Joel Kelson to Receive Arnold Award

Joel Kelson
Photo by Perla Kaufman
Written by Marian Schwartz

The Arnold Award, named to honor Rabbi Emeritus Stephen A. Arnold, is presented annually to honor a congregant for outstanding contributions to religious/spiritual life at Vassar Temple, specifically in one or more of the three realms that are described in the Pirke Avot as the foundation of our world: study, worship, and acts of loving kindness. This year’s recipient of the coveted award is Joel Kelson.

Joel is a familiar figure at temple events, most often accompanied by his young children. In this way, he is a great role model not only for his children but for other temple families. As a member of the Ritual Committee, Joel can always be counted on whether it be with technological expertise, musical expertise, knowledge of Hebrew and conducting religious services, or the donation of refreshments to enhance any event. He helps lead summer services, and is bringing the joy of music to temple services year round as chairman of the Music Committee. Joel is also part of the Nachamu (Comforting) Committee, which helps congregants deal with issues surrounding terminal illness, death and mourning. The committee has placed a link to a Nachamu guidebook on the temple web site http://www.vassartemple.org , to make it available to the wider community. Joel is a constant supporter of all temple social action/community service/tzedakah projects. And in his “spare time”, he ably serves as the temple’s webmaster, helping to foster communication among the congregation, and to share information about temple life with the public on-line.

Come and help honor Joel when he is presented with the Arnold Award Saturday evening, Sept. 20, at 7:30 p.m., during a dessert reception to be held in the Vassar Temple social hall. Following the lovely ritual of havdalah to usher out the sabbath, you are invited to move upstairs for brief commentaries from two congregants, one from the sciences and one from the humanities, on the topic “This I Believe,” to encourage us to reflect on our own guiding values as the New Year begins. The evening will conclude with the traditional s’lichot service (penitential prayers), which will begin at approximately 10pm. The lateness of the hour adds to the mood of quiet and introspec­tion that is central to this observance. Please join us for any or all events of the evening as we, as Jews, begin to prepare spiritually for the upcoming High Holy Days.

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Lifelong Learning Begins Now

Lifelong Learning
By Rabbi Paul Golomb

Do not say: I will study when I have leisure. You may never have leisure!
Hillel

It is not clear whether the first century sage, Hillel, was referring specifically to the study of Torah. The word employed in this epigram connotes vocational study rather than intellectual learning. Hillel might have simply been reminding people that if you do not keep moving (keep up with the state of the art) you will be left behind. In Hillel’s day – indeed, well into the nineteenth century – on the other hand, Torah in its broadest sense of all Jewish texts, represented the totality of what any literate Jew needed to know. For Jews, Jewish literature contained everything one needed to know.

In the 1800s, however, a far-reaching change occurred. Judaism was relegated to being a religion. Jewish scholars in previous generations wrote texts on business, manufacturing, science and agriculture within the context of Jewish tradition. They wrote in Hebrew and related their empirical and experiential findings to Scripture and Talmud. In the nineteenth century, they began to write in French, German and English (among other European languages), and disconnected their ideas and research altogether from tradition. Jewish writing was, well, specifically Jewish: theological, spiritual and self-referential. It was something that rabbis learned and taught. So it is that today – in the year 2014 – and for roughly the last century or more, the worldwide Jewish community has never in its history been more literate and well educated, and also more alienated from its own literature and tradition!

When Hillel wrote his aphorism, being an educated person and being an educated Jew were one and the same thing. Such is clearly not the case today.

My comments are being directed to a community of extraordinarily learned people. The least educated of you has probably had a few years of college. A few generations ago, it would have been impressive if you had been able to remain in school past the eighth grade. My comments are also directed at those of you who sense that the Jewish part of your education is missing; that it has alienated you from your past and your present (your sense of connection with Jews here and elsewhere), and has put your future in jeopardy (what will be the faith and commitment of your grandchildren). I do have leisure, you might say, but what should I study?

Vassar Temple’s Lifelong Jewish Learning is an answer. The program established for the coming year (2014-15) is among the broadest and most varied ever. Classes and sessions will be held on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, some in the morning or midday, and some in the evening. Some programs will involve classic Jewish texts (in translation), some informed presentations, and some interactive, an opportunity to learn from each other. Some will be more basic and general and some will be more specific in subject matter.

You may ask: Where should I begin? Consider for a moment that every volume of the foundational Jewish text, the Talmud, begins on page 2. This oddity teaches us that wherever you begin, you are actually in the middle. The critical question, you see, is not where to begin, but whether you are going to begin at all!

In the near future, Vassar Temple will be posting and sending out its schedule of Lifelong Jewish Learning for the coming year. I encourage you to take advantage of the offerings. It is among the most accessible high quality adult Jewish learning anywhere in the Hudson Valley. I also invite you to check out the offerings at other local synagogues. While Vassar Temple’s offerings are second to none, there are good opportunities all around. Again, it is not a matter of where but rather of if. Leisure or not, it is time to study.

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Lifelong Learning logo-crop8-10-1048-
Click here to see Vassar Temple’s list of Adult Education offering.

Summer Services Going Great!!

Summer Service with the Crew

Written by Ron Rosen, Spiritual Committee Chair, Vassar Temple

The 2014 summer services at Vassar Temple have generated tremendous
enthusiasm–and we’re only part way through July! Already we have
experienced the following variations…

* A stirring July 4th service which included a D’var Torah by President
Bob Ritter, linking the jews to the spirit and times of the American
Revolution. After the service, we quickly journeyed to the banks of the
Hudson River at the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, where we enjoyed an
outdoor Oneg Shabbat featuring ice cream sundaes, a chance for the kids
to visit the Museum, and then experience the Poughkeepsie July fourth
fireworks with front-row seats!

* A rollicking service led by four of our college-age young adults, done
in the style of the summer-camp experience with a variety of spirited
songs, followed by an incredible Oneg Shabbat hosted by the students and
their families.

* A service led by our New Paths group, emphasizing worship in a relaxed
environment. Their approach to worship “encourages interactive
participation in prayer and learning, discussing and interpreting the
traditional in relation to our contemporary world of experience.”
…And yet another Ice Cream Oneg!

So… join the excitement; experience friendship, spirited services, and
tasty summer Oneg Shabbat gatherings. Upcoming services will be
conducted by the following volunteer leaders:

July 25: Rabbi Shoshana Hantman (former Religious School director)
Aug 1: Dr. Joel Hoffman (religious school director), Sandra Mamis and
Bob Ritter
Aug 15: Rabbi Shoshana Hantman
Aug 22: Ben Krevolin

Services begin at 7:30 PM at the Temple. See you there!

Torah Study Notes 7-19-14

July 19, 2014
p. 1100
Three portions ago the Israelites made their way to the shores of the Jordan River. All of these portions take place sequentially at the end of the journey through the wilderness.
30:2 Making a vow. This is a public vow and therefore a commitment in the presence of the community. But what does the text take for granted? Marshall McLuhan said that no one can write a completely original book – no one would understand it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan
Accordingly, the text here reminds the listener/reader of what they already know. The father must abrogate the vow, if he is to do so, immediately. The footnote refers to vows pertaining to God. See page 1099 re a calendar of offerings – vows of women. Making a vow in the presence of witnesses implies enforceability. There is no longer a question of “he said” or “she said.” A vow made to the community and then not fulfilled is sanctionable. Note that this injunction is being imparted by God to the heads of the tribes.LL: This implies that they had a responsibility to enforce vows.
30:7 When and under what circumstances a woman may keep or have her vow abrogated. Does this reinforce the notion that woman are subject to their husbands. SF: But who can expiate the guilt of the husband? This is a heavy burden. In our society we each have virtually unlimited personal responsibility. Note also that if most obligations are associated with an offering such an offering may materially affect the estate by diminution. Woman today – who have their own property – are more akin to the widows and divorced woman referenced here. They have their own responsibilities. SF: Vows are made for a higher purpose. They are a form of connection to God. The movement away from being merely an animal to becoming something else is the primary lesson of Torah.
30:17 There are the laws that the Eternal enjoined…
31:1 Avenge the Israelite people on the Midianites. A great deal of slaying ensues. This is a cartoon that serves as an emotional release. It is the classic notion of the Zane Grey Western of good prevailing over evil. Baloch the Moabite is not mentioned although he has been previously identified as an evil person. There is a large section of Talmud discussing this problem . Ruth is consistently referred to as a Moabite so possibly a descendent of Baloch and hence David is also of that line. This logic is constructed by the rabbinical analysts out of the absence of any mention of Baloch.
31:9 The Israelites took the woman and children of the Midianites captive…
31:13 Moses became angry because they spared the females – who were the seductresses. A gory turn of events when he directs that they – except the virgins – be slain as well as the male children. This has been a divinely ordained battle – indicated by the presence of Pinchas among the troops.
30:19 You shall stay outside the camp seven days… the purification of anyone who has touched a corpse in battle. They are tainted even though they have been engaged in a war ordained by God. LL: Shouldn’t we be suspect of any wars that are supposedly “ordained by God?” It is very difficult to approach these sections with any reverence or to view them as sacred. PG: This is no more than an attempt to invest the soldiers with a motivation that is greater than death. Most of the military conflicts in the past two hundred years have been initiated on the basis of loyalty to one’s state. The rabbis ask the question: what are we to draw from this? The act of war is debilitating and demands purgation. Idolatry is the justification here because it “kills” and cannot be permitted. Note that the rabbis did not consider either the Christians or the Zoroastrians as idolatrous. They were monotheistic. There has to be a connection with God. William P. Alston talks about metaphor on this same basis of connection. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2215404?uid=3739832&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21103991939201
Spinoza is quoted as saying that belief has to be examined through the lens of the universe. Note that he was a lens grinder.
See the following paragraphs on what happens to the spoils of war. Most of this is being read when the Israelites were under the control of the Babylonians. They had no army. LL: Clearly these accounts were intended in part to give heart to the downtrodden and discouraged Israelites in captivity – much like a film today with super-heroes.

Torah Study Notes 7-12-14

July 12, 2014
p. 1074
25:10 This parsha must be read in the context of the previous nine parshas and the story of Phinecas. Phinecas took desperate action to stop the plague. “…he took impassioned action for his God…” Discussion of the ultra right wing actions in Israel which focuses on some of these passages. This rationale for violence is rebutted in the Talmud by the rabbis. In essence we are all idolaters in that we all thirst for an image of God. Maimonides argued that we cannot talk positively about God because to do so was to turn God into an idol. We need to be sensitive about crossing the line into something that is truly destructive. We have a natural tendency to categorize and identify small differences. This is part of creating order in the world. The worst breaking of order is the acceptance of a breach between the material and the divine. Consider John Badham’s 1983 cold war film “War Games” wherein they conclude that the only way to win is not to play. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WarGames
25:16 “Assail the Midianites and defeat them –“ Madness arises and abates but did we learn anything? The plague is over and thus the rationale for any more violence is gone.
26: 1 “Take a census of the whole Israelite company of fighters…” This is a second census. See the first one on page 900. Note the drop in population of the Reubanites.
26:8 A recap of the story of Korah which suggests that the drop of population in that tribe may have been associated with that conflict. Here the transgressions of Korah are not visited upon his progeny. They are not sanctioned but they are stuck with the infamy. Are the children of evil people evil? Nature vs nurture.AF: Why is the age of twenty set for the count of a fighter?
26:12 A sharp drop in the population of the Simeonites. Likely associated with the plague but see below..
26:15 et sec through 48. The tribe of Gad and Judah have increases as do some of the others. One clan had only daughters. Note that the Levites are not listed since they are not fighters. The total enrollment is 601,710. The first census was done at Sinai so this is about 40 years later as they are poised on the banks of the Jordan to enter the land. This is a whole new generation. Here the clans are named as sub-sets of the tribes. The first census was to make sure that everyone and the Mishkan was properly protected. The purpose here is a mustering for the invasion of the land and a determination as to how the spoils would be distributed – the land apportioned in shares. It is to be apportioned by clan and family. The big loser of men is Simeon – a tribe that ultimately disappears or is absorbed into the other tribes. The numbers for Ephraim are likely in error since they were a dominant tribe in the north. Ultimately there are only Judah (Jews) and Levites. In Deuteronomy it is said that there were no losses in battle and no miscarriages!! See the documentary of the Canadian-Israeli filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici on the lost tribes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Jr_9EEjHk0
Both of the census counts are considered by scholars to be part of the same priestly document.

Israel News Sources – from The Jewish Federation of Dutchess County

I have posted this information by copying and pasting from an email. The links referenced below did NOT copy over. Please search for the resource and I can update and add the links at a latter date I will.

Good Morning:

Late yesterday, the Jewish Federations of North America sent out an email offering a long list of resources and links providing updated information about the current situation in Israel. Please see the full text of that message below. Additionally, the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires sent out their own update and resources, and that text appears below as well.
We share this information with you in order to help our entire community remain as fully informed as possible and to identify ways to take action when possible.
From the Jewish Federations of North America:

Operation Protective Edge:
As hostilities continue in Israel, Israeli PM Netanyahu has ordered the IDF to intensify Operation Protective Edge, although he stopped short of ordering a ground invasion. With rockets continuing to be fired from Gaza toward Israel, the IDF has continued its air strikes against Hamas and other Gazan targets. A long, extended military operation remains a distinct possibility with officials on both sides unclear of when hostilities may end. And Israeli forces are doing everything possible to warn Palestinian residents of incoming airstrikes to avoid civilian casualties.

A previous update from Jewish Federations on the ongoing situation in Israel can be found here.
A resource page, which is being constantly updated by the Jewish Federations, can be found here.

• Times of Israel — Netanyahu orders army to intensify Gaza operation
• Jerusalem Post — IDF strikes 80 Gaza targets in under 30 minutes
• Haaretz — No end in sight for Operation Protective Edge
• New York Times — Israel Warns Gaza Targets by Phone and Leaflet
Federations/Philanthropy:
Recruitment continues across the country for AmeriCorps VISTA members to work with Holocaust survivors, including in Los Angeles. Jewish Federations have joined a coalition urging the United States government to deal humanely with the unaccompanied children from Central America crossing the border into the U.S. And a new report on charitable giving shows that family influence is playing a larger role in philanthropic decisions.
Meanwhile, Federations are highlighted in Cleveland, Sarasota-Manatee and South Palm Beach County.

Global:

• Jewish Journal — Local groups receive volunteers to aid Holocaust survivors
• JTA — Jewish groups call on Obama to ‘welcome the stranger’
• eJewish Philanthropy — Family Influence Plays Growing Role in Giving Decisions, says Fidelity Charitable Giving Report

Local:

• Cleveland Jewish News — Talisman to honor hometown Holocaust survivors
• Sarasota Herald-Tribune — Woman leaves $1 million to Jewish federation
• Florida Sun-Sentinel — Adults join students for March of Living

Israel Advocacy:
A group of academics in Israel have established a new forum aimed at combating academic boycotts of the Jewish state. And an Israeli university is taking students on a 10 day trip to the U.S. in what program organizers are calling a “reverse Birthright.”

• Israel Hayom — Israel fights academic boycott
• JNS — Reverse Birthright: pioneering academic program takes Israelis on U.S. adventure
For more Israel advocacy news, see the Israel Action Network website.

Global Jewish News:
Jewish Agency for Israel chairman Natan Sharansky is worried that the recent spike in French aliyah could mean the end of Jewish life in Europe. Ira Forman, the anti-Semitism monitor for the U.S. State Department, is working to prevent European bans on ritual circumcision. And Jewish leaders across the world are condemning the appointment of a German Neo-Nazi political leader to a European Parliament committee on civil liberties.

• JTA — In Paris, Sharansky warns of ‘beginning of end’ for European Jewry
• JTA — U.S. intervenes in Europe’s circumcision wars
• Jerusalem Post — Jews blast inclusion of Neo-Nazi on EU Civil Liberties c’tee

Israel/Mideast:

Speaking at a peace conference in Israel, a senior White House official condemned rocket fire from Gaza and affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself from attacks. Despite the current turmoil in the region, a group of Jews from the U.S. made aliyah this week.
Domestically, businesses in southern Israel are struggling as employees and customers alike stay home until the situation becomes safer. The family of an American teenager allegedly beaten by Israeli police in the West Bank is pushing for his quick return home. And what was initially a joke application for smartphones has been repurposed by Israeli developers to provide real-time updates on incoming missile attacks.

Regional News:

• Haaretz — U.S. calls for restraint, confirms Israel’s right to defense
• YNet News — 64 US Jews make aliyah despite escalating security situation
Domestic News:

• Haaretz — Business in south hurting as workers, shoppers stay home
• Washington Post — Family of U.S. teen beaten in the West Bank urges for fast return
• Times of Israel — Red Alert app offers a Yo! update on missile attacks

For more Israel news, see the weekly JFNA Israel news page.
For more security news, see JFNA’s Secure Community Network (SCN) website.

The Secret Shabbat Blessing

Do you receive the Reform Judaism’s newsletter? They really have wonderful articles!

Here’s one that is precious, about the ones’ who are the most precious in our lives – our children. It’s called “Secret Shabbat Blessing: Why parents should bless their children.”

I encourage you to read it. My children are “all grown up” but in the not to distant future, G-d willing, my wife Mary and I will be grandparents, and we can look forward to both the receiving and GIVING blessings!

Blessing our children