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  • Sun, September 22, 2019 9:19 AM | David Petersen (Administrator)

    By Mary Kanowitz

    Nestled next to Temple Israel’s Barbara K. Lipman Early Learning Center sits the Men of Reform Judaism MRJ-Brotherhood “house”—a meeting place where giving back to the community is on everyone’s mind.

    You will see the dedicated volunteers of Brotherhood all over the community, from the Purim Carnival, the religious school closing day cookout, and ever-helpful Madrichim at the Wendy and Avron Fogelman Religious School. The men of Brotherhood are also involved with Chazak and TI Crosstown, partnerships with ConnecTI and the BKL-ELC, and the safety of our community via the best security possible during the High Holy Days. Whenever they’re needed, Brotherhood is there.

    One way this active group supports the community at large is by providing scholarships to that magical place in Utica, Mississippi known as Henry S. Jacobs Camp (part of the Union for Reform Judaism) for local kids who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to be Jacobs campers. As the need for scholarship amounts fluctuate, Brotherhood realized they had an opportunity to do even more.

    A few years ago, Brotherhood graciously donated money for what many Jacobs campers call the “iceberg.” This giant climbing structure sits in the middle of the lake and provides fun and great memories for Jacobs campers every year. This year, Brotherhood called Jacobs Camp Director Anna Herman to ask her for a wish list. Once again, they were able to provide more than scholarship funding in the form of building a new test kitchen. One of the programs that campers can choose during their time at camp is a cooking course, and the new kitchen is an integral part of this experience. “We are very proud of being able to provide things like the new kitchen. We love to give back!” says incoming Brotherhood President, Marc Taub.

    This year, you can look forward to more partnerships with Temple Israel’s Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ-Sisterhood) including a bowling night. Additional new events will be kayaking and canoeing on the Wolf River, and teaming with Temple’s ongoing blood drive by offering cheek swabs that will help match donors to people who need bone marrow.

    While there are many wonderful programs and events hosted by Brotherhood, the one that stands out as their pride and joy is the award-winning annual golf tournament hosted at Ridgeway Country Club. Several years ago, Brotherhood President Alex Evans took over the planning and executing the event and has doubled the revenue. “This is a great day of fun, friendship, and giving back,” Marc said. In addition to using the revenue to help Temple, they also give back to other non-profits within the community.

    Additionally, Brotherhood offers a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for anyone. One thing that stands out about this caring group is that anyone can join. Marc says, “Volunteering is a great way to meet members of the Temple community and make new friends. You can give back to the community in different ways through fundraising, activities, or social action. Brotherhood benefits Temple and we get to have a little fun on the way!”

    One thing is clear: with Brotherhood, anyone can find their passion and tap into it. The more you get involved, the more you are able to feel connected to this vibrant community.


  • Mon, August 05, 2019 9:54 PM | David Petersen (Administrator)


    When acts of terror occur, we adults are filled with sadness and shock; worries about our own security and the security of those we love may become sharply increased in the aftermath of such devastation. Despite feeling confused and vulnerable ourselves, we feel called upon to offer explanation and reassurance to our children.

    Children and adults alike will have both practical and theological questions: How can we be protected from terrorism? Where is God? Why would God allow such things to happen?

    The most helpful response we can offer is to listen. But what can we do and say to help children through these difficult conversations?

    Jewish tradition implores us to face difficult situations together, choosing life and purposeful action even in the face of loss and uncertainty. There is no way to deny the pain and confusion that tragedy stirs, but there are some guidelines that can help children cope.

    Limit Access to Media

    When tragic and violent news is all over the media, children may not be able to avoid exposure to them, but it's healthier for kids to speak with a trusted adult who can listen and provide age-appropriate responses. Adults should be prepared to answer their questions and provide reassurance.

    Listen to Questions and Concerns

    Allow children to tell you what they have heard, ask questions, and express their feelings. You may start the conversation by asking gentle questions about what's worrying them or provide the opportunity to show their concerns through art. It's OK to correct misinformation they may have heard, but don't share more information than needed, and avoid gory details. If kids bring them up, steer the conversation to a less frightening place by acknowledging that these things are true and scary – but also rare.

    Understand That Children of Different Ages Have Different Needs

    All kids have individual ways of processing information and managing distress, so there is no cookie-cutter approach, but these basic guidelines help differentiate responses amongst age groups.

    Young children may simply need to have the tragedy acknowledged.

    • Protect them from hearing what they will not understand, and reassure them that adults are working to keep them safe.
    • Provide toys and art materials to allow for non-verbal expression.
    • Maintain a sense of security by continuing regular routines such as meals, baths, bedtime stories, etc.
    • Be alert to increased separation anxiety, tearfulness, defiance, or problems with sleeping or toileting.

    School-aged children may grasp more facts, but they still need to be made to feel secure.

    • Be honest, but remain optimistic, explaining the low likelihood of violence at home.
    • Stress that Jewish tradition encourages us to help those affected by tragedy, and point out all the instances of people helping others, including police, first responders, tsaddikim (helpers), etc.
    • Try to alleviate blame in kids who feel that bad things could have been prevented, as well as disappointment in adults for not being able to avert tragedy. Don't be alarmed if they talk about using superpowers or violence to prevent such events; fantasies may help them feel less helpless.
    • Help them forget adult concerns by returning their focus to the day-to-day life of school, family, hobbies, and activities.

    Teens are likely to have the most details and the most difficulty seeking help.

    They want to seem independent, yet such events may stir strong feelings of helplessness and fear. Desperately wishing for the world to make sense, teens are also old enough to recognize when it seems unstable.

    • Don't press teens to speak about the situation more than they choose, and respect each teen's way of coping.
    • Be patient with teens' reactions, which may change sharply and often. Teens may seem very mature one moment and childish at the next. This is normal and age-appropriate.
    • Don't shelter teens from the opportunity to understand the situation, but resist the temptation to turn them into confidantes or seek more support from them than is fair.
    • Offer avenues for helping, such as raising money for victims, working to increase tolerance, or taking classes on how to provide emergency medical care.
    • Help teens see the good in the world and remind them that even in a world in which there is war and terrorism, we continue to work toward peace. It's important to encourage teens, who may be prone to black and white thinking, to recognize the compassion and concern shown by police, clergy, congregations, and communal organizations that provide assistance.

    Provide Avenues for Action

    Everyone feels better when they can do something positive in the face of situations that make them feel helpless. Encourage kids to embrace our Jewish tradition of taking constructive action in the face of tragedy by helping those who have been affected and by honoring lives lost. They can write letters of support the families of those affected, collect tzedakah for relevant charitable organizations, and light candles in memory of the dead.

    Provide Opportunities for Spiritual and Communal Support

    Though children may have questions about how to maintain faith in God and humankind, we do not have to resolve all of these questions to find strength from a tradition that says we should come together to comfort, support, and inspire one another at times of tragedy and loss. Through our spiritual and communal practices, we teach children that life is precious and worth sustaining.

    Know When and Where to Seek Professional Help

    Seek help from a mental health professional if a child:

    • continues to show inconsolable fear and anxiety;
    • is more withdrawn or more defiant;
    • become increasingly interested in play based on violent themes;
    • cannot be consoled; or
    • exhibits or threatens violence toward himself or others.

    Parents who are overcome by anxiety may also benefit from professional help in overcoming trauma. Social service agencies, mental health clinics, school guidance counselors, private mental health practitioners, and pediatricians may all be helpful; consider specific programs for children and families who have been affected by traumatic violence.

    We can remind children that, though we cannot control everything that happens in life, each of us is best able to face life's hardships when we feel loved and cherished by others. Focusing on strengthening our ties to friends, family, and community helps us through difficult conversations and tough life situations.

    Together, we can take actions that restore a sense that there is indeed love, justice, protection, and order in our world – even though it is also a world in which terrible tragedies sometimes occur.


  • Mon, August 05, 2019 9:52 PM | David Petersen (Administrator)

    The Central Conference of American Rabbis mourns the deaths of more than 30 men, women, and children struck down by domestic terrorists in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio all within the last week. We pray for comfort for the victims’ families and for the healing of scores of injured individuals, many of them also mourners.

    All Americans should be shocked, though sadly, none should be surprised by these horrific massacres. They are enabled by the persistence of lax gun laws, the influential gun lobby,  and congressional leaders who continue to impede common sense gun legislation. Moreover, it is clear that at least some of the murderers have found inspiration in the racist hate speech emanating from our national leadership, including from the President.  Time and again, history has tragically taught us that targeted and hateful speech leads to hateful and violent action.

    The Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) teaches that whoever destroys a single life, it is as if that person has destroyed an entire world, but that whoever saves a single life, it is as if he/she has saved an entire world.  In the face of these recent tragedies, Reform rabbis are grateful for the life-saving, sacrificial, and extraordinary work of first responders, medical professionals, and chaplains, including our own colleagues, who devote themselves to the healing and saving of lives, and worlds.

    The time has long since passed for all people of conscience to unite in our efforts to try and prevent future massacres, by enacting and enforcing sensible gun laws, and by immediately calling out and curtailing all further hateful and racist speech, whatever its source.  We must strive to live up to our highest national aspirations rather than succumb to our basest impulses, and continue to insist that America do better in its efforts to care for all of its inhabitants.

    Rabbi Ronald Segal

    Rabbi Hara E. Person
    Chief Executive

    Central Conference of American Rabbis


  • Mon, August 05, 2019 9:45 PM | David Petersen (Administrator)

    New York, NY, August 3, 2019 – Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs released the following statement in response to the fatal shooting in El Paso, Texas that left at least 20 people dead and dozens more injured:

    "Today our nation grieves for the at least 20 people slaughtered in El Paso by a 21-year-old gunman. Just a few days ago, I returned from El Paso where I joined Rev. Dr. William J. Barber and hundreds of faith leaders for Moral Monday at the Borderlands to protest the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers. We went because the hearts of so many in our nation ache for the suffering of those families and individuals seeking safety and security in America who are imprisoned on their arrival, including so many children, in conditions that are anathema to the values of our nation.

    Now our hearts turn again to El Paso, in the face of this slaughter of innocents by a gunman who authorities say was inspired by anti-immigrant rhetoric. There are also reports that he may have written a racist manifesto pouring out hate in the form of white supremacy. El Paso sits right on the border with Juarez, Mexico. The shopping center that was attacked serves people from El Paso and Juarez.

    Clergy colleagues throughout El Paso will faithfully and lovingly hold up the families of the slain and wounded. So too our hearts – indeed the hearts and prayers of all people of good conscience across the nation – are with those families. In the words of Psalm 147:3 we pray, ‘May the Holy One heal their broken hearts and bind up their wounds.’

    But there is also a righteous rage that wells up in the hearts of so many of us as we call on responsible leaders of our nation to act decisively to address the growing epidemic of hate that too often is manifested in America’s plague of mass shootings. It is not enough for elected officials to muster their ‘thoughts and prayers.’ Like millions of Americans I’m sick of the pathetic excuses offered by too many lawmakers for not passing strong and effective common sense gun laws.

    And if we are to call on the leaders of our nation to address this epidemic of hate, a goal that, hopefully, almost all Americans cherish, we must ask: When will this president stop demonizing asylum seekers and immigrants, which serves to embolden those like today’s shooter?"



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