Marion’s Seat

Marion’s Seat

Rabbi’s Message – September 8, 2020

Rabbi Tina Sobo

In the congregation where I once attended, it was well-known that the second row back, second seat in, on the Cantor’s side was Marion’s seat, with her prayerbook, dedicated in memory of her late-husband, tucked in the seat back pocket. If you’d been to services at least once before, she’d ask you to move – if you were a visitor, you usually got a free pass. “She knows where to find me,” Marion would say of God – always emphasizing the ‘she’ while pointing up above. Every Friday night, every holiday – that’s where you would find her.  I have thought quite a bit about Marion and her seat lately, while preparing my own home for service-leading during this pandemic.

Perhaps one of the hardest challenges of this High Holidays will be that we are missing our “seats” – up front and center or tucked away in the back with a little more space and quiet or someplace in-between.  We will be missing our space in the Great Hall and Sanctuary at Temple Israel, but how can we create a space at home where God will find us, and we will find God?

Will you relish in the comfy armchair? Squish together with family on the couch? Sit in an office chair? Still dress up, or secretly smirk, knowing you are still in PJ pants? Will you take the day off of work or school as usual, or stream services in the background? Will you sneak that Yom Kippur snack, when you usually fast; or perhaps, finally not feel self-conscious about sneaking that snack because your blood sugar deems you must not fast? Will young children be at school or daycare, or will they hear the iconic melodies for the first time because it doesn’t matter if they are loud and squirmy? Will your dinner table feel emptier this year, void of guests; or adorned with a tablet while eating with family or friends from across the country on Zoom? Will you use the online flipbook for the liturgy, or a physical machzor, or maybe just listen?  

The short answer, which I always had to bite my tongue from saying to Marion, is that God will find us wherever we are, however we are dressed, however we are positioned, and even if you sneak a game of solitaire or some text messaging in during services. But, we won’t find God in the same ways depending on our personal answers. There are no right answers. PJ pants might be more comfortable than the itchy suit, or might make it easier to doze off – only you know yourself, but take the time to consider your sanctuary for these days.  What do you need to create a holy place where you can find a connection to God, to Israel, to the holidays, and more?

Need some help creating a holy space in your home?  Read these suggestions and blessings from

Reframing the Question

Reframing the Question

Rabbi’s Message – August 11, 2020

Rabbi Tina Sobo

The question isn’t “How can they learn the V’ahavta virtually in third grade?” instead it’s “How can religious school be a source of constant love for third graders when the world is upside down?”  -(Posted 8/2/2020, @RogueShul)

I remember a commercial for an office supply store where a parent is wheeling down the back-to-school aisles singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while piling school supplies into the cart and happily sharing lyrics about the children going back to school.  I thought it was funny as a kid.  Now as an adult, I can see how parents might have had a different perspective than the nine-year-old me.  But this year, instead of frivolous commercials and excitement over back-to-school sales, I’m seeing advice on the best masks for little ones and the best footwear to avoid shoelace tying.  I’m seeing social media posts about how unsafe in-person learning will be and also how ineffective and challenging virtual learning will be.  Through all of this, teachers are scrambling to put together lesson plans for all the different scenarios of learning.  There’s little actual excitement about the return to school.  Right now, I doubt any parent, teacher, or sane adult is that gleeful parent from the commercial.

But here’s the catch.  As adults, we have to be excited… or at least pretend to be, especially with younger children.  For them, how the adults in our community frame this school year, will make all the difference in the world.  It’s the difference between, “How will I make sure my child/student is wearing their mask?” versus “How can I make them feel great about utilizing a face covering?” and “How will they learn this year’s curriculum?” versus “What are some new ways to engage with this content at home?”

For those with school-age children or not – our attitudes and behaviors towards school will make a big difference for ourselves and those around us.  It won’t negate that elements of living through this pandemic are less than ideal or even borderline impossible, but it can shape the way we view the next several months.  “Fake it ’til you make it” is an old adage that applies today.

Turning a Jewish lens on this time of year, we are given the gift of the month of Elul for reflection leading up to the High Holidays.  I invite you to take some time throughout this week and into the next month to consider what it is that we are bringing from the past year, and how we are framing it, into the coming year; and to pay attention to how you approach the questions and situations posed before you.  Let’s do our best to make it feel as wonderful as possible, even if it seems like everything is upside down.

Together We Remember

Rabbi’s Message – August 4, 2020

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

Our hearts are heavy today as we mark the first anniversary of the Oregon District shooting.  Some are still processing the trauma, and for others it feels more remote.  Yet today, as we collectively mourn together as a community, we are all experiencing some amount of grief.  Memorializing as a community when we are socially distanced may feel awkward.  Thankfully, the thoughtful leaders of #DaytonShines crafted meaningful opportunities for us to remember and still feel the strength of the community.  In Judaism, we mark remembrance by setting aside time and reflecting on the lives of our loved ones.  I invite you to join me tonight at 8:04 p.m on Facebook as our city offers for a nine minute memorial tribute to Lois Oglesby, TJ McNichols, Logan Turner, Derrick Fudge, Megan Betts, Nicholas Cumer, Monica Brickhouse, Saeed Saleh, and Beatrice Warren-Curtis. Zichronam L’vracha.  May their memories always be for a blessing. 

If you are having a difficult time today, please remember that I am always available to meet by Zoom.  In addition, our local government has also provided mental health resources through a 24-hour Crisis Line at 937-225-5623.  

Emerging with Resilience and Hope

Emerging with Resilience and Hope

Rabbi’s Message – July 28, 2020

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

Our people are well acquainted with devastating loss.  Every year on Tisha B’Av, which begins Wednesday evening, we recall the destructions of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem, a symbol of our Jewish sovereignty.  We also collectively remember all of the loss and suffering experienced by the Jewish people over the last 2500 years.  We observe Tisha B’Av by fasting and observing rituals associated with mourning.  We sit on the ground, by candlelight, mournfully chanting Lamentations.  We yearn for security and stability but recognize that everything is always at stake.  It is a time for finding strength despite the unstable ground beneath us. 

In the months following 9/11, an EMT who had lost her EMT partner on that disasterous day was talking to her rabbi.  She hadn’t been to synagogue for months.  She couldn’t bring herself to go to the High Holidays.  She had lost countless nights of sleep.  She said, “Rabbi, this is one long run on sentence without a period.”  It is true.  There is no “sof pasuk” or period to complete the sentences of our lives following tragedy.    

In many ways, it has felt like that for us here in Dayton since last May.  But, the greatest loss was felt after the Oregon District shooting nearly a year ago.  It has been one long run on sentence without an end.  And finding strength will be much harder this year for many of us.   

As we observe Tisha B’Av this week, I want to lift up the idea that Tisha B’Av also contains elements of hope.  Hope that our world will still be redeemed.   Hope that, just as our ancestors found new ways to participate in Jewish life, we will do so too.  Hope that we never stop remembering our losses and learning from them.  Hope that out of destruction comes meaningful living.   

Our Judaism teaches us how to find that hope.  It encourages relationship building.  It teaches us the importance of coming together as a community to be present for one another through our shared experiences.  It teaches us the significance of collective memory.   

Over the next few days, as we reflect on our Jewish history and on the devastating loss we have felt here in Dayton, I encourage us all to take some time not only to remember, but to re-sanctify the values we share and to emerge with resilience and hope.  This never-ending run-on sentence will eventually come to an end.  Let us fill it with hope.   

Recognizing Our Blessings

Recognizing Our Blessings

Rabbi’s Message – July 14, 2020

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

It’s mid-July and we are tired of social distancing.  It has cramped our styles.  Birthdays, anniversaries, special celebrations… none of them feel quite right in isolation.  But this time apart has not just kept us safe, it has brought unacknowledged gifts and even clarity 

Personally, my family and I have established new traditions, renewed old traditions, and grown as individuals and a unit. Educationally, I have a much clearer understanding of my children’s skills and growth areas – and my own.  Emotionally, I feel greater appreciation for most everything, especially my health.  Culturally, I’ve found the online arts world amazing.  One word – Hamilton!  Socially, I have reconnected with long-time friends through the expansion of the “Zoomiverse.  Spiritually, I continue to expand my understanding of what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century.  Pastorally, I have learned that technology can play a role in “I-Thou” relationships.  Communally, there is a new sense of unity with non-Jewish clergy and leaders in Dayton.  And of course, a new sense of purpose and urgency.   

Our Judaism teaches us to recognize our blessings – at least 100 a day!  I encourage you to take a moment today to sit and reflect on what this year has brought for you.  Even in trying and painful times, we must try to focus on the good.  We can begin by offering Modeh Ani, thanking God for returning our soul to us after our slumber, and then take a moment to acknowledge the everyday miracles we encounter.

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. 

Worthy of a Special Moment

A Message from Rabbi Bodney-Halasz
May 26, 2020

One of the most meaningful responsibilities I have is teaching our Confirmation students.  Confirmation is a relatively new tradition that began in the late 1800s to honor young adults for their commitment to Jewish learning and community.  Metaphorically, B’nai Mitzvah is getting your learner’s permit and Confirmation is receiving your driver’s license.  Students put in many years of study and demonstrate a deeper, more meaningful understanding of Judaism.   The Reform community chose to associate Confirmation with the holiday of Shavuot, as our children reaffirm their commitment to accepting the weight of the Torah and represent the first fruits of each year’s harvest to the community. (Learn more about Shavuot here.)
We have a remarkable class of Confirmation students this year.  In fact, earlier this year, before the novel coronavirus hit the U.S., they suggested we continue meeting next year.  While we have traditionally held Confirmation on Shavuot, I have chosen not to do so this year.  We will postpone this event not because these students lack depth of knowledge or commitment to our community, but precisely the opposite.  I want to offer them the honor of receiving Confirmation when they may safely do so before the ark in our sanctuary.  We may still need to have that moment in an individual fashion with social distancing, but these remarkable youth are worthy of this special moment.  I look forward to sharing more information about this opportunity in the fall.  In the meantime, please join me and the rest of the worship team this Thursday night and Friday morning for our Festival Services and Yizkor.