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SHEARITH LEADS THE WAY AT LIMMUD

Sarah Silverman

 

Every year over Labor Day weekend, Jews of all backgrounds and ages, abilities and identities, from all over the southeast and beyond gather among the beautiful scenery in the north Georgia mountains for a weekend of learning and community. Throughout the holiday weekend, attendees participate in sessions that, this year, included learning about Jewish art, Sephardic cooking, preparing for the High Holidays, Jewish (and Jew-ish) music, social justice, medical innovation, and more. Beyond that, it is an opportunity to connect and be Jewish in a diverse and open environment.

 

The word Limmud (לימוד) comes from the Hebrew word “to learn.” Originally started in England in 1980, Limmud has expanded throughout the world. Limmud Atlanta-Southeast started as day-long events 15 years ago by our very own Jodi Mansbach and Eric Robbins, and then expanded to the 3-night LimmudFest that is now held at Ramah Darom in Clayton, GA. 

 

CSI had a great showing this year with more than 65 individuals from our community joining, fifteen of whom also presented in sessions. Some CSI members are invested in Limmud all year round. Howie Slomka served as this year’s co-chair and is the president of the Limmud Board, and Adina Rudisch is on staff. In addition, Young Adult Development Program (YAD) cohort members belong to Shearith Israel: Chidera Anugwom, Simone Graff, and Abby Graff. 

 

These statistics do not convey the spirit of Limmud, however. The mission, in short, is “to celebrate Jewish life and learning in all of its diversity.” Everyone is welcome and everyone is accommodated. The food is kosher and food for special diets is offered. Over Shabbat everyone is welcome to participate in services ranging from a mechitza minyan to an egalitarian minyan to Shabbat morning musical experience to communing with nature. Gender neutral bathrooms are conveniently located. American Sign Language translators are present to aid participants and presenters. There is something for everyone at Limmud. 

 

This year we were blessed with abundant rain over the weekend. For me, it was a deterrent to schlep back and forth to my cabin. So every morning I made one trip to the ḥadar oḥel (dining hall) with everything I would need for the day, and when I was not in a session or a meal, I sat down in a rocking chair on the front porch, southern style. The porch is the hangout for schmoozing, playing music, listening to a PJ Library bedtime story, making friendship bracelets or reading peacefully. If sitting still is not your preference, go for a hike to the waterfall, a swim or boat ride on the lake, climb the Alpine Tower or join a soccer game on the field.

 

At Limmud, participation is one of the core values. Volunteerism or “volunticipation” is how everything gets done whether it is leading a session or doing shmira at the cabins. Don’t offer suggestions to do something differently or add your flair to the programming unless you are willing to lead it yourself. That is the kind of community it is at Limmud.

 

Whether you come to learn, to see friends or make new ones, to deepen your Jewish identity or something else, you will surely find it at LimmudFest. If not, I invite you to create it yourself and join us next Labor Day weekend!

Equitable Dinners: City-Wide Collaboration on 116th Anniversary of the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre

Nina Rubin

On Sunday, September 18, 2022, CSI was one of 500 venues across Atlanta hosting Equitable Dinners — an Atlanta-based project that seeks to inspire anti-racism action and meaningful connections through art and courageous conversation. The event began as we all watched a short one-woman play rich with themes of racial bigotry, hardship, and personal struggle. We then shared a meal together and launched into intimate, shared discussions about race. At each table, Black, white, Jewish, and participants of other faiths shared personal experiences and perceptions about racism.

The session also included a re-examination of the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre, a historical event incited by a white mob targeting African-American owned businesses. Few of us had ever heard of it. We learned that 10,000 white men and boys terrorized Atlanta's African- American community, with 25 Black people confirmed killed during the violence. Using the powerful techniques of presence, kindness, inclusivity, and courage, we wrestled with this historical truth and came away feeling closer and more committed than ever to engaging in honest racial reckoning. We intend to continue this work together through Shearith Israel for Good and Equity@CSI.

The city-wide event was produced through a collaboration between Out of Hand Theater, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Fulton County Remembrance Coalition, The King Center, Partnership for Southern Equity and others.   

sustainability at csi

Did you know that the ner tamid, the eternal light that hangs over Shearith Israel’s ark, is solar powered?  Like most eternal lights, it was electric until 2012 when it was converted to a solar system in honor of Orly Mansbach's Bat Mitzvah by her parents Jodi and Ross Mansbach.
 
What a beautiful symbol to have our eternal light power by an eternal source – the sun! At Shearith Israel, we are proud to be shomrei haaretz, stewards of the land, and our solar ner tamid with its renewable energy source is an expression of this very important concept.

Back to shul

This past Sunday we revived our annual Back to Shul event. In true Shearith fashion, the event had a warm, lively, and fun feel, and attendees had an enjoyable time learning about the shul and/or hearing our story retold, connecting, and discovering the breadth of opportunities available to engage in meaningful Jewish life here at CSI.

Our launch of this new "academic" year set a positive tone for all for a year of energized, inspired involvement and a sense of pride in our community.

Shabbat in the park

Summer and fall are a time at Shearith to enjoy Shabbat in the Park. These "off-campus" potluck dinners are fun for the whole family! We begin few songs on guitar and prayers over wine/juice and challah, followed by a fun vegetarian-friendly meal.

These casual Friday evenings are a terrific way to socialize with Shearith Israel members of all ages, so bring the kids AND the grown-ups and tell any prospective members that they are welcome to join us, too — the more, the merrier! To learn more about upcoming dates, click HERE.

CSI ASSists Ukrainian Refugees

By simply helping us get the family much needed furniture and other items; donating money to the effort or making the trip out to Lawrenceville, our community showed up for this tentative family in a strange new home, in a strange new land, you performed a mitzvah: You welcomed the stranger, and you brought more light into our world. Think of what that means to this beautiful family.

We, collectively, with our hands and our hearts, did so much this week. We welcomed this family – with our presence, our smiles, our willingness to help, with kindness and with hard work. Everyone jumped right in! We moved hundreds of pounds of furniture; unpacked dozens of boxes, put together mind-testing accessories, washed dozens of dishes, played games to make the kids feel at home, and on and on.

Thank you faith Levy

CSI recently hosted a very special Shabbat Dinner in honor of Faith Levy. Faith served as Co-President of Congregation Shearith Israel (2019-2020), and President (2020-2021). The evening was marked with many special moments, particularly some wonderful words from our own Heidi Einhorn, President of CSI. If you would like to read Heidi's kind words in their entirety, click here.

The Power of Altruism

Our member Rebecca Norton Sideris has donated a kidney to her trivia team member she has known for about 8 years. Rebecca has watched him persevere through 5 years of dialysis while he waited for a kidney. Last fall, she could watch it no more and offered to get tested as a donor. As fate would have it, she is a perfect match and the surgery was completed May 11th at Emory University Hospital.

A Meal Train has been set up to help her during her recovery. Please join us in showering her with love and support!

YOM MACCABIAH - Maccabiah day

 

Our school year ended with a Yom Maccabiah - Maccabiah Day.  The school was divided into 5 teams -  each a different color and city in Israel. The day was led by the madrichim, and the 7th graders were the team captains. There were relay races, a quiz game based on curricular facts learned from the year, quiet games like puzzles and Jenga. Thank you to our faculty, madrichim and staff for a wonderful year!

YOM HASHOAH 5782

For Yom HaShoah 5782, our Rabbi Kaiman recited the names of our precious loved ones murdered in the Holocaust in a ceremony at City Hall. Click here to view the video.

Machaneh Shai Celebrates Earth Day

This past Sunday, the students commemorated Earth Day at Machaneh Shai with activities led by our teenager madrichimJoanna Kobylivker kicked off the morning, talking about the Jewish value of "Shomrei Ha'Adama" - Guarding our Earth, and watching over it - which is one of the first commandments given in the Torah.  

The students learned through a series of interactive rotations about water conservation, composting, and recycling. Each station was led by a pair of Madrichim.  Some of the things the students reflected on after each station:
"I learned how long it takes for materials to decompose."
"Less than 1% of the worlds water is drinkable so we need to conserve it."
"I learned how important composting is for our environment."

Shearith Israel For Good: Welcome Kits for Refugee Families

Did you know that in 2022, the greater Atlanta area is planning to welcome and resettle nearly 3,000 adults and children seeking refuge from around the world? Concluding a festive series of Purim events, Shearith Israel For Good volunteers collected and assembled more than 100 welcome kits for newly arrived refugees. The kits will be distributed by The Welcome Co-op, a collaborative effort run by local resettlement agencies that includes Shearith Israel partner New American Pathways. 

On a sunny Sunday morning, more than 35 CSI members helped prepare the assembly line of materials, packed bags for men, women and children and fulfilled the Purim mitzvah of Matanot LaEvyonim, giving to the needy. It's one of the many ways that our community is honoring our legacy of welcoming the stranger and supporting local resettlement agencies.

Purim TOGETHER, CSI-style!

Purim 2022/5782 was jam packed with a number of exciting gatherings and experiences, both in-person and virtual. More than any other Jewish holiday, Purim is about joy. Purim is about letting go of the masks of propriety and revealing our silliness. Events included a raucous Purim experience for children and families which featured  music, a costume contest, and games. More than 150 costumed community members gathered for a creative and memorable Megillah readings which included our congregation's signature Megillah Mugshots pictorial slideshow of Shearith Israelites "performing" the Book of Esther in photographs. Every single member of Shearith Israel continued last year's efforts to Share A Smile with Mishloach Manot bags filled with goodies and signature cocktail recipes and then, to complete the mitzvah of Matanot LaEvyonim, giving to the needy, Shearith Israel members packed more than 100 welcome kits for newly arrived refugees (see story above). Festivities concluded with a time-honored tradition, our legendary CSI Purim Shpiel, which was a family-friendly Roast of Haman (Comedy Central-style) featuring characters from the Megillah and Torah.

Getting the Band Back Together: Third Annual CSI Retreat

More than 140 Shearith Israel members traveled to Camp Ramah Darom in North Georgia for a member retreat March 4-6. Families of all ages, members new and long-standing, and even a handful of prospective members gathered together to connect (and reconnect!) after too many months of pandemic-created distance. 

The beautiful Spring weather provided a perfect opportunity to play, hike, pray, learn, play and schmooze together. Activities included two foraging hikes, yoga sessions, multiple prayer services at the gorgeous lakeside pavilion, delicious meals together, raucous game of BINGO cleverly incorporating a multi-generational staring contest, too many pick up soccer and basketball games to count, a family scavenger hunt, tug-of-war, learning sessions, crowd-sourced conversations, a moon-lit Havdalah, singing & s'mores by the campfire and trivia night. The weekend ended with a kids' fun run and two grown-up 'races' (a 1 mile and 5K course) as our congregation participated in the 2022 Hunger Walk - an event that raises money for the Atlanta Community Food Bank.  

Special thanks to the Shearith Israel professional staff and the incredible volunteer committee (Emily Kaiman, Jaci Effron, Esther Graff-Radford, Robbie Medwed, Navit Robkin Salzberg). Be on the lookout for more stories from the weekend - including the one about a guest appearance by a local ram!  

 

Sharing the Bounty of Friendship

For the past two years, a CSI Chavurah has been an anchor of support for its five couples. During the lockdown, they held weekly Zoom calls and celebrated birthdays virtually—sometimes dropping off cupcakes or other goodies to enhance the Zoom party. Eventually they met together outside on a back deck or patio. But they still sought to share their sense of community by bringing meals to the women at Rebecca’s Tent, the shelter at CSI.

Pre-pandemic, the Chavurah would gather to cook for the shelter. But to follow pandemic precautions and provide meals in individual containers, the Chavurah has purchased meals from restaurants. Sherry Waronker Marsh recently reached out to order from DBA Barbecue, which is near the shul on Highland Avenue. When she explained she needed individual meals for shelter residents, owner Matt Coggin generously offered to donate them.

DBA manager, Jim Piazza, was instrumental in coordinating the meals. The Chavurah--Sherry Waronker Marsh, Gary Marsh, Michele Cohen Marill, Reed Marill, Michelle Iroff Langer, Stuart Langer, Donna Miller, Michael Miller, Charna Perloe and Howard Kaufman—also purchased a tray of brownies, breakfast bars and fruit.

Please thank Matt and Jim for their support of the shelter if you see them at the restaurant!

 
 

It’s a Wrap! Details from the 2022 World Wide Wrap

After a pandemic-related hiatus, Congregation Shearith Israel participated in the annual World Wide Wrap. The spirited Sunday morning minyan included many of the regular attendees and an enthusiastic group of Machaneh Shai sixth graders! Organized internationally by the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs’ and the Women’s League of Conservative Judaism, the WWW joins shuls across the country and elsewhere in the world in celebrating the mitzvah of tefillin.

This year’s Wrap shacharit service was led by teenagers Asher Frank, Amalia Kaiman and Ellie Kaiman. We met in Zimmerman Hall to allow for social distancing.  Experienced tefillin wrappers helped those new to the mitzvah lean how to don tefillin, and Rabbi Kaiman spoke about the meaning of tefillin – how they draw our attention to the work of our hands, the thoughts of our minds, and the intentions in our hearts each day as we speak to our G-d. After the service, there was a delicious make-your-own burrito breakfast enjoyed in the sunlight in the shul courtyard.

There’s so much momentum around the ritual of tefillin in our community. Learn more of the history behind tefillin in a recent Religious Life Committee blog or get involved in the new B’nei Mitzvah Tefillin Challenge. Shearith Israel will give a pair of tefillin (paid for from the Kornblum Minyan Fund) to new CSI b’nei mitzvah who attend a class in the mitzvah of tefillin taught by Rabbi Kaiman, and who pledge to attend and lay tefillin at at least ten weekday and/or Sunday morning minyanim at Shearith in the year following. The deadline to sign up is this Thursday, 17 February.

Learn more about this annual global event with the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs’ video

 

A VERY SPECIAL SISTERHOOD SHABBAT

The first Shabbat in February 2022 was an incredibly special one for Congregation Shearith Israel with more than seventy women and girls participating in Sisterhood Shabbat. Women led every part of the service, many reading from the Torah or leading davening for the first time (or first time in decades)! It truly takes a village and Sisterhood members rallied a Kiddush crew to share recipes, shop, bake and set up a delicious lunch. Click here for the program and check out how many members were involved! 

The Torah portion, Parashat Terumah, recounts how the Israelites brought gifts to decorate the Tabernacle. In keeping with that theme, many Shearith Israel women, teens, and girls brought beautiful items and mementos to decorate our own sacred space, which were then displayed in the sanctuary.  

Sisterhood Secretary Renée Stein’s remarks encapsulated the importance of every single role involved in this year’s Sisterhood Shabbat. “Every complex structure is built from individual parts, whether that structure is an architectural building or a work of art, operating code for software or a legal argument, a business plan or - a congregation. Every part has a function, a purpose…The Israelites gifted fine materials and expert craftsmanship to construct a place for God to dwell among them. We humans make space for divine presence through our ingenuity, our combined creativity.”

Adina Rudisch, Sisterhood Co-president, remarked, “Parashat Terumah speaks of the importance of pairing the spiritual beauty of the Torah with the physical beauty of the tabernacle. So too, our wonderful co-chairs of Sisterhood Shabbat, Erin Chernow and Jaime Sherman Wender, paired the beauty of davening the words of the Torah with meaningful art and a delicious kiddush. The most beautiful thing of all, however, was seeing the sanctuary filled with people and hearing the music of our voices in prayer. Everyone who attended, whether in-person or virtually, felt the love and warmth of our community."

During Sisterhood Shabbat, one woman is recognized for her outstanding contributions to Sisterhood and the shul. This year, Jaime Sherman Wender was bestowed the honor of Woman of Valor. 

“Jaime is a ball of energy that brightens up a room with her warm and welcoming smile,” remarked Co-president Amy Trotz. “She’s not afraid to mix things and broaden opportunities for people to come on board. In fact, her vision and determination to engage more women to participate in today’s service filled the sanctuary with new voices.”

To learn more about Congregation Shearith Israel’s vibrant Sisterhood, click here.

Two Historic Gifts with Transformational Potential for Shearith Israel

Congregation Shearith Israel is pleased to announce two new financial gifts which afford the opportunity to envision a new master plan for our synagogue's campus - one that will meet the needs of our growing community. 

This funding will support expanding our long term capacity for our staff and building to match the success of our thriving congregation.

Shearith Israel recently received $120,000, among the most significant one-time gifts in the history of our congregation, from the estate of lifetime member Abe Besser and his wife Marlene. Mr. Besser was a Holocaust survivor born Poland, who spent years in a Nazi labor camp. He came to America at age 24 and led a remarkable entrepreneurial life rooted in gratitude and generosity. Holocaust remembrance was his sacred calling and his estate made legacy gifts to many local Atlanta Jewish organizations including the outdoor memorial at the MJCCA to the six million who perished in the Shoah. Learn more about Abe Besser’s remarkable life here

The Besser estate's generosity continued by contributing an additional $50,000 toward the $100,000 we are raising for the Legacy Heritage Matching Grant, thanks to Shearith Israel Board member Blair Rothstein's participation in the Legacy Heritage Foundation's OnBoard program, which supports organization’s board development and capacity building.

The vision of the leaders of our congregation is well on its way to realization. We are a center for Jewish living in Atlanta. We are widely recognized as a vibrant community. And, we have a plan for our long term continued success. 

There is a story in the Talmud about Choni the circle maker who asked a man planting a carob tree how long it would take for the tree to bear fruit. The man replied, “70 years.” When Choni challenged the man if he would benefit from its fruit, the man replied, “I found a world full of carob trees, just as my ancestors planted for me, I am planting for our descendants.” The Besser family gave us some of the fruit of their labor for us to enjoy, and established a legacy for us to emulate. We are all able to follow in Abe Besser’s footsteps through our Life & Legacy Project, and plant seeds for our legacy to thrive through Shearith Israel.   

As we begin a review of our physical plant and future needs, these two generous gifts provide the Shearith Israel community with a transformational opportunity. 

HASHIVEINU: A CELEBRATION OF RETURN

Congregation Shearith Israel Gathers to Return Torah Scrolls and Transition During Pandemic

 

More than 125 Shearith Israel congregants gathered at the western edge of the synagogue’s property on Sunday, August 8, 2021 for a unique ritual - Hashiveinu: A Celebration of Return. The event marked an important milestone during the ongoing pandemic - the return of the congregation’s Torah Scrolls - and provided an opportunity to note all that has been lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. The three Torah Scrolls have been lovingly protected and actively used via Zoom services since the pandemic began by dedicated congregants Mike Froman, Al Hazan, Michael Rich, and Andrea and Howie Slomka.

As the crowd gathered, our voices joined together to sing “Hinei Mah Tov U’Manayim” noting how good it was for us to be together again. The words of the song “Hashiveinu” moved us down University Drive to the synagogue’s parking lot. Rabbi Kaiman led the community in rituals to grieve, reflect on silver linings and together recite Birkat HaGomel, the prayer for surviving a long journey or life threatening experience. Though the pandemic still rages in so many places, our local community is working to move forward. The congregation stood in the courtyard singing “Gesher Tzar Me’od” the most important principle is not to be afraid. Shofar was sounded by Amy Trotz. Voices joined together to sing “Etz Chayim Hi” and the doors to the sanctuary opened. The Torah Scrolls were returned to the Aron HaKodesh in the sanctuary and some took a moment of personal prayer inside the synagogue. 

Other highlights of the event included a children’s activity designed by Judy Robkin and led by Shearith Israel’s USY teens, a reflection by author and congregant Melissa Fay Greene, tables with information for members, a magician for the kids - and King of Pops for everyone.

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784