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Agree to Disagree

08/04/2022 08:19:03 AM


In our interactions with family and friends, it sometimes happens that we touch upon taboo topics. Through past experiences and conversations, we know the other person’s thoughts on different things and have long ago agreed to disagree with them. Perhaps it’s about politics, or a pet-peeve, or even a past disagreement. We’ve already said our piece hundreds of times, and we already know how the other will...Read more...

A Hard Right

07/20/2022 10:50:52 AM


Back in the early days of the internet, I found myself in a predicament. I was taking a United States History class with an upcoming test. To prepare for the test I would look over my notes and any past tests and quizzes to make sure I didn’t repeat the same mistakes. However, I misplaced one of my past quizzes. I wondered if I could find a replacement quiz online – and after some searching, I was rewarded with a cache of all the quizzes...Read more...

Trusting the System

07/07/2022 10:50:31 AM


I’m not a fan of telling my children to do something simply because “I said so.” While I surely am one of the authority figures in my children’s life and they ought to listen to me, I feel like my children have the right to understand the rationality and reasons behind the things I ask of them. So when I am putting sunscreen on them in the morning and my oldest asks why he needs to put it on, I explain about the power of the sun,...Read more...

The Bigger Picture

06/16/2022 02:18:12 PM


Leave only footprints, take only pictures. This was the reminder that my father gave me this week as I spent time away with my family in the Great Smoky Mountains in the North Carolina area. As we ventured out to see the Deep Creek waterfalls with our kiddos in tow, we quelled all statements of “I’m hungry” with the plethora of snacks we lugged around with us. Subsequently, when the little ones devoured the snacks, they would...Read more...

Make Yourself at Home

06/02/2022 01:47:26 PM


There is no place like home. This is especially true when you are on vacation. While it is nice to be in a
new location with new routines and opportunities, I find that when I am away, I miss my bed and the
comforts of home. Moreover, when you throw children into the mix, it is much easier to entertain and
parent children surrounded by all their toys and belongings. Our homes ground us and center us. They
are our base of...

Tomorrow's Menu

05/19/2022 12:56:50 PM


During the early stages of the pandemic, I remember seeing images of grocery store shelves in other countries that were picked bare. The image prompted me to head to my grocery store and stock up on some of the shelf-stable staples so that my food supply wouldn’t be disrupted. And while it is true that over the course of the months to follow there were weeks that I found it hard to find flour, yeast,...Read more...

Parashat Kedoshim: Be Holy, Or Else! 

05/04/2022 12:29:19 PM


Rabbi Pamela Gottfried

"And you shall observe all my laws and all my judgments and do them, and the land to which I am bringing you to live in it will not vomit you out.” (Leviticus 20:22)

I am struck by the colorful language of this verse, which suggests the holy land itself will reject unholy inhabitants. Apparently, I hadn't noticed it or read it carefully in previous years of studying Torah.

Most of the Book of Leviticus contains instructions...

Once New, Now Old

04/20/2022 01:18:40 PM


Imagine you just bought something new and shiny. Congratulations! You’re full of excitement and eager to show it off to all your friends. You’re careful to keep it clean and unblemished. It’s a highlight of your day, your week, perhaps even your month. But as time keeps marching on, what was once new becomes old and familiar. You still value your item, but it’s now one of the many things you own. You’re happy you bought it, but...Read more...

Fist Bumps for Me

03/31/2022 02:30:20 PM


Here is the real reason I prefer fist bumps to handshakes. As a newly-minted rabbi, I was blessed to serve this wonderful congregation in Atlanta. I had started in the summer, and by fall I found myself fully engaged in executing high holiday services at B’nai Torah. I was overwhelmed with putting names to faces, so it truly is an anonymous memory when I recall shaking someone’s hand during a Torah procession. As he firmly...Read more...

Moving on from mistakes

03/17/2022 03:12:34 PM


I’m a dweller. When I mess up, I find myself replaying my mistake in my mind and wondering how I could have done things differently. And after wondering about it for some time and arriving at some sort of insight, I dwell on it and repeat the process. There is a certain dissatisfaction I have with myself when I make a mistake and a compelling need to make things better. But not every mistake is so easily fixed. So, I...Read more...

God is in the Details

03/02/2022 10:56:52 PM


My current morning routine starts by checking my phone seeking news related to Kyiv and Ukraine as a whole. There is a rollercoaster of emotion as I process the events in Europe; experiencing relief and awe at the courage and strength of the Ukrainian defendants, fear and impotence beneath the threat of nuclear escalation, and then shame as I reflect on my apathy towards other conflicts and warzones around the...Read more...

All Voices Count

02/17/2022 03:02:20 PM


If we truly want to reach our full potential as a society, we must make room for all voices to join the conversation. This is the reminder that we set for ourselves every February as we mark Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion month (JDAAIM).  While we know that every person walks a unique path in life, we can sit down with one another and share a snapshot of our experiences and truths with another...Read more...

Imbued Meaning

02/03/2022 02:12:19 PM


My parents once gifted me a really nice tool set while I was still in high school. The set had every tool one could ever need, though as a high school student, there wasn’t much I needed them for. Once I graduated college and moved out of the dorms, I asked my parents to bring my really nice tool set to help me set up my new place. However, my parents had forgotten that the really nice tool set was mine and instead brought up the...Read more...

Intended Consequences

01/06/2022 12:49:38 PM


To get unpunctual people to show up on time, tell them an earlier start time. Thus, when they show up late, they are actually on time. While a little devious, many well-meaning people use this trick, especially for important events. The only downside is that you make the punctual people extra early for events and cause much thumb twiddling. All of our words and actions have consequences. We would be wise to be more intentional when...Read more...

The Right Perspective

12/23/2021 12:04:54 PM


In a rabbinical school class reflecting on the pastoral internships we were working at at the time, a classmate brought up an interaction she had with an elderly man she was working with. It turned out that every time she met with this man, he would tell the same stories over and over again. Frustrated and weary to have to spend time with him again, she brought the case-study to our class where the group explored her options....Read more...

Have you heard?

12/09/2021 12:42:59 PM


As social creatures, we are quick and eager to share news about the world and our experiences, even more so if it is news about someone else! We are naturally curious to hear what others have been up to, and especially intrigued when they relate something unexpected. Perhaps this is a means of uncovering any dangers or threats that others have encountered. After all, we know that gossip can spread like wildfire, and that bad news...Read more...

To be continued...

11/23/2021 03:21:46 PM


I’m conflicted about cliffhangers. On the one hand, when a television show or movie presents me with the ominous words, “to be continued,” I’m full of disappointment, impatience and frustration. I know that the story will be resolved, but I’m just going to have to wait a little longer for any resolutions. However, there is immense possibility when you know that there is more of the story yet to come. I remember the sadness...Read more...

Manners Matter

11/04/2021 03:25:57 PM


One of the most meaningful moments of shabbat and holiday observance is sharing a meal with friends and family. Growing up in a rabbinic family, my parents would invite congregants to our home to get to know them better and to enjoy each other’s company. My parents once invited a family over that had rambunctious children. At one point, one of the children was acting like a vilde chayeh (Yiddish: a wild animal) and the parent...Read more...

Mirroring God

10/20/2021 02:47:08 PM


When I was a camper at Ramah Darom, I remember a program about the Birkot Hashachar blessings that are said as part of the morning service. That day, instead of reciting the series of short blessings, one after another, we instead made our way to activity stations that were each focused on specific blessings. One in particular that stands out in my mind was an activity for the blessing about God removing sleep from our eyes and...Read more...

While you wait

10/07/2021 12:27:34 PM


“The Flood continued forty days on the earth, and the waters increased and raised the ark so that it rose above the earth” (Genesis 7:17). I used to think that forty days being cooped up with family was a long time. And then I experienced the pandemic lockdowns, and now I certainly know that forty days cooped up with family is indeed a long time!*

“The waters then receded steadily from the earth at the...Read more...

The Eye of the Beholder

09/23/2021 12:35:24 PM


For those who ordered a lulav and etrog set this year, or in years past, you surely noticed that our vendor sells sets that are categorized as “children’s”, “standard”, or “supreme” (“rabbi’s”). But as you might have suspected, lulavim and etrogim don’t grow with these labels on their stems. While we say the main difference between them is their size, that’s not the entire picture. Like Plato’s theory of...Read more...

A Year in Review

09/09/2021 10:02:52 AM


As I’ve been reflecting on my family’s High Holiday experience, I realized that my pandemic baby has never had an in-person encounter with the Torah. Whereas my oldest was a regular in the beit midrash and sanctuary and would accompany me to minyan, my pandemic baby must assume that synagogue life is two-dimensional and virtual. To be fair, my daughter has experienced a tot service here or there, but her exposure to synagogue...Read more...

I know (that) one!

08/25/2021 03:27:12 PM


When I think of a Passover Seder, particularly the Maggid section, I have memories of each participant around the table taking turns to read passages from our tradition - sometimes in Hebrew and sometimes in English. One of those passages that we read is taken from this week’s portion, parshat Ki Tavo, about an ancestor who was a wandering Aramean, whose family went down to Egypt where they were treated harshly, and God took out...Read more...

Do it Yourself

08/12/2021 01:04:58 PM


I first encountered the concept of “logical consequences” as a camp counselor at Ramah Darom. As part of our training, we were taught that when a camper’s behavior needs some course correction, it is always better to find a consequence that logically would follow from the intentions of the original wrong instead of some disconnected punishment. For example, if a camper was insulting someone, then you would explain how that...Read more...

Not in the plans

07/29/2021 12:39:59 PM


It’s that time of year again, where the summer is winding down and we begin thinking about the routines that we will start in the fall to carry us through the year. From a synagogue perspective, it’s the time of year where we are finalizing the main programs for our program calendar and thinking through all the opportunities to get involved with our community. In and of itself, this is a complicated balancing...Read more...

Part of the world

07/21/2021 11:04:35 AM


There is a tendency for humans to place themselves at the center of the universe; to feel that all of the cosmos and all of creation is at our disposal. We believe that all of these natural resources are there for us to use however and whenever we want, and rarely do we slow down as a society and question if our wants and needs ought to supersede the needs of animals, or even of other inanimate objects. It is almost...Read more...

One and Done

07/14/2021 11:28:32 PM


In my home growing up, if ever we were to complain about a boring class we were taking, my father would quickly remind us that there is something worse than taking a bad class: having to retake it again. The implication was that even though we might not have found the class engaging, it was still wise to do our best lest we have to repeat the class and end up back where we started. Of course, this wisdom doesn’t only apply to...Read more...

Even though I've been there

07/08/2021 10:10:51 AM


A few years ago, I remember reading an article about how the proverb “don’t judge others until you’ve walked in their shoes” doesn’t work as intended. The saying asserts that you shouldn’t be quick to judge others because you don’t understand the other person’s perspective as you haven’t had the same experiences as them. Instead, you should give them the benefit of the doubt. Only if you understood where they are...Read more...

Play to your strengths

07/01/2021 10:50:59 AM


This week, the YouTube algorithm introduced me to Karen Kavett. Known for her YouTube channel Karen Puzzles, Karen regularly posts videos of her doing, you guess it, puzzles. Objectively, it didn’t seem like something I would enjoy watching, but the video was entitled “I BOUGHT MY DREAM PUZZLE (24,000 Piece Puzzle – Part 1 of 6)” and I was intrigued. How long does it take someone to do such a colossal puzzle? How would one...Read more...

Getting other voices amplified

06/03/2021 04:00:29 PM


A few times a month, especially when something in the world has gone sideways, I receive emails and questions looking to start a conversation to make sense of the new developments covered in our news cycles. I’m asked where the leaders on both sides of the aisle are, and why aren’t they speaking out about anti-Semitism or about our Jewish community’s response to racism or other issues. And through the handful of years I have...Read more...

Thu, August 11 2022 14 Av 5782