By Rabbi Shira Wallach
The weather outside may have been frightful, but inside we made the best of it! This weekend, our most adventurous families made their way to Waxahachie to brave the cold, the wind, and the rain, so that we could experience a beautiful Shabbat together.
I want to give you a couple of glimpses into the sacred time that we shared.
On Friday night, Rabbi Roffman led his annual Bibliodrama session, in which he takes a beloved story from the Torah and allows parents and children to work together in order to retell and understand it from new perspectives. The story that we tackled was that of sending Moses down the Nile: how did his mother feel? What was his sister thinking? Why did Pharaoh’s daughter rescue him? And at each meal after that, if you looked over at the kids’ area where they could play when they were done eating, you could see them continuing to work out the story.
On Shabbat morning, after morning tefilla, Sarah Lipinsky led an exploration into the weekly parasha by asking our children: What is your favorite room in your house and why? Do you think God would also enjoy that kind of space? What kind of a home would you build for God on earth? And then, our children led their parents in thinking through beautiful spaces for God. Some of their creations even boasted bounce houses, swimming pools, fully-equipped kitchens, lovely strings of lanterns, and glimmering jewels.
On Saturday night, as we watched the sky grow dark, the temperature dropped and rain threatened. We sang a beautiful Havdalah inside, and then, most of us threw caution to the wind and went outside to toast marshmallows and enjoy the delicious nostalgia of s’mores. In the end, the crackling campfire and sheltering trees protected us from the elements. Back inside, we sang everything from “Brown-Eyed Girl” to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Let it Go” to “Sweet Caroline.”
In the morning, I asked families to talk about what they’d like to bring back to Dallas from the weekend, and then illustrate it on a large puzzle piece. Of course, we all loved the campfire, the music, and the company, but I also saw sketches of God’s house that the kids designed, Sarah’s incredible indoor obstacle course, a deck of UNO cards, and even one of the Shabbat-o-grams that we exchanged at the beginning of the weekend. You can see our assembled puzzle in the group photo; come by our offices soon to see the final laminated image!
I want to thank our volunteer team Rachel Alexander, Shari Birnbaum, Amanda Franklin, Melissa Goldberg, and Julie Yochananov, and of course, none of this would be possible without the incredible Sarah Katz! Thank you to everyone who came, who helped create the special bonding and memories that will continue giving us joy. Let’s do it again next year!
by Rabbi Shira Wallach
This past Shabbat, we welcomed our new class of Tiny Treasures—babies born in the year 2018—and their families into the warm and loving embrace of the Shearith Israel family. If you were there, thank you for helping us create such a wonderful space in which to share in the simcha of new life.
Many of you have heard me talk about my zaydie, the rabbi, who was born in Germany and marked his Bar Mitzvah in 1933, the year that Hitler rose to power. You’ve heard me talk about his Bar Mitzvah tefillin, one of the only possessions that made it through the journey north to Liverpool, across the Atlantic to Toronto, to Saskatoon, to a suburb of Cleveland, and then finally, to Orlando, where my zaydie sat with me when I was just eight years old, and gave them to me.
by Rabbi Shira Wallach
On Monday night, I participated in the Faith and Grief Ministries Multi-Faith Service of Comfort at Klyde Warren Park, an annual gathering of people who wish to pay homage to loved ones around the holiday season. The organizers of the service asked me to reflect on the aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting and how we keep our faith intact after tragedy. I wanted to share my remarks with you:
The joy and serenity of our Shabbat was pierced this morning with the news of the killing of eleven people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. This afternoon, what we no doubt suspected was confirmed by city officials: that this heinous act of cruelty was borne out of hatred for our people, our values, and our way of life.
by Rabbi Shira Wallach
You’re probably being bombarded with messages from TV, social media, friends, and random strangers to make sure you have a voting plan. I’m here to provide one more, as voting is a Jewish imperative.
Pirkei Avot 3:2 teaches us that we must “pray for the government’s welfare, for without fear of it [we] would swallow each other alive.”
I started reading torah in the second grade. Each week, I chanted from our sacred, ancient scroll in junior congregation, and felt privileged to help bring our most cherished stories to life for my friends and community. At the end of that year, my rabbi gave me a gift for investing the time each week to prepare: a tikkun korim, a specially printed volume of the Torah with the Hebrew, vowels and trope marks on one side, and the unmarked, adorned text as it appears in the scroll on the other. He inscribed the book with a famous teaching from Pirkei Avot that has become one of my favorites: Ben Bag Bag said: hafoch bah vehafoch bah. Turn it and turn it, since everything is in it.
This sermon was given on Erev Yom Kippur by Rabbis Sunshine, Roffman & Wallach
On Erev Yom Kippur, our prayers begin to slip the earthly bonds of gravity. By the conclusion of this most sacred day, they are propelled straight through the gates of heaven. And what guides their way? A ladder.
Ya’ale tachanuneinu me’erv, v’yavo shavatenu mi’boker, v’yera’eh rinuneinu ad e’rev.
This summer, Adam and I went to see the new documentary on Mr. Rogers: Won’t you be my neighbor? If you’re not familiar with Mr. Rogers, he was the creator, writer, and producer of the magical television show Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood that he introduced to his local TV station as a countercultural gesture in contrast to the cartoonishly violent, fast-paced children’s shows available at the time.
by Rabbi Ari Sunshine and the Klei Kodesh
As we reconvene in these coming days and weeks, we want to share with you a few important changes in our ritual life that you will notice when you come to shul. Our first core value in our new vision statement is that we are a caring community—one that is inclusive, warm, and welcoming to members and guests. We believe that each of these changes will help ensure that each soul who walks into our building, and participates in the life of our community, can see themselves represented in our rituals and liturgy. We also believe that these new initiatives will make our services more accessible and inviting, building and strengthening connections between each of us and our tradition and between us and our fellow congregants.
Shearith Israel clergy, staff and congregants share