Monday, July 14, 2014

Israel: It's complicated

The Hebrew word for situation is Matzav, however when you talk about the Matzav in Israel you are referring to the situation on the ground and what is happening in the streets.  The matzav is code for the difficult situation Israelis and Palestinians find themselves in not just now but always.  Sometimes we have to hear how it feels to live there.  Our cousin lives in Beersheva,close to Gaza.  Below is Ronna's letter from July 14th.  It gives us just a quick glimpse into daily life in Israel.  I think Ronna has summed up my feelings as I run to watch the news and get updates from my chaverim and mishpacha in Israel.  Read what she has to say:
Gabay Family, home base BeerSheva, Israel

Hi Everyone,
It's the eighth day of fighting.  Thanks for the emails of concern - it feels good to have you asking how we are. I'm sorry to have taken so long to respond and let you all know what's happening. Somehow, I just never sit still long enough to write.   Well that's not exactly true.  I had reports to write for the end of the school year; it usually takes a few days but I had trouble concentrating so it took much longer.  Also there was the little matter of my car being stolen right at the beginning of the fighting……
To more important things, none of the kids are involved, at least not yet.  Omer has not received the emergency call-up.  Raanan is doing professional training (in the army) and less likely to be called (I hope).  Yogev is busy with rehearsals and getting ready for his August journey to studies in Boston.
We here in Beer Sheva seem to be getting fewer rockets than in the past……or maybe I'm just more used to it, so it makes less impression. 
Some glimpses of life with rocket fire: 
It means driving with the air conditioning on full blast because of the heat, but keeping the windows open part way to be sure to hear if there is a siren.
I was at a graduation ceremony at Ben Gurion University, before things got so heated up (now they don't allow events with more than 150 people). They began with a request by the security people that if there was a siren, everyone should lie on the ground and cover their heads with their hands.  This is the standard procedure if a person can't get to a safe building.
On the radio, no matter what program is on, they interrupt to announce whenever there is a siren and where it is.
I sometimes go out for walks in the morning and sometimes not.  When I do, I have all my safe (relatively) spots memorized from the last time, so I know where to go to have some minimal protection.  Why do I walk?  It gives me peace of mind and gets me outside, which I need.
How do I feel about all this?  Sometimes I am afraid, mostly I am overly attuned to the radio and with my ears always half-cocked, listening for a siren.  I am frustrated that our government doesn't do enough to try and make peace with, at least, those of the Palestinians who are interested.  Intractability, lack of real leadership keeps this situation dragging on and on.  There is no one to take a big step to make a change.  So all this will happen again and again and again….
Love to you all,

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Community coming together to mourn at Lakeside 7-2-14

The past 24 hours have been particularly painful as we all learned of the death of  Eyal Yirach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, may their memories be a blessing.  It is hard to watch all the news, social media and television coverage of this tragic event.  I know that many people's first response is: How do we respond?  What can we do?

First I have two wonderful websites for teachers, parents and others coping with this situation:
From the Icenter and from the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland.  Both of these sites talk about a Jewish response and how to talk to children.  The JECC site also has Jewish texts to refer to and the ICenter site encourages us to discuss values as we talk with our students.

I think the most natural Jewish response is to pray.  In this vein 13 Congregations on the North Shore are coming together Wednesday July 2nd at 7:00 pm at Lakeside Congregation to pray.  It is unusual to have that many congregations pray together in the middle of the summer, Reform and Conservative shuls.  It is very comforting and I hope that many people will join us and feel the comfort all around.  I know that I am looking forward to praying with friends, colleagues, and congregants.

Please remember that Ravinia traffic may be heavy tomorrow so please leave enough time to get to Lakeside by 7:00pm.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mitzvah Day B'nai Mitzvah Dress/Suit Swap: Epilogue

Clothes being sorted
At Lakeside Congregation's Mitzvah Day for the first time we had one station where our students and families were encouraged to bring old B'nai Mitzvah dresses and suits to swap or to donate to tzedakah.  For many weeks they took up residence in my office and finally last week I made a trip to the Chesed Fund Warehouse in Lincolnwood.  It was a wonderful place and I am glad our clothes found the place that will eventually let them find the right home.

The Chesed Fund is not just a food pantry but also has clothes for adults and children, toiletries and school supplies. I was happy to find out clients are allowed to shop privately.  They come in one designated door and are allowed to shop one family at a time.  Volunteers are not in the building when clients are shopping.  The Chesed Fund  services primarily the Jewish community in Lincolnwood but anyone from the area who qualifies is welcome at the pantry.

From their website:

Chesed Fund: The Place to Turn for Help

There are hundreds of Jewish families in Chicago who were financially stable until a crisis struck. We’re here to provide immediate assistance – and set them back on the road to independence.
Stock room
We battle hunger, prevent eviction and homelessness, and help the unemployed secure jobs. We also offer a wide array of free merchandise to needy families, provide holiday and Jewish lifecycle event assistance, and help send children to Jewish schools and camps.   

This is a great place to volunteer and if you are looking for Mitzvah hours for B'nai Mitzvah or just want to volunteer this is a wonderful place with lots of stocking to be done.  I know our students would find this work rewarding and they would feel as if they had contributed to a worthwhile cause.  They collect everything from hats, shoes, school supplies, baby buggies and bicycles.
Hats and shoes for Orthodox men

Summer is here and it's a good time to volunteer and donate your time and goods.  Most people have more time in the summer and if you want additional good ideas of where to volunteer our Lakeside Social action committee has put together a list of varied mitzvah projects for you to check out!

Let me know if check any of these projects and better yet send me a picture!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sandy Peterson, Z"L a wonderful person and a wonderful congregant

Sandy Peterson volunteering in the Religious School Office
Sandy Peterson, Zichrona L'vracha, may her memory be a blessing was a very active member at Lakeside congregation.  She was the Chair of the Religious School committee for many years and an active member along with her husband Ken, children Brian, Stacy and Jen.

Sandy was trained as a CPA and for many more years then she should have, she helped me to create and present my budget.  This was before excel spread sheets, before good computer programs and as you might be able to tell numbers are not my strong suit.  Sandy would patiently sit with me with her calculator and make sure I added up all my columns correctly and the budget was presentable.  Sandy was also a moving force behind Lakeside's celebration of my 13th year at Lakeside.  She was also happy to work hard behind the scenes.

This Sunday June 22 we have the opportunity to honor Sandy and fundraise for the Lakeside at 9 Rounds for Sandy by friends Linda Mayer and Abby Kurz:

From the Highland Park Patch:
When Sandy Peterson died of brain cancer 15 months ago, her friends Linda Mayer and Abby Kurz, owners of 9RoundNorthbrook fitness studio, vowed that they would not forget  her valiant fight to overcome this debilitating illness.   In October, 2013, when the two opened their studio, they immediately hung a picture of Sandy on the wall and turned to her for inspiration.
On Sunday, June 22, at 9 a.m., the first annual Sandy Peterson Walk, “ 9 Rounds for Sandy” will begin at Crestwood Park, 1824 Milton Ave. Northbrook. Families and individuals are encouraged to participate.  Along the way to the race’s conclusion at 1007 Waukegan, the home of 9Round, there will be nine rounds of breaks, all themed to a kickboxing routine, planned to invigorate walkers.  A water station will be set up at House 406, one of Northbrook’s newest restaurants, at 1143 Church Street, 
Participants are asked to stop by the 9Round office to fill out an application.  Fees are
$20 for families, $10 for individuals and $5 for children.   At the conclusion of the race, Sandy’s family; husband Ken, son Brian, daughter Stacy and daughter Jennifer will speak to the walkers about Sandy’s fight and the fight against brain cancer.  All fees will be divided equally and donated to both brain cancer research and the Sandy Peterson Fund for Education and Technology at Lakeside Congregation in Highland Park.
For more information call 224-235-4840 or go to

I look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday and I know Sandy would have loved this event. 

Here's an iMovie of the event:  Check it out.  

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Journey Continues High School Graduation, 2nd Grade and Confirmation

The week began with Ethan's graduation from High School.  It was a proud moment to remember.  Last child to move on to college is certainly a milestone and we look forward to many more.  I was struck by Ethan's graduation and my visit to Washington DC and confirmation.

While staying with my daughter in Washington DC.  I visited her 2nd grade classroom and as always I realize how important her work is with her students.  I showed them an iMovie about Ethan's graduation and we had a conversation about how important a High School diploma is for everyone.  I explained that after High School Ethan will go to college and that is also very important and another step in the right direction.

I explained to get a good job you must continue studying, you need to know how to read, do math and without these skills it is not easy in this world.  I know that every day in 2nd grade is hard to connect how the math tests and grammar lessons translate to High School graduation never mind a job.  I know that the students are inspired by her teaching and they have learned quite a bit from her.

This is not an easy job and although there are many rewards in teaching there are just as many challenges.  I have always admired teachers, whether in public school, Religious School and at any age.  It is not an easy profession and we need to look at our schools and students and help them learn so they can be successful in life.

Another milestone which all of my children achieved is Confirmation.  At Lakeside our confirmands are in 10th grade and our service is on Shavuot, Wednesday June 4, at  7:00 pm.

Again it may not be easy to connect staying in Religious School and becoming a Jewish adult  and living Jewishly at University but I encourage all my B'nai Mitzvah students to continue with Confirmation and study with Rabbi Serotta.  You may not need a confirmation certificate to find a job but we know it will enrich your life.  Please join us for this beautiful service.  I have always enjoyed confirmation and I know that this year's class will not disappoint us.   I look forward to more milestones with my personal children and my other children, my students.  I look forward to seeing you at Confirmation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tzedakah, Tzedakah, Tirdof, Tzedakah, Tzedakah you shall pursue Part 2

To continue the Tzedakah Recipients for Lakeside Congregation  Religious School for 2014 here we go:

2nd grade: Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel.

The Therapeutic Riding Center of Israel is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of disabled individuals through a unique therapeutic and recreational method: Animal Assisted Therapies 
(AAT). Today, over 700 people participate in our therapeutic programs. Along with therapeutic riding lessons, outdoor riding trails and a dog-assisted therapy program, the center offers in cooperation with the Israeli Sports Academy, Wingate, professional courses and training in AAT. 

5th Grade will be donating to PADS, via Lakeside congregation.  Every third week during the school year we pack and donate 50-100 lunches to send the PADS Shelter in Waukegan.

Packing for PADS
PADS’ vision is to provide a path to stable housing and self-sufficiency for everyone who experiences homelessness in Lake County. Our greatest hope is to help end homelessness and ensure happy, healthy, and safe lives for  generations to come.
We will take the 5th grade money and be able to buy some needed supplies when we pack for PADS.  We always seem to run out of bread, or chips and this will allow us to quickly run out and buy what we need on a Sunday.  

6th Grade is donating to Camp CAR, Madrich Will Rivlin will be a counselor there later this week.  

Camp CAR welcomes elementary school students from the city of Chicago. Campers who attend have the opportunity to meet teen mentors, eat three nutritious meals a day, and enjoy activities such as swimming, hiking, arts and crafts, cooking, and a variety of sports and team building activities – all for free!  If you are interested in donating to camp CAR:

Camp Car Supplies or checks can be dropped off or sent to: 
Camp CAR Donations 
Attn: Logan Zinman 
1121 Lake Cook Rd. Suite D 
Deerfield, IL 60025

I think that all of the projects  our students have chosen are well deserving of our Tzedakah we have collected all through the year.  Pleaser take a look at these projects and  I know you will be as proud of our students as I am.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Tzedakah, Tzedakah, Tirdof, Tzedakah, Tzedakah you shall pursue Part I

Not withstanding my title which is a play on  "Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof - Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may live, and inherit the land which the Lord your God gave you (Deuteronomy 16:18)." Sometimes at the end of a school year I do feel as if I am pursuing 1) Asking each class to decide on a specific Tzedakah 2) Getting these names and addresses to our bookkeeper  3) cutting checks and 4) publicizing the not just the miracle but what tzedakah we have supported this year.  Our teachers and students have made some wonderful choices. 

JNF Box from years past
I imagine that some of our parents and for sure our grandparents grew up with a Jewish National Fund Blue Box in their house.  It is a mitzvah, to give Tzedakah right before Shabbat, right before you light candles and sing Kiddush and do Motzi.  Now there are so many different Jewish charities and projects we can support it is hard to choose which one should get all the pennies, nickels, and dollars our students have contributed over the year.  Here is our list.  I recommend that you click on the link and find out more about all of these wonderful organizations.  

Kindergarten - 1st Grade will be donating a leaf on our Lakeside's Tree of Life.  If you want to donate a leaf for a simcha in your family feel free to contact Allison Gelman at  

3rd Grade:  The Ark
The ARK provides free social and medical services to help distressed members of our Chicagoland Jewish family return to self-reliance.  Lakeside does a food drive from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot for the Ark.  

4th Grade:  Leket Israel National Food Bank
Leket Israel
Serving as the country's National Food Bank and largest food rescue network, Leket Israel works to alleviate the problem of nutritional insecurity amongst the growing numbers of Israel's poor. In 2013, with the help of over 50,000 volunteers, Leket Israel rescued and distributed 25 million lbs of produce and perishable goods1 million prepared meals, and 1.1 million (8,000/school day) volunteer prepared sandwiches to underprivileged children. Food, that would have otherwise gone to waste, was redistributed to hundreds of nonprofit partners caring for the needy. Leket Israel offers nutrition education, capacity building, and food safety projects to further assist our partners.

7th Grade:  Keshet
Keshet is the premier provider of educational, recreational, vocational and social programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities operating according to traditional Jewish values.  Our mission is to enhance independence and integration to optimize personal potential.  Many of our 7th grade students have participated in Keshet's Buddy Sports program which allows their students to participate in baseball, bowling and have a fun time.  

8th and 9th Grade, Pre-Confirmation  St. Baldrick's Foundation: Rabbi Ike Serotta's Donations page
At the end of October, Rabbis Phyllis Sommer and Rebecca Schorr had a crazy idea: what if thirty-six Reform rabbis would shave their heads to bring attention to the fact that only 4% of United States federal funding for cancer research is earmarked for all childhood cancers as well as raise $180,000 for this essential research. As of today they have raised $617,993.  

We have a few more Tzedakah recipients and I will write more in a new post!