Religion

 Photo courtesy of Gurwin Jewish ~ Fay J. Lindner Residences

Residents at Gurwin Jewish~Fay J. Lindner Residences assisted living community in Commack recently celebrated the cooking traditions of Hanukkah with an interactive latke cooking demonstration.

“Our Assisted Living residents always enjoy our live cooking demonstrations, especially during the holidays,” said Stuart B. Almer, President and CEO of Gurwin Healthcare System. “It is a wonderful time for residents to reminisce about their own holiday memories and traditions and share them with each other and our staff.”

Gurwin Chef Salvatore Zingalis conducted the demonstration live in a temporary teaching kitchen in the residence’s dining room. Residents shared stories of their own latke recipes as they watched the chef go through his recipe step-by-step and were able to enjoy a sampling of what was prepared.

Latkes are traditionally served with either applesauce or sour cream, depending on whether the meal is meat or dairy; both were available for residents to enjoy.

“As a Jewish family, we love getting together for the holidays, the bigger the crowd, the better,” said Carol Sussman, a resident at the assisted living community, thoroughly enjoyed the demonstration and complimented the chef on his technique. “I used to cook latkes for Hanukkah, but now my daughter has taken over that job. I taught her everything I know!”

 

Children hold up menorahs they made at the Chanukah on Main Street event Dec. 3. Photo by Seth Berman

Happy Hanukkah! Celebrate the Festival of Lights at the following events:

File photo by Peter DiLauro

Commack

Multiple synagogues in the area and the Suffolk Y JCC will sponsor a community menorah lighting event at the Commack Corner Shopping Center parking lot, southeast corner of Jericho Turnpike and Commack Road, in Commack on Monday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. There will be entertainment, live music, dreidels, chocolate gelt,  latkes and giveaways. 631-462-9800

Dix Hills

The Chai Center, 501 Vanderbilt Parkway, Dix Hills will hold its annual outdoor grand menorah lighting ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. Enjoy latkes, donuts, dreidels, chocolate gelt, music and more. RSVP by calling 631-351-8672.

Farmingville

Join the Town of Brookhaven for a menorah lighting at Town Hall, One Independence Hill, Farmingville on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. followed by entertainment, hot latkes and donuts. 631-451-6100

Greenlawn

The Greenlawn Civic Association will host a Menorah lighting ceremony and Hanukkah celebration at Harborfields Public Library, 31 Broadway, Greenlawn on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. www.greenlawncivic.org

Huntington 

Grand Menorah Lighting by Chabad of Huntington Village will host a Grand Menorah Lighting at the Huntington Village Winter Wonderland at Main Street and Wall Street on Monday, Dec. 19 at 5 p.m. with juggling and fire entertainment. 

Kings Park

The Kings Park Chamber of Commerce will host a menorah lighting at Veterans Plaza, 1 Church St., Kings Park on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 11 a.m. Enjoy holiday music selections followed by Rabbi Abe as he retells the story of the meaning of Hanukkah. Gelt and dreidels for the kids. www.kingsparkli.com

Lake Ronkonkoma

Take part in a menorah lighting at Raynor Park, 174 Ronkonkoma Ave., Lake Ronkonkoma at Sunday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. Hosted by the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce. 631-963-2796

Port Jefferson Station

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce will host its annual menorah lighting at the Chamber Train Car, corner of Route 112 and Nesconset Highway, on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. Rabbi Aaron Benson of North Shore Jewish Center will perform the blessings/prayer for the first night of Hanukkah. 631-821-1313.

St. James

The community is invited to the St. James menorah lighting ceremony at The Triangle, Route 25A and Lake Ave., St. James on Dec. 18 at 5:30 p.m. 631-584-8510

Setauket

Village Chabad, 360 Nicolls Road, East Setauket will host a Grand Menorah Lighting and Chocolate Gelt Drop on Sunday, Dec. 18 at 4 p.m. with latkes, donuts, music, a fire juggling show and more. $5 per person in advance at MyVillageChabad.com/NightOne, $10 at the door. 631-585-0521

Smithtown

The Town of Smithtown will hold its annual Menorah Lighting Ceremony at Town Hall, 99 West Main St., Smithtown on Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 5:30 p.m. with music, latkes, donuts and a special gelt drop. 631-360-7512

The Jazz Loft. Photo by Heidi Sutton

This 2022 holiday season at the Jazz Loft will premiere a new holiday show called Jazz Nativity on December 18 at 7 p.m. This candlelight nativity service will feature the Biblical Christmas story with a jazz tentet and Metropolitan Opera soprano Susanna Phillips.

The performance, based on Wynton Marsalis’ arrangements of Christmas jazz classics, will include an impressive lineup of jazz artists teamed up with guest narrators who will share the classic biblical Christmas story. Journey with the Three Wise Men as they travel to Bethlehem, join Mary and Joseph as they follow the Star and celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus. Grammy winning composer and arranger Rich DeRosa has also added a composition just for the performance.

“This new show can best be described as a jazz-classical-opera fusion of the Christmas Bible story,” said Tom Manuel, founder of the Jazz Loft. “We also are thrilled to have Met Opera star Susanna Phillips join us to tell the Christmas story.”

The Jazz Loft is located at 275 Christian Ave. Stony Brook. Tickets to the Dec. 18 event are $35 general admission; $30 for seniors; $25 for students and $20 for children and are available for purchase on The Jazz Loft website TICKETS.  For more information, call 631-751-1895.

'Jewish Noir II'

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Pinpointing “noir” is challenging. Generally, explanations include terms such as “tough,” “cynical,” “dangerous” and “bleak.” However, these words could also apply to a range of works. This crime genre, which leans towards the dark and pessimistic, has an alchemical combination that defies a narrow definition. While often associated with hardboiled detective fiction (Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane), this is not necessarily an accurate association. Conceptually, “noir” focuses on flawed individuals who are often morally questionable or corrupt. Greed, lust, and jealousy mix with societal alienation resulting in situations from which the characters cannot extricate themselves.  

In any case, defining “noir” is not essential to appreciate the exceptional Jewish Noir II (PM Press), subtitled “Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds.” Edited by Kenneth Wishnia and Chantelle Aimée Osman, the collection of twenty-three compelling, sharp, and haunting tales encompasses an eclectic and page-turning mix. 

As indicated by the title, the over-arching element is Judaism. But the editors offer a range of perspectives, from religious to cultural. Some stories feature Jewish identity at their core; in others, the elements remain peripheral. In an age steeped in fear and a global rise in antisemitism, many of these short pieces — subtly and directly — address the toxicity embroiled therein. Osman indicates in the introduction, “What I do know is that this anthology is important. And the stories in this book apply to everyone.”

“Taking Names” (Steven Wishnia) uses the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire as a framing device to highlight “corruption [as] the most truly diverse aspect of New York City politics.” Like many of the stories, the language is rich and distinct: “The spokesperson for the Laborers, a skinny guy who looked like he’d lifted more textbooks than cinderblocks …” Antisemitic backlash from a reporter’s story results in a tragic and violent turn. (Later in the volume, “Triangle” (Rabbi Ilene Schneider) uses the tragedy in a wholly different and perfectly unsettling tale of an Angel of Death nurse.)

“Sanctuary” (Doug Allyn) focuses on the horrifying impact of a newly graduated medical student and the liberation of Buchenwald. A granddaughter inherits a necklace and a packet of blood-covered documents in “The Cost of Something Priceless” (Elizabeth Zelvin). With the traditional noir edge, “Only a fool can expect the cost of acquiring treasure to be paid in full. Blood has a tendency to leak and go on leaking. So do reputation and deceit.” The story of twin generational treachery concludes with a sharp stinger of a final line. The brief but potent “The Black and White Cookie”(Jeff Markowitz) takes on segregation.

The book deals with Jewish people worldwide — even as far as Trinidad and China. Violence is consistently present, both casual and deliberate. Humor flows liberally throughout, often to create an illusion quickly shattered with a deft plot twist. “Wishboned” (Jill D. Block), with its mix of fantasy and Philip Roth, deftly skewers the bar mitzvah sphere: “That was his cue, once again, that paying for a bar mitzvah is like buying a brand new sports car and driving it straight off a cliff.”

“The Shabbes Goy” (Craig Faustus Buck) is one of the book’s truly noir entries. The Jewish elements weave tautly into a narrative of plotting femme fatales and an abusive husband. “To Catch a Ganef” (Lizzie Skurnick) blends Alfred Hitchcock Presents and O. Henry in a smartly multicultural story. “Paying the Ferrymen” (E.J. Wagner), an account of a wronged wife, also feels like an ode to that 1950s series. “Inheritance” (Terry Shames) leans into a Ladies in Retirement tone, with a nursing home setting and vengeful relatives. 

Drawing on biblical sources, “Brother’s Keeper” (Eileen Rendahl) presents a private investigator and a moral dilemma utilizing the Cain and Abel story as both a parallel and mirror image. In contrast, “The Almost Sisters” (Ellen Kirschman) contains a more ethnic reflection: “If there is a gene for pessimism it will be in Jewish blood. I heard it a million times, keynehore, don’t relax, don’t get too happy, something bad is coming.”  

“Crossover” (Zoe Quinton) broods on conversion and a suspicious mikvah death, the permeating darkness in the water giving a sense of unease.

One of the most unusual entries is editor Kenneth Wishnia’s “Bride of Torches,” a bloody account of tribal battles. While the vivid tale reaches back into ancient history, its unique voice helps fit in with this modern anthology. Equally remarkable is “The Just Men of Bennett Avenue” (A.J. Sidransky), a mystical procedural drama.

“The Hanukkah Killer” (Robin Hemley) balances the portrait of a murderer — “eyes that, if they were windows to his soul, you would have wanted nailed shut” — with the vivid portrait of an old neighborhood, with its family illness, dysfunction, and poverty.

The closing story, “Hunter” (Jen Conley), follows a therapist struggling with a threatening and most likely sociopathic patient. The details are striking and disturbing — the eeriness of a burning cigarette suggesting an ominous watcher — and contrast brilliantly with the social issue — a community’s reaction to the encroachment of Orthodox families. The story’s final line is appropriately chilling and the perfect coda to this collection.

While Jewish Noir II takes mild liberties with the definition, this is a minor quibble in this amazing collection of tightly written, powerful, and must-read stories. Pick up a copy online at Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com. 

In conjunction with the book, Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main St., Setauket will host Stories Light and Dark: An Evening of Jewish Noir on Thursday, Oct. 13 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Join Kenneth Wishnia and other contributors for a spirited discussion of the diverse themes in the Jewish Noir II anthology. Copies of the book will be available for sale at the event at a discount, plus a bonus story collection offered free with each purchase. To register, call 631-941-4080

Rosh Hashanah. METRO photo

By Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky

Though Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days, are late in our secular  calendar, they will soon once again be upon us. I am honored to have been asked to bring  words of greeting at this important time from my family, from Temple Isaiah and from  my own heart. 

One message contained in the High Holy Day liturgy is that at this time of year, our  destinies are determined. On Rosh Hashana it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed,  who will live and who will die, and what will become of us in the year ahead. 

To be honest, this is not a statement that many of us believe literally. We may not think  that our destiny is pre-determined. But the message still is significant. We realize that there are times in our lives that do determine what happens to us. Even the liturgy we read states that our actions can help alter the outcome of what is to be. 

Whether or not we are participating in the Jewish holy days, let us all. as human beings,  realize the awesome nature of our ability to affect our own lives and the lives of those  around us. This can happen in many ways, and is different for each of us. Yet one  privilege we all share is exercising our freedom to vote. 

Rabbi Joel Mosbacher of Temple Shaarey Tefila in New York City wrote the following  during a previous election year: “In our traditional morning blessings which we call Nisim B’Chol Yom, ‘Daily Miracles,’ we offer gratitude for being free. As American Jews, we do not take for granted the  tremendous gift that we have in being free and enjoying the freedoms that every  American has. This is a freedom that Jews have not always been afforded. What a gift we have to be Jews living in America today, with the right to express our opinions and raise our voices through voting.” 

With the gift of freedom comes responsibility. This message applies to all Americans and indeed to all free people. In this spirit, I want to encourage our exercising one of our  fundamental rights and privileges. Here are some easy steps to follow: 

Register to vote: Check to see if you are registered to vote and if you are not, register online today. 

Mark your calendars to vote: on Tuesday, November 8. 

Make a plan to vote: Finding your polling place by visiting nyc.pollsitelocator.com or vote.org. 

We give thanks for our freedom, and for being gifted with the privilege of voting. May  we all make good use of this precious gift, this year and in years to come. 

Best wishes to the Jewish community, and to entire community, for a shana tova u m’tuka, a good and sweet year; one of joy, health and freedom. 

L’shalom.

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky is a rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook.

by -
0 467
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook. Photo from UUFSB

A local fellowship said goodbye to a beloved pastor this week.

This past Sunday, the Rev. Margie Allen spent her last official day as pastor of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook. Until a new permanent minister is found, Pastor Madelyn Campbell, who recently arrived from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, will serve as interim minister and officially started Monday, Aug. 15.

John Lutterbie, president of the board of trustees, said, “Rev. Margie is a fabulous preacher, intertwining spirituality with social justice. She strengthened our connections to Unitarian Universalism and the wider Long Island community. Two things that we value deeply are the way she enhanced communication within the fellowship and her deep concern for those in need of assistance. In the months before she retired, she prepared us beautifully for the changes to come. We are ready for change but will miss her terribly.”

The Rev. Margie Allen

The Rev. Margie Allen recently retired. Photo from Allen

Allen said she decided to retire for a few reasons but mainly because she felt “the fellowship deserves somebody who is at the top of their energy.”

The pastor added she felt things had changed, in general, regarding religious worship due to COVID-19. One factor is that live streaming and other technological advancements come into play. She said finding a new pastor will enable the congregation to find someone more technologically savvy.

“I did not grow up with computers,” she said. “I’m not stupid about them, but I’m not also creative about them, because I don’t really know their maximum capacity.”

She said now is a good time for change and feels a fresh, creative mind will help the congregation move forward.

“I think that change can be a very energizing and engaging time for a congregation,” she said.

Allen has been the minister of UUFSB since January 2013 after being the fellowship’s consulting minister for 2 1/2 years prior. Before serving in Stony Brook, she was an associate minister with the Unitarian Church in Westport, Connecticut, her first settled ministry.

A native of southwest Virginia, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College after majoring in Greek language and literature. While she thought about going into ministry early on in life, she initially entered the health field working for more than two decades as a cardiac surgery intensive care nurse. She eventually studied theology at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.

“I often say I went from open heart surgery to the spiritual type of open heart practice,” she said.

Allen is married to the Rev. Dr. Linda Anderson, and the two moved to Stony Brook in 2010. Over time, the couple have developed an appreciation for what the area has to offer, especially Stony Brook University’s Staller Center. 

She said among the most memorable moments during her time with the Stony Brook congregation was when she cut down a pine tree in the yard. She made a maypole and tied ribbons on it, and the congregation conducted a weaving of the maypole for the first time.

However, all of her memories aren’t good ones, as she remembers the fellowship’s Black Lives Matter sign being defaced a few years ago. She said the congregation weathered the storm, and the police department was helpful in the situation.

“I’m so proud of the congregation,” she said. “I tried to work hard to show them and encourage them that this nation’s issues with racism have really risen to the top of what we need to work on.”

She added the denomination as a whole is engaged in trying to create an environment that is actively trying to reverse white supremacy. Allen said the congregation has looked closely at how they run meetings, choose volunteers and how they invite people into their fellowship.

“It starts in small communities and once we learn how to do it, it spreads out,” she said.

Before she informed the whole congregation that she was retiring, Allen said she was focusing on Christmas story passages where the angels bring a message of fear not and all will be well. The passages inspired the message that she would like to leave the congregation.

“It may not be what you think should happen or think will happen but don’t be afraid,” she said. “Open your hearts and your minds to things that are challenging. Say ‘yes’ and move forward. That would be my wish for the congregation.”

For the community, Allen said, “Connect, connect, connect. I just think we don’t have enough places and ways to get to know each other anymore. Go talk to your neighbors. Go greet people who moved into the neighborhood.”

Pastor Madelyn Campbell will be the interim pastor at UUFSB. Photo from Campbell

Pastor Madelyn Campbell

The Rev. Dr. Campbell, the new interim minister, said she took the scenic route to professional ministry. She, like Allen, started in the medical field where she was a nurse practitioner. She also worked as a business analyst in economics.

A widow whose husband passed away in 2013, she has raised nine children and has nine grandchildren. She and her husband have been foster parents, too.

Campbell said her husband was supportive of the calling she felt toward ministry.

“I had the call a long time ago, in fact, before we were married. It was something that I thought, ‘Well, I’ll do that when I retire. I’ll just put it on hold,’” she said.

After she received her nurse practitioner degree, she said it was her husband’s turn to go back to graduate school, but he was undecided. In 2008, she said her calling was so loud that one day she felt a church sermon was directed at her.

When she told her husband how she felt, he said, “You have a call and I don’t, so you should do this.”

It was then she began to study for ministry. Initially, she didn’t plan to go into parish ministry and was planning on becoming a chaplain minister. 

She said her internship committee encouraged her to go into parish ministry, which she is happy she did.

“I love parish ministry, and specifically transitional ministry. It’s so interesting,”
she said.

Campbell is a certified biblical storyteller through the Academy for Biblical Storytelling, and the only Unitarian Universalist who is one. She also holds a certificate in the arts and theology from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., where she earned her master’s in divinity in 2014 and doctorate
in 2022.

She has spent eight years in transitional ministries while studying, and Campbell said she also has opportunities to put her chaplaincy skills to use, including with the Civil Air Patrol. 

The pastor said in the past when choosing a fellowship, she tended to look at places on the coasts, especially since she spent most of her life on the East Coast. Campbell is from New York City, and she lived in Rockland County when she was younger as well as spent 33 years of her adulthood in Arlington, Virginia.

“But New York will always be home,” she said, adding she’s familiar with Long Island with a brother living in Valley Stream and friends on the Island.

“I looked at this congregation, and it ticked off a lot of boxes for me and it looked interesting,” she said.

While the process is underway to find a permanent pastor, she said her job is to help the congregation to process their feelings about Allen leaving and be open about future changes. 

“My job is to help the congregation understand themselves better,” Campbell said. “To understand and to look at some things that maybe haven’t been looked at in a while, to answer and prepare for the future, and also to help them move past the fear of change.” 

The search

Pastors leave congregations entirely until a new one has the full attention of the congregation, Allen said. She and Campbell will not be part of the process of finding a new pastor even though they will be on hand if anyone on the committee needs to consult them.

Lutterbie said the Unitarian Universalist Association recommends two years with a transition minister. The process can take that long as a transition minister helps the congregation reflect on the past in the first year and, during the second, defines the congregation’s future directions.

While defining its future in the second year, Lutterbie said, the fellowship will undertake the process of finding a new permanent minister.

METRO photo

By Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky

There is a story in the Jewish tradition that tells of the Israelites reaction upon leaving Egypt. Upon crossing the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) to freedom, and upon seeing Pharaoh’s soldiers and horses drowning, the Israelites broke out in joyful songs of praise to God.

In a sense, such a reaction is understandable. After all, we read in the book of Exodus that the Israelites had been subjected to forced labor by the Egyptians for four hundred and thirty years. Their lives had been made miserable by their taskmasters, and little hope remained for their redemption. So of course they would be ecstatic with this sudden turn of events. Who could blame them? The parable could have ended there, but it doesn’t.

We read further that while the Israelites were celebrating, God chastised them, saying, “My children are drowning, and you sing praises?!”

Could such a message be any stronger or more meaningful? Could it contain a better reminder for us over three thousand years later, at this holy day season for so many, and a time of rebirth and renewal?

We are not so different from our ancestors millennia ago. We, too, rejoice in our achievements and successes, often disregarding their consequences and affect on others. We often delight — perhaps openly, perhaps secretly — in the failure of our “enemies,” choosing to separate ourselves from them, rather than to build bridges of understanding and tolerance. Or, at least, we do not show any signs of support. We seem to forget that these people are God’s children. We may forget that we are as well.

Passover, for Jews, is indeed a time of great rejoicing, a time to celebrate freedom and rebirth. Yet it is also a time for remembrance, a remembrance of the cost of such freedom for all involved; a reminder of the growing pains we have experienced.

At the seder, the festive meal of Passover, the story of the Exodus from Egypt is told with great ceremony and joy. And yet, during that time, we also reflect. Salt water is used to remember the tears of the Israelites during their time of bondage. Bitter herbs represent the physical and emotional pain experienced. And cups of wine, symbols of sweetness and joy, have ten drops removed before drinking, in order to lessen our joy when recalling the ten plagues upon Egypt. In modern times, drops are also removed for different “plagues,” such as war, disease, prejudice, pollution and crime.

If we are truly to understand the message of this festival for all people, we must broaden our perspective to look not only at our own good fortune, but also at the fortunes of others to whom we have a responsibility as human beings. We must reflect on our history — where we’ve come from — in order truly to appreciate where we are now. At the seder each year, Jews are reminded that in every generation, each person should look at oneself as if he or she personally had come out of Egypt. We are to see ourselves as experiencing the miracle of redemption; of safely crossing the Sea to dry land.

Now it is time to go a step further. Rather than relying on God’s miracles, and then using them to escape from one another, let us create our own miracle — the miracle of building bridges to cross the raging seas of mistrust and prejudice that divide us. Many of God’s children are still drowning, overwhelmed by the waters that engulf their lives. Only by working together can we save them. And only then will we have fully experienced redemption.

Wishing all who celebrate a joyous, meaningful and renewing holy day season.

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky is a rabbi at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook.

Spencer Harvey. Photo taken by Amy Schoenfeld

Winners from regional JewQ competitions from around the U.S. and abroad came together to face off at the international championships in Princeton, NJ, last weekend. Spencer Harvey of Dix Hills, representing The Chai Center Hebrew School in Dix Hills took home a gold medal in the fourth grade category at the International JewQ Championships.

Throughout the fall, more than 6,000 JewQ students in grades 3-7 from Hebrew schools around the globe learned and were tested on a wide range of Jewish knowledge, such as basic prayers, blessings, Jewish holidays, Torah traditions, and more. Following a regional competition, Spencer was among 150 winners who moved on to the final round of competition. Spencer goes to Ostego Elementary School in Dix Hills, NY, in the Half Hollow Hills Central School District.

“It is incredible to see the vast amount of knowledge Spencer and all the children learned in a few short months,” said Rabbi Dovid Weinbaum, Youth Director of The Chai Center. “My hope is this will inspire them to want to learn more about Judaism and the world around them.”

 

by -
0 899
Approximately 30 congregants came together at Temple Isaiah of Stony Brook Dec. 18 to celebrate the synagogue’s 56-year history. Photo from Donna Newman

By Donna Newman

On Dec. 18 about 30 congregants attended an in-person event at Temple Isaiah of Stony Brook to learn about and celebrate the synagogue’s 56-year history. It was the first such event planned since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Small groups of fully vaccinated, masked and socially distanced participants rotated through four talks around the building.

“In suggesting and coordinating this program, I had several objectives in mind,” Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky said. “Giving the opportunity for members to gather safely in our building; creating an alternate Shabbat day experience that would attract members; and highlighting the rich history and tremendous resources, both human and facility, of Temple Isaiah.”

He added he is grateful the event was a resounding success and appreciates all those who came to lead and participate.

Founding members Barbara and Jerry Fine presented the temple’s origin story, which began in early 1965 when a small notice appeared in the Three Village Herald. Eli Kahn, said Fine, was the prime mover of the plan to establish a Reform Jewish congregation. He was seeking like-minded people.

“Several members of the [existing] Conservative Jewish Center were looking for a more liberal synagogue,” said Fine. His wife, Barbara, shared her view that it was definitely needed. Having grown up in an Orthodox Jewish home, she wanted to be part of a religious group that viewed females as equals, she said.

Rabbi Emeritus Stephen Karol, who displayed a photo of the sanctuary as it appeared when he joined the temple in 2006, spoke of the changes made over the years and his emotional connection to the space.

“This room is filled with objects created by members of the congregation and that adds to the soul of this sanctuary,” he said. “Only the ner tamid [eternal light] suspended before the ark [the cabinet that holds Torah scrolls] and the menorah appear in this old photo.”

The menorah, crafted by artist Joe Donnelly, has become a symbol of Temple Isaiah. The ner tamid was created by Ludwig Yehuda Wolpert, a world-renowned, German-born, Israeli metalwork designer.

Congregant gifts include a tapestry by artist Lydie Egosi; two additional pieces of wall-mounted art created by Donnelly –Holocaust Memorial and a depiction of the Ten Commandments; a marble-topped candle-lighting table built by Steve Hiller; a Torah stand constructed as an Eagle Scout project by Shawn Countess; handmade Torah covers by Deborah Fisher; and Torah binders quilted by Joan Korins.

Attendees visited the Adam D. Fisher Library, named for Temple Isaiah’s longest serving, and now, rabbi emeritus – an appropriate honor for an author of liturgy, educational books, poetry and fiction.

“We built it as a gift for him, and he gifted it right back to the congregation,” said member Carole-Anne Gordon. In retirement, Fisher has overseen and curated the library – and even built furniture for it.

“This is one of the most extensive collections of Judaica existing in a synagogue library,” said Fisher proudly, as he listed the multitude of items available.

A fourth presentation was given by long-time temple member Steve Weitzman, who told the group about the supervising organizations that oversee and assist Reform Jewish congregations, how they have changed over the years and how liturgy has evolved.

For the most part, Temple Isaiah has held services and B’nai Mitzvah virtually via Zoom or livestreaming since pandemic restrictions eased after the initial lockdown. Dec. 18 provided an afternoon of smiles for those who attended. If only life could return to a semblance of normalcy.

Pixabay photo

By Rabbi Aaron Benson

Hanukkah candles need to burn for at least thirty minutes. The Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, involves lighting a candle for each of the holidays eight nights.

Rabbi Aaron Benson

Of course the candles can burn longer than that, but the ancient sages determined such a length of time would be enough to make the lighting significant and yet not overly costly at a time when candles would have been more expensive and essential than today.

The lights remind us of a miracle performed for the ancient Jews. Having thrown off the yoke of foreign rule, they came to rededicate the despoiled Temple in Jerusalem. There they found only enough oil to light the Temple menorah for a day, but the oil miraculously last eight days. During that time the Jews were able to prepare more oil.

Yet we light for only thirty minutes. We illuminate the long winter night for the briefest of intervals. It seems inadequate but we not only do it once, but over and over for more than a week. And this is enough to celebrate a holiday about miracles.

Sometimes in life we may only be able to “light up the dark” temporarily to help that friend or family member or ourselves just a little. Should we refrain from doing so just because we can’t fix it all? Certainly not! Over and over we must keep doing what we can, even if it might be just a little, to bring some good, to cause a miracle to take place.

During the thirty minutes the Hanukkah candles burn each night, and during all this winter season, let us do our part, whether large or small, to aid those lost in the night and light the way for them.

The author is the rabbi of North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station.