By now we are almost all armchair travelers, so let's make the most of it!
Introducing a new series of cultural experiences that brings India to you. Learn how to cook Indian comfort food, take a virtual synagogue tour, and more. Each 45-minute session is moderated by Rahel Musleah. It's the next best thing to being there!
We are hoping to do good while educating and entertaining you. Half of the $10 fee per session will benefit two organizations doing life-saving work in India:
Gabriel Project Mumbai is providing COVID-19 emergency relief.
JDC India provides aid to vulnerable Jews across India.
Join us every other Wednesday at noon, beginning June 3rd.
In our first event, Chai and Chat, chef Divya Kalwara comes to you from her Jaipur home to show you how to make a perfect cup of masala chai, fragrant with ginger and cardamom; chapati, five-minute Indian flatbread made with just two ingredients, and lassi, a cool, comforting, yogurt-based drink perfect for warm, summery days, or anytime.
Join us by registering here!
Shavuot 2020: A time for revelation like no other. Revelations about ourselves as we shelter at home; revelations about the bravery and compassion of ordinary people-turned heroes, revelations about what and whom we miss.
One of the things I miss is sitting next to my friends in my makom kavua, my regular seat, at synagogue services. My small group of friends is a tiny community within a larger community. Our synagogue is a microcosm of synagogues across the world, physically closed but spiritually open.
As much as I am at home in my synagogue in New York, when I step into any of India's Jewish sacred spaces I am overcome with a feeling of rootedness and sanctity, a blend of holiness and home. I am transported across generations.
When I look up at the soaring architecture of Mumbai's Knesset Eliyahoo my prayers reach up and up and up. The gentle yet elegant sanctuary, painted a lovely Victorian green-and-gold, welcomes and absorbs our voices.
At the simpler sanctuary of Magen Avot in Alibag, I sit on the wooden benches and wonder about the Bene Israel settlers who rediscovered their Jewish roots after centuries of being isolated from other Jewish communities. Proud of their heritage, unafraid of what the neighbors would think, they built synagogues near Hindu temples and mosques, planted etrog trees in the courtyard for Sukkot and decorated their homes with Magen David symbols.
In Cochin, the synagogues are both intimate and splendid. The silver Torah crown by the open Torah in the ark of the Paradesi Synagogue transports me to a majestic, mystical place. I wonder who wrote that Torah and under what conditions. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall (well, not literally) when the maharajah of Cochin gifted the crown to the Jewish community.
The synagogue in the village of Chendamangalam, about 20 miles north of Cochin, is now a historic site. I look up into the balcony where the Torah was read from a second bimah in the women's gallery and salute the women who were privileged to sit right behind the Torah when it was read.
At Maghen David in Calcutta, the vast quiet reverberates with an ancestral heartbeat. Whispers of prayer wind around the grand columns. What I would give to be able to sit in the balcony next to the grandmother I never met--and simply hold her hand! How did my father sound when he chanted Torah for the first time here as a ten-year-old, or when he returned home as a young man to be rabbi of the community? My thoughts accompany me to the hechal, once a true palace of silver gleaming with 75 sifrei Torah. I kiss the two that remain.
All this is my personal Torah.
I hope this Shavuot you find a little of yours.
Chag Sameach and Tizkoo l'Shanim rabot. May you merit many years.
When Cantor Gaston Bogomolni of Beth Torah Benny Rok Campus in North Miami Beach asked me to participate in a special musical and educational program for Lag BaOmer, a celebration of bravery and cessation from plague, I immediately thought of the daily piyyut, Elohei Oz. It's not a traditional Lag BaOmer song, but one that so resonant for us today, full of supplication and hope for healing.
God of my strength,
Heal me and we will be healed
Send healing for my illness
So I do not die and am swept away
I will praise You with all my might as long as I live
In the midst of my family and friends
I will never stop praising You
With a pleasant voice and beautiful expression
Your salvation will come to me
You will make me walk upright again
I will return to my post
I await your goodness
Listen! For my heart aches
Like a fire that burns within me
No breath remains within me
And I am very weak
Cover me with Your graciousness
Support me wherever I go
Every day and every night
I will praise You with sweet words
Erase my wrongs like a passing cloud
In the shade of Shaddai I will dwell
I will see and understand
The place made of sapphires and jasper.
Couldn't these words have been written today?
“Beth Torah collects the Fire of Torah from the Five Continents” features rabbis, cantors, artists, musicians, and scholars from around the world. Elohei Oz is in Part 2.
Listen and watch here:
The project is dedicated to the soul of Gaston’s uncle, Saúl Serebrinsky z "l, and his mother-in-law, Miriam Madrid z" l, both of whom died of Covid-19. May their memories be for a blessing and for the sake of world harmony.
The program will remain as a video that you can continue to access limitlessly!
In these unparalleled times of plague for us today, we need light and healing more than ever.
Watch on my new YouTube Channel.