Jewish Literacy: Part One In a Two Part Series

In this episode of Between Two Rabbis, Rabbi Locketz, Rabbi Crimmings and Steve Barberio introduce the concept of Jewish Literacy trying to answer difficult questions such as, “Can someone be Jewishly incompetent?”  Throughout the discussion, they consider the way the transfer of Jewish knowledge and practice has changed through history, how Google has affected learning, and the joy of re-learning as an adult what we once knew as children.  In the second part of this series, we will dig into Jewish core literacy and how every single one of us can achieve it.

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Stay Safe, Minnesota

Dear Bet Shalom,

In just a few hours, the Stay Home order in Minnesota becomes the Stay Safe order and our state will start to reopen.  We urge you to take caution and stay safe.  There are so many opinions about how to behave.  Some of those opinions are scientific and based in real medical fact, and others are not.  And of course what the doctors and scientists know grows and evolves each day.  So please stay informed and be careful.  Wear a mask when you are around others and maintain proper physical distancing.  Stay At Home is ending, but the danger of the virus continues.  

There is a story in the Talmud about Rabbi Shimon bar Yochi who was a rabbinic sage with a temper.  He once was sentenced to death by Rome for angrily speaking out against them and he was forced to hide in a cave sustaining himself, in isolation, from the fruit of a carob tree and a water spring.  After 12 years, he emerged from hiding, but his anger raged when he saw how the world had changed.  As the story goes, God sent him back into the cave for another year in order to calm down and reflect.  And he was transformed.  When he finally re-emerged, the first person he saw was preparing for Shabbat and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochi was content.  Perhaps in that final year of isolation, he focused on what was most important to him and he came out looking to find that in the world.     

Many of us will come out of our caves nervous, happy, stressed out, anxious, hopeful, judgemental of behavior we see in others, angry, motivated and the list goes on.  The reality is that most of us will experience a great range of internal responses.  Our hope and prayer is that we all come back into the world a bit more focused on what is important, albeit that won’t be the same for everyone.  What is the same for everyone is that each of us is going through this pandemic at the same time.   As a member of the Bet Shalom staff reflected last week, we aren’t all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm.  Our range of experiences is vast, but the Covid-19 Pandemic, no matter how long it lasts, is our shared story and we will be a stronger community when we get to the other side of it. 

Since we ceased in-person gatherings at Bet Shalom in March, our highest priority has been to reopen the Bet Shalom Yeladim Child Care Center when we knew we could do so safely.  As of last Monday, we are now providing care for children in our community whose parents are healthcare professionals or essential workers, and others who are working from home or are being called back into the workplace.  We are proud that we can contribute to society in this early phase of reopening and we are doing so thoughtfully and carefully.   

Almost everything else we do as a community has moved somewhat seamlessly into virtual space.  It isn’t perfect, but we now know we can “gather” for Shabbat and holiday services, funerals, baby naming ceremonies, B’nai Mitzvah, Confirmation, Religious School and Adult Education even when we cannot physically come together.  Until we are certain we can provide a safe gathering space for everyone who calls Bet Shalom their synagogue home, we will continue to congregate in virtual space for everything except the Child Care Center.

There is so much which we can look forward to with optimism.  And we optimistically look forward to the day when we can come back to our beautiful synagogue home.  In the meantime, we continue, as a community, to be Bet Shalom.  We are here for you, as you are here for each other as well.

We hope to see you this coming Saturday night at 6:00 pm for our Bet Shalom Celebration.

Rabbi David Locketz                   

Rabbi Jill Crimmings                   

Steve Barberio, Executive Director

Phil Ecker, President

Shalom From Rabbi Locketz and Updates

Dear Bet Shalom Family,

As Shabbat approaches this week, it is hard to believe we have been physically distant for close to two months. We have learned a lot about ourselves and our community during this time. We are physically distant, but we remain close in so many ways. There have been some tiny, tiny silver linings that have buoyed us.  Most people had not heard the word “zoom” in the context of video conferencing two months ago, and now, most of us understand it as the lifeline that has kept us connected across great distance.

As Minnesota begins to slowly reopen, I am grateful for the leadership in our state who are being creative, sensitive and supportive while modeling a thoughtful approach which takes a 1000 factors into consideration all at once. A complicated balance is needed for each decision and we at Bet Shalom continue to look to our Governor and local authorities as to when and how we can return to our beautiful building and campus. Our approach to these decisions will be at least as conservative as the guidelines coming from the Minnesota Department of Health.  

At this time, our goal is to first open our Early Childhood Center, Bet Shalom Yeladim, as soon as we can in order to support the families in our community who need childcare so they can return to work as they are called to do. Opening other parts of Bet Shalom will follow in due time. 

I want to thank the 73 volunteers and staff members who have served as Network Captains and have kept our community even more connected than we were before. They will continue to connect with you to make sure you have what you need and to remind you that Bet Shalom is here for all of us as a vital support system and community. In addition to the captains, I want to thank the sizable group who have been at the ready to grocery shop and take care of other needs in our membership as they have arisen. 

 If you find that now you are able to make regular calls to members, or shop for others, please let me know. This has been a time of greater anxiety and need for support for so many of us. 

If you feel you would benefit from participation in our Bet Shalom Anxiety Support Group or in our Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group, please contact Amy Yoelin for details. These monthly groups are truly jewels in our crown and have been so helpful as points of support in our community.

We have so much to look forward to at Bet Shalom. The plants are popping out of the ground on Orchard Road and we know that even if we will not be able to gather for awhile in our sanctuary, we can soon start coming together in community to take care of our property (at an appropriate distance…we’ve received assurances from the City of Minnetonka that this will be allowed…contact for details).  

Watch for a new Member Spotlight section in HaEtone where we will share stories about you and your families (as you submit them.) 

Cantor Havilio will be joining us soon and we are so excited to welcome her family into our community.

And there is so much more to come.  In the meantime, we will of course continue to gather virtually until the time comes when we can return together in person.  Please know that Rabbi Crimmings, Steve Barberio, our staff and the Board of Trustees continue to be here to support you in this challenging time.  Do not hesitate to call on us at any time.  

I wish you each a Shabbat Shalom.  
Rabbi David Locketz

Passover Message from Our New Cantor

Shalom, Bet Shalom!  

I just finished “Zoom Tefillah” with the current Year In Israel students of Hebrew Union College who abruptly had to scatter all over the world to finish their year because of the pandemic.  They began singing the words of Rebbe Nachman of Batslav’s -”Kol Haolam Kulo Gesher Tzar M’Od/Lo Lfached Klal” – The entire world is but a very narrow bridge; the most important thing is not to be afraid. 

I sat in my kitchen and sang along and listened to one rabbinic student explain how we reach our most sacred moment in our Jewish narrative each day twice in our prayers.  We cross the Red Sea and rejoice in the miracle of being freed from slavery and sing the Song of the Sea: “Mi Chamocha Baeilim Adonai,Mi Chamocha Ne’edar Bakodesh! – Who is like You, O God, among the gods that are worshipped?”  

As I was praying with our students, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the astounding blessing of our Jewish rituals.  They never let us down in times of great joy, distress or sorrow. I was struck by the beauty of community and how we are commanded to sit down together next week at our Seder tables and “retell the story”.  We sing, we laugh, we argue and discuss and eat of course, we eat. I finished the zoom and took out our seder plate and Matzah cover and all of our Pesach recipes and began planning the meal. I checked my pantry to see if I have all of the ingredients and I suddenly became excited for the Passover meal and ceremony.  Our Seders will look different this year, but we will all be re-telling and re-connecting and REJOICING.  

I also became very aware that when we say at the end of our Seder meal, “Next year in Jerusalem,” that I am saying to myself “NEXT YEAR IN MINNETONKA!”  Not to say that I will not miss Jerusalem at this time as all of the flowers and trees are in bloom, but my Jerusalem will be with all of you on the shores of Lake Minnetonka.  

At this time I pray for all of our strength, health and eternal HOPE.  I look forward to singing, praying and learning with all of you very soon at Bet Shalom.  May you all be blessed with the wisdom from our collective Exodus story, that all of us will cross to the other side of the Red Sea and dance towards FREEDOM.  

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Pesach Sameach! 

Happy Passover!

Cantor Tamar Havilio 

COVID 19 – Updates

Dear Bet Shalom Community,

We are taking the potential spread of the Coronavirus very seriously and are assessing every day how we can best serve the needs of all our members. Our goal is to mitigate the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve” of infection. We now believe the best way to help each other is to limit our physical contact to the greatest degree possible for a period of time.  

Beginning tomorrow after Erev Shabbat services, we will be limiting programming at the Bet Shalom building to our preschool community for two weeks and will reevaluate the situation in time to make plans for Shabbat on March 27. Please be in touch with one of us for specific questions. Here is some information to keep at hand:

  • -Bet Shalom Yeladim Preschool: Starting this Wednesday, March 18, we plan to serve the families that are in absolute need of our child care services. Some of our parents are healthcare and emergency workers, others are in need in other ways. If your need goes beyond these critical care workers, please contact Amber Brumbaugh (Preschool Director) or Steve Barberio (Executive Director).
  • -Meetings & Individual appointments:  During this time, we will meet by phone or video conference when possible.  
  • -Religious School: We are now holding our programs and classes virtually. All families will receive links to join from afar. 
  • -Congregational Shabbat Services: We will continue to stream services as we normally do. You can access the video stream by clicking here or by going to the website directly.  
  • -Adult Education: Our weekly Torah study classes will be held online by video conference, and we’ll be in touch after Shabbat with that access information. Our Hasidic Masters class on Shabbat mornings is canceled for this week, and we’ll resume next week in a virtual classroom. Professor Zmora’s class on Sunday mornings is on hold until further notice.
  • -Pastoral Needs: The Health Department recommendation is to limit contact with vulnerable members – older adults, those with chronic disease, and individuals who are immunocompromised. As such, we will be connecting with you in times of need by video or by phone. Please contact Rabbi Locketz or Rabbi Crimmings if you are in need. You can also call our after hours emergency number: 612-564-3572.
  • -Lifecycle Events: For events such as funerals and shivas, please contact  Rabbi Locketz or Rabbi Crimmings, or call our after hours emergency number: 612-564-3572.

The CDC and other medical experts are telling everyone that social distancing and cancelling public space gatherings can help slow the rate of infection so we do not overwhelm our health care system. We feel what is stated above is our best contribution to that notion. While we cannot gather at the Bet Shalom building for a couple of weeks, we can “gather” in other ways. Look for us on Facebook and Instagram, as well as our website. We’ll “see” each other there until we can see each other in person, back at Bet Shalom.

Please see below our names for a communal statement from the Minnesota Rabbinical Association (MRA) and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

As always, do not hesitate to contact any of us.  

Rabbi David Locketz, Rabbi Jill Crimmings, Steve Barberio, Executive Director, Phil Ecker, President of the Board of Trustees
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~MRA/JCRC Statement:         
In the face of an unprecedented global health crisis, we are committed to protecting the health and safety of the Jewish community and our neighbors, comforting those in need of support, and providing opportunities for sacred connection during this time of need. 

The value of pikuach nefesh , (saving a life) whether it be our own life, the life of a loved one, or the life of someone we have never even met, is a value that supersedes all else.  We must do our part to save lives by promoting measures that are known to curb the spread of COVID-19. Please review the common-sense guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health. We wish to act with deliberate care, not with fear, in facing this new reality. 
We call upon all in the Jewish and greater community to practice social distancing.  In our own synagogues and organizations, we are taking proactive measures, including suspending large gatherings and non-essential small gatherings in our physical spaces. We remain committed to finding alternative ways for our communities to feel connected. 
Even as we create physical distance, we must use this moment to draw close in other ways. We recommend reaching out to family and friends to let them know about mental health, financial, safety, and preparedness resources through our work and that of Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS) and Jewish Family Service (JFS). We recommend reaching out to neighbors to check in and help those who might not be able to afford or access food and medicine. This is also a time to work with other communities in an effort to enhance security, address misinformation, dispel rumors, and fight prejudice and bigotry that make our whole society ill.

As we learn about the grave impact of COVID-19, we pause to notice that anxiety is real and we must be present for one another with kindness and love. As rabbis and community leaders, we are here for you as our community navigates the emotional, spiritual, pastoral, and communal challenges we now face.  We pray our words and our actions allow us to look out for one another in all the seasons of life.

Minnesota Rabbinical Association, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, Minneapolis Jewish Federation,St. Paul Jewish Federation