From the Rabbi's Desk
Last month an article appeared on the front page of The Day. It subsequently appeared in the New London Times and Waterford Times. The article was written by our Vice President, Armi Rowe. She wrote about how Temple Emanu-El has embraced technology as a way to enhance our connection with our congregants and friends. We turned to technology in response to the conditions of the pandemic. If we couldn’t gather at the Temple, we needed another way to stay connected. It was a team effort to move into the virtual world. In the first days of the pandemic Sherry and I had help from our Temple Emanu-El teens, Trevor Fornara (now studying at Binghamton University) and Ellanora Lerner (now studying at Clark University). Trevor and Ellanora helped us set up and stream our first service. Technologically, it was rudimentary. You could see and hear us, but we couldn’t see or hear you. Our first steps set our direction but we knew we had to keep innovating. Then we entered the Zoom world which gave us two way communication. Since then, a small AV Club has formed with Sean Bendick at the heart of it. As far as we have come, we still have a long way to go. My vision is that we continually chip away at the barriers between those who can gather in our physical space and those gathering in our virtual space.
A similarly progressive step was taken in our TE Religious School. When our in person learning went virtual, Armi Rowe and Jennifer Zettler brought Shalom Learning, an online Jewish education program, to our school. This added significant content and additional structure to the Religious School curriculum that Jennifer and Armi had already significantly revised and refined. Additionally, Sherry Barnes and I took our First Friday programs for families on-line and Jennifer and Armi added monthly Shabbat and holiday programs for our students. Armi and Jennifer turned over leadership of our Religious School to Rachel O’Brien. Before Armi and Jennifer were done, they helped Rachel transition our students and school back to in person learning.
The article in The Day was accompanied by pictures of our April Share Shabbat. They say a picture says a thousand words. The front page picture captured one of our students, Rebecca Tsai, standing on the bima. Rebecca opened our hybrid Share Shabbat service with Sherry in joyous song. Another picture showed our young learners holding up a challah that I baked for our first oneg in over two years. A third picture captured Sean Bendick and Ryan O’Bern (our AV assistant from Grasso Technical High School) managing the camera and Zoom space. In the background of that picture one can see our on line community on a big screen in our sanctuary. What these pictures say is that we have a healthy, diverse, progressive spiritual community that is moving into the future with optimism and confidence.
What is a little harder to discern from the pictures is how seamlessly our religious school students and families join in our Kabbalat Shabbat celebrations. Share Shabbat isn’t a ‘kids service’ or simplified and abridged Shabbat observance. Rather, our young community of learners, their families, and teachers joyously uplift our Shabbat observance. Share Shabbat engages our entire Temple Emanu-El community.
If you haven’t joined in yet, there are two more special opportunities before summer. May 6th will be our last Share Shabbat of the school year. June 4th will be a special Share Shavuot program highlighting our educators, including honoring Jennifer Zettler and Armi Rowe for their dedication to our Religious School. Shavuot is a fitting time to honor our educators. Our rabbinic sages associated Shavuot with the reception of Torah at Sinai. That was a huge progressive step for the Israelites. Each generation since has taught its Torah to the next. Our teachers sustain this tradition that sustains the Jewish people.
Mark your calendars to Share Shabbat and Share Shavuot.
April held some beautiful “getting together” opportunities! We had Share Shabbat, Temple Emanu-El’s Homecoming event, and our first in-person Passover Seder in 2 years! I really was so pleased with the turn out for these 3 occasions. At Share Shabbat, we not only enjoyed sharing Shabbat together, but we also had our first oneg, along with Rabbi Marc’s homemade challah! Our Homecoming event was like a family reunion. It was great! I loved watching people interacting with each other, enjoying each other’s company and sitting with their friends at the BBQ that followed. I also enjoyed seeing the beautiful Torah covers that Pat Sher made and listening to her tell us about her beautiful artwork. Then there was the Passover Seder at Langley’s. Around 100 people joined Rabbi Marc and I, to celebrate this holiday of freedom. How nice it was to be surrounded by friends and family. You can check out the pictures on our Facebook page. Thank you to everyone who helped make these 3 events possible.
I remember watching the Disney animated movie Coco a while back. Its message was to remember those we love and not let their memories fade, so that they will always be around us. It was very touching. It reminded me of the poem In Mishkan T’filah, the Weekday and Festivals book, called, We Remember Them. The last line of the poem says, “So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us as we remember them.” Many cultures and religions also encourage remembering those we have loved and lost. When we say the name of someone who has passed, we say zichrona livracha for a female and zichrono livracha for a male, which means, of blessed memory. We also say May their memory be for a blessing. Though we miss them, the beauty of our memories with them while they lived is a blessing. With the coming of Mother’s Day, I know there are many of us who have lost our mothers. I will be remembering my Mom and her wonderful laugh and sense of humor. Also May 14, was the day Terri Goldsmith was born. I will be remembering the “big sister” way she watched over me. She also had a contagious laugh and was so caring. By remembering, we keep them close to us and keep their memory alive. May the memories of those that you will be remembering throughout the year, always be for a blessing.
A quick plug:
If you are interested in joining the choir, please send me an email. I’m always looking to fill the choir with lots of voices. I’m also looking for those interested in singing for the High Holy Days. Don’t be shy. Send me an email. : )
As I’m sure you’ll hear at least a few times in this Bulletin, the April Homecoming event was a huge success. Not only did were we able to come together as a community to see each other, but we were able to be productive at the same time. From my vantage point in the thorn bushes I was able to see about 4-6 people hurriedly raking leaves from near the building. I could hear a chainsaw running (or at least Mike revving it up). I could see the smoke coming off the grill. I missed all the socializing and things being done inside (and the work on the roof), but I hear there was quite a bit accomplished. There was a beautiful art exhibit I was able to see. BBYO was there. There was a book club meeting. Mel Brooks stopped by. Ok, maybe not the last one. But everything else was really all going on at the same time while we were all catching up with each other. It was quite a lot, and a good time had by all. I heard whispers that people think this should be not only an annual event, but a semiannual event. If you have an opinion on this or any other thoughts, please let us know. We are all ears.And there is more going on in May and into June. I won’t list it all, as it will be in the Bulletin. I will make note that there will be a pickleball “event” of some sort that is still in the works for the exact details. At the very least, I’ll be setting up a couple nets in the parking lot so people can give it a shot. For those of you who haven’t heard of pickleball yet…it’s the fastest growing sport in America and you’ll be hearing of it soon. Played with a paddle and a ball like a whiffleball, it’s a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping pong. It doesn’t take much skill to start, so come on out and hit a few balls with us. Or at least (hopefully) enjoy the nice weather.Andy