Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 5781
Ellen and Bruce Holroyd
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Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 5781
While many Jews are baffled by the fall Jewish harvest thanksgiving festivals, which include Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah, we mark the American celebration of Thanksgiving with gusto. Here is one national holiday that has no religious overtones that make us feel excluded. Jews joyfully partake of all Thanksgiving “fixins” from turkey (or tofu) to taters; pumpkins to parades.
In reality, Thanksgiving should be considered a uniquely Jewish festival. The first Pilgrim harvest celebrations in Plymouth, Massachusetts, were modeled on the biblical, Jewish harvest festivals of Passover, Sukkot, and Shavuot. And, the earliest Thanksgiving feasts took place in July.
It was President George Washington who moved Thanksgiving to autumn, writing, “I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation.”
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the proclamation to make Thanksgiving a national holiday to be celebrated the last Thursday of November. But merchants, hoping to expand the Christmas shopping season commencing on Thanksgiving, convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to change the date to the second to last Thursday in November. This move added an extra week of shopping and also explains why the annual Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade concludes with a waving Santa welcoming the official start of the so-called “Christmas” shopping frenzy.
For Temple Beth Or, Thanksgiving has long been a festival of outreach to the local interfaith community. In 1988, our own religious committee chair, Steven Alexander, initiated south Dayton’s first annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service with neighboring churches at our synagogue. Since that time, our celebration has grown to include the Muslim community as well. This year, Temple Beth Or is the proud host of our 32nd Interfaith Thanksgiving gathering. We hope that as many of you as possible will attend, volunteer, and give thanks for our strong Dayton interfaith friendships and ties. (Volunteer opportunities are found inside this issue of the Light on page 8).
Whether Thanksgiving is seen as a secular American holiday, the jump-off point for winter shopping (don’t forget our December 8th Artisan Fair!), or a uniquely Jewish holiday, the fact is that the term “Jew” comes from the Hebrew name Yehudah which means to give thanks. As such, Jews should fully embrace every opportunity to give thanks for our blessings and bounty.
In Kallah Rabbati (2:13), an early medieval rabbinic text, we read the following story about the great Rabbis Akiva and Tarfon:
It was said about Rabbi Tarfon that he was a greatly wealthy man, but he did not donate much to the poor. Once, Rabbi Akiva said to him: “Would you like me to buy you a city or two [using your money]?” He replied “yes”—Rabbi Tarfon went and brought Rabbi Akiva four thousand golden dinars. Rabbi Akiva went and gave the money to the poor. Some time later, Rabbi Tarfon found Rabbi Akiva and said to him: “Where are the cities that you bought me?” Rabbi Akiva took him by the hand, walked him to the house of study, and brought over a child who had in his hand the book of Psalms. The boy read, continuing on until he reached this verse: “[Blessed are those who fear the Lord…] they have freely scattered their gifts to the poor.” (Ps 112:1, 9)
What an incredible—if fanciful—tale! What’s more, though the reaction of Rabbi Tarfon isn’t recorded here, a slightly different version of the story is found in the related Tractate Kallah (5:1), which ends with Rabbi Akiva proclaiming to Rabbi Tarfon, referring to the house of study, that “this is the city that I bought you!” According to this alternative version of the legend, Rabbi Tarfon responds by kissing Rabbi Akiva, giving him more money to donate to the poor, and declaring “my master, chief are you in wisdom and chief are you in good acts!”
Now…I find it highly doubtful that Rabbi Tarfon would truly have been quite as thrilled as described, seeing that the equivalent of thousands upon thousands of his dollars were used for reasons he had not approved. Nevertheless, the lesson of the story is quite telling. Rabbi Akiva, one of the most revered Sages of our tradition, is lauded for his behavior. Why so? Not to teach that improper use of funds is praiseworthy; but, instead, to underscore just how important it is to give tzedakah to support students.
At Temple Beth Or, we take this matter as seriously as any other. A reason for us to have great pride is that our community makes sure not to deny any child the opportunity to study at Makor on account of financial need. The primary mechanism we use to make this happen is the Nelson Burstein Educational Scholarship Fund—i.e., the Saba Fund. This fund, which has been around for nearly ten years now, is earmarked specifically to help families who want to provide their children with a Jewish education but who would find the tuition of Makor prohibitive or overly burdensome.
The Saba fund is a great asset and helps us—in Rabbi Akiva’s words— to sustain our “city.” However, the money within Saba fund is dwindling, and that should be jarring not just to those who might be in need of it—those with tight finances and school-aged children—but to everyone in our community. Anyone invested in the future of Judaism is effected by the next generation’s ability to access Jewish education.
At Temple Beth Or, we all should be (and I suspect are!) invested in the future of Judaism—it’s why we’re here in the first place. Nevertheless, if you have been searching for a mitzvah to fulfill, look no further: make a gift to the Saba fund and do your part to strengthen the next generation of Judaism. Help us to make sure that your “synagogue city” is healthy and vibrant for many more years to come!
Rabbi Ari Ballaban
“The High Holidays are late this year” can be heard often, but they are not as late as you may think. Most Jews believe that the holiday season begins with Rosh HaShanah on the first day of the Hebrew month of Tishri.
But the true preparations for our Days of Awe begin in the prior month of Elul, during which time we are supposed to engage in self-reflection and soul-searching.
During Elul Jews recite selichot (forgiveness) prayers emphasizing the inner work of the High Holidays. Indeed, a special service on the Saturday evening before the holidays is called Selichot. The Sabbath ends with Havdalah, and we have a “warm-up” for the Days of Awe which lie ahead.
During the Selichot Service, we hear the sounds of the season, the special holiday musical tropes of the holy days, as well as the first blast of the Shofar. Many congregations change their Torah covers from those used during the year to special white covers designed to represent purity and renewal.
In Dayton, it has become customary for Beth Abraham Synagogue, Temple Beth Or, and Temple Israel to combine in worship for the Selichot service.
This year Temple Beth Or will host the community on Saturday, September 21st, 2019, with a service featuring the acclaimed Dayton Jewish Chorale directed by Hazan Jenna B. Greenberg. Many of our Temple Beth Or members are a part of this community-wide chorus.
The larger Dayton community will have the opportunity to mingle during a gourmet dessert reception prior to the Service at 8:30 p.m. Then Rabbis from all three congregations will lead a brief yet soulful Service starting at 9:00 p.m.
We are hoping for many decadent, sinful delights at our dessert reception so that we will have yet one more thing to repent. If you are willing to enhance our evening with your culinary delights, please sign up online at volunteer.templebethor.com/chefs, or call the Temple office at 937-435-3400.
We look forward to hosting the larger Dayton community and raising our voices in prayer and song as we kick off our High Holiday Season.
To a sweet Selichot and New Year.
Rabbi Judy Chessin
As part of the Neighborhood Watch Program, we invite the TBO Congregation and our surrounding neighbors to attend a spirited discussion of Home Security.
Topic: Stop that Burglar!
Tuesday, September 10th 7PM – 9PM
RSVP by Thursday, September 5th
The TBO Adult Education Committee is sponsoring this very informative program on home security. TBO’s security officer, Dave Williams, with many years of experience in this area, will be discussing how to keep your home safe from burglars. Topics include: mail security, lighting, home security systems, cameras and ways you can deter burglars. Light Refreshments follow the presentation.
Please plan on attending this timely presentation and meet your neighbors. R.S.V.P. to the Temple Office 435-3400 by Thursday, September 5th.
You Are Cordially Invited to Continue Your Rosh Hashanah Observance with Lunch
Meet in Levin Hall at 12:30 p.m. (or 15 minutes after morning services) Sept. 30.
At 2 p.m., Rabbi Chessin will lead a special family Rosh Hashanah service.
Lunch includes a delicious Chipotle Burrito Bar and drinks for only $10/adult and $5/child (3 and up). There is no charge for children under 3.
Reservations must be made in advance and are due by Sept. 23.
Register online here:
Successful New Membership Support Structure
Thanks to the support and generosity of you, our Members, Temple Beth Or met its budget needs for 2018-2019! A special thank you to our Premium-level supporters – we could not have done it without you.
This past year, Temple Beth Or initiated a new membership support structure, changing from a traditional fixed-dues assessment model to a new model that better reflects our values as a Temple– being welcoming, having ownership, fiscal responsibility, and financial transparency. Under our new model, Temple Beth Or calculates a sustaining level of support, which is the amount needed from each household to meet our anticipated Temple operating expenses. We ask members to commit to that amount or to a different amount (higher or lower) commensurate with their financial abilities, without the need to complete any additional forms.
With the new support model, 97% of member support pledges were paid, and Temple received approximately $35,000 more in member support this year than all dues paid last year. In addition, we have received overall positive feedback from members and prospective members of all ages on the new support model.
As in most years, membership support does not cover all of Temple Beth Or’s operating expenses; therefore, Temple continues to rely on fundraising, contributions, building rental, grants, and other income to meet our budgetary needs and unexpected expenses. Another thank you to all members who responded generously to address unanticipated security expenses to provide security personnel and building improvements.
Thank you for your support of our new member support structure. Again, thank you for your generosity, with a special thank you to our 2018-2019 Premium supporters, listed below.
Pillar Supporters: Anne Corwynn, Marlene Flagel, Robert & Vicky Heuman, David London, Janet Sherman, plus Anonymous
Builder Supporters: Joseph & Elaine Bettman, Lorraine Fortner, Milton Nathan & Ritva Williamson, plus Anonymous
Guardian Supporters: Kevin & Karen Bressler, Gary Holstine, Jan Maharam, Stuart & Pamela Merl, Ronald & Susan Nelson, Renee Peery, Ira Segalewitz, Marissa Sucosky, plus Anonymous
Leader Supporters: Eva Clair, Marc Gilbert & Annette Nathan, Stephen & Marsha Goldberg, Harold & Melissa Guadalupe, Susan Hand, Martin Jacobs & Martha Moody, Leesa Kaufman & Gino Roncallo, Joann Plotkin, Julie Simon, Steven & Shara Taylor, Dan Weiner, Gary & Mary Youra, plus Anonymous
2019-20 Member Support Forms
It is time again for you to submit your Member Support Commitment Form. Under our new member support model, it is critical that you decide on your level of support for Temple and return the form specifying that amount.
The forms have been mailed to your home and are also available on the Temple Beth Or website. Any questions can be referred to Temple Treasurer Karen Lindsay at email@example.com. Please send back your Member Support Commitment Form by July 31st.