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26 September 2017

Erev Rosh Hashanah Sermon: What is God Calling You to Do?

Rabbi SussmanRabbi Deana Sussman Berezin

Shalom, Shana Tova, and welcome to tonight’s game of “Make Me a Match.” In this game, I will be introducing you to three contestants, and after we meet each of them, we’ll make a match! Let’s begin!

Contestant Number One is a Commander in the Army, and has spent the last five years working to protect our country from threats to our safety and wellbeing. This contestant is outgoing and has a memorable personality. When asked what we should know, Contestant Number One replied, “My relationships are very important to me. I protect the people I love. I want to be someone’s rock, their safe place in the storm.”


26 September 2017

Rosh Hashanah Sermon: A Holy Community

Rabbi Stoller 2015Rabbi Brian Stoller

The first time I walked into this building last winter, I was struck by the incredible windows.

You know what I’m talking about.  They’re everywhere:

The tall, wide windows that let the light pour in, casting a clear, panoramic view of the landscape.

And these windows surrounding our sanctuary!  It feels like that light of the first morning of Creation, God’s own light, is shining on us, and enveloping us with warmth and love.

It feels holy.

You might not know this but, according to Jewish law, a sanctuary is required to be built with windows – so that you can look out toward the Heavens, and be stirred by the majesty of it all, and really feel God’s presence?


19 September 2017

Message and Appeal from Rabbi Michael L. Feshbach and the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas

stthomasWith humility and gratitude, we accept your many offers of help. We will use your support in four distinct ways: aid for recovery for the island, support for members in need, repair of the damage we sustained, and support for the congregation as a whole...Your assistance in picking us up, helping us recover from this devastating blow, including such basic acts as delivering and distributing food and water in some cases… it is… essential. And appreciated.

19 September 2017

PJ Library Loves Houston!

PJ loves HoustonHundreds of families in Houston’s Jewish community are out of their homes and lost all their PJ Library books along with the rest of their belongings. Although the best way to contribute to a disaster of this scale is to donate funds directly to a trusted source, PJ Library families across the country have been asking how else they can help. PJ Professionals in over 50 communities are coordinating with the PJ Library national office to send packets of books directly to the PJ Library professionals in Houston to replenish the libraries of each family. If your family has duplicates of PJ Library books you’ve received, or even gently used PJ Library books that your children have outgrown, please consider donating them to this effort. 

07 September 2017

An Accounting of the Soul

During the month of Elul, we are called to do a cheshbon ha’nefesh, an accounting of the soul. We are asked to take stock of our lives – our actions, our relationships, our decisions. We reflect on the past year and think about how and why we will change in the coming year. One of the ways we do this is by changing our “business as usual” mentality, and giving ourselves permission to step out of our routines and dive into the hard work of the High Holiday season: understanding ourselves. 

One of the ways that we do this is to recite Achat Sha’alti during the conclusion of our service. This verse, from Psalms 27, asks us to consider what it is that we want from our lives.

One thing I ask of Adonai, only that do I seek:

to live in the house of Adonai all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of Adonai, and to frequent God’s temple.

Elul is a time of searching, oF reflecting, of challenging ourselves. We ask ourselves a litany of questions: Who am I? Am I the person that I want to be? Do my actions reflect my values?  What do I need to live a life of meaning?

Elul is our opportunity to think about how we’re going to do better and be better in the coming year. Let’s make it count.

07 September 2017

Sharing our Strength with Congregation Emanu El in Houston

Dear Friends,

I am completely and utterly amazed at our community’s overwhelming response to the devastation in Houston from Hurricane Harvey. Our community’s generosity is nothing short of incredible, enabling us to respond to the need quickly and launch a successful gift card drive. Thank you to each and every person who contributed, and to our volunteers who made this gift card drive possible. Temple Israel has raised over $17,000 which we will be sending to Congregation Emanu El in Houston to distribute to their congregants.

Please see Rabbi Pam Silk’s touching response to our community’s generosity below.

Again, many thanks for each and every contribution,

Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin

From: Rabbi Pam Silk 
Date: September 5, 2017 at 11:33:15 PM CDT
Subject: Re: Temple Israel Omaha Gift Card Drive

I'm speechless. And those who know me know that I'm never speechless. The words thank you fall so very short of the gratitude we have for the magnitude of the gifts you're sharing with us. The generosity of your community is overwhelming and will help to wrap our community in such love and care as so many rebuild their ruined homes. 
The clergy team at Emanu El shares a single discretionary fund: the Clergy Good Works Fund. Your gifts will enable us to help families afford temporary housing while continuing to pay the mortgage on their ruined homes, pay for rentals and make down payments on cars to replace their totaled vehicles, help towards large deductibles to ensure their homes are cleared and treated correctly before they can begin building back, and to replace and provide for personal care items, clothing, shoes and so much more. 

From our congregational family to yours, thank you, thank you, thank you. 

30 August 2017

Preparing for the hard work of forgiveness and real repentance

In The Sacred and the Profane, Mircea Eliade wrote: “For Judaism, time has a beginning and will have an end.  The idea of cyclic time is left behind.  [Yahweh] no longer manifests himself in ‘cosmic’ time (like the gods of other religions) but in a ‘historical time’, which is irreversible.”  To me this illustrates Judaism as a faith with fixed markers.  Elul is one such marker; during this month we prepare ourselves for the hard work of forgiveness and real repentance.   It is so hard to say and mean that we are sorry.  It is even harder to accept someone else’s apology.  And it is hardest to forgive oneself. 

The month of Elul is an excellent time to take stock of the year that has gone, with all its own markers of good and bad.  We are b’tzelem Elohim, made in God’s image.  If Abraham and Moses could argue with God and ask God to “re-think” certain actions, if God could promise never to again bring a flood upon the entire earth, why do we expect ourselves and others to be infallible?  We cannot change past actions nor can our friends and family.  We can expect and work toward being better humans.  Let’s all start with this, in this month.

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