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Passover: From soup to...

04/07/2020 01:08:53 PM


Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

Hi, all,

You know me as the Oheb Shalom librarian. But, I also wear a chef’s hat at my synagogue where I am in charge of our weekly kiddush lunches and write an eclectic food/recipe column.

I hope you enjoy these recipes and future ones, too.

Passover is just around the corner. This year, of course, the question of “why is this night different from all other nights?” takes on a new meaning.

One thing I’ve found is that there is more cooking going on. People are creating foods from scratch especially baked goods and soups.

The following recipes are good for Passover and some are great during the rest of the year, too.

I usually serve chicken soup on the first night of the seder. But on the second I go for a lighter soup, often vegetable-based. I love this creamy celery soup substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth. (

But my new favorite is potato soup​​​​:

Egyptian Golden Potato Soup


  • olive oil, as needed
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic,  minced or more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. ground turmeric
  • 3 lbs (6-7 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
  • 8 cups water, chicken stock, a mix of water and vegetarian bouillon cubes
  • Juice of 1 are lemon, about 1/4 cup, or to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots. Saute until very soft and onions are translucent about 10-12 minutes.
  2. Add garlic; saute for 2-3 minutes or until garlic is soft, but not brown.
  3. Add turmeric and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Saute for an additional minute or until everything is coated with the turmeric.
  4. Add the potatoes, liquids and bouillon cubes if using.
  5. Bring to a simmer. Lower heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes until potatoes are fully cooked.
  6. Remove soup from heat. Let cool slightly and puree soup with an immersion blender or blender.
  7. Add lemon juice. Stir and taste. Add more lemon juice, salt and /or pepper to your taste.


Hints: This freezes well. Serve with farfel or soup nuts for Passover; croutons otherwise. Put a few arugula leaves on top make a nice garnish, too. Beware that the turmeric will discolor plastic and wood. The soup thickens as it cools. To attain the texture you want, simply add some broth or powdered soup base and water, stir well and heat.

What to do with all the extra farfel that never got into the soup or the kugel? Here’s a Passover twist on mac and cheese.

Farfel and Cheese   (makes enough for an 8x8 pan)


  • 3 cups farfel
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 scallion, diced
  • 1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2c nonfat (plain) yogurt
  • salt and pepper
  • butter


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk one egg and the egg whites with a fork.
  3. Fold in the farfel, stirring until the mixture is fully combined and there are no dry spots of farfel. Stir in the scallion.
  4. Grease an 8x8 casserole dish. Fill the pan with an even layer of the farfel.
  5. Using the same bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, remaining egg and about a teaspoon of salt and a large pinch of ground pepper.
  6. Cover the farfel mixture with the shredded cheese in one even layer.
  7. Gently pour the liquid ingredients over the cheese. Use a spatula to make sure there are no bare spots.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Remove the foil and bake uncovered until the top is golden brown 20-30 minutes more.
  10. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes and serve warm.


Hints: Reheats well. You may substitute sour cream for yogurt.

Everyone loves dessert. But after a heavy meal something light is just right. Deborah Kollin, a home cook from Los Angeles, serves this frozen dessert every year. Her family loves it.

Strawberry Fluff    (serves 6)

  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg white at room temperature


  1. Put everything into a large bowl.
  2. Start beating slowly to incorporate the ingredients. Beat on high speed for 10—15 minutes until light and fluffy.
  3. Pour into a bowl or pan and freeze until firm.
  4. To serve, put scoops of fluff into small bowls. Top with macerated sliced strawberries.


Hints: Other berries will work but strawberries are best. To macerate strawberries: slice; then mix with a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Let sit until they release some juice and soften a bit.

Who doesn’t like chocolate?  This Chocolate Olive Oil Cake ( is a standout.

But for a change of pace try these cookies ( from Chris Kimball of Milk Street) as an accompaniment to the strawberry fluff.

They are perfect for those who do not like coconut based macaroons. They are also gluten-free.

Chocolate Almond Spice Cookies    (yields 24 cookies)

  • 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 c (54 grams) + 1 1/2 cups (285 grams) white sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups (250 grams) blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 cup (26 grams) cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 large egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla ( use real, not imitation, if you can)
  • 5 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put racks in upper and middle positions.
  2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a small bowl stir together spices.
  4. Measure 1/4 tsp of spice mixture into another small bowl.  Stir in 1/4 cup sugar. Set aside.
  5. In a 12” skillet over medium heat combine almond flour and remaining spice mixture.
  6. Cook stirring and breaking up any lumps until fragrant and light browned, 5-7 minutes.
  7. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool until barely warm to the touch, 15-20 minutes.
  8. Whisk remaining sugar, cocoa and salt into the almond flour mixture.
  9. Using a spatula, stir in egg whites and vanilla until evenly moistened.
  10. Stir in chocolate. The dough will be sticky.
  11. Drop 2 tablespoon portions of dough into spiced sugar and roll to coat evenly.
  12. Arrange balls on baking sheets about 2” apart.
  13. Bake until cookies have cracks in their surfaces and a toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs, 12-15 minutes. Switch and rotate sheets halfway through for best results.
  14. Cool for five minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.


Hints: Use a small ice cream scoop or cookie scoop for evenly sized cookies. Make sure to cool flour mixture so that egg whites don’t cook when added to flour. These cookies are related to a Swiss holiday cookie called Basler brunsli, but they are rolled into balls rather than rolled and cut into shapes.

And more chocolate. When you get tired of macaroons but want a quick Passover dessert-almost as fast as opening a package—try this from Margaux Laskey of the New York Times. My husband, who is not a big dessert eater, finished the entire cake. This cake would also work at any time of the year. It’s truly magical and should take no more than 5 minutes from start to finish.

Chocolate Mug Cake        (1 serving)


  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • a few drops of vanilla
  • 3-4 Tablespoons, white sugar, to taste
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon mini chocolate chips (optional)
  • Confectioner’s sugar, fresh berries, whipped cream or ice cream (optional)


  1. Microwave the butter in a microwave-safe mug until melted, 20-30 seconds.
  2. Crack the egg into a small bowl; add vanilla and whisk until frothy.
  3. Pour egg mixture into the mug over the butter and whisk well.
  4. Add the sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk until almost smooth. A few small lumps are OK.
  5. Scrape down the sides.
  6. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, if using.
  7. Cook in microwave on high for 1-1 1/2 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out mostly clean.
  8. Top with confectioner’s sugar, fresh berries, whipped cream or ice cream.


Hints: Add a little more butter for a moister cake. Change the flavor with some coffee powder; mix well to ensure that you don’t make scrambled chocolate eggs. If baking two cakes, add 30-60 seconds to cook time. The batter can be prepared before dinner and baked just before dinner is over.

B’tayavon and  a Zissen Pesach!

Passover 5780

03/30/2020 03:07:13 PM


Dear Friends,
Ma Nishtana Ha-Laila Ha-Zeh Mi Kol Ha-Leilot… How is this night different from all other nights? 

This year, that question has an obvious answer. The outbreak of a lethal virus, which requires us to be physically distant from one another to stop its spread and save lives, means this Passover will be different from any we have celebrated in the past. Let us accept the challenge to make the most of Passover with an upbeat and positive spirit.
How to Celebrate Passover During the Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Continue to keep physically distant from one another. The Passover Seder must be celebrated only by the people living in your home. Do not invite additional guests. The best way to include relatives and friends in your Seder is by using Zoom. Here's a great Zoom 101 tutorial.
  • Here is the annual Rabbinical Assembly’s Guide to Passover. It contains the usual laws and procedures for observing Passover.
  • Please read Preparing for Passover in the Coronavirus Pandemic, which explains leniencies we can and should make in order to uphold Passover traditions without making numerous trips to the store. This document supersedes the RA guide.
  • During the Seder, we ritually wash our hands twice. During this pandemic, we should be washing hands MUCH MORE OFTEN than that.

A REALLY Different Night: Sedering-in-Place
Wednesday, April 1, 8:00-9:00 PM
Join me on Zoom as we will look at 10 specific ways we can enhance the evening while “sedering-in-place” and make the most of a difficult situation.
(check your email for ZOOM link)

Sale of Hametz
The sale of Hametz (leavened products) can now be arranged online. On Passover we are expected to not only refrain from eating Hametz but also owning it. Our custom is to remove Hametz from our homes before the holiday and “sell” whatever Hametz we keep in storage, including dishes and utensils. Click here to access our online form for the sale of Hametz.
It is customary to donate to the Rabbi’s Passover Fund (also known as “Maot Hitin”).  This year, such donations are more important than ever given the effect of the pandemic on the economy. Please donate online (just choose Rabbi's Discretionary Fund from the drop-down menu) or by sending a check to the synagogue.
And... the Food Pantry team has requested that people not bring matzah, Passover products, or general food donations to Oheb Shalom at this time. Monetary donations are always welcome (choose Bobrow Kosher Food Pantry from the drop-down menu).

Zoom Others Into Your Seder!
Hosting a Zoom Seder? If you are willing to welcome virtual Zoom guests who don’t have a Seder to attend, please contact Johanna Kluger. We'll try to match up hosts and guests.

Pre-Passover Living Room Lounge
Sunday, April 5, 5:00 PM
Do you have a Passover memory or story to share? Do you have a Passover recipe that excites you? Perhaps you have a question to ask about how to celebrate the holiday or a special melody for one of the Seder songs. Maybe a child in your family wants to sing the Four Questions. Or perhaps seeing some Oheb friends would bring a smile to your face. Visit our Pre-Passover Living Room Lounge. A moderator will ensure that everyone is heard.
(check your email for ZOOM link)

Siyum of the First Born
Wednesday, April 8
Zoominyan at 8:00 AM, followed by the Siyum
Our tradition holds that first-borns should fast on the eve of Passover to express relief that our people were spared the destruction of the Tenth Plague. Each year on the eve of Passover, we hold a Siyum (celebration of the conclusion of a unit of study) to enable first-borns to avoid the fast. This year’s Siyum will take place on Zoom, immediately after the morning service. (A file with our study text will be made available before the Siyum.)
(check your email for ZOOM link)

Passover Seder on ZOOM
Wednesday, April 8
5:00 PM
I will be leading a Passover Seder using the 30-Minute Seder Haggadah.  We'll share the most central rituals and end before the meal.  Please click here to let me know if you plan to participate and if you would like guidance on what to put on the Seder table.
(check your email for ZOOM link)

De-Mystifying Elijah the Prophet
Thursday, April 9
11:00 AM
Elijah plays an important role in the lore and legends of the Bible.  We invoke his name and persona at the end of Shabbat, at a Brit Milah and, most prominently at a Passover Seder, when we open the door in his honor and place a cup of wine on the table in his name.  Who was this mystical figure?  Why has his legend endured for so long?  We will study Biblical and Midrashic texts related to Elijah to deepen our understanding of what he means to us. (check your email for ZOOM link)
Note:  This session is taking place on the first day of Passover in place of a communal religious service. A study guide will be sent next week.

Passover Services
As the synagogue will remain closed at least until April 20, we will not hold Passover services in the building. Please continue to read the email from the synagogue for the schedule of live-streamed services.

I wish each of you and those dear to you a Passover celebration that is meaningful and fulfilling. May we all be blessed with good health and a speedy return to lives overflowing with activities that bring us joy and lead us to make our world a place of justice and peace.

checking in...

03/27/2020 12:12:53 PM


Linda Griffler, Executive Director

Dear Oheb Family:

Greetings from my home office in West Orange. Wherever you are, I am sending you good health, patience, resilience, and hope.

Oheb will remain closed until the shelter-in-place order issued by Governor Murphy has been deemed safe to lift. In the meantime, let's all do our part to keep ourselves safe. 

Reminder: if you are willing to help make phone calls to vulnerable congregants or shop for those unable to get out, please sign up here.


Virtual Services


Join us for a Morning Minyan service on Zoom

Sundays - 9:00 AM

Monday through Friday - 8:00 AM (Sunday through Friday)
(check your email for ZOOM link)

Livestreams on YouTube

Visit the Oheb Shalom YouTube Channel for live services (and previous recordings).

  • Kabbalat Shabbat Live at 6:00 PM (Fridays)
  • Havdalah at 8:00 PM (Saturdays)

You can always check the Oheb Shalom blog for all updated communications.


More Fun

I have some more websites and activities to help pass the time until this virus (plague) “Passes-Over”!

The Fuchsberg Jerusalem Center is offering a few online courses for free:
• Course on the book of Song of Songs with Bex Stern-Rosenblatt

• Premium Online Course with Dr. Joshua Kulp
• “Redemption and the Midnight Harpist: What Happened When on the Eve of the Exodus” with award winning author Ilana Kurshan

You can now binge-watch every episode of The French Chef with Julia Child.

The great Patti LuPone gave Twitter a tour of her basement.

Broadway stars like Kristin Chenoweth and Sutton Foster appear nightly on's Live At Five.

The Actor's Fund is broadcasting live twice a day with Stars in the House. Coming up this week: Matt Bomer, Tina Fey and Jason Alexander. 

If you missed Rosie O'Donnell's one night talk-show benefit from her house. (with lots of guests, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick!)

Are your kids watching a lot of YouTube these days? Here are 10 Best Educational YouTube Channels for Kids.

Audible has made hundreds of audiobooks for kids free to help parents keep kids entertained.

Learn a new language for free with Duolingo

Browse hundreds of TED-Ed Animations and TED Talks designed to spark your child’s curiosity. You'll also find thousands of other video-based lessons organized by age-level and subject. put together a list of the 100 Best Movies on Netflix Right Now.

How to Exercise From Home During Self-Isolation (and why it's so important).

Who says teens don't read? 12 Great Young Adult eBooks from the Maplewood Library and How to Get Them.

Many new movies are being released On Demand as theaters remain closed.

Many local restaurants offer delivery! Support them through food-delivery apps like Uber Eats or DoorDash. (And if you need a wine or beer delivery, there's aways the Drizly app!)

Let's continue to practice social connecting, physical distancing, and spiritual closeness.

Shabbat Shalom,
Linda Griffler
Executive Director

Passover in the age of zoom

03/26/2020 10:40:37 AM


Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

Being cooped up at home can either be a curse or a blessing. I do miss my routine which gives purpose and markers to my days. However, the extra unscheduled times has allowed me to catch up on reading (I recommend The Convert by Hermans), organize my Rolodex (I can’t give it up), and think about cleaning the closets. More importantly, it has given me the opportunity to participate in some thoughtful webinars and online classes.

Some of these have been organized around the upcoming Passover holiday. In ordinary times, most of us would be planning our seders, making lists, freezing the gallons of chicken soup, and deciding which haggadah to use. These are not ordinary times; even my super organized brother hasn’t thought about Passover yet.

But today I did. The Forward presented a webinar via Zoom called The 11th Plague, referring, of course, to the coronavirus. The presenters were Jodi Rudoren from the Forward; Archie Gottesman from JewBelong, a group with seeks to draw in disengaged and disinterested Jews; Abby Pogrebin, author of My Jewish Year; Joan Nathan, cookbook doyenne; and Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, a very large Conservative synagogue in Los Angeles.

Following are some random takeaways that you might apply to your Passover celebration:

  • The challenges of this year also give us the opportunity to free ourselves and experiment with other forms of a seder, a video conferencing seder, for example. The number of participants is not limited to the size of the table; there should be less crosstalk and many voices can be heard.
  • Traditional family pre-Passover activities can still be held. Joan Nathan makes gefilte fish with several people in her kitchen every year. Why not do the same, using Zoom, Skype or FaceTime?
  • The word Mitzrayim (Egypt) referring to narrow spaces is very appropriate this year when our movements are contracted and many of us are often physically confined in small areas.
  • A large part of the rituals and even the rules of the seder is to spark joy and prompt memories.
  • It is most important to tell the story of deliverance and freedom to the next generation.
  • Don’t worry about what you can’t control like the chicken soup for 40 that Joan Nathan has in her freezer in Washington, DC while she’s in New Orleans and can’t get back.
  • Cacophony is better than silence, referring to the voices online.
  • Ask guests what they miss most about this year’s seder.
  • Despite physical distancing, we can be socially and emotionally together.
  • Seders are very personal with each family having its own traditions. This year’s challenge is really an opportunity to be inventive. You can’t do it wrong.

So if you can, zoom in to a seder the year. Even prominent Israeli Orthodox rabbis recognize that these are times of emergency and are permitting the use of video conferencing for the seder, providing it is activated before the holiday. Now elderly people will be able to join their families.

The  Forward webinar should be archived on the Forward website along with some links to recipes and resources for Passover.

Zeman At Home - 3/25

03/25/2020 07:33:59 PM


Gavin Hirsch, Education Director

Dear Parents,

What a week it has been! Since introducing Zeman @ Home last week our teachers have held 54 small group classes over a medium that some had never used until this began. I want to take a moment to applaud how quickly they have adapted and recognize them for their dedication and hard work!

We have learned a lot about the best way to approach Zoom classes (as I'm sure all of you have!) and we will only be improving.  Please see this document we are putting together, which is a combination of Zoom FAQs and Zoom Etiquette .  This document will be updated as we learn the best way to create a learning environment from a distance and can always be found in the Zeman @ Home folder. If you have suggestions or questions to be added to the document please don't hesitate to reach out.

I am also sad to let you know that Adar Duer, our Israeli Rishona, has been called back to Israel by the Jewish Agency. Of course, we will miss her but we are truly happy that she is back with her family. Please see this video from Adar saying goodbye. A great way to give your kids something to do would be to have them write to Adar! She can be reached here .

Looking for more to do with your kids? Tonight at 8pm Camp Ramah National is hosting a virtual concert with Rick Recht.  Rick Recht is a Jewish musician who has helped pave the way for a new wave of Jewish Rock.  You can find the concert here.

We are doing everything we can to help you stay organized.  Please save just one link: the Zeman @ Home folder will have everything you need in one place so you don't have to hunt!

As always please reach out if you need anything. We are here to help. 


welcome to zoominyan

03/25/2020 05:37:37 PM


Rabbi Mark Cooper

Dear Oheb Shalom Family,

We are living through a challenging and uncertain time.  Many of you have told me that communal prayer feels more necessary now than ever before. 

While we are following guidelines for social distancing and isolating at home, we still want to see one another.  Sharing a minyan service on ZOOM, an online video platform, will enable us to be together for prayer. (Kabbalat Shabbat Live and Havdalah will continue to be presented live via our YouTube channel.)

Welcome to Zoominyan

Beginning Thursday, March 26, Oheb Shalom will hold a “Zoominyan” Sunday at 9:00 AM, Monday to Friday at 8:00 AM. (This replaces our “Daily Dose of Spirituality” on YouTube.) 

Our Zoominyan will include the same Hebrew and English prayers that are recited when our minyan meets in the building, except for the Torah reading. The Sim Shalom weekday prayer book has been edited to include only the prayers we recite.  Click here to download the PDF file.

How to Connect to Zoominyan

Simply click on the ZOOM URL just before the start time.
(check your email for ZOOM link)

You will need a computer equipped with a webcam and microphone. If you have never used Zoom, you'll be prompted to download the application for your desktop. If you plan on using a phone or tablet, visit your App Store and download the free Zoom App first.

Click here to download the Siddur Sim Shalom.

If you need technical assistance, please contact me by email or phone (973-464-3999).

Those who are remembering a loved one may request to have the El Maley Rachamim (memorial) prayer recited.  In this way a Yahrtzeit can be honored in the presence of friends and fellow Oheb members.

Kabbalat Shabbat Live + Havdalah

“Kabbalat Shabbat Live” (Fridays at 6:00 PM) and Havdalah (Saturdays at 8:00 PM) will continue to be livestreamed on Oheb Shalom’s YouTube Channel. Don't forget to click "subscribe"!



songs for kids!

03/25/2020 12:12:30 PM


Cantor Lippitz

I've recorded a few videos with songs for kids. I hope you enjoy them!

Shabbat is Here

When Israel was in Egypt Land

Pesach Songs: Bang Bang Bang and Frog Song


Ma Nishtana - The Four Questions

daily dose of spirituality - 3/25

03/25/2020 12:11:13 PM


Cantor Lippitz

Did you miss this morning's Daily Dose of Spirituality on YouTube?

Watch it here -->

Don't forget to hit "SUBSCRIBE" on our YouTube page to get notifications on our videos.

daily dose of spirituality - 3/24

03/24/2020 11:52:49 AM


Rabbi Mark Cooper

Did you miss this morning's Daily Dose of Spirituality on YouTube?

Watch it here -->

Don't forget to hit "SUBSCRIBE" on our YouTube page to get notifications on our videos.

Daily dose of spirituality - 3/23

03/23/2020 11:51:04 AM


Cantor Lippitz

Did you miss this morning's Daily Dose of Spirituality on YouTube?

Watch it here -->

Don't forget to hit "SUBSCRIBE" on our YouTube page to get notifications on our videos.

Daily dose of spirituality - 3/22

03/22/2020 11:49:14 AM


Rabbi Mark Cooper

Did you miss this morning's Daily Dose of Spirituality on YouTube?

Watch it here -->​​​​​​​

Don't forget to hit "SUBSCRIBE" on our YouTube page to get notifications on our videos.

Havdalah - 3/21

03/21/2020 11:47:00 PM


Rabbi Mark Cooper

Did you miss tonight's KABBALAT SHABBAT LIVE on YouTube?

Watch it here -->

Don't forget to hit "SUBSCRIBE" on our YouTube page to get notifications on our videos.


03/20/2020 06:05:17 PM


Rabbi Mark Cooper

Did you miss tonight's KABBALAT SHABBAT LIVE on YouTube?

Watch it here -->

Don't forget to hit "SUBSCRIBE" on our YouTube page to get notifications on our videos.

story time live!

03/19/2020 11:10:05 AM


Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

Books are an important part of our kids’ school—and hopefully home—lives. What do we do when we’ve read all the books in our houses a thousand and one times, don’t want to order another thing from Amazon, and can’t go to the library or bookstore because they are closed?

While I’m investigating how to perhaps present an online story time to our currently closed preschool, parents and kids of preschoolers and other picture book lovers might want to log on to one of these virtual story times:

Storyline Online is the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, which streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. It’s free and (from what I’ve seen) the production values are excellent as one would expect from the Screen Actors Guild.

In addition, Stimola Literary Studio will have a variety of literary events for older kids starting March 23.

Storytime with Miss Becky also has a good selection of books.

Actor Josh Gad (Frozen, Beauty and the Beast) is doing reading a book online each night for kids (via his Twitter feed). (Tip: search the hashtag #GadBookClub)

There are many other websites and YouTube channels presenting books for kids.

Find one you like and read together soon. While libraries are an important part of our lives for the entertainment and information they provide, during this time when they are closed, we may have to supplement and find other ways to get our reading fix.

daily dose of spirituality: Thurs. 3/19

03/19/2020 11:03:58 AM


Cantor Lippitz

Did you miss today's Daily Dose of Spirituality on YouTube? Watch it here -->

Part 1:

Part 2:

Don't forget to hit "SUBSCRIBE" on our YouTube page to get notifications on our videos!

zeman @ home

03/18/2020 07:26:15 PM


Gavin Hirsch, Education Director

Dear Parents,

I hope this email finds you and yours well—both physically, emotionally, and mentally. Please know that if you need anything, even a listening ear, I am here as is your Oheb Shalom clergy.

I am happy to introduce Zeman @ Home! (Naming credit to Beth Hendler!)

The entire Zeman staff will be thinking of creative ways to engage your children over the next few weeks.  Here's what we have so far:

  • Wednesday Classes: As many of you already know our 3rd - 7th grade will be having small group video conference classes to continue with their Hebrew learning.
  • Sunday Classes: We will be taking a hybrid approach, offering both small group video conference classes on Sundays as well as at home projects and assignments. You will be getting a sign-up sheet for this in the coming days to find a 25-minute block of time for your child.
  • Community Games: We want our Zeman students to continue feeling connected to the community and we thought some silly games and contests might be the answer! Please check out this fun quiz, " Who Are You at Zeman School? " that Beth created on Buzzfeed.
  • We will also be offering multi-grade virtual gatherings for things like tefilah or shirah (song session).

We know this is a lot! As a first step to making things simple, we have tried to consolidate all digital things you might need into a Google Drive folder so you don't have to wonder where THAT email went (it's always that email).  This way you only have to remember one link... this one. Right now are only a few links to log onto the classes but teachers may also include other resources here.

Please know that everyone is experiencing this once in a lifetime event in a different way.  For some of you, this might be really overwhelming and the idea of putting more on your plate (like the Zeman School) is just simply too much.  We get it! Please feel no pressure and have your child join us if they can.


Don't Worry . . . We've got you

03/18/2020 05:59:51 PM


Linda Griffler, Executive Director

Dear Oheb Family,

Hope everyone is able to safely remain home and doing their part to stay healthy and to "flatten the curve." While Oheb activity has changed in venue (becoming "virtual"), our office operations continue.

  • If you call Oheb Shalom, someone will answer your call (although you may need to leave a message—but we will call you back!)
  • If you email the staff, we will reply as usual
  • Our emails will not only continue but will likely be more frequent
  • Mail and deliveries are being picked up; checks will be deposited

And PLEASE, answer the phone when you receive your call from an Oheb staff member. We're calling to:

  1. Check up on you and see how you are.
  2. Ensure that you have a support system.
  3. Ensure that you are getting our emails and phone messages.

You can always check the Oheb Shalom blog for all updated communications. Log on to the Oheb Shalom YouTube Channel for live services (and previous recordings). 

...and we all need a little fun, too!

Check out these great websites to help pass the time until this virus (plague) “Passes-Over”!

Here are 15 Broadway plays and musicals you can watch from home.

12 famous museum virtual tours you can take from your couch. 

The Metropolitan Opera is streaming one of its most popular operas each night online at 7:30 pm. 

Peloton is offering its at-home workout app free for 90 days

The San Diego Zoo has several live cams of their animal exhibits, like penguins, polar bears, and tigers.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has live animal cams, too! (The sea otter cam is particularly delightful, according to Jodi.)

Yoga With Adriene is a great free yoga series on YouTube that has a class for everyone (and everything).

Download free coloring books from 113 museums.

The Cleveland Inner City Ballet is offering free classes on their FB feed.

Respond to daily writing prompts from the New York Times (ages 13+)

Gucci Osteria's Massimo Bottura is offering free virtual cooking classes on Instagram

Actor Josh Gad (Frozen, Beauty and the Beast) is reading books to kids live on Twitter each night

Spot the International Space Station!

Did you see Max and Mel Brooks's COVID-19 PSA?

Let's continue to practice social connecting, physical distancing, and spiritual closeness.


Linda Griffler
Executive Director

stay connected to oheb and each other

03/17/2020 05:06:08 PM


Rabbi Mark Cooper

Let's look out for each other.

Dear Oheb Shalom Family,

The closing of our building and suspension of our religious services and programs need not prevent us from connecting with each other. Here’s how we can come together as a community:
A Daily Dose of Spirituality
Visit our online chapel for prayer and learning every Sunday to Friday from 9:00-9:20 AM (beginning Thursday, March 19). Share highlights from the weekday service, including prayers for healing and mourners’ kaddish. Led by Rabbi Cooper or Cantor Lippitz.
Click here to connect to our YouTube channel. All sessions will be recorded and can be found on Oheb's YouTube channel. Be sure to hit "Subscribe".
Kabbalat Shabbat Live Online!
Join us for a 30-minute Shabbat service on Fridays at 6:00 PM. Rabbi Cooper or Cantor Lippitz will lead us in a musical service similar to our successful First Friday program, including prayers for healing and mourners’ kaddish.
Click here to connect to our YouTube channel. All sessions will be recorded and can be found on our YouTube channel.
Click here to download the First Friday prayer book. (PDF)
Bring Shabbat to an end with Havdalah at 8:00 PM led by Rabbi Cooper. Use your own kiddush cup, spice box and candle if you have them.
Click here to connect to our YouTube channel.
Zeman Religious School
Zeman School students will continue growing in Jewish life and learning through a variety of virtual classes and experiences as well as at home projects and learning. Gavin Hirsch, our Director of Education, will soon be in touch with Zeman families. If you have questions, please contact Gavin at

Mickey Fried Preschool
Our Mickey Fried Preschool students will continue to learn and grow under the direction of Sloane Goldstein and our remarkable staff of teachers. Teachers are available during school hours to chat via phone, Zoom, or FaceTime with students and their families. Students are participating in projects at home and sharing pictures with their classmates! Sloane will soon be in touch with preschool families with more information and at-home activities. If you have questions for Sloane, please contact her at
Support for Our Members
We want to do everything possible to ensure that the needs of our members are met during this challenging time. As always, Rabbi Cooper and Cantor Lippitz are available to listen and help you through a difficult time. Here is how to reach them:
Rabbi Cooper:
Cell: 973-464-3999
Cantor Lippitz:
Cell: 973-951-3191
If you, or someone you know, are in need of support, please click here to contact our Administrative Assistant, Johanna Kluger.
If you are willing to help a vulnerable member by shopping and delivering supplies (up to the front door) or making phone calls, please click here to register as a volunteer. Someone from our Connections Program will then contact you on how to help.
Oheb Shalom has always been a place where people feel embraced by our community and where everyone feels the warmth and love of our family. We won’t let the current crisis stop us. We welcome you to share in communal worship, in conversation, and in the important and sacred task of giving each other support.
We will continue to provide updates in the coming days.

KEVIN KATZ, President
LINDA GRIFFLER, Executive Director

Important Update on COVID-19 Response for the Entire Oheb Shalom Community

03/13/2020 02:29:05 PM


Kevin Katz, President

Dear Oheb Community:

Earlier today the Executive Committee decided, out of an abundance of caution and a desire to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, to close the building for the next fourteen days.

Effective today at 5:00 PM, Oheb Shalom will be closed until March 28, 2020. During the next two weeks, the officers and senior staff will reassess circumstances and determine our plan for April. 

Religious Services/Morning Minyan/Katan/Gadol
There will be no Friday evening or Shabbat morning services, or Morning Minyan, through Saturday, March 28, 2020. We are currently making plans for an online Shabbat service that can bring our members together for worship.

Mickey Fried Preschool
The Preschool will be suspended through March 27, 2020.  Sloane Goldstein will send a separate message to the pre-school community shortly. Should you have any questions, reach out to Sloane at
Zeman Religious School
The Zeman Religious School will be suspended through March 25, 2020.  Gavin Hirsch will communicate with Zeman families by Sunday. Should you have any questions for Gavin, he can be reached at

Pastoral Support
While the building may be closed, Rabbi Cooper and Cantor Lippitz are still here for you. In-person meetings are not a good idea now, but phone conversations or video conferences can be arranged. Our clergy are eager to be helpful and supportive to every member of the Oheb Shalom family.

Rabbi Cooper can be reached at or 973-464-3999
Cantor Lippitz can be reached at or 973-951-3191

The overwhelming message from healthcare agencies and professionals right now is clear: they need our help to slow the spread of the disease before resources are overwhelmed. Social distancing from each other will help medical teams to do their job and will potentially saving lives in our area.

Stay safe, stay home as much as you are able, and please wash your hands.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mark Cooper, Oheb Shalom
Kevin Katz, Oheb Shalom President
Linda Griffler, Executive Director 

important: oheb shalom coronavirus update

03/12/2020 12:40:47 PM


Dear Oheb Community:

We hope this email finds you and your loved ones safe as the Coronavirus has officially been categorized as a global pandemic.

We write this with heavy hearts, knowing that Oheb Shalom is both a spiritual and social home for so many. But your safety, and the safety of others, is our first priority. 

Please be advised that all March programming has been suspended as of today, Thursday, March 12

This does NOT include Shabbat services—including Katan and Gadol, Morning Minyan, and Men's Club Shabbat—which will take place as usual.

Cancelled or Postponed Programs Include:

  • World Wide Wrap (3/15)
  • Vashti's Banquet (3/15)
  • Bar/Bat Mitzvah Parent Orientation (3/15)
  • Monday Free Movie (3/16)
  • Beer & Bible (3/18)
  • Family Friday Shabbat & Dinner (3/20)
  • Jews & Booze LLL Presentation (3/22)
  • MFPS Family Fun Day (3/22)
  • Club BellagiOheb Casino Night (3/28) - Will be rescheduled
  • Tuesday Talmud Class - cancelled until further notice

We will be reviewing April programming soon and will update you as necessary.

Again, Friday night and Saturday morning services, as well as Morning Minyan, will continue. These will take place in the Sanctuary, and we ask that everyone spread out! Sit a reasonable distance apart from one another. Also, please refrain from shaking hands or other forms of contact, and wash your hands as much as possible.

If you are in a category of “elevated risk,” you should think carefully before deciding to attend. Those who exhibit any symptoms of illness, who have knowingly been in contact with someone with the virus, or who have recently traveled internationally, should please stay home.

Oheb's online calendar will be updated, so please check it regularly before coming to the building. All committee meetings should be done remotely. Please contact Jodi Rotondo, Communications Coordinator, for assistance.

For now, Zeman School and the Mickey Fried Preschool will continue to follow the SOMA school district policy on any school closings.

Thank you for your patience and your attention during this turbulent time. We will continue to be in contact with the New Jersey Department of Health and the CDC as to updates.

Stay safe, stay home as much as you are able, and please wash your hands.


Kevin Katz, President, Oheb Shalom Congregation
Linda Griffler, Executive Director, Oheb Shalom Congregation

concerned about coronavirus?

03/09/2020 12:40:08 PM


We continue to stay in touch with the NJ Department of Health as well as the CDC guidelines. Our building continues to be rigorously cleaned and disinfected.

Please do your part by following the steps below:

1. Wash your hands . . .thoroughly and often. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. (Sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice!) 

2. Sick or not feeling well? Please stay home! It is better for you and everyone else. (And wash your hands!)

3. Keep your hands away from your face. Especially your eyes, nose, and mouth. 

4. Avoid shaking hands. A friendly smile, an elbow bump, or wave delivers the same greeting. Did we mention you should wash your hands?

5. Be a Food Safety Champ! Oheb will now have regular volunteer servers at all community meals. Let us serve you . . .the extra wait will be worth it!

We are looking for volunteer servers to help with Kiddush. Sign up for a Super Shabbat Server shift below:

Volunteer as a Super Shabbat Server

Above all, stay healthy (and wash your hands)!

Protecting our congregation and community from coronavirus (COVid-19)

03/05/2020 12:37:13 PM


With confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) now appearing in the U.S., many are feeling uneasy or even scared. Oheb is utilizing the same "upgraded cleaning procedures" of every flu season, which includes intensive cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces/materials throughout the building.

However, the best way to prepare yourself is with information about health and best practices to avoid germ-spreading in public places. 


How can I minimize my risk?

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Get a flu shot! It's not too late.
  • Hand sanitizer will work in a pinch, but handwashing is the most effective prevention.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe. (Like computer keyboards!)
  • Did we mention you should wash your hands?? :)

    What if you feel ill? PLEASE STAY HOME. Members, staff, and school children should not return to the building unless they have been fever-free for a full 48-hours.

    Mickey Fried Prechool and Zeman School remain open at this time, and we take our cues from the SOMA school district.

VIDEO: What you need to know about handwashing


Get creative: find a new way to say "Shabbat Shalom!"

Saying "Shabbat Shalom" does not always include a hearty handshake. Sephardim bow slightly at the waist. Yogis press their palms together. A cheery wave works, and so does a thumbs-up. Not everyone will be hugging or shaking hands this Shabbat . . .and that's okay!

We also recommend at this time, while at Oheb, that people not directly kiss the Torah, Mezuzot, or Siddurim.


Go Hands-Free at Kiddush

Prevent the spread of germs:

  • Always using a utensil (tongs, spoon, or serving fork) to serve yourself or others at an oneg, kiddush, or other event.
  • Use a fresh plate if you take a little more food.
  • Use a new cup every time you pour a drink, and do not share cups or eating utensils.
  • Don't share cookies or bagels by breaking in half with your hands—please use a knife.
  • Cut food (such as Shabbat challah) rather than tearing it.
  • Dispose of your used utensils, plates, and cups in the trash yourself, instead of waiting for maintenance staff or someone else to do it.



For all pertinent and updated information, including travel advisories:

For specific questions, see the CDC’s FAQ section:

New Jersey Department of Health:

In praise of women

02/27/2020 10:23:14 AM


Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

Purim is but days away. Central to the story, of course, is the beautiful, young Jewish woman Esther. She uses both her beauty and her wits to outsmart the villainous Haman and save her people.

Jewish history is filled with strong, smart, heroic women, often unsung.

As a tribute to Esther and the March, Women’s History Month, here is a short selection of books -fiction and non-fiction- featuring Jewish women who used their strength of mind and character to overcome problems, fulfill their dreams, or make a mark in the world.

The books are listed in order of publication.

FIC       Barenbaum, Rachel       A Bend in the Stars (2019) . A romantic adventure featuring a brilliant young scientist in perilous pre World War I Russia.

FIC       Carner, Talia                 Third Daughter (2019) Russian immigrant Batya is tricked into prostitution in Buenos Aires. Based on true events.

FIC       Jio, Sarah                      All the Flowers in Paris: a novel (2019) An emotional, romantic story of love and loss set during WWII.

NFIC     Nadell, Pamela              America’s Jewish Women: a history from colonial times to today (2019) A fast-paced, extensively researched, and well-written narrative.

BIO       Ortiz, Victoria               Dissenter on the Bench (2019) Dramatically narrated case histories from Justice Ginsburg's stellar career are interwoven with an account of RBG's life.

BIO       Shapiro, Dani    Inheritance: a memoir of genealogy, paternity and love (2019) The writer discovers the secrets of her family and her heritage.

JBIO     Sasso, Sandy     Regina Persisted: an untold story (2018)  The story of the first woman rabbi and her fate.

JBIO     Sherman, Jill     Gal Gadot: soldier, model, wonder woman (2018)

FIC       Kadish, Rachel   The Weight of Ink (2017) The interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect, set in 1660s  and 21st century London.

JFIC      Krawitz, Susan  Viva, Rose! (2017) Thirteen-year-old Rose takes on the wild west, outlaws, and the strict rules of the early 1900s Texas.

YAFIC    Locke, Katherine    The Girl with the Red Balloon (2017) When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she's caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic.

YAFIC    Wiviott, Meg     Paper hearts (2015) In this verse novel based on real events, women in Auschwitz survive in part due to their great friendship and support of one another.             

FIC       Rich, Roberta    Midwife of Venice (2012); Harem Midwife: a novel (2014) Set in 16th century Venice, the novel captures the complex lives of  women including Jewish midwife Hannah Levi.

FIC       Cameron, Michelle        The Fruit of Her Hands: the story of Shira of Ashkenaz (2009) A thirteenth-century historical novel about a rabbi's wife whose love of learning, family and religion perseveres amid rising anti-Semitism in Europe.

J741.5  Deutsch, Barry              Hereville: how Mirka got her sword (2010); How Mirka met a meteorite (2012) The only thing Mirka wants to do is fight dragons and have adventures.

304.1    Ruttenberg, Danya        Surprised by God: how I learned to stop worrying and love religion (2008) A look at what it takes to develop a spiritual practice.

BIO       Brooks, Andree             The Woman Who Defied Kings: the life and times of Dona Gracia Nasi (2002)Often called the most important woman since Biblical times, 16th century businesswoman Dona Gracia Nasi  saved hundreds of fellow Jews from the Inquisition.

BIO       Calof, Rachel                 Rachel Calof’s Story: Jewish homesteader on the Northern Plains (1995) An immigrant from Russia, Rachel Calof  lived the  quintessential American pioneer  story with a Jewish twist.

Tu B'Shevat is here

02/05/2020 01:54:33 PM


Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

On the 15 of Shevat, corresponding to the 10th of February, we will be celebrating Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees.

Customarily, certain grains and fruits mentioned in the following quote from the Torah are eaten:

“For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill, a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and [date] honey (Deuteronomy 8:7-8).”

These items are collectively known as the seven species and each has been given a characteristic.

According to an article on the  My Jewish Learning website, these are the characteristics of each of the seven species.

    • Wheat represents chesed, kindness, because it is so nourishing and accessible.
    • Barley is the embodiment of gevura, restraint, due to its thick hull.
    • Grapes signify tiferet, beauty, due to their color and manner of growing.
    • Figs represent netzach, endurance, for their lengthy ripening stages.
    • Pomegranates symbolize hod, majesty or glory, for their crown shape.
    • Olive oil represents yesod, foundation, for the staple role that the ingredient plays in many foods.
    • Dates denote malchut, kingdom, thanks to their digestive benefits.

Eating from the seven species shows an appreciation of nature and gratitude for the world around us. Only the first fruits of these seven items were allowed (in addition to animals and birds) as sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem

So on Sunday evening and Monday, the 15th of Shevat, enjoy a treat that includes an item from the seven species.

Books about Israeli and Israeli foods will be on display in the library.

Timely reading

01/22/2020 02:38:47 PM


Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

In 2005, the United Nations passed a resolution urging every member of the U.N. to “honor the memory of Holocaust victims” by encouraging the development of educational programs.

The goal is through education to prevent future acts of genocide.

The date chosen for International Holocaust Remembrance Day was January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The following books make suitable reading for adults and children at this time of year:


Churnin          Martin & Anne sets up parallels between Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank, both born in the same year, and whose lives were cut short.

Hoffman         The Brave Cyclist is the true story of the Italian Tour de France champion Gino Bartali who risked his life during World War II by delivering false documents that would help Italian Jews escape.

Frank              Anne Frank’s Diary: the graphic novel is a new edition of the classic diary enhanced and made accessible by the graphic format while staying true to the words and spirit of the original diary.

Kacer              The Brave Princess and Me is based on the life of Princess Alice of Greece, Queen Elizabeth II’s mother-in-law and a Righteous Gentile who hid a family in her home during the German occupation of Greece.

Levy                The Key from Spain is the story of Flory Jagoda, keeper of Ladino music, who fled her Bosnian homeland to escape the Nazis.

Palacio           White Bird: a wonder story in graphic format about Julian’s grandmother and how, as a young girl, she was hidden from the Nazis in a small French town.

Yolen              Mapping the Bones, the latest novel from a master of Holocaust fiction, tells the story of Chaim and Gittel’s life in Poland during the Holocaust in the framework of Hansel and Gretel.


Hoffman         The World that We Knew is the fictional story of a child’s flight to safety in Nazi Germany.

Medoff           The Jews Should Keep Quiet: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust looks at Roosevelt’s policies during World War II including suppressing immigration and refusing to bomb concentration camps.

Perry               The Legacy of Anne Frank shows how Anne’s life and words have affected readers and established a moral framework.

Orringer         The Flight Portfolio is a novel based on the real-life story of Varian Fry’s attempts to save both Jewish artists and their works during World War II despite official reprimands.

Spiegel           Renia’s Diary: A Holocaust journal is the long-hidden diary of a young Polish woman’s last days during the Holocaust.

Knowledge, Pride & Partnership: The keys to combating anti-semitism and Hate

10/24/2019 11:54:01 AM


Rabbi Mark Cooper

I grew up in Los Angeles, a city of perennial sunshine and smog.  I didn’t see snowfall until the year I spent in Jerusalem in rabbinical school.  I received an outstanding Jewish education and a wonderful experience at my hometown synagogue in the San Fernando Valley.  There I learned to love Judaism, became a proficient service leader and Torah reader, and soaked up every minute of Religious School.

Growing up in Los Angeles, I also experienced anti-Semitism firsthand.  I have distinct memories of being harassed by bullies while as a young teenager I walked to and from synagogue wearing a kippah and dressed for Shabbat services.  Some of the tough kids on our street who knew my family was Jewish would try to prevent me and my siblings from entering the elementary school we attended, blocking the entrance and yelling “kikes don’t belong here.”  During the week of Chanukkah, when my father would hang a Star of David ringed by blue and white lights over our garage door, our house was routinely egged by hoodlums who specifically targeted our Magen David.

While my parents told me to be proud that I am a Jew, and she probably called the school principal to clear the way for us to enter the building, there was never any meaningful discussion of anti-Semitism among the members of my family, at the public school I attended, or even at my synagogue.  Looking back at those years, it seems to me now that nobody wanted to talk about anti-Semitic hatred, harassment of Jews, vandalism directed at Jewish families or even anti-Jewish violence, no matter how mild.  The attitude seemed to be one of “ignore it and it will go away.”

Still, none of these incidents affected my interest in being Jewish.  I happily attended the Los Angeles Hebrew High School, enrolled in undergraduate courses at the University of Judaism (now the American Jewish University), spent six summers at Camp Ramah in Ojai, California and plowed ahead with my plans to enter Rabbinical School and become a rabbi.  The anti-Semitism I had grown used to in my childhood and teen years did nothing to question my commitment to Judaism or dissuade me from living a Jewish life.

My childhood experience was the product of the times and community in which I was raised, as well as of my parents’ reluctance to rock the boat of acceptance they likely felt they were working hard to navigate.  But it is not a model for how to address anti-Semitism in the United States or anywhere else in the world.  We are facing a brewing crisis and we must be pro-active in our response to the anti-Jewish sentiments and actions we see around us.  This is the message of the landmark new study of anti-Semitism just released by the American Jewish Community.  The study coincides with the first anniversary of the horrific murders of 11 Jews praying on a Shabbat morning at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last October.  It is the largest and most comprehensive study of American Jewish attitudes on anti-Semitism to date.

The survey indicates that American Jews are deeply concerned about anti-Semitism and believe it is getting worse. Nearly 88% of American Jews (88%) believe anti-Semitism is a problem in this country.  More than a third of respondents say they have personally been the targets of anti-Semitism, in person, by mail or by phone.  Young people are significantly more likely to have been victims of anti-Semitism.  Nearly a third of American Jews say they have avoided publicly wearing, carrying or displaying things that might help people identify them as Jewish, while 25% of respondents say they avoid certain places, events or situations out of concern for their safety or comfort as Jews at least some of the time.  American Jews resoundingly view efforts and statements against the state of Israel as being tainted by anti-Semitism. For example, the statement that “Israel has no right to exist” is viewed by a large majority of respondents as anti-Semitic.

Surveys define problems and issues, but we require action and solutions.  What should we do?  As I said in my Rosh Hashana sermon, we need to be proactive and vigilant in our response, which should include at least three elements:  knowledge, pride, and partnership.

We need to be knowledgeable about the threats we face as Jews.  I ask you to attend the ADL’s Never Is Now Summit on anti-Semitism and hatred sponsored by the ADL on November 21 at the Jacob Javits Center.  Oheb Shalom is part of the ADL’s Signature Synagogue program, and any of our members who register will receive an 18% discount on the cost of registration.  And this Friday, come to Oheb Shalom to hear Fred Bloch, Senior Vice-President at the ADL, speak about “The Four Corners of Anti-Semitism.”  Fred will address our congregation after a brief Shabbat service.

We need to express pride in our Jewish identity.  This is not a time to hide our Jewishness out of fear or conspicuousness.  As I said on Rosh Hashana, if the goal of anti-Semitism is to intimidate Jews and eliminate Judaism, then we must resist by fully embracing our way of life and our heritage.  We must support, with resources of time and money, synagogues, our Jewish Federation, Jewish Day Schools and summer camps and the State of Israel.  It is the responsibility of each generation to ensure that Judaism grows and does not diminish.

And we need to build and sustain partnerships with all those who oppose hatred and anti-Semitism, not merely for our own sake but because we need a united front of good and decent people to oppose all forms of bigotry and oppression.  That is why this Shabbat Oheb Shalom is participating in Show Up for Shabbat, a project initiated by the AJC.  Launched last year right after the Tree of Life massacre to banish fear and nurture solidarity among ALL peace-love and hate-rejecting people—not only Jews—this moment is happening again.  By participating, we are sending the message that our services this Friday are open to all those who want to stand together in opposition to anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred, racism, and bigotry.

Knowledge, pride, and partnership…these are the keys to standing up and standing strong to combat the scourge of anti-Semitism and hate.  We must take this threat seriously, not out of fear or anger, but out of a strong desire to build a world of decency and peace.

Presentation: Spy Wars

05/15/2019 02:12:51 PM


Lifelong Learning

SPY WARS: Revealing new color to Mossad, CIA, Shin Bet & other spy agency stories

How have the elite Mossad, CIA, and Shin Bet spy agencies changed and where are they going next?  This is a chance to hear wild new details and stories, some of which will be revealed for the first time.

Yonah Jeremy Bob lectures on foreign affairs and is the Jerusalem Post Intelligence, Terrorism and Legal Analyst.  Speaking in the US, Canada, and Israel since 2000, he covers diplomacy, security, the Mossad, war crimes and BDS, cyber warfare, and politics.  He was an IDF lawyer and worked for multiple ministries.  Yonah has provided analysis to CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, the Washington Post, and Sky News.


Barcelona Magic

04/25/2019 12:07:46 PM


Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

There’s a Jewish proverb that says "No matter what happens, travel gives you a story to tell." You never know what surprises you’ll find when you travel and where your feet will lead you.

My daughters and I spent a few days in Barcelona, Spain at the beginning of April. We planned to see the usual sites: a walk along La Rambla, tour Gaudi’s famed Sagrada Familia… and Park Guehl, the Picasso Museum, a stroll along the Mediterranean.

But it’s the unexpected that sometimes leaves the greatest impression. 

Whenever I visit a new city, I try to attend Kabbalat services, dragging along whoever is with me.

Several weeks before our visit, I researched the various synagogues in Barcelona. There is one Masorti/Conservative synagogue in the city. We emailed as requested and filled out an online form.

So Friday afternoon, we hailed cab, identification in hand, and took off for ATID, located in an ordinary neighborhood on two floors of an office building.

As we found out, if we didn’t know it was there, we might not have found it even after the cab dropped us in front of the unassuming building. Nothing stood out to differentiate this building from any other in the neighborhood- at least not until we spied a mezuzah discretely attached to a commercial looking door.

That must be it, we decided and approached. While we are much more security conscious in the US than ever before, the Europeans have it down to a science as we found out as we approached the door and were confronted by a burly man who proceeded to ask a series of questions: where are you from; have you ever been to Barcelona before; have you been to a synagogue here; why are you here; do you attend synagogue regularly; what’s the name of the rabbi at the synagogue you attend.

I guess we passed the test as we were let into the building. It looked strangely familiar despite the different language. There was a case with ritual items for sale. There were several bookcases with siddurim. There was literature on community events. And there were people milling around waiting for the 7:30 service to begin even though it was after starting time.

Jewish time is universal.

So far, so good. But we were in for a treat. After we took our seats, scores of young adults in their 20s and early 30s walked in. Wow! This congregation of 250 people must be quite a place to attract so many young Jews.

But like us, they were visitors, delegates from Masorti groups around the worlds whose leaders were meetings for a leadership conference.

And that’s when the magic began. Young leaders from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, France, Israel, Kenya, Spain, Sweden, Uganda, United Kingdom, Ukraine and the United States led the service which was conducted mostly in English, the language most common to the participants and the congregation.

The tunes were mostly familiar Ashkenazic. Most Conservative Jews would have felt comfortable; participation and ruach were high. But we knew that we were not in the U.S. when one of the prayers was sung using a Hungarian melody and then when several were sung to African tunes and a rousing Adon Olam was led by the Spanish contingent. A young Ugandan woman led the service in fluent Hebrew.

The history behind the Ugandan Jewish community is fascinating. In fact, the Abayudaya Jewish community is marking its 100th anniversary this June in Kampala Uganda.

To make this experience even more unique was seeing Rabbi Stephen Berkowitz, an American expat from Westchester County, who had been serving as an interim rabbi in Strasbourg a few years ago when I visited. He now resides in Barcelona and is the rabbi of ATID.

Following the service we shared wine and hallah; the young people went off to a dinner on the lower level of the building and the rest of us went of to wherever we had dinner plans.

The spirit lasted for us through the rest of the evening as we walked along the sea, shared a pitcher of sangria and remarked about the closeness of the Jewish world.

Where else but in this Jewish world could we have attended a Conservative/ Masorti  synagogue, led by an American expat rabbi, hosting an international group of youth leaders, davening with tunes from several different countries  and speaking in Spanish and English? And everyone was smiling!

Was it an irony that the next day we toured the miraculous Sagrada Familial designed by Antoni Gaudi? The contrast between the physical spaces was dramatic, but the spirit infusing both spaces was palpable.

Our Jewish experience concluded on Sunday with a tour of Jewish Barcelona. In a way that is a misnomer, for most of Jewish Barcelona is no more, wiped out, not in 1492 but in 1391 by a pogrom which destroyed much of the community which was either killed, forced to flee or convert.

One can see traces of old Jewish Barcelona in La Call, the Jewish quarter of narrow streets.  While there is almost nothing left of the community, a small museum is built over the purported site of the synagogue.  There are a few streets named after prominent Jews.

 And on buildings here and there, if one looks carefully, pieces of engraved stone can be seen. These are tombstones that were removed from the Jewish cemetery and used for building.

What a poignant reminder of a once flourishing community that made up as much as 15% of Barcelona’s population. The cemetery is a virtual wilderness on Montjuic, a park named for the Jewish cemetery. Once a defensive site, today the park, set on a steep hill overlooking the harbor, is home to the Miro Museum as well as other recreational facilities.

Vibrant Jewish life did not return to Barcelona until after the Franco era.  However, the revitalized  community has grown and flourished and now has several synagogues,  a few kosher restaurants, and new members, from around the world,  identifying with the community.

Barcelona is a friendly city, easy to find one’s way around. The pace is not frenetic. Dinner is late (and the food is delicious) There’s something for everyone in this city where modern buildings meet the sea and the old meets the new.

Reading related to Spanish and Sephardic Jewry:

Alexy                         The Mezuzah in the Madonna’s Foot: oral histories exploring five hundred years in the paradoxical relationship of Spain and the Jews.

Brooks                      The Woman Who defied Kings: the life and times of Dona Gracia Nasi—a Jewish leader during the Renaissance.          

Carvajal                    The Forgetting River: a modern tale of survival, identity and the Inquisition.

Corona                     The Mapmaker’s Daughter: a novel. (FIC)

Gordon                     The Last Je. (FIC)

Jules                          Never Say a Mean Word Again: a tale from Medieval Spain. (JFIC)

Miklowitz                Secrets in the House of Delgado (JFIC)

Morris                       Gateway to the Moon: a novel (FIC)

Netanyahu              The Origins of the Inquisition in fifteenth century Spain.

Ragen                        The Ghost of Hannah Mendes: a novel (FIC)

Shulevitz                  The Travels of Benjamin of Tudela: through three continents in the twelfth century (JBIO)

Sternberg                The Sephardic Kitchen: the healthy food and rich culture of the Mediterranean Jews


How To Help Your Children Thrive

01/08/2019 11:35:40 AM


Gavin Hirsch, Education Director

Why do you send your children to the Zeman School? Please don't misunderstand, I am happy that you do! But I have found that sometimes parents don't always have an answer to that question, at least not one that they find truly satisfying.

Let me offer one that may resonate with you: you send your child to get a Jewish education because you believe, somewhere deep in your soul, that doing so will help them thrive. That being comfortable in their spiritual skin is part of a recipe for them to feel at peace and emotionally whole.

If that resonates for you, or perhaps more importantly if you think that's crazy, then I'd like to recommend, "The Spiritual Child" by Dr. Lisa Miller. Dr. Miller, who is at Columbia University, explores and scientifically tests the connection between raising children with spiritual awareness and their ability to thrive in a chaotic world. Spoiler alert: spirituality is important.

She will show you the science, but not so much that your eyes glaze over, and then she'll offer practical steps of ways you can make spirituality a core value for your children. I promise that, at the minimum, you will be left with a lot to think about.

And if at the end you still don't have an answer to why you send your kids to get a Jewish education... well, then we'll keep looking for an answer.

Wed, April 8 2020 14 Nisan 5780