Telling Our Stories

Rosh Hashanah Evening 5782 Sermon

Our first Passover was a rushed and hurried affair.  We had plans, but they were all for naught. Standing on the edge of the wilderness, everything was chaotic.  We made it up as we went along and tried out new practices for the first time.  We observed it as best we could.  Some had the proper food, some were together with other people, some owned the right objects; and yet, many  had to improvise. To share food, to borrow objects, to observe that first Passover alone.  And we did, we observed it, each in our household. As we reached our second Passover, we thought we would be on the other side of this wilderness.  We had hoped we would have reached the promised land by then.  But it was not to be. So we did it again, in the wilderness, a second Passover.  This go-around we had more time to...

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One Bit Better

Yom Kippur Morning 5781 Service

It happens every summer. In the middle of a long meeting about something completely unrelated, Rabbi Limmer pauses, looks at me and says, “So, what are you thinking of speaking about on Yom Kippur?” Some years, I have a quick answer; other years it’s more of a process. This year, I blurted out a rant: I don't need Yom Kippur this year to tell me to be a better person or to tell me to do better. This year has been challenging enough! I have been hard on myself already, and I know many of our congregants have been hard on themselves, too.  This year, what I need is for Yom Kippur to tell me that it's going to be okay, that we’re going to be okay. And that all we need to do is just take each day one at a time. These past six months have been nothing...

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Our Yavneh

Rosh Hashanah Evening 5781 Sermon

There's a very old joke.  It starts with a sudden news report: the greatest scientists in the world have determined that, in two weeks, the earth is going to be destroyed by catastrophic flooding. Not one inch, the scientists say, of dry land will remain. The earth will be totally and completely submerged under water. There is nothing that can be done to prevent this catastrophe.  In this sudden moment of chaos and fear, with this unexpected and disastrous news, people struggle to respond. An international panel of scientists, politicians, religious leaders, thought leaders, and creative thinkers was convened to weigh and debate options. “Send people up into space,” some suggested. Others proposed building massive ships, like a fleet of modern day Noah’s Arks, huge floating cities.  Others objected, “These ideas will only save a tiny fraction of the population of the earth!” The room filled with a cacophony of...

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Mitzvah Weekend: A Weekend On

Winter 2020 Bulletin Article

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness. Life’s most persistent and urgent question is what are you doing for others?” In 1994, President Clinton linked Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to a National Day of Service. He signed into law the King Holiday and Service Act. When he did so, he quoted Dr. King, that amongst the greatest guidance and focus of Dr. King’s life was the idea of service. “Everyone can be great because everyone can serve,” he said. Many of our national holidays including Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July (all three day weekends) are marked by sales, fireworks, and time with family. At times these observances can be meaningful. Unfortunately, other times these observances lose the original purpose of why those days...

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Ner Tamid – Keeping the Flame Lit

Winter 2020 Bulletin Article

I still remember the day when I was in 10th grade confirmation learning my Temple’s best kept secret. For as long as I could remember, a light hung above the ark in the sanctuary. The ner tamid, or eternal light, as I learned it was called in religious school. The truth is, I never bothered to ask how the light stayed lit, and never went out. It sort of felt like magic. But as I grew older, I assumed there was some secret to the light staying lit, and on that first night of Confirmation class, our rabbi took us into the sanctuary, and we learned the secret, we discovered that which made the light eternal. It wasn’t magic after all. As we walked into the sanctuary, we saw a ladder on the bima right beneath the eternal light. Our rabbi turned to the class and said, “As the oldest...

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What Are We Going to Do About It?

Yom Kippur Day 5780

It was a Saturday morning around 8am. I picked up a few dozen donuts and drove to Sinai to deliver breakfast to our 5th and 6th students who spent the night sleeping at the temple. When I arrived, half of the students were barely awake, struggling to pack up their sleeping bags,  and the other half  had a ton of energy, “we’ve been awake since 5, rabbi!”. And by 9, all students had been picked up. I got in my car feeling like the Shabbat sleepover was a success. The 5th and 6th graders had a great time, and everyone made it home safely. Well, not everyone. It was October 27th, 2018. As our students made their way home safely that Shabbat morning,  a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and opened fire. 11 worshipers were murdered. 7 others wounded. All at the hands of a terrorist...

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Behold We are a Stiff-Necked People

Erev Rosh HaShanah 5780

“Welcome to Elberta Michigan, First Settlers John and Caroline Greenwood 1855.” This summer, I went on a 2 week bike trip with a number of high school students, from Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute, the URJ Summer camp in Wisconsin. For two weeks we cycled around the Northern half of Lake Michigan, through Wisconsin, and the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. We cycled along the picturesque coast, through farmland, and small tourist towns. As we entered each town, there were always the small signs on the side of the road welcoming you to the town; they name the town and honor some individual or group. “Welcome to Charlevoix, Home of the 1992 Boys Cross Country State Champions”. “Welcome to Ludington, Home of the SS Badger”. When you are riding around on a bicycle entering all sorts of small towns, you have extra time to notice the signs, time to...

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Ensuring Freedom for All: A Letter from our Rabbis

As we welcome this anniversary of our nation’s independence, we rightfully celebrate the unique liberties we enjoy in America. At the same time, our Jewish heritage reminds us that our celebrations of liberty should compel us to work for the liberation of all. This July 4th is especially bitter as it arrives amidst horrifying news of squalor and degradation emerging from the detention centers at which the very country we celebrate is confining those who seek the freedoms we enjoy. We have heard horrifying reports from Homestead, FL and Clint, TX, anguishing arguments over the minimal support our government is providing asylum seekers, and continuing coverage of children separated from their families. This should be troubling to all Americans; it is especially disconcerting to our Jewish community. The question we ask ourselves, and which we are asked almost every day is: what can I do to make a difference? The...

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Something New Under the Sun

Yom Kippur Day 5779

To watch Rabbi Greene give her sermon, click here.  “They called her a THOT,” the female counselors shared one night during a staff meeting this summer. “The 6th grade boys, they called a THOT” “What’s a THOT?”, I chimed in? The counselors giggled at my naive question. “No but, really, I asked again, what’s a “THOT”? They all paused sheepishly, until the Unit Head took one for the team, “Rabbi,” she said as she rolled her eyes, “it’s an acronym, T-H-O-T, THOT, ‘That Ho Over There.” I froze. So did the laughter. And this is where it all begins. October 5th, 2017 revealed the news coverage of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal. Ten days later, actress Alyssa Milano posted the following tweet, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write, ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” And within hours, minutes, seconds, posts emerged...from everywhere. Here are just a...

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Embracing Awe

Erev Rosh Hashanah 5779

To watch Rabbi Zinn give his sermon, click here.  A number of years ago, when I was teaching elementary school in Los Angeles,  I led a field trip for my 6th Grade student to Boston.  When we arrived at our hotel, after a long day of travel, after waking up early in the morning, shepherding these students through the chaotic airport, enduring a long cross country flight, struggling to collect our bags and find our way to our hotel, we finally arrived late in the evening, exhausted from our day of travel, ready to go to sleep.  And together we walked into the lobby of our hotel.  We were surprised by the stunningly beautiful old world entrance.  The lobby rose multiple stories, covered in intricately carved dark wood.  All of us stood transfixed for a moment, our eyes drawn to both the massive scale of the room and its minute...

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