Thoughts from the Rabbi...
As Summer draws to a close, I am deeply engrossed in my preparations for another year of worship, celebration, simchas, singing, sharing, and learning, with each of you. This will be my fourth season with Temple Beth Israel. While I recall all of the accomplishments of just these past few years, I am also reminded that what we have shared together is a mere moment in the span of our congregation’s illustrious 135-year history.
Each year – both for an individual and for a community – welcomes new opportunities, new experiences, and new relationships with people who become a part of our lives. Of course, we can not put aside all those moments and people who have shaped us up to this moment – they will forever be enmeshed in all we have become; we are better for how they made us feel and how they helped us grow.
This year we are blessed to have Cantor Tracy Fishbein return to our congregation for her third (and, sadly, final) year. As she enters her fifth year of Cantorial School at the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music in New York City, we wish her the very best as she takes this final opportunity to learn from us. Throughout this year, she will undertake both personal and professional preparations for graduation and full-time service with whichever congregation is blessed to hire her. We look forward to rejoicing with Cantor Fishbein throughout this transition, and offering to her our understanding and support.
After 26 years of service to our congregation, John Heizer, our faithful musical accompanist, has moved on to a new stage of life, looking forward to more time with his family in Baltimore as he sets his sights on retirement.
At the same time, we celebrate our new accompanist, Mr. Victor Fields, who will accompany Cantor Fishbein this year on both the organ and piano. We look forward to all that Victor will bring to our congregation both musically and spiritually as he joins our family. Please come out to welcome Victor at his first service on Friday, September 16.
Also new this year is our Religious School Principal, Anita Strong. Having worked with Anita all Summer on the plans for this year’s school program, I can tell you that we are all in for a wonderful year of exciting new programing and new learning opportunities for our children.
Our Temple Beth Israel Sisterhood is also under the leadership of Anita Strong this year, and our Men’s Club is looking at a revitalization under the leadership of Gerow Brill after a year’s hiatus. Please watch for the many social, educational, and mitzvah opportunities offered through these two important Temple groups.
This year will also see expanded Adult Education opportunities. Our regular Saturday morning study group will begin meeting, as usual, from 9:30am-11:00am in the Goodman Lounge on those Saturdays when there is no Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Our first class will be September 10. All those interested are encouraged to join me as we study material from our ancient tradition with a very modern eye. During our first “semester” we will focus on the weekly HAFTARAH reading – studying selections from the books of the Prophets that relate to the weekly Torah portion. During the second “semester” we will examine “Responsa” literature, which takes the interesting questions of our day and answers them using the statements and interpretations of our greatest sages.
Beginning on Tuesday, October 11, those who are available can join me in the Goodman Lounge for a monthly “Lunch & Learn.” Join me with your own bag-lunch from Noon-1pm on the 2nd Tuesday of each month to study the weekly Torah portion. This class comes by request, and all are welcome.
And finally, beginning on Wednesday evening, November 2, I will be teaching a 7-week series at the JCC entitled, “The Book of Genesis: A Different Look at the Stories We THOUGHT We Knew Well.” Join me from 7:30pm-9:00pm as we explore the “back-stories” of the Bible through the world of Midrashic Literature. Please contact the JCC to sign up for this course.
With all of the yet-to-be-announced plans of the various committees of Temple Beth Israel, I assure you this will be an exciting year to get involved!
Please join us as often as you can.
On behalf of my wife, Shelley, and our children, Abby and Steven, I wish you great joy as we prepare to enter the New Year.
Rabbi Jeffrey R. Astrachan