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.