Category Archives: Rav

Items of interest to those who follow the ‘Rav’ side

Our Final Day – Terezin

Today is our final day on our TBS Eastern European tour, Walking in the Footsteps of our Czech Torah.  I’ve been asked a number of times if the tour has been everything that I hoped it would be. The answer is an absolute YES+!  From the itinerary, to the participants, to our amazing tour educator, Ron, to all of our tour guides in each of the cities, to experiencing all of the places that I’ve read about and studied for so many years, this tour has been everything and more! I won’t share all of the details at the moment, they will come in sermons and other blog posts, but this is definitely something to be shared over and over again.

This morning, we headed out for a bus to go to Terezin (aka Tereseinstadt, the name given to this place by the Germans).  There are two fortresses in this area. First, the small fortress that was once a prison from the 18th century.  It would continue to serve as a prison for political prisoners  and then later by the Nazis for Jews as well as anyone who went against them.   In its gates is the same message one finds and most camps, Arbeit Macht Frei,  work will make you free, the propaganda message that might give someone a bit of hope.

Terezin was a “model camp”  for when the International Red Cross would want to check to see how the Nazis were treating the prisoners a.k.a. the Jews.   And while these model camps were set up extraordinarily well, there were so many things that the International Red Cross would overlook.  As our guide Ron said, “one does not see what one does not want to see.”  A shaving room complete with porcelain sinks and mirrors were set up in the small fortress however, if one takes a closer look, the sinks are not hooked up to any running water.

From the small fortress, we cross the river into the main town of Terezin. Terezin  was built as a fortress in the 1780s as a way to protect the land from the Germans. Before the war it was a garrison town where the population was 3500  Czechs  living together with soldiers. During World War II the Germans decided to use it as a ghetto and move Jewish families into the area and push the Czech  people out.  The camp was known throughout Germany as the ideal of worse places to go and wealthy German Jews paid to be sent to Terezin.  The average lifespan of someone in Terezin  was six months. The camp was simply a labor camp and show camp for the Red Cross. There were 35,000 out of 150,000 inhabitants who died there of hunger or disease, as well as some executions. All others were sent to extermination camps such as Auschwitz six months after their arrival in Terezin.

Terezin  is known for the children’s arts and literature. Children were kept in separate houses and while the adults were out working, they were able to write and draw with supplies that were left by the previous inhabitants of the city. This is how they got all of the color and paper used for these drawings. The drawings were than later hidden till the end of the war and later uncovered by survivors.

There was music, theater, and operas put on throughout the camp.  A Jewish professional filmmaker was ordered to then create a propaganda film to show the world that the Nazis  were taking good care of the Jews.  Children and adults were coached as to exactly what to say when interviewed either on camera or by the International Red Cross who came to visit once.  When the film was completed, the director was sent directly to Auschwitz and murdered.

Terezin  is nothing like I expected it to be. It is a small Garrison city with regular looking buildings that served as barracks  for the Jewish community until they would be sent to the extermination camps. We entered one more courtyard and there on the bottom floor in the back corner was a small hidden synagogue. It was in the space that a cantor painted the walls with words from Psalms and created a secret space for the community to come and pray. Together our group joined in  a final memorial service.

After leaving the hidden synagogue, we walked through the streets and ended up at a small café where we had lunch. It was an ironic dichotomy.  Today, Terezin  has some inhabitants living in the town, some of whom are descendants of the original Czech  families who were forced to leave when the Nazis came in.

In the park as we walked back toward bus there was a sign of hope. A peace pole was erected in the middle of the park as a reminder that we should all hope for peace in our world.

 

Walking Through Prague and 11 Centuries of Architecture

Today was a 10 mile day! And the weather couldn’t have been any better!   Our date exploring Prague begin with a lecture by Peter Brog  who shared with us the intricacies of government and history of Czechoslovakia a.k.a. the Czech Republic.  He was amazing and was able to lay out before us the complex history of this country and region.

Then it was time to head out into the city on our walking tour.  We visited Jewish Prague  which in and of itself is the Jewish Museum. There are artifacts contained with in the four synagogues we  toured: the Maisel Synagogue, the Pinkas Synagogue, the Old
Cemetery, the Altneu Shul,  and the Spanish Synagogue.

The Maisel synagogue contains numerous Jewish artifacts collected during World War II and stored there until after the war. This was also where the Torah scrolls collected from throughout the Czech Republic were brought to and catalogued. The Pinkas Synagogue  is now set up as a memorial to the Jews of Czechoslovakia who were murdered during the Holocaust. On the walls throughout the entire synagogue are the names of each Czech resident.  The cemetery outside dates back to 1439 and has been used for many generations. So much so that graves are stacked and the headstones are all very close to one another.   One of the notable people buried in the cemetery is the Maharal, Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel,  a Talmudic scholar.

I was really looking forward to visiting the Altneu Shul,  The oldest still active synagogue in all of Europe. This is the home of the Golem!  Of course, I had to go find the ladder leading up to the attic. It’s on the backside of the synagogue outside.  I was not allowed to try to go climb the ladder, however, I have since learned that on Sukkot people do go up and sleep in the attic! I
think I’m going to have to come back!   I bought myself a little Golem and I’m bringing him home.

And finally we saw the Spanish synagogue. This too is an active synagogue that leans more toward Reform as it has a beautiful pipe organ installed. And of course, I had to check out the acoustics! An absolutely beautiful space.

Following a lunch along the streets, we took a bus to the top of the hill where we entered the castle.  We walked through the beautiful gardens and grounds and then into the church which is like a sister to Notre Dame.  We made our way through the castle, looking at all of the various rooms. We then headed outside, down the hill and across the Charles bridge.  By the time we made it back to the old square, we had walked many miles and experienced 11 centuries of architecture and history.

Of course, the visit to Prague would not be complete without exploring a little bit of Kafka. Mom and I made our way through the city to the rotating Kafka head. It’s definitely a sight to be seen.

Tomorrow we head to Terezin and then back for a little last minute shopping and our farewell dinner.

From Krakow to Prague via Brno

This was a traveling day. We took a bus from Kraków to Prague. During our travels, we stopped at Brno. Our first visit was to a synagogue built in 1936. The other synagogues of the city have been destroyed post war and also during Soviet occupation. We enjoyed lunch in the main square at a wonderful restaurant where yes, I even got to wield the sword. Felt very Game of Thrones!

We explored the old square area and where the Jewish quarter was.

Back on the bus for another 2 1/2 hours to Prague. The road took us through the mountains where we ran into more traffic of people coming home from enjoying the day.
When we finally arrived, we dropped our bags and then walked to the main town square. Every corner we turned left my fingertips a beautiful new view of the 11 centuries of architecture. We also got to see the astronomical clock that was built in 1410 and still works. Yes, we stood there for 18 minutes waiting for the top of the hour and to watch the 12 apostles rotate around and the skeleton ring the bell.
After enjoying a nice dinner and a café outside, we headed to back to the hotel to get some sleep and prepare for a full day of walking throughout the city of Prague.

A Day In Krakow


We spent the day in Krakow. The city is beautiful and the architecture is complex and striking. We started walking through the park that surrounds the castle and made our way up to the top where the castle sits overlooking the city. Have I told you how many churches are in this city? Let’s just say, there are a lot of churches. Even within the castle walls, there are many churches in one. One of the churches’ dome is covered in 160 pounds of gold, and this is the original gold. It’s remarkable that it was never pillaged during any of the wars.

We walked through the courtyards and then made our way back to the street heading down into the city. Then it was off to the old city and into the city center where in the square there are a number of cafes and shops, including artist stalls. This weekend is a festival in the city, so there was music and the square was packed! Part of that had to do with the sun being out. After two weeks of clouds and rain, the locals were ready to get out and enjoy the beauty of the day. We saw the trumpeter who came out from the top window of the church in the square playing the same tune that has been played for 100s of years announcing the time. It is not a recording, it is live and is played four times every hour in every direction to announce the time.

After enjoying lunch and some shopping we headed to the Salt Mines. These mines were in operation for over 700 years. We only saw 1% of the mine and its many caverns. The miners created some incredible chapels and sculptures throughout. They were very religious and superstitious and before beginning their day working in the mine, they prayed in the chapels they created throughout. There is even an area, 100 stories down, where they hold weddings and receptions! In the largest Cathedral cavern I tested out the acoustics with singing a Halleluyah rendition. The acoustics didn’t disappoint and I’m glad I didn’t disappoint the many visitors within this chapel space.

We made our way back to the city center and on our own for an evening in the city. We ate in the outdoor cafes of the town square along with thousands of others coming into the city center for the festival.

At 9:00 pm, Jim, Karen, Mia and Steve. M joined me as we walked to the JCC. I didn’t realize how close the Jewish quarter was to our hotel; less than a half a mile away, about a 10 minutes walk. We entered the courtyard of the JCC for 7 at Nite. We were so fortunate to be in town for this event the JCC holds each year, inviting the community to visit the 7 pre-war synagogues that are still very active today. Each synagogue, only within a few blocks of each other, hosted a cultural experience, from lectures, to a movie, to a concert. This is the JCCs way of teaching the community about Judaism and reintroducing the Jewish community to the entire community. And they are very successful. The courtyard was packed as the students from the JCC Hillel led us in Havdalah from the rooftop. I was amazed and inspired by standing in the middle of hundreds of people joining together for Havdalah in the middle of Krakow and reflecting on standing in this same spot where it was so different 80 years ago!

We made our way to The Temple which is next to the JCC for the concert. The line snaked around the courtyard because this was the only venue with a music concert. Ori, the artist was very eclectic with his electronica music. You want to talk about a small world, he uses some of the sample products Shelly and Mark produce through their company, ILIO!

After a while there we made our way through the Jewish quarter to another synagogue showing an animated video of the Exodus. Unfortunately, it was already full and the hour was getting late. As we made our way back to the hotel we saw the cafes were packed and the Jewish quarter was jumping with energy and excitement!

If there is one thing I have learned from Krakow and Warsaw, don’t always listen to only what the news says. Yes, there is anti-Semitism here, but it is not what defines Poland. The entire Krakow community is working to bring back the Jewish community because they know what they lost and they don’t want it to be gone forever. As I said yesterday, every day, someone walks into the JCC because they just learned they are Jewish or they are ready to embrace their Judaism. The volunteers who work for the JCC are almost all non-Jews because they know the importance of bringing back the Jewish community and reuniting the entire Krakow community.

This morning we boarded our bus and are on our way to Prague and the Czech Republic. We are getting closer to our Torah and we feel it pulling us closer.

From Auschwitz/Birkenau to Jewish Life in Krakow

It’s hard to say where to start. Today I visited the place I’ve always wanted to go but also dreaded going. Today, we went to Auschwitz – Birkenau.  But before I go into this post, Jonathan Orenstein, the CEO of the JCC here in Kraków, reminded us that while we define Auschwitz, we do not allow it to define us.  For if we only focus on the tragedies of the Holocaust, then we forget to embrace the living and the potential for continued Jewish growth.

We started early in the morning with our drive from Kraków to Auschwitz, the town of Oswiecim.  Interesting note about this town: 60% of the town was Jewish and they were all murdered immediately and the rest of the town people were pushed out.  Therefore, the people living in Oswiecim  were mostly Nazis.

We entered Auschwitz I first.  This is where you see the famous sign,   Arbeit Macht Frei,  work will make you free.   An interesting fact about the sign, besides that it was stolen twice, is if you look closely at the “B“ you will notice that it is upside down.  The prisoners of the camp who were forced to make this sign did this on purpose as a way  of saying this was not true, it was like a secret message to the incoming prisoners.

Auschwitz I was a work camp. However it was there that they developed and perfected the message of extermination of the Jews.  It is there that the only gas chamber from Auschwitz still exists. This was a small gas chamber and crematoria that was used to perfect the method and on the political prisoners. It was surreal to walk in and through the building and then out the door again.

Yad Vashem created a very powerful exhibit that includes the pages of a very very long book with over 4.2 million names of those Jews who are murdered in the Holocaust.  Unfortunately, because so many went straight from the trains to the gas chambers, their names were lost when they were murdered and their bodies turned to ash.  A few of us were able to find names of family members that we were not sure we would ever find. Including our family who we learned the right way of spelling Zayonchik.

After visiting a number of the barracks that are now museums, we headed out to Auschwitz II/Birkenau.  It is in this camp that one says the gate of death, the train tracks that lead directly into the camp into the selection platform. There the head of the camp would look at each prisoner and turn his thumb either to the right or to the left declaring if the person will live or be sent directly to the gas chambers. There are rows and rows of brick chimneys in the field showing where many many barracks were situated. These barracks were made from wood and since the ground is swampland, over the years they have collapsed. However there are a few that have been restored in order to give the visitor an opportunity to visualize the conditions the people lived in during their short time there.  The lifespan of a prisoner in this camp was about three months.

We walked along the platform toward the forest where on either side were the destroyed gas chambers and crematoria. One can still make out where the changing room was followed by the turn 2000 people at one time would take into the gas chamber and the crematoria adjacent. The numbers are staggering and it was a well thought out methodical machine for killing the Jewish people. I don’t know how anyone can deny the Holocaust happened after seeing this along with the 2 tons of hair that are on display and the piles of shoes, glasses and belonging left behind by those who entered Auschwitz. The hair was used in every day products including woven into fabric that was then sold to the Germans for making clothing and other items.

We found a spot on a small set of stairs facing into the woods. We lit three yahrzeit candles for the men, the women and the children and together had our own memorial service. We cried, we sang, we held on to the flame.

Ron, our tour educator, spoke about how the word Holocaust is not the right word. The word means a holy burnt offering or sacrifice. This was something that was considered holy. The Holocaust is far from holy. Shoah, the Hebrew word is much more appropriate for Shoah means completely consumed by fire. And standing in this spot, you could hear the silent voices of those who remain nameless and were consumed by fire.

We slowly walked the one kilometer from the gas chambers, along the train tracks to the front of the camp. Unlike the 1.5 million who were murdered there, we were able to walk out. But we walk out with the knowledge that we must not only never forget, but also take action so that this never happens again!

We arrived back in Krakow a couple of hours later, they have Friday rush hour traffic too. We took an hour to collect ourselves and change for Shabbat, because now we needed to go from death to life and light.

We joined together at the JCC in Krakow where every day they have someone else come in who has discovered they too are Jewish. There are no guards, there are not fences or closed gates. The sign at the entrance says, “come in and say hi!” And so many do! There is Jewish life in Krakow and we got to be a part of it.

Jonathan Orenstein, the CEO of the JCC spent time talking to us about the 11 years the JCC has existed. Had we made this trip 10
years ago, we would have only gone to Auschwitz and then left, never knowing that there was still a Jewish presence here. It is vibrant and very much alive! Last year, the JCC opened the first Jewish kindergarten class in Krakow since World War II! Every Friday night there are Shabbat services and a Shabbat dinner. And we got to be a part of it!

I was honored to lead services with Student Rabbi Mati Kirshenbaum. The service was in Polish, Hebrew and English. My Polish can use some work! But I am happy to say, I got the Jews of Krakow “rolling!” Yes, we sang Roll Into Dark Roll Into Light and even the oldest of the Krakow Jewish community did the rolling hand movements with me! I like to leave a mark!

After services we joined together for an amazing dinner. There are many non-Jewish volunteers who work at the JCC and love to be a part of these events. They are all so welcoming and gracious. It is as if the entire Krakow community wants Judaism back! And they are bringing it back.

Before we had to leave, a woman came up to me and told me I had to sing one more song. So why not a Yiddish L’Chah Dodi! We sang and clapped and laughed together.

So from the ashes and a difficult day we have been rejuvenated and reminded, it is not the fire that consumes, it is the fire that gives of light and warmth! Shabbat Shalom!

Krakow or Kazimierz?

Well, it’s raining and raining…and did I mention it’s raining? Who knew that it would be raining in May? Then again, they got a foot of snow in Colorado a couple of days ago. But enough about the weather.  I have to admit, everyone in the group is an amazing sport!  No one is complaining about the rain.

Today’s  Adventure kept us in Kraków but actually in Kazimierz,  The Jewish quarter of Kraków. What is amazing about the city is how it was not destroyed during  World War II. That was because the Nazis hoped to use it as a home city in Poland because of its beauty as well as excellent buildings and access to the river.

Our first stop is to the Rema Synagogue  where Rabbi Moses Isserles, the “Rema”, lived.  He was a commentator on the Shulchan Aruch,  giving it the  Ashkenazic flair.  Behind the synagogue is the cemetery where he and other Rabbinical leaders are buried. Interesting fact, during the late 1500s and early 1600s, the Swedes came in to Poland and other European countries and completely plundered them. As this was happening, the community wanted to ensure the safety of all of the gravestones in the cemetery by laying them flat and burying them. However,  the gravestones were forgotten for many generations and when a new community came in, they buried their dead on top of the old cemetery. It was in the early 1970s with excavations in the back of the synagogue where  found the old original gravestones from before the 1500s were found.  All of them have since been re-positioned in the cemetery along with the newer headstones. There is still a section of the hill where they have not been excavated.

Our tour took us to two other synagogues, the Altshul synagogue,  The oldest synagogue in Poland and the Temple, the first modern Orthodox synagogue.  It was pretty amazing to see so many synagogues including ones that we did not even go into with in such a small area. It was a reminder that the Jewish community has been in Poland since the year 1000. We also visited the the Galicia Jewish Museum,  containing a beautiful photographic display of the history of Kraków and the Holocaust.

Before our final stop, we visited the Krakow Umchlagplatz memorial, now called Ghetto Heroes Square.  It is in the Square that there is a memorial containing 65 empty chairs. These empty chairsrepresent the 65,000 Jews who lived in Kraków prior to the holocaust. Today, there are less than 500 Jews. However as we will see you tomorrow night for Shabbat, the community is growing.  It was fitting for it to be raining well reviewed the memorial and remembered those who left from that place on trains to the extermination camps.

Our two museums for the day included We ended the day at the Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory Museum.  It is an amazing museum I can definitely take more than an hour to see. It is more than just about Schindler it is also about the history of Kraków during World War II.

We got back to the hotel a little earlier today and all of us enjoyed a little downtime and early dinner. Tomorrow will be an early day as we head to Auschwitz – Birkenau. It’s going to be a heavy day, one that honestly I have no idea how I will react. I’ve been teaching and studying the Holocaust for so many years but there is something so different about walking in these footsteps.

A Day in Warsaw

Our day started very early. Always fun when you’re trying to adjust to a nine hour time difference.  After an incredible breakfast in the hotel, (OK, there was a lot of bacon and sausage that I couldn’t touch, but there was a lot of awesome yogurt and cheeses) we started with a stimulating lecture. Dr. Sebastian Rejak, Senior Policy and Program Officer at the American Jewish Committee and former Special Envoy of the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs for Relations with the Jewish Diaspora,  spoke to us about politics here in Poland. He asked to keep it off the record so he could be a little bit more direct.  I’m not exactly sure how direct he was or what he would’ve left out, but he shared with us some of the challenges of the nationalist movement that is happening here in Poland as well as the rise of anti-Semitism over the past couple of years.

We then made our way to the Gensha Cemetery,  One of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world.  It was amazing to see this very old cemetery that was not touched by the Nazis during World War II. It was right outside the ghetto walls and was an active cemetery even during the war. In one section of the cemetery there are stones making a large circle that you then walk right through the center. It is in this area that close to 100,000 bodies were buried. A large grave of no names but so many souls. There is a moving tribute to Janusz Korczak  walking and holding orphans who he cared for as together he went with them to the extermination camp, Treblinka.

We then made our way to the  Path of Remembrance.  It was on this journey that we saw a small part of the original wall from the ghetto along with memorial’s scattered along its path.  The most moving section was where Mila 18  once stood. After the Nazis blew up the building leaving hundreds of bodies in its depths, it was decided to not completely remove the rubble and leave it as a memorial to the resistance fighters.

We continued to wind our way through the streets to the Polin Museum of Jewish Heritage.   The museum is built on the spot where in 1948, amidst the rubble of  Warsaw, a memorial was built to remember the resistance fighters of the Warsaw ghetto as well as the 3 million Jewish Poles who were killed.  This is definitely a museum not to be missed as it takes one through the 1,000 year old Jewish history of Poland!

We concluded the day with a train ride from Warsaw to Kraków. Two very different cities. Warsaw, a city completely rebuilt after the war, and Kraków, a city that was never touched during wartime. Tomorrow, we will explore it and learn more about its intricate history. But for this evening, we enjoyed dinner in the Square that dates back to medieval times.  Time for some sleep before another very full day.

We’ve Landed in Warsaw

So why is coming to Poland and the Czech Republic my dream places to go? Maybe it’s not necessarily a dream place, but more of a bucket list place. As many of you know, I have studied the Holocaust since Junior high school and started teaching it in high school. Ever since I had parents in junior high who came up to me and said that they never knew anything about the Holocaust, I could not not teach these important lessons and that it should never happen again. Not only to Jews but to anyone.

 This trip is all significant for all of us traveling from TBS because we just completed a year of restoring our Czech Torah.  If we could’ve, we would’ve brought it with us, but we carry it with us in our hearts. We don’t know exactly from which town or synagogue it came, but we feel like we are bringing a part of it home with us on this trip as we experience how life continues to flourish in Poland.  Out of the ashes greatness still can rise!

Here I sit, in a hotel in Warsaw, Poland. A place where out of the 3,500,000 Jews, only 350,000 Jews remained. All other Jews had been murdered during the Holocaust with a total of over 6 million Jews from Eastern Europe murdered at the hands of the Nazis. Here I sit in Warsaw, Poland where 95% of the city was completely destroyed but now it is a bustling metropolitan area.

As soon as we arrived, we boarded our bus with our tour educator, Ron, and Warsaw guide. Marik. Even though we have been traveling for about 16 hours, we were ready to see our first site, the Nozyk Synagogue. This synagogue was built in 1902 and during the war it was only inside the ghetto for a couple of weeks before the walls were removed and then it seem to have been forgotten. Therefore, it remained standing at the end of the war, one of the very few buildings left in the city. While it has undergone major restorations over the years, it is still hauntingly beautiful. When inside, some of the windows were unlocked and as the wind blew they would open and close, almost as if those from the past were coming in to greet us.

We checked into our hotel, had a few minutes to freshen up, then back out the door again to an amazing dinner at Momu restaurant. The food definitely did not disappoint and the company, even better!

We have an amazing group touring with us and all of our life lessons and family histories will be woven into the story we are going to experience in these next nine days.

So yes, I’m fulfilling one of my bucket list items and I’m so grateful I get to do it with this wonderful group of people. I look forward to sharing this experience with all of you.

Good night from Warsaw, Poland.

PS  pictures will be posted on Facebook

Abuse of Power!

I am trying to find the right words for what we are seeing in our country! Alabama, shame on you! Shame on the Governor who is a woman and signed the anti-Abortion law. This is not about abortion rights, this is about control of women and their bodies by those who use their religious beliefs as the basis for their decision. You want to get religious on me? OK, not every religion agrees about when life begins. And don’t get medical on me about the “fetal heartbeat” that this is life. Go ahead, see if the fetus can survive outside the womb at 8 weeks! This is an attack on our constitutional rights of freedom of religion.

If your religion tells you that life begins at conception, I respect you. And I’m not going to tell you what to do with your body. But my religion tells me that life begins at birth and the health of the mother, physical and psychological, comes first. And I would hope you would respect that. But apparently, the right wing conservative evangelicals want to force their religious beliefs on all. Hmmm, and people complain about Sharia law; congratulations Alabama, you’re starting to implement it!

You want to get Biblical: Exodus 21:22-23 discusses two men who are fighting and injure a pregnant woman causing her to miscarry. The verse states that if no other harm is done, the person who caused the damage must pay compensatory damages, but if there is further harm, then he should pay with his life. The common rabbinic interpretation is that if the only harm that comes to the woman is the loss of the fetus, it is treated as a case of property damage — not murder. The Mishna goes on to say that if a woman’s life is in peril, physically or psychologically, then it is not only permissible it is mandates that the pregnancy should be terminated. However, once a woman goes into labor and the head emerges, then one is to do everything possible to save both lives.

So government, get back to governing and get out of my body and the bodies of other women and men too!

Yeah, I’m angry! And I know I’m unleashing a lot here where many will want to comment and argue. I ask, be respectful. And ask yourself, do you want someone dictating what you can and can’t do with your body?

More to come I’m sure!

CCAR Shacharit – Embracing the Perfect and Broken

There is something exciting and totally terrifying about leading worship at the CCAR. First, it’s a huge honor to be invited. Then there are the thoughts of, ‘who am I to lead all these rabbis in worship?!?!’ But the moment it begins, the moment we all start to sing, it all comes together and I breathe!

I was thrilled to include my Cantor and clergy partner, David Reinwald in the morning service. It was awesome for us to share what he and I create and do together on a weekly basis. We have a rhythm in how we pray together and we wanted to share that with this sacred community of rabbis.

We were surprised to see the listing of our shacharit as the Energetic Shacharit. Wow! Someone knows me! We weren’t exactly planning any kind of movement, but the group seemed open to a few laps around the hotel, burpies and sun salutations! However, without our running shoes, the energy was found within each person in the room and it filled every space inside and outside the room.

As the service progressed, voices caught their breath, warmed and elevated. There is nothing like 50 voices rising up in prayer and harmonizing with one another. Our bodies warmed and we swayed with each note and word. When do we as rabbis find the time to be in prayer without being worried if we have everyone on the right page? Shacharit this morning became a gift to ourselves as each individual claimed this prize.

Within this energy of prayer I allowed myself to be vulnerable and share in my own journey of personal growth. Each of us are a work in progress; as Dan Nichols writes, “I’m perfect the way I am and a little broken too.” I love who I am but I know that there is always work to be done. I’ve been finding the courage to acknowledge my brokenness and own the work it takes to grow. And it is in this sacred space and within this sacred community that I know I can do this because I look around and see how we are all perfect the way we are and a little broken too.

This day has been all about health; body, mind and spirit. To open this day in prayer, to raise up our voices and give thanks for the gifts we have and reach for strength to be and do better, this was shacharit at CCAR. What a gift and I thank you all for sharing it with me. I hope you found your breath, your voice, and your courage to see how you are perfect and embrace the brokenness to always be a work in progress.

Now go and breathe!