Remembering the Message

** An edited version of this article is available in our newly printed D’var**

The upcoming beautiful new D’var is a paradigm shift. It reflects rethinking how we present what is happening at Temple Sholom. In this spirit, the following remarks, adapted from my installation address in September, present my take on the future of synagogues in general and Temple Sholom in particular.

When the phone rings during the dinner hour, it is usually a good idea to just ignore it.

Chances are pretty good these days that the caller on the other end is someone trying to sell you life insurance on your credit card, solicit a donation for some charity fund, or poll your opinion on some topic you really don’t care to discuss with a stranger.

These telephone solicitors have so perfected their techniques into an art form over the last few years, however, that once you answer the phone it is virtually impossible to escape their clutches.

Go Meatless for Sukkot!

It is good to be back and blogging! Blogging in August as we barreled into the High Holidays became too much to keep up with. I hope that you all had a wonderful and sweet New Year and an easy Yom Kippur fast. I am using this New Year as the chance to reboot my diet. This past month I definitely got away from healthy eating and too often relied on snacking and take out to pull me through this busy time. It is a priority for me to go back to eating meatless several times a week (for the whole of Sukkot actually, more on that later), cooking every night, and making smart decisions at the grocery store. More fresh fruit and veggies and less processed packaged food in my cart from now on!

Yom Kippur Service Sermon from Rabbi Conover

Shabbat Shalom.

Has anyone here ever heard of SCOTT GINSBERG? On a whim one night in college nearly 14 years ago, he decided to wear a name tag that said: “Hello, My name is Scott” 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He never takes it off. He carries spares in in his pockets. Just about five times a day someone asks him: “What’s with the name tag?”

And here’s his response: “It represents friendliness in the midst of strangers.”

So today, we sit in this beauty of this awesome sanctuary. We pray this day together, but I am sad to say that sometimes, even amidst so many others here, we still feel like strangers. That is not a way to start a new year. We are not wearing name tags, so in just a moment, I will ask you to introduce yourself to those sitting around you. And if you already know your neighbors, ask them this question: “What do you hope this sermon is about?” Put another way: What message do you need to hear at this season this year?

And… go!

Yizkor Service Sermon from Cantor Katzman

You may be familiar with the Biblical character Nachshon. We know little about him from the Torah other than his lineage and station. It was a Midrash that catapulted this obscure character to enduring popularity. The rabbis of old credit him with leading the Children of Israel into the parting waters of the Sea of Reeds during the exodus from Egypt. They imagine that the Israelites were paralyzed with fear, and that Moses, halted by the watery depths confronting them, seemed unable to move them toward safety. Nachshon alone plunged into the water, says the Talmud, and THAT’S when the sea began to part. In a moment of abject terror, Nachshon was able to move forward and bring everyone else with him. There is an old Jewish expression: “Be Nachshon.” Be the first one to step up and get others moving in the right direction. To be able to martial that kind of inspiration and courage requires an array of qualities. One essential characteristic is the ability to see clearly what is at hand.

Remarks from the Temple President Craig Niederberger for Yom Kippur

In 2007, the Kindle was new. In 1994, GPS was new. In 1985, WiFi was new. In 1973, the cell phone was new. In 1969, the Internet was new. In 1952, the Polio vaccine was new. In 1948, Israel was new. In 1946, the electronic computer was new. In 1928, penicillin was new. And in 1928, our Temple, the place where we’re sitting now, was new. In 1909, Television was new. In 1903, the airplane was new. In 1888, motion pictures were new. In 1885, the automobile was new. In 1879, the light bulb was new. In 1876, the telephone was new. In 1867, our congregation was new.

Kol Nidre Sermon from Rabbi Goldberg

Gamar Tov.

In these past few weeks I have greatly enjoyed learning stories about the congregation in general and about so many of you in particular. I am grateful to have shared my story with you on Rosh Hashanah.

Speaking of stories, here is one that I love:

A religious man who had reached the age of 105 suddenly stopped going to synagogue. Alarmed by the old fellow’s absence after so many years of faithful attendance, the rabbi went to see him.

He found him in excellent health, so the rabbi asked, “How come after all these years we don’t see you at services anymore?”

“I will tell you, Rabbi,” the old man whispered. “When I got to be 90, I expected God to take me any day. But then I got to be 95, then 100, and then 105. So I figured that God is very busy and must’ve forgotten about me…and I don’t want to remind him!”

The logic of this man may not make sense but his desire is understandable. He wanted to hide from the inevitable. And we must admit there are times when we would all like to hide.

Go Eat The Big Apple With The Hungry Hound (Temple Member Steve Dolinsky)

Part of my job takes me on the road occasionally, and it usually means eating in some great restaurants. Over the past few years, viewers and friends have asked if I would ever lead a culinary tour somewhere. I did a few international tours over a decade ago – to Thailand and India – but I thought it would be easier, and less expensive, to try to do a domestic trip somewhere the food and drink are exemplary. Choosing to tackle New York City isn’t easy. There are so many neighborhoods and styles of food there. I’m in the city about once a month, and I’ve begun to curate my favorite spots. The ones I tell visitors about and enthusiastically recommend. But there are other places that I’ve always wanted to try, and there’s nothing more fun than discovering something new and delicious with others who share the same passion. So I’m hoping you’ll consider coming along for the tasty ride November 14 – 17, as my friends at AAA Group Travel have worked with me to design an ambitious itinerary. Everything except your flight is included, and I’d argue you won’t find a better deal anywhere else.

For more information, please contact Deborah Childs at AAA Group Travel: 630-328-7248, or (Incidentally, Deborah helped organize my tour to Thailand with Arun, from Arun’s restaurant, many years ago, and she’s a pro).

You can find more information about the itinerary here (

Steve Dolinsky is the Food Reporter, (a.k.a. “The Hungry Hound”) at ABC 7 News. He and his family have been Temple Sholom members for more than 5 years.

Peet’s Coffee, You’re Better Than That!

This morning, after two months in Chicago, I made it to my favorite coffee place for the first time, Peet’s Coffee. Boy, do I love that coffee! Nevertheless, my joy was tempered by the young woman I met who was sitting outside the shop. She was quietly asking for support to have her job reinstated. She has worked at that store for five years. She was fired last week because three times in the past year she was late to work. Her problem is that she is not paid enough to live near the Peet’s Coffee store. Therefore she has to commute from far away. She also has to be at the store at 4:45 am. Her manager wanted to keep her on but her supervisor overruled the decision. The reason for this unusual step is that last year the employee took part in an effort to raise remuneration above minimum wage and also to allow for sick days. Not having sick folks make my coffee seems pretty sound to me.

Nobless Oblige Is Always Noble but Not Always Obliged Sermon for Rosh Hashanah Morning 2013

Shanah Tovah! What an honor it is to be here as your new rabbi. I am so grateful for this opportunity and look forward to greeting the New Year with you. Offering a sermon this morning from this bima is very daunting. For one thing, I still need to introduce myself to you. In addition, I am frankly intimidated by the history of preaching here. But I am also inspired! We all have our strengths to bring, after all. Many years ago I attended the groundbreaking for the Skirball Jewish Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The featured speaker was the head of the J. Paul Getty Museum, soon to be the neighbor of the Skirball. The director admitted that the Getty felt a twinge of insecurity to be located near an institution of 4,000 years of history. Then again, declared the director, “We have Getty’s money, so we’re not too concerned.” I don’t have Getty’s money or four thousand years of heritage in my personal portfolio. But I do have a passion to share with you. It’s a passion about my own story and what it means for me and I hope for you. The Torah portion this morning was a story about our ancient family. Today I would also like to share with you my family story. It’s an important one I think. I will make a complicated tale brief: My mother was born in 1926 in a small town near Berlin, Germany. She had four older brothers and one older sister. In the 1930s her eldest brother, Leonard Ohringer, graduated medical school but as a Jew could find no residency in Germany. He was able to find one in the States. The three younger brothers also left Germany. My mother, Reggie, and her sister and parents stayed behind. In October 1938 my mom was called to the principal’s office and told she was being taken to jail. She met her parents and sister there. Soon after they found themselves dumped unceremoniously over the Polish border, literally in No Man’s Land.