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  • 13 Feb 2015 3:23 PM | Anonymous

    A small group of Shir Tikvahites got together in the sanctuary over 10 years ago  and spoke of the beginnings of Shir Tikvah when, like Cheers, “everyone knew your name”.  Even then we realized that was no longer true and were aware of the essential need to maintain that feeling of community, to be there for one another in good times and in difficult times--during a shiva and a bar or bat mitzvah, when members of the community are in need of support and to celebrate the good times.  And so, yad b’yad (hand in hand or caring committee) was born.
            Over the many years, meals have been brought to families recovering from illness and injuries, rides have been provided to appointments and to services and ST events.  We have supported shiva and welcomed loved ones home after burial services. We have sent cards and visited people in the hospital.  We have sponsored home to home shabbat dinners and brought community together for “healing” services.
    Shir Tikvah exists as a holy community (khilah k’dosha) for prayer, study, and as a means to perform acts of lovingkindness.  
             Community can be defined as a group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists.  This shared vision can be seen in all aspects of congregational life—whether in worship services, in religious school, at high holy days and within our home life.  This does not happen organically though and needs to be fostered just like any relationship.  Without the expression of caring and support from each and every one of us, the relationship becomes stagnant.  
            There is a reason that Judaism requires a minyan of 10 people for worship services to support a person in mourning.  One should not go through this process alone.  Nor should one celebrate the coming of age of our children whether a baby naming or bar or bat mitzvah in isolation, but rather in community.  This is how community is nurtured. 
            Caryl Barnett of blessed memory, and I founded this committee and worked together for many years.  I was nurtured again and again.  My working relationship and friendship with Caryl grew profound and deep and I am a changed person because of it. Helping to coordinate the generosity of our members through this important work was probably my greatest contribution to the congregation and to myself in my over 20 years here at Shir Tikvah.  I opened myself to becoming a giver and provider with whole heart. I also allowed myself to fully receive the care of this community when my dad died 8 years ago. 
            In a relationship in which one gives and one receives, it is easy to define what the receiver gets (a meal, a card, a ride).  The gift is clearly defined and limited. The giver however is changed from the inside by this giving and acquires a pure heart. “Generosity is like a flame.  When we share our flame it is not diminished, it spreads.  When we stay alone with our flame, it eventually burns out!”
            We say these words of Torah  every time we pray together, “v’shinantam l’vanecha.” “And you shall teach these words to your children”,   It is essential not only to create and maintain this congregation for ourselves but also to teach this value to our children.  L’dor vador  (from generation to generation).  How better to provide continuity than to create a community together in which to raise our children!

  • 13 Feb 2015 3:13 PM | Anonymous

    Less than a year ago my whole world,  was turned upside down.  Actually our world was turned upside down.

    I’d been dealing with a rare cancer on my lower leg since 2000.  Eight years ago the cancer stopped coming back and I thought I was out of the woods. Then last Spring we found out a different kind of cancer had invaded my leg, and at that point I decide not to take any more chances – I went for amputation.   That was last May.

    At the time I thought this would be a short-lived problem, and I’d be up walking around, without any assistance, in a few months. Little did I realize the extent of the challenges facing me. And it wasn’t just me, it was Marian, too.

    That’s the one thing I learned early on in my 15 year battle with cancer, the caregiver, if there is one, often needs as much help and support as the “patient”.

    We had always been able to take care of ourselves. We had no idea of what kind of help we’d need. When? How much?  It never even dawned on me I’d be going from the one who usually helps others, to the one who needed help. 

    Our culture seems so focused on self-reliance that it’s hard to ask for help, and even harder to receive it. It feels like a weakness, and our first impulse is to reject and say that’s OK, I can do it myself.  And it’s much harder for men. Just ask Marian.

    Marian was getting overwhelmed and practiced some “Tough Love” – she told me she needed help with taking me to the V.A. 3-4 times a week.

    It was difficult for me to ask friends for rides. Over the years I had been doing this for others, and I didn’t mind at all. But asking was difficult.  I felt embarrassed to admit I couldn’t take care of myself to my friends. Looking back it was so dumb to think that way… but I did.

    We were always up front about what was going on, medically. We never tried to hide it. How could we? It was fairly obvious. 

    We don’t recall asking for help, at first it was just there. First from the rabbis and Wendy, and then from our Chavurah and friends outside Shir Tikvah. 

    And then we began getting contacted by other Shir Tikvah members. Some brought us meals, some brought flowers, some stayed for dinner. When people stayed to share a meal with us it was so much more fun and interesting; it was a chance to have people to talk and laugh with over to our home. Especially for me, it was a chance to get together with friends.

    For others it was a phone call or quick visit. There were offers for transportation or even a break from caregiving. Marian got help in the yard and garden with weeding and planting, too.

    We were aware of the Caring Committee at Shir Tikvah. Our Chavurah had worked together to make soup to be placed in the S.T. freezer. Knowing the Caring Committee is available, and actually asking for help are two very separate issues. 

    We also learned how to ask for help. It wasn’t easy, for me, especially, but I did. I sure didn’t want Marian overwhelmed. And she was already overwhelmed with the surgery and rehab, and now I would be at home.

    Granted, we needed a lot of help, but, it’s also easy to ask for a little. The people who are part of the caring committee want to help. It’s a mitzvah.

    In its common usage, a mitzvah is a good deed. So, while it’s obvious the members of the Caring Committee do good deeds by helping… you’re also doing a mitzvah by letting someone help you, especially if it’s to take burdens away from you or your caregiver.

    It really meant a lot to both Marian and me.

    Now maybe you’re more of a private person, and don’t want everyone to know your business, or worry it will be all over Shir Tikvah?

    Talk to Jill or Wendy, and let them know that. They can take care of that part, and you’ll still get some friendly, compassionate support and love from members of the Caring Committee.

    We had so much help at times we were overwhelmed, but we’re not complaining. We were fortunate to have many communities to draw from, including my past work-mates, our circle of friends outside Shir Tikvah, and our neighbors.

    What’s important to remember…it’s not just you, the person who is sick, down, or struggling with a disability, it’s also the caregivers at home – often their struggles are hidden. They need to stay strong to help you.

    Please, do a mitzvah, let someone else feel good, too. Contact the Caring Committee.

    Happy Valentine’s Day – Shabbat Shalom

  • 06 Nov 2014 1:12 PM | Anonymous

    At Shir Tikvah, translated as the “Song of Hope,” we put a premium on the music we generate.  Our choir is robust, our music leaders raise the energy of our prayer life, and our Religious School students sing with Matt weekly.  During the High Holy Days, we proclaim Psalm 150 at each service, through different melodies, singing and signing “Halleluyah” with each rendition.  Rabbi Latz also touts Psalm 150 as the Psalm Kevin Bacon quoted in “Footloose” to fight against the ban of dancing in the town.  While Psalm 150 does say we praise God through dance, the middle section specifies that through playing instruments we praise God: 

    Ha-l’LU b’TEI-ka sho-FAR,  praise God with the sounding of the shofar                              

    הַלְלֽוּהוּ בְּתֵֽקַע שׁוֹפָר

    Ha-l’LU v’NEI-vel v’chi-NOR, praise God with the harp and the violin                         

     הַלְלֽוּהוּ בְּנֵֽבֶל וְכִנּוֹר

    Ha-l’LU b’TOF u-ma-CHOL, praise God with the drum and dance                                        

    הַלְלֽוּהוּ בְּתֹף וּמָחוֹל

    Ha-l’LU b’mi-NIM v’u-GAV,  praise God with spices and accordions                                      

    הַלְלֽוּהוּ בְּמִנִּים וְעֻגָב


    It’s time to honor the instruments at Shir Tikvah and the people who play them.  There are LOTS of you out there.   “Tizmoret Tikvah” the Shir Tikvah Orchestra, will be launched on Sunday, November 16, from noon – 2:00 p.m., in the sanctuary.  Dust off your violins and cellos, shine up those Tubas (we have two!) and Trombones, and join us!  Our hope is that there are enough of you interested that we could play at Shabbat Shira, on Friday, January 30, but the first session does not require a commitment.  Our hope is that this will be a mulit-generational group, so as long as you can read a musical score, and are interested in trying this out, please join us!  We’ll be ordering music this week, so please let Wendy know immediately.  Many people have signed up already through the advertisement in the enews this past month, but it’s not too late; sign up today.  Sign your brother or your mother up.  Join us!

    Details:  Sunday, November 16 at Shir Tikvah:  All instruments welcome.  Please bring instrument and music stand if you have one.

    12-1 will be working on an orchestral score

    1-2 will be for those who prefer to jam, improvise, riff.  All are welcome to either or both.

  • 04 Sep 2014 1:59 PM | Anonymous

    The Heart of the Matter

     One of the most famous sayings of Socrates is: "The unexamined life is not worth living”. For Socrates, growth and wisdom are only possible through a process of ongoing self-reflection. Real, meaningful amend-making and the process of seeking forgiveness (and granting it) are the natural by-products of examining one’s own behavior and interactions with others. However, these opportunities to repair relationships and clean the emotional underbrush we’ve accumulated are often missed when we are too focused on self to honestly consider the impact of our words and deeds on the people around us. At times, we all walk the world a little bit like Mr. Magoo, profoundly myopic and oblivious to the emotional wreckage we leave in our wake as a result. Deep resentment, dishonesty, and fear keep us, and those we have harmed, chained to the past.

     Each year in preparation for and during the High Holy Days, Judaism provides a very specific timeframe during which we are tasked with reviewing the year past: Where have we harmed others with our words and actions, or by our silence and inaction? Where have we failed to keep our word? Where have we been dishonest in our personal AND business lives? Where have we fallen short? 

     We are then required to go to those we have harmed, do our best to make amends and right our wrongs, and to sincerely seek forgiveness. And Judaism requires us to forgive any person who sincerely seeks it. This seeking of and granting forgiveness is not easy work, but I think our tradition recognizes that it is essential for our spiritual growth, the well-being of both parties and peace within the community at large. It keeps life and the world in balance.

     While Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, in Judaism there is no blanket atonement for wrongdoing and sin. The Mishnah teaches:  "For transgressions against God, the Day of Atonement atones; but for transgressions of one human being against another, the Day of Atonement does not atone until they have made peace with one another.” We have to right those wrongs ourselves. There are no short cuts or easier, softer ways.

     The Hebrew month of Elul, the month preceding the High Holy Days, began this past week, calling us once again to do this hard work of repentance and forgiveness. It is customary during the month of Elul to sound the shofar every weekday following morning services. Rambam taught that the sound of the shofar was to awaken us from our spiritual slumber and complacency, and is a call to thoughtful, prayerful repentance.

     The process of amend making begins with an unflinching, unvarnished evaluation of self, setting aside what others may have done to harm us and focusing only on the wrongs we have committed. This is OUR spiritual work, undiminished and undiluted by justifications or rationalizations focused on the actions of others. Regardless of the choices others may make, we are each responsible for our own conduct. Only by having clarity of our own wrongdoing can we then effectively and honestly make amends to others. 

     The word amend means to change. Making an honest, meaningful amend to others is not a quick and thoughtless “sorry” muttered in passing. It is not the standard non-apology apology ( “If you were offended by what I said, I’m sorry” or “If I said anything to offend, I’m sorry”); or the unthinking blanket public apology often posted on social media ( “If I did anything to offend any of you this past year, I’m sorry”). All of these examples lack any sort of honest reflection, comprehension or accountability for one’s actions. Making an amend to someone means going to them in person if possible, acknowledging the specific harm done, expressing a willingness to take whatever action is necessary to repair the damage, and asking forgiveness. Saying I’m sorry is just not enough, especially if the same behavior continues. Making amends is about changing and about a commitment to do and be better.

     There is a certain amount of emotional maturity required for the kind of self-reflection and amend making that often results in the repair of damage inflicted on others. It requires both humility and a healthy sense of self and unflinching honesty. The same is required of the person whose forgiveness is sought. Perhaps even more so.

     It is not always easy to forgive, especially when the wounds are deep or where abuse has occurred. The act of forgiving, however, frees one from the pain of the past and allows wounds to heal. It is about moving out from under the sense of victimization that keeps one trapped in an unending loop of powerlessness over one’s own life and choices and future. Forgiveness is the ultimate act of self-empowerment. 

     At times, the offender may not be asking for forgiveness. They may be oblivious to or unconcerned about their wrongdoing. Forgive anyway. It’s not for them. It’s for you. Forgiveness does not excuse the actions of the other person. It is simply an act of self-love and self-preservation to let go of the bondage of resentment and fear that shut us off from our own sense of self. It means no longer being defined by wrongs done to us. It cleans out our inner world of the negative, and makes room for love, spirit and joy.

     So much of what ails us individually and communally is a deep inability to acknowledge the pain of others, rectify the harms done, and then, ultimately, to forgive. It really is the heart of the matter after all.

  • 08 Aug 2014 12:58 PM | Anonymous

    This past Monday and Tuesday, the Shir Tikvah Staff all got together for a Staff Retreat at a beautiful location near North Branch.  Rabbi Latz, Rabbi Rodich, Wendy, John, Sara and I were all on hand to go over this year's agenda.  Here's a brief "play by play" of our gathering.

    Since Rabbi Rodich and I are Shir Tikvah "newbies," the first thing the group did was a Get-to-Know-You exercise.  It was a relatively painless ice-breaker and while I won't share too many secrets, we all agreed that yes, for the film about the Life and Times of John Humleker, Bill Murray would be a GREAT John.  

    We had some lunch, and then onto the task at hand.  First up, the Shir Tikvah Vision Statement.  We broke into groups of two and discussed how we felt our positions at Shir Tikvah coincided with the Vision Statement, and why we do the things we do.  It was so inspiring to hear everyone's answers and the discussion really made it clear how much everyone enjoys coming to work and truly loves this congregation. 

    The discussion of the Vision Statement and the why lead into talking about how we construct our weekly Staff Meetings, and how to really make the most of that hour of time we have together.  Everyone came up with great ideas, particularly how important it is to be proactive rather than reactive when scheduling events or projects.  We also unanimously agreed that Fleur (the Shir Tikvah office dog) should never again be a note taker for the Staff Meetings, due to her lack of thumbs.

    We broke for dinner, Rabbi Latz & John made some amazing salmon on the grill.  John maybe got a little too close to the grill, but was willing to sacrifice his knuckle hair for the good of the group.  It was a beautiful evening complete with a little wine, a campfire, s'mores, and of course, great company. 

    The next morning began with an egg cook-off between Wendy and Rabbi Rodich.  I won't shell out too many egg-straordinary details, but they were both egg-cellent.  Following breakfast, Rabbi Rodich led us in a text study to get our brains working.  After that, (now don't get jealous), we spent the next 3 hours going over the Shir Tikvah calendar, working backwards from June 2015.  As dull as it may seem, it was incredibly helpful and a great way to get us all on the same page and working in the same direction.  

    We wrapped up early Tuesday afternoon and headed back to the metro.  I think we would all agree that the Staff Retreat was a great way to bring us all together, without disruption (other than Sara freaking out at the sight of any insect, large or small), and begin the New Year with an organized, fresh start. 

  • 03 Jul 2014 10:31 AM | Anonymous

    I will shake my hands in the air
    with tears besotting ancient anguish
    and the cries of parents who bury their children in graves etched into the earth by the blood of enemies we are challenged to discern but who try to take more than life and steal our hope and our faith.

    The revenge I seek
    is not of torment or rage or rocket launches but a sweet revenge of defiant compassion and determination to write a new story where children play in the parks of Jerusalem and the town squares of Ramallah and to rise up stronger than ever before with all those committed to a real, just, honorable future with all the fury that hope can muster and weave a blanket of compassion over the planet so strong so powerful so vibrant and holy and impenetrable there is no longer space left in the universe for anything not pregnant with courage or love.

  • 23 Jun 2014 1:14 PM | Anonymous

    The Shir Tikvah Israel Group has been very busy during the last week!  A camel ride today, Kakadu Art Studio yesterday, and old city of Jerusalem on Saturday.  Keep checking back here for more updates, or follow the Shir Tikvah Israel Trip on Facebook.

  • 02 Jun 2014 5:54 PM | Anonymous

    Shavuot celebrates the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. In the hundreds of generations since, the stories of the Jewish people have been retold countless times.

    What happens when a family story doesn't get told?

    Imagine digging through the contents of your elderly relative’s apartment and discovering a long-kept secret.  The film “The Flat” explore the limits of friendship, the power of memory and the possibility of forgiveness. 

    Join the Lifelong Learning Team for Tikkun Leil Shavuot – evening of Shavuot learning, prayer, and cheesecake! Tuesday, June 3, 7pm to 9:30pm.

    The evening’s teaching will be led by Rabbi Melissa B. Simon, Shir Tikvah’s Director of Lifelong Learning. Discussion will be chevruta-style, in small groups. All are welcome to be a part of the evening.  The film viewing will begin at 7pm followed by a discussion.  The evening will conclude with a brief Shavuot service. In keeping with the holiday’s dairy tradition (the land flowing with milk and honey), we will feast on cheesecake!

    What is Shavuot? Since Passover, we have counted the omer, marking time, to arrive at this festival holiday which, historically, celebrated the planting season and evolved to commemorate Jews' receipt of Torah at Mount Sinai. Celebrate whatever moves you this season at Shavuot.

    L’shalom, friends!

    Shir Tikvah's Lifelong Learning Team

  • 09 May 2014 1:09 PM | Anonymous
    Please take a few minutes to read some wise words regarding Children in our Sanctuaries, written by my colleague and friend, Rabbi Menachem Creditor.
  • 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!
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