Our hearts are hurting. We prepare ourselves once again to bring in the light of Shabbat. Like the wicks of the havdallah candle, as we live Jewishly, our pain and our joy, our longing and our gratitude are braided together.
As we join together in community to breathe and sing together, we will pray with all our hearts for captives, for those who are wounded and all those bereaved, for Israel’s soldiers. We will pray for children in Israel and Gaza who are at risk. We will pray for healing and peace.
Tomorrow, we will also celebrate Jewish life with all our hearts as Brooke Raskin is called to the Torah as Bat Mitzvah and as baby Tamar Jade Kane receives her Hebrew name. We are grateful to have the opportunity to mark simchahs (joyous occasions) together.
Rabbi Annie’s Reflections
This past week, I offered a prayer at a Zoom gathering for rabbinic colleagues in Israel and North America, facilitated by Sigalit Ur, the mother of our former shlicha, Rotem. Sigalit leads the Israeli rabbinic program at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. I share an excerpt of the prayer for our siblings in Israel, and you can read the full prayer here.
We are with you
We are one heart
We are here
We are not going anywhere
May our love find you wherever you are.
May the Source of Love and Life be with us all-
May you know: You are never alone.
Rabbi Yosef’s Reflections
My teacher, Rabbi Joey Rosenfeld, taught this week that Noah’s ark did not undo the chaos and destruction. Instead “it created a womblike space of interiority and calmness within the chaos and destruction itself.” Boarding the ark and closing the doors to the deluge is not a denial of the waters raging all around, rather it allowed him to have just enough distance from it to build an awareness of what would be needed to survive the chaos.
The approach of Shabbat feels different this week. My prayer for us is that Shabbat may still offer us a respite and glimpses of what peace and safety can feel like within our selves and collectively. Like Noah’s ark, I pray that we can immerse ourselves fully into Shabbat. May it serve as a barrier from the pain and destruction around us that threaten to overwhelm and paralyze us. May we heed its invitation to deepen our breath, and bring our awareness to what we need–each of us and all of us–to survive this chaos and grief with hope for renewed life.
Community Reflections from Ken Beecher
We are grateful that past Shaare Torah president, Ken Beecher, returned safely from Israel this week, where he had traveled to attend a family wedding before the war broke out. He shares his reflections on the many layers of emotions and questions that were live for him during his journey and as he landed back in the United States.
Who am I…
…Sitting on my sister’s porch overseeing the Judean mountains on a Sabbath morning and hearing dozens of thuds curious what they are?
…Listening to the sirens for the first time and watching my sister calmly managing the family into the bomb shelter?
…Sitting at Simchat Torah services with the sirens again wailing and listening to the men singing louder and louder drowning out the outside sounds and telling the terrorists that we are not scared nor will we be intimated?
…Learning that Hamas massacred and committed unthinkable atrocities and thinking that it could have been me?
…Daydreaming if I was kidnapped and wondering how I would handle it and thinking of my family’s reaction?
…Being glued to the internet consuming anything and everything hourly and trying to look away but cannot?
…Presenting confidence and strength to my nieces and nephew and hiding that I was a little scared?
…Sharing all my experiences as they happen real-time with my family and friends in the United States and not doing so because I knew they were already concerned?
…Going to the market with my dad and niece when the sirens went off again, huddling in the corner of the store with 30 other people, and thinking how close the explosions were and if today was the day?
…Seeing jets and helicopters flying overhead every 5-15 minutes and feeling protected?
…Finding comfort hearing the IDF bombing Gaza often like a pounding of a beating heart and feeling guilty that there are innocent lives in Gaza being impacted forever?
…Asking for assistance from a person who spoke no English at the grocery store and forming a special connection thanks to my niece’s translation skills?
…Seeing babies in strollers or carried by their loved one and watching young boys and girls, adults and the elderly and thanking g-d it wasn’t one of them included in the 1400 deaths?
…Attending services and waiting for a congregant to unlock a massive heavy lock for me to enter?
…Learning that a congregant had an uzi under his seat and feeling safe?
…Meeting a daughter of good friends in Jerusalem to find a little normalcy and receiving the biggest hug from her even though we probably said no more than a dozen words previously?
…Wanting to visit a friend 20 minutes away and her 8-month son and not going because I would be driving past a few Arab villages?
…Feel like I am retreating back to the United States and having others fight for Israel?
…Listening to a vacuum at the airport in the United States and thinking it was a siren?
…Listening to airplanes taking off and thinking it was the Iron Dome protecting me?
…Feeling loved and supported by family and friends for my perceived trauma and knowing that millions of families had it much much much worse and needing that support more than me?
Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s Mission to Israel
Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal (CEO, USCJ/ Rabbinical Assembly) travelled to Israel this week. Here are some refection from the USCJ on part on the visit:
Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal and USCJ President Andy Schaer visited the synagogue at the Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center, where over 100 families displaced from the Gaza area are staying at the Guest House. During the week the synagogue space is also serving as a play space for children, volunteers, including Nativ participants, engaging with children and their parents. All of this was organized overnight with gratitude to Fuchsberg funders.
Rabbi Jacob with Nativ participants, including Sophie Schnur!
Rabbi Blumenthal and Andy also visited with participants of the Nativ gap year program in Jerusalem. While sharing the anxieties and worries that everyone in Israel has, they are going to classes (at the Fuchsberg Center or on Zoom), volunteering (especially with displaced families staying at the Center’s guest house), and creating their own fun experiences as a group. Their strength and adaptability was truly impressive!
The theme seen all over Israel is “Nenatze’ah B’yahad — Together We Will Prevail.” That is both a statement within Israel itself, and also in the relationship between Jews in Israel and the diaspora. In that spirit, RA President Harold Kravitz and CEO Jacob Blumenthal are on a short solidarity mission, and visited with colleagues in Jerusalem. They talked about their work in their various settings that keeps them going morning to midnight, while sharing stories about their families and friends. Their strength, sensitivity, and exhaustion were inspiring, and they took strength from the care and concern of colleagues throughout the world.