Shabbat Shalom ~ Pekudei 2024

See the second half of Rabbi Arnowitz’s note for information about the Project Ezra Passover Funds Drive to benefit elderly Jews in need on the Lower East Side.

Dear WJC Family,

This week we celebrated Rosh Chodesh Adar II and invoked the Talmudic adage, “משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה, When one enters the month of Adar [or in a leap year like this one, the second month of Adar] one must multiply joyous celebration.” With all going on this year, as we enter the month of Adar, tapping into that sense of joy is particularly challenging. And yet, the holiday of Purim we celebrate in Adar was not destined to be a happy one. An enemy rose up and came very close to succeeding in a genocide of all the Jews of Persia, a sprawling empire at that time. Even with the worst avoided, was it inevitable that we would respond with celebration even thousands of years later? Perhaps we would do better to lament the start of a historical trend rather than celebrate this particular incident’s failure?

That, however, is part of the genius of our tradition. Even when times are difficult, we celebrate; we focus on the brightness, even when it is shrouded in darkness. With that in mind, we will do our best to celebrate Purim and understand just how it became the model for finding joy in difficult times. Please join us on Saturday evening, March 24th – starting at 6:45pm, for a traditional  Seudah Shelishit (light dinner) and Shiur (study session) I will lead called “We Survived, Let’s Eat:” Resilience and Celebration on Purim (Activity Center). At 8:00pm we will head into the sanctuary for services and Megillah reading (costumes welcome.) Patty’s amazing hamantaschen will follow.

Then we will eat again at 5pm on Sunday – a delicious Purim Seudah (it’s a mitzvah to have a celebratory meal on Purim) catered with one of Patty’s delicious Mexican feasts (just like Mordechai and Esther ate) – followed by the premier of the brand new Purim Shpiel “Schmaltz!” You won’t want to miss it – let’s just say that (for better or worse) there’ll be plenty of chatter about the Rabbi when all is said and done and it’s a good thing I’ve already signed a long term contract!

Fast forward a little to Passover, another double-edged joyous festival based on the experience of slavery that preceded redemption. “Kol dichfin yeitei v’yeichol — let all who are hungry, come and eat.” This famous phrase from the “Ha Lachma Anya” section of the Haggadah has become more than a symbolic theme of Passover; it has become a distinctive value of the Jewish people. In fact, as early as the time of the Jerusalem Talmud (1600 years ago) there was a practice of collecting money so that those living in poverty could buy matzah. This practice is called maot chittin and still exists today.

For more than two decades our Westchester Jewish Center family has fulfilled the mitzvah of maot hittin by collecting funds for Project Ezra, an amazing organization that depends upon funds from synagogues to provide food to approximately 300 elderly, frail, and often homebound clients on the Lower East Side.

At WJC we are proud to be part of that effort. Last Passover WJC provided over $8,000 in donations to Project Ezra. Given the increase in the cost of food, we believe that special Passover foods will cost even more this year. Our goal is to match or exceed our 2023 donations.

The 2024 WJC-Project Ezra Passover funds collection began on March 11th and will be delivered in time for checks to be sent to the elders. All checks must be made out ONLY to “Project Ezra” and received at WJC by April 12th, Attention SOJAC. (If you prefer to mail a check directly to Project Ezra, please mark the memo “Passover-WJC member” and mail to: Project Ezra/ 387 Grand Street- Ground Floor/ NY, NY 10002/ Attn. Gerry.)Or you can donate online by going to Follow directions to donate, noting WJC on your donation. Remember, the collection ends April 12th. WJC is a mainstay of Project Ezra. They express tremendous gratitude for our caring and generosity now and over the years.

The “Ha Lachma Anya” section concludes, “Now we are here, next year we will be in the Promised Land.” Indeed, may we speedily arrive at the days when no senior will experience food insecurity on Passover or any day—and until then, let us know we have done everything we can to ensure that this Passover fewer of our treasured seniors will know hunger.

And before we celebrate either holiday, we are looking forward to a beautiful Shabbat together, including the celebration of Eli Moskowitz’s bar mitzvah on Shabbat morning – mazal tov to him and to his parents Howie and Ilana.

See you in shul,

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