Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating

The Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group, in an event led by members Rachel and Ali, went ice-skating at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center on Sunday. Here are a few photos:

Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating

Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating

Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating

Vassar Temple Jr. Youth Group Goes Ice Skating


Torah Study Notes 3-9-13

March 9, 2013
p. 637
This is the Shabbat that comes closest to the Hebrew month of Nissan. It begins with the notion that you are in control of your own time – this is the first act of freedom. The analogous Torah portion deals with the construction of the mishkan.
7:51 We are starting with the last verse of the previous section – that connects with the building of the tabernacle. This suggests that the location of the Temple is not the location of Zion – that the Temple is in a slightly different location – on a plateau just to the north.
8:2 Note that the priests are attending to the holy objects but that the sacrifice is being done by the King and the community. At the time this is being written however the priests had control of the process of sacrificing. This probably harks back to an earlier time. We have no idea what happened to the sacrificed animals – were they eaten? In Leviticus we learn that a division was made between what was burned for God and what was given to the people. CL: In other cultures the sacrifice was in fact consumed by the people.
8:6 A description of the Arc of the Covenant as situated in the Temple. SF: This is a dramatic and emotional moment for the devout. Note that the decision of the translators was to make verse 8 in parenthesis. “:…they are standing there to this day.” This seems to suggest that the space for the Ark would be smaller than it’s placement in the Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting.
8:10 God’s presence pushes the priests out of the Tabernacle. It is dark – which suggests that one must struggle to see God – even at a small holy location. The quote within a quote makes for some confusion as to who said what. The Temple is the palace of God but He must remain mysterious and unseen. Compare the movement of the Ark as described in 1 Samuel. The Ark was used by David as a way to draw priests from the north and south to Jerusalem. David was originally instructed to build the Temple but the implementation of this command was left to Solomon. Jerusalem means City of Peace.
8:14 A speech that also operates as a prayer. Note that this is all occurring during Succoth – a time of temporary structures – which here becomes permanent.
6:17 Solomon has a different explanation for David’s failure to build the Temple. Originally, it was because David had “blood on his hands.” Here Solomon confirms his right to dynastic succession by carrying out the assignment of his father, LL: This seems terribly self-aggrandizing. The Hebrew word “Melach” refers to “one who rules” without reference to dynastic succession. The fact that David “set his heart” on building the Temple is what gives him sufficient merit to build a dynasty.
6:20 Solomon declaims that the building of the Temple carries out the covenant made with “our ancestors.” This refers to the covenant made to the people as they left Egypt – that they would have their own land and community. We can conclude that the bricks and mortar may be gone but the people survive – as well as the land. SF: You build a Temple within your body and a Tabernacle within your heart.

Torah Study Notes 3-2-13

March 1, 2013
P 606 Haftarah First Kings: This is the first month of Adar. The Torah portion is the story of the Golden Calf.
18:1 This conversation is similar to that between Moses and Pharaoh. There has been a drought and Elijah has been warning the king that his sins would cause God’s anger and hence the draught. Ahab and Elijah are well known tropes in the OT. Ahab has been married to Jezebel. All of the rulers in First Kings are villains. Israel was over-run by the Assyrians whereas Judah survived. The writer is suggesting that the kingdom was overrun because of the sins of its leaders. Even when Judah was overrun by Nebuchadnezzar it still persisted in exile and was then restored. This was likely written before Judah was overrun in about the year 600 BCE. N. was an imperialist who wanted hegemony over a large number of petty kingdoms. The Assyrians were conquerors who destroyed the Northern Kingdom.
When the Bible was pulled together into a sacred text about 450 BCE the exile has occurred as well as the return and the construction of the Temple. Even then it was understood that society was very structured with very little mobility. These accounts were likely held up as object lessons – the mistakes of the past – that would be informative as to reconstructing government. Here, the lesson is that the higher you are in leadership the greater are your responsibilities. LLant:: Who is really in charge here? PG: Prophets were a definite group within ancient societies. There is the nobility, priests, artisans, peasants, military, physicians and prophets. CL: There are analogies from ancient China at about the same time in the Warring States period and in the other states leading up to consolidation during the Chin Dynasty. PG: Prophets were there to deal with spiritual pain – more like social workers today. Elijah is a mythic representative of a smaller but real class of prophets who could speak truth to power – confronting a high priest or king. Their role was shamanistic. But they are often aware that their words would not be heard right away.
Note that Ahab is much more interested in preserving his material wealth during the famine – than in sustaining the people.
18:7 God tells Obadiah to tell Ahab that Elijah is coming. Obadiah knows that Ahab will kill him because Ahab is obsessed with finding and destroying Elijah. Obadiah is effectively a mole – a double agent who purported to work with Ahab but was really with Elijah.
8:16 Ahab went to meet Elijah who charges Ahab with turning away from the rule of God.
8:20 The test between God and Baal as to who is the real God. The people have been “hopping between two opinions.” LL: The use of the word :opinions” seems problematic to me. It might better be “ideas” or religions.
8:25 The people prepare the bulls and call upon Baal. Elijah mocks them when Baal does not respond. What was really the difference between Israel’s perception of God and the rest of the world? It wasn’t just monotheism – it was a God who was interested in the affairs of humanity – who would actively intervene in human affairs. Most cultures considered gods to be capricious and uncaring. The world was hostile and uncompromising but the Israelites recognized that there was also concern and kindness. Some scholars say that there would be no lasting democracy without monotheism. CL: Democracy started in Greece without monotheism. See John Rawls – and Dershowitz on the genesis of democracy.: 2000: The Genesis of Justice: Ten Stories of Biblical Injustice that Led to the Ten Commandments and Modern Law. Warner Books. ISBN 978-0-446-67677-9.
8:30 Elijah prepares a bull for sacrifice. It all looks like a spectacular magic act. God sends lightening and consumes the bull. It is a performance filled with symbolism – the twelve stones – the afternoon sacrifice preceded by a meal. Elijah has called upon God for correcting an error: turning their hearts backward. Belief in God is not to come easily – it is a challenge. The rest of the story is not here but we can assume that there will be more back-sliding. This questioning continues to this day.

Vassar Temple Implements Innovative ‘Sababa’ Center to Enrich Religious Education

Poughkeepsie, Mar 4, 2013 — Vassar Temple opened its innovative “Sababa” Center to enrich religious education yesterday morning. Supplementing a classroom-based curriculum in the Seth A. Erlebacher Religious School, the center provides small-group and individualized experiences to the entire student body. The center takes its name from a slang Hebrew word for “great,” reflecting the center’s goal of offering great Jewish learning in an alternative format.

Vassar Temple Sababa Center

Vassar Temple Sababa Center

“Most teachers can reach about 90% of their students most of the time. We designed the Sababa Center to make sure that the other ten percent are also engaged in productive learning,” explains Vassar Temple’s Director of Education, Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, who holds a PhD in linguistics and who has consulted on Jewish education across North and South America.

“Everyone is unique,” Hoffman adds, “and the Sababa Center encourages students to express their individuality by giving them a maximally responsive learning environment for at least part of the day.”

Unlike traditional “resource rooms,” which focus only on remedial help, the Sababa Center helps each student move past the inherent limitations of classroom-based education. The Sababa Center is for any student, “whether bored, unable to keep up, or otherwise unengaged,” says Hoffman. “In other words, everyone.”

While classroom learning tends to be curriculum based, the Sababa Center helps students explore tangents to what they are learning in class, and find their own personal connection to that material. Accordingly, the Sababa Center is staffed by teachers with diverse approaches and a wide range of knowledge and skills.

Students rotate through the Sababa Center for 15-20 minutes at a time.

The Sababa Center is funded in part by a grant from the Ann and Abe Effron Fund.

Vassar Temple, affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, is an inclusive center of Jewish practice and study: The Seth A. Erlebacher Religious School at Vassar Temple serves students in grades K-12: