Dear WJC Family,
As I mentioned last week, the month of Elul is the time to find our way back to the path that God intended for us. The central liturgical poem of the season, Unataneh Tokef, famously suggests three ways back to that path – Teshuvah (Repentance), Tefillah (Prayer) and Tzedakah (Giving). Teshuvah is the ongoing process of repairing our relationships with other people and ourselves so that when we turn to repair our relationship with God on the High Holidays, we can do so without that baggage.
Tefillah opportunities abound, at our daily morning minyan when we blow the shofar each day and a week from Saturday night after Shabbat when you are all invited to our Conservative Community Selichot Service in the outdoor tent at Beth El in New Rochelle. At this year’s Selichot service the clergy of five congregations from around the area will join together for beautiful prayers and readings that will orient us all towards spiritually appropriate matters for the season. See more information about Selichot below.
And tzedakah opportunities are all around us – the world is maybe giving us too many opportunities for tzedakah these days. Of course, it is tzedakah as a tool for the High Holiday process that is the reason we make the Kol Nidre/Elul Appeal every year. WJC is as in need of your support as ever and I hope you will take a few moments to make your High Holiday pledge.
Additionally, there are so many sad and consequential events playing out around the world that there is no lack of people in need of our tzedakah help at this moment. In case you are searching for a way to help, here are a few organizations helping with emergency aid around the world:
1) Yet another earthquake in Haiti has caused extraordinary devastation, disruption of food and water, and loss of life. Here are a few Jewish organizations on the ground making a huge difference:
2) As we have been shocked by the rise of the Taliban and its recapture of Afghanistan, we can also remember the consequences to our local community of refugees. You may remember me talking about our employee Saber Azizi during our HIAS Refugee Shabbat. Saber has moved to a new job, but his family is still in Afghanistan trying to escape, not to mention the expected rush of additional refugees who supported the American military as translators and contractors while we were in Afghanistan. These organizations support their resettlement and success when they arrive here in the States:
3) Fire Relief in Israel – Earlier this week a devastating wildfire tore through the area outside of Jerusalem destroying homes, property and trees. Accidental wildfires, as well as those started by incendiary balloons launched by terrorists, are an increasing issue in Israel. To help JNF support the Volunteer Fire Fighter Program, click here.
I also want to take a moment to address a very troubling story that has emerged in the last week or so. In a Times of Israel article, a rabbinic colleague revealed allegations of sexual abuse by a member of the USY staff when he was a teenager. This had led several other victims to come forward. This story is simply devastating to any of us who have dedicated our lives to supporting and educating Jewish youth. Our hearts break for anyone who was taken advantage of by this individual or any other perpetrator of abuse. I want to take the opportunity to say that if you have been abused by an adult in a Jewish setting, or for that matter in any setting, we are here for you. Please let us know what happened and we will help in whatever way you decide is appropriate. You are not alone and we will support you.
On a lighter note, we are continuing our joyful and light summer Shabbat schedule. I will be representing the clergy this Shabbat. Friday night services begin at 7:15pm. Saturday morning begins at 9:15 and will feature several lay leaders for the davening as well as a sermon from Jeff Taffet entitled, “Captive Women and the Mexican-American War.” Then Shabbat mincha services will begin Saturday evening at 7:30 and during the break, I will be teaching about next week’s Torah portion Ki Tavo, “The Power of a Word – Amen.” You can download and print the source sheet here. All Shabbat services are in-person in the sanctuary and available on the Live Stream.
See you in shul or online,