Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We Give Thanks

Thanksgiving Sukkot and Chanukah, which is it?

Last year at this time the Jewish world was in a frenzy as we were celebrating Chanukah and Thanksgiving on the same evening.  Because of the Hebrew calendar and the fixed date of Thanksgiving this will not happen in our lifetime, not for many year to come.  

As we prepare for Thanksgiving this year I go back to connecting Sukkot and Thanksgiving as I think these 2 holidays have more in common than Thanksgiving and Chanukah, let's say.  Dr. Jonathan Saran, a professor of American History at Brandeis University tells us that, "The Puritans did not believe in fixed holidays, If it was a good season, they would announce a thanksgiving, but it’s not like the Jewish holiday which occurs on the 15th of the month of Tishrei (Sukkot). They did not believe in that. So in that respect it’s different.”

Sarna goes on to explain that, “They knew what they called the Old Testament, what we call the Hebrew Bible, they knew it, and they were influenced by it,” Now they didn’t go out and build huts, obviously. But the notion that one would be thankful for a bountiful harvest was certainly one they would have learned from the Hebrew Bible.”

In fact if we look back in secular American history  we find that Thanksgiving did not become a fixed holiday in America until President Abraham Lincoln established it in 1863. The holiday also did not have a fixed date until Congress established one—the fourth Thursday of each November—in 1941. Ask your parents and grandparents who remember Thanksgiving before 1941 when they celebrated the holiday.  

I know that we are all thankful for the having food, shelter, education and living in a wonderful community.  I do get phone calls at this time of year asking what we can do to help those who are not as fortunate as we are.  I first respond that during November and December most food banks and soup kitchens have more than enough volunteers.  However you can always donate to local food pantries!  Here are a few:  

    6450 N. California
   Chicago, IL 60645 (773) 973-1000

 Northfield Office and Pantry Hours.
     Passport Plaza Building
     3801 West Lake Ave
     Glenview, IL 60026, Phone:(847) 724-8300
Deerfield Food Pantry
     601 Deerfield Road      
Highland Park Pantry 
     777 Central Avenue,847-432-3240 
Cool Food Pantry
     121 W. Water St.
     Waukegan, IL 847-662-1230

I would also remind you that by February these same soup kitchens, food pantries and food banks which are full to the brim now are looking for volunteers again.  I will try to remind everyone that this is the time to go out again and lend a hand.  I hope everyone has a good and meaningful Thanksgiving.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

OSRUI: Retreat builds Kehilah,community, Kehilah (clap)

Our 5th and 6th grade retreat was last weekend with Or Shalom.  We had a wonderful time and I think as a result more students are thinking about making the jump to chanichim (campers). They also deepened their friendships with Lakeside friends and met new Or Shalom friends.  This weekend a few of our students will be joining Or Shalom on their Youth group trip to Dave and Busters.  It's all a win-win for us.

 I am always happy and excited to see how our students connect with one another, the other congregation and just connect with camp.  It was a cold weekend but we enjoyed ourselves.  From camp-like T'filot, to eating in the Chader Ochel, (dining hall) and running around on a scavenger hunt it was a packed weekend.  We went with Micah Brandhandler our URJ Camp Fellow and he was also able to program and connect with all of our students.  Both Micah and I get questions about how families can help pay for camp.  Here are some FAQ's about OSRUI:

  • When you register for camp with OSRUI, you must put down a deposit.  The standard deposit is $400 per camper per session and may be paid via credit card or check.  If you are applying for a scholarship, you may pay $200 per camper by check only.  OSRUI cannot confirm your child’s enrollment or hold his/her spot until they receive the check.

  • For campers attending a session for the first time for 19 days or longer (even if you’ve attended a shorter session in the past)you can apply for a grant from One Happy Camper. These grants are not need based.  See their website for more information and to apply:  /

I hope this helps set you on the path to camp.  If you have any questions please feel free to call me.  Here is the the link to the iMovie about our weekend.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

What's going on in Hebrew school?

Every Tuesday from 4-5:45pm at Lakeside Congregation our students from  Kitah Aleph through Kitah Dalet learn, read, drill, sing, play games and sometimes even pose for pictures and an iMovie.  I am the Kitah Aleph teacher and watching my students go from knowing no written Hebrew at the beginning of the year to being able to recognize all the letters and vowels and to read simple prayers is a wonderful feeling.

Kitah Aleph 2014
Teaching Kitah Aleph also gives me the opportunity to get to know students who are in our program.  As they get closer to B'nai Mitzvah I am also the staff person who works with them on their D'vrei Torah, speech for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah.  Watching as our students grow into young adults is a perk of the job.  I take great satisfaction in watching them go through our system and  learn to read Hebrew.  I tell new parents that although our curriculum concentrates on Hebrew needed for t'filot, (prayers) we do teach some conversational Hebrew along the way.  Our students will not be able to get off the airplane in Tel Aviv and get directions to your hotel but they do all have a working knowledge of Hebrew.  Most of our students have the opportunity to take Hebrew in our local High Schools and I know that our Lakeside Students have done well in these programs.

This year we also welcome Todd Kessler, our song leader who is leading song sessions during Hebrew school.  It gives us more time to learn how to sing prayers and Hebrew songs.  This week we concentrated on learning the prayers and melody for the Havdalah ceremony.  
Kitah Aleph 2014

If you want to see a time lapse video of my class and all we do in one afternoon here you go.  There are some pictures of my class as well as regular video.  It's not long and I hope you have a taste of what we do on almost every Tuesday during the school year.

Time Lapse Video of Kitah Aleph.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Shabbat and Halloween 2014: Challenge or Not?

Halloween and Shabbat
This year Shabbat and Halloween are on the same night.  This may not pose a problem for some families as they will trick and treat and then light Shabbat candles (or not).  At Lakeside we made a strategic decision to have T'filot at 7:30 pm and hope that more people will be in attendance.

There are many articles on this topic including a great article by Edmon Rodman in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.  How do I feel it is a complicated topic.

The first year I was an educator and Halloween fell on Hebrew school date I was determined have Hebrew school.  I had less then 10 students out of 100 attend that afternoon.   Thank goodness Halloween has not been on a Tuesday for a few years.  Now with the hours of Halloween not just strictly recommended by each local city but most families adhere to these hours.  I have watched Halloween over the years become not just a much bigger American celebration but it also heralds the beginning of the Christmas season as well.

Challah with Candy
We do not celebrate Halloween at Lakeside or at any synagogue or Jewish pre-school.  We don't come in costumes or give out candy.  We certainly acknowledge that our students trick or treat and are part of American culture in this arena.  Could we add a Challah filled with candy as seen in Tablet Magazine?
Purim 2014-5744
I hope that you remember that our holiday with costumes is Purim.  The rule in my house was whatever you wear for Halloween you wear again at Purim.  Enjoy Halloween and keep those costumes for Purim 2015!  If I don't see you at Halloween I will see you at Purim!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Social Action Shabbat and Welcoming New Members

 October 24 at our 6:00 pm T'filot we will welcome our new Lakeside members and highlight our social action committee.

Lakeside Congregation has a very active social action committee which has just passed the torch of Leadership from Joyce Lyon to Len Solof.  Looking for a new mitzvah project check out our Lakeside Social Action page and find projects for all ages.  I refer many of our B'nai Mitzvah students to this page and  they find all the information they need to complete 13 hours of Mitzvot.

7th and 8th Grade at Northern Il Food Bank
The social action committee meets monthly to discuss new projects and to bring meals to different homeless shelters in our community. The social action committee is also committed to visiting our Lakeside members who are homebound and they enjoy these visits.

Lakeside's Religious school is also very busy with monthly social action projects.  We pack for our local PADS shelter every 3rd Sunday and ask different grades to bring in the food we need to pack 50-100 lunches.  Thanks to Jill and Michael Klee, Missy Pos and all of the volunteers who help organize the packing of all of the lunches to those who help schlep the lunches to Waukegan.

On the 2nd Sunday of every month we have one grade go the Northern Illinois Food Bank and we carpool with parents for an intergenerational experience.  We pack, sort or do whatever the food Bank needs us to do.  This is and was a favorite project of Rabbi Isaac Serotta's and he was instrumental in having the food bank open on Sunday so our families and congregants can experience this mitzvah.

Jill Klee also spearheads our visits to the soup kitchen at Beth Emet which is in Evanston.  On Wednesday afternoon's we bring the ingredients, cook the meal and serve it to over 100 people in their community room.  Many of our B'nai Mitzvah families have participated in this mitzvah and it always make a deep impression on them.
Beth Emet Soup Kitchen

Our annual mitzvah day will be May 3, 2015.  We will again have numerous opportunities to do Mitzvot in our community including participating in the Chicago Walk for Israel.

Looking for some social action projects?   Click on this links or come in to Lakeside and I can give you even more ideas.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Jewish Camp is good for you and here are the numbers to prove it!

Lakeside at OSRUI 2014

I have been involved in Jewish camping for many years and I know it's good for you.  Now I have the numbers to prove it.

The impact of overnight Jewish camp is immediate and lasting. (Data via JVillage)

"Studies show that children who go to Jewish camp are more likely to become adults who value their heritage, support Israel, are engaged in their communities, support more causes, and take on leadership roles throughout their lives.  The influence of summer camp on the ways in which adult Jews choose to engage with the community and the degree to which they associate with other Jews can be felt long after the last sunset of the summer. The impact is striking, especially when compared to their peers who did not spend their summer months at Jewish camp."

OSRUI is our Jewish camp of choice! We have scholarships at Lakeside and you can visit to find out how new campers can save up to $1,000 or 40-60% off their first summer through BunkConnect™, FJC's newest program designed to make camp more affordable for more families. 

We want as many of our students at OSRUI as possible.  Both Rabbi Serotta and I spend time their every summer and have sent all of our children.  We know how valuable and meaningful the summer was for our personal children and the children we send from Lakeside.  

This Sunday October 19, Max Weinberg, Assistant Director at OSRUI will be here at 10:00 am to talk to us and answer questions about OSRUI.  Please join us in the sanctuary and wear your camp T-shirts.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Seasonal Jewish Greetings: What do they mean and when do I use them?

This time of year can be confusing with what Jewish greeting should you use.  Special thanks to Rabbi Nicole Greninger for compiling this complete list.  I know I should have had this list 2 weeks ago but better late than never.   I have highlighted in yellow some greetings for the next 8 days.  Sukkot is a fun holiday and I hope that everyone comes to Lakeside and enjoys our Sukkah on Sukkot.  Sushi in the Sukkah is tonight and next Wednesday at 7:00 pm is Simchat Torah, we will end the cycle of Torah reading and immediately begin it again.

It can be confusing to know when to say which Jewish greeting but I have the website for you:  Is it a Jewish Holiday today?  Try it out.

While giving you a fun website to look up I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I have a brand new Imovie which shows Rabbi Serotta's Sukkah going up in time lapse.  Sukkah Movie. Thanks to Allison Gelman for the music suggestion We built this city by Starship.  It fits perfectly. 

 I hope to see everyone this week and I wish you all Chag Samaech and Moadim l'simcha.  

Phrase - Translation - When to use it

Shalom (or L'shalom) - Hello, goodbye, peace - Anytime
L'hitraot - See you again soon - Whenever you're saying goodbye to someone
Shabbat shalom - Have a peaceful Shabbat! - Weds through Sat
Shavua tov - Have a good week - Sat night through Tues
Shana tovah (or L'shana tovah) - Happy New Year - Starting about a month before the High Holy Days and up until / including Rosh Hashanah
Shana tovah u'metukah - Have a happy & sweet New Year - Same as "shana tovah"
G'mar chatimah tovah or g'mar tov - May you be sealed for good (i.e. may you be sealed in the Book of Life on Yom Kippur) - Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur
Tzom kal - Have an easy fast - Before any day on the Jewish calendar when it's customary to fast (including Yom Kippur)
Chag sameach - Happy holiday! - Before and during holidays that are 'chagim,' which includes the first and last days of Sukkot & Passover, Shavuot
Moadim l'simcha - It's the season/times of joy - During chol ha'moed, which includes the middle days of Sukkot & Pesach (in other words, you begin the holiday saying Chag sameach, then you say Moadim l'simcha for about a week, then Chag sameach at the end of the holiday)
Chag Sukkot sameach - Happy holiday of Sukkot - First and last days of Sukkot
Chanukah sameach - Happy Chanukah - Before/during Chanukah
Chag urim sameach - Happy holiday of lights - Before / during Chanukah
Chag Purim sameach - Happy holiday of Purim - Before/ during Purim
Chodesh tov - Happy new month - On Rosh Hodesh (the first day or two of each Hebrew month)
Yasher koach - Great job - When someone accomplished something or did something great (i.e. 'nice job chanting Torah!')
Mazal tov - Congratulations - When something exciting happens, such as the birth of a new baby, a wedding, etc.
B'sha'ah tovah - In good time (also has a congratulatory connotation) - When you find out that someone is pregnant (in other words, you don't say 'mazal tov' until the baby is born since it's not a 'done deal' yet... rather, you say 'b'sha'ah tovah' to mean, may the baby come at a good time, i.e. when s/he is really ready to be born and no sooner)
Kol tuv / kol tov - All is good, may all be good - A generic greeting that closes letters / e-mails any time of the year
B'ezrat Ha'shem - With God's help - When you're hopeful and/or cautious about something
Baruch dayan ha'emet - Praise the Judge of truth - When you first hear about a death... The phrase is said in order "to acknowledge that the poignant mystery and tender thread between life and death is in God's hands, so to speak" (Rabbi Howard Ruben's beautiful explanation)

Yom Huledet Samaech (my addition) :  Happy Birthday, and my greeting on Facebook when I wish everyone Happy Birthday.