Erev Shabbat Shalom,
First of all, I wish my mother and all moms out there a very happy Mother’s Day. As my rabbi growing up said, in Judaism every day is Mother’s Day. But, even so, it is appropriate to pay special attention to the special people in our lives, and to thank them for all they have done and continue to do. And for those remembering their moms on Mother’s Day, have comfort and gain strength from calling them to mind.
We are in what I think of as our ‘shoulder season’ and heading into summer. For some of our kids, this will mean working with our youngest children in the excellent Camp Keshet; others head off to camp or stay local in programs closer by. With great pride, B’nai Torah sends a large contingent of campers and staff to Camp Ramah Darom, where our own daughter will spend a month for the first time this summer. We are excited for her, but not half as excited as she is to go. I have instructed her to try to not miss me too much. I reserve the right to miss her a lot!
In an under-publicized, but extremely impactful way, B’nai Torah – which is to say, most of you who are reading this message – helps students to attend Jewish educational programs with financial assistance. Through smaller incentive grants which express support for our families, to larger need-based grants that are processed with great discretion, we are able to assist with the large bill for providing our kids with experiences we know make a difference; in particular: Camp Ramah, March of the Living, and substantive Israel experiences. Interest from endowed funds held by the B’nai Torah Foundation, enhanced by extraordinary generosity from our Women’s League and the proceeds of the Judaica Shop, hamantaschen sales and the like, and supplemented in cases of greater need by our rabbis’ discretionary funds, B’nai Torah this year distributed close to $25,000 in scholarships.
I received a thank you note from a student B’nai Torah was able to help to attend a great Israel experience. In part he wrote: “We did a lot of things that were amazing, but really one thing enhanced my connection to Judaism, which was during Shabbat, going to the Kotel and dancing and singing with soldiers, and [doing that] with Jews of all different customs. It really didn’t matter if you were a stranger or not, they brought you into the circle of people like we were all family! Yes us Jews need to stick together and remain one big family. If not for your incredible consideration and the generosity of the congregation, I would not have been able to experience any of this. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime to go to Israel.”
“In other news,” Rabbi Steinhardt is finishing up a well-deserved week of vacation, so I’ll be officiating at Shabbat services with Cantor Tisser, which tonight begin at 5:45 in the Weiner Cultural Center. Shabbat morning, we’ll be combined in one service in the Sanctuary beginning at 8:45 am, and I’ll be speaking about the good kind of disruptive ideas that help to push our communities, society, and our tradition in the right direction (and how we know it is the right direction). I also encourage you to consider coming out to our late mincha-ma’ariv-havdalah service on Saturday night, this week at 8:00 pm. Even if people come once in a while, we will have no trouble making a minyan on these long summer Shabbats.
Additionally, the Cooperman Academy’s weekly Lunch & Learn will this week be an open conversation with Rabbi Steinhardt about what is on his mind and yours too. That meets on Tuesday at 12 pm in the Weiner Cultural Center.
And since I have this opportunity, I want to remind you that although summer is upon us, the High Holy Days will quickly be approaching. If you have a student at home who would like to read part of a Torah or Haftarah reading in our Family Service, I’m assigning those parts before summer hits. We divide them up into pretty small parts so they are easier to learn, and we provide texts and recordings – just contact me at the synagogue if you might “know someone” who would accept the invitation to prepare a reading.
Mazal tov to anyone celebrating a college graduation as that season is upon us as well. Again, Happy Mother’s Day to all our moms and I hope to see you tonight, tomorrow, or soon after if you are in town.
Rabbi David Englander
This column is dedicated to the memory of Rubin Shafran z”l