Rabbi Moskowitz’s Message

Rabbi Moskowitz




Oct 30, 2019: Remembering Dr. Joseph Graffeo

Dear Friends,

We are all so saddened by the passing of Dr. Joseph Graffeo, Temple Beth Torah’s Choir Director and organist for the past 33 years. A few weeks before the High Holidays Joe was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with cancer in his kidney. This was of great concern as he had been the recipient of a kidney transplant 9 years ago. He was able to go home for a few days but then contracted sepsis and returned to the hospital. It seems the cancer had spread and his systems were shutting down. Cantor and I visited Joe and his wife, Barbara, about a week ago and while the prognosis was not good, he was doing okay and we had a nice conversation and offered prayers of healing and love.

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Sept 2018 Rosh Hashanah Sermon: Sacrificing Our Kids

Abraham was willing to sacrifice literally everything. His family – his home, and now his Beloved son Isaac. We read this distressing story each Rosh HaShana and have trouble relating. On the one hand we are impressed with Abraham, on the other appalled.

We laud him for believing in something – one G!d, standing up for his beliefs, and going to extremes to influence others and being willing to do whatever it takes. We are all sitting here today because he was a maverick.

But we also criticize him- The story of the Akedah is a difficult one. Abraham is willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, and Isaac knows it. This is hard to relate to. How could anyone be willing to do that? Isaac suffers. Whether from PTSD or bad parenting, he isn’t able to take a stand later in life and is seen as one of the least effective, least productive of all the characters in Genesis. A place holder.

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Sept 2018 Rosh Hashanah Sermon: Moments That Matter

Let me take you back 15 years. Shira, my daughter is 10 and my son Ari is 8 and I am 29.(!) By the way they are now 25 and almost 23 and I’m still 29! Steve and I decide we want to create some family togetherness time. We decide we will rotate and each of us will get a turn to pick a family activity for Saturday afternoon. Ari picks Sportsplex, and we all go out to Smithtown to that noisy arcade with lots of clacking and clicking and lots of children. The next week Shira picks Dave and Busters (there is a bit of a theme here) but we all go and we order her favorite fries. Another week, Steve picks a hike, ahh- nice and quiet we walk the circle at Caumsett state park with its beautiful views of the sound. I pick- The Lion King on Broadway -not my most economical pick, but exactly what I want to do with my family. We keep this going for several months.

Fifteeen years later. I remember these events, as do the kids. We are all together, doing something. We anticipate our turn, we plan how it will unfold and we all enjoy it or at least fake it, knowing our turn will come soon. It isn’t an accident that it is on Saturday– Steve and I want make Shabbat, special and memorable. So we create moments that matter.

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Sept 2018 Yom Kippur Sermon: Listen With Your Eyes

Listening to what people are really saying –

There is a story told about the 19th century Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik.
A man approached the rabbi and asked, “Can I fulfill the mitzvah of drinking four cups of wine on Passover with four cups of milk instead?”
The rabbi asked. “ Are you thinking about doing this because you are ill?”
“No,” the man told him, “my health is not the issue. Wine is just too expensive for me. I can’t afford it.”
The rabbi thought and said, “Here are 25 rubles. Chag Samaeach”
After the man left, the rabbi’s wife asked, “Why did you give him so much money? Two or three rubles would have been enough to buy wine for the seder.”
The rabbi answered, “If that man was thinking of drinking milk at the seder, not only did he not have enough money for wine, he didn’t have enough money for meat or matzah or other necessities of the seder, either.”
What is the question the man asked? Could milk be used instead of wine for the ritual? What did R’ Yosef Dov hear? So much more, because of careful listening he is able to hear so much more. (With Heart in Mind. Alan Morinis p.23-4)

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Sept 2018 Yom Kippur Sermon: Listen to the Trees

I like to go outside, and sit on my deck and listen to the trees. I don’t always hear them, but I always feel good afterwards and I feel a connection that helps me to feel at one with the universe. Richard Powers in his moving book, The Overstory, writes, “Out in the yard, all around the house, the things they’ve planted in years gone by are making significance, making meaning, as easily as they make sugar and wood from nothing, from air, and sun, and rain. But the humans hear nothing.”

I want to hear something. So I’ll keep listening. This made me wonder what are the trees that fill our Jewish teachings and culture saying to us? I want to listen to our trees.

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Sept 2018 Yom Kippur Sermon: Yizkor

The longer someone is gone the further away you might feel from them. Their picture isn’t quite as vivid in your mind, instead of millions of images you keep coming back to just a few glimpses of your person. This can make the passing of time feel scary. We want the pain and hurt to subside, but we don’t want our memories to fade; Their scent of the pillow to diminish; The indent in the chair to fill in. We want to hold on.

This past May I lost a dear friend, classmate and colleague Rabbi Aaron Panken, in small plane crash. Not only was he my friend and has been since our year in Israel in 1986, and my son’s really good friend’s dad but he was the President of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where he was just beginning to realize his vision for the future of the Reform Rabbinate. His passing was a public tragedy, but I know this doesn’t compare to the loss for his family.

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Oct 2016 Kol Nidrei Sermon: Who is Sitting At Your Table?

I am sitting around the Rosh HaShana table with family and friends.

Uncle Max is here for TRADITION! He wants Matzah ball soup and brisket and Manischewitz wine.

Cousin Samantha loves family gatherings but doesn’t care much for religion. She isn’t coming to services, she has too much work to do, but wants to be at the meal. She is eating the vegetarian options.

Barry is going on about his social justice work and how meaningful it is to go register voters in NC with Netzavim, the Reform movement’s voter registration initiative.

Julie and Vicki have just been to Budapest and Prague and are feeling a deep connection to the Jewish people and have just started working on a family tree.

Aaron is here with Annamarie, his new girlfriend. It is her first Rosh HaShana ever, as she is not Jewish. She asks great questions and makes all of us think about why we are doing the rituals, like eating round challah.

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Oct 2016 Rosh HaShana Sermon: Gift Giving — Connections  

I recently posed a question to many of you- What is the best gift you have ever received? Our friend Jan shared this story.

About 8 years ago, Jan is at art fair in Charlestown, Rhode Island and sees a beautiful painted bracelet. She tells Steve,the artist, how much she likes it and then he asks her,

“Do you make things?”

She answers, “Yes, I’m a painter.”

He responds, “Please take this bracelet as a gift, and when you are ready bring me one of your paintings.”The next week, Jan brings him a painting of a osprey in a tree. He loves it. And friendship is formed.

Skip ahead 7 years to last year, when Jan’s daughter Laura married Mark. Steve made their rings by melting down gold rings from both families. It symbolically represented combining both Laura and Mark’s past, and creating a future.

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Oct 2016 Yom Kippur Sermon:  Be A Hero  

I had a once in a lifetime experience last week. I “met” a hero. A person who cared enough to risk his life. A person who took action to make a difference.

I met Sergeant Willam “BilI” Shemin. I didn’t actually meet him in the usual sense, as this was the unveiling of his footstone. At Baron Hirsch Cemetery on Staten Island.

Let me tell you his story.

It is World War I. Bill Shemin is in France. He is under machine gun fire from the Germans, in a trench. He looks up.

Men are wounded, all around him. He looks out. He sees his good buddy, Jim Pritchard, lying on the ground. Bill runs out.

Jim is lying there. He knows he is going to die. He opens his eyes and sees Bill next to him. He appreciates that Bill crept out to comfort him, to say good bye. The next thing Jim knows, he is being dragged back to the trenches by Bill, sure now, that they are both going to die.

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Aug 2016 The Arc  

Dear Friends,

I hope you have found some time this summer for rest and relaxation and to get touch with your spiritual side. I was able to do so with a trip to Israel (and I have great plans to take you there in the Spring) and by spending more time in nature and with my family. In addition, Outdoor services were uplifting, the Golf Outing was a great day and my afternoons at the Sisterhood Pool Party and Women’s Retreat were such nice ways to reconnect with friends. The Jewish Tangents class and Torah Yoga were particularly nice as well.

I am so excited about the coming year. The High Holidays promise to be spectacular, our Torah Writing Project is getting underway, the new Collage Program in our Religious School will give families more ways to connect to their Judaism. The Nursery School and Youth Group have great plans. And I’m starting two new classes this October – an Adult B’nei Mitzvah Class and an Adult Confirmation Class. (see p. 19 for more information).

These passed few years we have been sharing our stories throughout the month of Elul to help us approach the High Holidays as a more unified community. Please participate this year. (Stories are due by Sept 5.)

This year’s question:
What is the best “gift” you have ever received?
Was it a piece of advice, a gift that arrived when you really needed it, a treasured item, a find, a story, a moment in time?

Have you ever received a bit of knowledge or wisdom that impacted your life? Have you ever received something that at first distressed you and then surprised you in a pleasant way?

Has someone remembered something you did or said and told you about it many years later? Do you own something that lifts you up?

Answers can be as short or as long as you’d like. Send them to me at
ravsusie@gmail.com with a 2 sentence bio telling us your connection to TBT.

Please help our community to grow by inviting your friends and neighbors to join Temple Beth Torah. We are an exciting community in which to connect, learn and work together to make the world a better place. I urge you to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities at TBT.

Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz

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Jun 2016 The Arc  

While Summer is not yet here I want to remind you that TBT is here all summer. Summer is a great time for you to get more involved. Each of us has to find our own way to connect to our Judaism and to the Temple. Here are a few suggestions. You’ll see there are many different avenues you can take.

If you are interested in hands on community service, volunteer at the Wyandanch Camp or at the Mercy INN soup kitchen, or with our Backpacks for Success drive or with HELP Suffolk.

If you are looking spirituality, join us for our outdoor summer services under the stars every Friday night at 7:30 PM or come to the Women’s Retreat on August 2.

If you want to study more, check out Jewish Tangents on Tuesday mornings with me. It is a wonderful class with discussion, text and community. The Sisterhood has started the Living Room, to discuss popular books, films and culture.

If social and networking are more of your aims, come to the Business Networking Cocktail party (June 9), the Sisterhood Pool Party (July 20), The Brotherhood Events and watch for some fun nights out at the Temple during the Summer. The Golf Outing is a great way to see old friend, make new connections and to support the Temple.

We have 3 very special Services in June.

June 3 we will be celebrating the Adult B’nei Mitzvah of Debra Brooks, Rochelle Gerstman, Jeffrey Nackenson, Renee Pardo and Judy Roth. The have worked for two years to learn Hebrew and more about their Judaism. They will be sharing with us reflections on the Torah portion that they would have read when they were 13 and how it fits their life today.

June 10 we have this year’s Emunah sermon which will be delivered by Sheryl Haber. Sheryl has been a member here for almost 20 years. We are looking forward to hearing her faith journey and learning from her how she has navigated life’s obstacles with optimism and effervescent spirit. Sheryl, her husband David and her daughter Susan, are wonderful examples of what it means to live a committed Jewish life.

I hope you will join me on June 17 as we celebrate the my journey at Temple Beth Torah over these past 20 years and my receiving an honorary Doctorate of Divinity for my 25 years in the Rabbinate. (This is when you should be saying “she can’t possibly be that old.”)


Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz

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Apr 2016 The Arc  

Dear Friends,

Purim, Passover, Bar Mitzvahs & Baby namings are all events that make you think of Temple. I see lots of you at Shabbat services and special programs. But did you know we are here for you when you are going through tough times, as well.

I recently went to a UJA conference on Fertility Journeys. I learned so much. Including that the definition of fertility issues is much broader than I initially thought. It ranges from not being able to have a child, to not being able to get pregnant a second time, to surrogacy, to transgender men wanting to have children and feeling shunned by the community. I was reminded how many people are effected by fertility issues. I also learned that there are agencies and support systems in place in the Jewish community that can help. And that the Hebrew Free Loan Association has major loans available for people dealing with infertility treatments and for adoption.

Many of you are suffering, with a variety of issues. Fertility, Drug Addiction, Mental Illness, marital issues, financial issues, etc. Some put strains on the whole family. I want to be here to help. You can make an appointment to see me or just stop by. If I can help you through listening, or Spiritual Direction or pastoral counseling –I will. I am also connected to lots of agencies and resources in and out of the Jewish community that might be exactly the help you need.

Any information you share with me or any of our clergy will be kept confidential.

Being part of a synagogue means celebrating together but it also means being on the journey of life together, with its ups and downs. Don’t forget –we are here for you.

Zissen Pesach,

Rabbi Susie Moskowitz

PS –Please read The Arc carefully and join us for as many happenings as you can. They are wonderful ways to connect you and your family to the community.

PSS –MAY 1 –The LATET Walk-a-thon @10AM. Watch for more information.

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Feb 2016 The Arc  

Even in these times of disaffection with religion most Jews have a Mezuzah on their door. A sign that says, this is a Jewish house. Besides the fact that a Jewish person lives there, what makes your house a Jewish home?

Yossi Ben Yochanan in Pirke Avot 1.5 says:
“Let your house be open wide, and let the poor be members of your household.” An interesting challenge. Do we invite a poor person in to sleep under our roof? That might be the intent of the verse, but even the best among us would be reticent to do so. So maybe there are other ways. We can go out and create a home for someone in need or feed them a meal.

A congregant said to me the other day when we were discussing volunteering at the Mercy INN, “Temple Beth Torah really makes it easy to do mitzvah projects.”We try to make it easy but you have to step up and participate. Here are a few ways to open up your home to everyone.

I called the Mercy INN to get a date for our teens to serve lunch over the break. Three team leaders – The Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday ones got back and said they could use our help. The teens will only be able to cover one day, so we are looking for congregants to help out. You need to be 16 years old to serve but pre-teens with adult help can do the prep in the back. Let me know if you are interested in helping. There are also opportunities for adult to help throughout the year.

Our Social Action Committee is launching an exciting initiative to feed an elderly Holocaust survivor living in Israel for a year. Latet delivers care packages on a regular basis and can feed a person on a $1000 a year. Let’s see how many survivors we can help. Watch for more information.

Our amazing Purim Megillah Reading and Carnival will be here before you know it. Please help by sponsoring a booth, running a booth (or helping your kids or grandkids to run a booth) or by donating raffle tickets. Put on your best Hawaiian shirt and join the fun.

We had such a good time on the teen trip to Madame Tussaud’s that we are offering it for families on March 13. Sign up for a fun, Jewish experience at Madame Tussaud’s.

There is a great buzz at TBT these days, between the Business Networking, The Senior Schmooze, the renewed interest in Sisterhood and all the school programs. So many of these new ventures came about because a member of our congregation said, Can we have……? Thank you. I can’t wait to hear your next idea.

See you at Casino Night, the Sisterhood Steal-a-thon, The Game Night, the NYC trip or at services or a class.


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Dec 2015 The Arc  

Cuba – a blend of cultures, colors and sounds. We had an amazing experience. The TBT trip was comprised of 25 members. We were pleasantly surprised by the lovely accommodations and good food. I thought I’d be eating rice and beans for a week but rarely saw any of that. We ate grilled food at palladars, which are restaurants in people’s homes. We went to the ballet, to a choral concert, to a dance group and to the National Museum at which we saw the Cuban collection. All of these experiences were a blend of cultures – Cuban, Afro-Cuban, Western and Island. We saw art that was influenced by Picasso but filled with Cuban themes. The architecture was colonial, but painted with the bright colors of the Islands.

Of course one of the highlights was visiting 4 different synagogues/Jewish Communities. There are 1200 Jews in Cuba in a population of 11 Million. The largest synagogue is the Patronata- Beth Shalom in Havana. We visited 3 times – once to learn about the community and bring our Tzedakah – vitamins for the pharmacy, which is in a classroom, underwear, adult diapers, Chanukah decorations and Latkes Mix. Then for a Friday night service which was lead beautifully by the teens of the Congregation. They invited me to give the sermon which was simultaneously translated into Spanish. (A first for me.) We went back on Sunday morning to participate in Israeli dancing with the Sunday School kids.

I was impressed by the determination and dedication it takes to keep Judaism alive in a poor, Communist country. We saw only joy and pride in our new Juban friends.

Please join us for Friday, December 4 to hear more about our trip. We will have good food, dancing and pictures to share.

December 11 is our annual Chanukah Service and dinner. Bring your menorah to light and RSVP for dinner.

TLC@TBT- Temple Loving Care is here to help you in times of need. Please contact me if we can be of any assistance.

Happy Chanukah,
Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz

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Oct 2015 The Arc  

Dear Friends,

It was wonderful to see so many of you at our Holiday services. Now it is time for ACTION. Why do need to Act? – Because they are human, we are human and we are Jews.

Here is some information about several of the causes I mentioned. To Aid the Refugees:

HIAS – Hebrew Immigrant and Aid Society www.HIAS.org

Their Mission: Welcome the Stranger. Protect the Refugee On their website they teach: We used to take refugees because they were Jewish. Now we take them because we’re Jewish.

Another Tzedakah that I didn’t mention, but which is also very reputable and combines our love of Israel with helping refugees throughout the world is:

IsraAID – www.israaid.co.il

Their Mission: For over a decade, IsraAID has been helping people all over the world overcome extreme crises and has provided millions with the vital support needed to move from destruction to reconstruction, and eventually, to sustainable living.

Click here to read more

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Sept 2015 Sermon   (When you see someone who needs help, if you can, help them)

Today’s sermon is a simple sermon with a simple message.

When you see someone who needs help, if you can, help them.
Help them, when they need help.
Your humanity depends on it.

Right now there are people all over the world who need our help.
They are refugees, they are asylum seekers.
They are the 60 Million displaced people all over the world who are persecuted because of their religion or their beliefs.
Some are just on the wrong side of their government.
Most are running for their lives.
Nearly half of them are children.

Why should we help them? Because we are human beings,
Why should we help them? Because they are human beings
Why should we help them now? Because we are Jews.

We can come up with tons of excuses –
How do we decide who to help, there are so many people?
How do we to help them? What do they need?
What if they are terrorists in disguise?
What if an influx of a group, and for many this fear is of Muslims, threatens to change our way of life?
These are questions worth asking, but we cannot permit questions like these to prevent us from acting.

Yom Kippur is about tipping the scales of righteousness in our favor.
We need to put all these doubts and questions on one side of the scale and on the other side we need to put our humanity.

When you see someone who needs help, if you can, help them.
Help them, when they need help. Our Humanity depends on it.

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Sept 2015 Sermon   (Miracles – United Hatzalah)

Eli Hirshberg is a 50 year old banker. He and his wife and 5 children were sitting down to Shabbat dinner and their home in Modi’in, a city between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

His youngest son says, “Abba it’s Shabbat, we need to make Kiddush quickly so that we can do it before your beeper goes off.”

They sit down and have a lovely dinner. But at the end of dinner the beeper does go off, Eli checks his app, sees that there is an emergency situation in nearby and runs out the door.

He arrives at an apartment house and a young man comes running out “My aunt Nurit is lying on the floor. She is acting drunk but she didn’t have anything to drink. Please help her.”

Eli runs up the stairs and immediately recognizes the signs of a diabetic coma. He tests her blood and her sugars come up at an alarming 37. He applies a glucose solution to Nurit’s gums and revives her.

How long did this take? 2 minutes. All of this, from the time the beeper went off to Nurit being revived, took less than 2 minutes. How long did it take for the regular ambulance to arrive.…. 5 minutes, 5 minutes later… an ambulance arrived.

If Eli hadn’t gotten there so quickly, Nurit would be dead.
If Eli had not been on an Ambucycle, he couldn’t have gotten there so fast.
Eli might not have been on a Ambucycle if we, the Temple Beth Torah community, had not raised the funds to buy this exact Ambucycle.

Last spring we, raised $29,000 for United Hatzalah. They used this money to buy a motorcycle, and outfitted as an Ambucycle. The ambucycle, #537, is the one that Eli drove on that Shabbat night. The one he rode to save a life.

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Sept 2015 Sermon   (Ethical Wills — Leaving a Legacy)

We know that businesses have mission statements that help define who they are. Can you guess what Business this is from their mission statement?

“We share the experience of selling goods that make you happy, giving service that makes you smile, … showing love and care in all our actions, to enrich as many lives as we possibly can.”

So is what Business is it?
– Is it a Toy store?
– A candy shop?
– A Soup Kitchen?
– Is is Ashley Madison?

It is a deli. Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, MI. A deli whose goal is — to make you smile. I finally made it to Zingerman’s for Shira’s Graduation weekend, and you know what? It was really a great experience. There was line out the door, but there were people stationed along the way to help. They handed you a menu at one point, brought coffee samples and food samples up and down the line.

They made it the kind of line where you talk to strangers (maybe that is just a Michigan, Mid-west thing).

When you got up to the counter they “forced” you to take a taste of the side salads before you ordered.

Someone from the kitchen, in this busy restaurant, came out to talk to us about the Gluten free options.

Everyone was so friendly. We had to wait for our food for a while, but staff came over to check on us while we sat at the table and waited.

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Sept 2015 Sermon   (Looking Up – Hidden Gifts from God)

Do you know the one about the guy who is driving around looking for a parking space. He looks up and says to God, if you find me a parking spot I’ll go to Temple every week and give tons of money to Tzedakah. He continues driving, and comes upon a great spot. Parks the car, and says to God, Never mind, the deal’s off, I found a spot, I don’t need your help anymore.

So true – it is really hard to see when God is working in our lives. Even in the Torah they had trouble seeing God’s miracles.

Today we are reading the story known as the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac. But in traditional synagogues they are reading the story of Hagar and Ishmael being cast out into the desert by Abraham and they will read the Akedah tomorrow. The early Reformers made different choices when they originally observed Rosh HaShana for only one day.

But the two stories seem connected to me.

Sarah asks/demands that Abraham cast out his other wife Hagar and her son Ishmael. God tells Abraham to do as Sarah has asked and Abraham does.

Early the next morning Abraham take some bread and a skin of water and gives them to Hagar. He places them on her shoulder, together with the child, and sends her away.

Sounds familiar– in the next story Abraham takes the wood for the burnt offering and puts it on his son Isaac. He himself takes the firestone and the knife, and the two walked on together.

But let’s go back to Hagar and Ishmael. They are not doing so well. “When the water was gone from the skin, she left the child under one of the bushes, and went and sat down at a distance, a bowshot away; for she thought, “Let me not look on as the child dies.”… she burst into tears.”

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Sept 2015 The Arc

Al tifrosh min hatzibur –
Don’t separate yourself from the community

What an amazing community we are! We have already saved a life.

Our United Hatzalah Ambucycle is being driven by Eli Hirshberg. Eli is 50, and is married with 5 beautiful children. He live in Modi’in and works as project manager for Bank HaPoalim. He arrived in under two minutes at the home of an women going into a Diabetic coma and had her stabilized by the time the ambulance arrived five minutes later. Eli wouldn’t be driving a state of the art rescue cycle if it wasn’t for you and this congregation. I was thrilled to dedicate our Ambucycle this summer. Here are a few pictures and there are more at www.tbtny.org.

But we have another mission as well – to save each other’s lives.

To prevent spiritual decay – to keep questioning and challenging God, together. To keep learning and doing together.

To offer TLC –- Temple Loving Care and support — when times are difficult and to celebrate when times are joyous. And to be there when life is a mixture of the difficult and the joyous.

To change the world for the better – it is hard to do this alone. It is a bit easier to do it with the love and encouragement of our Temple Beth Torah friends and community.

Make 5776 your year to save lives.

L’shana tova oo’metukah – a Good and Sweet year from my family to yours.

Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz

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May 2015 The Arc

We live in a world that puts borders between people. People of different races, religions and nationalities are separated from one another. While the boundaries begin as geographic, they morph into emotional obstacles that block communication and understanding. As Jews we wrestle with this concept of fitting in vs. separating ourselves. Of course it has not always been our choice. In Egypt we were defined as slaves. In the Golden Age of Spain we were fairly integrated members of society, even of the royal court and then we were forced to convert which led to separation and hiding our identity. In Russia and the Ukraine we lived in shetls and took care of our own, because the government wasn’t interested in helping us.

In America we have experienced both statuses as well. As immigrant groups, who ate special food and had different practices (Shabbat on Saturday; Passover, not Easter) we have been set apart. But today, in many ways we are fully integrated into the larger society. We attend all the major universities, it is anachronistic to have “Jewish” Hospitals, and we are involved in politics at every level.

I officiated at a funeral of a Vietnam Veteran who received military honors from the Jewish War Veterans, police honors from the Shomerim Society and honors from the Special Forces squad and the Vietnam vets group of which he was a part. These signs of respect were vivid indicators of the way his identity as an American and as a Jew were all intertwined.

On our recent trip to Mikveh Israel Synagogue (one of the oldest in the US) and the National Museum of Jewish History, both in Philadelphia, I was reminded of the role of Haym Solomon. He was the banker/financier who helped George Washington win the Revolutionary war. He was a banker, because in Europe only certain professions were open to Jews and banking was one of them. Here he was involved in Philadelphia Society and had access to and influence on the highest positions in the land. A blending of being separate and integrated.

On Long Island we have full access to society at large but we often live in Jewish neighborhoods. This is characteristic of Long Island which is considered one of the most segregated areas in the country. Each neighborhood is defined by its ethnic make-up – Hispanics, Catholics, El Salvadorians, Columbians, Blacks, Whites, Jews, Asians, immigrants, etc. This is not a reflection of the way the world should be. These boundaries lead to fear and intolerance.

Recently we have had opportunities to be reactive and proactive. We had a incident in the community in which high school teens were wearing shirts with swastikas on them. The community has reacted by calling for unity. The need to evaluate the current programs in the schools and to create more educational programs leading to understanding. There is a deep feeling that while this one event might not have been intended to be anti- Semitic, when seen in the larger context of growing anti- Semitism it must be responded to strongly.

Our proactive efforts are just as important to pave the way for new friendships to form. At the Multi-cultural seder at the Gerald Ryan Outreach center we mixed and mingled with people of different faiths and nationalities – Turks, Jews, Christians, Catholics, Haitians, Irish, and more. All of us united in the common goals of understanding and of feeding the hungry and supporting the amazing work of the Outreach Center. I urged all the participants to make a point of having a conversation with someone who didn’t look like them or speak exactly like them. To meet someone new and ask them about their freedom and how they came by it. Jim Hassenfeld and Betsy Mantell are both on the board of the GROC (Jim is president) and are active members of Temple Beth Torah. We thank them for the work that they do and the bridges they continue to build.

We have the challenge of maintaining out Jewish identities in a world where assimilation is valued but anti- Semitism is simmering under the surface.

Rabbi Moskowitz

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March 2015 The Arc

Its Fun and Games and Hamentaschen — But a Whole Lot More

Most of us are at least culinary Jews. We will have Hamentaschen on Purim and Matzah or Matzah Ball soup on Passover. But are you an ethical Jew?

Each of these holidays, in addition to the rituals and the foods, reminds us of our ethical obligations to society.

The Mitzvot of Purim include giving to friends Mishloach Manot and giving to the poor — Matanot L’evyonim.

For Passover/Pesach the mitzvah of Ma’ot Chittim – Wheat Money is practiced. Special Tzedakah is given to insure that everyone has money to buy matzah and kosher for Passover foods.

At Temple Beth Torah we have created opportunities for you to celebrate the ritual and ethical mitzvot. To support your friends and to support those in need.

Join with friends and family this Purim Weekend for two of our biggest fundraisers of the year. Saturday we are having a Masquerade Casino Night with raffles, games and sponsorship opportunities. Our JTV/Youth Group kids have volunteered to babysit in your home for a donation, so you can attend and enjoy. Sunday is our annual Purim carnival, which gives us an opportunity to have fun and to raise money for our youth programming. Come volunteer, even if you don’t have Purim Carnival aged kids and grandkids. It is a great way to reconnect with TBT friends.

Our big Tzedakah project for the Spring is to raise money for an Ambucycle. This is our chance to help others and save lives. You will be given several opportunities to donate to this exciting cause, but the easiest way is to go online and make a contribution. We are looking forward to dedicating our Ambucycle on April 26th at our Yom Ha’Atzmaut celebration.

We will be taking part in several Passover Seders – our traditional 2nd Night Seder at TBT on Saturday, April 4. It is designed with something meaningful and fun for everyone, just like a seder should be. On April 1st we will be having a Mutli-Faith Seder at the Gerald Ryan Outreach Center. It is a multi-cultural seder that Jim Hassenfeld, the president of the GROC board, Betsy Mantell, and I played a major role in revitalizing last year. It turned out to be an extra-ordinary evening with native French, Spanish, German and Hebrew speakers asking the 4 questions in their own tongue. The food was delicious and the coming together with people from all over the community was amazing. The third is a Women’s Seder which your clergy are designing with Regional Hadassah for March 24th. The last time we did this was 5 years ago, and it was fantastic.

Chag Samaech – Happy Holidays and may your Holidays be happier as you help to make holidays happier for others.

Rabbi Susie Moskowitz

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Jan 2015 The Arc

What does your Judaism do for you?

Probably not much, unless you use it. When we talk about Judaism we say that we “practice” Judaism. Practice implies a work in progress, or put another way, something we have to “work at.” Practice also infers that Judaism is not a destination, rather a process.

Think of Judaism as a road map to give you direction. The holidays, with their biblical and spiritual themes are way-stations for refueling, and many of us are familiar with the rituals surrounding them. But the holidays are only one element. There are also daily practices to keep us on the path. Little activities we can insert into our lives on ordinary days that can help us to understand the important role Judaism can play in helping us live our best lives. The trick is that we have to use them.

Last year I applied the Weight Watcher principals to my diet in an effort to lose weight. I diligently recorded everything I put in my mouth. I ate the prescribed foods and voilà I lost weight. What do you know, if I did the plan and followed the directions, the plan worked.

Judaism gives us a daily plan, our practice is to follow it. Try some of these directions.

1. Feel gratitude. Start your day by thanking God that you are alive. Use the morning prayer, Modeh Ani l’fanecha Melech chai v’kayam shehechezarta bi nishmati raba emunahtecha. I thank you God for returning my soul to me this day in your great faith and trust. Just think about how starting your day with gratitude can influence your outlook to be more optimistic throughout the day. As a matter of fact, pausing throughout the day to say thank you to God with a formal Baruch Atah Adonai blessing or just a thank you is a wonderful way to help us keep everything in perspective.

2. Act on that gratitude by giving Tzedakah or volunteering your time to help others. We are commanded to contribute 10-33% of our income to charity. When we give to others we share the abundance with which we have been blessed. And then we often find, we have more not less even though we have given some away. This practice is also an antidote to depression as it helps you reach outside of yourself and to focus on other people. As you help them solve their problems your own seem to abate. Serving lunch at the Mercy INN soup kitchen always leaves me feeling grateful and wanting to give more of my time and energy to help.

3. Along these same lines say a blessing before you eat. Baruch Atah Adonai eloheinu melech haolam Hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz is technically the prayer for any meal that includes bread. It thanks God for bringing forth bread from the earth. On the most basic level this is a gratitude practice, but it is also a reminder that God needs us to partner with God to make the world a better place. It is an odd blessing in that God doesn’t actually “bring forth bread from the earth.” Rather, God gives us grains and water and eggs and then we need to take the raw ingredients and shape them into the bread.

We are also partners in caring for the world. Each time we make a good choice about the food we put in our bodies we are giving ourselves the strength to live a better life and to be partners with God. Stopping to say a b’racha before we eat gives us a moment to determine if we are treating our bodies in a way that is healthy and are we treating the earth in an equally sustainable way. These relatively simple acts help us to interface with the holy. In practicing gratitude we are practicing our Judaism. In practicing our Judaism we are being partners with God.

I look forward to seeing you for prayer and study, for social action and socialization. We offer an amazing array of programs as you can see when you read through the January-February 2015 edition of The Arc. These programs and activities are ways for us to have shared experiences which allow us to connect with one another. When we connect with one another, we might find that we are connecting with God in a holy way.

Rabbi Susie Moskowitz

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Nov 2014 The Arc

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the wonderful Installation Weekend and all of your support and guidance as I have transitioned into my new role as your Senior Rabbi.

Thank you to the many people who Planned the events of this weekend – the Chair people: Robin Steinberg, Kathy Hausman, Janice Hassenfeld, Vicki Friedfeld, Frannie Freedman, Gerry and Merrill Poliak for organizing everything with the help of Debra Brooks, Jill Davis, Erica LaChant, Audrey Frank, Jeanine Heller, Robin Isaacs and Hilary Manus and the rest of the committee.

Gala Events – for their planning of the Oneg Shabbat and the 70’s party in their renovated ballroom. I like to share an excerpt from my remarks at the Friday night service:

TBT By the Numbers
2 amazing clergy that I work with on a daily basis – Rabbi Rachel Wiesenberg and Cantor Sarene Appelbaum. Two talented, giving people that make coming to work an enjoyable experience everyday. They are unbelievably dedicated to serving this community.
1 Rabbi Emeritus– Rabbi Gellman who laid a wonderful foundation for our congregation. My Teacher
1100 students who have graduated from the JDB Nursery School at TBT which is so ably directed by Zelda Miller and full of wonder teachers, students and families who get their start at TBT.
45 Youth Group programs a year run by the amazing Jodi Mishkin- Michaelson, our director of Youth Engagement
295 students in our Religious school– who Rabbi Wiesenberg and Ronnie Wolff put their heart and soul into everyday with a dynamic teaching staff coming up with new ways to engage our kids and their families in Jewish life.
4 musical groups that teens and adults can take part in lead by Cantor Appelbaum and Dr. Joe Graffeo. Thank you for the special energy you brought to tonight’s service.
3 Dedicated women that keep our office running – Kathy, Patti and Robin – They work miracles around here.
45 The number of years the Temple Beth Torah has existed.
16 active committees
4 maintenance staff guys– Rick, Lenny, Danny and Yuri – who do so much work behind the scenes.
47 new member families this year – Welcome and Welcome back.
550 member families– over 2200 people in our congregation
29 Elul Stories that we shared-
28 Members of the Board of Trustees – who are incredibly supportive of this temple and give tremendous amounts of time. They follow in the footsteps of all the wonderful people who have served on the boards of trustees at TBT over the years. Thank you for the ongoing support of the clergy – of our ideas, our principles and our vision for Temple Beth Torah. You are true partners.

None of these numbers are so important, what really counts is one person. The one person is — you. This is your synagogue and we want to make this place your home.

On Rosh HaShanah I spoke of this being your 3rd place, after home and work, or home and school, each of us needs a place where we feel a sense of belonging and where we can give of ourselves and nourish our souls. My goal is that when you walk into TBT you feel that it is as much your home as it is mine.

We will be exploring the notion of Radical Hospitality – how can we make everyone feel welcome and included at Temple Beth Torah. How can we hear everyone’s stories in a way that creates community and creates a place that continues to fill our need for spirituality, for learning and growth, and for connection.

I hope you have already been brought in by the Elul Stories, the sharing on Second Day Rosh Hashanah, by a round table discussions with me & the opportunity to greet new people at Shabbat Services. I hope you have experienced meaningful life cycle events here or celebrated with friends.

Part of feeling connected is getting involved. My second goal is revitalizing the committee system. As I’ve said this is not because any of us need more meetings but because I believe that working together is a great way to connect to other people, to understand what the Temple can do and how we can make a difference in the world. And I believe we can make a difference – we can make a difference in each of our own lives, in our community, in our own country and in Israel. It is much easier to work together than to try and change the world alone.

My third goal for this year is to bring meaningful adult education programs to our community. You were handed our ADEPT brochure – Adult Education and Entertainment programming at TBT. So come study with us.

In addition I will continue to work with the amazing members of our congregation as we do Tikkun Olam, travel to Israel and focus on our Youth Programs and our schools and on reaching out to our families.

Temple Beth Torah will be different for each one of us. And our needs and ability to contribute with change over time. But together we can continue to create a special synagogue.

So join me. Make this place your Home. 

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Sept 2014 The Arc

Dear Friends,

It is with great joy that I write this column. Temple Beth Torah is in a very good place. We ended the year with several celebrations of Rabbi Gellman, which not only gave us a chance to say thank you to him and to honor all that he did to create a vibrant congregation on Long Island, but also gave us a chance to reflect on where we have been. How we’ve grown from a synagogue which met in a house on Carmen Road, with High Holiday services at Sagamore Psychiatric Facility and then other special services at King of Kings Lutheran church to a synagogue with a beautiful building, a thriving Religious school, an innovative Nursery school, a fabulous Youth Group and more. While I realize I’m prone to hyperbole, the pride I feel for TBT is truly immense.

My vision for TBT includes creating a culture in which every member of the congregation finds an avenue through which to get involved. No one should view TBT as a “them” but rather as a “we.” Every member should be comforta-ble saying: WE offer an outstanding adult education program. WE are a caring community with a strong TLC@TBT – Temple Loving Care. WE make all our members feel welcome and a part of TBT through programs, outreach, life cycle events, travel experiences, softball and mah jong. WE share our stories through Elul Stories. WE make the world a better place for Jews and non-Jews through Tikkun Olam- Social Action programs including the Wyandanch Summer camp, Supplies for Success, HELP Suffolk and our up coming High Holiday Food drive.

Our staff is working hard to create a variety of ways to strengthen our community. Rabbi Wiesenberg is redesigning Mishpacha University and our PACT (Parents and Children Together) programs to accommodate the busy schedules of our families while still offering meaningful ways for parents to get involved in their kid’s Jewish lives. Jodi Mishkin-Michaelson has been promoted to Director of Youth Engagement and will be integrating our Youth program into tem-ple life. Cantor Appelbaum continues to enrich our musical offerings by enabling more participation by congregants in our services. We have some unbelievable talent among our teens and adults that she and Dr. Joe Graffeo have cultivated. Zelda Miller continues to amaze with the new ideas she brings to the Nursery School to enable us to con-tinue to be on the cutting edge of pre-school education. When you call the office Kathy, Robin, Patty or Ronnie will help you with whatever you need. While much of their work in behind the scenes, Rick, Danny, Yuri and Lenny continue to work tirelessly to keep our physical plant running in good shape. Sandy Berland and our temple board not only support the professional staff but are partners in creating a thriving community. We are also pleased that our life cycle and synagogue events will be enhanced by celebrations with Gala Events NYC.

If you do not yet feel a part of TBT please take a look at the list of existing committees, some of which we are working hard to revitalize, and choose a way that you can get involved and share your gifts with our community. It would be my pleasure to help you find the best way to connect.

In Exodus we learn that each member of the community was invited to bring the gifts of his or her heart to help build the Mishkan, the holy tabernacle. The Mishkan is the space which allows God to dwell within the community. Everyone in the community was needed to create this sacred space. And each person responded. So much so that at one point Moses had to tell the people to stop bringing these gifts as they had brought more than was needed. Now that is a great problem to have!

Steve, Shira and Ari join me in wishing you and your family a Shana Tova oo’Metukah – a good and Sweet New Year filled with health, happiness and growth.

Rabbi Susie Heneson Moskowitz

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