Between You and Me – October 2018

This month, I was late in turning in my Menorah article.  After the volume of writing and thinking I was engaged in to prepare for the High Holidays, I just kept putting it off.  I’ve even procrastinated on adding procrastination to the list of qualities I must address in myself this new year.

In their studies of procrastination, psychologists Dr. Jane Burka and Dr. Lenora Yuen found that one of the major reasons people procrastinate is fear of failure.  When we feel that so much is riding on what we accomplish that we can’t finish or even start a project, we literally become paralyzed.  This is even worse for perfectionists because they set sometimes impossibly high standards for themselves.  We all know someone who wanted to write a book, but didn’t get past the first few pages because they thought their writing stunk.  We all know someone who went to a yoga or exercise class, but never went back when they discovered they weren’t an instant yogi.  I know many people who yearn to learn Hebrew or know more about being Jewish but don’t come back to Temple because they feel they will never understand as much as those who have been coming longer.

A second reason people procrastinate ironically comes from fear of success.  People fear being criticized for being ambitious or are afraid to compete for a  promotion because if they win, someone else loses or people won’t like them.  A friend of mine lamented to me recently that she’s been staying in an abusive work environment, because she doesn’t want to abandon her co-workers who are depending on her.

Some use procrastination like a weapon.  They procrastinate on tasks that others expect or require of them to prove to themselves that others can’t control them.  In other words, if one’s self-worth comes from one’s sense of autonomy or independence, then he procrastinates in order to resist letting someone else have control.

No matter why we procrastinate, we all suffer similar consequences.  We miss deadlines, antagonize coworkers, partners or family members who were counting on us.  We carry anxiety and dread knowing we are falling behind in our responsibilities and commitments.  We feel lousy about ourselves because of the things we leave to the last minute or leave undone forever.  But the worst crime we commit by procrastinating, a colleague of mine preached this Rosh Hashanah, is that we waste time.  And one of the greatest gifts Judaism gave to the world was the concept that time itself is sacred.  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, “Judaism is a religion of time aiming at the sanctification of time… There are no two hours alike.  Every hour is unique … exclusive and endlessly precious.”  May we sanctify the hours we have in the coming year by letting go of our fear of who we may not be, by fulfilling our responsibilities and becoming who we really can be.  And in so doing, may we discover new, sacred, life-affirming ways to fill the hours we gain.



Presidents Message – October 2018

Excerpted from President’s Erev Rosh HaShanah Speech

I’d like to take a minute to tell you a little about my personal Jewish journey.

I converted to Judaism in 2004, but my journey began in 2001, in the weeks right after 9/11.  My sister’s husband was killed that day, while he was working at the top of the World Trade Center.  In the weeks directly after, as my family and I were at my sister’s side, dealing with all that ensued, I had what others have called a crisis of faith.  I felt seriously adrift.  During my brother-in-law’s memorial service, on the bank of the Hudson River, with their friend Pete Seeger singing and playing his guitar, I heard person after person commit to making some significant change in their life to honor his life.  I have to say that I felt kind of hopeless–that sounded so righteous and I wished I could say the same, but I had no idea what change could possibly be meaningful enough.  What could fill that void?

That very day, someone brought me a couple of books.  I had asked her if I could borrow something on the basic concepts of Judaism.  We were bringing our boys up in the Jewish faith, we were attending family services here at Beth HaTephila, and I was more and more curious.  And, as weeks passed and we struggled with the personal impact of 9/11 on our family, I started to read.

When I showed up at Rabbi Ratner’s door with my books in hand, I had one basic question.  Is what Milton Steinberg wrote about Judaism back in 1947 true?  I showed him Rabbi Hillel’s famous quote, totally new to me at the time.  When he was asked to describe Judaism in the few moments he could stand on one foot, Hillel answered “That which is hurtful to thee do not do to thy neighbor.  This is the whole doctrine. The rest is commentary”.  It blew me away in its simplicity.  It felt like a step forward.

I can’t describe how fortunate I felt to have all of those oneon-one meetings with Rabbi Ratner, as I studied for my conversion and I slowly learned some of the ‘commentary’ that Hillel referred to.  But, the truth is that I was ‘in’ from the beginning.  This was a religion that encouraged me to think on my own, and at the same time spoke to me, deep in my soul.  It filled that void.  I’ve heard others who have converted say this–there’s something inside me that feels like I was always a Jew.  And, in fact, I have since found out that my family actually has some Jewish roots.

I’m not the first president who is a Jew by choice, and I’m not the first female president, but clearly, if it wasn’t for our movement’s and our temple’s ‘audacious hospitality’ – a central tenant of acceptance and welcoming – I would not be standing here today.

My sons grew up in our religious school and became bar mitzvot here.  Rabbi Meiri married Ed and me under the Chuppah here.  I take my commitment to this temple, which I call my home, very seriously.

I guess this is my way of telling you why I was prepared to do what had to be done, when I asked Larry Weiss to once again be our treasurer when I started my presidency, and he helped me understand the financial situation we were facing.  It was clear that, even if it wasn’t going to be a popular move, even if it was going to cause some confusion and mistrust, it was the executive committee’s responsibility to make sure that the board of trustees and every one of you understood where things stand AND to ask you to step up and help.   And, so many of you HAVE helped.  Of course, you have, you also have so many reasons to love this community, as I do.

Last year’s special assessment raised much-needed cash, and as annual commitments started coming in for this year, it has been gratifying to see so many people increase their gift.  One hundred and thirty households have increased their annual commitment by some amount for this year, and 37 households have given at our new ‘Enhanced Giving’ levels.

Looking ahead, I am both excited and challenged by what lies before us.  There is still opportunity to help, both in your annual commitment and in upcoming fundraising events.  Not only is HardLox nearly here, but a grassroots group is planning several special fundraising events whose goal is to ‘close the gap’.

I couldn’t be more proud to be a Jew.  I couldn’t to be more proud to be among the leaders of this amazing congregation.  I couldn’t be more inspired by Rabbi, our executive director Craig, the staff, the executive committee and the entire board for embracing this challenge. And I couldn’t be more grateful to all of you for listening, for asking hard questions, for offering suggestions and for taking action.  Thank you


Karen Hyman, President

Often jokes revolve around the social practice of the Jewish religion.

A man is rescued from a desert island after 20 years. The news media, amazed at this feat of survival, ask him to show them his home.

“How did you survive?  How did you keep sane?”  they ask him, as he shows them around the small island.

“I had my faith. My faith as a Jew kept me strong.  Come.”

He leads them to a small glen where stands an opulent temple, made entirely from palm fronds, coconut shells, and woven grass.  The news cameras take pictures of everything – even a Torah made from banana leaves and written in octopus ink.

“This took me five years to complete.”

“Amazing! And what did you do for the next 15 years?”

“Come with me.”

He leads them around to the far side of the island. There, in a shady grove, is an even more beautiful temple.

“This one took me 12 years to complete.”

The reporter asked “But sir, why did you build two temples?”

“This is the temple I attend. That other place? Hah! I wouldn’t set foot in that other temple if you paid me!”

Which one do you belong to?

Between You and Me – September 2018

Rabbi’s Highlights of the 2018 CBHT Trip to Israel

Thursday June 21, 2018: Meditating at 6:30 AM on our first morning on the Tel Aviv beach for 23 minutes with Asa Harris who said afterwards, “Meditation is like yoga, except without moving!”  In that moment I know I’m in for a treat with this group of young superstars!

Friday June 22, 2018: The warm welcome at Tel Aviv’s Beit HaTephila Yisraelit, a uniquely Israeli spiritual community with whom we celebrate Kabbalat Shabbat.  My favorite part is understanding the d’var Torah in Hebrew (!) and hearing a popular song by Idan Raichel ( offered as a prayer in the same way we sing songs like Susan Werner’s “May I Suggest” and others in our worship.

Monday June 25, 2018: Meeting a unit of tank soldiers doing training exercises in the Golan Heights, which was an unusual and extraordinary opportunity.  In one of many memorable conversations, I mention to a small group that civilians in the U.S. are allowed to have and, in some places, carry the same guns they are issued in the army.  “Wow,” one of them says, “we hate these guns.”  Another shares how proud of a Reform Jew he is, even though it makes him different from all the rest.

Monday June 25, 2018: After a 5-minute shower to wash out the jeep ride, winery tour, army encounter and hike up Mt. Bental to see the Lebanese and Syrian borders; jumping into a cab to visit Ahuva Ben David, an elderly relative of Carol Deutsch, in neighboring K’far Blum.  How lovely being regaled about her decades as a kibbutznik working in the children’s house, when both she and the kibbutz were young.

Wednesday June 27, 2018: In the culmination of our tour of the castle fortress of Masada, our extraordinary guide, Moshe, points across the valley to Mt. Elazar to see a wall of siege left by the Romans.  He reminds us that today the Romans are in Rome and Jews live here.  And the moral of all that is to remember the values by which we hope to live, and not to die.  We shout over to the wall, Am Yisrael Chai, the people of Israel is alive and well and listen as it echoes back to us.  I have goosebumps – again.

Wednesday June 27, 2018: Arriving in Jerusalem, need I say more?  Ok, arriving in Jerusalem in time for the Festival of Lights – an amazing spectacle of projected light shows all around the Old City walls and synagogues.  What a confluence of old and new!

Friday June 29, 2018: Kabbalat Shabbat at the base of Moses Montifiore’s iconic windmill.  In addition to welcoming the Shabbat angels with the singing of Shalom Aleichem, we share appreciations to the angels among us who helped each of us have an amazing trip.

Thanks to all 40 of our congregants who took this adventure with me and to Billy Jonas and Rick Chess who were amazing partners without whom the collaborative efforts of this trip would not have been half as amazing.

President’s Message

Our new Annual Commitment structure sets a base commitment amount as well as commitment levels for a range of income levels.  This new structure has raised an interesting question from some of our families.  They say that they just don’t ‘use’ the temple that much.  They may live far away, or they just don’t choose to come to services or participate in temple activities very often.  They wonder why they should contribute the same base amount as those who are here all the time.  I haven’t been able to address every question like this individually, so I’m going to attempt to do so here.

If you are a Jewish consumer looking for value in any traditional ‘fee for service’ sense, this argument has merit.  In fact, you can get almost all of the benefits that synagogues purport to offer to ‘members’ either for free or at a lower cost if you buy them a la carte.  You can attend Shabbat services for free and even grab something to eat at the oneg, and High Holiday services are available for individual purchase.  Classes and events are often open to nonmembers for a modest price differential, and, in any given year, you probably won’t need a rabbi for a wedding or a funeral.  You can rent a rabbi (not ours of course) for a private bar/bat mitzvah service.  So why pay for something you can otherwise get for less?

Well, belonging to a synagogue is not like membership at a country club.  It is not a transactional experience.  That’s why we avoid the term ‘membership’ all together.  We join a synagogue because we value its presence in our community and care about the future of Judaism for our children.  We join a synagogue because we believe in supporting Jewish institutions.  It’s not about ‘using’ our services; your Annual Commitment ensures that our temple will be here to enrich all of our lives now and for generations to come.  And, certainly a time will come when you or your family or your friends will need our rabbi and our temple.  Because you were there for our congregation, our congregation will be able to be there for you.

Clearly, everyone’s circumstances are different and everyone decides for themselves how they want to connect to CBHT and how much they can afford to support us.  I think that many of us have considered increasing our Annual Commitment, despite any complaints we may have, because it is a place where we connect to something larger than ourselves — to our community, to ideas that can transform us and our world.  These intangible benefits are the ones that make the cost of belonging to CBHT “worth it.”

These “Days of Awe” from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are a gift to us – a chance to step back and look at our lives and to consider the impact of the choices we make every day.  May we all choose well.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, and my fellow officers, and on behalf of my family, I wish you a very happy, healthy and sweet new year.

L‘Shana Tova,



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