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Religious School News September 2020

What is Religious School?

 Is it attending class to better understand the history of our people and learn our Shabbat liturgy?  Yes!  Before COVID 19, when and where was Religious School?  Was it Sunday mornings at Temple?  Yes!

And, while the answers above are accurate, they are not complete.  Religious School is so much more.  Our Sunday morning Religious School sessions are an opportunity for our children to build the fundamental tools to be Jewish.  However, that is not where our practice of scholarship begins and ends.  As adults we know that, as with anything, with the right care and attention, Judaism continues to grow beyond the threshold of the hallowed halls of our Religious School.

Through prayer, through discussion, through avodah, we continue to be students of our faith.  However, the convenience of a fixed location and time for our learning has made our development as learned Jews limited.  When we place all of our education eggs in one basket, we celebrate in a communal experience but miss a holistic experience.  Currently, we find ourselves in a reality where congregating at a specific location is not in the cards.  And, while we grieve the loss of that type of interaction, it opens us to other possible experiences.

This year, Congregation Beth HaTephila Religious School is going to take advantage of additional possible learning experiences.  These learning experiences will enable our children to grow in ways that we are not able to achieve solely on Sunday mornings.  Just as Jewish experiences are scattered throughout our days and weeks, so will Religious School.  Of course, we will be meeting in our remote classrooms on Sunday mornings, but we will also be congregating for additional services throughout the week.

Our understanding of the Maariv practice will grow as we join together on our Facebook Religious School Group on Wednesday nights for Laila Tov.  We’ll develop a greater understanding and appreciation for Havdalah during our once-a-month Havdalah Live (also on Facebook).  And of course, our rousing Kehila Tephila on Sunday morning leads us through beautiful and fun elements of our morning prayer service.

It is very easy and convenient to perceive Religious School to be a “one-stop shop” on Sunday mornings.  However, necessity to grow as a community and continue learning has allowed us to invent some pretty awesome, educational and communal experiences that you will be able to (and as an RS student, required to) attend.  This fall you will be encouraged to find Religious School throughout our days and weeks, just as our Jewish calendar cycle promotes.  See you there!

Seth Kellam,

Director of Religious Education & Sacred Music


Between You and Me September 2020

When nothing else in the world feels like it used to, these are things you can count on.  And you can do them all from the safety of your own home.

  1. GRATITUDE IS ONE THOUGHT AWAY: You can see your life in terms of what you don’t have, wish for the “good ol’ days,” or you can find the blessings great and small in the new normal. Put a bird feeder out and watch the beautiful visitors that come to your home.  Start saying a blessing before you eat and really think about all the people who helped bring that nourishment to you.
  2. YOU HAVE GREAT POWER AND RESPONSIBILITY: There are big problems in the world that weigh heavily on your heart.  You don’t have to look far to see that things aren’t as they should and could be.  And you could spend hours each day reading the newspaper, getting more agitated and overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges we face.  You can also use that energy and that care in your heart to participate in making alternative facts on the ground.  Practice one random act of kindness today.  If you need ideas, our Caring Community can provide you with a way to make a difference to someone in our temple family.
  3. REPAIR: There are many ways that you’ve fallen short in your life. Take this precious time to explore and address the ways you can change for the better.  Call that family member from whom you are estranged.  Write a letter of apology to someone you may have wronged.  Work on forgiving the people who have wronged you. Forgiveness can take years. Explore whether you can soften your heart a little more towards the people who have disappointed or hurt you.  Remember what theologian Lewis Smedes said: “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”
  4. CONNECT: You may feel fatigued by all the zooming or google hangouts, so find other ways to stay in meaningful connection with others. It is vital to your mental health and the person you reach on the other end needs it, too.  Good old-fashioned telephone calls are a welcome change and you can do them while walking your dogs in the neighborhood.  I’ve enjoyed catching up with so many of you in just that way.  Large zoom meetings might not be enjoyable, but Facetiming with a friend or another couple over wine and cheese can be a lovely time.  Choose a person to include in your “pod” of safe people and have socially distant visits while the weather stays warm.  Beware: if you go into these encounters thinking they are “virtual” connections instead of real ones, you might miss the real connecting that can happen.

WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER DOING THE BEST WE CAN: You can still find sanctuary and succor with your Temple. Tune in on Shabbat and the holidays.  Let your heart stay open, take the leap because there is a community that is surrounding you and loving you.  We were always in this together.  We’ve always been doing the best we can.  And now, more than ever, we need one another!








The Lotte Meyerson Tikkun Olam Committee August, 2020


1st Friday each month from 1-3 PM @ MANNA– CBHT volunteer team. Contact Wendy Capelouto to help.  (restarting August 7th)

3rd Friday each month @ noon – CBHT Vets shelter meal serving. Contact Hilary Paradise to help.

Monday, August 24th – 4:30 PM, Next L.M. Tikkun Olam Meeting

Statement of Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Our country simply cannot achieve the values of “justice for all” to which it aspires until we address ongoing racism in all sectors and at all levels of society.  We remain in solidarity and action with the NAACP’s urgent #WeAreDoneDying campaign, whose policy demands cover areas of criminal justice, economic justice, health care, and voting.  As the NAACP says, “Senseless hate crimes and incidence of COVID-19 cases and deaths spreading throughout the Black community display the continuance of systemic racism and privilege granted to white people in America.”

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  As Jews, we renew our commitment to speak out against racism and to actively work to achieve a nation that exemplifies compassion and justice for all.  Let this profound moment in our history not go the way of the shootings at Sandy Hook, Stoneman Douglas H.S., the African-American church in Charleston, the synagogue in Pittsburgh – all of which led to no real change.  Now is the time.  This needs to end in true change.

Adapted from and other sources

The Lotte Meyerson Tikkun Olam Committee

Anti-Racist Allies: Examining Solidarity Between the Black and Jewish Communities

As a follow-up to our LMTO statement, multiple Asheville Jewish organizations (hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council with CBHT support) are providing a series of four virtual Tuesday night programs. These programs will present information on the issues and discuss additional avenues to solidarity with the Black community of Asheville.  Please save the dates and look for a registration link in CBHT eblasts.  We look forward to seeing you and sharing ideas.

July 28th, 7–8:30 PM: Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Intersectionality

Using clips from the moderated panel at the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan titled “White Supremacy. Racism. Anti-Semitism,” we will explore how all oppressions are linked and require identifying a group as “the other” to maintain white supremacy.

August 4th, 7–8:30 PM: Confederate Monuments

Asheville has three confederate monuments, on which this panel presentation will focus.  Discussion will follow about the call by the Asheville Black community for removal of the monuments and renaming of areas named after Confederate figures.

August 18th, 7–8:30 PM: Reparations

With the recent murders and protests, the long-awaited issue of reparations is gaining momentum across the United States.  This panel will discuss a variety of avenues, both individual and institutional, that are being implemented and/or considered.

September 1st, 7–8:30: Being Better Allies

In this new time, and with the urgency of now, how can the Asheville Jewish community act in solidarity with the Black community of our mountain home?  This moderated panel will probe both the mistakes we might be making and better ways of acting in solidarity as allies.

The importance of Absentee Ballots (voting by mail).

In these uncertain times, we don’t know if we’ll be able or even want to vote in person for the November election.  The Lotte Meyerson Tikkun Olam Committee urges you to be prepared early so that you can exercise the best option for you to cast your valuable vote.  We encourage you to request an Absentee Ballot form NOW, so that the Board of Elections has time and material to process these.  It is a two-step process: (1) you complete the request and return it, and then (2) the official ballot is sent in the fall.

  • There is no barrier to vote by mail in NC.  You do NOT need a reason to request an absentee ballot.
  • If you request an absentee ballot and later decide to vote in person, that is fine.
  • An Absentee ballot is counted at the time it arrives and is handled like Early Voting.
  • You will find the request form at:

  • Download the form and print it out, OR call 250.4200 and they’ll mail it to you
  • Complete it, be sure to SIGN it, then –
  • mail it into Election Services, PO Box 7468, Asheville, NC 28802-7468 or
  • email to
  • Your request will put you on an automated list that will send the ballot when it’s ready in the fall – Friday, September 4th.
  • The last day to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, October 27th.

Between and You Me August, 2020

In the last five months, I’m sure there’s not one among us who didn’t miss a planned vacation, a visit to family, a graduation, a Bar Mitzvah, or hasn’t had to spend the last 5 months reorganizing family life, work life, and daily routines.  For some, the pandemic has been a welcome occasion to reassess and readjust our lifestyle.  For others of us, the upheaval and uncertainty of quarantining and closings have been dramatic and unsettling.

In the rollercoaster that is our reality, one thing on which we can depend is the constancy of the Jewish calendar.  I can’t tell you much about the future (the truth is I never could), but I can tell you with great certainty that the Days of Awe will arrive again this year on time. (They are actually never late or early.)

Rabbi Alan Lew reminds us that on Rosh Hashanah, we will stand before God. “What will God see on that day?” Lew asks.  “What will you see?  This encounter can carry you significantly closer to the truth of your life.  Standing in the light of God, you can see a great deal more than you ordinarily might, but only to the degree that you are already awake, only in proportion to the time and energy you have devoted to preparing for this encounter.”

This is truer this year more than ever before, as we prepare for a holy day season like we’ve never experienced before- one that will be streamed into your homes.  As you already know, you can’t depend on the usual cues to get you in the mood and prod your heart to do the hard work of introspection and atonement: the familiar sacred envelope of your sanctuary, the press of the crowd at your sides and the press of the pew underneath you, the thick silence that begins it all.

Nevertheless, you can catch a glimpse of a truer truth of your life to the extent that you awaken and prepare yourself.  To this end, I invite you to partake of the host of offerings we are making available during Elul, the entire month leading up to Rosh Hashanah.  Begin joining your Temple family and having your sacred journey through our Days of Awe begin to gather momentum.  Every day of Elul, I will provide a teaching on a different middah, character trait, on which you can focus your introspection.  Billy will offer his very popular Elevating Elul series again.  When invited, please contribute to the communal confessional prayer, Al Cheyt.

We will also provide video tutorials to ensure you can access all our streaming platforms we will use to have our High Holiday services and experiences.  While I encourage you to spend Elul transforming your home into a sanctuary and your heart into the Holy of Holies so you can encounter God, know you are not doing it alone.  To be a Jew is to hold the antidote to despair, to choose to reach out to conquer aloneness.  As we pause to reflect before entering the month of Elul and the cycle of the High Holy Days, consider any ways in which you have felt yourself turn away, and consider what it would mean to turn toward.  With connection comes purpose, joy, and strength.


Religious School August, 2020

Our great sage, Hillel, used to say, “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving person-kind and drawing them close to the Torah.”  He also used to say:

אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי. וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי. וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי:

“If I am not for myself, who is for me?  But if I am for my own self only, what am I?  And if not now, when?”

Now is one of those times for which our people have prepared.  Mi anachnu?  Who are we?  We are people who recognize hard times.  And we meet those hard times armed with all of the traits that we have curated for hundreds of years.  We have a history with them.

When leaving my house as a teenager, my father often said, “Remember who you are and whom you represent.”  We are a people who recognize the strength that we draw from being part of a community.  The world looks different right now.  We are more physically separate than we have been in a century.  Now is the time that we expand the reach of our community with the love that we learn as the disciples of Aaron.  We open our hearts, we open our eyes, we open our ears so that we can be rodef shalom, pursuers of peace.

I imagine that you are probably feeling the same confusion and uncertainty about what the fall will look like as I am.  But I want you to know that I am working day in and day out to ensure that no matter what, CBHT Religious School will continue to provide your family with the high-quality, Jewish educational experiences you’ve come to expect and depend on.  To that end, I would love to hear from you with questions, suggestions, and concerns you have about our upcoming school year.  Please email me directly:

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but one thing I am sure of is that all of the values that are intrinsic to the Jewish experience (our strength, security, sense of nurturing, etc.) are rooted in being a part of a community.  Everything that we do next year will build on a foundation of kehillah.  I look forward to continuing to create this Kehillah Kedoshah, sacred community, with you!

Seth Kellam,

Director of Religious Education & Sacred Music