Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Our Tacoma Talmud answers - Question 3

What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself?  Who is our neighbor?

- You treat yourself nice so treat other people nice.
- I believe to love a neighbor as yourself is simply put, treat others the way you want to be treated. "neighbor" doesn't literally mean someone who lives near your, but is any human on earth.
- Treat your neighbors how you want to be treated. Everyone is your neighbor.
- Loving your neighbor as yourself means that self-love is consistent with neighbor love. Genuine self-love pursues our wholeness, holiness and integrity and flourishing and these are the very things we want for our neighbor.  Our neighbor is any human whose face we encounter whether in person or in our mind. Are animals our neighbors?
- The Rabbis might say anybody can be a neighbor. For example: family and friends, pets and other animals, people from other places. When Jewish people say love your neighbor as yourself we mean: treat other people how you would like to be treated. For example, if somebody is being mean to you don't be mean back.  If you treat someone mean how would you feel if they did that to you!
- Your neighbor is any other human being and you should treat them as kindly as yourself.
- It means to respect everybody and be kind despite people's differences.
- This law implies to treat everyone with the kindness and respect that you would like to be treated by all people.  You must treat everyone in this way no matter how much they may have wronged you..
- Our neighbor is any Jew or good person we meet and we treat them the way we want  to be treated ourselves.
- To love your neighbor is to treat them not only as you would yourself, but how you truly should, and everyone is your neighbor.
- Your neighbor doesn’t literally mean your neighbor in the house community.  Neighbors are people, human beings. Love your neighbors refers to be nice to everyone until you have a reason not to be nice to 'em.

Our Tacoma Talmud answers - Question 2

Why be Jewish?  What are the reasons for continuing to live a Jewish life in the 21st century?

- Being Jewish is cool. You're different and interesting.
- There needs to be more than one religion because people have different opinions.
- I like what Judaism teaches, that is why I am a Jew – respecting others, respecting life, respecting nature, respecting earth, loving others.
- Rabbi Kadden says Judaism encourages us to ask the most challenging questions and argue with each other as we respond to the questions.  We are a welcoming community without being aggressive in inviting others to join us. Judaism offers a way to live our lives in community and encourages us to improve the world.
- To be "Jewish" you must believe that you are Jewish,. If you don't understand Judaism it's hard to celebrate the religion in your own way .By continuing the lifestyle you get to have new ideas and be different.
- I'm Jewish because we can come together to clean up the world and donate money to poor people.
- Just because the world ages doesn’t mean the path Hashem laid out for us has changed.
- It lets you question and struggle. You are not forced into being Jewish but are given the option to question what it means to be Jewish, which leads back to why be Jewish.
- You should continue to live a Jewish life because you get 8 days of presents on Hannukah, you get yummy food, and because if you go to synagogue you get to learn stuff other than boring math.
- It is good to be Jewish. It can be helpful too. Mitzvahs and more! You also believe in G-d, with all your heart.
- We should be Jewish because G-d chose us to be with him and carry on his dream. We were chosen to be Jewish because we are special and capable of great things.  God has talked to us before and has told us to heal our world before we can't . G-d created mitzvahs and commandments for us to do and follow. WE can choose to follow one road or another. We are gien the ability to help and care for others and our earth. We are gvien lives we should live and we were told to tell others who don't see that. Jews were given eyes for the blind,
- To believe in what you want and I believe in Judaism.
- Being Jewish is awesome because it's a deep and interesting religion.
- Because it makes you different. You get to be the one to inform other people about it. Continuing to live a Jewish life in your future is important to keep the religion going.
- I am Jewish because my parents are Jewish and that's what I believe in.
- To be part of a community. Also, enjoy the food.
- So that you may be about to connect with G-d. and help the earth to be a good place to live. In Judaism we learn to help  save the earth and other people. Even a small thing, that we may do it may affect the world as we know it. I think we should be Jewish so that we believe in G-d the one true G-d. Thank you.
- To apply old principles to new problems.  Judaism has something to say about global warming, technology, and other issues of the 21st century.
- We should continue to be Jewish because our ancestors never gave up. G-d freed us from Egypt, so we should at least continue to thank and praise Him.  G-d has done everything to deserve our praise, so why not praise Him?
- We are different in our world with the Hebrew alphabet and living in time. And different places like school, Sunday School on Sunday with different kids than home school. Sometimes that happens.
- If you are deciding on what religion to have, chose to be Jewish. At Temple there is a community that are just like you. You may feel different than colleagues that are Christian, but consider yourself special. It is simple yet complicated to be a Jew, but that is good, for then it takes a lifetime to learn.
- One reason to be Jewish, at least in Reform Judaism, is because Judaism is extremely open and encourages question-asking
- Sandra says be Jewish if Judaism means something to you. Never take it for granted or be Jewish without feeling.
- Because the stereotypes may look good on your resume, and its virtually the only religion who has not committed a massacre in the name of G-d.
- For many generations Judaism is still alive even after all the murder we're still strong and its kept us going but now we have other ??? and we barely pay attention to what we started with.  Also in the 21st century we have some more logical thinking of where we came from so people aren't believing.
- Judaism is just another way to get through and live your life. Some people party and others play. You find whatever suits you best eventually.
- I'm Jewish because that is how I was raised/Judaism has unique principles that you do not find in other religions.
- Because we are the best wrestlers! We are encouraged to question, make and remake meaning.  We are called to bring the world back to wholeness through our actions.

Our Tacoma Talmud answers - Question 1

What is Judaism?  Is it a religion, nation, race, civilization?  Do any of these words adequately describe Judaism?

- Judaism is a religion, however in some context it can be considered a race.
- I think it is a religion because we have one God.
- Judaism is whatever you want it to be to yourself. If all you want from Judaism is a religion, then that is all it is.  For it to be more you have to want it to be.  Judaism is more than something to be categorized but you are still able to take only a part of it away if a part is all you want.
- Judaism is all of these and more. It is a religion by having worshippers, a nation by owning Israel, a race because of its ancestry and a civilization because of the temples. But none of these describe Judaism enough.
- Judaism is a race and religion.  It’s a race because it has its own people.
- Judaism is both a religion and a race. Judaism is always transforming, just like any culture or tradition, it grows and changes.  You can be a part of Judaism as both a member of its religion and/or it race. Judaism's origins were racial starting from the nomadic Hebrews and when we lived together w/out connections to the outside worlds in shtetls and ghettoes.  In that way Judaism is a race or ethnicity.  But Judaism also is a religion that you can convert to and believe in.
- A race and a religion worshiping our God and praying.
- Judaism is a religion because you celebrate Jewish holidays.
- Judaism is a way of life, and a system of beliefs. More than just religion. None of these words describe it.
- Judaism is d: all of the above, none of the words describe Judaism singly, you need all of them to get a good idea.
- Judaism goes back to a time when there was no difference between a nation, a religion and a people.
- It depends on the person. It is different for everyone!
- It is not just one of those nor all of these.  It depends on who you are what Judaism is to you in your life.
- Some rebitzens say it is a culture that is passed down from generation to generation. And we still have it today because we learned from our ancestors and it's our job to teach it to our children. It's  like a line that never ends. Judaism is a religion, however it doesn't completely define what it is.  Judaism can be any race.
- Judaism is more of a civilization. Since it's based on mostly tradition there's no pressure to believe in God.
- Judaism is a 1. Nation in the way that it is a collected group of people with a followed set of laws, 2. Race in the way that our "family" has been able to pass down certain recognizable traits/features, 3. Civilization in the way that it has recognizable and specific culture that ony Judaism provides, 4. Religion in the way that it provides explanation, for things otherwise not understood, in a  supernatural way….so all 4.
- None of these words will do! We are a people that transcends national boundaries. Race is a social construct with no biological reality. We have religious and non-religious Jews….SO….We are a people with a common history, religion, language, and ruach!!
- Judaism is all of the above, the meaning of it is whatever it means to you on a personal level.
- We Jews are a religion which has contributed to civilization – so we are a civilization also. Being Jewish often leads to an inquisitive mind.
- Judaism is a religion. That is self-explanatory. I would argue that it cannot be a civilization because there has never been a wholly Jewish land, not even Israel by a long shot. I consider the race to be Hebrew. I would say that in a certain connotation, it can be considered a "nation" of sorts, not in the way like a civilization, but that Jews all over the world represent a scattered nation.
- It is a complete community, not just a religion or a way of life. As a convert in process, I've wanted to be Jewish since age 12. I've always been drawn to the people and how accepting they are. I want to be a part of the Jewish family. Being a Jew is not just a religion, it is a family.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

#3 What does it mean to 'love your neighbor as yourself'?

Tacoma Talmud question #3:

What does it mean to 'love your neighbor as yourself'?  Who are our neighbors?

What do you think?  Respond in a comment.

We request that all responses be respectful.  Thank you for participating!

#2 Why be Jewish?

Tacoma Talmud question #2:

Why be Jewish?  What are the reasons for continuing to live a Jewish life in the 21st century?

What do you think?  Respond in a comment.

We request that all responses be respectful.  Thank you for participating!

#1 What is Judaism?

Tacoma Talmud question #1:

What is Judaism?  Is it a religion, nation, race, civilization?  Do any of these words adequately describe Judaism?

What do you think?  Respond in a comment.

We request that all responses be respectful.  Thank you for participating!

A Global Day of Jewish Learning

November 7, 2010
Global Day of Jewish Learning
Tacoma Takes on the Talmud

imgOn November 7, 2010, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz will complete his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud. His mission has been to give Jewish texts and learning back to the Jewish people. To mark this achievement, communities around the world are joining in a Global Day of Jewish Learning.


On November 7, 2010, members of Temple Beth El will create our own page of Talmud Commentary. You can participate by joining virtually as we discuss Talmudic questions right here online. 

We will post questions in a series of blog posts.  Give us your response as a comment to help us create our own Tacoma Talmud.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Join my Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF Online Team :

Join my Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF Online Team :

Join our Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF Online team to celebrate 60 years of The Original Kids Helping Kids campaign.

There are 6.7 billion people in the world. About a third of them?2.2 billion?are children.

Half of the 2.2 billion children?1 billion children?do not have access to adequate food, safe drinking water, healthcare, shelter and education.

Over the past 60 years children across America have raised $160 million through Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF to end the needless suffering of their more vulnerable peers around the globe.

Help us continue this tradition?Join our team and raise funds OR make a donation to one of our team members?and be part of the kids helping kids legacy.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mazol tov from Beth Garden

Shabbat Shalom Tacoma! I want to begin by congratulating the entire congregation on the the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary. Mazal Tov to all of you! I also want to wish my parents Mazal Tov on 50 years of marriage. I want you both to know that I remember celebrating your 25th anniversary here at Temple Beth El like it was last year. I am ready to help you plan #75, because I know that will be right around the corner.

I am honored to have been asked to share my memories and observations of what it was like to grow up at Temple Beth El, with all of you this Shabbat. A milestone anniversary is a time to think about and appreciate our connections to each other and our connection-- to points in time-- which connect us through memory and hope. This can be a time for pride, nostalgia, and taking stock. For gaining a deeper appreciation of the gifts that each day brings, and for planning and dreaming about what is to come.

My family is inextricably, immutably connected to this community, so much so-- that I find when I am here, it feels like I never left.
Every time I come back, I still get the same sense of community and connection that I admittedly took for granted when I lived here some 30-odd years ago.
I often find myself bragging to colleagues and congregants about how the little synagogue of my youth has had an amazing ability to crank out Rabbis, Cantors, Educators, Jewish Scholars and lay leaders, especially given its relatively small membership (but who knows? maybe it happens to be an optimal size). Either way, there is some special connection that happens here. I often wonder if it is just a coincidence-- that this congregation has been able to nurture so many of us who have become compelled to prioritize Jewish continuity?

This is also a Shabbat of connections, because we read parashat Eikev from the book of D’varim or Deuteronomy, which derives its name from the second word in the portion.

Eikev is a word that connotes connection. It is usually translated as "if" or "in consequence of." However, the literal meaning of the word is "heel." Ekev comes from the same root as Ya'akov, Jacob, who was so named because he was holding on to the heel of his twin Esau as the two of them emerged, connected-- from their mother's womb. From this one word, eikev, we learn that nothing in life occurs by itself, nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything occurs eikev--on the heel of, or connected to everything else, and the Torah’s message? The well being of the community is connected to, and dependent on its ability to be God-like, and connected to each other through mitzvot. To remind us that as we strive to achieve our goals, visions and hopes for the future of the community, as so many of you here have been doing for the past 50 years...we will be holding on to the heels of others.

Thinking about this sense of connection on the heels of everything that has happened in the past 50 years led me to wonder about what draws us in to community? What keeps us connected? Why do those of us who go elsewhere look for a similar Jewish connection? Maybe it is because we have experienced authentic Jewish connection here. I know that the hours and hours I spent here as a child and a teen made me the seriously engaged liberal Jew I am today, so today, I am here to share my version of why synagogue life in Tacoma, Washington is viable and and why Jewish bonds and connections created here are so strong.
From the minute our family walked in the doors of Temple Beth EL in the spring of 1974, we were made to feel like this was our Jewish home away from home. We showed up for religious school, services, and especially for Shabbat dinners, complete with Kentucky Fried Chicken! The Union prayer book was still in the pews and The Gates of Prayer was still at least a year away.

As eleven-year-old’s do, I quickly set about comparing Temple Beth El with the congregation we attended in our former lives. The things I noticed were: There were fewer kids in my week-day Hebrew school class. But they all knew each other really well, and they were really interested in me, because I was someone new. We connected right away. My parents also became lifelong friends with the couples they met in their first few weeks here, and with their wonderful hospitality and energy, they have picked up so many more as the years have gone by.

Sunday school was a place where anything could happen. Israeli dancing, challah baking, learning Haftarah Trope, Shtettle Day, Purim Shpeils and carnivals, Lag B’omer Picnics, boiling bagels, playing Texas Hold ‘em Dreidle...It was social, informal, and educational. In the summer there was Camp Beth El and don’t even get me started with that.

Then there was the Rabbi. He was different too. The Rabbi was among us. This was REALLY a big difference for me. I was used to a rabbi who I only saw in services and even there, he usually talked to the ceiling, and rarely looked at us. We NEVER saw him at religious school. Rabbi Rosenthal, on the other hand, was always around, and he talked to EVERYONE, not just to the grown ups. He knew everybody’s name. It was easy to ask him a question, or maybe he would ask us a any case, he was entirely approachable. He wasn’t the first rabbi I ever met, but he was the first rabbi I ever really knew. It didn’t take long for him to recognize my mother’s talent and creativity and when Temple Beth El hired her to be the Religious School Director, we REALLY started spending a lot of time here.

Now, the music at Temple Beth El took some getting used to. I missed hearing the cantor on Shabbat, but I grew to love our “singers” and learned to appreciate the new music. There was organ from a hidden choir loft, and guitar too. It dawned on me that some of the singers were women. Up to that point, I had never imagined that a woman could be leading singing in front of a congregation.

When I grew older, I had the opportunity to attend camp Swig. I learned so much new music. Modern sounding versions of the same prayers we would sing on Shabbat here. I wanted to share it with the congregation, but Rabbi Rosenthal was rather adamant that camp music, like the Klepper Shalom Rav we just sang, was for camp, and serious music was for services. This became one of our “ongoing” discussions...I wouldn’t let it rest and we did go back and forth about it for years. Eventually, I tortured him with avant garde flute music in the library next to his office before services on erev Shabbat and I think he grew to love the camp music. I can only hope to be as accessible as he was. Temple Beth El has also been fortunate to have lay leaders who worked to continue his legacy, searching with great success for the same accessibility, warmth, and devotion to community in their clergy. Temple Beth El has been and continues to be blessed by the presence of truly gifted Rabbis, and let’s face it, that is one very important point of connection in the Jewish community. And now, Temple Beth EL has reached an amazing new milestone. You finally have a REAL LIVE Cantor!

What an amazing achievement. It makes my heart sing to know that Temple Beth El has made this a priority. The musical and educational connections that Cantor Holland will create can only enhance an already great community. I hope you all know what an amazing anniversary gift you have in Cantor Holland. Please take good care of her. Every segment of the congregation will benefit from her artistry and talent, and her commitment to Jewish education will continue to enhance the experience of Jewish learners or all ages. I feels comforting to know that my Jewish home away from home is as whole and complete as it has ever been, and that it is poised and ready for what the next 50 years will bring.

Achieving 50 years of Jewish connection is no small feat, even if those feet don’t have heels to hold on to. Jewish connection over time isn’t some magical process and it doesn’t often happen by itself. It requires service, devotion, vision and every possible type of support to maintain the Jewish community in Tacoma, and in turn, create necessary connections and relationships that sustain the future of the community.

May Temple Beth El go from strength to strength, and and may God bless you all and shine upon all your endeavors as she has for the past fifty years.
Keyn Y’hi Ratzon.

Cantor Beth Garden
given July 30, 2010