There once was a man on a journey who came across a beautiful palace, but the palace was on fire. He looked around, trying to find help to put out the blaze. He wondered, surely there must someone who owns this palace, someone who cares for it. This, the rabbis teach in the midrash (Genesis Rabba 39:1), was our ancestor Abraham.
“The main thing that Judaism tells us God believes about us is that no matter what we do and what we’ve done, no matter how we’ve fallen short of that ideal of justice, peace, love and compassion, no matter in what ways we’ve closed our hearts and failed to see how we’re harming others, how we’ve erred, there is endless opportunity for us to turn. God absolutely believes that human beings can endlessly improve ourselves, that there is no end to the learning curve, no limits on our capacity to become righteous.”
Read this powerful interview with Rabbi Timoner by journalist Abigail Pogrebin, originally published in The Forward, as part of her series Still Small Voice.
At a time when progressive Zionists have united in opposition to annexation, Peter Beinart’s provocative essay in Jewish Currents, and his New York Times op-ed, divides allies. Beinart’s contention that a two-state solution is unattainable, and that a binational state provides the only path to achieving a just resolution to the conflict, has challenged the conventional wisdom and ignited a vigorous debate.
Dear CBE Friends,
These are harrowing times. A pandemic, a nationwide cry for justice, fires and destruction, and police and now military deployed by the president to “dominate” our streets.
If you are feeling afraid, despairing, overwhelmed, or uncertain, you are not alone. Your CBE community and clergy are here for you, I am here for you, and our tradition is here for you.
“We felt it was important to create a new voice in New York that focuses on state and local issues, that serves as a central address for liberal Jews whose Jewish values shape their priorities, both with respect to domestic issues and with respect to their support for Israel and their commitment to combating anti-Semitism.”
Rabbi Rachel Timoner shares the mission of the New York Jewish Agenda, which she recently co-founded with several other progressive NYC rabbis, activists, and politicians, in this new article by the Times of Israel.
As part of a series of articles on Judaism and American democracy published by eJewish Philanthropy, Rabbi Timoner wrote the following article on the imperative of Jews and civic engagement especially during this particularly challenging time.
Maris Krauss recently joined the CBE team as our Membership Coordinator. As part of our Engagement Team, Maris is responsible for connecting prospective and current members to the vast offerings of our congregation. A New Jersey native, she moved to Brooklyn to work in the Jewish nonprofit world, formerly working at the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and PJ Library. Since moving here, she has enjoyed learning about all the various Jewish communities NYC has to offer. As a graduate of the Avodah Justice Fellowship and a current JDC Entwine community representative, Maris is passionate about social justice and anti-oppression work, specifically with a Jewish perspective.
Rabbi Timoner recently signed on to a joint letter sent to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo with over 100 New York City and New York State faith leaders in support of bail reform. Read the full letter below.
Rabbi Timoner recently co-authored an op-ed in the Forward with Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in Manhattan and Matt Nosanchuk of the New York Jewish Agenda about what repealing New York cash bail reform could mean for Jews.
Senior Rabbi of CBE Rachel Timoner was recently invited to help deliver the unity prayer at the African-American Clergy & Elected Officials breakfast with Rev. Dr. Robert Waterman of Antioch Baptist Church, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, and many more.
With each passing year, as with each passing day, we pray for peaceful transitions from work, to rest, to renewed wakefulness. This brooding, poignant melody, originally set to the text of Psalm 121 (“I lift my eyes to the mountains…”), brings out our essential human vulnerabilities but also calls us to reaffirm our faith in God’s essential grace and compassion. And it reminds us that no matter how scary the night may seem, we find courage by traveling through it together, as one community.
The month of Kislev heralds shorter days and colder weather, and the Jewish people respond by gathering in the warmth of community and kindling lights. In the midst of Kabbalat Shabbat, Psalm 97 draws an explicit comparison between increasing light and increasing happiness, and Psalm 98 exhorts the entire world to shout and sing with abandon at the wonders in our midst. Our medley of these two psalms incorporates melodies which match the unbridled joy of these ancient words of praise.
Tom Pnini is our Early Childhood Center’s Admissions Coordinator and Art Studio Teacher. Tom runs our “Cardboard Studio,” a classroom that has been completely transformed into an interactive art studio for kids to explore their creative side without limits. Our preschool students work with Tom in the Cardboard Studio as part of their curriculum.
As the Jewish community emerges from weeks of holidays and enters the month of Marcheshvan, we take comfort in the simple weekly rhythm of Shabbat.
Ki HaMalchut Shel’cha – Friday Nights at CBE: Sounds of Shabbat
At the heart of Rosh Hashanah morning liturgy lies “Aleinu l’shabeiach,” an affirmation of God’s ultimate, singular sovereignty over everything that is.
Rebecca Kleinhandler-Dahan is a longtime CBE member and our wonderful lay leader for Shir L’Shabbat, a weekly Shabbat service geared towards young families with infants and young children up to age 4. Shir L’Shabbat is a special way for families and their little ones to welcome Shabbat together, filled with singing and dancing with our extraordinary songleader Debbie Brukman. Be sure to stop by and say hi!
Read Rabbi Timoner’s review of Rabbi Mike Moskowitz’s recent book, Textual Activism, a collection of essays, articles, and teachings offering a new perspective on Torah, with an emphasis on contemporary issues of justice and inclusion, especially around gender identity.
For the past several years, CBE has been experimenting with how Friday nights feel, look, taste, and sound. We have assembled a core community of dedicated regulars, a world-class jazz quartet in partnership with the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, and a unique collection of melodies that together transport us out of the workweek and into Shabbat: a sacred time of rest, refreshment, reflection, and utter joy.
Tehilah Eisenstadt recently joined the CBE team as Director of Yachad & Family Engagement. Tehilah has an extensive career in Jewish education, having received Master degrees in Jewish Education and in Midrash/Biblical Exegesis from the Jewish Theological Seminar and certification in Early Childhood Administration. She is a graduate of HUC-JTS’s Leadership Institute, and a proud alumna of Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies. She also has a deep commitment to social justice. Notably, she was instrumental in forming the New York coalition of Bring Back Our Girls, which strives to raise awareness about the 276 school girls from Chibok, Nigeria who were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram in 2014.
Forty-four protesters were arrested while demonstrating against Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at a New York Amazon Bookstore Sunday evening.
Rabbi Timoner’s article, “Hope for Independence and Peace for All”, is featured on the Union for Reform Judaism’s Ten Minutes of Torah series. In it, she reflects on visiting the village of Sanoor, where every Shabbat a delegation from Physicians for Human Rights Israel comes to the West Bank to offer a mobile medical clinic.
By Betty Leigh Hutcheson
Aliza, Our Holocaust Survivor, Addressing the Mission. Photograph by (ret.) Lt. Col. Peter Lerner in April 2011.
Aliza Goldman-Landau buried her cousin’s son the same day she served Shabbat dinner to six members of our tour. She had agreed to be a host for the evening meal after services at Kehillat Mevasseret, a reform synagogue in a Jerusalem suburb. That Aliza continued with her commitment was incredible to us, but was a minor feat for this quiet, tiny woman—small in stature but large in spirit. Even more astonishing that evening was hearing her life story.
Aliza emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine from Poland, arriving in 1947 by way of Cyprus when she was 9, an age when our children are considering treats, swimming pools, soccer in the park, and the secret comfort of a parent’s lap. Aliza’s life was much different. By the age when she was old enough to enjoy outdoor sports, her family had left Lodz to hide in the woods during the Nazi occupation. They hid in the forest for months and ate what they could find around them while the Nazis destroyed Jewish culture and lives throughout Europe.
By Rabbi Rachel Timoner
When innocent children are separated from their parents and held in camps, we are in a crisis.
When two synagogues experience Antisemitic murders within six months, we are in a crisis.
When hate and scapegoating are whipped up by the leader of the country, we are in a crisis.
When the president vilifies the press and threatens the freedom of the press, we are in a crisis.
When the president defies and delegitimizes Constitutionally-mandated oversight by Congress, we are in a crisis.
By Bonnie Bader
The light in Israel is brilliant. It floated over the Mediterranean, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River (which is neither deep nor wide). It reflected off the Dome of the Rock, emanated from the candles held in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and reflected off the Kotel; men and women praying in their separate sections. The light danced off faces: white, beige, brown, black, sparkling in the blue and brown eyes.
The light in Israel is mystical. Wandering through the cobbled streets of Tzfat, one of the four Holy Cities, I took in the blue doors, gobbled down a delicious Yemenite sandwich, and visited art galleries with work inspired by the messages of Kabbalah, and old synagogues each with its own story.
By Rabbi Rachel Timoner
I remember the first Dyke March, organized by the Lesbian Avengers in 1993 during the LGBT March on Washington. I was there, and I remember feeling that I was finally free — that we dykes could claim all of who we were — our full and complex identities, our bodies, our love, our commitments to equality and justice for all — and be utterly unashamed. It, and the subsequent marches since all over the country, have been profoundly liberating for so many people.
By Emily Sachs
Parshah B’midbar begins with an accounting/a census of military age Israelite men.
“So Moses and Aaron took those men, who were designated by name, and on the first day of the second month they convened the whole community, who were registered by the clans of their ancestral houses—the names of those aged twenty years and over being listed head by head.” Numbers 1:17
As the mother of a twenty-year old, whom we named for Jonah, the reluctant but effective prophet to the people of Ninevah, I think a lot about who counts, who serves, and what courage, service and peace-making look like.
After a comprehensive and thoughtful process led by a committee chaired by Danielle Mindlin with members Leslie Lewin, Marc Sternberg, Mara Getz Shaftel, and Jonathan Spear, and in close consultation with our clergy team and Yachad staff, we are thrilled to welcome Tehilah Eisenstadt to CBE as our new Director of Yachad and Family Engagement, effective July 15.
We are thrilled to welcome Alan Herman as our Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, effective July 15.
Rabbi Leora Ezrachi-Vered recently joined us as part of her Golden Fellowship through HUC-JIR, which brings Israeli rabbinical students and recently ordained Israeli Reform Rabbis to intern in North American Reform congregations. Read Rabbi Ezrachi-Vered’s heartfelt reflection to CBE.
In the past week you may have noticed me around. I’ve had the good fortune to be able to visit CBE as a “Golden Fellow” (thanks to the generosity of the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion), getting to know your wonderful community, learning from your spiritual leadership and joining activities.
A CBE member for 30 years, Carol Shuchman organizes our annual Respite Bed Shelter, which she helped to launch eight years ago. The five-week shelter – operated in conjunction with CAMBA – is hosted in the Rotunda; it provides 12 homeless men with a warm, safe place to sleep, and a hot, protein-based meal prepared and served by CBE families and volunteers.
One of my favorite aspects of the seder is that we eat reclining. In this one move, the seder invites us to act out the release of stress from the body. The four questions tell us that on other nights we might eat sitting upright — tense — our minds on the work or hardships of the day, full of worry about what tomorrow will hold. But tonight, the freed slave experiences the psychic safety to recline, and we re-enact that sense of emotional and physical release. When my kids were little, they’d decorate their own special pillows for this purpose, which led them to nestle in to the shoulders or onto the laps of their neighbors. We’d make sure that everyone around the table had a pillow in order to fully lean on one another. This leaning on others reminds us that we’re connected, and the people around us can help hold us up.
The Jewish coming-of-age ceremony stretches to accommodate the new gender fluidity…
Rabbi Timoner recently wrote an op-ed for the Forward on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming appearance at the AIPAC Policy conference, expressing major concern for Netanyahu’s recent embrace of the controversial, extremist Jewish Power Party.
Dear CBE Community,
As we prepare for Shabbat, our hearts are broken from the murderous hate that killed 49 Muslims during prayer at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Before killing and wounding innocent worshippers, the murderer released a manifesto citing American white nationalism as his inspiration. With Pittsburgh still so clear in our memories, we know how threatened and vulnerable all Jews felt after our own people were targeted in one of our holy places. We also know what it felt like when the larger community stood with us to make clear that we were not, and would not be, alone. We remember in particular how the Muslim community encircled us with their love and support.
Rabbi Rachel Timoner recently appeared on an episode of the Beliefs Podcast, a weekly news podcast covering religion, faith, and ethics. Rabbi Timoner and Dr. William Baker had a meaningful conversation about progressive activism, Zionism, the great potential of the progressive Jewish movement in America, and the crosswinds and squalls for American Jews during the Trump Administration.
CBE is excited to announce its first annual Unleavened Plays Festival.
The Festival is seeking six 10-minute plays, each reflecting the underlying theme of “PLAGUE(S).” The plays will be performed as an evening of staged readings at CBE on Sunday, April 14, 2019 — the weekend before Passover begins, as people around the world begin to think about the Jewish people’s efforts to escape Egypt and head out into the desert toward freedom.
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, in partnership with CBE and Brooklyn Jews, opened their search to commission a new play focusing on the American Jewish experience. The commission is looking to support an emerging, early-career playwright in creating a new work that will encourage meaningful dialogue around the complexity of being Jewish in America.
Read Rabbi Timoner’s d’var Torah on the upcoming Women’s March on Washington.
We find ourselves this week in the second parasha in the Book of Exodus. At the opening of last week’s Torah portion, we meet a new Pharaoh who doesn’t know Joseph. “Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us,” he says. “They might side with our enemies.” So he oppresses us ruthlessly with labor that makes our lives bitter, but we continue to increase and spread out until the Egyptians come to dread us.
Distinguished writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chris Hayes of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes, recently sat on the bimah in the main sanctuary to discuss the current political climate in America.
Fabiano Caruana will be the first American to compete for in the World Chess Championship since Bobby Fischer in 1972! Shortly after moving to the Park Slope area, Caruana’s parents enrolled him in CBE’s after school program where he was first introduced to the game of chess.
Rabbi Rachel Timoner sat down with Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America and host of “America, We Need to Talk” on WBAI Radio, to discuss the current climate of anti-Semitism in America, what we as Jews (and as people) can do to eliminate it, and the importance of welcoming and embracing the other. Rabbi Timoner’s interview begins at 01:05.
Rabbi Matthew L. Green is this week’s featured guest on ReformJudaism.org’s weekly Torah podcast, On the Other Hand: Ten Minutes of Torah. Download the most recent episode to hear him chat with Rabbi Rick Jacobs about what the weekly bible portion means in modern life: apple.co/1Rr87Nc
Farewell Speech from Rabbi Marc Katz
Marc’s Last Lap Farewell Event, June 3, 2018
The amazing thing about the Jewish tradition is that there is a prayer for everything. There is a prayer for new beginnings, a prayer for seeing lightning and a different prayer for the rainbow after the storm. There is a prayer for seeing a beautiful person, and prayer for smelling a flower, even a prayer for using the bathroom.
But my favorite prayer has always been the prayer of endings, because it completely defies expectations.
Bringing Young Ideas to Veteran Institutions
In 11th annual installment of The Jewish Week’s 36 Under 36 special section, CBE’s Assosiate Rabbi, Matt Green was recognized as one of the The New Bridge Builders; a group of leading changemakers reaching across divides and edging the Jewish community forward.
A Message from Rabbi Rachel Timoner
Dear CBE Community,
I know that many of us are experiencing a range of thoughts and emotions about what’s been happening in Israel. Yesterday, as the American Embassy was moved to Jerusalem and as 60 Palestinian people were killed at the Gaza border fence, Rabbi Rick Jacobs released this statement, which I support, on behalf of the Reform movement. Meanwhile, Rabbi Sharon Brous was with Rev. William Barber and many leaders of the Reform movement in Washington, D.C. launching the Poor People’s Campaign. She said these words about poverty in the United States, words that speak to my heart about Israel and the Palestinians. Perhaps they will speak to yours.
Last month, we shared the bittersweet news that Rabbi Katz will be leaving CBE at the end of June to lead Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield, New Jersey. You can see that announcement and Marc’s beautiful letter to the congregation here. Four weeks ago, we were thrilled to announce that Matt Green will become CBE’s new Assistant Rabbi after he is ordained in the spring. You can see that announcement and read about Matt’s stellar achievements here. Today, we share the exciting news that CBE is expanding our clergy team with a third rabbi, and to introduce you to Rabbi Rebecca Epstein.
Washington, DC – On Wednesday, January 17, Rabbi Rachel Timoner joined Bend the Arc Jewish Action, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Anti-Defamation League, and other clergy, leaders, and grassroots volunteers from across the Jewish community in a historic act of Jewish civil disobedience.
More than 100 participants occupied the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill to demand that congress include a clean DREAM Act in the government funding bill.
Dear CBE Community,
We hope that you’ve had a chance to read Rabbi Marc Katz’s announcement last week. While it is not possible to ever replace Rabbi Katz at CBE, and while his imprint will remain on our community and on our lives for many years to come, we are grateful to have an extraordinary new rabbi ready to serve our community in his own unique way. We are thrilled to share the wonderful news that Matt Green will be CBE’s new Assistant Rabbi beginning on July 1, 2018.
To My CBE Community,
At the funeral for 32-year-old Heather Heyer, may her memory forever be a blessing, Heather’s mother said:
Tablet discussed how CBE’s Sukkah, which featured educational materials from HIAS, was especially designed to bring awareness about the world refugee crisis.
Bklynr published an article about when rocker legend Patti Smith visited CBE’s Brooklyn by the Book event and performed “Because the Night” in our very own CBE sanctuary.
Bklynr covered CBE’s Brooklyn by the Book event which featured author Toni Morrison who discussed her most recent book, God Help the Child.
The Observer’s piece talks about Rabbi Timoner’s new role at CBE and her focus on social justice activism.
The JTA features CBE’s Hebrew language immersion summer camp for kids, Ha’Geemnasia as a fun, effective, and enlightening way for children to learn Hebrew and about Israeli culture.