Today is March 1, 2024 /

Shabbat Shalom ~ Naso 2022

Dear WJC Family,

In this week’s parsha, Naso, God requires the Kohanim to act as intermediaries – God would bless the people through them. The blessing, a threefold formula that has become the words used by parents to bless their children on Friday night and at important lifecycle events, culminates with a request that the blessed be granted “peace.” Of course, we all want peace, but the first of the three blessings begins with something much less high minded and more practical: “May God bless and protect you.”

The rabbis interpreted the blessings of this first line as asking for God’s blessing so that a person can have material needs fulfilled and be safe. It is a poignant reminder that we can’t really have peace if our basic needs are not met, and that is especially true for children. Children need and, dare I say, all deserve to have their basic material needs like food, shelter and clothing met without ordeal. They should all enjoy a sense of safety and protectedness. Without those, what difference does peace make?

It is with this blessing in mind that we are joining the United Methodist Church of Mamaroneck and the Westchester Jewish Coalition for Immigration to present On Angel’s Shoulders: A Concert to Benefit Ukrainian Children. There have been a plethora of heartbreaking images from the war on Ukraine and it is impossible to compare one tragedy to another. Still, there is something particularly heartbreaking about the images of children suffering without their basic needs met and never knowing that sense of safety that we often take for granted.

This incredible line-up of professional and accomplished Ukrainian musicians will be led by Ukrainian-American soprano, Oksana Krovytska, who was hailed by the New York Times as “the Butterfly that Puccini wanted” when performing with New York City Opera. Joining Ms. Krovytska are Stefan Szkavarofsky, a bass with the Metropolitan Opera, Dr. Taras Filenko, a renowned pianist/musicologist and authority on Ukrainian music, violinist Innesa Tymochko-Dekajlo, the Malvy Bandura Duet, as well as other special guests. This incredible collection of musicians will present their concert free-of-charge – we recommend a minimum donation of $36 be made directly to the UJA/Federation Ukraine Relief Fund through the UJA/Federation website or to the WJC Rabbi’s Discretionary Fund (write “Ukraine Concert” in the memo line), which will go directly to support a Ukrainian Children’s Charity in Lviv, Ukraine.

The need in Ukraine remains dire—I hope you will help us fulfill the blessing of Parshat Naso by supporting the basic needs of the children of Ukraine even as we pray for the broader blessing of peace.

Before the concert, I hope you will join us in multiple celebrations this Shabbat. We start on Friday night with a dinner and Rhythm & Ruach service followed by our Installation of Officers. We are so grateful to Seth Schafler for his three incredible years of service to this congregation as president under these most difficult of circumstances. Seth’s steady and calming hand on the tiller of WJC will always stand for me as an exemplary demonstration of leadership under pressure. And we are excited to welcome Larry Thaler as our new president and wish him a successful, and much less eventful, tenure.

Then on Saturday morning we will celebrate the bar mitzvah of Jaden Vettorino and Saturday evening, I’ll be teaching a follow-up lesson about the deeper lessons of the Nazarite in this week’s parsha. We are looking forward to sharing a busy and exciting weekend with you in-person or online when possible.

Wishing you a sweet Shabbat,


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