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Twenty Minutes of Torah

11/10/2022 08:45:07 AM

Nov10

Rabbi Abigail Treu

Twenty Minutes of Torah

11/03/2022 08:45:34 AM

Nov3

Rabbi Abigail Treu

Twenty Minutes of Torah 

10/27/2022 08:45:01 AM

Oct27

Rabbi Abigail Treu

anti-semitism Today

10/20/2022 11:05:32 AM

Oct20

Rabbi Abigail Treu

Earlier this week, I was astounded to log in to one of the news websites I read regularly and see the word “Jew” appear – not once in one article, but three times, three different headlines, covering three different topics. This was not the Jewish press, mind you; it was the Drudge Report, which I read along with its left-leaning counterparts (we also subscribe to both the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal. Lest you don’t believe me when I say I am a centrist and pluralist to the core.) Between Kanye, former President Trump, and the UC Berkeley Law School student government, there was what to cover.

There are only 6 million Jews in this country. That’s less than 2% of the national population. Worldwide, there are fewer than 16 million Jews. In the world. That’s 0.2% of the world population.

Why are we in the headlines? Why are we the object of such fascination, obsession, hatred?

The recently appointed head of the Institute for Advance Study, David Nirenberg, explored this topic in his 2013 tome Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition. He argued that anti-Judaism “should not be understood as some archaic or irrational closet in the vast edifices of Western thought…[but is] rather one of the basic tools with which that edifice was constructed.” He traces this idea from Egypt through Roman through Islam and Christianity to the modern era. Several hundred pages of scholarship later he concludes: “We live in an age in which millions of people are exposed daily to some variant of the argument that the challenges of the world they live in are best explained in terms of ‘Israel’.”

Nine years later, we have only seen this problem grow. When a highly regarded law school, an internationally acclaimed rap star, and a former President are all talking about the Jewish problem, our radar goes off the charts.

I have very little new to add to the conversation. I write about this now mostly to convey a concern, one that I know most of us already share. I can invite you to read thought pieces I’ve appreciated this week, among them What Kanye Can Teach Us About Anti-Semitism, Yair Rosenberg’s piece in his Deep Shtetl column in The Atlantic, and We’re Jewish Berkeley Law Students, Excluded from Many Areas of Campus, published in the Daily Beast. I can invite us all to be activists on this issue, in as dovish and loving a way we can, so that we sow seeds of peace and not further antagonism. Our teens in the POST program are engaging this year again with the Anti-Defamation League’s educational programming so they can go out into the world educated and equipped with knowledge to help them navigate life on campus and in the world as Jews. As an ADL Signature Synagogue, we will continue to offer educational programs for adults to help us fight anti-Semitism. This spring we are looking forward to new programming now in the works with the local chapter of Sisterhood of Salaam-Shalom, helping strengthen our connection to the local Muslim community, and to lifting up as we do each year the memory of the Holocaust through the Interfaith Holocaust Commemoration and Yom HaShoah programming.

When I was in college, a student group sent in the postal mail an oversized envelope to every self-identified Jewish student on campus. Open the envelope, and on a large piece of paper, in huge black letters occupying nearly the whole page, was one word: JEW. A postcard also in the envelope asked: how do you feel seeing that word? Are you ashamed, defensive, braced for an insult? Or are you proud?

In a moment where our culture has once again fixated on Jew-bashing and anti-Semitism, I hope our congregation can be a source of Jewish pride, sanctuary and strength. I do not have easy answers for combatting anti-Semitism. What I do have is a way for us to calm our nerves and strengthen our resolve: residing in community. The more we connect with one another, the more we own our Jewish identities and operate from a deep sense of peoplehood. This is as true for our family members who are not Jewish as it is for those of us who were born or chose to become Jewish. May our connection to one another as a Jewish community fill us with the strength and resolve we need to move forward in a world that clearly needs us to heal much that is broken.

YOM kippur Sermon

10/05/2022 11:04:04 AM

Oct5

Rosh Hashanah Sermon

09/26/2022 08:00:32 PM

Sep26

WHAT TORAH IS GOOD FOR

08/19/2021 10:41:52 AM

Aug19

Rabbi Abigail Treu

This week is a pessimist’s raison d’etre:  devastation in Haiti, heartbreak and harrowing events in Afghanistan, the continued flourishing of the coronavirus. To say nothing of the wildfires raging on in California, or the water shortage on the Colorado River, or continued fighting between Israel and Hezbollah including an alleged missile strike in Syria.

How does Torah—in its mega-sense, meaning all of Jewish teaching and expression—help us absorb the news? How might it inform how we respond to events? What are some guidelines for us in a week like this?

  1. I know I am called on to help. Tzedek, tzedek tirdof – we are to pursue justice; v’ahavta l’reikha kamokha – love your neighbor as yourself. We know we are to do everything we can. Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest is working with American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to support efforts in Haiti (jdc.org/HaitiEarthquake2021), as is Haitian-operated NJ4Haiti (https://www.nj4haiti.org). HIAS is collecting funds to help settle Afghani refugees, the ones we saw crowded into the aircraft carrier, the ones who make it out. Closer to home, we can cooperate with medical directives to vaccinate and wear masks as instructed, to help keep others who cannot be vaccinated safe.

  2. Judaism offers us the outlet of prayer, which can satisfy our emotional need to “do something” even in situations when we can do very little to help. Some people pray because they believe in a God who hears prayers and acts on it them in some way. Some people pray because it is a form of contemplative expression, a way to shape the climate of our hearts. Either way, prayer can help us through. Pray. Use the siddur (prayerbook), or don’t. Psalm 27, which is the Psalm for this month of Elul, is a good one to recite for all we are witnessing and experiencing in the world right now. Or stick with one of my favorite lines in the weekday Amidah: Grant us from You the grace of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. It really feels like right now we need all three.

  3. Choosing Torah means placing myself as part of a community. If I were all alone in the world, the hard stuff would be overwhelming and unbearable. It might still be overwhelming – but it is not unbearable, because we have one another. Pick up the phone and call someone from the Oheb community whom you think could use a compassionate check-in. Talk about the news, or don’t. It will help you both; it will weave us together. A few weeks ago I preached on mental health. This is a moment where someone reeling from watching the pictures of those planes taking off from Kabul might really need that check-in. Because we might be all alone in the world – but through Torah, through choosing to be part of the Jewish community, we are not.

 

In a week like this, when there feels like there is so little to do except despair, I am grateful that Judaism gives me a framework to handle it all, and this holy community to do it with.

Teshuvah

08/12/2021 08:00:28 AM

Aug12

Rabbi Abigail Treu

One of my earliest Jewish memories is of the shofar. In particular, the final blast of the season, that long blast at the end of Yom Kippur ne’ilah. My memory is of the synagogue elder, ancient to my little girl eyes, holding the Havdalah candle, and – to my horror – beckoning me and my sister to come join him on the bimah. We must have been sitting in the front rows. I was too shy in those days; I wouldn’t do it. From our seats, I watched the flame light, and then saw more than heard the shofar blown in the flickering shadows of the candlelight.

The shofar is one of the highlights of Rosh Hashanah, and that final Yom Kippur service. Tradition holds that we blow it 100 times on Rosh Hashanah morning; according to Jewish law, at least 30 are required. But did you know – that the shofar is blown every morning of Elul, this month leading up to Rosh Hashanah? With no blessings recited before, no words uttered at all. Just the sounds, a brief set that takes only a moment.

Why? If the mitzvah is to hear it on Rosh Hashanah, and then we use it again to close the service on Yom Kippur, why do we blow it daily for a whole month? Because teshuvah takes time. We cannot just wake up three weeks from now ready to jump in. Teshuvah is the work of bringing ourselves into alignment, of living up to the aspirations of our own best possible selves. And that re-alignment takes more than just a day. The shofar wakes us up to what we need to be doing right now, today, this whole month. Not just ordering the brisket, figuring out how to have meals with loved ones during the pandemic, arranging for seats. What we need to be doing is cheshbon ha-nefesh, accounting for our lives, looking at who we’ve become so we can become who we want to be in the new year.

To that end, I offer three suggestions.

  1. My wonderful colleague Rabbi Jill Zimmerman has created an online guided workbook for your Elul journey at her website, www.jewishsacredagaing.com.
  2. Spend time outside every day this month. Take a walk, or find someplace to sit. Don’t pick up your phone, check your email, or read anything. Just be outside, giving yourself some time to connect with yourself and nature.
  3. Hear the shofar every morning. Some mornings I blow it, other days it is the awesome Steve Friedlander; perhaps others will take a turn, too. The shofar comes at the end of morning minyan, so even if you are not able or inclined to log in for the full service, come 30 minutes or so after we start to catch it (on Mondays and Thursdays, make that 40 minutes or so from the start). 

 

In these ways, we can take Judaism up on its annual invitation to live our best lives, working toward an annual reset where we can begin again – if we’ve taken the time to know where we want to start.

Oheb at the Isaiah house

07/28/2021 03:49:31 PM

Jul28

Rabbi Abigail Treu

When I was in high school, I spent a large part of my time and energy helping people who were homeless. I helped organize a club at school which collected leftover and unused food from local supermarkets and restaurants and brought them to a local soup kitchen (we called it the Gleaners, taken from the Book of Ruth, though I admit I didn’t get the reference at the time). I spent a summer working at the Crisis Ministries, stocking shelves of the food pantry and learning the ropes of the office and doing phone intakes. I hung out with the pastor there and wondered what the Jewish equivalent of such work was. I suppose the seed of an idea was planted then, though again, I didn’t know it quite yet.

To be the Rabbi of Oheb Shalom Congregation, which houses a food pantry in the building, feels like a home-coming in this regard. The food pantry was one of the congregations “selling points,” and I look forward to joining with our social action and social justice teams in so many ways building from that foundation. I am deeply proud of the way this congregation uses our resources to help those in need. I am proud as well of the many Oheb members who take leadership roles at our partner organizations working towards social justice of all sorts.

On August 13, we have an opportunity to show up in support of one such communal effort. Isaiah House, the only comprehensive family shelter in Essex County, is hosting a daybreaker event to raise funds not only for its own work helping our most vulnerable community members but also to help in the effort of identifying the person or persons responsible for the tragic death of Columbia high school student Moussa Fofana last month. I will be there in my Oheb t-shirt and hope many of you will join me in this alternative morning minyan of sorts – one that connects us to the broader SOMA community and lifts up the Jewish imperative,  which we will read that very week in parashat shoftim: “tzedek tzedek tirdof” – “justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20).

1. SunUp with Isaiah House – In Support of the Justice for Moussa Fund: August 13

Join Rabbi Treu and Oheb members and Isaiah House board leaders Liz Kubany, Marci Silbert, and Louise Weingrod, at SunUp on August 13.

In the spirit of Daybreaker, the morning rave party that has taken off around the world, come celebrate at the first annual SunUp with us - an hour of yoga and meditation with Baker Street Yoga, followed by some very spirited dancing to the spins of local DJ - DJ Jen Jones - all to celebrate the day! Proceeds from this event (your ticket purchase is 100% tax deductible) will be donated to Isaiah House, a homeless shelter in East Orange that is near and dear to us in SOMA. Isaiah House leadership has also committed to donating a portion of our proceeds to the Justice for Moussa fund, which is working to find information about the person or persons responsible for the tragic death of our beloved community member, Moussa Fofana. Funds are available to support Oheb members who wish to participate but need assistance toward the Isaiah House fundraiser ticket price; email Rabbi Treu for confidential assistance.

Register here

Let us know you’re going so we can greet you as part of Team Oheb!

2. Soul Refresh: Shabbat Morning 8/14

With Elul upon us, we look to new ways to make contact with ourselves and work towards renewal from the inside out. In place of regular Shabbat morning services, join Rabbi Treu in Murnick Hall for singing and chanting, silence, Torah learning, and a soul refresh.

10 – 11:30 am

Please note that on-time arrival will make a difference to the experience for you and others. Followed by kiddush lunch to go / outside. Zoom link forthcoming

3. Slichot: Saturday 8/28

Re-encounter high holiday melodies from years past and learn new ones with Cantor Kissner and Rabbi Treu at slichot services, held per tradition the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah. Light dinner will be served (shabbat’s “third meal,” seudah shlishit) and we will conclude with havdalah.

6:30 – 8:30 pm

Jewish Identity in Sports

07/22/2021 01:30:00 PM

Jul22

Rabbi Abigail Treu

Jewish baseball is hot right now. Team Israel heads to the Olympics, in itself a minor miracle as Israel has yet to field a team making it past the European Championship B-pool, much less win the entire European competition or the next-level Africa-European games to clinch the Olympic spot. Closer to home, another miracle of sorts is taking place. Among the eight Jewish players called up so far this season from the minors to play for the Major Leagues (itself a terrific thing), two are shomer shabbat, keeping shabbat according to halakhically traditional ways.

That’s right. In an “only in America” moment, two players have thrown off the age-old compromise Jews in the Diaspora have for most of history felt torn to make. I’m thinking of my uncle’s father, a man who loved synagogue and shabbat deeply, but had no choice but to work his factory shift on Saturday mornings in order to support his family. I’m thinking of my friends in Paris, where required high school classes meet regularly on Saturday mornings. I’m thinking of the choices we make as parents navigating our childrens’ passions and weekend commitments.

The two players are not identical in their shabbat observance – what two Jews are identical in any of our anythings? Seventeen year old Jacob Steinmetz, picked 77th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks, plays ball on shabbat, but stays at hotels within walking distance of the ballpark so as not to use transportation. Elie Kligman, 18, drafted by the Washington Nationals, takes Saturdays off altogether. “That day of Shabbos is for God. I’m not going to change that,” the New York Times quoted him as saying. Both keep kosher.

For my generation, this is our Sandy Koufax moment. These ballplayers are living their American dream and not compromising their Jewish values to do so. More than that, holding on to their Jewish observance has not hindered their professional advancement. That is not always possible, to be sure. But this story should loom large in our imaginations. It is the counterpoint to the narrative which encourages us to trade away Jewish life for other things, the fear that if we prioritize Jewish community and commitments we will lose in business, sports, or other kinds of success.

It is also a counterpoint to another major storyline of our community. At a time when rising anti-Semitism is of grave concern, we would do well to take note of what is happening here: two young men modeling for us all to live our Jewish lives out loud and with pride. Modeling for the rest of us that we can take our Jewish identities seriously, and make choices with integrity to our whole selves and our people.

I will still be rooting for the Mets and Yankees (who could use a miracle of their own this season). But I will have my eye on the Nationals and Diamondbacks and to two young players who by pursuing their baseball dreams are a source of pride and inspiration to the Jewish community they now unabashedly represent.

Thu, December 1 2022 7 Kislev 5783