Thursday, October 29, 2020

The Science of Shabbat Dinner

Every now and then I’ll come across a study that seems to confirm the importance or validity of a Jewish tradition. This happened a few years ago when I read about the research promoting the importance of the family dinner and immediately connected it with the Friday night Shabbat meal. In addition to the traditional and spiritual benefits of celebrating Shabbat as a family, there are countless other benefits to simply sitting down together a few times a week to enjoy a meal together.

From The Family Dinner Project ( Over the past 15 years researchers have confirmed what parents have known for a long time: sharing a family meal is good for the spirit, the brain and the health of all family members. Recent studies link regular family dinners with many behaviors that parents pray for: lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem. Studies also indicate that dinner conversation is a more potent vocabulary-booster than reading, and the stories told around the kitchen table help our children build resilience. The icing on the cake is that regular family meals also lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents. Shabbat affords families the perfect opportunity to reap these benefits.

While there are certain customs associated with the Shabbat meal, in my opinion there’s really no wrong way to celebrate Shabbat. Families shouldn’t feel so overwhelmed by the “do’s” and “don’ts” of Shabbat that they hesitate to give it a try. Start with what is familiar, and build from there. You’re worried that you don’t have time to make a traditional meal? Or no one will like it? If your kids love pizza, and if ordering a pizza gives you the time to sit down as a family, then order the pizza. And have Oreos for dessert. Maybe some of the meal’s rituals don’t resonate with your family for whatever reason. Don’t force it. Find or create traditions that do have meaning for your family. Maybe instead of reciting the traditional priestly blessing for the children you tell them something about themselves that makes you proud. Whatever your family make-up or level of observance, it’s about finding the time to be together as a family that’s most important.

And if you'd like to join your friends at Agudas Achim for Shabbat, visit our website. We've tried to come up with a variety of programming to meet the needs of all families. Maybe we'll see you soon!

Friday, October 9, 2020

Here's to Another FANTASTIC Year

As I wrote to the parents last June: Our school year started on September 3. And then it started all over again on March 13. This has been a year none of us will ever forget. 

This school year started on September 8, and I simply cannot find enough words to convey how happy we all are to be back at school. The children skipped into the classrooms with huge smiles on their faces (as evident by their twinkling eyes seen above their masks) and the teachers welcomed them with open arms (and virtual hugs). We're adjusting to new routines and procedures, but the sounds of joyful laughter and learning are once again being carried through the halls of our building.

We could not have arrived at such a successful re-opening without the efforts of dozens and dozens of people. A huge thank you to preschool vice-presidents Alex Perry and Melissa Siskind; all the members of the synagogue's 19-20 and 20-21 Boards of Directors; the synagogue's COVID safety committee; and the members of the preschool's re-opening group (Meg Whelpley, Hattie Gore, Doug Fagen, and Sue Finger).

Thanks also go to Barry Nove, Glenn Mays, Diana Weil, Rachel Goldberg, and KB the Magnificent (people who work in the synagogue's main office) for everything they did behind the scenes. 

And to Rabbi Rein and Hazzan Dienstfrey, thank you for checking in on me and supporting me in ways I didn't even know I needed support. You have no idea what it meant to me.

Finally, to the preschool teachers and the preschool families, thank you for joining us on this journey this year. We are a kehillah kedoshah, a sacred community built on covenantal relationships. At no other time have these words meant so much. Families, you have entrusted us to care for your children during this time, and it is a responsibility and a privilege we take very seriously. We are all in this b’yachad, together.  

Thank you for everything! Here's to a fantastic year.

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