By Rabbi Niles E. Goldstein
Last Sunday, our Va'ad (synagogue board) spent an entire day discussing both the current status of The New Shul, as well as our vision of where we think it ought to be headed. Though there was great consensus among us, many important questions were raised:
* What are the religious (and non-religious) needs and desires of today's Jew in downtown Manhattan?
* What does it mean to be a Jewish spiritual community?
* How can The New Shul help us as we explore our identities and educate our children and ourselves?
As a rabbi, one of the most vital areas of synagogue life that I value is Jewish learning. Yet the attendance at many of our adult learning programs is poor. Why is that? Please help us to help you. Try to answer the following question:
"I have not attended any of the Shul's adult learning opportunities this year (Sunday brunches, evening text study, Torah discussions, museum visits) because..."
a. I'm just too busy with work and/or family and Jewish learning isn't a priority for me.
b. None of the subject matter interested me.
c. My inolvement in The New Shul is directed toward my children, not myself.
d. I feel intimidated by Jewish classes because I do not know anything about Judaism.
e. None of the above, or a combination of the above.
Thanks a lot. Please answer in the "Comments" section, and feel free to elaborate on your choices.
Monday, November 26, 2007
By Rabbi Niles E. Goldstein
Join us for the second in our museum series this Sunday, December 2nd, at the Ground Zero Museum Workshop at 420 West 14th street, Floor 2 (between 9th Avenue & Washington Street). Known as the "Biggest Little Museum in New York," all images in the museum are by Gary Marlon Suson, the Official Photographer at Ground Zero for the Uniformed Firefighters Association.
The intention of Mr. Suson's Museum Workshop is not to be a harrowing experience; on the contrary, it is meant to be a beautiful and touching way to remember the fallen and those that struggled to recover them.
Tickets are $19 for this guided tour - which begins promptly at 1:45 - and advanced tickets are required so please RSVP to email@example.com if you plan on joining us by Tuesday, November 27 at noon as tickets are going fast. Following our tour, we will have an informal chat at a local coffee shop to discuss our reactions to this moving exhibit.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Here's a little follow up to our tour of the Hall of Human Origins at the Museum of Natural History and our discussion about evolution and intelligent design.
It seems as if Ben Stein, former Nixon speech writer, Game Show host and - most famously - Ferris Bueller's economics professor, has taken up the cause of intelligent design in a new documentary due out in Feburary. "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," is (according to Stein's Blog) "a controversial, soon-to-be-released documentary that chronicles my confrontation with the widespread suppression and entrenched discrimination that is spreading in our institutions, laboratories and most importantly, in our classrooms, and that is doing irreparable harm to some of the world’s top scientists, educators, and thinkers."
Here's a trailer for the film:
Also, here's Stein talking about the film on Bill O'Reilly's program:
What do you think? Does he have a point?
Sunday, November 11, 2007
IT'S 5768: DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR IDENTITY IS??
By Rabbi Niles E. Goldstein
Remember those TV announcements that asked parents to keep an eye out for their children as it started getting late? Well, consider this an announcement from your rabbi attempting to do something similar. It is 5768 in the Hebrew calendar--and the hour is getting late. After many years, you belong to a shul. Mazal tov. Your kid/s attend religious school. Nice move. Now what about yourself? You're a Jew. What does that mean? Can you even answer that question?
Too many of us neglect our own identity needs as Jews. We like to show up on occasion for social or festive events, but God forbid we carve out a couple of hours for a Shabbat service or an adult learning course. We have Ph.D.'s, M.D.'s, and successful careers, but we know zilch about the basics of our religion. We're "cultural" Jews, whatever that means. I am here to say that it is just not enough. Sure, we can hide behind our feigned ignorance, but I see right through it and I won't let you off the hook. I care about you too much.
Go to www.newshul.org and click "Learning." Sign up for one of our wonderful Jewish educational programs. Attend something that enhances your identity--something with teeth, something that might challenge you, but that offers you the opportunity to learn about your faith and heritage--and, ultimately, yourself.
Friday, November 2, 2007
In anticipation of Monday night's session, I wanted to send out a link to a good overview of the issue as it played out in my seminary - The Jewish Theological Seminary - earlier this year.
This link will take you to a PBS segment from the show "Religion and Ethics Newsweekly" (with a video in the upper right hand corner) that provides a nice background to the story, with some interviews with a few of my classmates and professors.
Here's some info on monday's session:
"Jewish law and Homosexuality"
Led by Rabbinic Intern and attorney Dan Ain, this series deals with the interplay between Jewish law and personal belief. This session will grapple with the traditional Jewish understanding of homosexuality, which stems from a controversial verse in the Book of Leviticus. In addition, we will look at the recent decisions from the Conservative Movement's Law Committees on whether or not gays and lesbians can serve as Rabbis.
Brandy Library ( 25 N. Moore St. b/w Varick & Hudson Sts.)
Fee: $18/session members, $20/session non-members (Cost includes one drink. Full bar and dinner menu are available.)
R.S.V.P. to firstname.lastname@example.org