Messages

January Message from Rabbi Leis

Dear Hebrew Congregation of Somers, 


I am writing to you on a day which feels both ominous and illuminating, a day in which we have witnessed the best and the worst of humanity. In the past 10 months, we have had no choice but to adapt, adjust and await redemption from the scourge of pandemic. Teachers, health care providers and so many others have navigated a new normal and overcome daily fear in order to provide a day to day life that feels as normal as possible, risking infection, witnessing fear, pain and loss, every day. They have done so with the hope that this situation would be temporary, and that we could eventually return to the days when the sacred work of health care, education and other forms of work did not feel like a high-risk occupation. “These past few weeks mark the first flowering of the realization of that hope. Hope and optimism during challenging periods have been cornerstones of the Jewish experience throughout history.” (Rabbi Michael Kaye) 


Meanwhile, an average of 3,000 Americans have died in recent days. The numbers are impossible to grasp.  Each one a sacred story, with countless beloveds left grieving a terrible loss of life. We live day to day on fragile ground, the tectonic plates of our reality shift with every passing hour and news flash. It can be exhausting, and also exhilarating to maintain constant contact with the news cycles.  Please take some time in the next winter weeks to enjoy the quiet, visit the gorgeous natural areas with beautiful wildlife (Jill and I saw a coyote today!) set up limits on your news intake, and experience the incredible strength and quiet  solidity of the earth. The promise of springtime can be felt with every day of increasing light, and with it, the hope for our shared future on this planet and in our country. 


Doing acts of hesed/lovingkindness for another member of our community gives us purpose and meaning in a time of shift and change. Let’s continue to show up for one another whether it be at a shiva minyan, a life cycle moment or just a regular Shabbat. Make a call to someone from the new directory, even a new family you don’t yet know. Your presence makes a huge difference. You matter. We need you. Our storytelling program led by Jill is such a gem that has evolved during the pandemic. Join us and take a seat for a good listening experience that will no doubt move you to laughter and tears. There are some other lovely programs coming up including a Grief program on the 24th, Adult Education on the 17th and the 31st, and shared Tu b’Shvat seder on the 31st. Save the date for a Havdalah + screening of the movie Purple* with Sisterhood on Saturday, March 13. 


Martin Luther King Day

Please join us for this lecture by a dear friend, Tamara Fish, who will be speaking on the topic “Counting Jews of Color” and will address racism and white privilege. Tamara is one of the leading voices on Jews of Color and the immediate past president of the Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN). She joined us at HCS at my installation last year. You need to register to get a link. 


Second, join us at the Shames JCC MLK Day of Service on Monday at 1:00-2:00 pm. If you want to pick up a Blizzard Box at the JCC, you can, or you can make your own Blizzard Box. More information is at the link above. 


Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, whose yahrzeit is observed this month, was a friend and colleague of  Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. He wrote that “the opposite of good is not evil, the opposite of good is indifference. In a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” 


We are all called to work to create a more equitable society. Heschel also famously said that when he was marching for civil rights he felt like his “feet were praying.” I am proud of our nascent tikkun olam committee which has begun meeting and exploring together our path forward through study and dialogue. 


Blessings on this sacred journey, this auspicious and redemptive time, and on the holy day in which we continue the legacy of a great prophet and leader, Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Be well, and stay safe. You are a blessing, and I miss you!!! 

  
Rabbi Shosh

 

*PURPLE is a 21-min documentary* created by Resetting the Table. 


FILM SYNOPSIS 

PURPLE tells the story of everyday Americans with opposing viewpoints addressing their differences head-on and discovering the concerns and humanity that lie behind each other’s positions. Designed to build greater empathy and recognition in the face of deepening U.S. divides, PURPLE models a rare conversation that uplifts and inspires even while going toward the heat of passionate political differences.

The film takes place in rural Wisconsin and Iowa, two swing states where “red” and “blue” still live in the same neighborhoods and where many people feel unrepresented by the two-party system. This politically pivotal region was home to the greatest concentration of counties that flipped Obama-to-Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

PURPLE is produced by Resetting the Table (RTT) – a non-profit organization that strengthens democracy through building collaborative deliberation across political silos in America today – in partnership with Transient Pictures, an Emmy-award winning production firm. RTT equips community leaders with the tools and skills to open courageous and constructive dialogue on political fault-lines issues within and across their communities. RTT’s programs include facilitation training, communication skill-building workshops, multi-perspective educational classes, and decision-making forums across the country. 

As we enter one of the most weighty and charged election seasons in our history, thank you for helping to deescalate our country’s divisions and to foster greater recognition, empathy, and insight in the face of them.


January-February Message from the Board

Dear Congregation:

The Board hopes that everyone had a safe and happy Hanukkah. Our days now are darker and colder, but it is always warm and full of life at the Hebrew Congregation of Somers. We have a winter full of virtual activities.

Starting Saturday, January 23 at 10-11:30 AM, the Rabbi is introducing the Essence of Shabbat service. This will be an inspiring monthly Shabbat event held on the fourth Saturday of every month. The service will be led by the musical team of Rabbi Shosh Leis and Rabbi Ben Newman. You will enjoy a new, creative and contemplative Jewish Renewal Shabbat morning practice, highlighting the essential prayers and Torah reading.  

On Sunday, January 24, 2021 at 12 Noon we will have a meeting entitled, Loss and Grieving During the Pandemic. This meeting will be facilitated by Dr. Les Prusnofsky. Rabbi Shosh and other members of our congregation who are also trained in dealing with mourning will also participate in this meeting. This meeting will bring our congregation together to look at what we have all been experiencing. This will be an opportunity to share and give support to one another.  You will all have an opportunity to discuss our experiences openly rather than feeling isolated and alone with them.

Please see the article below for a reference.

https://www.statnews.com/2020/12/09/drive-by-burials-and-facetime-farewells-grief-in-the-covid-era-will-weigh-on-the-american-psyche-for-years-to-come/

More exciting news is that Rabbi Shosh and Jill Liflander have both recently been awarded grants from the Jewish Education Project!

Rabbi Shosh in partnership with Moving Traditions, received a grant from the Jewish Education Project for the project: Building B’nai Mitzvah that Honor Neurodiversity. The aim of this project is to uplift, amplify and encourage the voices and visions of neurodiverse/2e teens. We will provide training for clergy and build a network of Jewish families who are seeking supportive, strength and talent-based B’nai Mitzvah opportunities for neurodiverse Jewish teens. We will support relationship-based individualized learning and social-emotional support for the B'nai Mitzvah journey.

Jill Liflander’s grant called Sofas, Our Sanctuary, with the support of the Jewish Education Project, is aimed at deepening our experience of Multigenerational Storytelling. Through sharing our stories and participating in special workshops with professional Jewish storytellers, we will deepen and explore our experience of 'sanctuary'. The first program will be on Sunday, January 31 at 11 am.

Check your weekly HCS Happenings for more information.

Our active Sisterhood is continuing monthly virtual meeting and the Brick and Pew Plaque fundraisers. If you would like more information, please email HCS Sisterhood at hcssisterhood@gmail.com.

More Tikkun Olam opportunities are always available. Right now, DeCicco’s in Somers has a Shop ‘n Drop program where you purchase extra groceries when you shop to put in their drop box for those in Westchester who do not have enough food. The Northern Westchester Community Center in Katonah has many programs to help feed and clothe many people in Northern Westchester towns. If you have any ideas, please let Vicki Prusnofsky (victoriaprusnofsky@gmail.com) and Rabbi Shosh (ravshosh@gmail.com) know.

We know we all lead very busy lives but if you spare even a few minutes please consider lending us a hand. Currently we are looking for an HCS member with marketing skills to partner with Diane Karsch to publicize HCS special events on social media, in local news listings and through networking within our community. If you can assist, please email Rabbi Shosh (ravshosh@gmail.com).  

On another fundraising front we are now part of the Amazon Smiles Program. The AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the eligible purchases to the Hebrew Congregation of Somers. You must log on to through AmazonSmile to get the donation sent to HCS. So, the more you shop at HCS the more that can be donated to us.

The link to AmazonSmile for the Hebrew Congregation of Somers is: https://smile.amazon.com/ch/13-2790476

See you at our HCS Zoom services and programs.

HCS Board of Directors


January Message from Jill Liflander

Listen


Miikhail Baryshnikov, world acclaimed ballet dancer and choreographer, reportedly used to go back and take beginning ballet classes throughout his career. His rationale being (I presume) that we can always go back and focus on the basics, to refine our foundations and re-orient ourselves.


Last Sunday at Hebrew School on Zoom, we had a tech glitch, and I had to quickly cover for a class. I sat still for a minute or so, my mind racing, and then typed to Rabbi Shosh and Cantor Ruth: 'Shema.'


No matter how many times the kids have gone over the 'Shema', there will always be more to learn and explore. No matter how many times I have said the 'Shema', I know that it will take a lifetime to comprehend. I can say it by rote or say it with all my heart, and it still contains more. We can always go back to the basics and marvel at mysteries.


We started off Sunday's quickly constructed Zoom class by listening. Listen. We closed our eyes. We heard cars driving by. Birds outside of the window. The hum of the refrigerator. Listen. We listened to the air floating up through our nostrils and into our faces. Breath pushing back out of our nostrils and into the world.
Shema yisrael....
Listen.


This morning in the woods while walking my dogs, my mind clattering with logistics for Ruby's Bat Mitzvah, I couldn't connect with God. I couldn't hear anything. Tears welled up behind my eyes; I felt lost and overwhelmed. A voice inside me cried out, "STOP!"
Listen....

Listen...


I stood still for a moment at the crossroads of two trails, looking up at an evergreen tree. The dogs sniffed around, and then, they too, paused. Suddenly, I could hear the birds chirping. A glowing fire of orange sun peaked over the horizon. I heard my breath, a whorl of wind, spacious silence, and the rustle of trees shaking off night-time. Listen. A quiet entered my mind and held space.
Shema yisrael....
Listen.


Hanukkah Message from Rabbi Shosh

December 8, 2020

Shalom HCS,


Let’s start with a brief lesson in Jewish calendaring to explain why Hanukkah is sometimes “early”. 


Since the time unit “year” is measured by the cycle of the sun, and the time unit “month” is measured by the moon’s cycles, the ancient rabbis reconciled these two units in order to fulfill the commandment to sanctify both the months as well as holidays in their season.  The result was the creation of a solar-lunar calendar.  In some years, there are 13 lunar months instead of 12.  The leap year (or in Hebrew, sha'na meu'beret, pregnant year) is the mechanism which reconciles the difference of days between a solar year and 12 lunar months allowing the Jewish seasonal holidays to occur in their season, albeit within some amount of range.  This year, Hanukkah falls on the early end of that range. Do you remember the year when we lit our menorahs before blessing our Thanksgiving feast?


On Hanukkah, we celebrate the miracle of the oil of the Menorah lamp in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem lasting for eight days even when there only had been enough oil for the first night.  It was an act of great faith to dedicate the Menorah without knowing how the oil would last.


Taking the first step, lighting that first light, can be many things today:


  • Seeking for and speaking truth in a world of deceit  

  • Taking a first action step in a world which resists change

  • Trusting in a process even when without knowing how we will achieve our goals

  • Dreaming of and building for what’s possible in the face of what seems unlikely

  • Reaching out to others in a world in which values self-reliance so much that asking for help can appear as weak

  • Experiencing hope


In essence, bringing forth the light of Hanukkah means taking a stand for light in a time of increasing darkness. Hanukkah light - not just for Jews- will bring exactly what is spiritually needed right now.


Ready or not, Hanukkah will begin this Thursday night! Here is a link to the website Hanukkah page with all of our events.


Blessing our Hanukkah lights together at home will be a joy.  See you soon!


Rabbi Shosh 



Experimental Hanukkah Theater for Hebrew School students!

Jill Liflander, December 8, 2020

This is ACT 1 of a silly, fun play for you to perform at home with your family. Jill will be telling a Hanukkah story this Friday night at Shabbat and Hanukkah services that will build on this story! 

A Mouse and Rat Hanukkah: A whisker-tingling new play for the HCS kinder (children)
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You will need three people to perform Act 1 at home, or you may want to divide the narrator role into two (narrator 1 and narrator 2) and give the person who plays Mark one of the narrator roles. He has a small but mighty part. 

The characters are: 

1) Mark          

2) Jill        

3) Narrator 


Setting: The Living room 

Costumes: Everyone wears pajamas 

                  glasses for Jill character 

Suggested props: mail or envelopes

          a tiny square of construction paper to look like an envelope

          For the kitchen section, you can pretend to be making the latkes, or you could use a real pan and pretend ingredients, or you could have a potato and an onion etc. Use your imagination! 

         a melon baller (again, a pretend melon baller is just as useful as a real one!)



ACT 1

Scene 1: 

Narrator: Mark enters a cozy, messy living room wearing yellow SpongeBob SquarePants pajamas. There are two dogs dozing on a sofa.  He holds a stack of mail from the mailbox and tosses the envelopes one by one onto the kitchen table.

 

Mark: “Boring. boring. boring. Oy gevalt! So much junk mail! ”  


Narrator: Suddenly, Mark is intrigued.

 

Mark: “Hey Jill! Look at this!”


Narrator:  Mark pulls a tiny envelope from the pile and hands it to Jill, who looks up from her computer (wearing pajamas). She reaches out her hand to receive the envelope, which is maybe one inch wide by one inch tall.

For some bizarre reason, Jill sniffs the envelope.


Jill: "The envelope smells like cheese!" 


Narrator: She examines the envelope, puts on her granny glasses, and tries to decipher the scratchy handwriting (wait, is that written with mud?). She gingerly opens the envelope, pulling out a sky blue invitation the size of a postage stamp. 


Jill: "Oooh! How nice!" 


Narrator: She reads, 


Jill: "You are invited to a Mouse and Rat Hanukkah! Come to the Special Field on the twenty-sixth of Kislev to light the hanukkiah, nosh on latkes and dance the hora!" 


Narrator: Jill happily jumps up from her chair and cheers. The dogs wake up and bark, hearing her excitement.  


Jill: "Finally! An in-person Hanukkah party! With mice and rats! I’m so happy that we are invited!”


Narrator: Mark makes a horrified face. 


Jill: "Yipppeeee!!!"

 

Narrator: Wait, the twenty-sixth of Kislev is…tonight! 

Jill dashes into the kitchen and frantically pulls out latke ingredients: potatoes, onions, flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, eggs, and, of course, oil. She washes and chops and dices and measures and mixes and fries one gigantic sizzling enormous golden glistening latke.

 

Jill: “What should I use to make a bunch of teeny weenie latkes that are fit for mouse paws and rat claws? Hmmmmm….”

 

Narrator: Jill loudly rummages through kitchen drawers, opening and slamming one drawer after another, until she finally finds a melon baller. She triumphantly holds the melon baller high in the air. 

 

Jill: “I’ve got it!!! Perfect!"

 

Narrator: She gently scoops out fifty-four (chai times three!) mini latkes with the melon baller and plops the coin sized latkes into a container lined with paper towels. She then reaches into the fridge and grabs a jar of applesauce and a container of sour cream, which are placed gently into a backpack. She turns to Mark, 

 

Jill: “Are you coming? We have to get to the field before the sun sets to light the hanukkia!”


Mark: “You know what? 


Narrator: Mark thinks of a cold, windy field filled with smelly mice and rats with their long slimy tails....


Mark: "Wish the mice a Chanukah Sameach from me! I'll stay here and keep the dogs company."


Jill: "Ok. I'll tell you all about it. It's going to be fun!!! Shabbat Shalom!”


Mark: "Shabbat shalom."


Narrator: They quickly hug goodbye.


Jill: "Mark, would you like me to bring you some leftovers from the party? Shulamit Mouse is an excellent cook!"


Narrator: Mark shakes his head emphatically "NO!", and with that, Jill scurries off, headed over to the Special Field to celebrate the second night of Hanukkah with her mouse and rat friends.


END SCENE


Find out what happens at the Mouse and Rat Hanukkah party this Friday night, Dec. 11 at 6 pm- HCS Shabbat and Hanukkah!


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Shalom from your Board of Directors

December 6, 2020

Shalom from your Board of Directors - we hope that this note finds you well in body and spirit. The year 2020 is nearing its end and for most of us it probably feels like it can’t come soon enough. Obviously this has been an extraordinary and difficult year. But there have been some unexpected and positive outcomes as well. For one thing many of us have upped our game when it comes to tech savviness, and in doing so we have maintained connections with family, friends and our HCS community. Some of us may even have made new connections or rekindled old ones. Through Zoom and other technologies - and of course thanks to the commitment of our dedicated clergy, lay leaders, volunteers and you - not only were we able to celebrate the High Holiday season online, but we were also able to do so in a remarkably meaningful and memorable way. Like congregations around the country we are still finding our way as a (temporarily) virtual community, but we can proudly say that HCS has done a fabulous job of remaining “socially distant, but spiritually together.”

And we’ve been busy! November began with a multigenerational gathering at the site of the future “Garden of Hope”. Our group was joined by GOH founder Rev. Paul Tesshin Silverman who gave an overview of the project, answered questions, and along with Rabbi Shoshana helped us figuratively “till the soil” for our community’s involvement with this important endeavor. Rabbi Shoshana and members of our Congregation were also involved in the Somers Veteran’s Day Ceremony, “East Coast Shabbat” (a joint service with synagogues from Florida to Canada), and a special Shabbat program hosted by Congregation Beit Simchat Torah honoring Trans Day of Remembrance. Over in our Zoom Schul there have been Friday evening and Saturday morning services as well as a special ceremony to honor the anniversary of Kristallnacht. In addition to regular Shabbat afternoon Torah study, Rabbi Shohana also launched a new Adult Ed. course entitled “Jewish Ethics for Bewildered Times” which continues on select Sunday mornings through the end of February. Please reach out to her at ravshosh@gmail.com if you’d like to participate.

Our Hebrew School has been quite active as well. Under the spirited leadership of Jill Liflander, and with the addition of two new equally as engaging teachers, students have been learning, connecting, creating, dancing, chanting, meditating, and growing on Sunday mornings and Tuesday afternoons. While school continues to be virtual for the time being, the program has been enhanced with a revamped curriculum and multiple opportunities for intergenerational studying and storytelling.

With Chanukah around the corner, please make sure to read the weekly “HCS Happenings” emails with details about various ways you can to celebrate with HCS and the Jewish Community of Northern Westchester. And look out for more information soon about things on the horizon for 2021 like the addition of monthly “Essence of Shabbat” services and the debut of our HCS Cookbook!

May the joy and light of Chanukah carry you into 2021 full of hope and peace.


A Message from the Board

September 10, 2020

Dear Congregation:

l’Shana Tovah to everyone. We have all had quite a year so far.  Who would have thought a year ago we would be in the middle of a global pandemic? But here we are, a year later, on the eve of celebrating another New Year together. This year though, we are having virtual services through Zoom.

Rabbi Shoshana Leis, Cantorial Soloist Ruth Ossher and Hebrew School Principal Jill Liflander have spent the summer working hard on an inclusive and meaningful High Holiday Service. Our celebrations will start with Shabbat Service and Selichot with Lunch and Learn on Saturday Sept. 12 10:00 AM.

We also have a revamped website. Peri Tarr and Harold Ossher volunteered to update our website. You can see their hard work at www.hebrewcongregationofsomers. Always check our website for upcoming events and check your email for HCS Happenings for your weekly reminders. You will see we have a lot going on in our new virtual world.

By now you have all received our High Holiday packet by mail. This packet has the current High Holiday schedule, a message from our Rabbi, information on how to register for your Zoom services (guests are welcome, but they must preregister) and a pledge card. If you can, please send in a donation using the preaddressed, stamped envelope. Even though we are not holding services in the building our expenses still go on. Any contribution is gratefully welcomed to keep our community going.

We also want to thank Ellen Most and her volunteers for coordinating the prayer book delivery for our High Holiday Services.

We know we all lead very busy lives but if you spare even a few minutes please consider lending us a hand. So many of our activities are run by volunteers. Many of the ideas for our activities have come from the individuals of our community. If you have any ideas or would like to volunteer, please contact the Board. We know that once you volunteer you will feel as we do, that your contributions will be appreciated by everyone.

We would also like to thank all our outgoing board members who give so much of their time to our synagogue and our new incoming board members who will also volunteer their time. 

Once again l’Shana Tovah and see you at our HCS Zoom services.

HCS Board of Directors