Friday, September 28, 2018

Shabbat Around the Table -- Simchat Torah

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This week we read the last parsha of the Torah, V'zot Habracha. Moses says good-bye to the Jewish people and then dies on the mountain and Joshua becomes the people's leader. 

On Tuesday, we will celebrate Simchat Torah. We will read V'Zot Habracha and then immediately follow it with Bereshit, the first parsha of the Torah, and read about the creation of the world. As a result, we read the Torah anew, from beginning to end, year after year. And each time we do we glean new insights into these familiar stories.

midrash (or commentary on the biblical text) teaches us that the last letter of the Torah is lamed, and the fist letter of the first word is bet. Therefore, the last letter and the first letter spell lev, or heart. This is understood to mean that the Torah is the heart of the Jewish people. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Shabbat Around the Table -- Yom Kippur

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On Yom Kippur, Jews say they're sorry. They say they're sorry to God for wrongs they've committed against God, and they also say they're sorry to friends, family, and acquaintances who they've wronged over the course of the year. If you've been mean to someone and hurt their feelings, you have to apologize to them and ask them for forgiveness, not God.

Jewish repentance, or teshuvah, is based on the idea of "returning." Since the Jewish concept of sin is about "going astray" or "missing the mark," it makes sense that the goal is to "return" to goodness and righteousness. There are three steps to teshuvah: acknowledging the wrong done, offering to correct the wrong, and promising never to wrong again.

These are simple yet profound steps that can easily be taught to young children. It's simply not enough to say "I'm sorry." Truly righting a wrong is hard work. It takes self-awareness, diligence, and commitment. But the rewards, both for the one giving the apology and the one receiving the apology, are so much more rewarding because of it.

May you and your children enjoy a year full of joy, learning, growing, and good fortune!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Our B'nai Mitzvah Year

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Agudas Achim Preschool is turning thirteen this year, and we have so many reasons to celebrate. We're thriving. The preschool began with an enrollment of just a few dozen children, and now it's grown to a school with over 70 children and wait-lists. In fact, several families joined the synagogue last fall in order to guarantee their children a spot in the preschool this year. 

We have a one-of-a-kind playground; a gross motor play space that is unrivaled in our area; beautiful, light-filled classrooms; and a challenging and innovative STEAM Lab (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) that just opened last year. Our teachers are dedicated professionals who have shown a willingness and eagerness to engage with new ideas. Our parents (and grandparents) demonstrate their commitment to the success of our program every time they donate their time and energy by volunteering. Most importantly, the children are eager to come to school every day to play, form friendships, and grow emotionally, physically, cognitively, and Jewishly.

Our preschool will continue to grow and flourish, but only if we keep an eye on the future and reinvest in our facility and our programming. As we celebrate our b'nai mitzvah year, we're also looking ahead to the next ten years.

While we’ve been blessed with generous donors who have enabled us to purchase new toys and equipment over the past several years, we also need to make improvements to the education wing itself. More than anything, we need child-sized bathrooms closer to the classrooms for a variety of reasons, one of which is to relieve the synagogue of the burden of hosting the preschoolers in the over-extended adult bathrooms. We also desperately need more storage space.

Throughout the year, we will be celebrating our b’nai mitzvah. While details are still pending, we plan on having a Fall Festival for the children in the preschool and in the neighborhood. In February, the congregation as well as current and former preschool families will be invited to a b’nai mitzvah party. We hope you’ll be able to join us.

Thank you for all the support this congregation has given the preschool over the past thirteen years. I’m excited for what future years will bring.

Outdoor Magic

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