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Why Do People Volunteer at the Synagogue?



by Neil Platt Earlier this year, my synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom of the Woodlands, endeavored to build a new Havdalah area with a wooded trail and outdoor teaching area. Happily, we completed the work in time to consecrate the area during this year’s Yom Kippur Havdalah service. Nearly 200 people withstood the Texas summer heat […]

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Temple Sinai of Glendale Goes Solar



by Maggie Freed Climate change is the greatest challenge our earth faces—and the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to turn it around. Scientists agree that we are causing extreme weather by our greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from burning coal. If we don’t get serious about it, island nations will disappear, coastal […]

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A Gem Grows in Brooklyn



by Rabbi Andy Bachman Earlier today, I stood on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art together with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and many of Congregation Beth Elohim’s (CBE) neighbors and friends—the Brooklyn Public Library, The High Line, the Guggenheim Museum, the Tenement Museum, and many, many others. I was absolutely thrilled […]

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Moving on from a Cherished Building



by Rabbi Rebecca W. Sirbu Many people are very attached to their synagogue’s physical building. Their father or grandmother’s name may be on a plaque on the wall. They remember going to school there as a child, or have celebrated a marriage or bar mitzvah within its walls. A familiar physical space can bring comfort […]

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Greening the Modern Jewish Lifestyle



by Isaac Nuell One generation goes and another generation comes; but the Earth remains forever. —Kohelet 1:4 As Jews, we understand our responsibility to care for the earth, tending to it so that future generations may benefit just as we have. Inevitably, the very acts of being Jewish and maintaining Jewish community have an impact […]

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The People and the Dwelling: Creating a Sacred Space for God (D’var Torah Sh’mot)



by Rabbi Marc Berkson There we were, in the wilderness, standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the presence of the Eternal. Yet God knew–far better than we–that we could not stand forever at the foot of that mountain; that our journey had to continue; that we could not always encounter God as we […]

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Green Guidelines for Gifts to the Congregation



by Michael J. Crosbie, Ph.D., AIA In the fall 2011 issue of Faith & Form I wrote an editorial about gifts to congregations and the challenges to sustainability that they might pose. Since then, I was asked by the church in question to develop some guidelines for the congregation’s leadership in determining whether a gift […]

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The Gift that Keeps on Taking



by Michael J. Crosbie, Ph.D., AIA I’m on the Buildings and Grounds Committee of my church. Recently, an email from our committee chair let us know that a parishioner had come forward to donate an irrigation system for our memorial garden. The chair wanted the committee’s feedback on the gift. “Sounds good to me” was […]

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The New Synagogue Math: When We Hope That 1 Plus 1 is More Than 1 But Less Than 2



by Rabbi David Fine Changing demographics, declining religious school enrollment, troubled finances-a sure formula for frustration (to say the least). It could also be the prompt for thinking anew about the way we do business. This may not only be happening in our congregation, but also in our neighboring Jewish congregation. There will be those […]

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Synagogue Architecture Question of the Month



This is your opportunity to ask and answer any question about architecture and sacred space. Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Please let me know at JErger@urj.org. Let’s hear your answer to our new feature, the Question of the Month. Watch the video below and let me know your thoughts in the […]

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A Sustainable Chanukah



by Rabbi Rick Schechter “A great miracle happened there,” we say, as we spin the Chanukah dreidel each year while eating latkes fried in oil. But what was “the miracle” of Chanukah? Our tradition recounts more than one. The first miracle is that a small band of Jews defeated the more powerful Syrian army in […]

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Sukkot and Architecture: How to Build Your Building and Your Community at the Same Time



by Michael Hauptman, AIA For American Jews, the festival of Sukkot is a celebration of the fall harvest, of family traditions centered on constructing a backyard sukkah, decorating it with autumn vegetables and having family meals inside. Besides the Thanksgiving aspect of the holiday, Sukkot reminds us of our forty years spent wandering the desert […]

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You Don’t Need to Pass the Hat: You Just Need to Plan!



Twenty-eight years ago, Temple Aleph Bet (TBA), a 120 member congregation in a small city in the Northeast, decided it was through with renting space and was very desirous of a permanent home. TBA purchased its first building, and after a few years, funds were raised to pay off the initial mortgage as well as […]

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Synagogue Architecture Question of the Month



This is your opportunity to ask and answer any question about architecture and sacred space. Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Please let me know at JErger@urj.org. Let’s hear your answer to our new feature, the Question of the Month. Watch the video below and let me know your thoughts in the […]

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