Simchat Torah Temple-Style

Our fall season of holidays came to a close with our wonderful Simchat Torah celebration on Sunday, September 30.  With our service led by Rabbi Don and Rabbi Locketz, we marched and danced with the Torahs to music by the Hot Matzohs.  Our younger folks enthusiastically waved their flags, while the adults carried the Torahs throughout the Sanctuary.  A highlight of the morning was our  Torah service with 16 congregants each reading or chanting a line!  With our Torah Center teachers and madrichim chanting the aliyot, it was truly a special time for all.

Many thanks to our teen videographer, Harrison Pittle, who captured the spirit of the morning for us in this great video!

Three Numbers

by President David Weisberg

Yom Kippur 5777

Three numbers I’d like for you to remember – 14 million, 520 and One. So why are these important? And more importantly, why are they significant to you? Keep these numbers in mind, 14 million, 520 and One, as hopefully I will be able to give you something to think about.

First, let me introduce myself to you. I am David Weisberg. I am proud to be the current President for Temple Emanuel. Some of you may know me as the husband of my beautiful wife Rikki. Others of you may be connected to me as the son-in-law of Suzi and Richard. For those long-time Pittsburghers, my parents are Charles and Gail who, as any proud parent would want to do, are here today to listen to their son. Speaking of parenthood, of all the ways that you may be familiar with me, my highlight is being a father to my kids who are busy having fun and learning in today’s children’s program.

Before my current role on the Board of Trustees, some of you may recognize me from my prior roles these past six plus years. I was in a Treasurer role and then Vice President of Finance. So of course, numbers are something with which I am comfortable.

Professionally I am a banker, specifically a lender. I understand finances. My kids ask me what I do when I go to work. I took them to “Take Your Children to Work” day this past Spring, so as far as they know I eat lollipops and donuts, count paperclips, color on Post It notes and play on the computer all day.

As you would expect, that’s not my typical day at work. I tell my kids that I help people and I help them achieve their dreams. Just as I do with my clients, I look to do so with my efforts here at Temple Emanuel. I want to help all of you achieve your and your family’s dreams and ultimately gain fulfillment here at Temple Emanuel. I want you to be connected to each other, to greater Pittsburgh and to our community both inside and outside of this building.

So why these numbers: 14 million, 520 and One?

14 million – this is the estimated world Jewish population as of 2014. The world’s total population is greater than 7 billion so we as Jews are less than 1%. Of that 14 million Jews in this world, the United States has approximately 6 million, only 2% of the total US population.

So why should this be important to you? It is because we as Jews truly have made an impact both in our country and in the world in a magnitude that is far greater than our actual numbers. We are notable actors and actresses, business professionals, artists, musicians, scientists, inventors, intellectuals, medical professionals, legal scholars, politicians, fashion designers, comedians, just to name a few. Most importantly, we are connected to each other. You’ve heard the expression that all people in the world are connected by six degrees of separation. In the Jewish community, my thinking is that it is far less. We’ve all played “Jewish geography”, right? Why? It’s because we’re all connected.

Of the American Jews who describe themselves as “strongly connected” to Judaism, their active engagement with Judaism ranges from attending daily prayer services on one end of the spectrum to as little as attending Passover Seders or lighting Hanukkah candles on the other. Of those “strongly connected” Jews, just under half belong to a synagogue with the largest percentage being in the Reform movement. We at Temple Emanuel are one of the greater than 800 Reform Jewish congregations in North America. As many congregations are struggling, many have lots of positives. This leads me to my next number.

  1. This is number of member families that we have here at Temple Emanuel. Look around. You are this 520. You are Temple Emanuel. You make Temple Emanuel what it is today as well as tomorrow and the next day. You are the current and the future. Why do you belong to Temple Emanuel? Why is being a member of Temple Emanuel important to you?

We at Temple Emanuel should be proud and have centerpieces from which we can build. We are the largest congregation in the South Hills with 520 member families. We have greater than 150 children in our Torah Center which is the largest Jewish religious school in Greater Pittsburgh outside of Community Day, the Jewish Day School in Squirrel Hill. We have 180 children in our ECDC, the largest of any nursery school in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.

Yes we have things with which we can improve but your generosity and connection are what keep this place going. For that, we thank you. $1.8 million keeps this place running on an annual basis and that does not include necessary improvements that are needed like the parking lot patchwork and roof repairs, which have been funded out of our capital campaign.

520 is the number of member families, but the actual number of people in our congregation is well over 1,000. As an example, my family of four is one member family. All of us together make Temple Emanuel. All of us should be proud. You are the 520. We all are the 520.

The most important number is the final number I told you were going to be discussing. The number One. Why? One is you. One is me. One is each of us. Why is One important? It is important because you are here. You are here today. Maybe you are here in this building for more than just today but you all have a reason for being here. You all have a reason for being a One. You all have a reason for being a part of Temple Emanuel. You all have a connection.

You – the One. You are important. You are valued. Your contribution is key. Your connection is paramount. What else can our Board do to make it more meaningful for you? What can we do to develop greater bonds to each other? We are all in this together. We are One. We are a community, we are Temple Emanuel. We together can continue to build and bring connections to Temple and to each other.

In all deference to Three Dog Night, “One is the loneliest number,” I would beg to differ. One makes connections with another. One can link to another. One and One does indeed make two but One plus One is far greater. It connects. It empowers. It compounds. It multiplies. It helps create dreams. Remember, it all starts with One.

Thank you for being the One. I look forward to what lies ahead here at Temple Emanuel. All of us, each of us as individuals, as Ones, can connect to make this an even better place than it is today.

Thank you. L’Shana Tovah!

What a fun and LOUD time we had!

Our shofar blowing workshop was a huge success! Thank you to Ron Schneider and Harvey Rubin for teaching our students (and a few parents as well). We were amazed at quickly they learned and look forward to some new shofar blowers at our High Holiday Family Services this year!shofar-1 shofar-2 shofar-3 shofar-4

Countdown to Passover!

Make Temple Emanuel part of your Passover celebration this year!

  • Join us for Torah Center’s Model Seder, led by the always amazing Melinda Freed, on Sunday, April 17 at 10:45 AM.  Please RSVP via email to torahcenter@templeemanuelpgh.org.
  • Leave the cooking to us and bring your family to our Community Second Seder on Saturday, April 23 at 6PM.  RSVP by April 11 to the office or online at http://www.templeemanuelpgh.org/event/2nd-seder-at-temple/.
  • Ladies (and young ladies ages 10+), come and be inspired at our Women’s Seder on Thursday, April 28 at 7PM.  RSVP by April 21 to the office or online at http://www.templeemanuelpgh.org/event/womens-passover-seder/.
  • Stop by the gift shop and browse our selection of beautiful seder plates, matzah covers and more.  Shop for yourself or find the perfect hostess gift.  Sundays 9:30am-noon, Mondays 6:30-8:30PM, Wednesdays 4:30-6:30pm.
  • Worship with us at our Yom Tov and Shabbat Morning service at 10:30AM on April 23 and join us for our Concluding Passover, Yizkor and Shabbat morning service at 10:30AM on April 30.
  • And, do a mitzvah!  When you’re cleaning out your kitchen, donate your chametz to SHIM.  Drop off your food donations any time at Temple.

No two Passover Seders are alike!

We’re just over a month away from Passover (1st Seder is Friday, April 22), so what better time to start thinking about ways to make your seder special.  Every family has their own traditions – we’d love to hear about some of yours.  Please send your comments to lhoffman@templeemanuelpgh.org.

Our member, Jennifer Bordenstein, shared her family’s truly unique seder experience:

Our Passover Seder tradition is quite unique.  After WWII ended, and 6 siblings on my husband’s side emigrated to the US, they began holding a Seder each year.  During the Seder, they spoke of their “Exodus” from Russia to America.  They spoke of l’ador vador, and how they hoped generations ahead would continue with their Seder tradition.  

My children began the 6th generation of the Dobro Family Seder.  We have our own Hagaddah, that is filled with stories of how the family began their new lives in Boston.  The Seder is ‘MC’d” by a relative who was a Broadway actor, so you can imagine the laughter that ensues.  There is a yearly family tree that is printed to show the new babies, marriages, and deaths.   We “facetime” with the now elderly, Florida contingent of the family.  The Seder ends with “Good and Welfare”, where each of us must stand up and tell something about our year.  People announce new jobs, new homes, good and terrible health situations, and there have been 2 marriage proposals.

The Seder fluctuates in size each year, with 120 people at its largest.  Family fly in from all parts of the country and it has gone from us all cooking together in a community center, to hosting it at a banquet hall in Boston.  I began attending the Seder in 1996, with my boyfriend, turned fiance, turned husband.  Each person outside the family must be deemed “Seder Worthy”, which is a huge step in the relationship.