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840 Vernon: The Blog of Am Shalom

This is the blog of Am Shalom, Reform congregation in Glencoe, Illinois.

Catching Up with Our Refugee Family

kidsatschoolconferencesWednesday was parent teacher conferences for Lamis and Yousef. Both children work with an English Language Learner (ELL) aide, who led the conferences. 

Lamis’ aide couldn’t say enough wonderful things about her – she is studious, well-behaved and contributes to class every day. Her aide has even decreased the amount of time that she works with Lamis outside of the classroom, since she’s already near the top of her class in math! She also shared that Lamis is making friends at school. 

 

yousefprojectYousef’s teacher and aide said that he’s eager to participate in class, though he sometimes becomes frustrated when he can’t express himself. Check out this project he worked on about elephants! Yousef is also doing great in math.

Aziz is very excited because he just received word that ORT is providing funds to train him on a new technical skill. He is looking forward to learning something new and the possibility of a new job.

Rokhash is an incredible cook (and Laura Horn can attest to this – she was invited to dinner!). She’s so good, in fact, that she’s contemplating going into business!

Have you joined Am Shalom’s Welcome Wagon? Click here to join our Facebook group and leave a message for the family!

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Caramel-Apple Hamantaschen

Hamantaschen Dough

Ingredients

2 sticks margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
6 eggs
5 to 6 cups flour
4 rounded teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Pre-sift together flour and baking powder. Begin with 5 cups.

3. Beat margarine and sugar til creamy. Add eggs one at a time. Add 5 cups pre-sifted flour and baking powder. Add 6th cup of flour if necessary. Add vanilla. Mix well.

4. Roll dough very thin on wooden board with rolling pin.

5. Cut rolled dough into circles with the rim of a glass or a round cookie cutter.

6. Place filling in the middle of the circle - about a scant teaspoon for the small size. If larger circles, use more filling. Pinch the circle to create a three cornered shape.

7. Place on cookie sheet and bake until light brown. Watch your oven - do not over-bake!

Caramel-Apple Filling

Ingredients

1 apple
1/2 cup Prepared caramel sauce

1. Grate the apple. Squeeze out excess juice.

2. Mix the caramel into the grated apple.

Recipe courtesy of Rabbi Phyllis' great-aunt Dora.

 

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Am Shalom's Civil Rights Journey

civilrights4Just a couple of weeks ago, 32 of us from Am Shalom traveled to Atlanta, Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery on a transformational journey led perfectly by Rabbi Steven Lowenstein and Cantor Andrea Rae Markowicz. We experienced not just the narratives of a history most of us had read about and some of us had lived firsthand, but also the soundtrack of a movement. From This Land is Your Land being sung by demonstrators in Atlanta's Hartsfield airport to If You Miss Me At the Back of the Bus to I Shall Not Be Moved to We Shall Overcome, we sang and sang and sang. We joined Bishop Calvin Wallace Woods, Sr. in song, an 83-year-old Civil Rights pioneer and pastor, as we chanted aloud in Freedom Park in view of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham (where young girls Addie, Cynthia, Carole, and Carol were killed in the infamous bombing). We joined congregants in song during a Rise Up Sunday service in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. We sang If I Had A Hammer, and Hiney Mah Tov on our bus. We sang out the pain of memory and the joy of enlightenment.

In Montgomery, we learned about the Southern Poverty Law Center. We stood across the street around a water fountain memorial that commemorated 40 events reflective of the trials, struggles, murders, legal cases, and successes of a few decades of our Civil Rights history.  We grew silent as we heard of the open spaces the memorial’s architect purposely left vacant to house unknown future events that will need to be added…  We spent quality time at Bryan Stevenson’s Equal Justice Initiative learning about how 25% of all people on Death Row live in Alabama, about their work on trying to improve prison conditions, about their efforts to exonerate wrongfully imprisoned Death Row inmates, about their work to change laws regarding the treatment of children who were being incarcerated in adult prisons, about their documentation of lynching in the south, and about their non-litigation work around issues of race and poverty.

civilrights11On the bus en route to the Rosa Parks Museum, we listened to Billie Holiday’s haunting Strange Fruit as we reflected and anticipated.  We learned the stories of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott that went beyond the sound bytes many of us grew up reading about without truly understanding.

Welcomed warmly by Rabbi Elliot Stevens and by everyone at Congregation Beth Or, we sang, chanted, prayed, and learned together. We joined Cantor Andrea as she participated so beautifully in the congregation in which she had served years before as a student cantor. We shared dinner and stories as Rabbi Steve guided us through an inspiring evening. We embraced Shabbat as one community of friends.

The next day, we were on the road to Selma, now paved West 80, but just a dirt road during the time of the March. We quietly approached a place on the side of the highway.  We walked across the road to view Maya Lin’s 1991 memorial to Viola Liuzzo, the civil rights activist murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in 1965 for simply driving a black man from Montgomery to Selma.  On the somber bus ride to Selma, we listened to Joan Baez’s One Tin Soldier, to John Legend and Common’s Glory, to a video interview with Representative John Lewis.  We listened.

We arrived at Selma’s Mishkan Synagogue, which had been the spiritual home of one of our fellow travelers.  We heard his personal memories of the joys and the struggles of growing up in the congregation, and in Selma, during the height of unrest.  We asked questions.  And we listened.  And we prayed.

civilrights6We met Jo Ann Bland and heard her testimony of growing up in Selma as a young girl baffled by not being legally permitted to sit at the lunch counter in her town and ultimately joining her grandmother in activism.  She marched for voting rights.  And she marched across the Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, on Turn-around Tuesday, and again two weeks later.  She shared details of her incarceration, of the beatings, of the terror.  And we all walked across the Pettus Bridge, imagining the horror and grateful to be together in those moments.

Ask any of us to tell you more.  Ask us to tell you about the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum.  Ask us to tell you about Bishop Woods sharing the details behind why Birmingham, originally called “The Magic City” was then dubbed “The Tragic City” and “Bombingham.”  Ask us to tell you about the fire hoses, about the dogs, about the children, about the attention finally paid.  Ask us how it felt to hear him say, “We had the ingredient of prayer.  People would pray until they got happy.”  Ask us to tell you about our late-night ride back to Atlanta, each of us looking back and wondering.

Ask us about our last day in Atlanta, about viewing the reflecting pool and tombs of Martin Luther King, Jr. and of Coretta Scott King.  Ask us about sitting in the small Ebenezer Baptist Church hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. speak in his own taped words.  Ask us about our participating with the gospel singers and musicians and preachers in a moving Sunday morning service at the larger across-the-street Ebenezer Baptist Church and about the sermon delivered by The Reverend Raphael G. Warnock, Ph.D.  And ask us about our stop at The Names Project, about the AIDS Quilt, about what we learned about civil rights and the politics, then and now, of AIDS in America.

civilrights8Ask us about this journey, and let us all be inspired to sing out, to shout out, to speak out with conviction and intentionality toward building a world of wholeness, compassion, and justice. And if you need a little lift, listen to 15-year-old Royce Mann sing out his poem just a few weeks ago at that same church in Atlanta. We are not in this alone.  

In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words: 

            If you can’t fly, then run.

            If you can’t run, then walk.

            If you can’t walk, then crawl.

            But, whatever you do,

            You have to keep moving forward.

 

Contributed by Guest Blogger and Am Shalom Member, Kerry Leaf

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How to Pair Wine with Chanukah

wine and latkesChanukah is here, and while many of us are observing the holiday away from home, there's no reason not to enjoy a latke or two while hitting the beach or the slopes! And, if you are a wine geek like me, you may be wondering what wines go well with those latkes.

First and foremost, acidity is key when matching wine with fried foods. Your wine must be able to cut through the intense flavors of potatoes, salt, onion, egg and matzo meal – crispness does the trick. Find a great Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Sancerre, Pouilly sur Loire or California. The aroma will be very different from all these areas, but the underlying key factor – crisp acidity and forward fruit – will offer you a wonderful match for your special recipe or store bought/restaurant prepared latke.

If you are a Riesling nut (as I am), try a wine from the Mosel Valley, which will offer great green apple acidity. If your meal has some apple components in the salad or side dish, this is a wonderful selection.

Finding a wine with strong acidity can help if your meal includes a meat main course. A Barolo, which is made from the Nebbiolo grape, or a Pinot Noir can be toe tappers while also matching perfectly with latkes.

The traditional desserts of Chanukah, sufganiyot and chocolate gelt, offer challenging wine matches, but my go-to would be a nice California Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot to hit the chocolate component. Softer tannins, those acid flavors you taste on the sides of your mouth with red wines, are important for matching with chocolate and can be found in well-aged wines. But really, when playing dreidel with the kids or your adult friends, a nice bourbon sipper with one ice cube works best for me. One ice cube will bring out the complexity without changing the flavor or temperature of the bourbon. And bourbons are traditionally slightly sweeter than Scotch whisky, which will help with chocolate gelt and sufganiyot.

L’Chaim, L’Shalom - and Happy Chanukah!

by Am Shalom President and Resident Wine Expert, Greg Miller

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Grammy Marcia's Latkes

latkes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Ingredients

6 potatoes, peeled
1 onion, finely chopped
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt

Directions

Grate the potatoes into a bowl of cold water (to prevent darkening). Drain thoroughly; squeeze out excess water with a towel. Stir in onion, eggs, flour and salt. Beat until blended. Fry in hot oil or in non-stick pan until brown and crisp. Serve with applesauce or sour cream.

Recipe courtesy of Rabbi Steven Stark Lowenstein

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And the winner is...

Mazel tov to Patricia Weiss, whose 3-Day Brisket (aka "And I'm Not Even Jewish!") took first prize at our annual Brisket Cook-off! Here's the recipe, along with a note from the newly crowned brisketeer.


Some people say you can determine what old country Shtetl (a tiny village) you descend from by the ingredients in your brisket recipe. The onion soup Shtetl? The wine Shtetl? Or, the chili sauce Shtetl? My Shtetl was a small neighborhood pocket on Chicago's South Side known as Bridgeport/Brighton Park, home to the best Italian cooks from Northern and Southern Italy.

Of course, there was no chili sauce in old Russia, but it's the sweet and sour play of vinegar and sugar that makes this sauce special. And the best part? The schmutz (translated loosely from Yiddish as dirt), but in reality, all the good veggies and caramelized bits at the bottom of the pan. 

It's a simple recipe but ideally a three-day process of marinate, roast and re-heat. In a pinch, you can marinate in the  morning and roast in the late afternoon, but there's no hurrying perfection.

Ingredients

2 bottles of Bennet's chili sauce
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt (Note: Patricia uses two packets of Lipton dry onion soup mix rather than salt)
1/4 cup brown sugar
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 6 lb. first cut brisket
2 yellow onions, sliced
5 carrots, peeled and cut in coins
1 cup chopped celery with leaves
1 1/2 cups V-8 juice

Note: Ask your butcher to "score" the top side and bottom side of the brisket thus marking the angle to cut against the grain; the scoring also allows the marinade to reach deep into the roast.

Directions

Day 1

In a 4-cup measuring cup, combine chili sauce and vinegar. Mix in salt (or onion soup mix), brown sugar and garlic. Place meat in a large ovenproof casserole dish. Pour marinade over the brisket. Top brisket with onions, carrots and celery. Pour V-8 juice over meat, cover top of casserole with silver foil and refrigerate overnight.

Day 2

Preheat overn to 325F. Place covered casserole in the oven and roast for 3 hours, basting every half hour with the marinade. Remove foil and cook for an additional hour, basting every twenty minutes so the veggies don't dry out. 

Remove brisket from oven, cool and refrigerate.

Day 3

Remove brisket from refrigerator and skim off congealed fat. Slice meat thinly against the grain, and return to casserole and pan juices**. Cover and reheat in 325F oven.

**If you desire more "pan juices" - once the brisket is cut and ready to be reheated, pour 2 cups of beef stock over the brisket before reheating.

Enjoy!

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#blessed - Pop-Up Shop

Throughout the month of October, the Am Shalom community brought in clothing for under-resourced families to "shop" during Parent Teacher Conferences in November. Laura Horn, Am Shalom's Assistant Executive Director, wrote the following note after the Am Shalom pop-up shop closed for the night:

I was on such a high last night when I left Andrew Cooke Magnet School that I wanted to share how the hours of hard work by members of our community made a difference. 

We started this project with more than 30 bags of clothing. We had over 40 linear feet of hanging items, all mixed together, including amazing men’s suits, even a tuxedo and some brand new dresses. How we were going to make sense of all this chaos left me feeling paralyzed, but as always some special people stepped up. Through their organizational skills (Susan Smith, Ellen Stafman & Ellin Blumenthal), lateral thinking (Barbara Dolinger) and creativity and hard work (Robin Plotkin and Bob Smith), we set up two rooms at Andrew Cooke that looked like boutiques and engaged families in a way that made all feel welcome. We didn't have any children's clothes to offer the families; instead, our two artists Jonathan Plotkin and Carol Kerman entertained the kids and made them feel so special.

At least half the items have already been taken and I’m certain the rest will be gone when we close this evening. But more than that, we heard or overheard how they would use these items: at a new job; for one man, a promotion at a new job (!); one woman needed a new size after losing 70 pounds; another was getting her first job in an office after being a housekeeper who wore a uniform for years; a woman who is now an aide at another school and wanted to wear “cooler” clothes. The most heartbreaking story for me was the father who said now he could go to his child’s concert without embarrassing his daughter. And later, we heard about a dad who cried to his child's second grade teacher because it was the first time in years he had anything new or nice for himself.

Another wonderful connection happened out of our work when the coordinator of Cradles to Crayons and Nan Heim, the school principal, learned about each other. The students at Andrew Cooke Magnet School will now receive packages of clothes as needed! How awesome that two of our beneficiaries will now be working together?

A district coordinator came by as well; she loved the “shop” and shyly asked if we might do this for an elementary school a few blocks away that is in much greater need.

Thanks to all of the wonderful volunteers and clothing contributors for extending the reach of Am Shalom to make the world a better place!

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First Grade Learns about God

Today at Sunday school on 10/29/16

Ms. Kara's students learned about the difference between what God created versus what humans created. They drew a line down the middle of the page and drew pictures of different items that God made on one side and items that humans made on the other. The students also made invites for the 1st grade family day, which will be taking place on Sunday November 6th, 2016.  See you there. 

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First-Time Great-Grandma!

blessed GlassFelt so blessed when our first great-granddaughter was born on August 11, 2016. As a Holocaust survivor this is a very special blessing for our family. Her name is Isabel Sofia Glass.  

Submitted by Rodi Glass

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3rd Grade Happenings

            Today we start off by going over the fun letters that the kids learned during Hebrew School and cool ways to remember them Bet, Tav, Shin, Mem, Kaf, Lamed.  After going over the letters, we did tzedakah. Sophie was our collector today our total tzedakah today was $11. Next, we went to services.

            Halfway through services, we had an emergency drill the kids did AWESoME!!! We walked outside while covering our ears. We walked across the street and waited for everyone to wave green cards then we were cleared to go back inside and finish our services. The we got to go outside to the sukkah. Cantor Markowitz taught the class about the sukkah and prayers we say when we enter our Sukkahs and when we celebrate.. Cantor has songs about the delicious smelling etrog and shaking our lulav.. We all get to shake it every direction.

            When we return to the room we begin to work on our Yads and Dana hands out the Simhat Torah pages so that the kids can work on the puzzles, read along or do their yad! We talked about how sweet it is to study torah and how whenever you love a book you are tempted to read it again and again which is why on Simhat Torah we read the end where Moses dies and immediately turn to the beginning and read the story of creation. This way we are always able to happily focus on creation and new beginnings and re read our wonderful torah.

The kids were told to bring in a baby picture and information about their beginning to share as we are about to start our bible unit and creation in class. Dana said it could be a Xerox and the kids laughed at her, finally she said a print out of a picture and they understood!!!

Written by Jacob Sherman

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A Memory for a Lifetime

blessed ShonfeldMy dad is 85 and grew up in the Wrigleyville area. In 1945, when the Cubs were last in the World Series, my dad didn't have the ability to buy a ticket, running a newspaper route for spending money. Rather than listen to the game on the radio, he found his way inside the stadium to take in a World Series game (somehow getting past the gate attendants). 

71 years later, my dad and I went to see the Cubs clinch a World Series berth. My Dad was euphoric and we were able to truly enjoy the history being made together. Even though I strayed and became a Sox fan, we were able to truly be "in the moment" together and share a memory for a lifetime.

He is an incredible dad, stood by my mom every step of the way during a prolonged illness, and a grandfather that is incredibly close with all his grandkids, teaching great lessons along the way. We are all #blessed that he is in our lives and I feel blessed to have shared this great moment with him.

Submitted by Ken Shonfeld

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Happy Birthday Grampa!

When I power up my computer, I see today’s date, October 21st, and smile. Though he’s been gone for almost 20 years, today is my grandfather’s birthday. Grampa (technically spelled wrong, but right for us) would have been 114 years old today. By his definition though, the moment he’d have turned 114, he’d be “going on 115.” Grampa Irving always focused forward, no looking back for him. 

As his only granddaughter, I was always known as Honey Darling. My brother, of course, was his “Pal.” Grampa was engaged in everything we did—and it didn’t stop there. He paid close attention to the world around him, too. Were he alive today, he’d have flipped vigorously between this week’s debate and the various baseball games, eager to see them all—with a definite point of view on each. (Provided, of course, he could have worked the remote; handy he was not.) 

He did have enormous respect for education, educators, and the freedom to spend time learning, all traits he passed down to us with robust storytelling verve on a very regular basis. He thought, and rightly so, that having the chance to receive an education was the highest form of privilege and blessing—a gift never to be wasted. 

In 1919, Grampa was headed to college, a first for his family. He had been accepted to Wharton, but he never got there. His father died suddenly and he had to run the family’s chicken and egg store. Formal education no longer an option, he decided to learn wherever he went. This explains why he taught us to value our education; he lost his chance—and his father—in one swift move. His eyes would sparkle wistfully when he retold the story, always ending with a strong reminder to treasure each chance to learn and to look for the blessings of learning everywhere. 

#blessed? That hardly scratches the surface. He’d have thought this #blessed/Chai Challenge theme was all pretty wonderful, even if to him, # was an adding machine key or that funny button on the phone. I’m very blessed that Grampa is still teaching me, even now. I am also blessed to be able to share his stories and words of wisdom with our daughters, building rich memories, legacy, and instilling strong values. “Always do the right things, right, Honey Darling. You know. I know you do.” I do. 

Tonight, as I stand at the back of the sanctuary and put that little stone from Israel on that little ledge of Rabbi Steve’s, I’ll count the blessing of memory once again. While I’ll think of every family member memorialized on that back wall, tonight will mostly be Grampa’s night. After all, he did like top billing on his birthday. Nu?

Submitted by Randi Brill

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What Would Love Do?

Several years ago I wanted desperately to learn where within me forgiveness is born.  I wanted to know not where I find the courage to say I forgive, and sort of neutralize it, I wanted to actually forgive so that my heart had no memory to stop me from being love, without reservation, to this person. To everyone!  

Over these past 20 years, I’ve come to believe that we are manifestations of God in human form and that our life’s purpose is to be portals of God’s love as energy in our life. Anger, resentment, jealousy, do not fit into that knowing. Each of these feelings definitely disempowers me! I get tight physically and emotionally, and instead of living the moment and finding a response within that presence, I’m fighting an old battle in my head.  Alone! 

I took the problem into my prayer and meditation one day. And from within my breaking heart came this understanding:

At any given moment in time we are precisely that which we are. We are and can be no more nor can we be less. We are that which we are. Regardless of any other person’s observation of us, or perception that another option existed that I should/could have chosen, the fact of my choosing shows that to be my cumulative understanding at that moment in time.

Contemplating that truth, that we can only be that which we are at any given moment, is where I found forgiveness for others as well as for myself to be born.  And that understanding invites the knowing that from within the reality of our present limitation, infinite potential exists. And the act of creation itself, begins. 

Today, on Rosh Hashanah 5777, it is the acceptance of this indescribably glorious gift of our capacity to Be Love, day after day after day during our lives, that begs T'shuvah

For this gleaning of truth and beauty and love, and the question it has left me asking of each question I encounter, "What would love Do?" 

I am #Blessed.

Submitted by Michele Kellner. 

 

 

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How to Braid a Round Challah

Rabbi Phyllis takes the challah out of the ovenWhy exactly do we eat round challah on Rosh HaShanah? Some see the round shape as a reflection of the continuing cycle of years and seasons. Another interpretation is that the round challah resembles a crown, symbolizing the sovereignty of God. At a time of year when our thoughts turn to repentance and resolutions of self-improvement, the round challah reminds us that the opportunity for teshuvah, return, is never-ending.

Watch Rabbi Phyllis prepare and braid a round challah in this video. Click here for her recipe, and here for a list of suggested supplies.

Shana tova and happy baking!

 

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You Like It, We Build It!

garden header

 

 

 The Glencoe Community Garden is kicking off a new initiative in response to excitement over our newly designed Vertical Gardens. Beautifully handcrafted from cedar and designed by GCG volunteers, these space saving home planters can be placed in most patios and yards for easy home gardening. Just out your door enjoy fresh lettuce, greens, peppers and herbs every summer night along with gorgeous flowers! Plus cedar is naturally rot and mildew resistant, and will last for years without treating.

The GCG's handsome Vertical Garden Planters are installed with the most economical watering system both in terms of cost and water use. The Drip Irrigation System may be easily attached to a timer making the "Living Wall" even more cost effective and simpler to maintain. 

We are excited over the many benefits of vertical gardening: it maximizes limited space while promoting plant diversity and healthy life styles; it is easier to tend as the physical stress of bending and kneeling is greatly reduced; it has fewer weeds and pest problems; it helps reduce our carbon footprint; and it helps beautify small areas. Living Walls are a great way for people to grow their own food, expand the organic food choices in their family's diet and improve our environment. Enjoy adding a unique focal point for your home garden!  

As part of this exciting new initiative, the GCG is forming a Design and Build Team.  Come be part of a great community movement to inspire more sustainable lifestyles.  Not much of your time for a big impact.  

You like it and we'll build it! Contact the GCG at gcgarden18@gmail.com for more information.  

As a community-wide social service project for people of all ages and abilities, the Glencoe Community Garden is a 10,000 square foot sustainable, organic practicing mini farm and composting collaborative.  Built 100% by volunteers, the GCG demonstrates a drip irrigation system, a rain barrel collection, multi-use solar panels, cold greenhouse growing and hydroponics, and a strong community composting start-up.  Since it began in 2012 by Am Shalom as a gift to the community in honor of its 40th Anniversary, the Garden has donated 100% of its harvests to those in need totaling over 10,000 pounds of fresh organic produce.  Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Instagram.  We Grow it, Give it to those in Need and Compost the Rest!  Come Farm and Compost with Us! 

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Feeding the Hungry

by Mitch Rogatz

hungryThe Fanchon Simons Feeding the Hungry program is uplifting, easy and fun.

It's made so much easier because its leaders - Nina Schroeder, Jackie Stein, Linda Ginsburg and Dermid Eagen - have done the heavy lifting of coordinating and obtaining all the components of the meals in advance.

We show up at 9:00am on the third Sunday of each month, roll up our sleeves, and assume our places on the 'assembly line' in the Am Shalom kitchen. We make sandwiches, and then pack balanced meals that include a piece of fruit, a bag of chips and a dessert.

For about half an hour, we each work on our “duties” that ultimately result in about 400 lunches. It's just a short window of time - you're in and you’re out, but it’s a wonderful jump-start for your Sunday. It's a great way of coming together and connecting with big-hearted people who genuinely appreciate the opportunity to pitch in and help others.

For those that have more time on Sunday morning, we bring the lunches to the Bethlehem Healing Temple on the near West Side. There we have the chance to work with a handful of committed volunteers to distribute the food. We meet and interact with a variety of people - young, old, men, women, and even some kids come to the church parking lot from blocks away to appreciatively receive the meals. They are so thankful, and we have some fun with many of them as well.

Fanchon Simons' Feeding the Hungry takes place at 9:00am on the third Sunday of each month at the Am Shalom kitchen. All are welcome - families, too - to join us for this meaningful volunteer opportunity.

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Jewish Bluegrass at Am Shalom

Nefesh MountainA series of fortunate events brought Jewish spiritual bluegrass band Nefesh Mountain to Am Shalom on Monday, August 1, for an outdoor concert in the beautiful Perlmutter Courtyard, according to Cantor Andrea Rae Markowicz.

Am Shalom Board President Greg Miller saw them perform at the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial and told Cantor Markowicz she just had to bring them in for a show. Rabbi Phyllis noticed they'd be in Chicago for a conference and asked Cantor Markowicz if it would be possible to bring them in for a show. Serendipitously, Cantor already was working on bringing them in for A Midsummer Night's Dream, Am Shalom's annual outdoor concert.

Rabbi Steve, Cantor Markowicz, and Rabbi Pam kicked off the evening with some Hee Haw-inspired humor (I recently decided to sell my vacuum cleaner - all it was doing was gathering dust), then Nefesh Mountain took the stage. Their spiritual bluegrass hybrid got toes tapping and hands clapping! They were joined for select songs by Cantor Markowicz and Am Shalom teen Sam Powers; some Am Shalom members also had a chance to get up on stage and join the fun!

Concertgoers enjoyed pizza, salad, and snacks after the show.

Check out more event photos here!, and watch our video montage here!

 

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If We Build This World From Love

"Whoever you are, wherever you come from, stand up and be counted."

On Friday, July 15th, Am Shalom invited the greater Glencoe community to mourn, pray, and heal together following the tragic deaths of Alton B. Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas Police Officers Lorne Ahrens, Wayne Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarippa.

We were joined by Reverend Norris Jackson of St. Paul's AME Church, Reverend David Wood of Glencoe Union Church, Reverend Barbara Javore of North Shore United Methodist Church, and Glencoe Public Safety Director Cary Lewandowski.

Reverend Jackson spoke of a hummingbird he spotted on his way to Am Shalom, and how it was chasing something that seemed to be just out of reach, and just out of his sight. And like our community's hopes for peace, though we seek it, it eludes us. "We want peace," said Reverend Jackson. "We want justice. We want to be viewed as being human and loved...truly we all came from one." He implored the community to see past how the media paints the black male, and to see past how the world views the black community in general.

"Oh God keep us ever aware of the wonder of humanity and the threats to the sanctity of human life," said Public Safety Director Lewandowski. "May we never be lazy in the work of peace nor complacent in our relative safety. May we honor those who have died in defense of our ideals, and may we acknowledge threats, some of our own making, to those ideals… Help us all to appreciate one another and the variety of viewpoints in this community and beyond. And teach us to respect the many ways we may serve...Help us to be the change we hope to see, soon and in our lifetimes."

Before adjourning to a community conversation, the clergy stood together for a call to action, asking those gathered to stand up as one against racism and violence, and to come together white and black, Jew and Christian, law enforcement and civilian, to hear the call of the Shofar and take action. 

 

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Parashat Chukat - A red cow: What's the point?

Chukat, Numbers 19:1-22:1 (July 16)

 

Recap

In last week’s portion, Korach, a man named Korach and 250 other elites questioned Moses and Aaron’s power. As punishment, God opened the earth and swallowed them. The Israelites who rose up in response to these men's deaths were quickly killed by plague. A blossoming staff revealed Aaron and his family’s chossenness as priests and the text details their sacramental duties.

Cast of Characters

God
Moses
Aaron and his son Eleazer
The Israelites
Kings and citizens of other nations in the region

Setting

Kadesh, in the desert of Zin

Summary

Chukat begins with God’s instructions to the Israelites concerning the red heifer. When one becomes impure through contact with a corpse, they must be sprinkled with a mixture of the heifer’s ashes and water, and then immersed in a mikveh to become pure again.

Miriam dies and is buried in Kadesh. The Israelites have no water and, per usual, complain to Moses and long for their old lives in Egypt. God tells Moses and Aaron to speak to a rock that will bring forth water. Instead, Moses strikes the rock twice and water gushes out. As punishment for striking the rock rather than speaking to it, God does not permit Moses to enter Canaan, the Promised Land, with the Israelites.

Before entering Edom, Moses sends messengers to the Edomite king asking for safe passage through their land on their way to Canaan, but the Edomites refuse their request. They travel to Mount Hor and Aaron dies there. His son Eleazer is dressed in his clothing. The congregation mourns Aaron for thirty days.

The Israelites’ journey to Canaan continues and they meet various tribes. Though each tribe attempts to combat the Israelites, God helps them triumph and gain land throughout the territory. They reach the bank of Jordan.  

Big Questions

What’s the deal with the Red Heifer? Why does a mixture of red heifer ashes and water make somebody pure?

Why is Miriam’s death only one verse in the entire Torah?

How does Moses’s crime of hitting the rock yield the punishment of not entering Canaan?

What do the tales of Israel’s battles with other tribes try to teach us?

Musings

Parashat Chukat is full of subplots that have been the subject of endless Torah commentaries. Yet, the portion’s very first topic, the rituals surrounding the red heifer after contact with a corpse, remains our Torah’s most elusive. Even the wise King Solomon remarked about the red heifer’s mystery: “All of the Torah’s commandments I have comprehended. But the chapter of the red heifer, though I have examined it, questioned it and searched it out—I thought to be wise [in it], but it is distant from me.” (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:5) 

Though I, too, have wanted to discover the red heifer’s mysterious purpose, what speaks to me now is the power of ritual so evident in these laws. When an individual comes into contact with a corpse, which presumes that someone they know has died, they’re required to perform a complex cleansing ritual with the red heifer. Today, too, we perform rituals during challenging times.

This summer I’m completing a unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at Rush University Medical Center and serving as an interfaith chaplain for patients and families across the hospital. I’ve been present with dozens of dying patients and grieving families of every color, religion, and background. Despite superficial differences, the families I’ve accompanied through death share a commonality: in their immense grief, they rely on the power of ritual for comfort. Though we don’t see many red heifers at Rush, people request anointings, prayers, silence. Conducting ritual is a crucial part of the chaplain’s role serving patients and families in times of grief.

For me, Jewish ritual is one of our tradition’s most comforting characteristics. When someone close to us dies we recite Kaddish Yatom, known as the Mourner’s Kaddish, for 11 months after their death. For many Jews, reciting Kaddish brings an incredible sense of comfort in times of mourning. Its cadence, its alliteration, voices of the community joined together--these all contribute to its power. Jewish rituals don’t just comfort in times of grief. When I light Shabbat candles, hear a familiar Jewish melody, or smell my grandma’s matzo ball soup, my soul finds a sense of peace.

Perhaps this sense of peace is what the biblical author sought to create with the ritual of the red heifer--to provide grieving Israelites with a soothing custom in their time of need. What Jewish rituals bring peace to your soul? How can you access these during trying times?

Summary and musings by Student Rabbi Sarah Rosenbaum.

 

 

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Summer Reading by Doris Gould

Summer is here, and with it the prospect of time to relax or even take a vacation.

Stop by the library to pick up a book as a companion - it's open whenever the building offices are open! We’ve added some new titles recently that will make excellent choices.

Brenda Janowitz has written a light novel of a family in flux and a meal gone haywire. The Dinner Party relates the efforts of Sylvia Gold to impress the parents of her daughter Becca’s boyfriend. The ‘dinner party’ is actually the Passover Seder. The boyfriend in question is Henry Rothschild, son of Ursella and Henry Rothschild who are financial legends. Sylvia decides to upscale the menu by hiring a professional chef instead of serving her home cooked favorites. That her plan will go awry is forecast by Chef Michael’s plan to skip the appetizer of chopped liver for frog legs, no doubt a nod to a plague. Sylvia’s husband and her other daughter, Sarah, are present. Sarah is accompanied by her boyfriend, Joe Russo, to whom she is secretly married. Joe’s mother Valentina, who is really not good at keeping secrets, rounds out the table. That was the plan, but of course there would be unexpected guests: Gideon, the Golds’ son, who they thought was in Africa serving with Doctors Without Borders, upsets the seating chart and brings along his fiance, who he never mentioned before. The expensive wine is not spilled but plenty of secrets are as dinner serves up a main course of surprise. After the Seder, the group grows and changes in ways even Chef Michael couldn’t have cooked up.

If you’re looking for something to put a chill in summer, check out Julia Dahl’s mystery, Invisible City. The setting is a New York winter. The crime is brutal and the cold is relentless. Rebekah Roberts was raised in Florida by her father after her mother, Aviva Kagan, abandoned her at six months old to return to the Orthodox community. She moved to New York to work as a stringer for the New York Tribune. This job finds her standing at a dump where a crane operator noticed a woman’s leg in the garbage that was being loaded onto a barge for disposal. When the body is finally retrieved, it is claimed by the Orthodox Shomrim, not the Medical Examiner; it is buried the next night without an autopsy. Rebekah’s investigation delves into the relationship between the police and the Orthodox community. The owner of the dump is the husband of the victim, but the police refrain from questioning him, deferring to the community to solve their own crimes. A second theme in the novel is Rebekah’s unresolved anger at her mother for abandoning her and her frustration with her father’s acceptance of Aviva’s choice. When Rebekah’s investigation stalls, Saul Katz, the police liaison to the Orthodox community, steps in to help her. Not only is he willing to help her investigate the facts of the murder, but he recognized Rebekah because of her resemblance to her mother. This would seem to be quite a stretch for the author, but she sells to the reader by relating that Rebekah has always been told she looks just like her mother and because the story of Aviva Kagan has been told in the Orthodox community for many years. There is a satisfying tension to Dahl’s novel that kept me turning pages. Rebekah begins to question her assumptions, her judgment and her journalistic ethics as the story unfolds. The sequel to this story has already been published to favorable reviews. Let me know if you’d like to read more about Rebekah Roberts.

The book I’m planning to take on vacation is Philip Kerr’s A Quiet Flame. It was recommended by my husband and also by Rabbi Sommer’s father, so how can I go wrong? The novel features Kerr’s fictional detective, Bernie Gunther. Bernie is a sardonic, tough talking veteran of KRIPO, Berlin’s criminal investigation police. The Quiet Flame takes place in 1950 as Bernie leaves Germany for Buenos Aires posing as the escaped Nazi war criminal Dr. Carlos Hausner. There is a lot of historical detail in Kerr’s writing. In this book he manages to weave in Eva and Juan Peron, Adolf Eichmann and Otto Skorzeny, and take a major detour into 1930’s Germany. Since Bernie Gunther is a detective, I’m sure there is a murder to solve somewhere.

These are just a few of the new books found on the new book rack by the library windows. The whole collection is on our online catalog. The library is open whenever the building offices are open; please remember to sign the book card and leave it at the desk.

Thank you to our volunteers who keep things organized, and our donors who keep new books arriving. 

Have an enjoyable summer with books!

 

 

 

 

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