From Rabbi Lieberman

  • Who knows where the time goes?

    Posted ‍‍ט אלול ה תשעה - August 24, 2015 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    25-random-things[Remarks offered by Rabbi Lieberman at the celebration of his 25th anniversary with FJC, Aug. 8, 2015]

    Friends….I am at this moment, as they say in Mamaloshen (Yiddish), farklempt….”unable to speak because of emotion; choked up.” But speak I must, and speak I will, because moments such as these are incredibly precious and rare.

    First, I have words of appreciation for my family, without whose love and support the past 25 years would have been devoid of meaning and purpose. Before we met, Lori had a great deal of experience working with rabbinic students from her work in the library at Hebrew Union College. She married me anyway. Ben and Anna have endured, with grace and aplomb, the challenges of being an “RK”–a “rabbi’s kid”. My beloved brothers, Victor and Marc, are here, respectively, from Ann Arbor and San Francisco, making my personal celebration complete.

    I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone whose efforts made this evening’s celebration such a beautiful success. Dozens of people contributed their time, energy, resources and talents to this and were guided to their goal by the indefatigable Sam Slarskey who headed up a team that included, Barry Balan, Scott Barron, Serena Boronkay, Barbara Brandt-Saret, Ellen Hewett, Ted Jellinek, Tee Marvin, Pamela Rothstein, Lynne Rozsa, Myrna Schultz, Bob Smith, Ellen Yaffe and Donna Zeger, many of whom was assisted by many others.

    Our hard-working and devoted temple staff–Betty Klotz, Steven Pearson, Steve Swain and George Cary–gave above and beyond to help make all of this possible. My friend Bart Weisman and his talented musical friends set the perfect freylich (joyous) tone for this celebration. Carol McLeod’s beautiful design work graced the invitations and this evening’s program.

    I have been deeply moved by all of the contributions made to our Endowment Fund in honor of this milestone. Nothing gives me deeper satisfaction than the knowledge that we will have the financial resources we need to maintain the vibrancy of this congregation long into the future.

    I offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone gathered beneath these tents this evening, as well as those who unable to be present. You helped create an event that reflects the very best of the wonderful community we call Falmouth Jewish Congregation!

    So…..what have the past twenty-five years produced? Friends, as Kai Ryssdal, host of NPR’s Marketplace, says, “Let’s do the numbers!”

    • 211   The number of b’nei mitzvah students with whom I have worked.

    • 119   The number of weddings at which I have officiated.

    • 233   The number of funerals I have performed.

    • 102   The number of babies & children on whom I have bestowed Hebrew names.

    • 52   The number of people I have been privileged to accompany on the path of conversion to Judaism.

    • 16   The number of years I have been privileged to work with Pamela Rothstein, my brilliant and talented friend and colleague.

    • 300   The number of FJC Newsletter columns I have written.

    • 10+   The number of guitars and ukuleles I have acquired. (I can still only play one at a time, however.)

    • 9   The number of FJC Presidents with whom I have collaborated and from whom I have learned much.

    • 9,164   The number of days I have awakened grateful to be serving as rabbi of this community

    • 182,600   A conservative figure for the number of laughs I’ve enjoyed since I began working here on July 1, 1990.

    • Far too many to count……

    -the number of sacred encounters I was privileged to experience as my work afforded me entry into the most joyous and the most challenging moments in the lives of so many people;

    -the times I disappointed you, or myself–or both at the same time;

    -the important lessons I have learned from you and from my work;

    -the moments of satisfaction gained from representing Falmouth Jewish Congregation in the broader community for causes rooted in the finest of Jewish values and those dear to my own heart;

    At Boomer Shabbat last month, Pamela Rothstein sang that beautiful song by the late Sandy Denny, Who Knows Where the Time Goes? It’s a fitting question tonight. Who knows where the past two-and-a-half-decades have gone? I know the answer. These past twenty-five years have entered my heart and my soul. They are an integral part of who I am as a rabbi and as a person.

    I thank you for the sacred privilege you’ve given me and I look forward to the challenges and joys yet to come.

    Reb Elias

  • Pole-arities

    Posted ‍‍א אב ה תשעה - July 17, 2015 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    caglecartoonAs I write these words the reverberations of two events that occurred nine days apart in June continue to be felt in our nation.

    On June 17, nine members of a Bible-study group at AME Emanuel Methodist Church in Charleston, SC were brutally murdered in an act of unvarnished racial hatred. Just yesterday, after mounting public pressure and heated debate, the state legislature of South Carolina voted to finally take down the Confederate battle flag, that divisive and offensive reminder of slavery, that stood on the ground of the state-house for fifty-two years and which was perceived as a special affront to the memory of the victims in the Charleston shooting.

    On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States recognized a constitutional right to equal marriage, clearing the way in all fifty states for consenting adults to marry, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Meanwhile, couples seeking marriage licenses in a number of southern localities are being turned away by clerks who are intent on defying the Supreme Court’s decision.

    What an extraordinary time it has been for our nation. On one hand, we have witnessed a massive sea-change in attitudes towards equal marriage that culminated in the Supreme Court decision, notwithstanding the mean-spirited and, at times ugly, dissent of four justices.

    On the other hand, we witnessed in Charleston a chilling eruption of gun-violence motivated by blind hatred and prejudice, putting to rest the oft-heard assertion that we live in a “post-racial” society.

    How disorienting it is to feel oneself swept back and forth between polarities of grief and joy; what a sobering challenge it is to try to make sense of the larger implications of the expansion of liberty, as manifest in the Supreme Court’s ruling, and the bitter reality that a racial divide runs through our society which too many simply refuse to acknowledge.

    While it might seem that these issues are only tangentially connected, I believe otherwise.
    The issue of equal marriage and the enduring and insidious legacy of slavery and racism both speak to the manner in which we Americans choose to perceive, or misperceive, one another.

    I found it especially moving to hear veteran civil rights leaders like Julian Bond tell the African-American community that it should feel justifiable pride in having paved the way for the expansion of civil rights that equal marriage represents. I was equally moved by an essay written by Orthodox Rabbi Avi Weiss about the Bible study class he attended at AME Emanuel Church and how–and why–the Charleston Nine were included in his recitation of kaddish for his late father.

    I frequently have occasion to remind fellow Jews that Judaism forbids us to despair of the world. Alas, that advice is decidedly easier to give than it is to take to heart. But my belief in the perfectibility of our world is one of the foundation stones of my Jewish identity; and so I look for the essays, listen for the voices (often expressed in song), sign the petitions, and seek ways to motivate others…all in the service of buttressing my will to do my part to move our vexing, phenomenal, heartbreaking, uplifting world incrementally closer to the world we so desire.

  • Boomer Shabbat – 2015!

    Posted ‍‍ט תמוז ה תשעה - June 26, 2015 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    Boomer 2015One of my favorite proverbs states: “The one who sings prays twice.” What about the one who sings, shouts, stomps her feet and dances in the aisles? Now that is truly a fervent kind of praying!

    It’s that kind of praying, my friends, that we will experience once again, on July 17 at 7:30 PM, in the Meeting House, with the return of Boomer Shabbat. For the fifth time in six years we devote a Friday evening service to this unique worship experience, “swapping out” the prayers of the erev Shabbat liturgy for 1960′s and ‘70′s era songs that have some thematic connection to the prayers themselves.

    Our Boomer Band (Ken Freedman, keyboard, Elias Lieberman, guitar and vocals, Pamela Rothstein, guitar and vocals, Bart Weisman, drums) throws itself into this effort with energy and glee, all in the service (you should excuse the pun) of demonstrating that there are many ways to celebrate and experience the joys of Shabbat and of community.

    We pack the Meeting House each year for Boomer Shabbat and even those who are less-than-familiar with Boomer-era songs find the ruach (spirit) of the evening irresistible.

    From A Guide to Boomer Shabbat:

    “Music has played a conspicuously large role in the lives of the ‘Baby Boom’ generation. More than any generation before, Boomers grew up with a soundtrack to their lives. For many of us, hearing a popular song from the 1960′s or ‘70′s can release powerful memories and feelings that have helped shape who we are. Consequently, we tend to view the world through a Boomer lens.

    However, regardless of our age, or the generational cohort to which we belong, we also view the world through a Jewish lens. This evening’s Shabbat service provides an opportunity to interweave these two strands, bringing fresh perspective and relevance to our experience of the world. Encountering our Shabbat liturgy through Boomer music affords us a different way to engage with the timeless core of Shabbat prayers, whose themes of love and redemption are shared in common with many Boomer lyrics. Encountering Boomer music within the context of Jewish worship opens possibilities for understanding the immediacy of Judaism in our broader life experience.”

    Do plan to join us for this signature FJC experience. Bring your friends and feel free to enter into the spirit of the evening by hauling out your tie-dye clothes and love beads! In the words of the Beatles’ Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, “Having been some days in preparation, a splendid time is guaranteed for all”!

    Reb Elias

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