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Lotte Meyerson Tikkun Olam Committee Updates  March-2019

By Sam Hausfather

Purim: Raise Your Voice Against Persecution

Adapted from

Purim reminds us that the evils of persecution and genocide are ever-present threats to humanity.  Haman accuses the Jews of being a people scattered and dispersed who scorn the king’s law and obey their own laws (Esther 3:8-11).  As a people who celebrate unique customs and have historically been shunned from the rest of society, the Jews have known a unique vulnerability to persecution.

However, as the end of the book of Esther in which the Jews kill 75,000 Persians while defending themselves shows us, we not only have a responsibility in preventing others from oppressing us, but we must also prevent anyone from experiencing oppression.  As Abraham Joshua Heschel says: “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Today, thousands of people around the world are persecuted because of differences in race, religion, gender, or political affiliation.  We are currently facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II with over 19 million refugees and 60 million people displaced worldwide.

UNICEF estimates that more than 300,000 children are currently being exploited in over thirty armed conflicts worldwide.

In the United States, we are in the midst of a “border crisis,” which many would say is self-inflicted by the current administration.  The refusal of the administration to admit refugees on our southern border is illegal and the creation of child migrant prisons is immoral.

Our Jewish values of upholding the dignity of humanity compel us to feel personally responsible for those experiencing oppression worldwide.  In honor of Purim, let us take the opportunity to learn about refugee rights and contact our legislators to express our views about the persecution of vulnerable populations.

Between You and Me- March 2019

There is a folk legend that King Solomon, the wisest person ever to have lived, once posed the following riddle: What can you say to a happy man to make him sad, that will also make a sad man happy?”  Solomon took a gold ring from his pocket upon which were engraved three Hebrew letters: Gimel, Zayin, Yod.  “They stand for ‘gam zeh ya’avor,’ this too, shall pass.”

The primary theme in the Megillah’s tale is a corollary to Solomon’s teaching:  v’nahafoch hu.  What is true in one moment can, in the blink of an eye, turn upside down.  An adored queen can become public enemy number one, like Vashti.  A condemned man may one day rise to supreme power, like Mordecai.  With a heaping helping of heavy handedness, the Megillah reminds us just how topsy-turvy the world can be.  No wonder breaking the regular “rules” of decorum is the rule on Purim.

I chuckle to think Tannaim of the Mishnah took the time to warn against thinking v’nahafoch hu applies to reading the Megillah backwards, a practice they ruled does not fulfill one’s obligation on Purim (Megillah 2:1).  In classic Hasidic fashion, the Ba’al Shem Tov turned the Sages’ caution inward by adding, “one who reads the Megillah backwards is a person who only reads it in retrospect and neglects to pay attention to how its spirit is alive in his own day.”

In our day, the demands are great and time is short.  We need our cars to start, our co-workers to show up, and our bodies to function well because we have a lot to do.  It is also true that days will come when the very things on which we depend on will fail.  Therefore, we are wise to regularly meet and befriend the Megillah’s living truth that v’nahafoch hu, our human experience is always changing.  By slowing down each day, turning our focus inward, we can observe firsthand that restlessness arising one moment might flow into stillness in the next.  A niggling muscle ache may, in time, release ever so slightly.

Mark Twain’s advice about the weather in New England is a comforting instruction as we track the climate in our minds and bodies: “If you don’t like it, wait a few minutes.”  The more lived awareness we cultivate of the constant unfolding and changing in our inner world, the deeper we learn that we are not condemned by Solomon’s riddle in the outer world.  We can both endure sadness and disappointments with confidence that they will pass and savor the joys and successes even knowing they are time-limited.

Within the lived awareness that everything is perpetually unfolding is another powerful recognition in the spirit of Purim: we, ourselves are works in progress.  Every moment and each breath is an opportunity to start again, a chance to unmask and reveal a new face, to be in the world in ways that better serve ourselves and others.  Every moment of awareness is an opportunity turn ourselves around.  Just as Mordecai and Esther turned the Jewish people’s mourning and grief into light and joy, happiness and honor, so may we find our way to do the same in our lives and in our day.

Religious School News

March brings us the holiday of Purim.  It is a very fun holiday.  People dress up in costumes and act silly.  You are even encouraged to drink.  However, in a close reading of the megillah, the Purim story, there is a lot more to it.  A lesson that really stands out to me for myself, and the students here, is one about choices and making decisions (or not making them) and how that influences us.

King Ahasuerus may not have been a great decision maker and was frequently swayed to do things by his advisors.  It certainly made the path easier for him.  Vashti chose not go to the King’s party even when commanded.  As a result, she lost the throne.  Today, many people feel that Vashti had been misjudged, and should have received praise for her brave decision.  Our heroine, Esther, had many decisions and choices to make:  Hide that she was Jewish, tell the King that she was Jewish, save herself or all of her people, approach the King even if it meant death.  Mordechai could have bowed down to Haman and saved himself a lot of trouble but his convictions led him to the decision to stand up for his beliefs.  What would have happened if Haman had been a different type of person?  Would he have chosen to use his influence with the King to persecute the Jews?

Jim Nightingale, author of Think Smart-Act Smart says, “We simply decide without thinking much about the decision process.”  In a classroom setting, we encourage students to look at the pros and cons and debate different sides of a decision.  In real life, we don’t always take that kind of time.  In an article in Wikipedia, it says that the process of decision making has long been the focus of research and that there are elements of psychological needs, environmental influences as well as logic and rationality.

For my purposes, as a Jewish educator, I am struck by the needs and values represented by decisions.  Going back to the story, there are many elements of power, determination, courage and just letting things happen (which is a way of deciding).  These things happen not only in the Purim story but in our daily lives today.  How students treat each other, how they react to a bully, what kind of a person they become all result from decisions and choices they make.  Teachers and parents influence and guide students in their decision-making process.  We hope that the Jewish values of rachamam (compassion) and derekh eretz (literally the way of the land but more so the way you should go) serve as tools for students in making choices.

Through the characters of the Purim story to all of us today, choices and decisions made have a tremendous impact.  As J.K. Rowling, in Harry Potter says, “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Chag sameach Purim – Happy Purim!

Toby Koritsky, RJE

Education Director

President’s Message

How fortunate we are to have such a ‘deep bench’ at CBHT.  We have a considerable number of very talented ‘players’ who can step up during a transition or help fill a knowledge gap when we’re sailing in uncharted territory.  Some of this is by design.  By the time someone moves into the president role, they have typically already served four years (two as second vice president and two as first vice president) on the executive committee, and usually more years on the board.  After a two-year term as president, the immediate past-president stays engaged, attending executive committee meetings for another two years.  Phew…that’s eight years!  Our committee operates as a very collaborative group, so everyone is engaged in working out the challenges that face our temple.  We gain knowledge, experience and institutional memory along the way, making us well prepared to lead the board of trustees.  Because of this experience, I think that most presidents will agree that they were able to hit the ground running when it was their turn in the leadership position.

The ‘deep bench’ concept runs deeper than the executive committee, though.  Our trustees bring so many talents to the table and, because they’re willing to share those talents, we all greatly benefit.  In the middle of February, we held a special meeting of the board of trustees at which we discussed the sale of the property on Washington Road.  The up-front work by Tikkun Gottschalk and Larry Weiss to consider the financial and legal issues and to prepare that parcel of land for sale was considerable, and the expertise that they, along with Gaia Goldman and Shannon Tuch, contributed to the discussion was incredibly valuable.  Whenever we’ve had issues to address, someone with expertise steps up or someone takes it upon themselves to develop their understanding and become a ‘content expert’.  I’m thinking about Eric Naimark and Raymond Capelouto immersing themselves in temple safety, and Steve Shulruff and Chuck Rosenblum digging deeper to understand and make recommendations around our financial planning.  I also remember the tremendous amount of work that Nelson Sobel and Bob Davis put in to help us develop a strategic plan a few years ago.

Our bench of talented players doesn’t even stop there.  Everyone around the table at the special board meeting engaged in meaningful discussion that will lead to a really positive outcome.  I’ve seen it over and over, this group of trustees earnestly engaging in meaningful discussion, with humor, good will, and with their egos checked at the door.  We have dealt with difficult issues and we don’t always agree, but we never doubt the intentions of our fellow board members.  This temple really is very fortunate to have a dedicated group of leaders.

By the time this is published, everyone will have undoubtedly heard that James McMahon is stepping down as our choir director as he and Lauren are moving to Raleigh.  We can’t quite imagine our Sacred Music Team (SMT) without James; we will all feel the loss.  But, here comes Sarah Kim Wilde, who has been ‘warming up’ (to continue the ‘deep bench’ theme!) for a while now, to step in to the choir director role.  How great is that?!  It’s possible not only due to Rabbi creating and nurturing our incredible SMT, but also Sarah Kim’s commitment to the success of our music program.  Similarly, while we are saddened to have Toby Koritsky, our Education Director, leave, I am confident in the talent and dedication of our teachers, who will ensure that our school and our children continue to thrive.

This summer, when my term is over, I won’t just be leaving my role as president, I will also be leaving CBHT and Asheville, as Ed has accepted a new opportunity in Nashville.  It will be really hard to leave my congregational family, plus I’m kind of bummed that I won’t be able to enjoy the immediate past president role!  But, the ‘deep bench’ of both lay leaders and professional staff at CBHT, along with our MVP, Rabbi Meiri, will continue to ensure that this temple remains a very special community in which to engage with each other and worship.

My Best,


Karen Hyman, President


CBHT and St. James AME Church Joint MLK Shabbat and Unity Service

The Lotte Meyerson Tikkun Olam Committee initiated what turned into a fantastic exchange and collaboration for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday recognition.

On Friday, January 11th, the choirs of both houses of worship collaborated to provide music and the Rev. Brent Edwards provided the sermon for our CBHT Shabbat service.
Rev. Edwards’ sermon emphasized that we all walk with God through our daily ups and downs. The combined choirs and the St. James dancers made for a deep and meaningful experience.

On Sunday, January 13th, many members of CBHT attended a Unity Service at St. James AME Church. The two choirs again joined their voices and Rabbi Meiri provided the sermon. She spoke of Dr. King’s words that “Unity is the great need of the hour.” She went on to describe the weekend events as “an affirmation that we are better together – as a congregation and as a community.” It was an exciting and profound service! Special thanks go to Vivian Ellner for working tirelessly to initiate this collaboration, and to Rabbi Meiri and the CBHT choir for making our shared services a reality. The Tikkun Olam Committee hopes to continue to work on collaborating with St. James AME Church.