Shana Tova! Our year is off to a great start here at ShalomLearning! We are so excited to launch another great year of learning, engaging discussion, and thoughtful questions in our classes and communities. Our numbers have grown significantly, and we welcome our new friends along with our old ones. We look forward to all the joys this year brings for our extended ShalomLearning family.
In our last academic year, ShalomLearning outperformed all of our goals: delivered quality Jewish education to over 2,500 students, trained over 250 educators, and strengthened partnerships with 50 congregations.
Thanks to your involvement, ShalomLearning’s programs continue to scale up at a very exciting pace. As of this writing, we have grown our synagogue partnerships yet another 40% for this current academic year, bringing our total synagogues partners to 73 in 21 different states, Canada, and Bermuda (and we’re still hearing from congregations that need our program)!
ShalomLearning’s deep commitment to professional development, easy to use virtual classroom tools, engaging Jewish values curriculum, and blended Hebrew programs create meaningful relationships between teachers, students, parents, and their Jewish communities.
I wish you a sweet and happy New Year with blessings of strong and vibrant learning communities deeply rooted in Jewish values.
L’Shana Tova U’Metukah!
Missing the Jewish holidays? We’re approaching a minor one, Tisha B’Av or the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av. We observe this holiday each summer usually at the end of July, beginning of August. Unfortunately, no BBQs or big family meals. It’s a day where we abstain from eating and drinking. While it is not the most fun holiday, it is definitely one of the more important holidays we observe during the year.
This year Tisha B’Av starts the evening of July 31st and ends the night of August 1st. The 9th of Av is the day the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed. The temples were the center of Jewish life and practice from around 957 BCE through the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. During this period of time, Jewish life looked a lot different from today. Rather than praying to God, animals were sacrificed on an altar in the Temple. It’s probably not something that would really fly today, now would it?
So how can we, our children, and our communities commemorate this holiday that seems so far from us? First, we can remember, which is always important for all of the tragedies our people have faced in the past. Second, we can be grateful and appreciate the Judaism that we are so fortunate to have today. The Destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem forever changed the way that we exist as Jewish people. While it is considered the saddest day of the year, out of this terrible destruction came great light and beauty.
There is a story that is told in the Talmud about two rabbis walking in the rubble of the Temple in Jerusalem. One is completely distraught that the Temple is gone and does not know how they will continue. The other rabbi tells him not to worry, because God does not crave animal sacrifice, but rather the offerings of the heart. Now that we do not have a Temple in Jerusalem we each have to look inside ourselves and offer something of ourselves in order to preserve the Jewish tradition and community. What does this look like? This Tisha B’Av let us each commit ourselves to one mitzvah, one good deed, we will do the week of Tisha B’Av in remembrance of the Temple. This is a perfect way to commemorate this minor holiday because it is through deeds that we sustain the Jewish people and the greater world.
Wishing you and your family a wonderful summer and a meaningful Tisha B’Av. May your exploration of mitzvot/good deeds be rewarding and meaningful for you.
This year, the holiday of Shavuot comes just about on the heels of Memorial Day.
As this holiday often falls after the end of the Hebrew School year, many are unfamiliar with the holiday. You can get some basic background at Judaism 101.
It is traditional to read the biblical Book of Ruth on this holiday. To find out why, check out My Jewish Learning.
If you have never read the Book of Ruth, it is quite short and can be found at Jewish Virtual Library
If you are already familiar with the book, here is a new way to study the text: A Woman Who Doesn’t Quit
It is customary to eat dairy foods on Shavuot. Of course, like many Jewish traditions, there is more than one explanation. Aish.com offers up 7.
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.
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.