Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association Educational Series on Prayer

Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association Educational Series on Prayer

Local clergy offer a fascinating and engaging series for the public to explore differences and similarities in our religious traditions. This year's fall educational series explores how people of different faiths approach prayer. Please join us:

October 6, 3-5 pm:
North Shore Jewish Center--Jewish (385 Old Town Rd.,  Port Jefferson Station)
Yours truly will present along with Rabbi Stephen Karol of Temple Isaiah, Stony Brook

October 27, 3-5 pm:
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook--Christian and UU
(380 Nicolls Rd., Setauket)

November 17, 3-5 pm:
LI Islamic Center, Selden Masjid--Muslim (10 Park Hill Drive, Selden, NY)

There is no fee and light refreshments, with dietary laws observed, will be served.

Questions, contact Rabbi Benson:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sukkot - Bending and Even Breaking

Once in rabbinical school a group of us decided to celebrate Sukkot by going out to Joshua Tree National Park and building a sukkah there and spending the holiday.  Everything went well until the Sukkah blew down during the first night of the holiday.  Needless to say, that put a kink in our holiday plans.

But it teaches an excellent lesson about the holiday.  Sukkot is a time of rejoicing but it is also a reminder that our lives are, if not so much meant to be, than they simply are fragile.  Our plans will often go wrong or fail, bad things are bound to happen, things are just going to be unfair.  And yet Sukkot teaches us in the face of all this to be happy.

We aren't meant to be happy in a foolish, don't try sort of way - you do build the Sukkah after all, this isn't the holiday of sleeping bags.  But we need to be able to laugh, to still be happy, to still love and give thanks, even when the sukkah blows over.

Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Benson

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Timely Yom Kippur Lesson from 1890

First things first, credit where it is due, I subscribe to a daily email from My Jewish Learning called, "Jewniverse" and the one today resonated such that I wanted to share it:

It is about Ray Litman Frank (1861-1948), a prominent Jewish educator, speaker, writer, and early advocate for the increased participation of women in Jewish life.  I have a personal connection to her in that she was also involved in founding the first ever Hillel, which was at my alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  She was also involved in the local synagogue, Sinai Temple, where the library is named after her and where I taught for a few years, too.

In 1890, she was in Spokane, Washington for Yom Kippur.  While there were a lot of Jews in the town, including some of means, they hadn't quite gotten it together to start a synagogue or school or any other permanent features of Jewish life there.  There were too many disagreements between those of (in keeping with the usage of the times) the "orthodox persuasion" and those of the "reform".

Frank helped see to it that a service was held there for Yom Kippur at which she spoke about the importance of the factions in the community coming together for the common good.

While there are some amusing 19th century turns-of-phrase, such as Frank's use of the term "church" to describe the Jewish community as would have been commonplace then, her message rings as true for our kehillot today, more than 100 years later.

Enjoy the words of the "Maiden in the Temple", Ray Litman Frank:

G'mar Chatimah Tovah,

Rabbi Benson

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Best Wishes for a Happy and Sweet New Year!

For the start of the holiday, I encourage you to look at an article just published which I wrote for the Times Beacon Record:
Jews Ring in the New Year with Rosh Hashanah

Shanah Tovah u'Metukah, A Sweet and Good New Year,

Rabbi Aaron Benson and Family