Oh, Those Sweet August Breezes – Elul

Each year at this time I am flooded with fond memories of this time of the year – I recall a sense of new beginnings.  I remember during my youth on the farm in Moosup – feeling regret about the summer coming to an end, but also starting to think about the promise of the New Year.

As we enjoy these beautiful (and slightly cooler) August days leading to the Jewish High Holidays, I want to share (again) some thoughts based on a message some years ago from my Chabad rabbi, Mendy Uminer:

We are free to make changes in our lives every day of the year, but the Hebrew month of Elul is a time when the spiritual atmosphere itself is a proactively helpful force, beckoning us to think about and improve our lives.  God is much more palpably present, subtly encouraging us in our reflection, smilingly and lovingly cheering us on.

When we pause for a moment from life’s many distractions and turn to matters spiritual, those Elul breezes we’ll fee may be God’s hug.

Of course, a breeze is just a breeze, and – ultimately – the most important things in life are our choices.  At the same time, certain breezes can put us in a better place, creating an opportunity for enriching our lives.  

For the next month, the winds of change will be at our backs.  This can be a time of inspiration. Sometimes it may be as subtle as a faint breeze, but it’s always perceptible if we’re spiritually alert.  

Let’s savor those August breezes and be stirred by them.  I’m looking forward to the Holidays and to sharing them with you.

Norm

DAR Grant Funds Documentary and Archive

The Temple Beth Israel Preservation Society has received a grant from the National Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The proposal was written by 90-year-old board member, Elsie Fetterman.  The grant will provide partial funding to produce a film entitled “Embracing America: Preserving the Stories of Holocaust Survivors and the United States Military Who Freed Them.”  It will also provide for the creation of an electronic archive of the stories.

“The film will share a message of hope and resilience during one of the world’s darkest moments,” says Dr. David Fetterman, Elsie Fetterman’s son, who together with his wife Summer provided matching funds for the project.

David Fetterman grew up in Danielson and attended Hebrew school at Temple Beth Israel. The story is about what Beth Israel and the local community did to help the remnants of European Jewry in the aftermath of World War II, he says.  It is the same story that unfolded in many American communities – both Christian and Jewish – who reached out to help Holocaust survivors make a new home.

One of many examples of ecumenical, nondenominational community support in the film involves a non-Jewish member of the community helping to raise money to build the synagogue by auctioning his calf.

“It is a story of generosity of spirit and kindness,” says Fetterman, formerly a professor at Stanford University and currently CEO of Fetterman Associates in San Jose, California. “This is the true spirit of Americans we hope to rekindle with the story – coming together to help the weak and the weary in spite of, if not because of, our differences. The Society Board of Directors believes in the power of this story to help Americans reaffirm their commitment to our great nation – it is a reminder of what we can all do when we work together.”

Founded by Holocaust survivors as well as local Jewish families, Temple Beth Israel is listed on both the Connecticut and National Registers of Historic Places.

The film, which will be produced by Amherst Media, will be distributed to 2,200 television stations nationally, as well as the History Channel and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Join Us to Welcome the New Year 2017 (5778)

Join Us to Welcome the New Year 2017 (5778)

Join us for our innovative Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur observances.  At Temple Beth Israel, we draw on our colorful history to fashion rituals that are authentic, fresh, meaningful and provocative.  We welcome everyone to our observances.  You don’t need to be Jewish or know how to read Hebrew.  Just bring an open heart.

We create a safe and supportive environment in which to contemplate our place in the universe and think about whether we are doing all that we can to live a meaningful life.  And we do this with a unique blend of traditional prayers, contemporary poetry, old and new songs, lessons and ideas.

Tradition has us set aside time every fall to take stock before moving on into the next year.  we are urged to engage in a personal reckoning.  We ask the questions: Am I living the life I want to live?  Am I making the most of my time on earth?  What kind of spouse am I?  What kind of parent, friend, sibling, son or daughter am I?  Am I using my talents wisely?  Am I helping to make the earth, my community, my country better?  Am I working for peace?  Am I an agent for good?

These are important questions.  In our day to day lives we generally don’t get to take time to think about these things.  Rosh Hashanah creates a space for us to consider our vision for ourselves.  It is a time for accounting, recognition and acute self-awareness.  We cannot move forward without an honest assessment of how we have been doing.

We will read together, sing together, listen to each other, hear ancient words and melodies in a holy language and, if it all works as designed, we will emerge refreshed, restored, inspired and with renewed energy to enter into the New Year.

2017 High Holiday Schedule at Temple Beth Israel – Danielson

Eve of Rosh Hashanah:  Wednesday, September 20, 6:30 PM
Rosh Hashanah Day 1:  Thursday, September 21, 9:30 AM followed by riverside Tashlikh Service
Rosh Hashanah Day 2:  Friday, September 22, 9:30 AM
Eve of Yom Kippur – Kol Nidre:  Friday, September 29, 6:30 PM
Yom Kippur: Saturday, September 30, 9:30 AM
Passover 2017 – Spring is Here

Passover 2017 – Spring is Here

This wonderful time, the most joyous time of the year has come…The sun is high in the sky…. the air is free and fresh, soft and clear. On the hill are the first sprouts of spring grass – tender, quivering, green…With a screech and a flutter of wings, a straight line of swallows flies overhead, and I am reminded of the Song of Songs. “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing is come.”

These are the words of Shalom Aleichem that we read a few Sundays ago at our Community Passover Seder. We had 70 participants from throughout the community. We sang, told stories ate ritual foods and had coffee and deserts. The building was filled with singing and a spirit of renewal and rededication to our traditions and to each other.

This year, our Seder was held against a backdrop of news filled with anger, hate and rancor and divisiveness – especially featured in our recent election and our current politics. But we have also seen a renewed and reawakened spirit in the country. The fight for decency, justice and love has taken on a new energy.

The Haggadah teaches that in every generation, new pharaohs arise to oppress and endanger us. And in every generation, every human being must work anew toward freedom.

Passover is about renewal. Rabbi Mendy Uminer reminds us that the Hebrew word for month is ‘Khodesh’, which comes from ‘Khodosh,’ the word for new. That’s because every month in our lunar calendar is launched by the arrival of the ‘new’ moon.
Uminer writes, “We know that the moon isn’t actually ‘new’; it’s obviously existed for a very long time. But it disappears from view every month, and then returns. And every month, we celebrate our restored appreciation and consciousness. We go outside, look up at the moon and recite a blessing in which we thank God for this celestial boon to the universe.”

The Haggadah teaches that we need not accept the world as it is. We can make it better.

We can take a cue from the new moon. We can look at our spouse, friends, families, job, or home with renewed appreciation and excitement. We can feel so blessed by the constants of our life that we thank God for our good fortune, we infuse an exhilarating burst of beauty into our day. We can remember that our neighbors, fellow citizens, even strangers are God’s children who struggle with the same challenges as we do. Let’s renew our embrace of the things we know are good – decency, democracy, fairness, justice, humanity. Perhaps even, renewed faith in God.

The moon’s monthly renewal is not only the basis of our lunar calendar, but also an important reminder. Renewal is the stuff of life. The moon is new every month. The earth comes back to life every spring. This Passover, let us start again – fresh and free.

Welcome the New Year 5777  –  Come to Temple Beth Israel in Danielson

Welcome the New Year 5777 – Come to Temple Beth Israel in Danielson

Join us for our innovative Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur observances.  At Temple Beth Israel in Danielson, we draw on our proud and colorful history to fashion rituals that are authentic, meaningful and provocative.  We welcome everyone to our ritual.  You need not be Jewish or read Hebrew. Just bring an open heart.

We create a safe and supportive environment in which to contemplate our place in the universe and consider whether we are doing all that we can to live a meaningful life.   And we do this with a unique blend of traditional prayers, contemporary poetry, old and new songs, lessons and ideas.

Turn of the Century Yiddish Rosh Hashanah Card Depicts a Family’s Visit to the Temple

Turn of the Century Yiddish Rosh Hashanah Card Depicts a Family’s Visit to the Temple

Tradition has us set aside time every fall to take stock before moving on to the next year.  We are urged to engage in a personal reckoning.  We ask the questions: Am I living the life I want to live?  Am I making the most of my time on earth?  What kind of spouse am I?  What kind of parent, partner, friend, sibling, son or daughter am I?  Am I using my time and talents wisely?
Am I helping to make the earth, my community, my country better?  Am I working for peace?  Am I an agent for good?

These are important questions.  In our day to day lives we generally don’t get to take time to think about these things.  Rosh Hashanah creates a space for us to consider our vision for ourselves.  It is a time for accounting, recognition and acute self-awareness.  We cannot move forward without an honest assessment of how we have been doing.

We will read together, sing together, listen to ancient melodies in an ancient and holy language and, if it works, we will emerge refreshed, restored, inspired and with renewed energy to enter into the New Year.

Join Us!

Rosh Hashanah Eve: October 2, at 7:00 pm
First Day of Rosh Hashanah: October 3, at 9:30 am (followed by Tashlikh Service by the water)
Second Day of Rosh Hashanah: October 4 at 9:30 am
Yom Kippur EveKol Nidre: October 11 at 7:00 pm
Yom Kippur Day: October 12 at 9:30 am