August Bar Mitzvah! Amari Watson makes us proud
C.H.A.I. Garden is planted! Students put in the purchased plants
June Havdalah Game Night Food, crafts, games!
June Sha'BarBQ First courtyard dinner in two years
Our first event this June started off with an Open Mic time, led by Bernie Goldman with his poetry. We enjoyed the meal of salmon and veggie burgers, with side dishes, and topped off by ice cream! Rabbi White led the family service to welcome Shabbat in our courtyard. Look for this event again the second Friday of July!
C.H.A.I. Garden mulching complete!
Amari Watson dumps out mulch to finish the first stage of preparing the C.H.A.I. wildlife garden south of our synagogue sanctuary on Nebraska Street. Next is purchasing the native plants and planting those in the garden!
Havdalah Game Night Join us for this monthly event!
Good food and fun!
Synagogue members and friends enjoyed learning some new games, along with some tasty bagels and snacks, and closed the evening with a short Havdalah service and counting the Omer. Look for this event again the last Saturday of June!
Message from Mary: Drash 5-28-22
By Mary Schwartz, May 28, 2022
When I started preparing for this drash earlier this week, I, of course, began with a reading of the Torah portion, Bechukotai, the last reading from Leviticus. At first read, this is a very unpleasant portion. The end of Chapter 26 is basically a reiteration of our Covenant with God, that God rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked. The majority of this reading details the consequences of breaking the Covenant.
After the last couple of weeks, this was a very hard portion to read. COVID deaths in the United States have surpassed 1 million, 10 innocent black people were murdered by an 18-year-old White Supremacist in Buffalo, New York, 19 innocent children and 2 innocent teachers were murdered by an angry and troubled 18-year-old in Uvalde, Texas, not to mention terrible things happening in the Ukraine, Africa and Asia. If human beings can cause so much death and destruction, how much more could an angry God cause?
Chapter 26 has 13 verses detailing the rewards for the righteous, and 29 verses detailing the punishments for breaking the Covenant. After all this terrible description, in verse 44, the portion says, “And yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them, for I am the LORD their God. I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, who I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.”
And what does this mean? According to the various sources I looked at, this means that we have HOPE, which is central to Judaism. The national anthem of the State of Israel is ha-Tikvah, the Hope. Elie Wiesel wrote many things about hope, such as, “One must wager on the future. I believe it is possible, in spite of everything, to believe in God in a world where there has been an eclipse of God’s face…we must not give in to cynicism…To defeat injustice and misfortune, if only for one instant, for a single victim, is to invent a new reason to hope.” (quoted from Camp Ramah, New England).
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said the following, “It is not too much to say that Jews kept hope alive, and hope kept the Jewish people alive.” He also said, “Judaism is a religion of hope, and its great rituals of repentance and atonement are part of that hope. We are not condemned to live endlessly with the mistakes and errors of our past.”
We must work together to heal our society and our relationship to God. God always offers us the hope that we can better ourselves and our society, if we all work together.
I will end with a quote from Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, a reform rabbi from Toronto:
“The blessings we get poured upon us in this parashah are the blessings of walking in a path that started with study but ended with action. Our loves and our commitments must be manifested outwardly. It is not enough to say “I love you.” We need to show it, too. It is not enough to say “I feel Jewish.” Those feelings need to be demonstrated in deeds.
And when we don’t, there are consequences. The lack of demonstrable love often leads to a break, a fissure, a lack of trust in a relationship. It is hard for us to hear this section not only because is so very graphic, but also because we live in a society totally resistant to consequences, reproaches, and punishments. Yet we know that love without action is only an idea. And we know there are always consequences to doing nothing.
The Book of Leviticus begins by calling us into relationship. It ends with the warning that once we are in that relationship, we must be active participants.”
Memorial service for Alan Schwartz
Many Congregation B’nai Israel members and friends joined together to honor and remember Alan Schwartz on May 1, 2022, at a memorial service led by Rabbi White. We remember his good cheer, his support and encouragement for youth and learning, and his long-time support as a leader in our synagogue. May his memory be a blessing.
C.H.A.I. Garden progress
Keetah Bet has worked hard to cover the new C.H.A.I. garden are with mulch! We started laying down the mulch in mid-March, and workers have come every Sunday to keep putting down cardboard and spread mulch on top. Only a few corners are left!
The Keetah Bet Sunday School class has been working for about a month on their garden project: C.H.A.I, or Climate Healing Awareness Initiative. They are documenting the project (and posting weekly on our Facebook page) in order to raise awareness in the community on how the garden will be beneficial to the climate. The goal is to become a Certified Wildlife Habitat where animals can raise young and find shelter, food, and water. The climate crisis continuously destroys the habitats of animals and plants. We feel it is our responsibility to create habitats for the wildlife in need. We will focus on Bees, Butterflies, Bats, and Birds, with access to water and native and drought tolerant plants such as Butterfly Bush, Sticky Monkey Flower, Dahlia, Milkweed, and more. The space is exclusively for our wildlife friends only. Keetah Bet is excited to hopefully use CBI as a place of rebirth to help build a better planet.