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  • 23 Apr 2014 8:36 AM | Anonymous
    Spring!  Is there a blessing for spring?  How about seeing the first blooms of spring? Last week in Thursday morning minyan, Andy Elfenbein shared the following blessing, intended to be said when you see the first blooms on TWO different trees.  Blessed are you, Adonai, our God, Ruler of space and time, for God left nothing lacking in the world, and created in it good creatures and good trees, giving pleasure through them to  humans (the children of Adam).  

    BarRUCH a-TAH AdoNAI, EloHEInu MEH-lech ha-oLAM  she-LO chi-SAR ba-olaMO da-VAR, u’va-RA VO b’ri-YOT to-VOT v’i-la-NOT to-VIM, l’ha-NOT ba-HEM b’NEI a-DAM.

    בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶֹלֹא חִסַר בַּעוֹלָמוֹ דָּבָר וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבִים לְהָנּוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם.

    I hope we all see at least two blossoming trees in the coming week!  What a blessing that would be!
  • 18 Apr 2014 2:24 PM | Anonymous
    I just read a fascinating article on why Passover is celebrated for 7 days by some and 8 days by others.  It refers to the first evidence of "hacking" by rebels who spread a "virus" by sending the signal fire for Rosh Chodesh on their own dates, messing things up.  Check it out!
  • 11 Apr 2014 12:04 PM | Anonymous
    Shir Tikvah member and JCA leader, Carin Mrotz has published an article regarding parental leave in the workplace that appears on the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism website. It asks the important questions, "What if our internal procedures could reflect the world we want to create and the work we want to do? What if we prioritize our values and operationalize self-care?"  Please follow the link to read the full article. 
  • 11 Apr 2014 9:39 AM | Anonymous
    Quick!  Get your Pesach on!  Treat yourself to my favorite Passover songs.  Play them while you clean!  Play them while you don't clean!  Play them while you cook!  Play them in the car!  Play them at your seder!

    Here are my favorites, vetted for the "kitsch" factor.  If you don't have someone musical at your seder, bring the music right to the table.
    Some of these are on youtube, but extra points for supporting Jewish musicians and purchasing their music!

    Shir La La Pesach, my favorite Pesach album ever:  Shir La La Pesach Album
    If you don't get the whole album, try:
    Candle blessing
    Mah Nishtana
    Let My People Go
    Listen King Pharaoh
    Lotsa Matsa
    Building Cities
    Elijah Rock

    Paul Zim Seder Nights, my second favorite Pesach album:  Seder Nights
    Favorite tracks:
    Avadim Hayinu
    One is Hashem

    Ellen Allard--
    Ten Plagues in Egypt
    Baby Moses in a Basket
    Wall of Water
    Ballad of the Four Sons

    Another source for Passover music:  Yep.  A Jewish version of iTunes. Discounts for buying in bulk.  I haven't listened to all of these, but I love supporting small businesses, and many Jewish artists sell their music here:  Oysongs

    As always, I love knowing what you picked and what inspired you, and especially, which ones you could not stop singing for days.  I have a trick for that, by the way, that I'll share when you tell me which one stayed with you.

    Wishing you a Chag Sameach!  Happy Passover!
  • 03 Apr 2014 10:59 AM | Anonymous
    This morning I had the great opportunity to be a “civilian” in morning minyan. Not being in charge of prayer is a great gift for those of us who usually lead.  It usually means that I can go off-road from the service.  This morning I was hardly ever on the same page that Rabbi Simon announced.  Instead, I took a “choose-my-own-adventure” journey through Mishkan T’fillah.  I highly recommend doing this during prayer services or whenever you find yourself looking at a prayer book, whether you’re seeking inspiration, curious about what is in this book, or are looking for a distraction.  I’m even considering using my own prayer book at morning minyan so I can write in it when I find gems, like I did this morning.  I might put the date on the page and a note about my thoughts, so that when I encounter it again, I can remember what inspired me the last time I encountered the prayer.

    This morning’s top gem, dedicated to those who are traveling to Israel in the coming months, but also for anyone who has been to Israel.

    One does not travel to Jerusalem,
    One returns,
    One ascends
    The road taken by generation, the path of longing
    On the way to redemption.

    One brings rucksacks
    Stuffed with memories
    To each mountain
    And each hill.
    In the cobbled white alleyways
    One offers a blessing
    For the memories of the past
    Which have been renewed.

    One does not travel to Jerusalem.
    One returns.

    --Yitzchak Yasinowitz

    I’m so excited for those of you who will experience Jerusalem for the first time this summer.  And so excited for those who are returning.  As much as I wish I were going to Israel with the Shir Tikvah trip, I’m grateful to have returned to Jerusalem this morning. I could see it, smell it, and revel in Jerusalem during minyan. If you find a prayer that inspires you, will you share it with me?

  • 02 Apr 2014 3:29 PM | Anonymous
    On March 31, 2014, along with dozens of my colleagues, I shaved my head. Bald. Not just short. Bald. To paraphrase the babies from "Free to Be You and Me," "Bald as a ping-pong ball."


    The simple answer is that we joined "36 Rabbis Shave for Brave" to raise money for children's cancer research through St. Baldrick's Foundation, a fundraising effort dreamed up by Rabbis Rebecca Einstein Schorr and Elizabeth Wood. It was born in a moment of pain; our colleagues, Rabbis Phyllis and Michael Sommer, buried their eight-year-old son, Sammy, who died from refractory acute myeloid leukemia on Dec. 14, 2013.

    In our collective grief, we rabbis came together, raised more than half a million dollars and raised the profile of paltry funding for children's cancer research. Men and women alike. All rabbis. More than 80 of us. Now bald. Symbols of hope and grief, empathy and activism.

    The deeper answer as to why we did this, though, is a bit more emotionally and spiritually complicated, and is different for each one of us who participated. Isn't that how it always is?

    Rachel Havrelock notes in The Torah: A Women's Commentary that "the human body is both an indicator of change and a vessel of memory."

    An indicator of change. A vessel of memory.

    We rabbis have a lot of power. We teach Torah, offer blessings, strive to inspire the brokenhearted to touch their souls and dream, to ameliorate suffering, to breathe Judaism to life in a new generation, to live our prophetic values in the public square and change social policy for the human good. We name babies, pronounce couples married beneath a chuppah and hold bereaved loved ones in our arms as they desperately try to croak out the haunting meter of the "Mourner's Kaddish."

    But we cannot stop our loved ones -- our family, our friends, our colleagues, our children -- from knowing agonizing pain when a child dies.

    So when the opportunity came to shave our heads, there was a deeply spiritual, Torah-based reason we did it: empathy. Phyllis, Sammy's mom, said that she was looking forward to shaving her beautiful long hair to demonstrate physically how much things have changed to reflect the profound grief inside her heart.

    But it is more than just empathy that inspired our collective action.

    Shaving my head is a ritual way to engage other people in a conversation: About Sammy, about children's cancer research, about my deep respect for Phyllis and Michael's ability to simply wake up each morning, about "tzedakah" (justice), "tikkun" (healing) and "rachamim" (compassion), about our responsibility to do something when we can.

    There are moments, sublime and acute, when memory marries the body's transformation, and empathy and activism embrace. It is the cry to respond, however and whenever we can, to the suffering in our midst.

    No, $500,000 won't bring Sammy back from the dead. We know that. But perhaps we can hold our colleagues and friends in their grief and help raise the money necessary to prevent another family from needing to bury their child. Maybe there is a future doctor or researcher in our midst will be inspired by our meshuggana shave. Or maybe there is someone, like Esther, born for this moment, to devote all her resources to eradicating pediatric cancer.

    An indicator of change, a vessel of memory.

    Empathy activism. The radical Jewish ideal that our connectedness to other people inspires us -- demands us -- to respond to their suffering with courageous action. When we can, we must.

    If you would like to support this worthy cause, please donate here.
  • 27 Mar 2014 9:28 AM | Anonymous
    “The kids were stealing food at their school lunch program on Fridays so that they would have food for the weekend.” These words, heard by Rob Williams, the Executive Director of The Sheridan Story, were enough to motivate him to start a weekend Food Program in the Minneapolis public schools. He started with one school, The Sheridan School, linking community organizations with the school to help close the weekend food gap for those who qualify for free and reduced lunches. He named his program The Sheridan Story and they now provide weekend food to elementary school students at eight schools throughout the Twin Cities.

    I learned about this project from John Humleker who forwarded an email from The Sheridan Story Director to the Tikkun Olam Working Group, asking if Shir Tikvah wanted to partner with our neighbor, Mt. Olivet Church and start a program at our local Washburn High School where over 50% of students qualify for this program. We at TOWG decided this was a great fit, and got to work on developing the program, which received overwhelming support from staff and members at Shir Tikvah.  I have been amazed by the true embracing of the spirit of Radical Hospitality, and Love Thy Neighbor, from everyone who has heard about, and been involved with this project.

    The project officially started in late January with volunteers from Shir Tikvah and Mt. Olivet joining with Washburn teachers to deliver bags of food to students.  They are getting to know each other and the project is slowly gaining speed.  We are looking forward to serving as many students as possible, and hopefully developing mentoring-type relationships. This is the first time the project has been in a high school and all involved are learning about the unique needs of High School students and how to adapt the program to fit their needs.

    If you are interested in this program please contact me at

  • 12 Mar 2014 8:17 AM | Anonymous
        I was fortunate to attend two parts of the recent Building Singing Communities weekend with scholar-in-residence Joey Weisenberg, the Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat service at Shir Tikvah, and Sunday’s morning service and daylong workshop at Beth Jacob.  I attended the latter along with prayer leaders, singers, and intentional singing followers from many congregations in the Twin Cities, including more than 25 members from Shir Tikvah, ranging in age from their teens to their 60’s.  
        The workshop was a joyous event; our day included two 90-minute sessions of singing and learning with Joey focused on many dimensions of learning a single niggun.  Joey urged us to dive deeply into learning and playing with this single melody which we sang at different speeds, at different volumes, and with different kinds of accompanying movement and clapping.  This single melody served as a vehicle for creating both a joyful praise of the Holy as well as a meditative space and for thinking about the various goals we might have in singing the melody.  Joey’s goal was to have us sing one niggun for a longer period of time and let ourselves change through the process, not the melody.  As he said, “Sometimes after you’ve sung a melody 20 times is when you’re just getting started, when the heart is just starting to open.”   
        I appreciated the parallels he drew between the learning of a melody and the building of a holy community.  As he taught us, once the initial excitement of a melody or a community wears off, that’s when the real work begins, the time when we need to expand our ability to listen to each other and attend to what we are building together.   Because singing together in a communal setting is not just about creating beautiful music but also about building our capacity to pay attention to the people around us, first in the synagogue and then in the larger community.  Singing together gives us a gateway into experiencing what oneness means and and prepares us for saying a heartfelt Shema Yisrael.
        Towards the end of the day, the Shir Tikvah-ites had a chance to meet together to talk about what had moved, surprised, and challenged us about our experiences during the weekend and to think about what we wanted to bring back to Shir Tikvah.  We talked about how we might build on what we’ve learned in the laboratory of First Friday services to offer more chances for our members to explore the contrast that singing offers between making a joyful noise akin to the blast of the shofar and listening to the quiet of the still, small voice within each of us.  We also talked about how to make our efforts inclusive and continue to acknowledge the diverse ways in which congregants experience song, prayer, and silence.   
        I look forward to sharing with many of you the beautiful niggun Joey taught us in the months ahead.

  • 12 Feb 2014 12:13 PM | Anonymous
    Celebrate good times, come on!  Here I sit, learning yet another piece of music for another wedding.  Since marriage became legal to all couples in August, there have been so many weddings at Shir Tikvah that I've lost count!  From tiny weddings with four people in the library, to hundreds of people dancing the hora in the sanctuary, we've done a lot of celebrating in six months!  It is such an honor and privilege to celebrate with couples and their families.    Among my favorite parts of the preparations include sitting with the couple and hearing their story of how they met, how they fell in love, how they made the decision to commit to a life together.  I wish I could videotape these conversations. They would be fabulous additions to the "When Harry Met Sally" vignettes.  
    As the couples tell their stories I start mulling over my list of 18 wedding songs, figuring out which lyrics, tempos, and cadences fit in with their particular story.  We go through each melody, talking about the intentions, how this one will include the variety of guests, will honor the family history of one family, etc.   Often couples take the lyrics and put them in their programs to make the words accessible to anyone attending the wedding, whether or not they know Hebrew.  And each couple surprises me with what they pick!  As I trot out my favorites, sometimes their eyes connect and they say, "This one!  Let's include this one!" and we figure out where it will fit.  Today, I'm learning the Muppet's "Life's a Happy Song," which will accompany nieces and nephews as they approach the chuppah.  As a big lover of midrash, I can make just about any song fit, changing one into a ballad or another into a "freilach" (happy song).   Another couple chose Josh Nelson's, "Halleluyah," which he sings in his funkadelic version here:  Change it to more of a ballad and poof, it becomes the perfect serenade for a couple who has been together for nearly two decades.  Of course, picking melodies like these don't have to be limited to wedding celebrations. I've picked music for mikveh rituals, b'nei mitzvah, and memorial services.  Have a reason to celebrate or commemorate?  Let me know.  It would be my pleasure to help you find a song just right for you!
  • 07 Feb 2014 2:22 PM | Anonymous
    Summer may seem like a million years away, but with summer camps starting in 128 days(!) it is the perfect time to talk about Jewish camping.

    We are overjoyed to report that Shir Tikvah has 11 campers planning to attend OSRUI, Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute, the URJ camp in Oconomowoc, WI.  We also have 11 campers planning on attending camp at Herzl, an independent Jewish camp in Webster, WI.  Additionally, many campers are planning to attend local Jewish day camps like TEKO, Butwin and Olami.
    Jewish camping provides campers with a nurturing and fulfilling experience in a warm atmosphere, with wonderful role models, fun and creative activities and programs, Jewish values not just taught but lived, and the beginning of lifelong friendships.

    There are three hallmarks of Jewish camps that are particularly significant:

    Jewish Values: Camp is a chance to experience what it is like to live in a totally Jewish environment. Campers experience a complete absorption into the rhythms and calendar of Jewish living, which gives each child a fuller appreciation of the richness of their Jewish identity and heritage. They are taught the values of charity, justice and kindness. Experience has shown that they will bring these core Jewish values home with them and back into the synagogue!

    Hebrew and Jewish Learning: Learning Hebrew (ivrit) is a piece of any Jewish camp and a focus at some camps such as OSRUI.  Jewish camps use Hebrew words throughout the day (tzrif for cabin, chadar ochelfor dining room, schiya for swimming, etgar for our challenge course). The Hebrew learning at camp compliments the Hebrew learning at Hebrew School at Shir Tikvah and for some teens, it leads them to seek an immersive Hebrew learning experience at camp or in Israel.

    Shabbat: Whether at day camp or overnight camp, campers experience the fullness of a Shabbat celebration both spiritually and culturally. At overnight camp, the entire camp comes together as one for blessings, dinner and singing.  Shabbat is a magical time at camp.

    Having grown up at Jewish day camp and overnight camp, and having served as faculty at OSRUI the past two summers, I am a strong advocate for Jewish camping.  I would love to talk with you more about which camp is right for your child.

    Learn more about the camps listed above:

    Oling-Sang-Ruby Institute (OSRUI)

    Herzl Camp

    Camp Butwin

    Camp Olami

    Camp TEKO
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1360 West Minnehaha Parkway  - Minneapolis, MN 55419-1199
Shir Tikvah Telephone: (612)822-1440
Office Email:
Office hours:  Monday through Thursday 9 to 5  & Friday 9 to 3
       Parking is available at Burroughs School - enter on 50th

In case of Life Cycle Emergency Call: (612)787-7447


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