By Steve Barberio, Executive Director
Serving as an usher or greeter at Bet Shalom is one of the most rewarding volunteer activities that a congregant can undertake during the year. Whether it’s a Shabbat service on Friday night or in the morning on Saturday when a young person becomes a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, our ushers play a crucial role in helping members and guests feel comfortable when they arrive and as they spend time in services.
We are also starting to put together our schedule for ushers during the High Holidays. Very soon, everyone should receive the annual High Holiday letter from Rabbi Locketz, which will include the full schedule of services and other activities. Virtually all of those activities require ushers to help manage the High Holidays at Bet Shalom. Up to 1,000 people attend services and ushers play a very important role in making the services run smoothly.
Lastly, we often need ushers for other services and activities throughout the year. For example, when we have a Shiva service or festival service, ushers are needed to pass out prayer books to those attending. Again, this is an important role that our members play in helping people feel welcome and comfortable at Bet Shalom.
If you’d like to volunteer as an usher this year at Shabbat services, during the High Holidays, or during other services throughout the year, please let us know. Amy Yoelin, our Membership and Communications Coordinator, is now scheduling volunteers for the year and she can help you find the right fit. You can call her at 952-933-8525 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up to be an usher.
Thank you to all of our ushers who have volunteered in the past; we hope you’ll sign up again this coming year.
By Rabbi Locketz
Please join us for an extraordinary celebration. On Saturday night, June 8, at 7:00 PM in the sanctuary at Bet Shalom, we will reenact on the bima the moment when our tradition teaches us that Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai so many thousands of years ago. At that time, we will celebrate as our tenth grade Confirmands reaffirm publicly, and as a community of young adults, the commitment they each made when they became Bar and Bat Mitzvah just a few years ago.
Our tradition teaches us that the holiday of Shavuot – the Feast of Weeks, which occurs 49 days after the beginning of Passover, recounts the culmination of the journey the Israelites took from servitude to Pharaoh to their acceptance of Torah. That journey…those 49 days…marks one of the greatest advances our ancestors experienced…from the lowest of lows in Egypt to the highest of highs of Torah on Sinai.
And it is on this holy day that Reform Judaism assigned the celebration of Confirmation. As some of you may know, Confirmation was borrowed by the early Reformers in Germany, in 1810, from Protestant Christianity as a way of instituting a communal celebration for our emerging young adults and future Jewish leaders. Some communities over time even favored Confirmation to Bar and Bat Mitzvah which experienced a great decline in Reform Judaism in the first half of the 20th century. But today at Bet Shalom we believe both are important rites of passage.
As a 13 year old crosses the threshold of Jewish adulthood in becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah, they publicly declare that Judaism and the Jewish Community is important to them. It is a magical moment in the life of the synagogue and our families…but there is no magic involved. A youngster works hard to demonstrate that they have begun to assimilate Jewish life skills that assure us that they will be prepared to take the mantel of Jewish responsibility from those that came before them, care for it, and pass it on to the generation that follows – their own children. This is symbolized so powerfully as we pass the Torah through all the living generations of a family to the Bar or Bat Mitzvah as they formally take their place as a link in the chain connecting all future generations back to Moses on Mount Sinai.
But it doesn’t end there. If it does, that chain of connection has been diminished. And this is the reason we have so much to celebrate on Shavuot…that another generation of youngsters have hung on and continued to learn Torah and to participate in our congregation. In High School, Judaism can be studied in a very adult way and as our students grow and develop we have the opportunity to help them evolve their beliefs and practices in ways appropriate for adults. We cherish this experience as rabbis and know our students do, too. Studying Torah is a lifelong adventure…in some ways we never actually reach the top of the mountain…but we do pause from time to time to celebrate important moments in the Jewish Life Cycle…and Confirmation is one of those moments. Please join us as we honor these students, and their families, for their dedication, their commitment and their learning.
We will also gather for Yizkor on Sunday morning at 10:00 AM. This is also a time for memory. In moments of joy such as we experience during Shavuot, we are also instructed by tradition to remember those who came before us, on whose shoulders we stand.
Confirmation has a rich and unique history, tracing its roots back to Europe. At Bet Shalom, Confirmation is so much more than learning. We aim to have students connect with their peers and their community through leading services and participating in events. Confirmation students also participate in our Annual Flower Sale, raising funds to give back to Bet Shalom. Throughout Bet Shalom’s history, we’ve received many interesting and thoughtful gifts. Here are just a few of the gifts that have been given to Bet Shalom:
1985: Bima copy Plaut Torah Commentary
2003: Folding machine donated to Bet Shalom offices
2007: Plants for the Front Entrance
2008: Mishkan T’fillah: When Bet Shalom bought the new prayerbooks, the Confirmation Class contributed over $1,000
2009: Added to the murals downstairs, apple trees by the Holocaust garden, and contributed to the Paul Thomas Fund Bar/Bat Mitzvah Tutoring fund
2010: Added to the murals downstairs, contributed to the 1993 Class fund (scholarship for youth group), and named star in Bet Shalom’s name
2011: Provided new hearing-impaired devices for the sanctuary, sensory table for the preschool, and donated $1,000 to the endowment fund
2013: Flagpoles for the Israeli and American flags
2016: New candlesticks for the sanctuary
2018: New furniture for the Youth Lounge
We are grateful for the gifts the Confirmation Classes over the years have given to Bet Shalom. And, maybe the next time you look up at the stars, you’ll be reminded of Bet Shalom.
By Rabbi Crimmings
Every summer, Rabbi Locketz, Rabbi Cohen, and I each spend two weeks serving on faculty at our Reform movement’s regional Jewish overnight camp, OSRUI, in Oconomowoc, Wisc. During our two weeks, we work with counselors to prepare for services and integrate Hebrew- and Judaic-themed programming into camp culture… but that is not all we do. We also spend time informally with our Bet Shalom campers and dive into camp life, whether that means eating s’mores around the campfire, or painting toe-nails before Shabbat! Every moment is a sacred opportunity to connect, teach, engage, and inspire.
This summer, close to 100 Bet Shalom young people will be heading off to Jewish summer camps, including OSRUI, Herzl, TEKO, Olami, Butwin, and Interlaken. The experiences our children will have at all these amazing camps have the potential to transform the way they understand, live, and express their Jewish identity. If your family is not yet participating at OSRUI, but is considering it in future summers, OSRUI is opening its doors almost every day this summer for interested families to come see the magic at camp. Please contact Rabbi Locketz or me to discuss if you would like to set up a visit.
As they are packing their bags and preparing for a summer of fun, we are also preparing to send them off with blessings for a summer of inspiration, meaning, joy, and growth. Please join us on Friday, June 14, for a special camp treat during the kabbalat panim at 5:30 PM followed by services at 6:00 PM, where we will invite all our campers to come up for a blessing.
By Steve Barberio
A few weeks ago, I shared with the congregation our increasing focus on the importance of volunteers as key contributors to the health and vitality of Bet Shalom. There are many who help out as ushers, landscapers, committee members, kitchen helpers, and in so many other ways who deserve to be recognized for their contributions.
At our Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday, May 3, we will recognize the many ways our members have contributed to programs and activities at Bet shalom. We’ll begin the evening with a Kabbalat Panim at 5:30, followed by the evening service, and then a light dinner afterward in the social hall. If you contributed your time as a volunteer in the past year, please join us.
This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of areas people volunteered in the past year, but if you engaged in any of these activities, please join us:
- -Serving on the Board or on a committee
- -Ushering during Shabbat or on High Holy Days
- -Helping out at the fall block party
- -Working the concession stand at a Minnesota Twins game
- -Serving snack at Religious School
- -Helping out teachers and staff at Relgious School
- -Giving time and expertise in support of Bet Shalom Yeladim
- -Helping organize the storage room and other spaces at the synagogue
- -Donating time in the kitchen as a helper or cook
- -Doing office work in support of the administration
- -Volunteering at a fundraiser or other event
It’s entirely possible that I’ve missed at least one area that people have volunteered, but on behalf of the Board of Trustees and the staff, we are so grateful for the contributions being made by our members. So join us on Shabbat on May 3 to be recognized for your generosity.
Please RSVP by April 30 if you plan to join us after services for dinner by clicking HERE.
By Rabbi Locketz
Israel’s election this week ended neck-and-neck with the political party, Likud, which is led by the sitting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Blue and White party led by Benny Ganz almost too close to call. Voting was very close, separated by only 15,000 votes, and both parties claimed 35 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. But victory goes to the party with the greatest ability to create a coalition with other political parties to claim the majority of the 120 seats in the Knesset. The coalition with the majority names the Prime Minister. In this case, Blue and White does not have a clear path to a coalition, while the Likud does. Thus, Netanyahu enters his fifth term as Prime Minister.
As with any election that the Jewish people watch closely and care about, in Israel and in the global Jewish community, there are people who are elated with the results, and there are those who are not. There is tremendous disappointment for those who saw Benny Ganz, and his left of center Blue and White party, as a harbinger of change after ten years of Netanyahu’s conservative coalition. For certain, Netanyahu is emboldened by the results and seems on the path to an even more stable coalition than before with right of center and far right leaning partners who support his nationalist agenda.
There will be plenty of time to digest, analyze, and debate the implications of this election cycle in the months to come. Even so, I can’t help but fear this is a further blow to religious pluralism in Israel, as well as to productive dialogue on peace between Israelis and Palestinians, among other concerns.
A few weeks ago we were visited at Bet Shalom by former Minneapolis Shaliach, Shlomo Weinish, who shared a preview of this election with us. While he discussed a number of the important issues of the day, he repeatedly implored us to find our voice with regard to Israel. As an Israeli, and as someone who intimately knows our community of American Jews, he acknowledged that we should have a voice in Israel on issues important to us.
There are many ways for us to express ourselves. There are national and international advocacy organizations such as the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and J-Street. Locally, we have the Minneapolis Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council. It starts with knowledge.
Many of you in our Bet Shalom community have shared with me your desire to better understand the current situation in Israel. That you want to have a deeper relationship with this part of our Jewish identity, sitting here in the West, with hearts tugged toward the East. You want to grapple with Israel in the modern world, and its place in the identity of Jews in America. Let’s all be part of this great discussion and debate.
I commit to you that we at Bet Shalom are going to make safe space in the coming months and years for you to explore these concerns through study, prayer and sacred community. Stay tuned as we develop these opportunities. In the meantime, consider joining us for Shabbat morning services on May 4th when we will begin the conversation. And if you are interested in joining Bet Shalom’s next trip to Israel (no date set yet), join me for an organizational meeting at Bet Shalom on June 4th at 7pm.
May the wholeness of peace on high be here for us too.
Rabbi David Locketz
We have been traveling in Cuba on a Bet Shalom Humanitarian mission since Sunday morning when 15 Bet Shalomians left Minneapolis together. It has already been an amazing trip. Just 90 miles from Florida, we are in so many ways, in another world. Cuba is a socialist country, defined by the revolution since 1959 and its Communist Party. Everywhere we go we see images of Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the Castro brothers. We hear the official propaganda, yet we also know that only six percent of the population in Cuba identifies with the ruling Communist Party. As we struggle with the question of whether these people (Castro and Che) were heroes for Cuba or not, so do the people of Cuba. Perhaps they were better than Battista who the revolution ran out of power. But what about now?
Cuba is strikingly beautiful. And crumbling. Everywhere you look you can see incredible architecture and extraordinary buildings behind a facade of 70 years of decay. There is no graffiti here because Cubans have no access to spray paint. Or much paint of any sort. Three doors down from the four-star Spanish Chain hotel where we are staying in Cienfuegos is a “ration store” where Cubans collect their monthly stipend of rice, beans and chicken. And if you are under seven, or over 70, then you also can receive powdered milk. While at times, the situation seems dire, all of the Cubans we have met are content. Happy. Perhaps a conversation for another day might be to understand a reasonable measure for happiness. It seems Americans work harder, and for longer hours, to provide for our basic needs. As one Cuban who makes $25 a month for his work (no zeros missing there and it indeed provides for basic needs) told us, “The government pretends to pay us and we pretend to work.”
While in Cuba, we have been visiting the Jewish community. We visited three synagogues in Havana, one in Santa Clara and one in Cienfuegos. Even though 90% of the Jews left Cuba after the revolution, the country still maintains more than these five synagogues. A sixth one is in Santiago which is too far to travel in our short time here. The roads are in such disrepair, we are told it would take more than 15 hours to drive there. When the national highway system was built in the 70’s and 80’s, much of the Russian subsidies were pocketed and so in place what should have been a bona fide freeway is a one lane rode in both directions.
Most of Cuba’s 1200 Jews today live in Havana. There are two Conservative temples and one Orthodox. And their struggles are not entirely different than those of the Jewish community. They have all the typical challenges of educating their community and keeping people engaged. We have brought more than 250 pounds of needed medicine and supplies to these communities along with hundreds of dollars of tzedakah. Yet we too have also received a great deal.
Today in Santa Clara, David Tacher, the leader of the 25 member Sephardic Jewish community there shared a Russian parable with us. His community has a building with a small sanctuary, two Torah scrolls even though no one knows how to chant from them, and a whole lot of spirit. The parable is of a small village with a famous watch maker. This watch maker was prolific in his watch making and everyone in town had a beautiful time piece on their wrist. But at some point, the watch maker moved away. And over time, those watches fell into disrepair. Some people discarded their watches. Others took them off, but placed them in some forgotten drawer or cupboard. And yet others continued to wear their watches even though they no longer worked and they didn’t know how to tell time with them. And then one day a new watch maker moved to town. And all of a sudden everyone scrambled to have their watches repaired. David Tacher compared his 25 person community to those who kept their watches ready even though they didn’t know enough about how to use them as they would have liked. And we have come through town like a watch maker who could help them keep time even for just a little bit.
As we have given them hope…hope in connection with other Jews…hope that they have not been forgotten…they have given us strength too…That a pintel a yid – a Jewish spark in the heart is not easily extinguished. And as David reminded us…sometimes you just need to breathe. In this far away place which isn’t so far away, for just a few minutes, we all breathed together as one people – Am Yisrael. I look forward to sharing more of our adventure sometime soon after we return home to Bet Shalom strengthened, inspired, and full of hope.