We are thrilled to announce that the congregation voted to approve Rabbi Aaron Meyer as our next Senior Rabbi. His term will start July 1, 2019. He would like to share some words with us; please watch the following video:
A Personal Note of Gratitude (November 16, 2018)
This note is for every one of you that makes up our strong and diverse community, but particularly for the families and teachers at ECDC who are not Jewish.
Three weeks have gone by since the October 27 atrocity at Tree of Life Synagogue. I thank you for your expressions of sorrow, for your hugs and tears. Each shared moment of grief brought healing and hope for a better future. For me, grief has subsided and gratitude has grown.
In an article that was published in the Washington Post, Rabbi Dan Schiff reviewed the history of violence rooted in antisemitism. He said that this time was different – because of the love and support of our neighbors. You made all of the difference. I will forever be grateful for your kindness.
On Rosh Hashana Rabbi Locketz gave a sermon about gratitude. She emphasized that gratitude is a choice that requires determination and cultivation. It is also an obligation. To celebrate Thanksgiving with you, I want to express my good fortune in spending my days with you – ECDC parents, children and teachers – and in working with you to build a better world.
An Initiative of the ECDC Advisory Board in Honor of Alice Mahler
Alice Mahler served as the Rabbitzin of Temple Emanuel – and as a member of the ECDC Advisory Board—for 38 years. Our school benefited from her expertise as a Social Worker and her commitment to Jewish education.
In honor of Alice and in gratitude for her dedication, the ECDC Advisory Board is launching a library of parenting books for families of ECDC/Temple Emanuel. The Advisory Board chose this project as a way of sustaining Alice’s interests and contributions.
At a lovely brunch for Alice on September 16, each member of the Advisory Board presented a book for the library and a reason for having chosen the book.
- Laura Young, who hosted the brunch, chose Happiest Baby on the Block, because it helped me to survive ‘the witching hour’ that happened every night from 5:00 to 7:00 pm.
- Mike Bihary chose Toddler 411. It was my go-to book during my daughter’s toddler years. It had the right balance of information and humor that helped to defuse and relax when dealing with some challenging or frustrating problem.
- It’s Not About The Broccoli was chosen by Amy Zahalsky. It is one of the best books I have read in regards to feeding children. It offers sound advice in constructive, helpful ways.
- Irene Luchinsky purchased When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner. This book has a lot of meaning for anyone experiencing a tragic time in a person’s life.
- The Blessing of a Skinned Knee was donated by Kate Louik. It offers practical parenting advice rooted in Jewish values and has been helpful at many times in my parenting journey. I look forward to going back to the book as my daughters grow and our needs as a family change.
- Parenting Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) was the book that I chose. P.E.T. is a classic parenting book dating back to 1970. The book is a great primer on how to listen actively. I first read it when I worked with Alice at Parent and Child Guidance Center (now FamilyLinks) and it embodies much of what I learned during those years.
- Sarah Levinthal chose Protecting the Gift. Sarah says that this is one of the most important books she has read as a parent. The author encourages children to trust their instincts instead of suppressing them in the name of politeness or social norms.
With these books and many more, we will soon establish the Parenting Books Library in the WRJ Room and will announce an event to introduce the library to the ECDC/Temple Emanuel community.
For decades Alice Mahler served as a leader who cared deeply about children and families. We hope that the parenting books donated in her honor will be helpful to families for years to come.
What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of a child? We asked this question of one another at a meeting of ECDC teachers. Some responses were “creative”,” curious”, “open”, “innocent”, “beautiful” and “capable”.
It is a simple but worthwhile question. If we think of children as unruly and naughty, we will surely have a teaching style that reflects a negative image. We can look at history when a scolding might have included the phrase “children should be seen but not heard”. Children suffered in such environments where humiliation and even abuse accompanied the attitude.
Fortunately we have a strong history of viewing children in positive light. From a Jewish perspective, children are prized as the hope for the future. It was told by Rabbi Meir that the Almighty entrusted the Torah to the Jewish people because the children would guarantee continuance.
Moving forward 5000 years, we begin with “the image of the child” when studying the Reggio Emilia approach to early education. We are taught by Reggio Educators that it is important to reflect on the image and even to make a conscious choice. If we define children as capable, then we must offer the corresponding encouragement and opportunities. The choice is followed by daily close observation of the children.
When we watch and listen carefully we will be continually surprised at what children can do! Babies and toddlers can communicate their recognition and delight when recognizing a face. Children can make up dances, rhythms and songs and teach them to one another. They can construct a block building that is too big to be contained in the classroom and must continue into the hallway. They can make up stories and change the stories as their friends add new dimensions. They can remember their stories and projects from months ago and jump right back into the experience to keep it going in a novel direction. They can use paper and glue in a way that no one has thought of before. The capability of each child is endless.
Children thrive with positive support and an engaging environment. At ECDC we see growth in front of our eyes. We see the children build relationships, ideas, skills and confidence. A positive view of children breeds positive growth. As said in Song of Songs Rabbah 1:4, “Our children will be our guarantors.”
When we think of children, a word that comes to mind is “Hope”.
ECDC Open Advisory Board Meetings – Three Years of Preparation
Three years ago when ECDC first received the Pittsburgh JECEI grant, the Advisory Board began to think of ways to share leadership with the wider parent community. After all, collaboration among children, teachers and parents is the hallmark of the Reggio Emilia approach to education. But such transformation does not occur in a day. Over these past three years, ECDC has made countless adjustments in approach and in practice that made way for the first Open Advisory Board meeting that took place on the evening of August 7, 2018.
Some of the past lessons-learned were about how to invite others in truly welcoming ways. “Open advisory board meeting” sounds important, but does not exactly convey welcoming, so we came up with the title “ECDC Community/Kehillah\Gathering”. Even the punctuation / \ represents a sense of safety! We sent out email invitations that included the outline of the agenda so that people knew what to expect. We reached out to many parents individually.
Thirty seven teachers, parents and members of the board packed into the WRJ Room (aka Music Room) while others provided care for the children. (One thing we have learned is that we cannot welcome parents to an evening meeting without offering babysitting.) A beautiful spread of wine, cheese and fruit was prepared by Melinda Freed and a wonderful slide show was prepared by Ellen Drook. Both Rabbis of Temple Emanuel introduced themselves as “Rabbis of all – whether Temple member or not, whether Jewish or not”.
Like all Temple committees, the ECDC Advisory Board consists of Temple members. At any given time a few current ECDC parents may sit on the board. All ECDC parents are, by default, members of the Parent Teacher Partnership (PTP). The purpose of an open board meeting is to share dialogue between these two groups. We began the August 7 meeting with background information to bring everyone to common understanding of history, goals and vision. Then the meeting was open to questions, suggestions and comments. Parents also completed a form to indicate their interests, suggestions and ways they wish to be involved. We were happy to receive many offers for participation from gardening, woodworking and music making to data analysis! And two parents even offered to co-chair ECDC annual fundraising event Designer Bag Bingo.
CDC Community/Kehillah\Gatherings will take place on a quarterly basis. The next meetings will be on the Monday evenings of Nov 19, Feb 18 and May 20. The topics will be based on parent suggestions and the teachers will help to facilitate. ECDC will continue to welcome dialogue at these meetings and every day in between.
Temple Emanuel Early Childhood Development Center and Social Action are partnering on a campaign to raise funds for the Humanitarian Respite Center of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.
How did we choose this campaign? We were inspired by a “sister Temple Emanuel”, located in McAllen, Texas on the border of Mexico and a few miles from the respite center. Also known as Temple Emanuel of Rio Grande Valley, it is located a few short miles from Catholic Charities and partners to raise funds for the respite center. The respite center opened in 2014 and with the help of volunteers the center has provided assistance in form of food and clothing to over 100,000 immigrants and refugees. We learned of these efforts on the web site of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
In Pittsburgh we do not come face-to-face with the humanitarian crisis at our border. We therefore welcome this opportunity to partner with Temple Emanuel of McAllen, Texas.
Mike Blum, the Chair of their Social Action Committee sends this message: We have received financial gifts from more than 70 congregations across the USA which has been astonishing, and a true demonstration of tikkun olam. An equal or greater number have sent truckloads boxes of toiletries, diapers, wipes, clothing items, blankets and small toys which has been a logistical challenge for our congregation. Thank you and all of your fellow members. It is good for the heart to give for those who are in need, regardless of where they come from or why they’re here.
July 2, 2018
I could not be happier in announcing that ECDC now has an Assistant Director, and better yet, that the Assistant Director is Ellen Drook.
Many of you know Ellen as a Temple member and as an ECDC Teacher. Ellen in fact grew up at Temple Emanuel where she celebrated her Bat Mitzvah and those of her two daughters Cosette and Cara.
Ellen taught at ECDC for the past four years and proved herself to be a most dedicated and talented teacher. In 2017 she was in fact the Pittsburgh recipient of the esteemed Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
Even more important, Ellen is loved by her peers. As ECDC adopted electronic formats for communication, Ellen was the go-to-person for help with technology. At all hours of day or night, she could be found making instructional guides for peers or posting updates on her classroom blog.
The Assistant Director position is 20 hours per week, but Ellen works fast and hard. In her first week on the job, she converted the annual multi-paged welcome packet from hardcopy to digital! This is the first of many ways in which Ellen will help ECDC to become more efficient and user-friendly. Welcome Ellen!
Friday Assembly – when the whole school sings together – is a strong tradition at Temple Emanuel ECDC. It’s an occasion for enjoying community (the Hebrew word is Kehilah) and expressing that joy through song.
We plan Assembly for the purposes of:
- Welcoming Shabbat
- Celebrating holidays
- Enjoying music together – signing, listening, moving, creating
- Learning musical skills
- Expressing and affirming our values
- Creating community
This school year parents have had an open invitation to our Friday morning Assemblies led with talent and spirit by our Music Teacher Rebecca Closson. We also introduced Thursday morning Assemblies for the Twos classes and the children have responded with amazing enthusiasm. These weekly events have increased opportunity for Kehilah! We start with the song Boker Tov – Good Morning. We sing songs of the season and for every Jewish holiday. One of our favorite songs, Hinei Ma Tov, expresses our joy of being together. We sing songs from around the world to learn about our unity and diversity. With the help of our music teacher and musical guests, we have been introduced to the guitar, ukulele, piano, violin, accordion, flute and zither!
Over the course of the year we have built a repertoire of 50 songs, some of which are listed below.
Hinei Ma Tov
Bring in the Light
Gili Gili Good Shabbat
Attitude of Gratitude
Apples and Honey
On This Sukkot Morning
Twinkle, Twinkle Hanukah Lights
Celebrate Purim (to the tune of Apples and Bananas)
What Are the Things We Need for Our Seder Table?
Toom Bah Ee Lero
Haru Ga Kita
Oh Mr. Sun
Today is Friday/Temple Spirit
One of our favorites is “Hello to All the Children of the World” which you can find at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpTR1wF4M6k. Yes, the children really have learned to sing hello in French, Spanish and Japanese, to name just a few.
In 2018-19 we will continue to sing together every Friday morning. We invite you to join us and we guarantee that your spirits will be lifted.
Hineh ma tov uma na’im Shevet achim gam yachad.
How good and pleasant it is for brothers & sisters to dwell together
On behalf of the search committee and the Board of Trustees, we are thrilled to recommend Rabbi Aaron Meyer as our next Senior Rabbi, subject to congregational approval. This unanimous recommendation by the search committee was overwhelmingly approved by the Board and presents a clear choice that was the result of an extensive process inclusive of congregational input, rabbinic and staff input, multiple rounds of interviews, verification of his references, and a visit to the congregation he is currently serving.
We invite you to participate in a special Congregational Meeting on Sunday, January 27 at 12:15 pm as the next step in this search process. In order for you, the congregation, to be as excited about Rabbi Aaron as the search committee and the Board, we want to share his impressive accomplishments and background.
Rabbi Aaron is in his eighth year as an associate rabbi at Temple De Hirsch Sinai (TDHS) in Seattle, a 1,700 family congregation with three full-time pulpit rabbis, two full campuses, and extensive community outreach. As a result, he has often taken on a role that would more typically be expected of a senior rabbi. In his time there, he has:
- Led multiple services weekly, including High Holiday services, as the sole rabbi for each campus;
- Led active and diverse Torah Study, adult education, and Introduction to Judaism groups;
- Coordinated a diverse music program inclusive of traditional and contemporary styles of worship;
- Maintained excellent pastoral relationships with congregants of all ages.
Indeed, one of Rabbi Aaron’s unique strengths is being able to engage congregants throughout each stage of life. He regularly:
- Leads Tot Shabbat and serves as the rabbi for TDHS’s preschool and its families;
- Tutors b’nai mitzvah students and helps families prepare for these milestone s’machot;
- Leads services and discussion groups at at senior living facilities;
- Earned a Certificate in Gerontology from the University of Washington;
- Delivers relevant, meaningful sermons and messages tailored to diverse audiences.
Rabbi Aaron has distinguished himself as a leader in the Seattle area as well as within the national Jewish community. He strongly believes in inclusiveness as a preeminent Jewish value, welcoming interfaith families and engaging in the ongoing work of LGBTQ+ equality. He is committed to social justice/social action and has an impressive track record of meaningful impact through his work:
- Spearheading the TDHS Campaign for Gun Responsibility, which received a 2015 Fain Award from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism;
- Testifying before the Washington legislature as a representative of the Jewish community on issues of criminal justice reform, gun responsibility, and LGBTQ+ equality;
- Traveling to Washington, D.C. with Mazon as one of 13 inter-denominational rabbis interested in protecting SNAP benefits while supporting a just Farm Bill and curbing veteran hunger;
- Creating a meaningful, inspiring response to the Tree of Life shooting inclusive of diverse faith and civic leaders for more than 4,000 people;
- Co-chairing the Faith Action Network, Washington State’s largest interfaith coalition, where he was intimately involved in development and fundraising.
All of Rabbi Aaron’s references were glowing about his qualities as a listener, his warmth as a person, his high character, his desire to be involved, and his devotion to his duty as a rabbi. Throughout the search process, Rabbi Aaron has demonstrated his sense of humor, thoughtfulness, caring nature, humility, dedication to learning and growing, and emotional intelligence. In other words, Rabbi Aaron is a mensch.
Of Rabbi Aaron’s leaving TDHS after eight years, Senior Rabbi Danny Weiner stated the following:
For any worthy rabbi of considered ability and healthy ambition, there comes a time to move onward and upward, charting one’s own course and implementing one’s own rabbinic vision for an eager community. That time has come for our friend, colleague and teacher, Rabbi Meyer. We are immensely proud that Rabbi Meyer’s growth and development as a rabbi within our Temple family can serve another community in need of leadership at this crucial time for American Jews.
Born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, Rabbi Aaron is looking forward to returning to the area. Prior to the rabbinate, he attended The Ohio State University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science. While in rabbinical school, he also participated in the U.S. Army Chaplain Candidate Program. He is married to Rabbi Emily Meyer and has two kids, Evelyn (3) and Eli (two months).
Just as we’re excited about Rabbi Aaron, his interest and enthusiasm for Temple is obvious: we were the only congregation to which he applied. He says:
I am honored and humbled to be considered for the position of Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanuel. The strength of Jewish life in the South Hills is eminently clear, demonstrated by Temple’s thoughtful and committed lay leadership; inspiring staff and rabbinic team; and the warmth of the many congregants I have had the pleasure of meeting. Emily, Evelyn, Eli, and I are so excited about this opportunity to make our home in Steelers Country, building upon Rabbi Mahler’s impressive legacy and helping Temple Emanuel remain the central address for inclusive, meaningful Jewish community.
The search committee and Board of Trustees believes Rabbi Aaron Meyer is the right fit for our congregation as Temple Emanuel moves from strength to strength and prepares for future generations. With his ability to inspire congregants and community members, along with all of his wonderful qualities, he is a leader among the next generation of Reform rabbis. We will be honored to have him!
Hope to see you at the Congregational Meeting!
David Weisberg Michelle Markowitz
President Settled Rabbi Search Committee Chair
Security issues facing Temple Emanuel were discussed at the Temple Emanuel Congregational Security Update Meeting, held December 17. Panelists included Brad Orsini, Director of Jewish Community Security for the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh, Mt. Lebanon Chief of Police Aaron Lauth, Mt. Lebanon Deputy Chief of Police-Operations Division Paul Petras, and Mt. Lebanon Deputy Chief of Police-Support Services Division Jason Haberman.
After Temple Emanuel President David Weisberg outlined the steps Temple has taken since the tragic event at Tree of Life, Brad Orsini reassured those in attendance that Temple is taking appropriate measures to secure the building and ensure that our members, guests, and staff feel safe when they are here. Chief Lauth talked about the police department’s excellent relationship with Temple Emanuel, which is longstanding and ongoing. He noted that Temple was one of the first religious institutions to offer ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training for its staff and teachers.
Orsini spoke to the need for the layered approach to security including but not limited to:
Deterrents: Guards, cameras, greeters, improved lighting, effective and enforced policies & procedures
Infrastructure: Hardening: bollards, protective window film, secure doors, entry portals
Response: Panic buttons, intercom systems, emergency plans, situational awareness
Intelligence: Surveillance cameras, “If you see something, say something”
Be prepared, not paranoid, Chief Lauth said. To that end, Temple is pleased to announce that the Mt. Lebanon Police Department will offer ALICE training to all adult and teen members on Monday, January 14 at 7PM at Temple. Please RSVP to the office if you plan to attend.
If you have questions regarding security at Temple, please contact David Weisberg, Leslie Hoffman or Nate Eisinger, chair of our Security Task Force.