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Sherry Wasserman Pens Children's Book About Shavuot

11/23/2020 11:46:31 AM

Nov23

B'nai Moshe

B’nai Moshe volunteer librarian Sherry Wasserman has recently self-published a children’s picture book about the oft-forgotten holiday of Shavuot, which commemorates the Israelites’ encounter with God at Mt. Sinai. I Am Standing at Mount Sinai, is told through the insightful eyes of a young girl named Sarah, and with its vivid illustrations, recounts the awesome revelation of the Ten Commandments and the Torah as well as how Shavuot is celebrated.

In writing the limited-edition hardcover, which includes blurbs from Rabbi Shalom Kantor and Rabbi Emeritus Elliot Pachter, Wasserman links the Biblical saga of the Exodus to the Shavuot festival, connecting Passover’s celebration of freedom with Shavuot’s emphasis on the acceptance of mitzvot, the rules for moral behavior.

I believe that freedom without law and rules of behavior is chaos; it leads to uncivilized behavior and yields injustice in the world.  God followed the gift of freedom (Passover) with the gift of Torah (Shavuot) so that the Jewish people (and hopefully all mankind eventually) would have the rules and the tools needed to live together in harmony.  The rules of moral and ethical behavior found in the Torah enable living in a just society.”

Wasserman first conceived the book, about 20 years ago while preparing to re-open the B’nai Moshe Library in its West Bloomfield home. While sorting through the collection, which was stored in less than ideal conditions after leaving Oak Park, she realized that only around half of the books were salvageable.  Among those, she found no suitable children’s book about the holiday of Shavuot. After searching unsuccessfully for something to purchase, Wasserman began thinking about writing one.  After considering many different ideas over a few years, she settled on a concept and began a long search for an illustrator. In the end, she need not have looked so long and far afield, for she found her illustrator, Ruthie Cisse, close to home.

“I met her by complete accident at Kiddush after Shabbat services,” Wasserman says.  Cisse, an artist in New York has family ties to B’nai Moshe, her grandmother is our member, Adelyn Greenberg.  Wasserman happened to sit at the same Kiddush table with the family and started talking.  Cisse had never thought about illustrating a children’s book but after she and Wasserman met the next Monday at the B’nai Moshe library and discussed the idea, Wasserman hired her. With an illustrator in hand, it was time to move her vision into high gear. Through emails and phone calls, the two worked together, sharing ideas for the illustrations. For instance, it was Cisse who thought of putting ribbons in the illustrations to hold the Hebrew verses from Exodus as well as giving Sarah a schnauzer to accompany her journey.

In the book, Sarah wants to share her knowledge of the importance of Shavuot and of what happened at Mt. Sinai with others.  “So, I think Sarah is the teacher here” Wasserman explains. “She relates the story; she explains its importance and significance; she tells how to celebrate Shavuot and make it a part of our lives.  She knows all of this and she is telling the reader, who may not know about the holiday, or why it is important and significant and so is worthy of being celebrated.”

        Sarah shows love for the holiday, happiness in celebrating it, and understanding and acceptance of the need to join the two concepts (personal freedom and responsible behavior in a community) into her own life. “Each year as she celebrates Shavuot, she recommits to limiting her own individual freedom by living according to the mitzvot of Torah, she recommits to living ethically and morally in order to help create a just and ordered society for all mankind.”

Wasserman chose a girl to tell this holiday story because women should also be seen to love and live by the Torah.  Yet, says Wasserman, “Sarah is not just a little girl kid. For me, she represents every girl, every child, every person (male and female) since everyone received the gift of Torah at Mt. Sinai and, on Shavuot, we are all standing at Mt. Sinai.”

“Shavuot is the forgotten festival,” says Wasserman, who hopes I Am Standing at Mount Sinai encourages children and adults to appreciate the holiday. “It is not celebrated or talked about like Passover and Sukkot.  It does not have ‘fun’ elements like a sukkah or a seder.  It falls at the end of the school year and is frequently not taught at all. But it does have great moral and ethical significance for the Jewish people and is, in my opinion, worthy of a great deal more respect that it is generally given.”

I Am Standing at Mount Sinai is available at Amazon for $20. 

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue

07/20/2020 10:27:23 AM

Jul20

Jodi Weinfeld

 

Fulfilling the mitzvah of saying kaddish during COVID-19

Something Old

In Rabbi Herbert Yoskowitz’s book, The Kaddish Minyan, he eloquently introduced the history and meaning of the Kaddish Prayer. This prayer, while something old, continues to connect Jews with previous generations. Below please find an excerpt from the book.

“While the Kaddish is thought to be a prayer for the dead, essentially it is an affirmation of life. Neither death nor the dead is mentioned.

Originally, Kaddish was a response recited at the close of a Rabbinic lesson in the synagogue during the Talmudic Period (200 BCE-550 CE). A message of comfort and consolation would conclude the Rabbi’s lesson. Kaddish extended that message by focusing on our messianic hope. This Kaddish is called the Rabbis’ Kaddish.

In post-Talmudic time, saying the Kaddish was extended from the House of Study to the House of Prayer and ultimately to the cemetery. The Rabbis taught that Kaddish should be recited for eleven months for a deceased parent. For other deceased relatives, there was a thirty-day obligation to say Kaddish. Today, some choose to say Kaddish for eleven months in memory not just of parents but of other relatives, too.

Kaddish, an Aramaic word for “holy” praises God’s name and must be said in public assembly, which is defined as a quorum of at least ten Jewish adults, a minyan. In addition to the Rabbi’s Kaddish, other forms of Kaddish said during a religious service include the Full Kaddish recited at the end of a service, the Half Kaddish said at the conclusion of smaller prayer units, and the Mourner’s Kaddish.

Kaddish is said subsequently by a mourner on the anniversary of the death (yahrzeit) of a loved one during all services on that day and on Yom Kuppur, Succot, Pesach and Shavuot when the Memorial Service(Yizkor) is recited. On the yahrzeit, it is customary for the mourner to receive an aliyah, an honor involving being called to the Torah and reciting Torah blessings expressing joyous sentiments. It is suggested that if the yahrzeit occurs on a non-Torah reading day, the person observing the yahrzeit should receive an aliyah(an opportunity to praise God while standing before the open Torah) in the synagogue on the Shabbat before the yahrzeit.”

Something New

For the next 11 months, this will continue to be a new way of life; a way to perpetuate the memories of my parents with honor the way so many generations before me have done. (L’dor va Dor) A “B’nai Moshe Bonus” was that I made new friends who either attended services to say Kaddish for their loved one(s) or attended services for any one of a million personal reasons.

Something new for me: saying Kaddish on Zoom. My father died January 30, 2020 and my mother died on February 9, 2020. Technically, “Pre-Covid” so attending morning minyan and evening minyan became my new existence. With Covid came our synagogue’s response to conduct services via Zoom. This technology along with the work of professional and lay leaders became a “lifeline” to continue the recitation of Kaddish for me and many others. I am grateful to all of you for your ingenuity, perseverance and commitment to our tradition which has allowed me/us to fulfill this mitzvah.

Something Borrowed

With Covid came Zoom, with Zoom came the need to borrow siddurim from the synagogue in order to follow along and participate in both the weekly and Shabbat services while at home. We found the Eastern wall in our living room, set up our tablet complete with camera and microphone in order to be part of the Gallery view during services with other congregants. Home became an even more sacred place.

Something Blue

The unique siddur we use on Shabbat, Siddur Tefillah L’Moshe has a blue cover. Ahh….something blue.

It is a reminder of the familiar, the comfortable, the connection and the continuation of tradition specific to our shul. It helped erase the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable. It reminded me that I was part of a larger, loving community, especially in this time of extreme need and desire to connect.

So, while the phrase Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue is typically associated with a wedding, a simcha, it is now associated with another life cycle event for me, one that also reminds me of the simchas( happier times)…..a time of honor and love of family near and far.

*Zoom has been a good alternative to in-person services but there is no substitute for Michael Leibowitz’s delicious breakfasts. (Although I bet he doesn’t mind sleeping in).

Spotlight  on Renowned Artist, Lynne Avadenka

05/26/2020 10:13:22 AM

May26

Lynne Avadenka

I was looking forward to May 17 when the B'nai Moshe Sisterhood was planning to visit my studio. I’ve actually been working quite a bit in my studio since we’ve all been on lockdown, so instead of an actual visit which isn’t possible now, I’ve been invited to share some of my work with you here.  
 
But first a bit of background: I studied art, focusing on printmaking, at Wayne State University, where I received my BFA (1978) and MFA (1981). I’ve had an active studio career since then, supported by sales of my work, individual artist grants, residencies and teaching. Much, though not all, of my work is inspired by Jewish themes. If you’d like to get a larger look at my art and achievements, please check out my ​websites which can be found at www.lynneavadenka.com and www.signalreturnpress.org.

 I’ll talk here about two recent projects: ​Living Under Water, ​ a collaborative project that took me to Venice and Jerusalem, and ​Sacred Craft: Jewish Women in Early Hebrew Printing , a project funded by a grant from the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, that began with research last year in the Hebraic Division of the Library of Congress in Washington DC. 
 
In 2018 I spent three weeks in Venice, at the invitation of Beit Venezia (The Home for Jewish Culture) along with four other Jewish artists (all from Israel). ​Living Under Water ​ was a project designed by Jerusalem based artist Andi Arnovitz and Shaul Bassi, the founder of Beit Venezia. The idea behind this effort was to create a body of work about the climate crisis inspired and informed by Jewish sources. We spent the first week of our residency listening to scholars, scientists, rabbis and environmentalists speaking about climate change and what Judaism has to say about it. Topics included the notion of a universal Shabbat, a day of rest all over the world (no buying, no selling, no driving, giving the planet a rest) and discussion about shmita---what would it mean for an agricultural cycle to be embraced on a global scale, as an environmental policy. 
 
All the while, we were taking notes, keeping sketchbooks, and to be honest, enjoying getting to know a remarkable city and its Jewish history. We visited the ghetto numerous times, had special tours of the lagoon and MOSE project (the controversial project meant to protect Venice against rising tides), and because of kashrut considerations, spent a lot of time cooking as a group in the marvelous palazzo where we were housed. The last week of our residency we worked at Scuola di Grafica Internazionale di Grafica, a traditional print shop, creating a suite of prints as our visual responses to what we learned and experienced. Another  important component of the project was a 60 page magazine of essays, poetry and visual art from the participants in the project. Meant to be used in Jewish educational settings, it is available in print as well as a digital download. 


In 2019 our ​Living Under Water ​ project was chosen to be exhibited at the third Jerusalem Biennale. The exhibition was housed in the Wolfson Museum, inside the Hechal Shlomo synagogue. Although Marc and I were not able to attend the opening, we spent three weeks in 
Jerusalem while the show was on exhibit. I gave several impromptu tours of the show (including meeting up with Pearlena Bodzin and her husband Ephraim) and it was reviewed in the Jerusalem Post and ​Hadassah magazine​. It was our hope that the exhibition would travel to Jewish museums across the world, but like so many other events, this possibility is now on hold. I’ve included a few of my works here, Afterword (a mixed media piece that plays on the text of the Akdamut (Forward) prayer of Shavuot, and one of my journal pages. 
 
Sacred Craft: Jewish Women in Early Hebrew Printing ​ began when I was invited to contribute to an anthology of essays devoted to The Book of Exodus. I was taken with Verse 17:14, as this is the first time we see the word “book” in the Torah, as well as a commandment to write down and record events for the future. Since my work is all about the idea of the book, and since I’m a printmaker and I make artist’s books, I started reading about the history of Jewish books and the influence of the invention of printing on Jewish culture. And I started noticing in these sources the small entries about Jewish women’s  involvement in the printing of Hebrew books. My grant from the Hadassah Brandeis Institute supported direct research at the Hebraic Division of the Library of Congress last May.  
 
Marc and I were in Washington, DC for a week, and had separate itineraries the entire trip. Every day he would head out to any number of historic sights, monuments and museums after walking me to the Library where I spent hours looking at the most remarkable Hebrew books, printed in the 1500s. It is fascinating that Jewish women were involved in the creation of  these early books, taking over for husbands and fathers in the event of illness or death, running the business--from setting type, to printing, to selecting texts, to publishing and distribution. And how do we know this: we see these women’s names, set in type in these books.  
 
As a result of this trip and continuing research, I’m creating a project that will be exhibited in New York, I hope, in 2021 or 2022…..more to come! And I hope the Sisterhood will get a sneak peek when we’re all able to be out and about. 
 
To close, here are “quarantine” prints I’ve created, using wood type, stencils and color ink. 


 
Thanks for the opportunity to share some of my work with you! 
 
Lynne 

 
 

Times of Tragedy Bring out  our Very Best or Very Worst 

04/14/2020 10:29:17 AM

Apr14

Steven Fine

As with so many national and international tragedies we have faced in recent years, there is one constant. Tragedies either bring out the very best in people, or the very worst.

Rick Wiles, a Florida pastor, said on March 26 that God is giving the Jews the coronavirus as a divine punishment. “That is why you have a plague in your synagogues, he said.

We have seen shoppers hoarding groceries and personal items to the extent that others don’t have any. Is it necessary to have 144 rolls of toilet paper while your neighbor has none? We find anti-Jew hatemongers zoom-bombing video prayer services to spew their vitriolic epithets. And, we see people using this current tragedy to prey on the most vulnerable to try and cheat them out of money and their economic stimulus checks.

Sometimes it is difficult to look past this abhorrent behavior and see the wonderful things that people do in the face of tragedy and how much good there is in the world. However it is right here in front of our eyes.

We’ve seen people (our own Rabbi Kantor and family for one) driving by a friend or family member’s house to wish them a happy birthday. We’ve seen athletes, celebrities, and non-celebrities alike donate tens of millions of dollars to the effort. Quarantined people in Italy, Spain, France, and Israel coordinated times to applaud healthcare workers from their homes. The sounds of clapping, cheering, and whistling filled the air in expressions of gratitude for doctors, nurses, and others who are tirelessly treating the sick.

Fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in Columbus, Nebraska, made get well cards for people affected by the coronavirus. Their teacher then mailed the cards to the University of Nebraska Medical Center to be distributed to those in quarantine. Food trucks and restaurants are delivering free food to kids locked out of school lunch programs. There are so many similar stories.

Members of B’nai Moshe have stepped up, as we always do. We have collected over $1,500 in donations to provide food for medical heroes working tirelessly at Henry Ford Hospital WB. Michelle Seid and Jacqueline Goldstein have championed an effort wherein they have been providing food to many units at many hospitals with food from local restaurants, thus helping both the medical heroes and local food establishments.

People say that they can’t wait to get back to normal. I hope not. In “normal” times we don’t see nearly the generosity we see now. Let’s make these actions our ”new normal” when we don’t need a tragedy to fulfill our obligation of repairing the world. Remember, we’re not stuck at home. We’re safe at home. One word can make all the difference.

B'nai Moshe alum named  on Forward 50 list of influential American Jews

01/14/2020 12:13:50 PM

Jan14

B'nai Moshe

B'nai Moshe is proud that one of our B'nai Moshe family has landed on the Forward50 list of influential American Jews.

Mikhl Yahsinsky, son of Debbie and Gary Yashinsky, has been named to this illustrious " machers and shakers list."

Some other prominent names who appear on the list are:  Congressman Adam Schiff, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, ADL Director Oren Segal, sports pundit Max Kellerman, Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman.

Fluent in seven languages, Yashinsky, 31, has directed opera, taught Spanish, written and directed plays, and performed rap in Yiddish. In 2019, he appeared as Mordkhe the Innkeeper in the Folksbiene’s smash-hit revival of “Fiddler on the Roof” in Yiddish, and now is starring in the Folksbiene’s revival of “The Sorceress.”

To read more about this "Yiddish Renaissance Man" CLICK HERE

01/14/2020 12:12:53 PM

Jan14

"Welcome Home" is  not just a   slogan

10/30/2019 12:45:20 PM

Oct30

Miranda Brooks

Congregation B'nai Moshe always greets those visiting with "welcome home."  Whether you have been a member for 50 years or may be visiting for the very first time you are welcomed home to B'nai Moshe.  It doesn't even matter if your are Jewish or not.  While there is a sign right above the entrance to the building that reads "Welcome Home" it is not just a slogan.  It's B'nai Moshe.

B'nai Moshe's Unique  Gabbai Makes Us Proud

10/02/2019 01:21:48 PM

Oct2

B'nai Moshe

If you were at B'nai Moshe on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, you may have taken notice of something we believe to be unique and it happened at B'nai Moshe.  It is unique not only in metro-Detroit but we would not be going out on a limb to say in the nation. 

Quite possibly, because of the inclusive family atmosphere at B'nai Moshe, you may not have even given it a second thought.  And in many ways, not noticing might actually make this all the more special.

I am speaking of the gabbai on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.  The job of the gabbai is a difficult and important role.  The gabbai is sort of the quarterback of the torah service.  The gabbai calls up (in Hebrew) each person who is given the honor of an aliyah to the torah.   There are several prayers which must be said, adding the Hebrew name of the honoree and saying a mishabeirach (prayer of good health) for the previous honoree.  The words are quite different on the high holidays than they are on shabbat.  It's not easy, to say the least.

B'nai Moshe's lead gabbai on the second day of Rosh Hashanah was Yael Plotnick.  Yael is a 21-year old student at the University of Michigan and has grown up at B'nai Moshe.  Even more impressive was that Yael took on this same role last year when she was but 20.  Usually the role of the gabbai is given to a member of the clergy or a seasoned male ritual leader.  At B'nai Moshe this role was filled beautifully by a 21-year old female and we couldn't be prouder.

We'd love to hear from any other synagogue in the country or world who can boast such a claim.

These opportunities can only exist in a synagogue that is open to change and is blind to traditional gender roles.  Congratulations Yael on a job well done!

How Do You Embrace Your Jewish Identity?

09/17/2019 10:17:35 AM

Sep17

B'nai Moshe

B'nai Moshe's theme for the High Holidays and throughout the year is "How do YOU embrace YOUR Jewish Identity?"  We sent out cards to our members asking them to finish the statement "I feel connected to my Judasim when I ... "

We'll have all the response cards posted for display on the High Holidays.  Here are some of those that have been turned in so far.   Please submit your responses by emailing I Feel Connected to My Judaism When I ... and let us know when you feel connected to your Judaism.   

"When I attend services and when I eat." - age 87

"When I participate in family traditions." - age 31

"When I learn of Israel's accomplishments - humanatarian, scientific or medical." - age 75

"When I host large holiday dinners with friends and family." - age 70 

"When I wake up in the morning and all through the day." - age 80

"Whe nI light candles on Friday night." - age 66

"When I hear people speaking Hebrew in places I wouldn't expect." - age 75

"When I volunteer at Yad Ezra each week." - Age 68

 

Sat, December 5 2020 19 Kislev 5781