Friday, December 2, 2016

Feeding Souls and Nurturing Citizens: Parashat Toldot

This week's portion is parashat Toldot. We encounter two brothers, Jacob and Esau, who represent two different approaches to decision making. Jacob is the scholar and the schemer, the one who is willing to forgo short-term satisfaction in order to achieve long-term aims. On the hand you have Esau who is the hunter and the straight-shooter, who puts the fulfillment of basic needs in front of long-term, strategic aims. Jacob is clever (and often duplicitous) and Esau is candid (and often naive.) Jacob acquires great wealth and power but is never at peace, while Esau follows his heart and stomach, but does not live his life on the run.

The Jewish tradition, and in particular the rabbinic tradition, favors the priorities and character of Jacob over Esau. The rabbis excuse Jacob's misdeeds, and vilify Esau's ostensibly innocent actions.

However, we miss a great deal of wisdom when we overlook or demonize Esau's choices. Jacob had the ability to think in the long-term because his short-term needs were provided by his mother, Rebecca. Esau needed to think about immediate gratification because he did not receive the attention or coddling of his mother, but rather spent his time serving his sick father, Isaac. Esau also trusted his brother, and therefore, never believed that relying on him for basic care and hospitality would cost him his birthright.

It is easier to be generous and strategic when your basic needs are cared for by others. It is much more difficult to be a conduit of generosity, empathy, and critical thinking when your stomach is empty and your soul needs tending. If the most basic of someone's concerns are not addressed -- feeling respected and cared for -- then we are misguided to expect the kind of empathy and long-term thinking we would like to see in our fellow citizens.

Let us focus on feeding and nurturing (physically and spiritually) our fellow citizens at this moment. These acts of care have tremendous implications for our people and our body politic. As our rabbi's taught, "Ein Kemach, Ein Torah." Without food, there can be no study. This is a moment that demands learning -- let us feed one another so we are ready and able to address the demands of citizenship that this moment demands.

Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Yom Kippur Sermon 5777

Yom Kippur was a moving experience in Waterville this year.  I was honored to pursue teshuva with my community and Hillel.

I delivered two sermons, one of which I will publish online.  For access to the other sermon, please email me to discuss.

Kol Nidre 5777 - "Dear Nitzan"

Cannot wait to see everyone over Sukkot.  Moadim L'Simcha!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Rosh HaShanah Sermons - 5777

Rosh HaShanah was beautiful and fulfilling this year at Beth Israel Congregation!  Colby College Hillel and Beth Israel came together for an Erev Rosh HaShanah dinner of 90 people followed by vibrant and warm services.

I am happy to share my two sermons from this past Rosh HaShanah:

1) Erev Rosh HaShanah - Year in Review

2) Rosh HaShanah Day 1 - Leadership in Anxious Times

L'Shanah Tovah and Gmar Hatimah Tovah!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

High Holidays in Waterville 5777!!

High Holiday Schedule

Unless otherwise noted, services are held in the Beth Israel sanctuary

Rosh Hashanah:
Erev Rosh Hashanah Services - Sunday, October 2nd at 6:00 pm

Erev Rosh Hashanah Community Meal - Sunday, October 2nd at 7:00 pm (please RSVP by September 26)

Rosh Hashanah Services, First Day - Monday, October 3rd 9:30 am to 12:00 pm

Tashlich - Monday, October 3rd at 1:00 pm

Rosh Hashanah Services, Second Day - Tuesday, October 4th 9:30 am to 12:00 pm

Yom Kippur:

Kol Nidre Services - Tuesday, October 11th 5:45 to 7:15 pm

Yom Kippur Services - Wednesday, October 12th 9:30 am to 1:00 pm

Maariv and Ne’ilah Services - Wednesday, October 12th 6:15 pm to 7:30 pm

Colby Hillel Break the fast (Pugh Center) 6:15 pm

Beth Israel Break-Fast - Wednesday, October 12th at 7:30 pm


Sunday, October 16th to Sunday, October 23rd

Colby-Beth Israel Shabbat Potluck and Services in the Sukkah - Friday, October 21st 6:00 to 8:00 pm at COLBY COLLEGE SUKKAH

Bagels and Singing in the Sukkah - Saturday, October 22nd at 11:00 am at COLBY COLLEGE SUKKAH

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah:

Shemini Atzeret Services and Yizkor - Monday, October 24 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Simchat Torah Potluck and Services - Monday, October 24 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Services open to all!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hillel Virtual Global Assembly Presentation: The Center for Small Town Jewish Life

I was honored today to present on behalf of the Center for Small Town Jewish Life at Colby College at the Hillel International Virtual Global Assembly.  I gave a slice of Jewish life in Waterville, Maine, and began to open a discussion about replicating our model on a national scale.

To view my presentation, click here!

I am so looking forward to taking the Center to the next level -- let me know if you want to partner with us!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Caribbean Kosher Fundraiser at Beth Israel Congregation!

"Caribbean Kosher: A Taste of Puerto Rico in Maine"

                     Beth Israel Congregation Annual Fundraiser                      Supporting the Center for Small Town Jewish Life

August 21, 2016 at 6:00 pm
291 Main Street 
Waterville, Maine
Cost $60.00 (Wine included, cocktails extra)
For tickets email:

Join us for a delicious meal prepared by classically trained chef, Alfonso Ortega and owner of Acadia Cakes, Nilda Wolman, for an incredible kosher Puerto Rican meal. 


       Sweet Plantain and Cod Fish Pies
      Twice Fried Green Plantain Stuffed With Summer Vegetable “Ratatouille”
        Grill Skirt Steak Brochette With Garlic “Chimichurri” Sauces and Yuca Chips
Drink: Mojito
First Course:
Sea Bass & Mango Ceviche with Green Plantain Chips
Drink: Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc

Second Course:
Mixed Greens Salad With Cranberries & Marinated Pigeon Pea.
Pairing: Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc

Lemon Sorbet:

Main Entrée:
Balsamic Guava Glaze Chicken Breast Filet Wrap in Turkey Bacon with Cuban Black Beans and White Rice “Moros y Cristianos”
Pairing Wine: Concha & Toro Chilean Wine Camenere grape

Coconut Rice Custard with Sesame Seeds Caramel Powder

Friday, May 27, 2016

Would you Unfollow Jeremiah?: Thoughts on Haftarah Behar


If the prophet Jeremiah were alive today, would you unfollow him on Facebook? Would you stop picking up his calls and ignore his texts? One of the few true prophets during the reign of the foolish, young King Zedekiah, Jeremiah was the bearer of difficult news. This week’s haftarah deals with the difficult relationship between Jeremiah and the final king of Israel who did unspeakable damage to the Jewish people by refusing to acknowledge difficult realities. Not only did Zedekiah initially ignore Jeremiah, but eventually imprisoned him for continuing to relay his message: the Jewish people would be in exile for many years to come. In order to survive, the King should submit to the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, and the exiles should create permanent homes in exile. This was news that no one wanted to hear, even though it came directly from G-D. Zedekiah tried to defeat Nebuchadnezzar with a failed revolt, and the people Israel held out false hope and lost important opportunities to protect themselves and plan for their future.
  The term “jeremiad” in English has a negative connotation; it is a word that is synonymous with an exaggerated report of future tragedy. However, Jeremiah is not all doom and gloom. He assures the people Israel that they will return to their land, but not immediately, and not through a military revolt. Their sin has brought them into exile and only their repentance will usher in their return. It is possible to go home again, but only through hard work and a circuitous path. In the meantime, it benefits everyone in the community to accept their new surroundings, plant strong and healthy roots for their families, adapt, and do the hard spiritual work necessary for redemption. Listening to Jeremiah is not meant to be an unmitigated, depressing downer.  He provides a wakeup call to a people that are lost and deluded. Hope is possible, but only by acknowledging our difficult realities and preparing ourselves for the world we wish to inhabit.
Let us listen to the true prophets in our midst, who usually have difficult messages for us to digest. However, as a good friend once taught me, “the only way out is through.” Let us have the courage and strength to accept difficult truths and prepare ourselves for the journey home -- and all the travail it will undoubtedly require.  

Shabbat Shalom