Rabbi Jennifer Jaech's blog
Based on a sermon delivered February 23, 2018
This past Monday night, across Florida, people gathered for candlelight vigils. On the news I saw images of teens shielding delicate candle flames with their hands as they mourned those murdered in yet another incident of gun violence.
A candlelight vigil: In times of darkness, we seek the light.
This is an unusual blog post. It’s about a young man in our community, Zachary Bassin, who attended our religious school and became bar mitzvah here in 2008. In the photo below, Zachary is the young man on the right.
Zachary died last summer. His mother, Phyllis, wrote about his life in the message below the photo. You will know why she wrote this when you read her words.
She told us her story as we sat together at Holy Name of Mary Church in Croton. Weeks before, police officers had arrived at her door. She was not home but a neighbor alerted her to their presence. She panicked. Were the police officers at her doorstep because she was undocumented? After a couple of minutes, the officers realized no one was at home, so they left.
In the past months, several people have spoken with me to express their dismay about living in divisive times. Many feel alienated from family members and friends. They are unsure about how to speak with people who hold political and personal views so different from their own. As the holiday season approaches, some dread the thought of family gatherings for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, gatherings that may devolve into verbal sparring.
We value “Shalom Bayit” – Peace in the House. But these days, peace can be elusive.
“As the summer ends, Americans get back to business, and for American Jews, there’s no bigger business than the High Holidays at your local synagogue. I have some unconventional advice for you this year: don’t go.” Ouch. So began an article written by Jay Michaelson and published in the Forward last year. Further in the article, Michaelson wrote, “here we are again, listening to authority figures drone on…standing up, sitting down, praying to a deity we don’t believe in.”
This is the time of the year when we might ask each other: do you have any plans for the summer? For many, the summer provides a welcome break from the routine of school and work. For me, summer provides an opportunity to go back to school, and that’s exactly what I’m doing this year.
May June 2017
Last March, on a chilly morning in Atlanta, I stood with a group of other rabbis outside of a nondescript building in a neighborhood of the city undergoing significant gentrification. The sign on the building read "Pencil Factory -- Shops Parking."
My faith in our Temple community’s willingness to respond with compassion to help those in need has been affirmed. Earlier this month, I asked for volunteers to help host and feed a small group of men who will sleep at Temple Israel for one week owing to an effort coordinated by the Briarcliff Ossining Ministerial Association. I’m happy to say that Temple Israel’s leaders and members responded warmly and positively to this request. As I write this, we are preparing to welcome our guests for their week with us.
This year’s theme for the annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis is “Being a Rabbi in Turbulent Times.” Like many of my colleagues in the Reform rabbinate, I am alarmed at the rise of hate crimes directed against vulnerable people and by the news that the recent election has inspired white supremacist groups to feel newly emboldened. On the one hand I want to believe that “it will all be all right” – and that is what I say to people who come to me for comfort. But on the other hand, I know that the only way that “it will be all right” is if we