Category Archives: Uncategorized

Pursue

Run after justice
the way an eight-year-old
runs after the ice cream truck
chasing its elusive music

sandals slapping asphalt
until panting, calves burning
you catch it
and taste sweetness.

Run after justice
with the single-minded focus
a thirteen-year-old
brings to their phone.

Run after justice
the way the mother
of a colicky newborn
pursues sleep.

Run after justice
whole-hearted and open, as though
justice were your beloved
who makes your heart race,

whose integrity shines
like the light of the sun,
who makes you want to be
better than you are.

 


Run after justice. See Deuteronomy 16:20.

[W]hole-hearted. See Deuteronomy 18:13.

Shabbat shalom to all who celebrate.

 

Rabbi Rachel offered this poem at CBI this morning to close our Torah discussion. (Cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi.)

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A shift in our Mi Sheberach (Healing List) practices

misheberachDear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

At every Shabbat service we hear the names of those on our congregational Mi Sheberach list.  Mi Sheberach is Hebrew for “The One Who Blesses,” and is the name of our prayer for healing. (If you’d like to learn more, here’s a page about the Mi Sheberach at the URJ website, though at CBI we recite a slightly different variation.)

After consultation with colleagues, with the Spiritual Life committee, and with the Executive Committee of the CBI Board, I’m writing today to tell you that we are going to shift how we solicit names for the Mi Sheberach list in the new Jewish year.

Each month we will share the existing Mi Sheberach list in our newsletter, and will solicit names for the next month’s Mi Sheberach list. If you are sending your own name, we receive it gratefully. If you are sending someone else’s name, please check with them to make sure they’re comfortable having their name listed.

You are welcome to send an “English” name or a “Jewish” (Hebrew or Yiddish) name, whatever you prefer. CBI will keep Healing List names for a month, subject to renewal. In case of a request for confidentiality, the name will come to me but will not be publicly shared on the Healing List.

When you receive our monthly newsletter, please read the Mi Sheberach list and let us know if you want to renew a name for the coming month. (If you do not receive our monthly newsletter via email, please let the office know and we’ll make sure your email address is on our newsletter distribution list.)

My hope and my prayer is that this new way of managing the Mi Sheberach list will serve both to raise community consciousness around who in our community is need of care, and also to ensure that our Healing List is meaningful and up-to-date each month.

May the Source of Healing bring healing to all who are ill, speedily and soon.

Blessings,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Devarim.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat services led by Rabbi Rachel. This week we’re reading from parashat Devarim.

If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

Mitzvah opportunity: translators needed to assist ICE detainees in the Albany area

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

A colleague forwarded me a plea for translators to help migrants detained by ICE, now housed at the Albany county jail. The note I received is from Caroline Rider at Marist College, and she writes:

“We’ve never seen anything like this…

[The migrants have] been sent here from all over the country and the legal project is overwhelmed. They have plenty of lawyers to do the intakes, but not enough interpreters.

They need ALL languages: Spanish, French, Hindi, Punjabi, any Mayan languages, Mandarin, Polish, Russian, you name it, we can probably use it.

If you’re able to translate, please contact Christina Armistead, carmistead@lsu.edu.

Also the Rev Lynn Gardner [from Schenectady Clergy Against Hate] commented that they may be able to coordinate some kind of visitation for these people who have been so cruelly detained. They could really use some support.

My heart is absolutely shattered. The stories I heard were heartbreaking.”

For more on the situation in Albany, here are some articles from the Albany Times-Union: Many of the immigrants at Albany county jail seeking asylum, Albany county jail maxes out with 100 more detaineesAs immigrants wait at Albany county jail, volunteers working to learn basics.

If you speak another language and could volunteer your time, please do — it would be a profound mitzvah. I’m reaching out to Rev. Lynn now about the possibility of offering pastoral care for those who have been detained, and will let y’all know if there is an opportunity for CBI folks to take part.

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

 

A week of learning, vision, and building with Bayit

Dear CBI members and friends,

I’ve just returned home from my annual rabbinic study week. This year I spent my study week with my hevre (study partners / colleagues / friends) from Bayit: Your Jewish Home, the new nonprofit organization that I co-founded last year along with Steven Green and several other wonderful folks. If you’ve ever wondered what kinds of things I do on my rabbinic study week, here are some glimpses… and I look forward to bringing some of this work into completion in a way that will enliven and enrich Jewish life at CBI!

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

 

A week of learning, vision, and building with Bayit

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Bayit‘s summer learning week together begins with Shabbes. We come together from all of our various home places, put on our Shabbes whites, and daven, walking outside with a guitar to welcome the Shabbat bride into our midst. When we gather around the dining table, our kiddush soars, and my soul with it. We feast and talk and laugh and sing the birkat hamazon (grace after meals). We walk to the beach under the just-past-full moon and swoon at the sparkling path of moonlight across the waves.

On Shabbes morning our davenen is long and leisurely. Leadership flows organically: someone picks up the guitar or begins to offer a melody and the rest follow. Rabbi Mike Moskowitz gives over some Torah, and we talk about Balaam, social justice, and when it is and isn’t someone’s job to educate those who mistreat them. Later we study when one can send a shaliach (messenger) on one’s behalf and when it’s important to do a mitzvah with one’s own hands, and social justice, individual, and community.

There’s beach time, text study, singing. There’s the indescribable sweetness of spending a full Shabbat with others who care as much as I do. There are long afternoon conversations, and singing around the table as daylight wanes. There’s havdalah outside, our hands cupped around the candle so the ocean breeze doesn’t blow it out. There’s late-night conversation about what it means for our building work to be a tikkun for what has been broken, and even later-night Pictionary with endless laughter.

And that’s just the first night and day.

Visioning

We daven every day, gliding in and out of service leadership, singing in harmony. We dedicate hours to talking about Bayit’s mission and vision, about the projects that are already underway, about partnership and collaboration, about what we yearn to build. We cook meals and clean up from meals and walk across the street to the beach and lounge by the ocean and swim and bask in the sunshine. We dive deep into the nature of innovation, systems and structures, how to wisely do spiritual R&D.

We study Ezekiel with Dr. Tamar Kamionkowski from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, diving into difficult questions of theodicy, relationship, spiritual formation, privilege, bypassing, gender, and grief. We study the theology of the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy): how narratives and instructions from earlier in Torah are recast there, and what it means to hear God’s voice and study God’s word, and immanence and transcendence, and what the Deuteronomic God asks of us (learning and love.)

We study Shabbat and medical halakha and ethics with Rabbi Jeff Fox, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Maharat. There’s a text from the Nezer Yisrael — about Shabbat, oscillation between giving and receiving, and how divinity can be manifest in authentic relationship —  that lights me up like a Chanukiyah. There are teshuvot (responsa) and texts that raise big questions about identity, disability, change, personhood, and the halakhic process. We talk and grapple and question and learn.

We spin blue-sky dreams about where we want the Jewish future to go and what we want to build, about curation and collaboration and innovation — and then we anchor those dreams in six-month and one-year and three-year and five-year plans. We talk about empowering folks to build an accessible, meaningful Judaism now. We talk about governance and publishing and the internet and spiritual seekers and “all ages and stages.” Then we set our work aside and immerse in the ocean, with joy.

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We begin to brainstorm about how we might re-invent the second day of Rosh Hashanah. What is the spiritual journey of that day, and how is it different from the first day? What do our communities need on that day? What elements ask a new uplift? What is the valance of teshuvah (returning / “repentance”) on that day distinct from the day before? What kind of temporal and spiritual runway do we need so our communities can accompany us into the spiritual territory we want to explore that day?

One night we bring folding chairs to the beach and daven ma’ariv with a guitar, accompanied by the waves, beneath the spread of stars. No one has a siddur, but it doesn’t matter; we have the words and the matbe’ah (the service’s internal structure) by heart. We sing to the One Who placed the planets in their orbit and the stars in the heavens. Because it came up in conversation earlier that day that one of us loves “Hotel California,” we close with “Adon Olam” to that melody in multipart harmony.

When Bayit’s summer learning and visioning week comes to an end, I’m sad to leave this space of learning and visioning and holy play… and grateful to have such hevre with whom to do the holy work of building together. Deep thanks to The Jewish Studio, our fiscal sponsor, for making this week possible — and to my hevre, for dedicating their hands and hearts to the proposition that everyone can be a builder, and that a meaningful, accessible, renewing Judaism is ours to build together.

 

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With [some of] my Bayit hevre: building toward the Jewish future together.

 

 

Originally posted at Velveteen Rabbi.

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Chukat.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat services led by Rabbi Pam Wax.This week we’re reading from parashat Chukat.

This week and next we are particularly trying to ensure a minyan so that Rabbi Pam can say kaddish for her brother Howard z”l. Please join us for Shabbat morning services and help to constitute a minyan for Rabbi Pam.

If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat B’ha’lot’cha.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat services led by Rabbi Rachel.  This week we’re reading from parashat B’ha’alot’cha. This Shabbat we’re honoring and welcoming our new Jews into our community, and will celebrate after services with a festive bagel brunch, so please join us!

If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

And here are commentaries from the URJ:

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel