On Becoming a Bat/Bar Mitzvah

Reflections

March 11, 2000. The day I became a Bat Mitzvah. The Torah portion was Pekudei, the very last Torah portion in the book of Exodus. I chanted both my Torah and Haftarah, and then I delivered my very first d’var Torah. My Torah portion was about building the Tabernacle and all of the details needed to set its foundation. That morning I shared with my family and friends that my Bat Mitzvah was the foundation of my Tabernacle, for it was only the beginning of my Jewish journey... I was only 12 years old. Over the past two years, I have officiated a little over 20 Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies and attended countless others. Each Saturday morning, I find myself proud of the young man or young woman as they lead the congregation in worship, read from the Torah and deliver their d’var Torah. The liturgy for Shabbat morning,...

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The Meaning of Life

CCAR Journal Article by Rabbis Limmer and Greene

CCAR Journal| Winter 2017 ~   The Meaning of Life:  An Intergenerational Literary Conversation among Max Fitzgerald, Rabbi Greene, Amanda,  and Rabbi Seth Limmer (Chicago Sinai)

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St. Barnabas Interfaith Gathering: You Are My Neighbor

Hinei Mah Tov U’mah naim, shevet achim gam yachad. How wonderful it is to be here today, to stand beside you, to stand amongst our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters. For at its core, this is our Jewish obligation, to not only stand beside our partners in faith, but to stand WITH you. And that is why I am deeply honored to be here this evening to stand WITH you -- Our Jewish story teaches us over and over again the story of redemption. 36 times in our Torah, in the Five Books of Moses, we read, “You shall not oppress the stranger, for you know what it felt like to be a stranger.” 36 times! And we repeat this weekly in Shabbat prayers too. Not simply to recall the history of the Jewish people and not simply to celebrate our freedom from bondage. No -- 36 times over...

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Chicago Sinai Torah scrolls

Reflections

Chicago Sinai Torah scrolls are filled with many stories... But, most recently, I learned that one of our Torah scrolls stands tall in the American History Museum in Washington, DC. Chicago Sinai Torah scrolls are filled with many stories. Not just the stories of the five books of Moses. Or the stories about our students reading from the sacred texts. Not just the story of the journey our Torah scroll made from Selma, Alabama to Washington, DC last summer. But, most recently, I learned that one of our Torah scrolls stands tall in the American History Museum in Washington, DC. In the beginning of December, I spent a weekend in Washington, DC with a few of our confirmation students at the Religious Action Center L'taken Seminar. For an entire weekend, our students learn about important issues in our country and learn about the Reform movement's position on these issues.The weekend...

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2016 It Wasn’t So Bad After All

Shabbat Service

I don’t know about you, but lately, all I keep hearing and reading is how horrible this year, 2016 has been. Just a week ago, my facebook newsfeed flooded with the following statements:  “Seriously 2016, I’m so done with you. RIP George Michael.”  “2016 you are the worst. We love you George Michael.” This wasn’t the first time I saw these remarks, and it wasn’t the last. Only two days later, when we learned that Carrie Fisher died, I actually chose to not look at facebook. I knew what I would see. On the one hand, beautiful tributes to a beloved actress who inspired so many others. And another slew of “2016 I’m over you” or “see in ya 2017” statements reiterating a need for new year, one much better than 2016. A day later I saw a GoFundMe page to “Protect Betty White from 2016.” You get the picture...I...

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From Regret to Comfort

Yom Kippur 5777

A blackboard stood in a park in Brooklyn with the question: What is your biggest regret? For an entire day, New Yorkers opened up about some of the deepest, most intimate parts of their lives. As the day went on, the blank board quickly filled. “Not saying I love you” “Burning bridges” “Not staying in touch” “Not being a better friend” By the end of the day, the production team who created this project, noticed a common theme among nearly all of the responses. The regrets people shared were all about chances not taken, words not spoken, dreams never pursued. Of course, regrets aren’t the sole reserve of New Yorkers. We all have them...   The origin of the English word regret comes from Old French and means “to look back with distress or sorrowful longing.”[1]  And the word in Biblical Hebrew is nachem. It’s that feeling of disappointment, distress over...

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The Real Kind of Hope

Rosh HaShanah 5777

Shanah Tova!  This year, these words are more difficult to say than in the past. It has been a tough year.  For me personally, for so many of us here this evening.  We have experienced the death of loved ones.  Sudden illnesses have torn families apart. Some of us have lost jobs and experienced the uncertainty of tomorrow.  Others have confronted challenges that come with aging, losing a sense of independence. We’ve faced all sorts of hardships this past year. It has no doubt been a difficult year for our city, as well. Gun violence is at its worst.  Our city continues to operate without a budget. Things have been difficult on a global level, too.  We live in an America where minimum wage does not provide enough for people to live. Antisemitism is on the rise throughout Europe. Terrorist attacks occur on a weekly basis.  We hear and we...

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Building a World of Love

Shabbat Service

 50. 50 bells. I did not count. I stood, somberly listening to each bell ring. And then a pause.  I wondered during each pause, is this it? Are we done yet? And I watched. I watched cars driving through the street. I watched people walking by. The bells did not stop ringing. 22, 23, 24. I tried to make out the individual faces of the people across the street. And I heard another bell --  37, 38, 39. I felt my eyes welling up with tears. And the bells, they kept ringing -- 45, 46, 47. They are still ringing. My heart started to beat fast. Really fast. I grew angry. 48, 49, 50. Love not Hate, Amanda. Love not Hate. Earlier this week a wise voice spoke, “Love does not despair. Love makes us strong. Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives us hope…”[1] How? How does...

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Face to Face

Rosh Hashanah 5776

In a large anonymous college lecture hall, time had run out. The professor called for the exams.  As the students finished up, they tossed their blue books on the professor’s desk.  A few minutes passed.  The last few students desperately scribbled their final comments and left the auditorium.  After ten minutes, only the professor, the stack of hundreds of blue books, and one student remained in the room.  The student kept writing. Five, then ten, then fifteen minutes continued to pass. The professor stood there, shocked at this student’s chutzpah. Finally, the student finished.  He walked up to the professor, blue book in hand. The professor said: “Young man, if you think I am going to accept that exam, now twenty minutes late, you are mistaken.” The student grinned: “Professor, do you have any idea who I am?!” The professor answered: “No, I have no idea, and to be quite...

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Five Inspirational Women

Shabbat Service

I have anticipated this very sermon for many years now.  The first sermon I would deliver, not as a student rabbi, or a rabbinical student, but as an ordained rabbi serving my congregation.  I’ve thought for a few months now, about what I would say on this evening, what message I wanted to deliver.  How I could show the congregation, who I am as a rabbi?  How I would be able to adequately convey my passion, my drive, my deep commitment to Judaism – my inspiration to become a rabbi? Since I cannot answer all of these questions and share everything in just one sermon, I decided I wanted to introduce you to five special women in my life…and I’m not talking about my grandmothers, mother, aunts, sisters and niece.  I’m talking about five women who serve as role models, and inspiration to me as both a rabbi and as...

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