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Rabbi Biatch's Rosh Hashanah Morning Sermon

09/08/2021 12:45:27 PM

Sep8

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch 

The Shofar Calls Us to Serve

Ah, the sounds of the Shofar! 

Those clarion calls that direct us toward repentance and forgiveness! 

The discordant music that could remind us of the discordant moments in our lives, and that could then compel us to harmonize our lives with others. 

That persistent sound whose message could be reproof for misbehavior. 

And the signal whose message it is to make positive changes in the world and in ourselves. These, and more, we find in the voice of a simple ram’s horn described in the Torah. 

The shofar has played the tune of Jewish survival down through the centuries. And the lore of our people assigns one further message in the sound of the Shofar: that one shofar sounding to mark the arrival of the messianic age. 

Traditional Judaism understands two biblical prophecies which, when read together, prepare us for that future transformation of the world: 

The prophet Malachi proclaims that the prophet Elijah will return to earth, preceding the advent of the messianic age. As someone who performed miracles in his day and whose stories have engendered faith in days since, his messianic role will be to bring about familial reconciliation, an important step toward the world’s ultimate salvation.1 

Then the prophet Zecharia reminds us that every human being – in days to come – will help to re-make the world just as it was at the time of Eden. Each of us will have a role to play to repair the world. 

Zecharia also makes it clear that the sound of the shofar will precede it all: the arrival of Elijah, the universal work to transform the world, and the ultimate peacemaking that will be the defining feature of that world to come.2 

It’s important to clarify that liberal traditions, such as the Reform movement, believe neither in a supernatural being’s involvement in, nor a sequence of events that herald the arrival of, the messianic age. For us, each person will engage in the repair of the world, a process that will organically bring about a time of universal peace and acceptance. 

But we nonetheless can be inspired by the stories of Elijah, the one prophet who never died a natural death, and who has been spotted throughout our 2,000-year-old diaspora helping people in need. He sets the example, and leads us toward the world’s salvation. 

I have sometimes wondered, what with the millions of shofar sounds that our earthly congregations usually produce on these holidays, whether Elijah would ever get confused and think that they signal the beginning of the messianic era. And I thought about how Elijah would react each year, at this time, to those calls. 

[SH’VARIM and T’RUAH Shofar Calls] 

ELIJAH IN THE HOUSE: 

How many times have I heard that sound! How often it has come to my ears! Thank you for declaring this New Year. 

Despite your rabbi’s fears, I know the difference between the usual beautiful sounds of the Days of Awe and that special shofar blast of the future. I know that it isn’t the moment for the messianic age to arrive … not just yet. And to be honest, you humans still have a lot of work to do … but you are making progress. 

I am here today because something else has come to mind, and since I have a Jewish congregation listening this morning, I must give expression to those thoughts. 

I, Elijah, the son of Tishbi of Gil’ad, am approaching my twenty-nine hundred and fiftieth yahrtzeit, though there are those who have asserted that I never really died, that I ascended alive to the heavens in that fiery chariot3. But I am glad that my descendants are keeping … and preserving … and promoting their faith. It does an old man’s heart good to know that his offspring maintain their family’s traditions. 

I am moved to speak to you on this occasion by the wonderful sounds of the shofar that you have just offered. For me, they contain memories, emotions, and heavenly sensations. Oh, if only you could have heard the shofar sounds as I have heard them, lo, these many years: 

The shofar calls that reverberated at the time of our people’s exodus from Egypt … The thunder, lightning, and shofar sounds that emanated from Sinai at the giving of the Ten Commandments … The sound of the shofar as it joyfully proclaimed the coronation of Israelite kings and queen in Jerusalem. 

And the shofar sounds throughout the generations at times of tragedy, as cries of warning and sadness: 

  • during the Crusades and their years of anti-Jewish violence and destruction 

  • during centuries of the Inquisition, and other persecutions and disabilities 

  • and during the Holocaust, as its fiery hunger consumed six million of you. 

Do not misunderstand me. The sounds of the shofar have pleased me. But they have sometimes been intermixed with painful sounds: nuclear explosions, terrorist actions, continuing cries of persecuted peoples: all signs of humanity’s inability to truly get along with one another. 

For example, let me see if I can catch an echo of that sound for you, so you can appreciate what I have heard in recent days, what summons me to speak to you, and what should cause each of you to pause and consider your predicament on earth: 

[January 6 Insurrection]

You may recognize these sounds: the actualities of rioting, of human hatred, deceit, and devastation. Your propensity for audacious ways of attacking one another saddens us in the celestial community. There was so much noise this year that we peered over the edge of the heavens, and considered setting aside our Prime Directive and intervening to save you. 

It was plain to us: in Washington, Minneapolis, in Kabul, Paris, the Xinjiang region of China, Palestine, Israel, even in Madison; and many others: a deluge of human detestation and destruction. 

And I also cannot help but note that, twenty years ago this coming Shabbat morning, there was a physical manifestation of this hatred that many of you remember: billowing plumes of ash and concrete dust, a storm of such magnitude and chaos that it rivaled one of your nuclear explosions. It enveloped New York, Washington, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 

We knew about the twisted and malevolent motivations of the perpetrators of terrorism. They were completely wrong, of course, and the Islamic sages and prophets with whom I share the heavenly house of study were distraught that a handful of their disciples had acted in such a way in the name of God. 

We asked, “Where was the shame? Where was their humility? Where was humanity on that day?” And we all wondered, “Where did any of us go wrong? Can’t we do a better job of things? Why does such evil intention and deed still thrive on the Earth?” 

We know well that intentions have not changed for some who hate full time. Destruction is on the mind of many, wanting to replicate the fires of persecution and aggression that are characteristic of some people in your world. You know well about the scourge of antisemitism, as well as every other persecuted group around. 

Something has got to give! 

Twenty years ago this week, we peered into that growing, consuming, conflagration of debris, and we saw something strange there. That malevolent cloud rolled down the streets of New York City, coating everything with a toxic, gray layer of dust and ash, coating the bodies and poisoning the lungs of those who inhaled it. 

In one very special sense, however, that gray cloud was holy, for it contained the essence of the humanity obliterated by it. Everyone who was touched by that cloud’s tendrils inhaled the souls and the spirits of the beautiful deceased. And for us, those souls will never lose their potential, and their sacrifice will be remembered, and elevated, and maintained in our memory. 

The people who wandered the streets, the ones covered with soot: the women and men; White, Black, Asian, Latinx, Middle Eastern; straight and gay, cisgendered and trans, younger and older; all those who were swallowed up by that cloud: with their patina of gray soot: the visage they presented sort of reminded us all of the beginnings of your world, many, many eons ago, when sentient beings began to emerge from the holy and fertile earth. 

Yes, I heard the Torah you offered a little while ago; I know you’re familiar with the Jewish Creation myth. Let me add a detail or two that are not in the book. 

At a very early moment in the history of your world, all creatures resembled one another. They were formless masses of organic matter. And only later, when God had the opportunity to form and teach and guide humanity; when God began to distinguish creatures by rearranging some DNA here and there; when God led humanity to study and grow; when the potential for establishing your “humanity” was greatest: 

Only then did the Creator instill in humanity variegations and differences in human character. And it was those differences between people which God called “very good” in the book of Genesis. It was – and is – those differences between people that you should be celebrating… 

… because the same thing could be said with those humans who emerged from the dust-cloud on September 11: they resembled the generation of pre-creation: gray, formless, oblivious masses, huddling in the doorways, fearing their new world, and hoping for salvation. We knew that each one was different from one another, yet each one bore the imprint of the Holy One. And each one is sacred, with sacred potential for goodness and integrity. 

Twenty years ago, when God saw those survivors with their grimy appearance, the Divine One remembered the human creatures from the first generations of Earth eons ago. God remembered the hope we all had for humanity. But realizing the terrorist action that brought about the devastation of that day, God was then heard to cry out, “I gave free will to humanity; I was hoping they would act to improve the world. Where did I – where did they – go wrong. Should we, once again, reconsider our pledge to restore Eden for them?” 

God was despondent. Creation’s blueprint did not anticipate selfishness, or brutishness, or a desire for dominance for power. Goodness knows you have known tyrants or would-be tyrants in your world. Some might even exist in your day. None of that was in God’s plan, and what we and God perceive today frightens us, and, frankly, makes your future quite dismal. 

But God then read the words of the late professor Stephen Jay Gould, who wrote about the presence of evil AND goodness within the human family: 

“Good and kind people outnumber all others by thousands to one. The tragedy of human history lies in the enormous potential for destruction in rare acts of evil, not in the high frequency of evil people … every spectacular incident of evil will be balanced by 10,000 acts of kindness, too often unnoted and invisible as the ‘ordinary’ efforts of a vast majority.  We have a duty, almost a holy responsibility, to record and honor the victorious weight of these innumerable little kindnesses, when an unprecedented act of evil so threatens to distort our perception of ordinary human behavior.”4 

So, we must ask ourselves this question every day as we rise to face the challenges of life: 

How will our actions affect the world? 

Will we allow inertia and apathy to flourish, and permit centrifugal force to pull us away from a common striving … or will we pull people together and help one another bring forth goodness into the world? 

When we hear the sound of the shofar – the vibrant or muddled, the short or the long, the weak or the strong, the ram’s horn, or that of the ibex – when we hear those sounds, will they be simply the background noise of everyday life, or will they break through and call us clearly to serve one another? 

In the New Year just beginning, will we disregard those in trouble, those who have difficulties in communicating with each other, those in a different state of life from us … or will we seek to help reconcile one person to another regardless of the differences between them, regardless of the barriers that exist between people? 

When we consider our tasks for the new year, how will each of us renew our plans for bringing goodness to the world? How will each human being activate their potential for restoring the Garden of Eden to our world? 

These are our challenges, for the choices are up to each of us. If we only pause and think, we can imagine what the Holy One of Blessing would like us to do. 

I, Elijah, the son of Tishbi of Gil’ad, know that the potential for progress is alive and well here. Want to know how I know? Let me share with you one further sound that I have heard this year, a sound that brings joy to my heart, and a feeling of hope to me and my colleagues: 

[V'ahavta]

This the sound of your future. When your children continue to study, to learn, to chant, to celebrate their heritage, then I know their future is secure, and that you are moving toward the true fulfillment of their destiny. I, Elijah, have seen the future, and I believe you can do it. The point is, you need to believe you can do it. 

My, look at the time. I need to be on my way now. I’m very glad you summoned me with the shofar, even though it wasn’t yet time for messianic things to start. It was great to catch up and pour out our hearts to one another. 

Oh, and please remember: Come Passover in the Spring, dry wine, please. 

And until then, may you all have a sweet, prosperous, successful, healthy, and peaceful New Year. 

Footnotes:
[1] Malachi 3:24
[2] Zecharia 9:14
[3] II Kings 2:11
[4] Stephan Jay Gould, cited in “Rambam’s Ladder: A Meditation on Generosity and Why It Is Necessary to Give” by Julie Salomon, Workman Publishing Company, 2003.
 

Rabbi Biatch's Erev Rosh Hashanah Sermon

09/08/2021 12:33:15 PM

Sep8

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch 

The Rabbi’s Fires

Watch the video.

L’shanah Tovah – indeed, may this be a year of health and goodness for us all. I am glad to be with you tonight, both online and in person. 

This has been an amazingly difficult year for all of us in this sacred community. The confinement and struggles from the pandemic, not to mention the illnesses and deaths affecting hundreds of thousands both in the world and here in our community, have caused us to cry out with the book of Psalms, “Out of the deep and miserable of places I have called to you, Eternal One. O God, listen to my plea.”1 

Yet even with the restrictions, quarantines, and disappointments of the past eighteen months, we have continually shown up for one another … we have been present for one another … we have provided tangible resources for those in need … we have been active in the work for social justice … and we have joyfully worshiped together. We have shown resilience in the face of personal and communal difficulties, and – even in our angst – most of us have demonstrated resistance to skepticism. So, we might also say with the Biblical author of Deuteronomy, ‘Life itself has placed before us life and death, curse and blessing, and we have chosen life.’2 

Resilience, patience, courage, and hope: 

These are the qualities we need to possess and employ in the year ahead, just as we have needed them for the last eighteen months. 

Admittedly, some do not feel so optimistic or hopeful. There are those who are frightened, still unable to easily leave their homes and enter the public realm. And there are those who cannot go out because of infirmity, comorbidities, lack of mobility, or lack of transportation.  

So, in our community, it is essential that we help everyone: those who are unable to join us: we can serve remotely or go to them; those who are reluctant to be in person will tell us when they are ready to move forward, and we need to listen, try to comprehend their situation, and to accept them with open arms. 

According to the Talmud, one of the rabbis of our tradition spent time in isolation, and the difficulties he confronted could be instructive to us as we consider where our world has been in the last 18 months, and what we need to bear in mind as we re-emerge into society. 

I am referring to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one of the most cited rabbinic authorities in the Mishnah. He lived for preserving Torah: inhaling its fragrance and exhaling teachings to new rabbis whom he ordained regularly. Teaching Torah was a consuming passion in his life. 

It was during his lifetime, however – the Second century of the Common Era – that Rome, as an occupying power in the land of Israel, had decreed torture and death for Torah scholars and for those who ordained rabbis. Rabbi Shimon not only taught and promoted Torah study, he also publicly criticized Rome because of its prohibition of religious instruction and tyranny over the Jewish community. In retribution, Rome sentenced Rabbi Shimon and his son, Rabbi Eliezer, to death, for conspiracy and treason, really just for teaching Torah. 

The father and son fled, taking shelter in an isolated cave in northern Israel, where, in defiance of the Roman authorities, they studied and taught Torah, day and night for twelve years, eating only carob fruit and drinking only water.Eventually, the Roman emperor died, Rome reversed their death sentence, and the rabbis could finally leave their protective confinement.  

It’s not difficult to imagine how they felt when they finally emerged from that cave: elated that the danger no longer existed; thrilled to be in the sun once again; happy to return to the God-fearing community of Israel. 

But the world into which they emerged in no way resembled the world they remembered twelve years before. They found a world that was – in their view, at least – unguided by Torah: 

  • People were going about their business with peaceful feelings and intent. 

  • Personal relationships seemed quite friendly and genuine. 

  • There was a spirit of optimism about the new Roman rulers … and … 

  • Farmers were plowing, sowing, harvesting, and rejoicing in their crops. Shepherds were guiding their animals. Shop-owners were doing a brisk business. The society had regained some prosperity, and people were living conventional and even mundane lives, something we’d hope for in our times! 

  • … and all on their own, without the rule of rabbis or the direction of Torah … 

… which infuriated the rabbis. Here, the Talmud inserts a fantastical tale: Wherever the rabbis looked, their eyes literally incinerated every person at whom they cast their glance. Hundreds of people died. 

God was so despondent at this behavior, that the Holy One banished the rabbis, returning them to their cave for an additional year,4 punishing the rabbis for their audacious behavior and giving Divine Approval for the normal, everyday lives of people. 

Those rabbis had their reaction to being confined for so long, and we have had ours. The last 18 months have, indeed, left us scarred and battered – but not beaten, or defeated, or bereft of our core values: 

  • We have answered the call of adaptability 

  • We have accepted the challenge of adjusting to new circumstances. 

  • We have responded with the approach of Deuteronomy: “Life itself has placed before us life and death, curse and blessing, and we need to choose life.’5 

Jewish tradition affords us further guidance. As Rabbi Tarfon reminds us in the Mishnah, ‘The day is short, the work expands, and the workers are lazy. Yet the payoff is enormous, the master of the house presses forward … and we recall that it is not our responsibility to finish the work, but neither are we free to neglect it.’6 Despite the difficulties of the past and challenges we will confront in the future, Rabbi Tarfon reminds us that we must push ahead. 

Being confined and quarantined this year has neither deactivated our humanity nor our ability to perform the work of social justice. And it certainly does not absolve us of the responsibilities we have toward one another. 

In the twelve years that Rabbi Shimon and son remained in that cave, they may have been awake to the words of Torah, but they were asleep to the needs of society. Can you imagine how wrong we would have been if we had been unaware of and resistant to the countless needs of society for that long a time? What would history think of us? 

So, as we emerge from our confinements of the recent past, it is time we turn our attention to a matter which we can no longer avoid as a human race, and that is global climate change. As we slowly resume more familiar pathways of life, each of us needs to join those who are active in helping to reverse the effects of this threat to our planet. 

About twenty years ago, former US senator, vice president, and then-private-citizen Al Gore began to share an illustrated lecture – this was before PowerPoint was a thing – on the state of the earth’s climate. Becoming a book and then a documentary film, “An Inconvenient Truth” was one of those ideas so large and confrontational that people turned away from it; they could do nothing but deny its reality. Few crucial decision-makers were willing to entertain the notion – shared so graphically and starkly – that humanity’s activities were destroying our planet. 

Why were we not willing to listen? It may be human nature to avoid the truly challenging truths that confront us. 

In his 2019 book “We Are The Weather”, Jonathan Safran Foer recounts a famous June 1943 meeting between Jan Karski, a Catholic member of the Polish underground, and a Jewish justice of the US Supreme Court, Felix Frankfurter. Karski hoped to impress upon the justice the perils faced by European Jews under the Nazis. 

Karski recounted the facts and the testimonies from European Jewish leaders with whom he had spoken, and Frankfurter paced back and forth in his office. According to Foer’s account, the justice then sat down, and, after a series of clarifying questions, he said to Karski, “Mr. Karski, a man like me talking to a man like you must be totally frank. So I must say I am unable to believe what you told me.” A companion to Mr. Karski in the room pleaded with the justice to accept Karski’s account, but the justice responded, “I didn’t say that this young man is lying. I said I am unable to believe him. My mind, my heart, they are made is such a way that I cannot accept [what he’s telling me].”7 

Foer’s conclusion is that our human species may have curiosity and a natural proclivity for seeking knowledge, but a poorly developed sense of what to do in the face of difficulty and danger. For Frankfurter and the Holocaust, he was unable to apprehend the enormity of the problem or possible remedies.  

Even today many are not willing to think that our planet could be slowly smothered because of human abuse. But if we look to the wisdom of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai for a moment – rather than that midrash about how he set people on fire – we can see that he, too, had a view about the earth and its resources. 

Rabbi Shimon said, “Three things are equally important: earth, humanity, and rain.” 

 

And Rabbi Israel bar Hiyah, who elaborated on Rabbi Shimon’s words, said this: “We must attend to Rabbi Shimon. These three terms are each composed of three Hebrew letters – eretz, adam, and matar – and are, therefore, equivalent to one another. They teach that without the earth there is no rain, without the rain there is no earth, and without them both there is no humanity.”8 

Rabbi Shimon reminds us that the existence of our planet depends not only upon the balance of the various elements of nature, but also the need to value and protect all the works of creation, and the requirement for humanity to have access to all of earth’s resources. 

We humans have been in a cave for far too long, unwilling to focus on this problem. We need to rid ourselves of our lethargy and renew our work to preserve our climate. This world is the only one we have, despite the science fiction accounts of distant planets of refuge. And so, we must consider: 

  • What each of us must do in our own homes; 

  • What our synagogue must do to further our work in making a positive impact on the climate; 

  • And what our community-at-large must accomplish to reduce our carbon footprints and try to reverse planetary climate change. 

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve recycled … we’ve cut back on our driving, especially this past 18 months … we have purchased hybrid and all-electric vehicles: but it has not been enough. The degradation of our planet’s resources, and the decay of the protective nature of its atmosphere, needs to alarm us at our core! 

I want to talk about eating for a moment, and I hope the following statistics DO move us, and disturb us. Changes in our everyday behavior could have a significant impact on the world’s situation. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that methane-producing livestock – that is, cattle, goats, and sheep – are a leading cause of climate change. Their aggregated CO2 output is responsible for an estimated seven-and-a-half-billion tons of CO2 emissions per year, or 14.5% of annual global CO2 emissions.9 And if we included in these calculations: 

  • the CO2 exhaled by all those animals 

  • and the amount of CO2 that is NOT being absorbed by the trees that were destroyed to accommodate more grazing land for those animals … 

… it is estimated that the livestock-linked CO2 in the atmosphere is more like half, at 51 percent.10 

And for those who are concerned about getting adequate protein, the following may be of interest: 

The production of 6.61 pounds of CO2 are associated with a single serving of beef, cheese produces 2.45 pounds of CO2, pork produces 1.72 pounds, and poultry produces 1.26 pounds. And for those who are vegans, a serving of legumes produces one-tenth of a pound of CO2.11 

Speaking of food, I have begun digesting – it’s an 1,800-page plateful – the most recent report of the United Nations’ “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” published last month. If we are troubled about global climate change and our well-documented human pattern of intervening with and harming the planet around us, we need to read, accept, draw near to, and place into our consciousness this well-researched and frightening paper. Reading it late at night could bring on nightmares, but perhaps that kind of jolt is what we need. 

From the report's executive summary, we learn these facts. (The italicized phrases are taken from the report itself, I presume for emphasis): 

“It is virtually certain that the global upper ocean (0–700 meters, or close to half a mile) has warmed since the 1970’s, and extremely likely that human influence is the main driver. It is virtually certain that human-caused CO2 emissions are the main driver of current global acidification of the surface open ocean. There is high confidence that oxygen levels have dropped in many upper ocean regions since the mid-20th century, and medium confidence that human influence contributed to this drop.”12 

Further, “Since 1970, but especially since 1990, the change in global surface temperature has increased about one degree centigrade, where it is estimated that this same indicator had not appreciably increased in the 140 years prior to 1990.”13 

One terrifying aspect of last week’s devastating Hurricane Ida along the Louisiana coast is the rapid and immense intensification of the storm as it bared down on that region. These factors come from the increase in the warmed upper ocean temperatures over the last four decades, and – according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Miami – is likely to continue.14 

Finally, returning to “We Are the Weather”, the author mentions the Paris climate accords’ goal of maintaining no more than a two degree Celsius increase in global warming. He labels this innocuous-sounding uptick as “the outside edge of cataclysm”. He suggests that this increase in the climate would raise sea levels by 1.6 feet, and cities like Dhaka, Karachi, New York, and dozens of others will produce 143 million new climate migrants.15 

We can look at this information as Justice Frankfurter did and be overwhelmed with helplessness. But frankly, I view it as one of my tasks, as your Rabbi, that certain moments call for extreme efforts to inspire us all to action.  This is one of those moments. 

So, what are we to do? As much as is humanly possible! 

Minimally, please read everything you can find on how we humans affect the climate of our world. 

Next, get involved with the Environment and Climate Change Action Team, the newest of our Temple Beth El social justice task groups, which will help each of us become more familiar with ways to serve and save the planet. The Action Team is preparing for a congregational discussion in November of Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, and they’ll continue from there. 

Next, consider how your personal activities can help to reduce your carbon footprint. Others will follow our leadership when we discover and relate honestly and sincerely the truth of the situation. We need to recall that, in solving our problems, each of us is connected to others, in this county, our nation, and the world. This is a global problem and needs to be solved globally. 

Finally, know that – as with anything – it will take systemic change to make a meaningful dent in the climate change struggle. Suggesting that reducing or eliminating one’s carbon footprint in one place only to make up for increased emissions from over-pollution elsewhere may not make a significant difference in the world’s overall problem. We need a greater number of actions, as well as the mutual cooperation of large companies, governments, and citizens, to reduce their effect on the world’s climate.16 

For those of us of a certain age, we won’t feel the effects of climate change for much longer. But we must not defer action, for this is not the kind of world we want to bequeath to our descendants: a planet … 

… where water shortages, like the current one on the lower Colorado River, are common occurrences! 

… where crop yields will be significantly reduced! 

… where half of all animal species will face extinction! 

… or where weather disasters of all kinds rob humanity of lives and property!17 

Again, I remind us of the words from Deuteronomy, “Life itself has placed before us life and death, curse and blessing, and we need to choose life.’18 Let us rouse ourselves from our sleep, emerge from our caves, and realize there may still be actions we can take to slow the pace of, if not reverse, the global warming we currently experience. 

Unlike the world of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, when people were burning because of his personal anger, the whole world outside our caves is literally on fire, and we must find ways that we, as a planetary community, can douse the flames, save ourselves, and return to normal. 

Coming to my mind is the Star Trek film “First Contact”. One of the film’s plot-points is the future-world’s population’s shared reaction to the arrival on Earth of the first sentient extra-terrestrials. No longer alone in the universe, humanity discovered that it could cooperate on an international level, that disputes of territory and resources were of minimal importance, that money no longer mattered, and that people could progress forward: not in the heat of suspicion, but rather with the glow of humanity in their hearts. 

That is the kind of world we need right now. Let us strive to push us in that direction in the year to come. 

May this be a year of health and optimism, of good humor, of human caring and empathy, and of peace. 

L’shanah tovah. 

 
Footnotes:
[1] Psalm 130
[2] Paraphrase of Deuteronomy 30:19 
[3] BT Shabbat 33b
[4] BT Shabbat 33b
[5] Paraphrase of Deuteronomy 30:19
[6] Mishnah Pirkei Avot 2:15-16
[7] Ibid.
[8] Midrash Genesis Rabbah 13:3
[9] Foer, page 95
[10] Foer, page 96
[11] Foer, page 100
[12] https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_SPM.pdf, page 6
[13] Ibid, page 7.
[14] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/29/climate/hurricane-ida-category.html
[15] Foer, page 58
[16] https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/31/opinion/climate-change-carbon-neutral.html
[17] Foer, page 59
[18] Paraphrase of Deuteronomy 30:19
 

Volunteer Opportunities 

08/04/2021 02:14:15 PM

Aug4

Looking to volunteer? Need a b’nai mitzvah project? Here are ways to help people in our community.

Jewish Social Services Opportunities

JSS needs volunteers for no-contact delivery of groceries and other essentials, phone contact, and other tasks and projects. The need is particularly high for one or two volunteers to help with tech support. For further info, please contact Paul Borowsky at 608-442-4083.

JSS is launching its refugee mentorship program, Aljirani Madison, and is seeking volunteers! From the Swahili jirani and Arabic aljar—both meaning “neighbor”—Aljirani Madison is a six-month volunteering program that partners community volunteers with a local refugee individual or family to provide a warm welcome, companionship, and practical help. See here for a full description of the program. For further information, contact Sam Van Akkeren. Please note: partnerships will meet digitally for the foreseeable future.

Meals for Catholic Multicultural Center

The Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) meal program provides grab-and-go meals from the CMC parking lot. Our volunteers drop off food every other Wednesday to meet the growing need. We cook for 80+ people by sharing recipes and dividing up the work. If you are interested in preparing food at home for delivery to CMC, please use this signup link. Contact Sue Levy you have any questions.

Porchlight wish list 

The Porchlight Men’s Emergency Shelter has made the move from the Warner Park Recreation Center to First Street. Porchlight is always in need of cleaning and household supplies, hotel size toiletries, and groceries. Items can be dropped off at 306 N. Brooks Street, and Porchlight will deliver them to the shelter. See here for items needed, or contact Pam Robbins for more information.

Many New Refugee Families Arriving in Madison

08/03/2021 04:09:41 PM

Aug3

With the Biden administration now permitting much higher numbers of refugees to arrive, refugee resettlement efforts are on the move again. In July, Jewish Social Services of Madison (JSS) and Open Doors for Refugees resettled more new refugees in the Madison area than in the previous six months of 2021! We have now set up more than 50 apartments since the beginning of this partnership, with more families on the way. A great team of volunteers are helping set up the apartments with donated furniture and household supplies. We also stock the apartments with enough food for the two-week quarantine that newly arrived families have to observe. 

JSS is once again looking for volunteers to help with setup. In particular, JSS is looking for van drivers to drive the van that they use for larger families, or drivers who have such a vehicle themselves.

JSS and Open Doors also have a wish list for items needed for newly arrived and arriving refugee families. All kinds of household items and gently used furniture are helpful. If you would like to contribute, please see the list here, and know that every donation is greatly appreciated.

 

Jewish Federation of Madison Sponsors Summer Internships 

08/03/2021 03:57:14 PM

Aug3

This summer, under a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Madison, Temple Beth El is partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Dane County to provide summer internships for six young people. These interns work at two businesses and four nonprofit organizations under the supervision and mentorship of Temple Beth El members. Stay tuned for the full report once the internships conclude!

Mario Cancasco has been working with Elizabeth Friedman and Casey Brown at Frank Beverages. 

Quynh-Anh Le will be attending UW this fall. She is seen here in the warehouse of her internship at Interstate Books4School, working with Amy, Marty, Randy, and Molly Fields.

“At Madison Youth Arts, Desia Xiong has been doing a wide range of things—data entry, social media, photography, user guides, and helping set up rooms for our user organizations. We’ve loved having her here and we’ve loved being part of this program!” —Jessica M. Courtier, Director of Community Partnerships, Madison Youth Arts

 

Catholic Multicultural Center Serving Meals in Person Again (We Hope)

08/03/2021 03:48:34 PM

Aug3

by Sue Levy

Beginning in September, Catholic Multicultural Center hopes to begin serving daily dinners again in their cafeteria, and we are planning for TBE volunteers to help with in-person serving and washing up. These plans are of course contingent on safety and health priorities set by city and county guidelines. We hoped to begin in-person service in August and are now aiming for September. Until they open to in-person dining, we are continuing to cook a meal twice a month with our next time being August 25, see the sign-up here

The Catholic Multicultural Center provides free meals every day to south side community members, including those without housing. Volunteers set out and serve the food, participants join one another to eat at café tables next to the center kitchen, and then our volunteers do the dishes with a restaurant style dishwasher. The center, located just off Park Street at 1862 Beld St., serves about 80 people daily.

TBE partners with a variety of church congregations and community groups to provide the volunteer corps to support this effort. With the sponsorship of the Social Action Committee, we provide six to eight volunteers (age 12 and above), for two hours one day a month. The TBE group volunteers on the second Monday of each month, from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. You can sign up for just one day or make it a regular event. 

Interested in engaging with other TBE members to meet this critical community need? Click on the SignUpGenius link and tell us when you are available. 

TBE members began providing in-person volunteer services in 2019. When the group meals had to close down in 2020, 32 cooks from TBE stepped forward, bought groceries, and cooked more than 3,000 grab-and-go meals from March 2020 to July 2021. We are so grateful for all that they did! Thanks to everyone who found a way to keep feeding folks and stay connected to the community during this time.

Contact Sue Levy or Aleeza Hoffert if you’d like to be notified when we switch to in-person serving and cleaning up. 

Voting Rights Are Civil Rights: Letting Our Senators Know Where We Stand

08/03/2021 02:56:40 PM

Aug3

The Union for Reform Judaism’s Religious Action Center (RAC) is working to enact national standards for voting, to ensure that everyone can vote and every vote is counted. As Reform Jews, our tradition teaches us that we want a transparent process we can trust, where all Americans have equal freedom to vote. For these reasons, the Reform Movement’s top federal legislative priorities include the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The For the People Act (HR 1/S 1) is a sweeping package to realize the promise of our democracy, get big money out of politics, ensure our freedom to vote, and guarantee that congressional districts are drawn to give fair representation for all. You can read more about it here.  

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named in honor of the late civil rights icon and longtime congressman, aims to combat racial discrimination by restoring and strengthening the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Voting Rights Act is a signature achievement of the civil rights movement that has been significantly weakened by Supreme Court decisions, clearing the path for the regressive and discriminatory laws that we are seeing in state legislatures today. You can read more about it here

Although the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act faced minimal opposition in the House of Representatives, they face resistance in the U.S. Senate. For this reason, the RAC coordinated a national campaign of direct outreach to Senate offices through virtual lobby visits during July and August. TBE member Betsy Abramson served as the RAC’s Wisconsin lobby meeting coordinator for the first meeting in Wisconsin, with Senator Tammy Baldwin. 

On July 26, Reform Jews from eight of the nine congregations across Wisconsin participated in a Zoom call with Samuel Martin, a member of Senator Tammy Baldwin’s staff. We were joined by representatives of other Jewish congregations and organizations, interfaith supporters, disability rights groups, and voting rights and aging organizations—100 people in all—asking Senator Baldwin to make these bills a top priority. Our speakers included Barbara Beckert of Disability Rights Wisconsin and Disability Vote Coalition, a member of Temple Shalom in Milwaukee, who gave her front-line perspective based on assisting voters over the last few elections; Rabbi Bonnie Margulis of Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice and the Wisconsin Interfaith Voter Engagement Coalition, summarized the impact of the bills and talked about how the filibuster is preventing debate and resolution. Rabbi Benjamin Altschuler of Mt. Sinai Congregation in Wausau, spoke about the Jewish teachings that underlie our long-standing commitment to securing everyone’s right to vote.

David Wolfson, social justice activist and member of Congregation Shalom in Milwaukee, asked about Senator Baldwin’s views on the bills and the possibilities for reforming the filibuster. Mr. Martin responded that Senator Baldwin is a strong supporter who has been working with her colleagues to get the bills passed, and she will continue talks with any senators who are on the fence. Various alternatives for reforming the filibuster are under discussion, and all options are on the table for getting it passed. Betsy Abramson thanked Senator Baldwin and Mr. Martin for their commitment to working for these bills.
 
Kai Yael Gardner-Mishlove, director of the Milwaukee Jewish Community Relations Council, closed the meeting by saying that protection of the disenfranchised and the vulnerable is important to assure a vibrant and egalitarian society. For that reason the Jewish community opposes laws that have the effect of restricting the right to vote, and she emphasized that we are in this fight for the long haul. After the meeting with Senator Baldwin’s office, we discussed setting up a similar meeting with Senator Johnson in the near future.

Our work on voting rights will carry on both nationally and in Wisconsin, and both the Racial Justice Action Team and Civic Engagement Action team will be part of this effort. If you’d like to join us in working on these critical issues, please contact Betsy Abramson at 608-332-7867 or betsyabramson@gmail.com.

Want to know more?

  • To learn more about the history of the filibuster and how this tradition impacts the passage of these two bills, see the URJ’s resolution on reforming the filibuster to promote debate without endangering other rights. For an argument that the filibuster should simply be abandoned, see this perspective from the Wisconsin Interfaith Voter Engagement Coalition.
  • A recent report details the problems that Wisconsin residents have faced accessing the vote in past elections and the additional problems they may face in the future if certain proposals go through. See “Voting Rights Are Human Rights: In Our Own Voices,” a report from the Disability Vote Coalition.

Community Bike Ride Around Lake Wingra—Back by Popular Demand

08/03/2021 02:50:20 PM

Aug3

By popular demand, the Environment and Climate Change Action Team is organizing another community bike ride around Lake Wingra. Join us for a ride with new and old friends and learn about volunteer options to help keep the lake clean and thriving for all to enjoy. On Sunday morning, September 5, meet in Wingra Park near Arbor Drive to begin the ride, 9:00–10:30 am. Register here

Book Clubs Will Discuss "We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast"

08/03/2021 02:32:36 PM

Aug3

On Tuesday night, November 16, the Environment and Climate Change Action Team and the Men’s Book Club will join together for a discussion of We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast. In this book, acclaimed author Jonathan Safran Foer explores the central global dilemma of our time in a surprising, deeply personal, and urgent new way. 

Some people reject the fact, overwhelmingly supported by scientists, that our planet is warming because of human activity. But do those of us who accept the reality of human-caused climate change truly believe it? If we did, surely we would be roused to act on what we know. Will future generations distinguish between those who didn’t believe in the science of global warming and those who said they accepted the science but failed to change their lives in response?

The task of saving the planet will involve a great reckoning with ourselves and with our all-too-human reluctance to sacrifice immediate comfort for the sake of the future. The author maintains that we have turned our planet into a farm for growing animal products, and the consequences are catastrophic. Only collective action will save our home and way of life. And it all starts with what we eat—and don’t eat—for breakfast.

All are welcome to join as we discuss what we found helpful and reflect on whether what the author proposes can drive change in us and/or our communities. Please register here. This event will run from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. It may be in person or virtual, to be determined. 

Individual Actions Make a Big Difference for the Environment

08/03/2021 12:25:51 PM

Aug3

by Marta Karlov, Environment and Climate Change Action Team chair

 

To speak with TBE member Liz Whitesel about reducing greenhouse gases produced by food waste is to become infected with her enthusiasm. After one hour of interviewing her for this article, I felt compelled to follow her example. The Karlov household now hosts a bin from Curbside Composter—our scraps from cooking prep will go to a farm that will turn them into compost to improve the soil. Easy!

Liz’s journey started when she and her husband built a garden in their backyard in the 1980s. Together they collected scraps and used a composting bin provided by the city to make compost throughout the year. This of course takes patience and dedication—for every successful backyard composting effort there are many more stories involving critters, solid garbage that defies the obligatory turning and mixing, and giant piles of waste that never convert into the coveted dark, odor-free material that amends your soil with wonderful nutrients. 

For Liz and Russ Whitesel, composting was associated with their vegetable garden. Once they stopped gardening, they also ended their home composting. Then in 2011 the City of Madison made it easier for people to divert waste from the landfill. The city first tested curbside collection in various configurations and neighborhoods and in 2020 instituted a seasonal drop-off program. Liz took advantage of these options, but they became too cumbersome. The city eventually stopped them all. The latest version ended on July 17 of this year. 

Finally, through her daughter, Liz learned about home pickup programs and has been very satisfied with her choice in Madison, Curbside Composter. It is simple and effortless, and it costs $1 a day.

I asked Liz why she felt so strongly about keeping her food scraps out of the landfill, and she explained that she is just trying to be mindful of her footprint—doing a few things that will make a difference and spreading the word so others follow her example. Already one neighbor has agreed to join, and she is spreading the word to all who might be interested. 

And she is right: studies put food waste at 6% to 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In a landfill, food decomposition results in methane gas, which is about 30 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas. According to Madison’s Sustainability Program, about 20% of what we send to Dane County landfill is food waste https://www.wortfm.org/the-prospect-of-an-anaerobic-digester/. 

Liz says her bucket from Curbside Composter is almost two-thirds full every week. And that is only for one person. My guess is that mine will be completely full since we eat a lot of vegetables! 

According to Liz, “We all kind of delude ourselves into saying we cannot make a difference, it is too big of a problem, and that’s why I am a dreamer. I feel like if I do this, maybe other people would do it too.” 

Liz is also trying carbon offsets for travel (which she also learned about from her daughter), and a few other easy things like carrying metal straws in her purse, bringing mesh bags for produce to the grocery store, and using bamboo paper products (bamboo grows fast and uses less space and no fertilizers or pesticides). If you run into her, I am sure she will be happy to tell you all about it. And you might find yourself changing some habits or starting something new! 

Visit Curbside Composter or Earth Stew to learn more about food scrap home pickup programs in the area. The City of Madison and Dane County also offer many resources for food waste reduction
and composting.

High Holy Day Food Drive—Donate Today!

08/03/2021 12:12:06 PM

Aug3

The High Holy Day Food Drive is a long-standing holiday tradition at Temple Beth El. The food drive continues to be as important as ever, with many people in our community dependent on food banks and meal programs to feed their families. Since this year some of us will worship in person and others will attend services virtually, look for the traditional food drive envelope in your August Bulletin. You can also donate online on the Temple website (choose “High Holy Day Food Drive” as payment type). 

Last year, Temple members generously donated over $15,000 to the High Holy Day Food Drive. The Social Action Committee allocated most of the money to Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin, the region's largest and most cost-effective food bank. The remainder of the money went for direct food assistance provided through our community partners at the Catholic Multicultural Center, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Centro Hispano, Porchlight, and Food for Thought. 

Because of our sizable donation to Second Harvest in the Share Your Holidays drive, TBE was named a “silver level” sponsor, the only nonprofit organization to give at this level. Since a $10 donation to Second Harvest can provide up to 25 meals, TBE members effectively provided over 30,000 meals to help people through the darkest days of the pandemic.

(from Second Harvest https://www.secondharvestmadison.org/hungers-impact/hunger-stats)

Sadly, the pandemic is not at an end, and the economic recovery has been uneven and incomplete. Even though a majority of the households served by Second Harvest have a member who works at least 30 hours per week, they still struggle to balance paying for healthy food with other basic needs like rent, transportation, and medical care. One in six children in Southwest Wisconsin live in a household without enough food. For older people, high blood pressure and diabetes can result from not having enough healthy food. 

Our goal for 2021 is to match last year’s generous level of giving to help our neighbors move forward and put this terrible time behind us. Please donate what you can by returning the donation envelope enclosed in the August Bulletin or by donating online (choose “High Holy Day Food Drive” as payment type). 

 

The Place Where We Live and Worship: Native American Life Along the Shores of Lake Wingra

08/03/2021 10:28:12 AM

Aug3

The Four Lakes (DeJope) area was once a thriving Ho-Chunk community, and the area around Temple Beth El was important for fishing, foraging, and mound-building. To better understand the history of this land and to appreciate the people who preceded us here, the Social Action Committee is offering a walking tour of the area led by Amy Rosebrough, staff archeologist at the Wisconsin State Historical Society. 

The tour will be held on Sunday morning, October 17, from 9:30 to 11:30 am. As we walk from Vilas Park to Temple Beth El, Ms. Rosebrough will point out landscape features and tell us about how the Ho-Chunk people lived. Through this tour, we hope to gain a better understanding of the traditional lands of the Ho-Chunk Nation that our building sits upon. We are planning a related educational program for later in the fall or winter.

The walking will be fairly easy, but there will be some uneven ground. The tour is timed so that Religious School parents can attend and be back in time for the end of class. We are looking for individuals willing to shuttle folks back to their cars at Vilas Park. Please include that in your RSVP if you are able.

If you’re interested, register online. If you have questions, please contact Pam Robbins at pamrobbins3@gmail.com or Aleeza Hoffert at engage@tbemadison.org.

Rabbi Biatch Gives Invocation at Wisconsin State Assembly

06/30/2021 02:52:32 PM

Jun30

Rabbi Jonathan Biatch 

Wisconsin State Assembly Invocation, June 29, 2021 – 1:00 pm session 

(inspired by the words of Rabbi Robert Kahn of blessed memory, found on page 261 of Mishkan T’filah) 

 

Good afternoon. 

This is a day when we consider. . .and search. . .and seek the ideal in our work and our lives. 

So, let us consider: 

Each day when we rise, each of us turns to our own individual Source of Blessing to find inspiration. Today, as we prepare to engage in the business of the people of Wisconsin, we proceed along two pathways: we surely wish to elevate ourselves, and we strive to improve our state and her citizens. 

So, let us search: 

  • Let us search for strength, so that we may control our passions and impulses. 

  • Let us search for humility, so that we may assess properly our weaknesses and our true skills. 

  • Let us search for courage, so that we may achieve compromise when some seek extremes, and dare to set forth in bold, individual directions when necessary. 

  • Let us search for patience, so that we may fairly evaluate ourselves, but always give back to ourselves the benefit of the doubt. 

  • And let us search for wisdom, so that we may rise above minor disputes and disagreements. 

When we accomplish these internal goals, then we may be able to achieve something marvelous for our state. 

Therefore, let us seek the ideal: 

In the words of the Hebrew prophet Isaiah (58:6-7), we are here on earth to ‘unlock fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to release the oppressed; to break off every burden; to share bread with the hungry, to give the poor a home; to clothe the naked when we see them, and to never neglect our own flesh and blood.’ 

Isaiah reminds us that when we ‘offer compassion to the hungry and satisfy the famished, then our light will shine in darkness, and our gloom shall be like noonday.’ 

May all of us come to share these visions of the future, and work together to achieve them. 

And we say, Amen. 

Join Us in Helping to Address Hunger in Our Community

06/21/2021 09:00:53 AM

Jun21

Thank you, Jeff Levy! 

06/11/2021 08:30:10 PM

Jun11

The executive staff is thankful for new laptops that we purchased thanks to the generosity of Jeff Levy. The laptops allow executive staff to work from home or the office without using their personal devices. With in-person meetings in the building, the flexibility of laptops allows executive staff to continue to use the same note-taking and document systems for meetings that they used while working remotely. Thank you to Jeff Levy for this generous donation, which provides our executive staff with a much-needed technology upgrade. 

Goodman Foundation Yearly Grant

06/11/2021 08:26:58 PM

Jun11

The Irwin A. & Robert D. Goodman Foundation was founded in 1963 by brothers Irwin and Robert Goodman. Since then, the Foundation’s philanthropic generosity has benefited the Jewish community of Madison and the greater Madison area. Temple Beth El and other Jewish agencies in Madison have received yearly grants to help offset operating expenses. The Foundation’s future giving will focus on philanthropic projects instead of providing yearly operational support. The grant support that TBE receives from the Foundation will end in 2023. When we received notice of this several years ago, we began to prepare for additional revenue sources, including the creation of the Dorot Society for planned giving. We thank the Goodman Foundation for the many years of grant funding and for the supplemental financial support received this past winter that will help us complete our sanctuary remodel.

IRA Bequest from Jeanne Silverberg (z''l)

06/11/2021 08:20:29 PM

Jun11

Joe and Jeanne (z''l) Silverberg became Temple Beth El members 68 years ago! Joe’s parents were founding members of TBE. Joe and Jeanne, before her passing, have been active members of TBE and our Sisterhood and Men’s Club, dedicating countless volunteer hours as well as financial support over their long membership. Both Joe and Jeanne joined our Dorot Society, naming TBE as a beneficiary of their IRAs. They made the choice to give to TBE through their IRAs, knowing that the financial institution holding the IRA would pay it out upon a person’s passing. TBE is grateful for the generous donation we received shortly after Jeanne’s passing. Joe says that giving to Temple was important to Jeanne because she appreciated all that Temple Beth El does and wanted to make sure TBE will be here for her great-grandchildren. We are grateful for everything the Silverbergs have brought to TBE, for Joe’s continuing involvement, and for their ongoing legacy.

Generous Donation to the Alex and Edythe Edelman Memorial Fund 

06/11/2021 08:16:01 PM

Jun11

The Alex and Edythe Edelman Memorial Fund, established in 1988 by Fred Edelman and Ivy Dreizin Edelman (z''l) to honor the memory of Fred’s parents, is dedicated to promote Jewish education at all levels. Alex and Edythe instilled the importance of education and Jewish identity in their sons, Fred and Robert.  A strong dedication to education propelled Alex Edelman to become a lawyer and Edythe Edelman an educator who also taught religious school. As children of immigrants, Alex and Edythe made education central to their lives and how they raised their sons. Ivy held these same values. She enjoyed studying languages and had deep knowledge of both Hebrew and Italian. Fred said she “was a bit of a Hebrew scholar.” She established a special bond with Cantor Niemi over Zoom while preparing to read Torah. Ivy and Fred’s commitment to sustaining Temple Beth El as a vital part of the Jewish community in Madison is evident in their generous support of TBE. Just before her passing, Ivy made a generous donation to the Alex and Edythe Edelman Memorial Fund. Fred  notes that this donation was something Ivy “could acknowledge while she was alive,” and it reflects a desire to see our community flourish.

In addition to this gift, Ivy was a member of our Dorot Society and listed Temple Beth El as a beneficiary of her trust upon her passing. We are so grateful for both of these donations to support TBE’s education programs and our shared values.

Volunteer Opportunities 

05/18/2021 08:38:18 PM

May18

Looking to volunteer? Need a b’nai mitzvah project? Here are ways to help people in our community.

Jewish Social Services Refugee Support and Other Opportunities

JSS needs volunteers for no-contact delivery of groceries and other essentials, phone contact, and other tasks and projects. The need is particularly high for one or two volunteers to help with tech support. For further info, please contact Paul Borowsky, 608-442-4083.

JSS is launching its new refugee mentorship program, Aljirani Madison, and is now seeking volunteers! From the Swahili jirani and Arabic aljar—both meaning “neighbor”—Aljirani Madison is a six-month volunteering program that partners community volunteers with a local refugee individual or family to provide a warm welcome, companionship, and practical help. See here for a full description of the program. For further information, contact Sam Van Akkeren. Please note: partnerships will meet digitally for the foreseeable future.

Meals for Catholic Multicultural Center

The Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) meal program provides grab-and-go meals from the CMC parking lot. Our volunteers drop off food every other Wednesday to meet the growing need. We cook for 80+ people by sharing recipes and dividing up the work. If you are interested in preparing food at home for delivery to CMC, please use this signup link. Contact Sue Levy you have any questions.

Porchlight Wish List

The Porchlight Men’s Emergency Shelter has made the move from the Warner Park Recreation Center to First Street. Porchlight is always in need of cleaning and household supplies, hotel-size toiletries, and groceries. Items can be dropped off at 306 N. Brooks Street and will be delivered to the shelter. See here for items needed, or contact Pam Robbins for more information.

Good News for Refugee Resettlement

05/18/2021 08:36:04 PM

May18

Finally, some good news on refugee admissions to the United States and for refugee resettlement efforts in Madison. On May 3, President Biden officially raised the refugee admissions cap for this fiscal year from an all-time low of 15,000 to 62,500.

HIAS is a Jewish community organization that support refugees and asylum-seekers around the world. Mark Hetfield, HIAS president and CEO, commended the Biden administration for taking this long-overdue action and acknowledging the vocal public support for refugee resettlement.

“No act is more American or more Jewish than welcoming the stranger,” he said. “We’re excited to see President Biden start to rebuild refugee resettlement. We know there are long months of work ahead to fully restore the resettlement program. As the Jewish refugee organization that has long been the U.S. government’s partner in refugee resettlement, HIAS and our network of partners across the country are ready and eager to help however we can.”

Locally, the refugee resettlement program for Jewish Social Services of Madison moved a family of four from Iraq into an apartment in early May, and a family of five from the Congo is expected to arrive mid-month. Said Sherie Sondel, who coordinates TBE’s refugee volunteers: “We hopefully will be receiving many more arrivals now. We look forward to meeting them and helping them settle into their new homes.”

To make donations of furniture and other household goods to the Resettlement Program please contact OpenDoorsDonations@gmail.com. If you would like to participate in the new JSS refugee mentorship program, see here. For more information, please contact Sherie Sondel.

Court Observer Program Gives Volunteers a Front-Row Seat to the Criminal Justice System

05/18/2021 08:34:30 PM

May18

The Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development runs an ongoing court observer program to keep watch on how the court system affects individuals from communities of color. Several TBE members currently participate in this program and find it rewarding. Volunteers begin with a three-session training (now provided online) to become familiar with the basics of the cases they will be observing. The training covers how to use the Dane County Circuit Court calendar to identify cases to observe, how to follow along with the cases to complete the observation form, and how to submit the form.

Following training, volunteers observe the courts’ handling of criminal cases and housing eviction cases. Currently this observation can be done from home, since court procedures are being livestreamed during the pandemic. Volunteers can observe as many cases as desired, with a modest minimum time commitment per month. To date, volunteers across Dane County have observed over 1,000 cases, and data is continuously being entered and analyzed. Volunteers have found the experience to be highly enlightening, and it has led to recommendations for changes in procedures.

To read more about the program, see here. Or watch this 20-minute interview of TBE court observer volunteer Lynn Silverman.

 

“Seven Guided Conversations” Discussions Are Illuminating 

05/18/2021 08:30:56 PM

May18

by Erica Serlin and Lynn Silverman, group facilitators

Following a year of “racial reckoning,” TBE has begun a number of initiatives to help people on their journey toward understanding our own biases and the societal structures and history that perpetuate racism. One of these initiatives has been the use of a program developed in Madison called “Seven Guided Conversations on Race,” to engage Temple members in small-group discussions on race.

This spring two groups met for seven weeks to discuss topics such as “what is race?,” “how is whiteness a privilege?,” “why is racial representation important?,” and “understanding assumptions and stereotypes.” Prior to the meetings, members were asked to read a short text or view a brief video as a basis for our discussions. These materials were engaging, illuminating, and frequently entertaining. The groups were a safe, nonjudgmental place where people could express their thoughts and feelings candidly and share their experiences.

The goal was to increase our awareness of our own assumptions and biases, to increase our ability to view the world through a racial lens in order to help us better understand and empathize with people of color, and to be able to engage in conversations about race more effectively.

Members of both groups expressed significant appreciation for the materials and facilitated discussions, and our exploration and connections with each other definitely deepened over the seven weeks together. As one member commented, “The trust that was formed in our group allowed me to express feelings of regret in a way that I believe will help me do better in the future.”

Some challenging issues emerged from our dialogues, including the question of whether implicit biases can be significantly altered without close personal or professional relationships with people of a different race. Maybe the best that can be accomplished, some wondered, is to enhance conscious self-awareness of these natural and understandable biases in order to prevent acting on them in automatic, reflexive, and potentially harmful ways. However, we learned that we all have implicit biases that need to be examined compassionately and without judgment.

As one group member so eloquently summarized one of the lessons from the class materials, “It is imperative that we become conscious of our own biases and recognize the automatic reactivity of the fast brain (limbic system) so we can shift to more deliberate, rational pre-frontal cortex thinking in order to modulate our responses and hopefully prevent further racist injustice.” (Interested congregants may wish to take the Harvard Implicit Bias test themselves.)

Several group members also recognized the need to be aware of how language impacts our perceptions and that we make snap judgments based on the value judgments we attribute to people’s speech patterns. Another group member remarked that after completing this process, she “looks at herself with different eyes and is more aware of how others perceive her.”

For a group of well-educated, relatively “woke” individuals, it was surprising for many of us to not only acknowledge our white privilege but to recognize and openly disclose implicit biases of which we were previously unaware.

Hopefully, if this program is offered in the future, it will interest an even broader range of Temple members to further enhance possible conversations. Please contact Aleeza Hoffert if you think you might be interested, or contact Erica Serlin or Lynn Silverman to learn more about this program.

Racial Justice: Rising to the Challenges of the Year

05/18/2021 08:28:05 PM

May18

by Betsy Abramson, co-chair, Racial Justice Action Team

This first year of Temple’s Racial Justice Action Team has been both extraordinary and urgent, as local and national events have called on Reform Jews for a strong response and full engagement.

In 2017 Temple signed on to the Urgency of Now Campaign of URJ’s Religious Action Center (the RAC), with a plan to focus on racial justice in the criminal justice system. The combined events of the past year—the murder of George Floyd by police, the rise in white supremacy and voter suppression efforts, increased racial disparities in economics, COVID deaths, mental health, and other areas—have broadened the RAC’s focus and ours.

TBE members have had many opportunities to participate in racial justice work despite the pandemic:

  • After George Floyd’s murder, Temple joined other Jewish organizations in Madison by participating in a peaceful march and rally downtown.
  • Temple staff and members of the Social Action Committee organized two well-attended listening sessions in July to discuss the Jewish imperative to address the racial aspects of policing.
  • We organized a series of events beginning on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend instead of the usual Temple retreat. This included a Shabbat service honoring the legacy of Dr. King, a family music program on music of the civil rights movement, and discussion of a sermon on rethinking race within the Jewish community.
  • In February we organized an all-Temple read and discussion of Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.
  • Social Action Committee members Erica Serlin and Lynn Silverman led two cohorts of “Seven Guided Conversations About Race,” with organizational help from action team co-chair Lindsay Mindlin.
  • With the Civic Engagement Action Team, we registered people to vote and took action against voter suppression. More than 50 TBE members participated in the RAC’s postcard writing campaign encouraging traditionally marginalized communities to register and vote.
  • We deepened our involvement with the Nehemiah Center for Urban leadership Development by recruiting individuals to serve as court observers in the Dane County courts and helping supply food for young students. Several members, including Rabbi Biatch, have participated in the Nehemiah “Justified Anger” Black History course.
  • Every week we provide a Racial Justice Action of the Week in TBE’s Weekly Happenings email to help us educate, affiliate, donate, and advocate.
  • Finally, this summer, we were awarded a generous grant from Jewish Federation of Madison, enabling us to partner with the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County to provide seven summer internships for students with TBE members’ places of employment.

Many TBE members recently participated in the April 28 online kickoff of the RAC’s bold Racial Justice Campaign. This campaign will mobilize Reform congregations across North America to campaign for federal bills such as the For the People Act (H.R. 1/S. 1) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R. 4), as well as statewide efforts to fight voter suppression bills pending in the Wisconsin legislature, address police reform, and make our own congregations more welcoming to Jews of color.

It’s been an important year, and there’s more to come. Stay tuned. Get involved. Contact betsyabramson@gmail.comfor more information.

Religious School Tzedakah Donations Reflect Students’ Values

05/18/2021 08:24:47 PM

May18

by Aviva Kinsey, one of the Religious School madrichim (teaching assistants)

This period of uncertainty and isolation has been challenging, but it has also highlighted my personal privilege. I’ve been safe from COVID-19 because I’ve been able to stay at home. I have food on the table every night, an amazing education, and an even better support system.

However, many of us don’t have those privileges. Many individuals have not had the privilege of staying at home and have been forced to go into work in order to make a living. This pandemic is beyond ourselves as it is affecting every single human worldwide. We must come together to consider those that have less than us. It is important to acknowledge our own privilege in order to be grateful for what we do have but also to realize that we must share our resources with others. Overall, I hope that tzedakah can be an acknowledgment of our own privileges but also a reminder that we are responsible to help those that have less than us.

Tzedakah is not just a financial transaction; it is based around the Jewish ideals of justice and righteousness. Tzedakah encourages developing relationships and trust and recognizes that the act of giving includes effort, time, and insight. Generosity and giving are central to the Jewish religion and are also requirements for every single Jew. Performing deeds of justice may be the most important part of Judaism. Even in this virtual world, it is extremely important that we continue to uphold the Jewish principle of tzedakah.

Earlier this year, the K–3 madrichim group and the 4–7 group met and discussed nonprofit organizations that were important to them. Some people shared organizations that they had worked with, and some shared ones that helped fight issues that we care about. After we narrowed the organizations down, we created a presentation about the organizations.

Our homes have now become our offices, our gyms, and our synagogue, so we decided to have families continually collect tzedakah at home before turning it in at Temple. We also encouraged teachers to remind families, as many of us are forgetful when it comes to donating. We were very excited that we could incorporate tzedakah into this nontraditional year and bring some normalcy and tradition to religious school.

The K–3 group chose five incredible organizations. The first one was the Humane Society. Not only do they take in stray animals, but they also educate our Madison community and help match their animals to local families. The second organization they chose was the Second Harvest Foodbank. Second Harvest is a hunger-relief charity in southern Wisconsin that helps fight food insecurity by providing vulnerable families with food. The third organization is the local organization Porchlight, which helps fight homelessness in Dane County. Porchlight provides shelter, affordable housing, and other resources to homeless men throughout Dane County. The fourth selected organization was the Arava Institute. It is an environmental studies and research institute based in Israel that focuses on bettering the environment. It is also geared to uniting different Middle Eastern countries in order to best address climate change and other climate-related issues in the Middle East. The fifth and final organization was the Clean Lakes Alliance. This nonprofit is dedicated to improving and protecting the lakes, streams, and wetlands in the Yahara River watershed.

The 4–7 group decided on four amazing organizations. The first organization we chose was the Equal Justice Initiative. We were all very passionate about ending mass incarceration and fighting against systemic racism in jails. We then chose Second Harvest Foodbank as it is more of a local organization. There are current volunteering opportunities at Second Harvest, and we wanted to choose an organization that works right in our Madison community. We also chose The Road Home because Temple Beth El has been involved with it for many years. Many of us have seen the amazing work The Road Home does and the amazing partnership Temple has created with the organization. Finally, we chose Nurturing Minds. It is an organization that I have been involved with for three years now. It supports an all-girls school in Tanzania that empowers and educates girls that have never been able to dream. They gain entrepreneurial skills and real-life experience so that they can go home and better their communities.

It was an absolute pleasure working on the tzedakah project this year. Not only are these amazing organizations, but the act of giving also helped me slow down and realize how extremely fortunate and grateful I am. Hopefully this article was a good reminder to acknowledge your own privilege and to uphold the Jewish principle of giving.

Tikkun Olam Begins at Home: Promoting Environmental Stewardship through Our Building 

05/18/2021 08:09:21 PM

May18

by Marta Karlov, Environment and Climate Change Action Team chair

There are many Jewish teachings that remind us to be good stewards of our planet. Of these, the most well-known is perhaps tikkun olam: the perfection/repair of the world is in our hands. But the Torah also prohibits wasteful consumption, the extinction of species, and causing undue pain to nonhuman creatures. And it includes numerous laws which tell us that environmental justice is a Jewish value. 

At TBE, we are restarting our efforts to engage the congregation in following our Torah teachings related to the environment. We recently formed the Environment and Climate Change Action Team. Our mission is focused both internally and externally:

To fulfill the Jewish imperative to tikkun olam by encouraging environmental stewardship within the congregation and to inspire, educate, and mobilize our congregation to protect our planet from the negative impacts of climate change and to practice environmental consciousness. 

For this story I would like to highlight accomplishments within the congregation in the past 10 years. I spoke with Dan Esser, member of the House Committee since 1999, and recent recipient of a TBE lifetime achievement award for volunteering. Dan was recruited to the committee after building our sukkah with the Men’s Club, and never left. He currently serves on eight committees—four building-related and four leadership-related, including the Executive Committee and the Making the Building Safer task force. When I remarked that he contributes so much to the congregation, he said, “I get way more than I put in.”

Dan shared some of the efforts that have contributed to making our building more efficient while optimizing limited funds:

  • In 2014-15 we did a significant remodel to the front of our building. We added the outdoor terrace and converted the curved wall to new energy-efficient doors (three sets). We replaced the six front doors with fiberglass insulated units and added significant number of plantings, which included an irrigation system. 
  • For the last three or four years, we have been converting our lights as they age out to LED products and getting energy rebates. We determined that since the bulk of our building is only used 10 hours per week, it was not practical to do preemptive replacements. However, we did convert all the hall lights that have to remain on 24/7 for safety purposes. 
  • In 2018-19, we did an architect-let capital needs assessment of our building, which outlined expenses for the next 15-20 years and highlighted ways to reduce energy costs. 
  • Our biggest investment was in 2020 HVAC replacement project, which included 9 new rooftop units, each the size of a small car. Our biggest unit is called a weather expert and we received a $1,000 rebate from Focus on Energy. We added for CO2 sensors to precisely monitor the number of people in our most populous spaces. This also qualified for an energy rebate. 

I asked Dan for suggestions for members of the congregation who want to support implementing the recommendations of the capital needs assessment, such as adding solar panels to the roof. He replied that there are plans to start a capital campaign soon and encouraged us to give generously. This investment will pay off in reducing our carbon footprint and our energy bills, both highly effective ways to fulfill our Jewish imperative of tikkun olam.

We welcome all who want to join us in supporting ongoing efforts and finding new ways to engage our community to repair the world. Our vision is to achieve greater sensitivity to the earth among members, empower all to act locally and think globally, and to impact individuals, TBE, and the communities where we live. Contact Marta Karlov at mokarlov2@gmail.com or Aleeza Hoffert at engage@tbemadison.org for more information.

Celebrate Pride with Us All June Long

05/11/2021 08:23:20 PM

May11

TBE Pride Team

This year let us think of our Pride month observance as a tree.

This tree connects us to our Judaism, our ancestry—and ourselves. At the root is our text, our tradition, the Torah and Talmud.

Our shared history, which nourishes us all, is the trunk of our tree.

Advocacy, outreach, and connection are represented by the tree branches. Imagine how a branch grows—how it reaches. This echoes how we reach out to others, to each other—how we stretch, how we grow, how we expand in our roles in the world, and how we expand within ourselves.

And, finally, in the leaf, the flower, and the fruiting of our tree resides our creativity. The music of Pride, the food of the soul, and the art as well as the writing of Pride—the ways in which we express our individual narratives and community experiences.

During Pride month here at Temple Beth El, we aim to encompass all parts of our tradition, history, advocacy, and expression in our programming. Please join us!

Bo’u Nashir! (Come, Let Us Sing!) Pride Edition
Tuesdays, June 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, 3:00–3:30 pm • Facebook Live

The soul-fulfilling song sessions you have come to love return with special Pride connections all month long. Cantor Jacob Niemi will be singing pieces by LGBTQ composers or with Pride themes. How many songs about rainbows does he know? Tune in weekly via Facebook Live to find out!

Quarantine Kitchen Pride Edition: Rainbow Challah 
Thursday, June 3, 12:00–12:30 pm • Facebook Live

Watch this encore showing of Quarantine Kitchen where Jen Szlasa shows us how to make rainbow challah. Try your hand at making some ahead of our Pride Shabbat on June 11. Find the recipe here. You can also watch the demo anytime here.

Reading through a Bent Lens: How Queer Approaches to Text Can Illuminate and Elevate the Study of Jewish Texts 
Sunday, June 6, 11:30 am–1:00 pm • Zoom

Join Cantor Jacob Niemi for an exploration of Jewish sacred texts from LGBTQ+ perspectives, and learn how these readings can elevate the study of Torah for all.

Pride Shabbat 
Friday, June 11, 7:30–9:00 pm • Facebook Live

Explore some of Wisconsin’s LGBTQ+ history, show our pride, and welcome Shabbat through this special Pride Shabbat service honoring the Jewish LGBTQ+ community and allies. We are honored that scholar and activist Richard Wagner will be sharing remarks with us on the topic “Battlers of Hate and Destroyers of Stereotypes in the Struggle for Righteousness.” LGBTQ+ history in Wisconsin, as elsewhere, is a journey toward justice. Episodes in Wisconsin’s journey include the Jewish community's leadership on the state hate crimes law and its work countering ignorance and stereotypes. Join us in this community celebration of love, faith, equality, and respect.

Order Richard Wagner’s books from the local bookstore Mystery to Me (scroll down on the home page of their website for direct links to order in the Featured Books section). Please note on the order form if you would like your books signed by the author. Books to be signed will be delivered to TBE, and we will contact you when they are ready for pickup. Unsigned copies can be picked up at the bookstore at 1863 Monroe Street (across from Trader Joe’s).

Showing Up for Transgender and Nonbinary Youth
Thursday, June 17, 7:00–8:00 pm • Zoom

Brian Juchems, co-executive director of GSAFE (an organization supporting LGBTQ+ students, educators, and families throughout Wisconsin) will give us a look at the issues facing LGBTQ+ students in our schools, bills being debated by our legislature to prevent transgender and nonbinary students from participating in school sports, and longer-term efforts to marginalize transgender youth within our communities. Find out how to get involved to support greater inclusion.

Looking to take action now? Brian also recommends this site https://equityforall.wixsite.com/supporttranskidswi created by a trans youth activist and organizer for ways to take action right now in response to the bills that have been introduced. 

142 Jewish Writing Prompts for Pride
Wednesday, June 23, 7:00–8:30 pm • Zoom

Get your Jewish creative juices flowing! Join Rena Yehuda Newman and writers of all ages, identities, and Jewish backgrounds for a fast-paced workshop of writing prompt-based games for Pride month.

Resources
The Pride team last year put together a wonderful list of resources, which can be found on the Temple blog.

 

Save the Date
2021 TBE Swarsensky Scholar-in-Residence: Rabbi Mark Sameth

We’re excited to announce that our Swarsensky Scholar this fall, Rabbi Mark Sameth, will explore themes of gender and identity in our tradition and how to use it for justice today.

Provisional Program for November 12–14, 2021 (subject to change)

  • Friday evening: “A History of the Dual-Gendered Hebrew Name for God,” in 25 minutes with accompanying graphics. Appropriate for all ages.
  • Shabbat morning: Interactive Torah study. A “deep dive” into Parashat Vayeitzei. A look at the text of this week’s Torah portion through the lens of dual gender. One hour.
  • Shabbat lunch: Panel discussion with a panel of the Temple’s choosing to engage in conversation with Rabbi Sameth about issues raised so far—and others they may wish to raise. A flexible program designed to bring in other voices and different perspectives.
  • Sunday morning: A keynote presentation on the social justice implications of the dual-gendered name of God (e.g., supporting gender equality, feminism, LGBTQ, interfaith, multicultural, and intersectional identities) followed by Q&A. A chance to discuss together how we might best put this learning to use in the furtherance of tikkun olam.

Rabbi Mark Sameth (he/him/his) was named “one of America’s most inspiring rabbis” by The Forward (inaugural list, 2013). He is featured in Jennifer Berne and R. O. Blechman’s God: 48 Famous and Fascinating Minds Talk about God.His interfaith work was the topic of a story in The New York Times. His essays and interviews appear on Religion Dispatches ("Our Father, Who Art Our Mother") and Being Both, in books published by Jossey Bass, Jewish Lights, CCAR Press, and New Paradigm Matrix, and in Reform Judaism Magazine, Journal of Jewish Education, CCAR Journal, and the New York Times (“Is God Transgender?” Op-Ed, August 12, 2016). He tweets from @fourbreaths.

Comments about Rabbi Sameth’s book “The Name: A History of the Dual-Gendered Hebrew Name for God” (Wipf & Stock, 2020):

  • “May just be the most interesting thing written about God since the Jews figured out there was only One.” —Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author of Kabbalah: A Love Story
  • “A startlingly persuasive argument that Maimonides sought to reveal the secret of God’s dual gender… Ready-made for adult education.” —Rabbi Elaine Glickman, editor-in-chief, CCAR Journal
  • “Has the potential to change our entire understanding of the past.” —Rabbi Dr. Kerry Olitzky, co-author of Book of Job
  • “The Name is traditional and revolutionary, historical and mythical, rational and mystical. I couldn't put it down.” —Rabbi Naomi Levy, author of Einstein and the Rabbi

Israel Leadership Network Builds Connections between Diaspora and Israeli Jewish Communities

05/11/2021 04:26:46 PM

May11

Joanna Berke

Temple Beth El and other Reform Jewish communities in the diaspora have gathered together to forge methods of bringing our communities and those in Israel closer together, forming the Israel Leadership Network for this purpose.

Those of us at Temple Beth El involved in the network include Rabbi Jonathan Biatch, Director of Lifelong Learning Nicole A. Jahr, and the co-chairs of the Kesher Israel Committee, Orly Klugman and Joanna Berke. We encourage others to join us!

 Meetings are held every six weeks. Our previous meetings have included listening to educators regarding the disparities and similarities of our movements and discussing plans for moving forward.

 We are aided in this project by our experienced mentor, Sherrill Neff. Our next meeting will bring leaders of congregations of various sizes and experiences together to share strengths and needs for improvement.

Again, these meetings are welcome to all. Please join us! Contact Nicole Jahr, Director of Lifelong Learning at learn@tbemadison.org for details. 

 

Quarantine Kitchen: Edible Cups of Dirt

04/13/2021 11:00:13 AM

Apr13

Brynn Choi

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of chocolate Jello pudding mix
  • 2 cups of milk
  • Oreo cookies
  • Gummy worms

Directions:

  • Mix together pudding mix with 1 cup of milk
  • Wisk it together
  • Add second cup of milk and continue to stir
  • Let it sit for 5 minutes
  • Crush Oreos and set aside
  • In an 8 oz cup, alternate layers of pudding and Oreo crumble and top with gummy worms.
  • Enjoy!

Quarantine Kitchen: Coffee Cake

04/12/2021 09:18:17 AM

Apr12

Ava Greenberg

This recipe is adapted from Raddish! 

INGREDIENTS:

Cake:

  • 1 ¼ cups flower 
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tap baking soda
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs 
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Crumb Topping:

  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

 

INSTRUCTIONS: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 8 x 8 baking pan with cooking spray, butter, or parchment paper. 
  2. For the cake, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. 
  3. Add softened butter and white sugar to a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  4. Crack your eggs in a separate bowl. 
  5. Add your eggs, sour cream, and vanilla to butter and sugar mixture. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. 
  6. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix with electric mixer until it’s all combined. Add batter to the baking pan. Use a spatula to smooth it out. Set aside. (Do not put in oven yet)
  7. Now we are preparing the crumb topping. First, melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl. 
  8. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, and salt to the melted butter. Stir with a fork until all combined. 
  9. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter in the baking pan using your hands.
  10. Now you can bake for 35-40 min until a toothpick comes out clean. 
  11. Cool 10-15 min before cutting into squares. Enjoy!

Quarantine Kitchen: Homemade Graham Crackers and S'mores Dip Recipe

04/07/2021 01:23:04 PM

Apr7

Alana and Stephanie Kirklin

Graham Crackers
Recipe from cookiesandcups.com

Graham Cracker Ingredients:

  • ½ cup of butter - room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt 
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour 
  • ½ cup milk 
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Graham Cracker Instructions:

  1. Make the dough - Mix the butter and brown sugar together for 2 minutes in a stand mixture.  Add in vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix for 30 seconds until evenly incorporated.  Turn the mixer to low and add in the flours and milk in alternating portions beginning and ending with the flour.  Mix well until combined.  Dough will be thick.  
  2. Chill - Form the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk.  Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. 
  3. Shape the crackers - When ready, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to ⅛ inch thickness.  Using a knife or a pizza cutter, cut into 3.5 by 2.5 inch rectangles.  
  4. Bake - Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly onto the pieces pressing lightly into the dough.  Prick the dough with a fork to create the store-bought look.  Place onto the prepared baking sheet ½ inch apart.  Bake for 9-11 minutes until the edges are lightly golden.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
  5. Can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.  

S’mores Dip
Recipe from lwvogue.com

S’mores Dip Ingredients:

  • Semisweet chocolate chips - 1 bag 
  • Mini marshmallows - 1 bag
  • Ramekins small (4 of them)  

S’mores Dip Instructions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  
  2. Pour out a layer of chocolate chips into the bottom of 4 small ramekins
  3. Top with a single layer of mini marshmallows 
  4. Once oven is preheated, bake for 2-3 minutes until marshmallows are golden.
September 18, 2021 12 Tishrei 5782