October 2013

It’s October, and there are no Jewish holidays! This is unusual. Just how unusual came to light in an unattributed piece sent to me, excerpts of which I share here with you:

“When was the last time Rosh Hashanah began as early as September 5th? Give up? Try 1899! That was the year that Queens and Staten Island became part of New York City, and the Great Blizzard of 1899 pounded South Florida with snow. This was also the year when the paperclip and Bayer aspirin were patented. Yes, the last time Rosh Hashanah fell on September 5th was the year the Bronx Zoo opened in New York. And what about the next time the holiday will begin as early (on the secular calendar) as it did this year? The next time Rosh Hashanah will fall on September 5th will be in 76 years – 2089, or 5850 on the Jewish calendar – which is one thing that makes this year so special.”

While it is true that there may be no Jewish holidays coming up now, that doesn’t mean the Jewish calendar is empty – it isn’t, at least at ACI. As you can see from regularly following the bulletin, the Friday Flyer, the website, the Facebook page and other ACI online presences, there is lots going on, more and more people and activities are growing our synagogue and keeping it vibrant and meaningful in the lives of our members (and guests). Indeed, it is all this that makes this year (and, please God, many years to come) so special. What a blessing!

I appreciate all the wonderful feedback I’ve received about the High Holiday services, and about how they touched and meant so much to so many people. In addition to expressing our appreciation, of course, to the Cantor and Choir, I want to thank the volunteers who gave tremendous extra effort helping me to make the High Holidays the meaningful experience they were. These include Susan Mickel who led the Shacharit services on the first and second days of Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur; Mark Sohmer who distributed all the High Holidays honors, including aliyot and ark-openings (Note: Mark, who has been ACI Ritual Chairman for the past 25 years, has announced his retirement from this position effective at the end of this year – more thanks and recognition to come, but for now, thank you Mark, andyeiyasheir kochacha!); Judy Markowitz, for serving as usher during all the services, and for assigning all the English readings; and to Ayelet, Eitan, and Noam who read Torah (all with the special High Holiday trope), and sang and played so very beautifully. Kol hakavod to all of you!

In addition, the children’s service on Yom Kippur morning was packed and wonderful – what a joy this was to behold and be part of. Thanks to Lisa Goldberg for helping to lead this. We are excited that Lisa will be leading Tot Shabbat this coming year. Lisa, who together with her family is a member of ACI, has a Masters in Theatre Education from NYU. She has worked with various Youth Programs, is currently Director of Auxiliary Programs at Trevor Day School in NYC, and she has an extensive background working with children in all settings. Combining all this expertise with her enthusiasm for ACI and Jewish life, she will surely continue to bring great excitement to the children’s Tot Shabbat experience and to their engagement with Judaism.

In this context, we note our heartfelt thanks to ACI member Josie Dershowitz who eagerly volunteered to be the first leader of ACI’s Tot Shabbat when we began the program some 4 years ago; and to ACI member Cara Bernstein who stepped in (when Josie needed some time for and after the birth of her first child) and generously volunteered to continue leading this wonderful program (with the enthusiastic help of David – and Iris of course!). Thank you all!

I look forward to a great, productive, and meaningful ACI year for all of us together.


Rabbi Pearl

Rabbi Jonathan Pearl, Ph.D.