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Get Ready for Lag B’Omer

Ready to celebrate Lag B’Omer on Sunday on May 14th? Need a quick refresher on the background? No worries. MyJewishLearning has a great overview of why we are celebrating this holiday, and what we are commemorating.

 

Bonfires (or campfires) are a fun way to observe Lag B’Omer. And if you’re going to have a bonfire, you really ought to have s’mores to go with it. S’mores don’t really need a recipe, but here is one from Jewcy with a fresh take on the idea.

 

If you’re a more adventurous chef, here are some Israeli inspired recipes for Lag B’Omer from Joy of Kosher.

 

And did you know that archery is also associated with Lag B’Omer? Did you ever take archery as a kid in summer camp? Check out this short article from the blog: Rabbi on a Narrow Bridge that explains a bit more about the connection between archery and Lag B’Omer.

Partnerships Make Our Community Stronger

Partnerships Make Our Community Stronger

As the rabbi-in-residence at ShalomLearning, I get to do some pretty awesome things.  Aside from writing these articles, I also get to see the inner-workings of an organization that cares deeply about its mission, its students, its educators, and most importantly, its community. One of the hardest things an organization has to do is internal reflection and decision making.

Recently, ShalomLearning decided to focus on partnering with congregational schools – to ensure their success and growth by providing curriculum and professional development that embraces technology. With 80 synagogue partners expected this fall, and an 82% retention rate, the program’s success in these communities is evident.

In addition, ShalomLearning offered an online program for students who don’t attend traditional congregational school programs because of geographical or other constraints.  Many of the participants are US military family stationed abroad or in remote areas that lack a solid Jewish community.  I was very honored when ShalomLearning leadership asked if my organization, Online Jewish Learning, would take over this program.

Online Jewish Learning has been providing one-on-one tutoring for ShalomLearning for the past few years, and in my role as Rabbi-in-Residence at ShalomLearning, I have made other countless connections in this community. Therefore, I can be confident that Online Jewish Learning will continue  the same fantastic ShalomLearning program to these students this fall. I am so proud to be part of Jewish organizations that are working together, utilizing each other’s strengths to provide the best options for the greater community.

One of the most important parts of being a Jewish educator is creating experiences that meet families and students where they are. We understand there isn’t just one way into Jewish learning. People come from different backgrounds, lifestyles, affiliation, and skill base. Through the partnership of ShalomLearning and Online Jewish Learning, we’re able to provide an engaging Jewish education to a larger spectrum of families.

Thank you for letting us teach your students. The greatest honor a teacher can have is that their students teach them as well. We have learned a great deal from your students’ insights, questions, and discussions and look forward to another year of Jewish learning with you.

Finding Meaning in the Highs and Lows

Finding Meaning in the Highs and Lows

Living in the diaspora (outside of Israel), we don’t always celebrate the holidays that occurred this past week: Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Yom HaZikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israeli Independence Day). As someone who grew up in Israel, I remember being in school and hearing the siren marking the moment of silence both on Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron. Many of you may have seen the videos of cars stopping on the middle of the highway for the duration of the siren and people getting out of the cars.  It is incredibly powerful standing in silence as a community to remember the lives and memories of those who are no longer with us.

These solemn holidays are immediately juxtaposed with the joyous celebration of the establishment of the State of Israel, Yom HaAtzmaut. We go from mourning and sadness to the most celebrated day in Israel. This video, from BimBam, explains the holidays well – including the contrast.  

Why this sudden change?  And what can we learn from it?  Israelis live in the moment. Each moment is celebrated to the fullest because of the reality of their world. They can not live every moment in fear of the enemies that surround them, nor can they ignore that there are many who do not believe Israel should exist. As a rabbi, one day I may be leading a funeral service, and the next day a baby naming. Life is about navigating the stormy waters and hoping to see a rainbow at the end. We will experience ups and downs, but we must find balance and making meaning at the other end.

It is my hope for us as we emerge out of this month of exciting Israeli holidays and another school year comes to a close that we try to maintain the balance in our lives.  Together we can we navigate the challenges and the joys with patience and hope.

The Next Generation of Peaceful Warriors

The Next Generation of Peaceful Warriors

“All that is written in the Torah was written for the sake of peace.”

-Tanhuma Shoftim 18

Shalom Chaverim- Hello Friends,

We’ve made it to our seventh and final unit for the school year: “Shalom.”

Our last four lessons are all about peace, and there is no finer way to end the semester.

Many of the wisdom traditions see peace consciousness as our true self, where there is nowhere to “get to.” By merely rediscovering our true essence, or rather, our timeless and boundless souls, one is immersed in a state of peace. That is beautiful, and meditation is an incredible way to connect to our “wholeness” or “completeness” which is the root of Shalom.

I could write about the soul all day in my personal passion for the metaphysical, but in search of a deeper connection to the ShalomLearning community, I researched in the physical world. Turns out that there are precisely six “colleges of war” in the United States.  I am not a fan of war per se, but I also understand that security is an important value too. Until there is a complete consciousness change of only seeking peace in our world, we certainly need our military. Our brothers and sisters of arms are selfless heroes and they are doing an amazing job at keeping us safe in the United States, Israel, and other countries that value freedom. Thank you to all those that protect us.

But I am also happy to report that there are 40 other colleges that offer programs and degrees in “Peace Studies,” such as in Peace and Conflict Resolution.

And yet Judaism has been doing this for thousands of years: striving for social justice, human rights, ethical behavior, conflict management, etc. Our “degree in peace studies” is simply “living a Jewish life.” As I touched on in the last newsletter, Jewish wisdom helps develop more evolved compassionate and just human beings. And we define Shalom as “helping to create a calmer more peaceful world.”

Shalomlearning graduates understand how their Jewish values help them live meaningful lives. Whether it is creating social change in their mitzvah projects, learning the numerous prayers for peace from our Tefillah program, “Shalom Bayit” (peace in the house), or even just understanding that Shalom is in the root of “Jerusalem” from our Israel Studies integrations – our students get it. They are the next generations of peaceful warriors.. And what an honor and a privilege it has been to study together all year!

I look forward to 5778 and continuing to build a more just and peaceful world together.  May you have a wonderful summer and shine the light of peace wherever you are, and most importantly, who you become.

Shalom,

Josh

 

 

Passover Resources

Passover Resources

Passover is just around the corner. Whether you are busy cleaning, preparing to travel, or just looking forward to getting together with family; here are some resources that can help make the holiday more meaningful.

 

If you don’t already have a recipe for Charoset passed down in your family, try this one from Food Network.

 

Here is a series of resources to help make the seder more accessible to people with a variety of special needs from Gateways.

 

Has your family discovered Quinoa yet? It can be a great option for those who don’t eat rice. Read more about it at MyJewishLearning.

 

Is there a Harry Potter fan (or 2) in your family? Check out the new Hogwarts Haggadah. It is already a bestseller on Amazon.

 

Or perhaps Hamilton is more your families speed. This Hamilton Haggadah is a free download. (If you click on the song links you can listen to them in Soundcloud)

 

And, because you can never have enough Passover recipes, try this Chocolate-Toffe Matzoh from Bon Appetite.