Bulletin March , 2011 Vol. 3 25 Adar 1- 25 Adar II Published Monthly
BNAI ABRAHAM SYNAGOGUE
DANIEL STEIN, RABBI ROBERT WEINER, PhD, CANTOR MARK SHRAGER, RABBI EMERITUS MORRIS SIEGEL, CANTOR EMERITUS, ZTL
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C O N T A C T S
Aron Hochhauser President Howard Nathanson Director Religious School Shelly Blumenthal USY Advisor & Gift Shop Chair Nanette Neadle USY Chair Howard Nathanson Kadima Advisor Sara Levin Kadima Advisor Irwin Lewis, M.D. Mens Club President & Chair Ritual
Committee Elaine Morrow Sisterhood President Ellen Lifschutz Choir Director Aliette and Marc Abo, MD Theatre Club Gerald Weisberger House Chair Shirley Falk Membership Chair Lothar Gumberich Memorials & Torah
O F F I C E H O U R S:
Closed on Mondays and Fridays. Hours open: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.
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A MESSAGE FROM RABBI DANIEL STEIN
I do not envy the difficult task of our lawmakers in Washington, charged with the duty of creating a budget that is both financially responsible and responsive to the dramatic needs of the American people. It seems that Novembers midterm elections made the point that, right now, Americans would prefer not to see an increase in their taxes. At the same time, many are unwilling to accept changes to those major programsSocial Security, Medicare and Medicaidwhich help to insure their standard of living. Given a decrease in revenue and a profound increase in need, our government is faced with difficult choices about where and how to cut discretionary spending.
These painful choices mirror the reality many in our country face in the current economic climate. Families struggle to pay their utility bills and to put food on the table, and must make challenging decisions in planning their own budgets. This economic reality has also impacted Jewish organizations. Like our federal government, we have fewer funds to accomplish the same amount of work. Should the priority of our agencies be towards Jewish communities abroad, or should it meet local needs first? Should our focus be on Jewish continuity or communal welfare and social services? These questions, interestingly, sparked the interest of rabbis hundreds of years ago. Their approach to prioritizing communal need is instructive, and could perhaps serve as a tool for our community in assessing our own priorities.
The Shulchan Aruch (main code of Jewish law, 1542) gives surprisingly concrete criteria for prioritizing giving. It suggests that a person should give tzedakah first to:
1. Grown children or parents, if they are in financial need. 2. Relatives 3. Neighbors 4. Residents of the same city 5. Residents of another city.
Here, Jewish law imagines a kind of Utopian society--if everyone takes responsibility for the affairs of their own house, the community need not step in. Instead, families are self-reliant and attend to their own needs. The very next law, though, reveals that the Shulchan Aruch is not blind to reality: And, if a rich father refuses to support his poor son, the community forces him.
After dealing with these issues, the Shulchan Aruch takes up the hardest challenge: what to
do if there is simply not enough money. If a community can either clothe the naked or feed the hungry, it should feed the hungry. If men and women are both in need, the women come first. Finally, it suggests that, If there are many poor people before the community, and not enough funds, a Cohen (priest) comes before a Levite, and a Levite before an Israelite, and an Israelite before a mamzer, and a mamzer before a proselyte. This is assuming that they are all equal in stature. However, a scholarly mamzer should receive charity even before the high priest! I am not entirely sure that I agree with these priorities. If I were teaching this material, I would ask my students to think about the underlying values: Why should women come before men, or scholars before fools? Why should priests take priority over everyone else? Can we identify anything in the rabbis approach to charitable giving that resonates with our own values? And, if we had to create our own list of priorities, what would they be?
For me, the most compelling aspect of the Jewish approach to charity is the way it is intertwined with everyday life. Every occasion is a moment to give--when we repent on Yom Kippur, we are told to give charity. When we revel on Purim, we are also commanded to give. In our joys and in our sorrows, we are always mindful of those in need. And the responsibility is egalitarian: even a person who subsists on charity must pass a portion of that gift forward. On Purim, when we must give gifts to the poor, the needy are commanded to gather with their friends and exchange gifts with each other. In a sense, requiring the poor to give offers them the dignity of inclusion. Your gifts, the law says, are as required and valued as the contributions of the wealthy.
I pray that our leaders make wise decisions and that we soon return to economic prosperity. I doubt, though, that we will soon be free of challenging choices in our own financial lives and in our charitable choices. Purim, which we celebrate this month, reminds us that our joy is incomplete as long as need exists. As long as hunger and want exist among millions, our enjoyment of the goodness of life is superficial. Judaism teaches us that, in making difficult choices, we must make sure we have our priorities in order.
All the best,
Rabbi Daniel Stein
Y a h r z e i t L i s t I n t h e B o n d o f L i f e
Contact Irwin Lewis, Ritual Chairman
March 4 Adrienne J. Malvin, beloved mother of Ronald Malvin
March 6 Lillian Averick, beloved sister of Martin Zippel
March 7 David Bloch, beloved father of Robert Bloch
March 9 Ida Friedman, beloved mother of Becky Goldenberg
March 10 Lillian Richmond, beloved stepmother of Sheila Goldberg
March 12 Edwin Berg, beloved husband of Renee Berg
March 16 Doris Bloomberg, beloved mother of Diane Silverman
March 29 Harry Minsky, beloved father of Lillian Krim
March 29 Louis Asch, beloved father of Cindi Drill
March 30 Nathan Kantor, beloved father of Marsha Faden
March 26 Alice Johnson, beloved grandmother of Margaret Kaplan
Herman Ytkin in memory of his beloved mother, Esther Ytkin
Susan Jones in memory of her beloved father, Morris Norman Goldberg
Gary Trinker in memory of his beloved mother, Marcia Trinker
Miriam Cassel in memory of her beloved mother, Tillie Goldberg
Sande Phillips in memory of her beloved father, Thomas Bianco
Ruth Asteak in memory of her beloved father, Abraham Goldstein
Dr. Stanley Walker in memory of his beloved father, Robert Walker
Ruth Reiter in memory of her beloved mother, Lillian Koplin
Diane Silverman in memory of her beloved mother, Doris Bloomberg
Bnai Abraham Synagogue Fund Doris Lifland in memory of Pearl Bugan Gitkind and in honor of Susie Aufrechts 90th birthday. Marna and Roger Simon in honor of Susie Aufrechts 90th birthday Joan Kerbel in honor of Susie Aufrechts 90th birthday Roslyne and Bill Smolow in honor of Susie Aufrechts special birthday Jacob and Hannah Alansky in honor of Nana Susie Aufrecht Ruth Reiter in honor of Susie Aufrechts special birthday Anthony and Lois Burkot in honor of that lovely lady, Susie Aufrecht, who celebrated her 90th birthday Barbara Smolowitz in honor of Susie Aufrecht Roslyne and Bill Smolow in memory of Estelle Merion, mother of Ronald Merion Judy and Arnie Cohen in honor of Susie Aufrecht Murray Minster in honor of his dear friend, Susie Aufrecht, on her 90th birthday The Hof family in honor of Susie Aufrechts special birthday Alan and Marsha Abraham in honor of Susie Aufrechts birthday Gail and Jerry Weisberger in honor of Susie Aufrechts 90th birthday Helaine Sigal in honor of Susie Aufrecht Robert and Ronnie Freedberg in recognition of Susie Aufrechts birthday Ruth Reiter in honor of the Kaplan family and their many simchas Henrietta Pessin in honor of Helene and Sidney Kaplans wedding anniversary and son Davids Bar Mitzvah anniversary
Rabbis Discretionary Fund Sally Brau in honor of Susie Aufrechts birthday Karen and Peter Cooper in honor of Susie Aufrechts special birthday Henrietta Pessin in honor of Rabbi Stein and Denas first anniversary
Sue Siegel Shabbat Fund Selma Jacowitz in honor of Susie Aufrechts 90th birthday Helene and Sidney Kaplan in honor of Susie Aufrechts special birthday Sally and Dexter Neadle in honor of Anne Zuckerman and Sara Lev