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Cleveland area rabbis reflect on journeys to the rabbinate – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on September 25, 2022

Throughout lifes events, one can turn to their rabbi for encouraging words, a shoulder to cry on, a congratulatory high five (or fist bump) or religious guidance when all else seems lost. Both a friend and a mentor, a rabbi is there to help and heal.

But why do rabbis choose to take to the pulpit? What leads them on this professional and religious journey?

The Cleveland Jewish News spoke with a few area rabbis from the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements as to what led them to the rabbinate.

Ordained at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 2012, Rabbi Matt Cohen of Temple Emanu El in Orange told the Cleveland Jewish News his journey started at The Ohio State Universitys Hillel in Columbus. While a sophomore, the Hillel rabbi asked if he wanted to play during Shabbat services, as Cohen is a blues guitarist by trade.

He knew I was a musician but I wasnt really into all of it, said Cohen, who arrived at Temple Emanu El in July. Before that, he served Congregation Ahavath Chesed-The Temple in Jacksonville, Fla. from 2012 to 2018, and Congregation Bnai Israel in Galveston, Texas from 2018 to 2022. He first asked me during my freshman year, and I said no. When he asked again my sophomore year, I agreed to learn it all. The first time I discovered that spiritual bend was when we were sitting in a circle at services and everyone sang with me.

Noting that as his aha moment that services dont have to be like those he attended growing up, he spent a few years playing music at the Goldman Institute and taught Hebrew at several congregations in Columbus.

But I didnt know what it meant to be a rabbi, recalled Cohen, who lives in Solon. I took some time after college because I wasnt sure what to do. I had studied to become a counseling psychologist, but discovered the rabbinate when doing some reading and studying in the Jewish community. That felt really at home with what I was doing.

Rabbi Matt Cohen leads congregants in song from the Temple Emanu El pulpit in Orange.

He moved back home, worked in the business world for a couple of years and served the Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple community which prepared him for what he wanted to do, Cohen said.

It got to a certain point where I was married, with a house and wanted to figure out what to do with my life, Cohen said. The real call came from the people I knew. Congregants and families said I should become a rabbi. It was kind of hard for me to admit I should do it. I wasnt even sure if I was rabbi material. But, other people instilled that confidence in me to take that leap of faith.

To a younger version of himself, Cohen said he would explain all of the work is worth it.

Its a challenging job and profession, but at the end of the day, its worth the work, he said. I get to do what I love. Some days are really tough, days that challenge me spiritually, emotionally and intellectually, but those days are outweighed by so many other factors that make this so worthwhile.

Rabbi Noah Leavitt never wouldve guessed a sanctuary would be his office, he told the CJN.

A graduate of Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a Master of Arts degree in Jewish philosophy from Yeshiva University, Leavitt received smicha from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. He also served as a Tikvah rabbinical fellow.

Leavitt was also a rabbinic intern at the Jewish Center of Manhattan, and later was rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Baltimore and campus rabbi at Towson University. Before arriving at Oheb Zedek a little over four years ago, he served as assistant rabbi of Congregation Orach Chaim in New York.

All of those experiences make up a journey he never saw coming, he said.

I grew up in a family that was very affiliated but werent very observant, recalled Leavitt, who lives in Beachwood. I became more observant in high school, but of all places, that was an Episcopalian boarding school. The minister there saw that I was on a journey and told me he thought I was going to become a rabbi. I got serious about it in my first or second year of college.

When his professional and spiritual destiny became more tangible, Leavitt said it felt very natural.

For me, this was a natural extension of my growth, observance, interest, awareness and connection to Torah, God and the Jewish people, he said. I found so much meaning on that religious path that I wanted to help other people find it too. I was completely drawn to the concept of helping other people find meaning as well.

Rabbi Noah Leavitt of Oheb Zedek Cedar Sinai Synagogue in Lyndhurst fills multiple roles in his congregants lives.

When he was younger, Leavitt said he considered going to law school but never actually pursued the option. Looking back on those moments, he cant imagine being anything else now.

I would tell young Noah to take this path, Leavitt said. To keep an open mind. The more experiences I have, the more people I encounter and the more I learn, the more I see the different ways people can connect and find meaning in our traditions. By being a pulpit rabbi, you get to be a teacher and give sermons, but also give counseling in moments of crisis and happiness. The ability to engage people in different ways is something I find enriching.

The only child of a doctor, Rabbi Hal Rudin-Luria always thought that would be his path. Originally studying biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, he changed his major realizing it wasnt his dream but what was expected of me, he told the CJN. After spending a summer in Israel, Rudin-Luria said he started to think what I would want to do with my life (if) I wasnt going to be the doctor I always thought Id be.

I was then taking a full load of Jewish studies courses, said Rudin-Luria, who lives in Pepper Pike. Someone asked me if I was going to be a rabbi, I sort of said, why not? There were lots of steps to that aha moment. I realized Judaism was my passion. It was what I wanted to study and what I wanted to do in my free time.

Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2001, he served as a student rabbi in Huntsville, Ala., and New York City; as chaplain at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, the U.S. Navy, the New York Jewish Healing Center as a grief counselor, and at Beit TShuvah in Los Angeles. He joined Bnai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike in 2001, coming straight from rabbinical school.

Rabbi Hal Rudin-Luria leads one of Bnai Jeshurun Congregations Shabbat Rocks services at the synagogue in Pepper Pike.

It felt right, like something I was searching for a very long time, Rudin-Luria said. I felt settled and ready for a mission. There was so much more to do, but at the same moment, it felt good, settled and simple.

The High Holy Days are about coming home and returning, but you never return in the same way. Youre never the same and neither is the place. It felt like that like a return.

Noting that he is also deathly afraid of blood, being a doctor never felt right to him. Even though rabbis see their fair share of blood, Rudin-Luria said his journey to the pulpit felt like a union of two very different career aspirations.

I always joked that at my bris, I was named Dr. Luria, as the only child of a doctor, he said. Even though I didnt become a doctor, I feel like being a rabbi is like being a doctor of the soul.

To a younger Rudin-Luria, he said to trust the process.

Its a journey, and there are many steps to that journey, he said. What you think is the endpoint is never the endpoint. There is more to do, learn, grow and give.

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Cleveland area rabbis reflect on journeys to the rabbinate - Cleveland Jewish News

Phoenix rabbi wants to spread kindness this Rosh Hashanah – The Arizona Republic

Posted By on September 25, 2022

This Rosh Hashanah,one Phoenix rabbi isadvocating for a broader sense of goodwill following the headiness of the past couple of years.

Believers consider this Rosh Hashanah the 5,783rdyear since human lifes creation. Marking the new year for the Jewish faithful, Rosh Hashanah starts Sunday evening and concludes Tuesday evening.

Ending with Yom Kippur, or "day of atonement," the 10 days following the start of Rosh Hashanah calls for self-reflection and self-reckoning,Congregation Kehillah Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman explained. This season of renewal could not only help many return to a sense of normalcy, but should also spur more toimprove upon the world, the rabbi added.

I think if we emerge from COVID without changing without changing our society, without changing yourself we will have lost a great opportunity, Sharfman said. What if we took this chance to be a lot kinder, show more love, more compassion, engage in social justice work and to try to create a society that is a lot better?

Sharfman, who is president of the Greater Phoenix Board of Rabbis and vice president of the Arizona Faith Network, said many rabbis in the area will be addressing mental health issues from the pulpit this Rosh Hashanah.

Weve all suffered and weve all had losses as it relates to the pandemic, Sharfman said. We are experiencing as a society a great deal of anxiety.

Sharfman has been Congregation Kehillahs rabbi since it was founded 14 years ago. She is a 36th-generation ordained rabbiand herfamilys first woman rabbi.

This is the time when Jews come home, Sharfman said. It is a special privilege to be together in the same space as others who are brave enough to make themselves go through this spiritual and psychological work together.

Those interested in attending a Rosh Hashanah service can find an event usingChabad of Arizona's online directory.

Rosh Hashanah:What you should know about the holiday

Reach breaking news reporter Jose R. Gonzalez atjose.gonzalez@gannett.comor on Twitter@jrgzztx.

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Phoenix rabbi wants to spread kindness this Rosh Hashanah - The Arizona Republic

Is it okay for a rabbi to be anti-Israel? –

Posted By on September 25, 2022

(September 22, 2022 / JNS) Rabbis should not use their High Holiday sermons to engage in unfair denunciations of Israeli policies. Instead they should display more rabbinic courage in helping to create a revival of support for Zionism in Reform and Conservative Judaism. This is the message that JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin hopes will sound from pulpits this Rosh Hashanah as Jews gather to celebrate the New Year, as he explains in this weeks Top Story.

According to Tobin, too much of American Jewish discourse has been hijacked by those who fail to understand that the debate isnt about Israels borders, settlements or political leaders. It is about the anti-Zionist narrative that leading publications are mainstreaming. This narrative calls into question whether one Jewish state on the planet is one too many. It also promotes the false charge that Zionism is racism.

Tobin also commends the efforts of the Zionist Rabbinic Coalition. The Coalition is trying to change the conversation to rejuvenate the fraying ties between American Jews and Israel.

Tobin is then joined by Zionist Rabbinic Coalition founder Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt. The two speak about the troubling shift in the American rabbinate symbolized by the letter signed by dozens of rabbinic and cantorial students last year. The letter criticized Israel and supported the Palestinians at a time when Hamas was raining down thousands of missiles and rockets on the Jewish state. According to Weinblatt, it was a time to question what rabbinical schools are teaching them.

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Although supposedly it is the rabbinic critics of Israel who are being silenced, the truth is that there are rabbis who are afraid to speak out in favor of Israel, Weinblatt says.

He warns that left-wingers are intimidating young rabbis. He then explains that just as rabbinical seminaries would not admit a racist, a homophobe or a misogynist, they should not accept anyone who doesnt believe in Jewish peoplehood and the importance of Israel. In addition, Jewish communal organizations should not allow anti-Zionist groups a place inside.

Weinblatt believes many in the pulpit today dont understand the damage they can do. This is especially true regarding the outlooks of young Jews who are being alienated from Israel.

When a rabbi gives a sermon that is critical of Israel, they must understand that they are contributing to the distancing of Jews from both Israel and Judaism, he says.

Our criticism of Israel must not be louder than our expressions of love, Weinblatt urges. I dont love Israel because its perfect. Nor do I need Israel to be perfect for me to love her. I think these are important basic messages. We need to get back to that sense of understanding the importance of peoplehood and of solidarity.

Top Story also airs on JBS-TV.

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Is it okay for a rabbi to be anti-Israel? -

Podcast: Dan Talks with Rabbi Josh Franklin, Jewish Center of the Hamptons – Dans Papers

Posted By on September 25, 2022

Get our Hamptons Insider newsletters delivered direct to you.

In each episode of the Whos Here in the Hamptons podcast (aka Dans Talks),Dans Papersfounder Dan Rattiner introduces you to a new guest, some well known, others with interesting careers and stories, authors, musicians, restaurateurs, some characters and some behind-the-scenes people who live, work and play in the summer paradise of the rich and famous.

Episode 98: This week on the Dans Talks podcast, Dan speaks with Rabbi Josh Franklin of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons. In his career as a rabbi, Franklin has enlivened the Jewish community by reimagining spirituality through creative mediums and his passion for music, technology and unique forms of Jewish education.

He is also a Dans Papers contributor, sharing the occasional spiritual insight in Hamptons Soul, and an Artists & Writers softball game MVP!

Tune in to the Whos Here in the Hamptons podcast

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Podcast: Dan Talks with Rabbi Josh Franklin, Jewish Center of the Hamptons - Dans Papers

How the First Woman Rabbi in Italy Kept a Promise to Her Father – Guideposts

Posted By on September 25, 2022

Rabbi Barbara Aiello sat in arocking chair by the window in her house in Serrastretta, Italy. In the distance, she could see mountains and the surrounding fields and trees, but not much else. The town was in the middle of the countryside in the Calabria region of Southern Italy. The house she had been living in for the past year had been in her family for 440 years. Yet right now, she felt only a tenuous connection to Serrastretta, the place her father was born. More than anything, she felt isolated. And she was no closer to fulfilling a promise she had made to her father almost 30 years before.

It was 1975. Barbarawas visiting Serrastretta with her father, Antonio Abramo Aiello. I wanted to see it, because he talked about it all the time, she said. The air, the mountain water, the mushrooms, the tomatoes He said it was a paradise. And it really is. In fact, Barbara felt an immediate connection to the town. A thought flashed into her mind. I will live here one day.

As father and daughter walked through the ancient streets, taking in the beautiful architecture and lush Calabrian landscape, they were struck by something that was missing: a synagogue.

Serrastretta was founded during the Inquisition by Jewish refugee families, Barbaras family being one of the original founders. However, as people left Italy or were forced to convert to Catholicismand often to hide their Jewish traditionsthe town drifted away from its Jewish roots.

Antonio and Barbara were walking through the city he used to call home as a child, when he turned to his daughter. You need to do something so that the people here can understand where they came from, he said, and understand what a treasure the Jewish religion is. You must bring it back to life from its dormant state.

Barbara was 28 at the time and living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She had no idea how she could reconnect the people of this town with their Jewish heritage.

In Pittsburgh, the Aiello family had only a faint link to their Jewish faith. Growing up, we had only a marginal connection with a synagogue, she said. Many observances in the Jewish religion, like Shabbat on Friday night and lighting the candles, were just done at home. We were Bnei Anusim, people who had been forced to convert and hide their Jewish roots. And that would define my father until the war ended in Europe. Then something happened that would change Antonios life forever.

During WWII, Antonio worked for the Jewish resistance in Northern Italy. Because he spoke French, German and Italian, he helped coordinate the resistance movements in those countries via radio. He was behind enemy lines on D-Day. And he was with the American Army when they liberated the Buchewald concentration camp.

Barbara recalls her father talking about opening a barn structure in the camp to find 900 men, teenagers, and young boys inside. Most of them were dead. The soldiers did their best to save the others. They were not always successful. My father told me that several boys died in his arms, Barbara said.

As Antonio and the other soldiers gave the survivors food and water and bound their wounds, they noticed the survivors kept trying to hand them small objects. A small button, a ball of string, a pen that had been smuggled into the camp. Antonio realized they were gifts of gratitude. At first my father didnt want to accept these things, Barbara said. But then he realized it was a way of them affirming what was almost totally lost: their dignity. To be able to accept a gift from someone who had nothing left but their dignity That really changed my fathers life.

Antonio understood the importance of holding onto your culture no matter what. He passed this idea down to Barbara. So, in Serrastretta, when her father asked her to bring the Jewish heritage back to his hometown, she did what any daughter would do. Okay, Daddy, she said. I promise. She still had no idea how she would do it.

Years passed. Barbara got a masters degree in psychology and created a successful puppetry program called The Kids on the Block to help children understand and appreciate differences and disabilities. She got married and started a family. Then she became more involved in her Jewish faith after the birth of her daughter. The family did Shabbat every night, attended Hebrew school, and her daughter had a bat mitzvah. Barbara was given the chance to become a Hebrew school teacher. She enjoyed her work and began to see it as more than a side job. She realized it might be her lifes calling.

One day, the rabbi of her Hebrew school asked if she had ever considered becoming a rabbi. She told him she thought she was too old now. You are 42? he said. How are you going to feel when youre 52 and you still havent done it? Barbara knew he was right. She enrolled in rabbinical school. She was the oldest in her class; the other students called her Rabbi Mama. In June 1999, she was ordained as a rabbi six months before her 52nd birthday.

Barbara worked for five years as a rabbi in the US. She loved her job, yet she knew she had unfinished business in Italy. Though her father had died in 1980, she still felt a spiritual pull to fulfill the promise she had made to him to reconnect the town of Serrastretta with its Jewish roots.

In Hebrew we say theres a little light in the soul, she said. A neshama, a little flame that is always burning there. It provides light and guidance, but it also provides a bit of an irritation, saying, You need to do something.

In 2004, she heard about an opportunity to work as a rabbi in Milan. Because she spoke Italian, she was the perfect fit. She was divorced and her daughter was grown, so now was the perfect time for a big life change. She moved to Milan, becoming the first female rabbi in Italy. She worked at the synagogue there for two years. One day, a couple approached her about performing a wedding ceremony. The man was Jewish, the woman was Italian-American. They told her they had started a foundation to affirm and support interfaith marriages and families. Barbara jumped at the chance and told them about her hopes for Serrastretta. The couple was thrilled to hear her story and gave her a small grant to finally start a synagogue in her fathers hometown.

However, moving to Serrastretta and connecting with the people there would prove to be a bigger challenge than Barbara imagined. She did not know how to approach people and ask about their Jewish roots.

Its a real challenge because there are many people who have no documentation of a Jewish matrilineal line, she said. None of the traditional information that someone might have to present themselves to be part of a Jewish community. Barbara started talking with people in the town and asking them questions about their background.

Do you think your family is Jewish? she would ask. People would almost always respond, no.

As she tried her hardest to keep her promise, Barbara also dealt with loneliness. Remote Serrastretta was a far cry from her childhood in Pittsburgh, or her years in bustling Milan. Though it was beautiful the very paradise her father had told her aboutSerrastretta didnt feel like home.

Sometimes I called my daughter in Tennessee to complain about how isolated I felt, Barbara said. One day, she said, Mom, you signed up to be a pioneer. It goes with the territory. I knew she was right. If Barbara was going to be the first female rabbi in Italy and truly bring the Jewish faith back to this small town, she needed to get out and pioneer.

Barbara thought about her father, a man who was not afraid to be an eccentric pioneer himself. Back in the 50s, he was a vegetarian, when few people even knew what that was. He would walk nine miles a day, rain or shine, hot or cold. When it got very cold out, her father would put on green tights and march through the freezing snow. Barbara remembers fellow students talking about the man who walked around town dressed like Peter Pan. She always pretended she had no idea who they were talking about. Her father couldnt be dissuaded from his time outside. He always said that we are our best spiritual selves when we are outdoors, Barbara said.

So, Barbara started going for walks. I walk every day, no matter what, she said. It is nourishing to ones soul. People got used to seeing me early in the morning. I made a lot of friends that way.

One of those friends was Samuel, a local man who lived with his mother who had Alzheimers. Sometimes when his mother would walk through town, she lost her way. Barbara and others in the friendly neighborhood often helped guide her back home to her son. When his mother died, Samuel invited Barbara to her funeral.

Barbara arrived at a familiar scene. All the mirrors and television sets in the home were covered in white sheets. There were low chairs set up for people to sit on. On a table near the door were cut up hard-boiled eggs for guests to eat when they came in. Barbara recognized all these things. They were Jewish mourning traditions. She asked Samuel if he knew the things he did for the funeral were Jewish. He had no idea. Someone in the family once said we might be Jewish, he told her. But I always just assumed these were our familys traditions.

The encounter was an enlightening moment for Barbara. She realized she had simply been asking the wrong questions. After that day, she changed the way she asked people about their background. What do you do when a baby is born? What do you do in the kitchen? What do you do for weddings? Barbara would ask. So many people she spoke to were surprised to learn their traditions had Jewish roots. They tied a red string on a new babys crib because that is what the Jewish mystics would do. They did not ever eat meat and dairy in the same meal because it was kosher. They learned the strange dialect they traditionally spoke to bless a wedding had many Hebrew words. There was no one who had a foot in both worlds, Hebrew and Italian, to let people know what they were actually saying, said Barbara. Thats where she came in.

Since then, Barbara has taught many people in Serrastrettaand all over Italyabout their Jewish heritage. Some are just curious to learn more about their past, others have since drawn closer to the Jewish faith and even attend the synagogue. People come to the synagogue to discover their Jewish roots, she said. Some people are very involved in the Christian religion and are happy to know why some of their traditions are so different from the typical Italian way of doing things. We are open and welcoming to anyone who wants to just come and see, or join us, or learn a little bit about it.

Barbara has also strengthened her ties with other religious leaders in Serrastretta. She has a strong relationship with the towns Catholic priest and Evangelical pastor (both of whom have Jewish roots and were excited to learn about them from Barbara). They all worked together to teach a class about dealing with depression from a Biblical perspective. The priest and pastor covered the New Testament, Barbara handled the Old Testament. They officiate interfaith weddings together. We try to be leaders in the community, she said.

During the pandemic, the synagogue was not able to hold a socially-distanced Hannukah service because it was too small. So, the priest opened the Catholic church, which was much larger, to the Jewish worshippers. The town held a beautiful Hannukah celebration; many Catholics came to watch. When Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, Serrastretta opened its doors to refugees, many of whom are Jewish.

Serrastretta has embraced the synagogue and Rabbi Barbaras work. She says now the synagogue is full on Saturdays. She also says that every person that has approached her saying they wanted to know if they had Jewish roots has found them. She knows that is not a coincidence.

I believe that in addition to physical DNA, we have emotional DNA, she said. I believe that we are imprinted with tradition, emotion, compassion, back through our ancestral line. Everyone wants and needs a spiritual connection to the God of their understanding.

Barbaras spiritual work has also helped her feel more spiritually at rest in Serrastretta. She continues to help people learn more about the Jewish religion through various avenues like surname research and even puppetry. Though her work is not done, she knows she is keeping her promise to her father. I really feel like God directed me here, she said. I feel like I belong here.

Nowadays, Barbara begins her day with a cup of Italian coffee in her rocking chair, looking out her window at the mountains. This is where she says her prayers every morning. She has recently added Psalm 121 to them. I lift up my eyes to the mountains where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip he who watches over you will not slumber She is where she is meant to be. She knows God is there in Serrastretta with her.

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How the First Woman Rabbi in Italy Kept a Promise to Her Father - Guideposts

Hiding Their Jewishness – –

Posted By on September 25, 2022

An adult woman raised as a Christian discovers that her parents were Jewish Holocaust survivors.

Imagine growing up in a Presbyterian family, being baptized in a church, wearing a gold cross, celebrating Christian holidays, having a minister perform your weddingand then learning as an adult that your parents really were Jewish.

In 1994, Orlene Allen Gallops family research led her to the discovery that her parents hid their Jewish roots and took them to their graves. The 69-year-old consultant recalls the seismic shift in her world in her book, Hiding in Plain Sight (Two Ems Press, Madison, CT 2021)

As her European-born mother, Eleonore, lay dying from early-onset Alzheimers disease, the care facility in Maryland needed proof of her date of birth. In the absence of a birth certificate, Orlene sent away to the New York City Department of Vital Statistics to obtain a copy of her parents marriage certificate.

When Orlene received it, she couldnt believe her eyes. A rabbi, Zeidel Epstein, had penned his signature at the bottom.

I remember thinking, Oh my gosh, they really were Jewish! Orlene told This answers so many unanswered questions about their background.

Orlenes parents, Dr. Larry Allen and Eleonore Brahm, 1949

As Orlene would discover, Larry and Eleonore Allen not only were Jewish, but they had escaped the Holocaust that killed most of their family along with millions of others. Then they sealed their hearts tightly and left that world behind.

Eleonore Brahm married Larry Allen in 1949 when she was 20 and he 34. He had shed his Slavic name Ladislav Adler while serving in the British Army after escaping from Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Meanwhile, Orlene had grown up hearing that her mother was born and raised in France. We later found out she was born in Germany. She never divulged that. I think she spent most of her childhood in France though.

The Allens met in Paris and came separately to the United States, which they adopted as their homeland. After marrying in the U.S., they welcomed two daughters: Susan and Orlene.

Larrys work as a radiologist with the Veterans Administration took the family around the country until they ended up in Washington, D.C., in the late 1950s. The girls were baptized in a Presbyterian church there. The minister, a close family friend, later presided over their weddings in the church.

Orlene Allen Gallops

In the late 1960s, the family moved to Forest Hills, N.Y.a Jewish neighborhood, it turned out. People had last names like Epstein and Goldstein. Orlene was surprised that nobody was going to school on the Jewish holidays. Id say to my mother, I dont want to go to school because nobodys going to be there. Shed say, You have to go because youre not Jewish.

Despite her mothers protestations, Orlene learned a lot about Jewish holidays in high school. She went to a friends Passover seder and loved it.

In hindsight, Orlene can see that there were many inklings of being Jewish but they never told us they were Jewish. For instance, her mother would say not to drink milk with a salami sandwich. Her father would say, Theres no such thing as the son of God, despite what the girls learned in Sunday school at church.

Orlene remembers feeling conflicted by the mixed messages. When she and her sister questioned their parents, they were told: Sometimes its better to let sleeping dogs lie. Look forward not back. The Allens never returned to Europe; Larry claimed he might be jailed or shot if he did.

The truth started unraveling with the receipt of the Allens marriage certificate as Eleonore was close to passing away in 1994, five years after her husbands death.

Orlene, a single mother who was rearing a daughter and completing graduate school, didnt yet have the Internet resources to do the type of research available today.

However, she did seek out a rabbi in West Hartford, Connecticut, armed with her parents marriage certificate and fathers records from medical school in Bratislava found in his safe that also confirmed he was Jewish. The rabbi said, Theres no doubt your parents were Jewish. A rabbi in 1949 would not have married two people where one wasnt Jewish.

Orlenes mind began spinning. Why didnt they tell us? Who were my family? Even if they converted to Christianity, why didnt they share this with us when we were older? It never once came up!

She believes the answers are rooted in fear. Her deeply protective parents probably had an intense desire to shield their children from their painful history, as well as from bias and discrimination.

A copy of the deportation list on which Orlenes grandfather (Oskar Abraham-Brahm) appears, the third name on the list. Courtesy of the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum

Now a grandmother of three, Orlene harbors no anger at being kept in the dark. Rather, she feels only sadness for what her parents experiencedbelieving they had to give up who they were and to dismiss their faith.

Im always grateful that I got picked to be their daughter, she says. I always knew how much I was loved. Whenever I walked in or left the house, my mother would kiss me. I was raised in an atmosphere of love. It was obvious they were in love with each other.

After Orlene retired 10 years ago, her family research kicked into high gear. With her husband, John, gently encouraging her, she sleuthed on, and and traveled to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Prague. Sadly, with only two exceptionspaternal aunts in the U.S. and SlovakiaEleonore and Larrys families had all perished in the Holocaust.

The research also took Orlene and her sister, Susan, to Vancouver to meet her Aunt Blanches stepdaughter, Judith. She had a box full of pictures and documents shed discovered in my aunts place in Florida after she died. That was the most wonderful find, says Orlene.

Aunt Blanche Donath and her husband Zoltan. Date is unknown.

The pain of knowing that my Aunt Blanche had survived four concentration camps and lost her husband, Zoltan, who was murdered by the Nazis was cushioned by the knowledge that she found the love of a man (Judiths father) and his children.

After years of research, Orlene now trains her energy on Holocaust education. She speaks to elementary schoolchildren, book clubs and library groups to make sure people will never forget.

Does she feel connected to Judaism in other ways? Orlene muses: I met a woman in Slovakia who asked me how I feel about being a Jew, because if your mothers a Jew, youre a Jew. I said to her, Im proud to be my mothers daughter and feel anguish about what she experienced. Im happy she survived and found love and happiness with my dad.

After my book was published last year, I wanted to learn more about Judaism. I still feel the conflict between what I learned in church and the teachings of Judaism. But I think the conflict is a way to grow and ask questions. Thats the way we learn.

Orlenes book is available at

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There is so much to come at Rangers from Rabbi Matondo – Ibrox Noise

Posted By on September 25, 2022

If theres a player of whom so much was expected but weve not quite seen delivered its Rabbi Matondo.

Hailed as the big answer to Rangers long-lasting right wing issue, the Wales international, a Schalke player on loan at Cercle Brugges, Matondo impressed everyone v Spurs with electric pace, a good dribble, good vision and an assist.

In short, going by preseason Matondo was the answer wed sought and was looking like a bargain jewel at just 2M, especially given his peak market value at around 10M.

Unfortunately he hasnt hit the ground running in competitive games. The only match he has impressed on any level in is the second half drubbing of St Johnstone, the-then worst team in the league, and that really isnt much of a barometer.

Whether its confidence issues or settling in problems, weve not yet seen any of that preseason potential realised, and its a real pity.

Lets be clear Matondo is one of these rough gems a player with every single trait needed at the top level to be a really fine asset. He has pace, he has power, he can dribble, pick a pass and generally be dangerous on the wing. He doesnt hide, and he works hard.

Unfortunately, the big trait he needs is mental fortitude the intangible psychological belief that he is good enough at a club as big as Rangers. Its one thing to be good enough phsyically, another one to deliver it for a jersey as heavy as ours on a stage as big as Ibrox.

We believe he needs time to settle, time to deliver on that preseason promise. We know theres a player there, hes got almost a dozen Wales caps and 30 Bundesliga appearances (not to mention almost 30 in Belgium too) under his belt for us to know hes played at the highest levels, and you dont fluke those.

Hes not got going yet for Rangers, but we look forward to him when he does.

See the article here:

There is so much to come at Rangers from Rabbi Matondo - Ibrox Noise

Purely Commentary: The Fast I Have Chosen | Detroit Jewish News – The Jewish News

Posted By on September 25, 2022

Elliott Shevin wrote up an incident that occurred at our synagogue a few years ago, when he was shul president. His account was never published. It occurs to me that, as we prepare for the Days of Awe this year, we should know this story:

Apparently, Dennis understood one thing about Judaism: on a Saturday morning, a building with Hebrew writing on the outside would likely be occupied. Perhaps he could find help here.

So, the hour just before the service on Yom Kippur morning found him standing in the space our small congregation rented from a local school. A middle-aged man, he was dressed casually: a San Francisco Forty-Niners jacket, a baseball cap, slacks. Nothing unusual, but a sharp contrast to our suits and ties.

It was early, and only Moshe and I were there. As Moshe was nearer, Dennis addressed him: Are you the rabbi?No, the rabbi isnt here.Perhaps I can help, I volunteered.

With no other option, our visitor accepted, on the condition that we speak in private. We found a room and a pair of chairs, we exchanged introductions, and he shared his story.He was a veteran, he explained. He had served in various postings in Central America in the mid-1980s.

Perhaps hed seen combat there, as he had said he suffered from PTSD. Servicemen and women who had risked the last full measure of devotion, only to leave the military even less prepared for civilian life than when they had entered, had been no more than anecdotes before. Now one of them sat before me.

His immediate concern was keeping a roof over his head, and those of his wife and two daughters. They had been living in Battle Creek had I heard of that place? but recently moved to Detroit. Theyd spent a month in a motel room on the charity of the owner, but that arrangement had ended. They now occupied an apartment about three miles to the south.

He worked odd jobs to make ends meet, as his full pension from the VA didnt suffice. The dirt under his fingernails, he said, came from a recent stint cleaning a driveway.

He seemed to perceive his presence as incongruous, and this weighed upon him. Assurances and justifications formed the bulk of his monologue. He repeatedly apologized for his appearance, spoke of his unease at being a Black man in a white neighborhood (unaware of the half-dozen Black households just a block away), reassured me that his missing upper incisor had been pulled by a dentist and not lost in a fight. Indeed, the only reason one might doubt his sincerity was his continuous assertions of it.

What he sought was obvious, but as he never mentioned it explicitly and spoke almost nonstop, he left no opening to explain why, on this particular morning, an observant Jewish congregation wouldnt be able to help him.

Before long, our elder rabbi, who could hardly miss the odd sight of this stranger engaging his synagogue president, joined us. Dennis redirected his appeal to him, eventually explaining his need: a small sum to make the rent on the apartment. I get paid in a couple of days. I can come back on Tuesday and pay you back and he named a figure half again as large as what he was asking.

You neednt do that. And we do want to help you, explained the rabbi. But and you may have a hard time believing this this is a holiday for us, and none of us is carrying any money. He turned his empty pocket inside-out to emphasize the point.

Perhaps some of the people who come later?No, they wont have any money either.Do you have any at home? We could ride to your house.No, we dont ride today.

We passed a while in silent thought before I volunteered, If youll excuse us, perhaps we can think of something. The rabbi and I stepped into the hallway, agreed on a plan and returned to our visitor.

It happens that there is some money on the premises. Please follow me.

I led him to the cabinet that holds our prayer books and indicated a silver-plated container. That is our charity box. I cant handle it myself, but youre welcome to whatever is inside.He emptied the box and asked if we would count the contents. Youll have to do that for yourself, I explained. By this time, our younger rabbi had appeared. We found a room where the tally showed that Dennis was now just $10 shy of his goal. With thanks, he prepared to walk the three miles to the apartment, perhaps to close the shortfall along the way.

By now it was time for prayers to begin. On holidays, by rabbinic ordinance, we dont conduct business transactions, leading our younger rabbi to ponder, Im not sure we did the right thing.

On this morning, as on every Yom Kippur, the prophetic reading from Isaiah provided an answer:

Is such the fast I desire,A day for men to starve their bodies?Is it bowing the head like a bulrushAnd lying in sackcloth and ashes?Do you call that a fast,A day when the Lord is favorable?No, this is the fast I desire:To unlock fetters of wickedness,And untie the cords of the yokeTo let the oppressed go free;To break off every yoke.It is to share your bread with the hungry,And to take the wretched poor into your home.

Today wed been tested. Would we merely starve our bodies and bow our heads? Or would we also share our bread and house the homeless?

Isaiah would say we passed.

Louis Finkelman, JN contributing writer, teaches at Lawrence Technological University. He serves as half of the rabbinic team at Congregation Or Chadash in Oak Park. This was first published in Times of Israel.

Originally posted here:

Purely Commentary: The Fast I Have Chosen | Detroit Jewish News - The Jewish News

The Inadequacy of Thank You to a Retiring Rabbi – Guideposts

Posted By on September 25, 2022

I remember the first thing I ever heard about Rabbi Howard Jaffe. You only have to meet him once, a rabbi-friend told me when she heard we were considering joining Rabbi Jaffes synagogue. Hell remember your name, where youre from and anything else that comes up in conversation, even if youre in a crowded room and only talk for 10 seconds.

My friend was right, and we did join that synagogue 11 years ago. At the time, our son Ben was in a baby carriernow he is just over a year away from the rite of passage that will be his bar mitzvah. At the time, Rabbi Jaffe was the beloved rabbi of a vibrant congregation at Temple Isaiah in Lexington, Massachusettsnow he is preparing to retire after 22 years of service.

The synagogue is holding many events to celebrate and congratulate, to feel and process, and to move through this time of great transition as a community. After all, to everything there is a season, and as we read in our prayerbook every Friday night, This is an hour of change, and within it, we stand quietly on the border of light. At a time when every aspect of life feels like its in flux, the process of wishing Rabbi Jaffe well stands out even more than I suspect it would have in the pre-pandemic before times.

I have tried several times to write a letter to Rabbi Jaffe to express my thoughts and feelings, to make sure he knows how much he means to me and to my family. Its all come up short, which leaves me feeling grateful to have built such a multi-faceted and meaningful relationship, one thats so hard to neatly summarize.

Instead, Ive spent time surrounding myself with memories, learnings, inspirations, challenges and support that Rabbi Jaffe has given me over the years. To mention just two: there was the time he invited my son and me to talk about grief together after my father diedIll never forget how I felt watching him speak directly to Ben about his 8-year-old feelings and how much refuge I took in reflecting across the generations on the Jewish view of grief and loss.

Second, there was the powerful Friday night early in the pandemic in which, on Zoom, Rabbi Jaffe tearfully quoted a biblical verse that said, We will not abandon this house of God. He emphasized that we were not having a virtual service, but a real, true worship experience that was taking place thanks to the gifts of technology.

These are two mini-moments from a decade of connection, teaching and conversation. And now, as I wish Rabbi Jaffe well on his retirement, I think back to that comment my friend made before I ever met him.

You only have to meet him once for him to remember you, she said.

One thing is for sureI would be all the poorer had I only met him once. And as for remembering? I hope he carries with him some of the conversations weve had over the years. But I know for certain that I will never, ever forget him.

See the original post here:

The Inadequacy of Thank You to a Retiring Rabbi - Guideposts

‘Sense of accomplishment’: Synagogue recruits 163 Torah readers from one Rosh Hashanah to another – Daily Herald

Posted By on September 25, 2022

The goal: Bring people back into the synagogue after the COVID-19 pandemic forced them home.

The plan: Encourage members to read the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

The reward: A cookie and a sense of accomplishment.

Still, that must be one exquisite cookie.

In the course of one year, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park attracted 163 people who read portions of the Torah in weekly Shabbat services. The Jewish year 5782 began last fall and will end at sundown Sunday as Rosh Hashanah ushers in 5783.

Twins Aiden and Sam Stoltze display the Team Torah cookies they received as part of the "Back-to-Shul" challenge at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.- Courtesy of Jacob Sandler

The readers range in age from teens to 86-year-old Gerald Lasin, who reprised the portion he read at his 1949 bar mitzvah.

The number is impressive. Most synagogues have a paid Torah reader and "a few people they can rely on," said Beth El "Team Torah" Committee Chair Michael Millenson.

"The fact that we have had volunteers makes Beth El different," said Millenson, whose wildest dream initially had been 100 readers.

"But the fact that we have this many people is extraordinary," he said.

Reading the Torah at Beth El as part of the Team Torah Committee's "Back-to-Shul Challenge" isn't easy. Each Torah is unique, a manuscript with Hebrew characters handwritten on a scroll of parchment or sheepskin that cannot be touched by hand but instead by a pointer called a "yad."

Readers, Millenson said, must read their portions in biblical Hebrew and memorize proper punctuation and the cantillation marks and symbols, or tropes, that indicate how words are to be chanted.

"It's a sense of accomplishment," said Millenson, a veteran reader. "You're reading from a scroll that's been around for thousands of years. The cantillation marks were designed something like 1,400 years ago."

What's more, experts stand nearby ready to correct readers should they stumble.

"Think if you misplayed a note in a symphony and somebody next to you said, 'You've got to replay that,'" Millenson said.

"The Torah, you read from the original script. It's not punctuated, there's no vowels, so it takes quite a bit of preparation," said Lasin, of Deerfield, a 50-year Beth El congregant and retired pediatrician whose reading this year coincided with the anniversary of his bar mitzvah 73 years ago.

Highland Park High School freshman Jack Gordon already is a veteran reader of the Torah at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El.- Courtesy of North Shore Photography

There was precedent to Team Torah, though the cookies and team jerseys are a new touch.

Beth El founded its Ba'al Korei Institute in 1999, Millenson said, with the name translating to "master of the reading." Last year, as the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic faded, Millenson suggested a novel way to have more congregants attend synagogue in general and expand Torah reading to a younger generation.

Thus, the challenge. The Ba'al Korei name was changed to Team Torah because the Hebrew term was unfamiliar to many, and "institute" lacked youthful flair.

"If you're trying to appeal to young people, you need to appeal to them in words they understand," Millenson said.

Then, there's that which appeals to people of all ages: cookies.

Individually wrapped, the large sugar cookies had the Team Torah logo emblazoned in their frosting. A sticker on the underside of the wrapper had the name of a reader, whose name would be listed on a large poster board to note the accomplishment.

That fun touch, and the recognition it lent, helped the cause -- and led to more readers than expected.

Jack Gordon, a Highland Park High School freshman who has read the Torah several times at Beth El, needed no cookie to entice him.

"As a Jewish adult it is my honor and privilege to read the Torah in front of the community, and be a part of the community and practice Judaism," he said. "And it's even more of an honor to read the Torah on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur."

See more here:

'Sense of accomplishment': Synagogue recruits 163 Torah readers from one Rosh Hashanah to another - Daily Herald

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