Days of Awe at CBI 2017 / 5778

There are no tickets for the Days of Awe at CBI — no one has to “pay to pray” — all are welcome.


Schedule for the Days of Awe at CBI 2017 / entering 5778

Havdalah & Selichot (“Forgiveness“) service, Sat. Sept. 16, 8-9pm

    (potluck dessert reception to follow)

Cemetery Service , Walker Street, Sun. Sept. 17, 2-2:30pm

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah First Evening service, Weds. September 20, 7:30-9pm

Rosh Hashanah First Day morning service, Thurs. September 21, 9:30am-12:30pm

Children’s service, 10am (childcare all morning)

      Tashlich (casting bread upon the waters) to follow

       Rosh Hashanah Lunch to follow at the Log; please RSVP by Sept. 17. ($18)

Contemplative Second Day morning service, Fri. September 22, 9:30am-12pm

Yom Kippur

Kol Nidre (with childcare) Fri. September 29, 6-8pm (arrive at 5:30 for music to open the heart)

Yom Kippur Morning service, Sat. September 30, 9:30am-12:30pm

Children’s service, 10am (childcare all morning)

Yizkor /Memorial Service will take place at the end of the morning service

Contemplative Practice with Steven Green and Rose Ellis, 3-4pm

Yom Kippur Mincha and Avodah service, 4-5:30pm

Yom Kippur Ne’ilah service, 6-7pm (sundown: 6:29pm)

       Yom Kippur Break-The-Fast: after services. Please RSVP by Sept. 25. ($18; kids $5)


Sukkot / Shabbat Potluck, Fri. Oct. 6, 5:30pm. Please RSVP by Oct. 3.

Shemini Atzeret services, with Yizkor, Thurs. Oct. 12, 10am-12pm


Melodies for the Days of Awe

Dear all,

The full moon of Elul rises tonight: Rosh Hashanah begins two weeks from tomorrow! To help open your heart and awaken your spirit before the holidays, here are some of the melodies you’ll hear at CBI in a few weeks:

Our opening song on Rosh Hashanah evening will be Ivdu Et Hashem B’Simcha (“Serve the One with joy!”):

That night we’ll sing several things (including the Bar’chu / the Call to Prayer) in the special nusach, the melodic mode, of Erev Rosh Hashanah:

Here’s another link that showcases that melody in a slightly different way, and also offers some teaching about the melody and how we use it: High Holy Days in Brooklyn Singing Lesson 6: Bar’chu and Mi Chamocha:

On the second morning of Rosh Hashanah, at our contemplative service, we’ll use Joey Weisenberg’s Nishmat Kol Chai:

At least once during the holidays we’ll sing Shir Yaakov’s setting of Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s poem “We Are Loved“:

And also his setting of V’hashevota, a line from the Aleinu:

Of course we’ll sing excerpts from Psalm 27, including Nava Tehila’s setting of Lach Amar Libi:

And including Israel Katz’s melody for Achat Sha’alti:

May listening to these melodies between now and the Days of Awe stir your soul and open your heart. We can’t wait to be with you soon!

Blessings to all,
Rabbi Rachel and Hazzan Randall

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Ki Tavo.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

The moon of Elul continues to wax. Full moon will be in  just a few days… and when the moon is full, we’ll be a scant two weeks from Rosh Hashanah!

Join us on  Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services.

This week we’re reading Ki Tavo. If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

And here are commentaries from the Union for Reform Judaism:  Ki Tavo at the URJ.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Journey into Judaism

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

I’m writing to share news about a Journey into Judaism program that I’ll be offering over the coming school year, and to invite your participation.

There are a few folks in the northern Berkshire community who are not yet a part of CBI who have approached me about taking a journey into Judaism that might culminate in choosing Judaism formally next Shavuot. Y’all will get to know them over the course of coming months as they come to CBI to experience Jewish life in community.

Teaching people about Judaism is a joy and a privilege and an important part of my work. I’m looking very forward to working with this group in coming months. I’m writing now to open the invitation to all of y’all as well. If you, or someone in your family, might be interested in joining this group please let me know?

Starting in September, our intention is to meet on Tuesdays after lunch. I recognize that this will not work well for people with day jobs, and I’m sorry about that.  (The timing is dictated by the work schedules of those who approached me to set up the class in the first place.) We will meet twice a month from September until Shavuot.

We’ll work with the On One Foot textbook that my Introduction to Judaism class used last year, and I’ll augment that book with other materials, from books to experiences to hevruta (paired study).

If any of my students decide to “take the plunge” (as it were) and formally enter the Jewish people, that will take place next May on the cusp of Shavuot at Isabella Freedman, the Jewish retreat center where some of y’all have joined me for Shavuot over the last few years.

Shavuot is a traditional time to welcome Jews-by-choice into the community (because at Shavuot we read the book of Ruth; Ruth is often considered to be the first Jew-by-choice). Our new Jews will come before a beit din (a rabbinic court) and then immerse in beautiful Lake Miriam to effect and mark their change. Then we’ll celebrate them over the course of Shavuot as we receive Torah together anew. (Save the dates: next year’s Shavuot retreat at Isabella Freedman is May 18-22.)

If you’re interested in taking part in this Journey into Judaism on Tuesdays during the coming nine months, please let me know!

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Shoftim.

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

If you’re interested in Jewish teachings about the solar eclipse, here’s a wonderful compilation of blessings, teachings, and other materials assembled by my friend and colleague Rabbi Riqi Kosovske: Jewish Solar Eclipse Resources.

The new month of Elul begins tomorrow. Four short weeks until Rosh Hashanah: time to shift our inner discernment work into higher gear. If you’d like to buy or borrow a copy of See Me: Elul Poems to enrich your experience of this special month, drop by my office (I’m in on Monday and Friday this week).

Join us on  Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Rachel.

This week we’re reading Shoftim. If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

And here are commentaries from the Union for Reform Judaism:  Shoftim at the URJ.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

Shavua tov! Looking forward to Shabbat Re’eh and Shabbat Mevarchim Elul

Shavua tov — a good new week to you.

Join us on  Shabbat morning at 9:30am for Shabbat morning services led by Rabbi Pam Wax.

This Shabbat has a special name: Shabbat Mevarchim Elul. “Shabbat Mevarchim” means it’s a Shabbat of special blessings because of the coming new lunar month (a new month begins in the following week) — in this case, the month of Elul, leading up to the Days of Awe. Here’s a teaching about the month of Elul:  Seeking the Beloved.

This week we’re reading Re’eh. If you’d like to read some commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, here are a few:

From Rabbi David Markus: This Too Is For Good. From Rabbi Shefa Gold: Re’eh: the Power of Seeing. And here are commentaries from the Union for Reform Judaism: Re’eh at the URJ.

Blessings to all,

Rabbi Rachel

A note from the rabbi after Charlottesville

Dear Congregation Beth Israel members and friends,

I’m writing today to share with you a post that first appeared on Velveteen Rabbi, written in response to the white supremacist rally and march in Charlottesville this weekend. (My post is enclosed below.)

I commend to you also the statement that was released by Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism: URJ President Rick Jacobs on Charlottesville.

Torah teaches us not to stand idly by when a fellow human being’s blood is shed (Leviticus 19:16). Silence gives tacit cover to white supremacy, especially in a community like ours that is so predominantly white. In the face of what we just witnessed, I will not be silent. I hope that you won’t, either.

One article I’m finding helpful today is How to Talk to Your Kids About the Violence in Charlottesville. If you have other good resources for navigating these difficult times, feel free to share them on the synagogue Facebook page.

On a pastoral note: what unfolded in Charlottesville this weekend may be activating or triggering for many of us — especially the use of Nazi symbols and slogans. If the weekend’s protests leave you in need of support, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’ll be away for a few days later this week, but Rabbi Josh Breindel will be providing emergency pastoral coverage in my absence.

Take care of your hearts and souls during this difficult time, and take care of each other, and do what you can to build a better world.

Blessings to all —

Rabbi Rachel


After Charlottesville

20729549_10156463202964307_4929406110392764934_nI spent Shabbat in an increasing state of horror about the white supremacist march in Charlottesville. Chants of “blood and soil,” “white lives matter,” and “Jew will not replace us;” white men carrying torches or wielding swastika-emblazoned flagsthe death of a counter-protester at the hands of a maniac driving a car — all of these led me to a heartspace of commingled grief and fury.

Watching this ugliness unfold was not a “Shabbesdik” (Shabbat-appropriate) way to spend a day when we’re meant to live as if the world were already redeemed. Ordinarily I ignore the news on Shabbes, and seek to inhabit a different kind of holy time. But it felt important to bear witness, both to the white supremacist protests that blended the KKK with Nazism, and to those who bravely stood up to offer a counter-message.

Throughout the day I sought strength and hope in the fact of rabbis who traveled to Charlottesville to stand against bigotry alongside clergy of many faiths, “praying with their feet,” as it were. I took comfort in the number of people I saw donating to progressive causes in Charlottesville (per Sara Benincasa’s suggestion). But the weekend made clear just how much work we have to do to root out the cancers of racism and prejudice in this country.

Bigotry and xenophobia are among humanity’s worst impulses. White supremacy and antisemitism are two particularly ugly manifestations of those impulses (and they’re clearly intertwined — I recommend Eric Ward’s essay Skin in the game: how antisemitism animates white nationalism, which is long but is deeply worth reading). After Charlottesville, I recognize that there is far more hatred than I knew.

I was appalled by the ugliness we witnessed this weekend, and I know that’s a sign of my privilege. I haven’t had to face structural racism. I imagined that modern-day Nazis were laughable, and that the moral arc of my nation would bend toward justice without my active assistance. No longer. These hatreds are real, and alive, and playing out even now. They will not go away on their own.

The work ahead is long, but we must not give up. We have to build a better nation than this: more just, more righteous, concerned with the needs of the immigrant and the refugee, cherishing our differences of origin and appearance, upholding the rights of every human being to thrive regardless of race or religion or gender expression, cherishing every human being as made in the image of the Infinite One.

In offering that core Jewish teaching, I don’t mean to parrot the “all lives matter” rhetoric that erases the realities of structural racism. Every human being is made in the divine image. That doesn’t change the fact that in today’s America, we don’t all have equal opportunities or receive equal treatment. In today’s America, racism is virulent. So are other forms of bigotry and hatred. We have to change that.

We have to mobilize, and educate, and hold elected officials accountable, and combat voter suppression, and give hatred no quarter. Those of us who are white have to work against racism and the malignant rhetoric of white supremacy. We have to combat antisemitism in all of its forms. We have to recognize that all forms of oppression are inevitably intertwined, and we need to work to disentangle them all.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. We won’t all be able to participate in this holy work in the same ways. Some will be able (for reasons of gender or skin color or finances) to put their bodies on the line in direct action and protest. Others will participate by calling congresspeople, running for office, writing op-eds, or teaching children how to be better than this. But it’s incumbent on all of us to do what we can.

I’ve often heard people muse aloud that we wonder how we would have reacted if we’d been alive during the Shoah, or the Civil Rights years, or any number of other flashpoint times of crisis and injustice. Would we have protected the vulnerable? Would we have spoken out? Would we have been upstanders? This is a time of crisis and injustice, and the only unacceptable response is doing nothing at all.


Some links: