Dear WJC Family,
In this week’s email, I talk about my experiences attending the Siyyum HaShas at Giants Stadium and the No Hate No Fear Rally in New York City, opportunities to “do Jewish” in the upcoming months at WJC, and the invitation from a local church to their “Freedom Luncheon” on January 26, which they have dedicated to solidarity with the Jewish community.
In the last nine days, I have had the privilege to attend one of the largest gatherings of Jews I have ever experienced. On January 1, I was able to attend the Siyyum HaShas at Giants Stadium where 90,000 mostly haredi (very Orthodox) Jewish men celebrated the completion of learning the entire Babylonian Talmud one folio page per day, every day, for seven and a half years. Then this past Sunday, I marched across the Brooklyn Bridge with 25,000 Jews. This gathering wasn’t a celebration as much as a statement of pride and courage, as the gathering was planned in response to the spate of Antisemitic attacks perpetrated over the past many months. The gatherings were very different—one a celebration and one a rally, one gathering almost all dressed in black and the other an incredibly diverse mix.
And yet, there was also something very similar about them. The March and Rally Sunday were one important response to Antisemitism, standing up and speaking out. However, as Rabbi Segelman pointed out so eloquently in his sermon last Saturday, the Siyyum HaShas can also be framed as a response to Antisemitism, and it was by several news outlets. Of course, it wasn’t designed as such, but an appropriate response to the persecution of Jews is to do more Jewish—to learn and worship and celebrate Jewishly and publicly. I share a few more reflections about the current rise in antisemitism and how to address it in my weekly Torah Talk, which you can view by clicking at the video link at the end of this email. But in the meantime, I want to remind you of a few of the cool things going on here at WJC to give us all the opportunity to do Jewish—not just as a response to antisemitism, but because just like those who participated in the Siyyum HaShas, it’s who we are.
There are our regular opportunities for learning like the Weekly Torah Portion Seminar I lead on Tuesday mornings at 9:45am, the Shabbat morning class at 8:45am (which will resume when Rabbi Segelman returns from India) and the Saturday afternoon “shiur”—a study session, usually about the next week’s Torah portion, between the afternoon and evening services. We also have our beautiful Koslowe Gallery bringing fascinating exhibitions for museum-style learning. And there are also unique opportunities like the upcoming Scholar in Residence Weekend with Rabbi Sharon Brous, the dynamic and sage leader of IKAR in Los Angeles. There are our regular gatherings for worship on Shabbat and every weekday morning and evening, and our special contemporary services: our next Rhythm and Ruach service on Friday night January 24 and our next Renewal Service on Sunday evening January 26. And thanks to the SOJAC Committee and others there are lots of opportunities to do social action together through collections and projects.
We have myriad opportunities to celebrate together and share fellowship: lunch every Saturday after services, frequent Friday night dinners and programs like ShaJam by PJ Library, JOY Club events, Sunday Family Programs and regular weeknight Israeli dancing with Shmulik (the next Havdalah Israeli Dance Party is Saturday night January 25). A couple of biggies are coming up—the annual Purimshpiel (Tami and I are excited about our first Purim performance) and the Annual Gala, this year honoring Rabbi Jef and Marla Segelman.
There is so much more than I can list here. This is an exciting place to be and to do Jewish! The next step is up to you. Come to one or more of the opportunities above; I look forward to seeing you here.
And oh, did I mention that we do Shabbat every week? This Shabbat and next Rabbi Segelman is in India with his intrepid crew of WJC travelers, so I will be teaching on Friday night and delivering the sermon on Saturday morning. The sermon is entitled, ““The Family that becomes a Nation creates the Nation that is a Family” and addresses the root of the special connection between all Jewish people despite geography, traditions and observance and why our connection goes far beyond our shared persecution. Shabbat afternoon Cantor Goldberg will teach the mincha/ma’ariv shiur entitled “The Mysterious Midwives of Egypt.” Join us for a taste of the WJC smorgasbord!
One more exciting upcoming event: The Mamaroneck United Methodist Church has invited us to their Freedom Luncheon at 12:15pm on January 26. They are dedicating the event this year to solidarity with the Jewish community. We are so grateful for their gesture of support and greater community. It is a potluck affair and we will make sure that there is a kosher table. The speakers will be highlighting the topic of immigration, one from the church and one from the synagogue. I hope you will be able to join us!
See you in shul,