information on how to use technology and order food, and a collection of some of the best virtual programming across the country, including links to congregational services in communities that had been streaming for years.  We would send cards to let our members know we were thinking of them.  We would ensure ways to observe our holidays together, beginning with a virtual second seder.  

March 16, 2021: Today, I sit here in my home office, stepping away from what has proven to be the largest conference of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), with emails coming in from rabbinic school classmates for virtual class dinner and notifications from Google Sheets about calls reported from our incredible Caring Committee.  We will surpass having made more than 1650 calls by the time I finish writing.  I am surrounded by video equipment – a boom mic, bright lights, and second computer screen. There is a report by my side showing that over the past 365 days we have gained 148 new YouTube subscribers, uploaded 83 videos, had almost 3,100 views, and more than 155 watch hours on our YouTube channel.  My Ring doorbell informs me that my produce has arrived on my doorstep, joining another box filled with shampoo and parmesan cheese.  My phone dings to remind me to report any side effects after my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. This life hardly resembles the one I inhabited a year ago.  

As I take this moment to reflect I am filled with many emotions and healthy tears. 

Sadness, Loss, and Pain:
For lives ravaged by Covid-19, taken too soon and without loved ones 
For families forced to mourn without the comfort of community and ancient ritual
For the postponement of weddings, B’nai Mitzvah, graduations, and baby namings 
For individuals living in solitude
For my own struggles in learning to balance congregational responsibilities with the need to care for and educate my own children 
For the moments spent with you this past year, especially at times of mourning, when I could not hold your hand, offer a hug, or just sit together and be present with you

Gratitude and Appreciation:
For the teachers and caregivers who have gone above and beyond to keep our children healthy and provide them with a sense of normalcy
For the medical professionals and frontline workers who have had to risk their own health and wellbeing to serve the needs of the community 
For those who have reached out to check on others, including me, and helped sustain a sense of community
For community leaders who continue to make difficult decisions on our behalf
For my husband, my children, and my family who fill my heart with joy and love
For scientific and technological advancements that have saved millions of hearts and souls 
For an amazing team of co-workers who support one another and excel in their jobs
For the email that came across my screen today to announce that as of Friday, anyone over the age of 40 may be vaccinated, together with those who suffer from cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, heart disease and obesity.
For a light at the end of the tunnel

I hope you will also take a moment and reflect on this past year and allow yourself the space to feel all the feelings, cry all the tears, and express joy for surviving this year.  

To this effort I offer both a prayer and a poem. The Shehechiyanu, thanking God for allowing us to reach this moment, and Amanda Gorman’s poem “The Miracle of Morning,” which reminds us that “like light, we can’t be broken, even when we bend.” 

Temple Israel Information During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Temple Israel Information During the Covid-19 Pandemic

For centuries, synagogues have played a central role as places of holy gathering, learning, prayer and service.  Our Sages teach there comes a time when the Jewish community is confronted with sha’at had’chak, an hour of duress, when lives and safety are at risk and the kehillah must adjust accordingly. Traditionally, sha’at had’chak occurred when Jews, specifically, were threatened. But the moment in which we find ourselves is not limited to Jews or synagogues, nor even Americans or Israelis. The spread of COVID-19 is a global crisis, and our faith demands of us that we stand now as citizens of the world.

We have assembled a team of congregational leaders and staff to develop and periodically review policies to ensure that we can maintain our essential functions in a safe and responsible manner. This group communicates regularly and makes necessary adjustments to our policies in response to current developments of the pandemic and the latest advice from public health organizations.  Under the current guidelines, the following policies have been implemented:

  • Friday night Shabbat services and Saturday morning Torah study will convene virtually.  Join our services via Zoom and email franwr@gmail.com for Torah study Zoom link.
  • No in-person services will be held.
  • All programming, including religious school, will be virtual until further notice.  Check our calendar for the most up to date information.
  • Temple Israel administrative offices will be open during limited hours for essential work only.

Meetings of the synagogue, such as committee meetings – particularly those of larger groups – will be held remotely via telephone or video conference. Check the calendar or check with the chair of the committee for more information.

We recognize that “social distancing” makes it difficult to accomplish the rich community-building to which we aspire at Temple Israel. These are temporary measures to deal with the situation at hand. We will need to find new ways to express our appreciation for and support of one another. When possible we will use technology to bridge the divide.

Rabbis Bodney-Halasz and Sobo remain available to anyone who is in need of pastoral care. In addition, our congregation continues to think through how best to support our most vulnerable members through this crisis. Please contact Rabbi Bodney-Halasz at rabbi@tidayton.org if you wish to be part of that conversation. 

During this “hour of duress,” may we continue to hold each other from afar, and may the bonds of friendship that unite our Temple Israel family continue to grow even as we endure this difficult congregational, national and global moment.

For specific information about Covid-19, please visit our resources page.  

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:

reformjudaism.org 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.

jewishlive.org 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.

jewishdayton.org 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 – courtney@tidayon.org.

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.  

Temple Israel on Synagogues 360

 

Temple Israel has been selected as one of the synagogues around the world to be archived in an exhibit of historic and exceptional synagogues around the world.  Select Temple Israel, Dayton, Ohio in the search.  Check out the website here.