In the Mishnah, our third century code of Jewish law, Rabbi Shammai asserts, “Greet every person with a cheerful countenance.” [Avot 1:15]
It is great advice, not really novel (my late mother gave the same advice, and it is unlikely she had read the Mishnah!), and it is the task before us at Temple Beth Torah.
As I come to TBT as your Interim Rabbi, and as we continue a series of congregational transitions and change over the next year, Shammai’s admonition should prove to be a vital and worthy teaching. There will be new faces in our beautiful synagogue – including mine, and as I get to know each of you, we will transform new faces into new friends – and our ancient sage has offered this single and simple, yet profound directive with which to engage each other and our congregational changes.
In the spirit of Shammai’s message, I appreciate that our Transition Committee, so ably chaired by Ellen Holtzman, is preparing a number of get-together events for us to meet, to get to know one another, and to talk about our Temple. I am very eager to meet each of you, as I trust you are equally eager to introduce yourselves to me. Please watch for invitations or for notices of events, and I hope that you will come to many get-togethers – not just one. Getting to know one another takes a little time, and there is much cheerful countenance to spread forth!
Yet, if we look a little deeper, we see that Shammai is teaching us a far more profound lesson than merely to greet one another warmly. That is good, but there is more. Shammai teaches that the essence of community is found in how we treat one another. It doesn’t really matter much how many classes are offered, how spiritual the worship may be, or the schedule when a program begins or ends, if we haven’t genuinely made caring for each other our chief obligation, and our most genuine devotion. Ultimately, Temple is about Greeting every person with a cheerful countenance.
Moreover, Shammai taught that we should greet every person – not just those with whom we are familiar or intimate, which means taking a little risk to extend ourselves. Thus, our Transition Committee is looking to cast a very wide net, with multiple meeting opportunities, so that we do our very best to include as much if not all of the TBT community in meeting not only me, but more importantly, in meeting one another. There is no face nor any voice which is unimportant – to me – or to the future of our Temple. “Greet every person,” taught our Mishnaic teacher.
So, I’ll start…
Thus, in conclusion, “I’m Rabbi Doug Kohn, I’m your new Interim Rabbi at TBT, and I am very eager to know you!” With Shalom,
Rabbi Doug Kohn
Click here to view Rabbi Kohn's Yom Kippur 5775 morning sermon.
On July 28, some 30-40,000 Jews and
others gathered at Dag Hammerskjold Plaza, by the United Nations Building, to
demonstrate solidarity and support for Israel. It was my privilege, along
with Susan, to represent TBT at the rally and to add our voices, ears and
hearts to the thousands who expressed concern for the safety and security of
our Jewish State.
Congressmen Steve Israel and Eliot
Engel, and Senator Chuck Schumer were among the featured speakers, and they
repeatedly reiterated Prime Minister Netanyahu's powerful message, that
"Israel uses its missiles to protect its people, while Hamas uses its
people to protect its missiles," and that peace will come when children in
Gaza are taught to build with blocks, not to blow up with bombs.
Mostly, though, the message was that
the Jewish people and the Israeli nation are resilient, committed to peace, and
united, and such is the message which I bring back to each of us at Temple Beth
Torah. At this time of conflict and worry, when Israel and Israelis are
suffering, it is important that we support them in our conversations with our
friends and neighbors, and that we offer our own resources, as
Below is the link through the Reform
Movement to make a contribution to the Stop the Sirens Campaign.
Should you wish, please contribute toprovide relief and support to the most heavily
impacted Israeli communities, including helping to move 50,000 children to safe
places for healthy summer experiences: http://urj.org//israel/index.cfm?
With Shalom, and with prayers for the
Peace of Jerusalem, Beersheva, Ashkelon and Sderot,
Rabbi Douglas Kohn
TBT’s new and inspiring initiative, “Shaareinu: Our Gateways”:
We must learn to see past one’s disabilities and to see the Jewish soul within. This is a process of breaking down physical as well as attitudinal barriers, and we at TBT are poised to begin this important work. Enabling all to access our community is not an act of charity, it is an obligation that benefits our entire community. All four of our task forces are comprised of volunteers with a wide range of expertise and experience in relevant fields, both professional and personal. They have been meeting and setting achievable, concrete goals, lead by chairpeople who are taking their place as significant lay leaders of our congregation.
Click here for details about all of the progress we’ve made to date...
spirit of opening our gateways to Temple Beth Torah members and the greater
Rockland County community, the Nefesh Task Force has created a Referral Manual. Compiled in
the fall of 2013 the manual lists a variety of services in Rockland and
surrounding communities (Bergen and Westchester counties). Here you will find
listed the following types of services: MENTAL HEALTH, ADDICTION TREATMENT,
DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, AGING, BEREAVEMENT, SELF HELP GROUPS, PEER AND FAMILY SUPPORTS,
EDUCATION AND INFORMATION SERVICES.
A number of people contributed to the creation of this
informative document. Dr. Steve Levy, chair of Nefesh Task Force, acted as
executive editor. Task force members, Rena Finkelstein, President of Rockland
NAMI-FAMILYA (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and Julie Buffington Rizner
culled the listings from many sources. Alona Marnet-Franchino and other Temple office staff edited and formatted the text. As with all our
endeavors we are grateful for the strong support of Rabbi Brian Beal, Cantor
Sally Neff and President Barry Schoenberg. And a special vote of thanks to Eva
Steen, Chair of TBT’s Shaareinu initiative, for all her encouragement and
It is 79 pages long. We strongly encourage you to read the
introduction and disclaimers as well as the Mi Sheberach Prayer of Healing on
pages 3 and 4. The Table of contents can be found on page 5. The remainder of
the manual is the list of agencies and programs provided in our service area.
Please check with them directly as some information will change over the course
of time. In addition to calling the agencies themselves, you can
access members of the Nefesh Task Force by calling the temple office and
indicating what information you are seeking. We will return all calls.
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