The Day of the Herring, no Kipper

What did you say? I’m hard of Herring?

Seriously, I just got back from Yom Kippur services, and I thought I would share my recollections of the sermons. The services themselves were the typical Temple Beth Hillel services, nothing different (unlike the first night of Rosh Hashanah).

  • Last night we had Rabbi Jim talking. He built upon his sermon of Rosh Hashanah where he talked about the first 60 years of the congregation. Last night, he spoke about the history of Reform Judaism. He noted how is started in the early days of Germany with folks that translated the prayers into the vernacular, and discarded what they felt were outmoded traditions (such as replacing Bar Mitzvah at 13 with a communal ceremony, called Confirmation, at 16). He noted how Reform got very popular in the US, where in its early days it was effectively Orthodox Reform: that is, unaccepting of those that wanted to retain tradition. I remember that well: my great-Aunt grew up in Shaare Emeth in St. Louis, and would scream at you if you wore a “beanie”. He talked about how Reform has drastically changed in the last 60 years: accepting many things that were once discarded (Bar Mitzvahs, Kippot, Tallit, and many other practices). He noted how Reform has grown to embrace and become an active supporter of Israel. He noted how the Rabbinate has become more caring–he attributed this to the grown and involvement of women in the rabbinate. He closed with his fears for the next 60 years: there are so many more notions for “God” out there (look at Kaballah, the mystical notions taking hold) that the simple God is being lost. He urged us not to let that happen.
  • This morning we had Rabbi Sarah. She had more of a “charge” sermon. The main sermon related to Israel, and what we must do to support Israel. She noted the financial support that can be provided through the URJ, through the Assocation of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), by buying Israel Bonds, through the local Jewish Federation, and by supporting organizations such as the Leo Baeck Education Institute. She also noted how important it is to visit Israel, and announced to that end she would be organizing a congregational trip. Later in the service, she turned her attention to Darfur. The congregation is in the process of funding a well through Jewish World Watch, and also plans to raise money to fund solar ovens.

Some other observations from services:

  • They had out a history display of the last 60 years of the congregation. Needless to say, I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I was less focused on the people, but on the history of the buildings (does that surprise you). While I was looking at it this morning, Cantor Emeritus Brown came by. I told him the display was missing one thing: the seminal role the congregation played in starting other congregations throughout the valley. I view this as important: Effectively UAHC seeded the valley with TBH (in fact, it was seeded by Rabbi Alfred Wolf, one of my heroes), and TBH later had a close relationship with Wilshire Blvd Temple. I also told Cantor Brown that through his work at the congregation he had a positive impact on many, many lives.
  • The daughter of our current cantor, Cantor Allan, was one of the Torah readers this morning. At one point, she started stumbling, and had to turn and shush her dad on the bima. It seems he was chanting along with her, and it kept throwing her off!