Albany rabbi’s next life chapter will be in Israel – Times Union

Posted By on July 31, 2020

ALBANY Rabbi Don Cashman says he never expected to end his 45 years at Albanys Bnai Sholom Reform Congregation as the rabbi of the Temple of Zoom. But the coronavirus pandemic swept America in the months before his long-planned retirement, forcing him to adapt. Nonetheless, the beloved rabbi, who is as well known for his eloquent sermons as he is for his colorful Purim costumes, did not disappoint his congregation as he shared insights about civil unrest and racism during his final sermon on June 26.

He tackled an epic theme: what humans owe to each other in the fight to create a just and compassionate world.

He quoted from the Pirkei Avot (often translated as Chapters of the Fathers), a collection of Rabbinic wisdom and maxims from Rabbinic Jewish tradition.Its not upon you to complete the task. However, you are not free to ignore it.

He loves that sage observation so much, its on his license plate: AVOT 221.

Over the decades, Cashman helped develop a Hebrew high school that held its first classes in his synagogue's library. He's raised money for scholarships to send youths in his congregation to tour Israel. And he's helped organize tours for his congregation.

Now, the next chapter of his life will be written in Israel. He and his wife, Sharona, will be moving permanently to a new Jerusalem home.

We realized years ago that would be where our lives would be after retirement, Cashman told the Times Union. Weve been to Florida. We dont want Florida.

Israels hot, dry climate is even more appealing when he thinks of Albanys snowy winters and humid summers. The move wont happen this year. But Cashman is already enthused about Jerusalems vibrant visual arts and music scene, its cultural treasures. And he can clearly envision living on what he calls Jewish time.

Stores close before sundown on Fridays, he said wistfully. Cashiers and waiters wish you Shabbat Shalom. You arent overwhelmed by Christmas every December.

And there are moments of solemn unity such as the annual Yom HaShoah. When a siren sounds, drivers promptly pull over and stop on the sides of streets and roads to stand at attention, to show reverence toward those killed in the Holocaust.

Cashmans embrace of the next stage of life is part of his core belief that theres always time to grow and improve.

In his final sermon, he recalled buying an antique Gibson mandolin as a gift to himself for his ordination.

Thirty-seven years later, am I a mandolin player? Not yet, he said. Each of us has things we want to do that we havent gotten around to yet. We all have plans or hopes for the future which may or may not come to fruition. Still, we keep them on our to-do list.

Exploring Israel will be a new adventure yet hes confident he wont be homesick. He recalls visiting the Masada, the ancient fortress on a high desert plateau that was the stronghold of a Roman garrison and then the Jewish rebels who overwhelmed them. As he moved through the fortifications that once seemed as remote as the end of the earth, he bumped into Rabbi Matt Cutler from Schenectady who was with a different tour group. Rounding a corner, Cashman was surprised to seeRabbi Dan Ornstein from Albany's Ohav Shalom who was traveling with yet a different group from Albany.

.Its not like Im leaving friends or colleagues here behind; they'll be coming to Israel where I'll see them sooner or later, he said.

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Albany rabbi's next life chapter will be in Israel - Times Union

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