Weekly Reflections from our CEO, Daniel S. Blain

Weekly Reflections, 3/24/2023


In Pirkei Avot 3:17 (Ethics of our Fathers), we read Ein kemach, ein Torah — If there is no bread, there is no Torah.  In other words, if there is no food in our stomachs or if we don’t have the physical or emotional essentials for life, then it is impossible to absorb the words of Torah or experience spirituality.  

Based on this interpretation, I think we can substitute “security” for “bread” – at least in the current environment. Like bread, security is both a physical and emotional essential for life. Like food, it has to be on our mind every day – not something you do and move on from. This need was reaffirmed yesterday when the ADL released it’s 2022 audit of antisemitism in the United States – and in our region: https://cleveland.adl.org/news/adl-audit-finds-antisemitic-incidents-rose-to-all-time-high-in-2022/. This sadly is the world we now live in.  

To that end, we are very pleased to announce that Gary Rhines has accepted our offer to be the inaugural Director of Community Security for the Jewish communities of Akron and Canton. Gary started in this position at the end of February.  

Some of you have already met Gary, either in the interview process or since he started. Gary brings to the position over 35 years in law enforcement and security, including serving as Police Chief in Walton Hills from 2003 – 2011 followed by several lead security roles in the private sector – with the Renaissance Hotel, the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, and Great Northern Mall. He also has worked with Oren Baratz and Jim Hartnett, who are the leads in Cleveland’s model community security program.  

Gary has a passion for training, which will be one of his early priorities, along with conducting physical assessments, updating policies and procedures, managing security grants, and building relationships with key staff and security personnel in both Jewish communities.  

The development and funding of this position was a group effort involving all of the Akron and Canton congregations and community agencies – so Gary’s role goes well beyond the Schultz Campus. Our thanks to Shaw JCC, The Lippman School, Schultz Towers, Jewish Family Service, Beth El, Anshe Sfard/Revere Road, Temple Israel and the Canton Jewish community for being full partners and funders in this process, convened by JCBA and chaired by Mike Segal. We have also coordinated with the LiveSecure program of the Jewish Federations of North America, which provides matching funds for these positions. While Kent State Hillel works with Cleveland on security, Gary will assist on any of their programs taking place in Akron or Canton.  

While Gary will be covering the region, when on campus he is in the office across from the JCC Presidents’ photos. Please join me in welcoming Gary to JewishAkron.


Shabbat Shalom! Daniel

Weekly Reflections, 3/17/2023


This spring, JCBA is going through a rebranding process which will lead to the adaption and roll out of a new name – JewishAkron. It’s a name which more clearly articulates who we are and what we stand for and will resonate with a next generation that is less focused on legacy institutions and more on authentic experiences.  Despite being the only Federation-type entity in the country known as a Jewish Community Board, many communities are going through a similar change to become Jewish{insert city name here}.  

I think of JewishAkron on three different levels – the organization, the community, and the spirit. The organizational one is clear and straightforward as JCBA morphs into JewishAkron. But what does it mean for our community?

JewishAkron is much more than JCBA’s new name but represents the entirety of our Jewish community – on the Schultz Campus and beyond – Shaw JCC, The Lippman School, Jewish Family Service, Hillel, Schultz Towers; the congregations; Jewish programs or experiences like J-Ticket, Rubber City Jews and PJ Library; the Akron Jewish News; even the local Jewish cemeteries. 

Entering through any of these doors means you are part of JewishAkron, a full-service, accessible community which provides opportunities for engagement at all ages. And, while most of these component parts can stand on their own, we will be much more effective and impactful through partnerships and collaboration. In the words of H.E. Luccock, "No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it." 

Which leads us to the last and perhaps most important level – the spirit of JewishAkron. Based on my experience this past year, several descriptors come to mind when I think of JewishAkron:  

  • Warm and welcoming; non-judgmental
  • Accessible and affordable
  • Engaging, challenging, fun
  • Innovative, creative, dynamic
  • Care for our bodies and souls
  • Respect for our communal heritage and elders, but open to new and different
  • Connected to the Akron general community, Israel and the broader Jewish world
  • Steeped in Jewish values and traditions – repairing the world, pursuing justice, fulfilling our responsibility to one another

Looking forward to joining you on this exciting journey.

Shabbat shalom! Daniel

P.S.  Please join us on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. for Israel: Why Should I Care? (The Meaning & Connections to Our Homeland), a timely and important panel discussion featuring Rabbi Josh Brown from Temple Israel, Rabbi Jeremy Lipton from Beth El, and Rabbi Moshe Sasonkin from Anshe Sfard – and moderated by Jennifer Chestnut. Light refreshments will be served. You can rsvp here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/israeljcc

Weekly Reflections, 3/3/2023


Tuesday night we celebrate the holiday of Purim. There are a number of laws and traditions associated with Purim, including making Matanot L'evyonim, gifts to the poor. This mitzvah is central to the spirit of Purim. Which raises one question – Why?  

As Jews, not only do we have our individual obligations and responsibilities, but to other members of the community as well. Another law of Purim is to participate in the seudah, the Purim feast. But let’s face it – there are people in every community who may not have the financial means to cover the cost of the meal. Matanot L’evyonim is a way to level the playing field, so that all of us, regardless of our means, can participate in this joyous occasion.  

JewishAkron’s 2023 Campaign operates in a similar fashion. The dollars raised in the Campaign open the doors of our community to people in need. The examples are countless – young families with children at Lippman or the ECE, made possible by our unique J-Ticket program; older adults brought together at the JCC for social and physical activity; individuals and families in crisis helped by Jewish Family Services; Jewish college students enjoying a shabbat or holiday dinner at Hillel; homebound Holocaust survivors in need of food and companionship.  

Your gift to the Campaign opens these doors. JewishAkron approved a $1.4 million goal this year – a level not reached since 2016. What we have found throughout this year’s Campaign is that when people hear the story and are asked to participate, most respond very positively.  With the help of the Mandel Match, we have had over 100 new donors since January 1 – and are now less than $21,000 from surpassing our goal. The end is in sight.  

Many of you have volunteered for this Campaign – thank you for everything you have done! And it’s never too late; please let me know if you are willing to help us get over the top by contacting some of our remaining prospects.  

Wishing you and your loved ones the happiest of Purims.


Shabbat Shalom! Daniel


P.S.  Please hold the date and plan to join us on Sunday evening May 7 for JewishAkron’s Israel@75 celebration, featuring award-winning musician Matisyahu, who will be performing at the Goodyear Theater. Matisyahu is known for his positive lyrics and vibrant blend of rock, reggae and hip-hop, much of which is intertwined with his spirituality and roots in Judaism. More information to follow…

Weekly Reflections - 2/17/23


This morning I learned about Chik Chak Shabbat, a wonderful children’s book written by Mara Rockliff, which tells a touching story about how diverse neighbors in one apartment building come together to celebrate shabbat in a way that honors and respects the entire community. While it is geared for 3-7 year olds, it’s a good read for any age.  (You can buy your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Chik-Chak-Shabbat-Mara-Rockliff/dp/0763688959)


The Duval County (Florida) School District felt differently, as the book was pulled from circulation for 15 months to ensure the content was “appropriate” for children. While it eventually was returned to library shelves, this is representative of Florida’s current efforts to curtail curricula and other materials which recognize, celebrate and respect all the elements of a multi-cultural society.  


In contrast, today on the Schultz Campus, the Summit County Historical Society's John Brown Institute is hosting a youth empowerment summit in partnership with Shaw JCC and The Lippman School to provide students in grades 8-12 – from over a dozen Summit County schools – the opportunity to express their voice and work with facilitators encouraging them to take charge of their lives. Participants will discuss and develop ideas that address major issues facing our community, becoming part of the solution as champions of change with civic engagement.  

Of course, this is an everyday occurrence in JewishAkron and on the Schultz Campus. Driven by our Jewish values, we recognize, celebrate and respect the incredible diversity of greater Akron. In turn we build broad appreciation and understanding of who we are and what we stand for.  


Shabbat Shalom,


P.S. Please join us to help successfully close the 2023 Campaign at Shalom Sunday, February 26, from 1-4 p.m. Our goal is within reach!  You can register here:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ShalomSunday

Weekly Reflections - 2/10/23


This week’s Torah Portion is Yitro (Exodus 18:1–20:23), best known for Moses receiving the ten commandments at Mt. Sinai. What is less well known is why the portion is called Yitro, and some of the leadership lessons emanating from the text.  

Yitro was Moses’ non-Jewish father-in-law, who helped reunite Moses with his wife and children. Moses loved and respected Yitro. Being a mensch, Yitro was concerned with how much Moses had taken on in terms of his leadership responsibilities and that he was at risk of burning out. Being a father-in-law, he had to give some unsolicited advice, namely “the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” And being perhaps the first organizational consultant in the Torah, Yitro went on to recommend a system of judges who could step in and solve many of the issues that otherwise were cast onto Moses’ shoulders.  

The takeaway is an important one. True leadership requires acknowledging your limits, asking for help and empowering others who are more than willing to step up when asked. What a great reminder that communal leadership is a team sport. This is what I’ve experienced throughout JewishAkron – a spirit of collaboration between and among professionals and volunteers, agencies and congregations – all committed to enhancing Jewish life in our community and recognizing that none of us can do this on our own.  

In that spirit, we come together annually to raise the funds needed throughout the community through the annual campaign. This year, we have the very real opportunity to grow the Campaign and what it makes possible in the community and beyond.   

For those of you have made your annual contribution, thank you! To those of you who have asked others to do the same, thank you too! Please join us at Shalom Sunday, February 26, from 1-4 p.m. as we work together to close the Campaign and fulfill our responsibilities as a community. It truly takes a village.  https://www.jewishakron.org/news/current-news/shalom-sunday-mandel-match

Shabbat Shalom,


P.S. Please watch and share this short video featuring our outstanding campaign co-chairs, Steve Kutnick and David Stock. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gwD8RgY5YM

Weekly Reflections, 2/3/23


Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.  -Sir Winston Churchill

Many of us have been watching events in Israel since the newest government was formed – specifically around the legislative efforts to limit the power and authority of Israel’s Supreme Court. This is an extremely serious and complicated issue that has led to massive protests in Israel and by a broad spectrum of pro-Israel advocates and analysts. Unlike the United States, Israel does not have a constitution or a bill of rights. Like the United States, Israel has become deeply divided, which has increased the power of some of the more extreme parties in the Knesset who are part of the governing coalition.

The message below, from the leadership of JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America), provides important background and perspective on this issue, which has the potential to alienate many Jews and harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship. Ironically, this comes as Israel prepares to mark its 75th birthday, an opportunity to celebrate Israel’s myriad accomplishments and contributions to Jewish life and humanity.

So where does this leave us? Three thoughts:  

  1. We need to understand the complexities behind the headlines. Join us on Tuesday, March 21 for Israel: Why Should I Care? a panel discussion featuring Rabbis Joshua Brown, Jeremy Lipton, and Moshe Sasonkin. Stay tuned for more information on this program and other Israel @ 75 events in JewishAkron.
  2. As we complete the 2023 Campaign (with Shalom Sunday on February 26), we need to remember that our dollars address pressing human needs in Akron, in Israel and in Jewish communities throughout the world. We must fulfill our responsibility to those who rely on us – for food, for shelter, for healing and for hope.
  3. We also help victims of terror and their families. Last shabbat, seven Jews leaving Friday night prayers in Jerusalem were killed by a terrorist, with another ten sustaining injuries.  They need us too.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Shabbat Shalom Daniel


Dear Friends,

As you are no doubt aware, there is currently intense debate in Israel surrounding potential reforms to Israel's judicial system, especially on matters related to the relative power of the Knesset vs the Supreme Court. We have previously sent information regarding the arguments put forward by the proponents and opponents of the reforms. There are a growing number of experts taking the position that some changes to the current system are needed, but that the bills submitted by the governing coalition are too far reaching. See, for example, articles on the matter written by the director of the Jewish People Policy Institute, Professor Yedidya Stern, as well as Dr. Shuki Friedman, the Israel Democracy Institute’s Yohanan Plesner, and former US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. The Jewish Federation system is a supporter of the Jewish People Policy Institute, and we have partnered with the Israel Democracy Institute in a series of informative webinars on the issues that the new government in Israel have brought to the forefront (See our recent webinars on the new Government, the LGBTQ community, and the Law of Return). This issue will be also be among the topics we delve into in-depth at our Israel at 75 General Assembly in April.  Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, in a public address last week, expressed deep concern over how the issue was dividing Israeli society: "This charged issue is on the verge of exploding…. This is a time of emergency, and the responsibility is ours. We must strive for broad agreements and not for forced submission. Playing a zero-sum game threatens us all, because whoever demands surrender today - will be forced to surrender tomorrow.” Herzog added: “My firm position is that the foundations of the Israeli democracy – including the judicial system, human rights, and freedoms - are sacred, and we must protect them - as well as the values expressed in our Declaration of Independence… It is permissible and appropriate to criticize each of the state's authorities, and it is important to understand the depth of the frustration, anger and pain that is behind the criticism of the judiciary… It is legitimate to discuss the boundaries and relationships between the authorities - just as democracies around the world do. But through dialogue. By listening.” Herzog said he had spent the last few weeks trying to mediate between the sides, and while he admitted that he was not sure his mediation efforts would succeed, he has said that he is not willing to give up and that he hoped that the sides would reach a middle ground. Meanwhile, numerous other concerned voices have emerged. These have included high-tech workers, former legal officials, well-known conservative political figures, former senior government officials, traditional pro-Israel stalwarts calling for North American Jewish intervention, and the current and former governors of the Bank of Israel (equivalent of the US Federal Reserve). The Prime Minister has publicly dismissed economic concerns. At the same time, yesterday, Israel’s Attorney General said that the Prime Minister could not be involved in promoting the reforms, due to a conflict of interest since he is currently on trial. Finally, the controversy is starting to reach the international arena. See the comments by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit to Israel last week, the comments of French President Macron to Prime Minister Netanyahu during the Prime Minister’s visit to Paris, and the internal report of the influential bank JP Morgan in New York. In the coming weeks, discussions and debates on these issues will continue in Israel, as the proposed reforms take their first steps through the legislative process. Jewish Federations of North America are keeping a close watch on this issue and will update as needed. Our Board of Trustees will also be discussing this issue at our Board meeting this Sunday and Monday, February 5th and 6th. If you are a board member and have not yet registered for the meeting, please contact Adina Schwartz. For more information on the new government, see our up to date resources page.

Shabbat Shalom, Julie Platt, Chair of the Board of Trustees Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO

Please enjoy Weekly Reflections from our Jewish Community Board CEO, Daniel S. Blain


Blain joined the JCBA in February of 2022, and has been leading the Akron Jewish community’s efforts to preserve, perpetuate, and enhance Jewish life in Akron. He works to cultivate a culture of collaboration among donors, key stakeholders, lay leaders, professional staff, volunteers, and the Schultz Campus agencies. Outside of the campus, Blain serves as the voice of the organized Akron Jewish community, creating and supporting connections and relationships with Summit County organizations, the broader non-Jewish community, Israel, and our overseas partners.

Weekly Reflections, 1/27/2023


This Shabbat, Jews throughout the world will read Torah Portion Bo, Exodus 10:1 – 13:16. It’s a story we all know well – the last three of the ten plagues, followed by Pharoah finally relenting to let the Israelites leave Egypt. The portion continues, “They baked unleavened bread (matzah), because they could not delay before they left Egypt.”

That’s the interesting part! The Israelites were in Egypt for upwards of four hundred years. Yet, when they were allowed to leave, they couldn’t even wait to bake bread for the journey. Which begs the question – What’s the big hurry?  

Rabbi Yossy Goldman suggests that the issue was not concern about Pharoah changing his mind. Rather, it reflected God’s wish to get the Israelites out before they changed their minds – deciding that to be a slave with a roof over your head is preferable than the unknown before them.

Rabbi Goldman continues, “so, when the moment of the Exodus arrived, it was a dramatic window of opportunity. Had they not grasped it with both hands at that very moment, it’s possible that these and other doubts might have crept in and delayed the whole experience.”

Are our lives today so different? It is very easy to get comfortable and to miss opportunities – individually and communally. It takes courage and faith to “grasp the moment and embrace new visions and horizons.”  During my first year as CEO of the Jewish Community Board, I have seen these dynamics in action. Leadership is about change, and change can be difficult and unsettling. I am confident this is a community which will recognize opportunities, have the courage to tackle them, and ultimately become the JewishAkron which will prosper well into the future.

Shabbat shalom,


Three other points:

  1. Our annual campaign is closing in on $1.1 million raised as we move to achieve our $1.4 million goal. Thom and Lisa Mandel, through their family foundation, are matching all new, increased and additional contributions to the campaign between now and our campaign closing, Shalom Sunday, on February 26. Please help us by making your own increased commitment and asking others in the community to do the same. Together, we can make sure that we have the resources to meet our current responsibilities and embrace future opportunities. For more information: https://www.jewishakron.org/news/current-news/shalom-sunday-mandel-match  
  2. Join us on Tuesday, January 31 at 7 p.m. to hear Israeli environmentalist Oded Rahav share his extraordinary story about how Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians are working together for the survival of the Dead Sea. RSVPs required - https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/savethesea. You can learn more about the Dead Sea Guardians here: https://dsgproject.com/  
  3. As I write this, I just learned about a horrendous terror attack on worshipers leaving a Jerusalem synagogue which left at least seven dead. Please keep them, those wounded, their families and the people of Israel in your prayers this Shabbat for healing and for peace.

Weekly Reflections, 1/20/2023


This Shabbat, Jews throughout the world will hear the Torah Portion Vaera, Exodus 6:2 – 9:35. Vaera, besides being my bar mitzvah torah portion from 1978, tells one of the most famous stories from our history – the ten plagues which the wrath of God brought down on Pharoah and the Egyptians.

The parsha, prior to the plagues, recounts the conversation between Moses and God, where Moses shares his concerns and reservations about his ability to keep the Israelites together. “Remind them, God says to Moses, that they are in the midst of an ongoing process. Remind them that this process began long ago, with their ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who also had to learn that the covenantal promise would not be completely fulfilled in their lifetimes.”

This is why we recite at the Passover seder, “we must learn to view ourselves as having personally experienced the Exodus from Egypt.” Dr. Regina Stein, Director of the Hadassah Leadership Academy, notes that we, as our ancestors before us, tend to focus on the immediate moment with its problems and crises. But to be a Jew is to realize that we are part of a process that began thousands of years ago and will not end in our lifetimes. This is echoed in the words of Pirkei Avot, ethics of our fathers, “You are not required to finish your work, yet neither are you permitted to desist from it.”

Some important advice here. Over time, it is human nature to become complacent, check out, move on. But as Jews, if we believe that we are part of this multi-generational story, then we have to stay focused as we write the next chapters. We have the power to not only contribute to that story – but to shape it for those who follow. 

In JewishAkron, we are working to create and perpetuate that story every day, through programs that bring us together to learn about and celebrate our heritage, services which take care of the most vulnerable in our community, our commitment to raise the funds required, our belief in tikkun olam, repairing the world and in gemilut hasadim, acts of loving kindness.

We are coming off some difficult weeks, with the losses of Pam Kanfer, Arlene Rossen and Ari Pollachek, the 15-year-old grandson of Herb and Dianne Newman. And while it is tempting at these moments to throw up our hands and walk away, our best tribute to those who have passed on is ensuring that we continue to develop this remarkable story that each contributed to – for our children, our grandchildren, and the generations to follow.

Shabbat shalom,


Weekly Reflections, 12/16/2022


Last night, 60 community members came together for a unique Chanukah Campaign improv event – with the theme of “dedication.” Special thanks to our story tellers – Rachel Pretzel and Toby Rosen – who each shared compelling personal stories about what dedication means to them.

In the most literal sense, the Hebrew word Chanukah means dedication, as the holiday commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

But what does dedication have to do with the Campaign? Support of the Campaign – through both asking and giving – is an act of dedication, as we fulfill our sacred responsibilities to take care of one another and to repair the world. And just like our lighting of candles on Chanukah, we revisit this campaign ritual every year, with renewed dedication to provide light and hope for those in need and for our collective future. Together, we create modern day miracles.

In the words of the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, "There always were two ways to live in a world that is often dark and full of tears. We can curse the darkness, or we can light a light, and as the Chassidim say, a little light drives out much darkness. May we all help light up the world."

Thank you for your dedication to JewishAkron this Chanukah and through your support of the Campaign.   

If you haven’t yet seen Six13’s very fun and creative Elton Johnukah, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Z4WE-kt64  

If you didn’t see my appearance on Forum 360, moderated by Stephanie York, and have an extra 26 minutes, please click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wJ63iOIZy4  

If you are looking for a schedule of JewishAkron’s various Chanukah celebrations, please click here: https://www.jewishakron.org/public-events  

Finally, regardless of whether or where you click, we wish you and those you love a Chanukah filled with joy, light and meaning.  

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!  


Weekly Reflections, 11/18/2022


Thursday evening, many Jews, like other Americans, will be sitting down for the traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Aside from overeating, watching nine hours of football, and occasionally being annoyed by family members, what is the point of the holiday?  And what’s Jewish about it?

We all know the narrative of the pilgrims fleeing religious persecution in Europe to come to a place where they would be safe and free to practice their beliefs. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the Jewish people had a similar journey a few thousand years ago. And in fact, many of the Pilgrims thought of themselves as the new Israelites, fleeing England, crossing the Atlantic, and settling in a promised land. That’s a lot to be thankful for. As Jews, we express our thanks to God regularly, through the Brachot (blessings) we make daily and throughout the year. Baruch atah Adonai, Blessed are you God, is said before countless acts in our lives – waking up each day, before and after eating, experiencing nature, recovering from an illness, observing shabbat, celebrating an experience for the first time in a given year. Through these blessings, we acknowledge a power higher than ourselves and appreciation for the good things in life – even at times when it may be hard to be thankful.

Author and Rabbi Naomi Levy, offers a Jewish Thanksgiving prayer:

For the laughter of the children, for my own life breath, for the abundance of food on this table, for the ones who prepared this sumptuous feast, for the roof over our heads, the clothes on our backs, our health, and our wealth of blessings, for this opportunity to celebrate with family and friends, for the freedom to pray these words – without fear, in any language, in any faith, in this great country whose landscape is as vast and beautiful as her inhabitants. Thank You, God, for giving us all these. Amen.

This year, I’m thankful for being embraced by JewishAkron, a warm, engaged and connected community; working with passionate, dedicated professionals and volunteers committed to a higher purpose; developing new programs and models to deepen connections to Jewish life; being healthy and well, and having the privilege of helping those less so; sharing the love of family and friends; enjoying a good book, a shabbat nap, and this year’s Cavs team.

What are you thankful for? Wishing you and your loved one a most happy and meaningful Thanksgiving.

Shabbat Shalom,


Weekly Reflections, 11/11/2022


This week’s Torah portion, Vayera (Genesis 18:1 - 22:24), recounts the story of Abraham starting three days after his self-circumcision at age ninety-nine. Three angels appear disguised as men. One shares that Sarah (age 89) will give birth in the coming year. Abraham pleads and bargains with God to spare the wicked city of Sodom, where his nephew Lot lives. Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt when she disobeys the command not to look back as they flee. Lot sleeps with his two daughters in a cave, fathering two sons. God remembers His promise to Sarah, and gives her and Abraham a son, who is named Isaac. Abraham is one hundred years old, and Sarah ninety, at their child’s birth. At Sarah’s insistence, Abraham’s wife Hagar and son Ishmael are banished from their home and wander in the desert, with Ishmael also becoming a father of a great people.

Nothing to see here! Pretty standard stuff…

But then, the dramatic ending. God tests Abraham’s devotion by commanding him to sacrifice his beloved Isaac. Isaac is bound and placed on the altar, and Abraham raises the knife to slaughter his son. A voice from heaven calls to stop him; a ram, caught in the undergrowth by its horns, is offered in Isaac’s place. And we’ve been blowing the shofar ever since.

Rabbi Joshua Heller of Congregation B'nai Torah in Atlanta raises a fundamental question – why would Abraham argue with God about saving the wicked city of Sodom but readily comply with instructions to sacrifice Isaac? How could Abraham care so deeply for strangers, but not fight for the life of his own son?

Rabbi Heller suggests that “it took the threat of the knife for Abraham to appreciate the relative importance of the single, unique soul that he and Sarah had made together. It took an unfathomable divine decree, for Abraham to be truly present with his son. All of us face the test of Abraham. Will it take a moment of crisis before we walk together with those we love?”

On Sunday, please join us as we walk and work together to care for those long departed, many with no one remaining who can show them their love. Our annual cemetery clean-up will take place at Sherbondy Hill from 9:30 – 11:30. Please bring your gardening and yard tools; we will provide the coffee, hot chocolate and donuts. While not as dramatic as being asked to sacrifice our own children, it is our opportunity to honor the “single, unique souls” who walked before us in this great community. Hope to see you there.

Shabbat Shalom,


Weekly Reflections, 10/28/2022

As many of you know, I’ve been off the grid for a few weeks due to a family visit to Israel. While I have been fortunate to have participated in many Israel trips and missions, this one was unique. We took my 88 year old mother, who recently lost her husband (my father) of 65 years. We visited family and friends throughout the country, from my nephew Zion in Neve, a newer community in the Negev formed by Israelis who previously lived in Gaza, to Gonen, a kibbutz in the north which is feet away from the pre 1967 border with Syria, and where my nephew Maayan and his family are building their dream home using ancient techniques and sustainable materials. A third nephew – Elie – has a beautiful modern home in the settlement of Tekoa with windows looking out at Herodian, the fortress built by King Herod between 23 -15 BCE. We also spent time in Israel’s two main cities – Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – each with its distinct history and character. And we enjoyed meals in multiple sukkot throughout the country (but not at what might be the world’s only Pizza Hut sukkah).