Sunday, April 22, 2012

Eshet Chayil Mee Yimtza (A Woman of Valor)

In Loving Memory of Barbara Drill for Mother’s Day

A woman of valor, who can find? Far beyond pearls is her value. Her husband's heart trusts in her and he shall lack no fortune. She repays his good, but never his harm, all the days of her life.

She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute. Strength and splendor are her clothing, and smilingly she awaits her last day.

She opens her mouth with Wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She anticipates the needs of her household, and the bread of idleness, she does not eat.

Her children rise and celebrate her; and her husband, he praises her: "Many daughters have attained valor, but you have surpassed them all."

False is grace, and vain is beauty; a G-d-fearing woman, she should be praised.

Give her the fruit of her hands, and she will be praised at the gates by her very own deeds.

Don’t wait to honor, thank, remember the Eshet Chayil in your life: your mother, your wife, your partner, your grandmother, your daughter, your sister, your aunt or that special friend.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Two Worlds Come Together

By: Rebecca Levin, Kehillah Chadashah Member

“God chooses what we go through; we choose how we go through it.” –John Wooden

As a member of Kehillah Chadashah, we talk on a regular basis about tikkun olam – repairing the world – and how we all have the responsibility to be active in this pursuit. I took this with me to FSU where I started college this summer. I went without choosing a roommate and couldn’t be luckier than with the roommate I ended up with. She is Muslim. Besides English, she speaks Irdu. Her name is Maham Ahmed or Mahi for short. I am Jewish and pray in Hebrew. I go by Becca for short.

Neither of us had any idea what to expect, considering historically, Jews and Muslims are seen as COMPLETELY different and not always getting along. Every night, we talk about our cultures and backgrounds. We discuss our differences and our similarities. I have learned that there are more similarities between us than there are differences. The Islamic religion and culture and the Jewish religion and culture, historically developed around the same time period. We both follow similar special dietary laws (I keep Kosher and Mahi keeps Halal), we are both minorities which are all too often discriminated against and we both have observances where we fast.

Even when religion is taken out of the picture, we are still so similar. We are after all Florida State Seminoles! Other similarities between Mahi and me include that she and I both collect dolls and both our sisters collect snow globes and neither of us are real “partiers” – no drinking, no drugs. We just have a good time laughing! But most importantly and more deeply, we understand each other. We’ve both been faced with social and peer pressures and racism.

We respect our differences and our similarities, staying up late learning about each other and our cultures that make us each special. We have learned many things together: to know what is important in life, to understand what it means to be different, to accept and learn about our differences, and to love the things that make us different. She showed me how to wrap the hijab around my head. The hijab is a scarf that Muslim women use to cover their heads when praying. I taught her about the Mezuzah on our dorm door. We also discovered that many of our culture’s morals are similar: the level of modesty, our perspective on making good choices, the amount of self-respect, and many other things as well. We both boost each other’s confidence. Although we have known each other for just a short three weeks, I can honestly say that my roommate and I will be friends forever. We even bought a beta fish together and gave it three names: a Seminole name (for FSU), a Hebrew name and a Muslim name.

Learning about our differences, or better yet, our similarities, has increased our respect for not just each other, but for the greater world of religions around us. We both feel that people in the world need to increase their understanding, appreciation and respect for others because everyone can learn something new. If people are constantly fighting over differences, they will miss out on opportunities to learn and share, like the ones Mahi and I have been blessed to have. Respect and tolerance, or lack thereof, is the cause of world issues and problems. But why can’t the rest of the world see things the way Mahi and I see them? The answer is that people are focused on hating their differences rather than learning from them and accepting them. People are blocking their ability to be open to new things and ideas. I love my roommate and have realized that there would be a great deal of peace in the world if everyone could see our similarities and respect our differences the way we do. Now we look forward to taking a class together in the fall – Middle East Religions. Thank you Kehillah Chadashah for creating an environment that taught me tikkun olam, inclusivity, openness and respect. And thank you Mahi for bringing these lessons to life!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hazak hazak, v'nithazek

By Rabbi Mona Decker

Recently members of Kehillah Chadashah traveled to Temple Beth Shalom of Miami Beach to receive the gift of a Torah. Following are Rabbi Mona's thoughts shared while visiting the synagogue.

Shabbat Shalom,

Words cannot adequately express how grateful we are to you, Rabbi Davis, members of Temple Beth Shalom, and Judy and Martin for making this gift of a Sefer Torah possible.

It is said in Jewish tradition that Torah begins and ends with chesed, kindness, or loving deeds. In fact, Torah is called "Torat Chesed" when people learn Torah in order to teach it to others. We will use this Sefer Torah in the spirit of Torat Chesed: We will learn and grow from its wisdom and teachings. We will pass down to our children (who are here tonight) the beauty of our heritage. Kehillah Chadashah is a vibrant, active, and growing congregation. We will honor and cherish this Torah, always.

The founding of Beth Shalom in the 1940's began with an act of chesed. Rabbi Kronish went out through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors that displayed a mezuzah, and welcoming families into his new congregation. We strive to follow in that spirit of hospitality in our own community. Know that our doors are always open to you when you are in NE Florida.

Again, thank you for your kindness and support. Hazak hazak, v'nithazek. May we go from strength to strength and let us strengthen one another.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Torah: What is the View of Reconstructionist Judaism?

By Linda Levin, Kehillah Chadashah President

Recently, our Reconstructionist Congregation was the recipient of two Torot from members of Beth Shalom Congregation, Chiel and Olga Wind and Marty and Eileen Levine. While it is unfortunate that these donations were the result of Beth Shalom closing, our Congregation is grateful and appreciative for these donations. We are a new community (Kehillah Chadashah) and these Torot will live on and breathe new life into our Congregation.

The donations of these Torot caused me to think about how Reconstructionist Judaism views Torah and I came across an article by Rabbi Lester Bronstein from Bet Am Shalom Synagogue in White Plains, NY that he wrote for the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College called A Crash Course on Reconstructionist Judaism.

This is how he explained it:

“Torah tells us that the Torah was dictated by God to Moses, and then transmitted through the generations. Reconstructionist Jews see the Torah as the Jewish people's response to God's presence in the world (and not God's gift to us). That is to say, the Jews wrote the Torah. But that is not to say that the Torah is merely a human creation. It is a response to the sacred. It is an attempt to convince an entire people to view everyday life in a sacred way. The essential Torah consists in the truth deep within [the] stories, a truth that radiates a picture of a society based on courts of justice and on social empathy. God didn't write that Torah, since God does not write per se. But God is everywhere in the details of it.”

For the full article and what Rabbi Bronstein eloquently explains regarding the Reconstructionist beliefs on Prayer and Ritual and Mitzvot, go to this link:

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shavuot, The Festival of the Giving of the Torah

By Linda Levin, Kehillah Chadashah President

In Shavuot: The Harvest Festival of Torah, Rabbi Emanuel S. Goldsmith wrote “A good case can be made for Shavuot being the most important of all the Jewish festivals. The revival of its observance is of particular concern to Reconstructionist Jews because our understanding of the nature and task of the Jewish people in the world and of what God should mean to us cannot be separated from our reinterpretation of the meaning of Torah. Shavuot is the festival of the giving and the receiving of Torah — of Torah as revelation, as law and as study.”

Rabbi Goldsmith continued in his article “While we are grateful and proud that the Torah has become the heritage of many peoples, for us the secret of its greatness lies in the fact that it is of the Jewish people, by the Jewish people, and for the Jewish people — our sacred and living heritage.

This Shavuot, as Kehillah Chadashah approaches its first year anniversary, Kehillah Chadashah has been blessed to have received one Torah as a gift from Olga and Chiel Wind and will soon be receiving a second Torah from Temple Beth Sholom in Miami. We are so grateful for both!

Click to read Rabbi Goldsmith’s full article: In Shavuot: The Harvest Festival of Torah

Sunday, May 15, 2011

“Abandon me not when I grow old!” - Psalms

By Linda Levin, Kehillah Chadashah President

Kehillah Chadashah has taken this statement very seriously. From delivering Chanukah gift packages to homebound elderly to making hamantashen with the seniors at an assisted living facility and delivering Shalach Manot to homebound elderly for Purim. As part of Israel Independence Day, Kehillah Chadashah is learning about Yad LaKashish, a program in Jerusalem that provides a place for elders in need to work as well as an opportunity to contribute to society in an atmosphere of dignity and respect.

Yad LaKashish
, Lifeline for the Old, was formed in 1962 by Myriam Mendilow, a junior high school teacher concerned with the lack of interest in or concern for the elderly in Israel. She was particular upset by the negative way in which her students viewed the elderly as being useless and irrelevant. Ms. Mendilow started a book binding workship for elderly men. Fifty years later, the small workshop helping 8 poor elderly men has grown to a variety of workshops including ceramics, mental work, embroidery, silk painting and wood work helping over 300 elderly men and women.

• Over 90% of the elderly at Yad LaKashish are immigrants who came to Israel
in the last 20 years (most are over 75 years old)
• 30% of the elderly have worked at Yad LaKashish for more than 10 years.
• 50% of the Yad LaKashish elderly are single and 25% meet relatives only on
Jewish holidays.
• 96% of the Yad LaKashish elderly felt that their work gave them an
opportunity to meet new people and make friends.
• 80% of the elderly said that Yad LaKashish helped to give them “a sense of
belonging to the rest of society.

“The prosperity of a country can be seen simply in how it treats its old people.”
- Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ha Lachmah Anya: The Bread of Poverty

By Linda Levin, Kehillah Chadashah President

The holiday of Passover tells the ancient story of the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt. This Passover, Kehillah Chadashah and No’Ar Hadash will tell the modern-day story of liberating American children from the hardship of hunger. No’Ar Hadash is hosting for Kehillah Chadashah a Children’s Nutrition Seder.

At this seder the broken matzah will remind us of the brokenness in our world. We will think of those who are poor and who have to put aside the ‘broken half’ for later use.

We will ask new Four Questions: What does it mean to be hungry in America and what is the main cause of hunger?How does the United States currently address issues of hunger? What will it take to end childhood hunger in America? And What can I do to end childhood hunger in America?

The Four Children we will be talking about will be: The child who receives free school
Lunch, the child who receives free school breakfast, The child who should be able to
participate in a summer feeding program and the mother and child who participate in the WIC program.

The Ten Plagues at our seder will be:
1. The single mother who gives the last bits of food in the house to her child, while she goes hungry
2. The senior citizen who must choose between paying for medicine and paying for his lunch
3. The neighbor who never invites you over, because he cannot offer you food
4. The college student who must choose between books and groceries
5. The friend who feels alienated because he can’t join in on social events at restaurants
6. The woman who brings bags to the Shabbat oneg to take home food
7. The father who does not apply for food stamps for his family because he can’t understand the application system
8. The tons of edible food that remain in warehouses or is thrown away
9. The young urban couple in whose neighborhood there is no full-service grocery store, only fast food
10. Apathy – the biggest plague of all is the failure to make ending hunger a national priority

On this Passover we urge everyone “to all who are thirsty bring water,” and “greet those who wander with food.”