eDvar Shabbat Parashat Toldot 5778

Closure and Disclosure “I write to seek the Rebbe’s help.  My life is in disarray.  I pray, yet my prayers seem not to help me.  I don’t know where else to turn.  I eagerly await the Rebbe’s advice.”  Many years ago the Lubavitcher Rebbe did respond to this letter.  But he did so without writing a single word.  Instead he circled the first word of every sentence.  The message was clear.  Self-encased living would not enable healing. Studies show that post-war mental health among Veterans is determined less by the atrocities they witnessed than by the supportive communities that welcome them home.  Compassion can prove more healing than the passage of time. Raw feelings like sadness and fear are prominent in this week’s portion of Torah.  The bestowing of covenantal blessing from Isaac to Jacob is fraught with trembling and trepidation.  Jacob deceptively impersonates his elder brother Esau, inciting anguish.  Why the Torah associates this transmission with such trauma is unclear. That it does, can help school us in coping with emotional rawness. Rebecca sends Jacob away to keep him at a safe distance from his brother’s wrath. “Until your brother’s fury will turn back, until your brother’s anger turns back” (Gen. 27:44,45).  Curiously, the verb (tashuv) used to depict the quieting of aroused emotion is related to the word for repentance (teshuva).  Like the journey to fulfilling penitent promises, emotions have directionality.  They flow to and fro, readily reawakened by reminders of past wrongs. The text’s distinction between fury (cheima) and anger (af) suggests that while time helps fury reverse course, still residual anger may not subside.  Reversing course may not guarantee a reversal of coarseness. Deference and healing actions will enable sibling reconciliation decades later.  The path

כ״ח במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 17, 2017)|Categories: archive, edvar, news|


First-ever Inspo:Expo Brookline Action Fair Attracts 300+ People to Epstein We did it! Thanks to all of KI’s generosity and help, over 300 people were at our first-ever Inspo:Expo Brookline Action Fair on Sunday, October 29. We heard from a number of people that they were getting volunteers, learning a ton, and building positive connections. Inspo:Expo would like to thank Rabbi Hamilton for his undaunting support and spreading the word. We’d also like to thank Candice Kiss, Madona Haber, and Michael Goldstein (presenters/volunteers); Bindy Fleischman, Jodi Hecht, Amy Weiss, Shirah Rubin, and Jessica Woolf (presenters); and Patty Margolis, Danny Margolis, Martha Auerbach, Gordon Bennett, Cheryl Dockser, Beth Kramer, Aron Troen, Jordan Weil, and Rachael Wurtman (event volunteers). Thank you to Kris, Yusheng, and Paula for logistical help. A special thank you to Santo for creating a wonderful room. Todah Rabbah and kol hakavod to all. NBC Boston Video Watch NBC Boston's feature on Inspo:Expo.       Inspo:Expo Facebook Page For more photographs, visit the Inspo:Expo Facebook page.

כ״ו במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 15, 2017)|Categories: news|

Youth Tefila Update for KI families

As you may know, we at KI are creating a 384 Campus Community which welcomes a variety of prayer groups and imagines new possibilities for Jewish youth engagement. This year we are experimenting with expanding our youth offerings in partnership with Washington Square Minyan (WSM). We are creating a collaborative pilot to enrich children’s tefila. See our Google Calendar of Shabbat youth services and activities. We also have a list of partner minyanim Shabbat dates. Three Shabbatot per month we will join together for: Pre-tefila drop-off educational activities 9:45 am - 10:30 am led by two teens and a WSM staff person. The programming planned will include learning the parsha through drama, Hebrew games, and singing. children ages 5 - 7 will meet in the Mini-Minyan room (Rm #5) children ages 8 - 12 will meet in the Junior Congregation room (Rm #2) A new peer-oriented format for Junior Congregation. To foster connections between similarly aged kids and to help manage space constraints during this transitional year for our building, we encourage children to attend without parents.  Parents will be welcomed back for once or twice per month family-oriented services (see below) during Junior Congregation.  As mentioned above, teen counselors will be joining this service to support the kids and act mentors. In addition, please be on the lookout for special invitations each month to join your Junior Congregation children for family-oriented services. The dates of these family-oriented services will be: 11/25, 12/2, 12/23, 1/13, 2 /3, 2/24, 3/17, 3/31, 4/21, 5/19, 5/26, 6/16. We will also remind families as these dates approach, in our weekly KI e-newsletters. The next family service is November 25! Continuing as usual: Nitzanim and Mini Minyan tefila services will continue to meet as

כ״ד במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 13, 2017)|Categories: archive, news|

eDvar Shabbat Parashat Hayei Sarah 5778

Listen and Speak Out “I am angry,” Olympic gold-medalist Aly Raisman expresses as part of this Sunday evening’s 60 Minutes interview. “I just want to create change so [that young girls] never, ever have to go through this.”  This morning Time published the news of Aly’s having suffered sexual abuse perpetrated by the US Gymnastics team doctor.  She joins an alarming and escalating number of individuals who have begun to speak publicly of the pain of having been defiled, molested, and harassed. The pain is deep.  It is pervasive and prevalent.  It is outrageous that it has been sustained and even supported for so long. The pain being disclosed daily deserves to be treated with the utmost gravity. What should be our response?  My thinking has changed.  I had been of the opinion that men should stop talking and start listening.  I still believe we should be listening with more sensitivity to those who courageously share.  Sacred communities earn their sanctity when they provide safe, confidential, healing space  for such sharing.   But I now realize that we should also be audible with our support.  Listening empathically is necessary.  But speaking vocally in support of those who are still doubted or whose vulnerability is scorned is increasingly important.  Anita Hill conveyed this last night on CNN.  “It will take men who are willing to stand up for equality in the workplace, on the streets, and in the schools” to begin to repair the climate that enables abuse. In this week’s portion of Torah, Abraham remarries.  “And Abraham additionally married a woman named Keturah” (Gen 25:1).  The commentator Rashi offers a telling clarification.  Abraham’s new bride, having honorably buried a deceased Sarah, is none other than Hagar.  She has

כ״א במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 10, 2017)|Categories: archive, edvar, news|

Campus Partner Shabbat Dates

Congregation Kehillath Israel and Congregation Mishkan Tefila meet at 384 Harvard Street each Shabbat. In addition to these services, several minyanim also meet at the 384 Campus. For youth services and activities information please click here. Minyan Shaleym meets each Shabbat. Please see their website for more information. Minyan Kol Rinah meets occasionally, with the dates below currently planned. Please see their website for more information. December 2 December 23 January 13 February 3 February 24 March 17 April 21 May 19 June 16 July 7 August 4 September 1 Washington Square Minyan meets for Shabbat on the following dates. Their website has more details. November 11 November 18 December 9 December 16 December 30 January 6 January 20 January 27 February 10 February 17 March 3 March 10 March 24 April 7 April 14 April 28 May 5 May 12 June 2 June 9 June 23 June 30 July 14 July 21 July 28 August 11 August 25 September 8

כ״א במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 10, 2017)|Categories: news|

eDvar Shabbat Parashat Vayera 5778

Faith comes to life not when it is one-sided but reciprocal “Abraham complained to Avimelech about the water well that his servants had wrongfully seized.  Avimelech responded, ‘I was unaware of this, you never told me of it, and I heard nothing about it until now’” (Gen. 21:25-26).  His answer is unimpressive.  It assumes no responsibility.  It actually shifts blame to Abraham for failing to inform him earlier of the iniquity.  Yet, Abraham immediately responds by making a covenant with Avimelech (Gen. 21:27-32).  Why does Abraham overlook Avimelech’s unimpressive conduct in favor of establishing such a covenant? Abraham is keeping faith with his larger project - establishing permanent roots in the land of promise.  Ownership of land covenanted by God is geopolitically strengthened by a mutual commitment between Abraham and Avimelech.  This is too important to be disrupted by miscommunication or irresponsible leadership.  Note that they establish not a contract but a covenant. Earlier this Fall the Head of New York’s Trinity School sent shockwaves through the city’s elite private school system by calling for a complete overhaul in how his school educates more responsibly.  John Allman’s back-to-school letter drew heavily from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ juxtaposition between covenants and contracts.  Contracts involve self-interest and mutual advantage.  Covenants are about moral commitments and are held together not by legalese, but by loyalty and faithfulness.  Contracts are about what we gain; covenants are about what we give. Victimhood is contagious today.  North Korea, Iran, Antifa, neo-Nazis all claim they are victims.  Groups now self-define around common allegations more than around common dreams.  This epidemic of group victimization - aside from degrading freedom’s responsibilities and beyond turning dark very quickly - actually devalues authentic victims.  Importantly, the current

י״ד במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 3, 2017)|Categories: archive, edvar, news|

President’s Letter November 2017: Sukkot, Groundbreaking, Chesed

This is the 13th edition of my monthly president’s letter. You can visit the President’s letters page to read earlier editions. As always, please let me know what you think –and what you’d like me to write about—by emailing president@congki.org or calling (617) 731-3182.   The positive feelings from our successful off-campus High Holiday season continued when we returned to campus for Sukkot. We had strong attendance at all the pre-Sukkot and holiday events and managed to fit everyone in, thanks to the ingenuity of our planners who figured out how to maximize the size of the courtyard and corner structures. The ceremonial groundbreaking on the Sunday of Sukkot was the highlight of the month for me. The weather was iffy and at the last minute we had to shift the event inside, but it did not dampen the occasion at all. Rabbi Hamilton gave a moving tribute to our history, mission and purpose, and I talked about how much progress we’ve made on our vision to create an innovative center of urban Judaism to serve greater Boston and act as a model for communities across the country and around the world. You can read my full remarks here. We were joined by our inner group of trustees, campaign volunteers and generous donors and also by leaders of the wider community (pictured left) including CJP Chairman Neil Wallack, Gann Academy’s Head of School Rabbi Marc Baker, and Robert Kraft, who grew up at KI and whose father was a beloved leader of the congregation. Our partners Congregation Mishkan Tefila, New England Yachad and Washington Square Minyan were also represented. Deb Shapiro did a terrific job of organizing and documenting the event --and procuring the golden shovels.

י״ב במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 1, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

President’s remarks at Groundbreaking, October 8, 2017

Good morning. My name is David Williams, President of Congregation Kehillath Israel. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to today’s ceremonial groundbreaking. From the time we started planning for KI’s 2017 Centennial almost a decade ago, we knew that we had an opportunity to create an innovative center of urban Judaism, one that could serve Greater Boston and act as a model for communities across the country and around the world. Today we can proudly say the vision is within reach. We are in the midst of implementing a multi-organizational, multi-generational campus to address religious, educational, social, cultural and housing needs for Jews across the spectrum of engagement. From the immersed group for whom synagogue is central, to cultural Russian Speakers and Israelis, to the familial and even the minimally involved, we have something compelling to offer that lines up closely with the needs identified in the Greater Boston Jewish Community study that CJP commissioned. We didn’t wait for the groundbreaking to start building the physical structure. And we aren’t waiting for the building to be completed to implement the campus vision. Consider just some of the partners who are active on this campus. We have historic synagogues including KI and Congregation Mishkan Tefila, a more than 150 year old shul that made the bold and enlightened decision to co-locate and collaborate with us. We have non-traditional congregations, including Washington Square Minyan –100% of whose members donated to the KI Next campaign, along with Minyan Shaleym and Minyan Kol Rinah. Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly will build apartments for independent living. We are the headquarters for New England Yachad, which integrates people with disabilities into the mainstream of Jewish life, and Center Makor, the

י״א במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (October 31, 2017)|Categories: archive, news|

Sweet Sukkot & Shabbat from KI

eDvar Shabbat Parashat Breisheet 5778 Warming faith at chilly times “If you should see my son Cain, tell him…”  These words, attributed to Cain’s biblical mother Eve, were penciled onto the wall of a railcar heading to the gas chambers.  Thus the late poet Dan Pagis sought to capture the blood-shedding legacy of humanity’s first murderer, condemned to wander and witness future human depravity. What do we believe about people?  This Shabbat we return to the dawn of human history and a post-Garden of Eden world.  What does the Torah believe about human nature?  The answer is revealed within God’s curiosity about Cain’s dejection in the face of Divine inattention to his offering, in contrast to the Divine appreciation for Abel’s offering.  Prior to Cain’s murder of Abel, God urges Cain not to let his hurt feelings incite violence against his brother.  God is essentially saying, “Hurt feelings, even anger, are understandable.  But violence is not inevitable. You don’t necessarily have to let your emotions get the better of you.” The text subtlety suggests that sin is not as powerful as human connections are.  The Hebrew words for ‘dominant urge’ (timshal and teshuka) recur in God’s conversations with Eve and with Cain (Gen. 3:16, 4:7).  For Eve the relational bond is potent enough to transcend free will.  But for Cain, God seeks to convey that sin’s urge does not overwhelm the freedom to choose.  The lesson: loving relationships built upon shared faith can withstand the allure of iniquity.  The goodness and generosity of people transcends the greediness and violence of people. Two powerful examples from this past summer drive this home.  Consider the inspiring story of how eighty strangers on a Florida beach locked arms

כ״א בתשרי ה׳תשע״ח (October 11, 2017)|Categories: archive, edvar, news|

Rabbi Starr Yom Kippur 5778 Sermon

Being Good Being Religious Rabbi David B. Starr, Yom Kippur, 5778/2017 This is my favorite haftarah. I look forward the whole year to Yom Kippur so that we can hear it chanted again. Why? Because it asks an important question: what is the point of being religious? Or perhaps more directly: how do we understand what religion is? Religion isn’t self evident to us. It may have been for our parents or grandparents, or to people in times past in places like Poland, but it doesn’t feel that way to us. A friend of mine said that to be a modern person is to fear cancer more than hell. Someone else once noted, When I go to synagogue I read the words, when my father went to synagogue he PRAYED words. There’s a big difference between the two. Consider the options. First, being religious means serving God. God creates us, commands us, gives us law in a scripture, and our tradition bids us to obey those commands. Second, religion involves serving others: we’re all created in God’s image, we’re all equal, unique, and precious in God’s eyes and therefore our obligation is to one another. Third, a la Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, religion invites us to heal ourselves. If I’m not for myself who will be for me? We have the right and even the obligation to a self, to our freedom and to self-actualize. Or perhaps religion includes all or some combination of these, and if so how? Isaiah asks this in our haftarah. What constitutes proper piety? Ritual and/or good works? In the time of the temple a large part of the atonement process required cleansing the temple of the taint brought

י״ט בתשרי ה׳תשע״ח (October 9, 2017)|Categories: archive, news|