Dear Friends:

I hope this finds you and your family well…hopefully resting and re-connecting during this Winter Break.

I was out of the office last week.  But during my time away, I found myself reflecting on the complex confluence of events that confronted me, and us, on Friday December 14.

Even after more than ten days, we are still searching for answers as to how it is possible that so many young innocents could be killed in Newtown, CT.  The families of all of those who have been affected remain in our thoughts and prayers.  Speaking more personally, I would share that, like a number of you, Amy and I have a precious first grader.  And we have resorted to showering her with extra hugs and kisses in our home, with the hope that that will somehow be enough to protect her as we send her off to school each day.  

In light of the recent tragedy, it is only natural for all of us to be concerned about the state of security at the synagogue.  And so I want to take this opportunity to assure you that our staff and lay leadership,  led by Executive Director Gary Katz, have been working hard since December 14 to review all of the security measures in the building.  Our security staff regularly coordinates with the Scarsdale Police Department, and of course those efforts have been re-doubled.  And Mazel Tots Director Jody Glassman, in consultation with Gary, has taken pro-active steps to insure that our youngest students are as safe as possible during the hours that they are with us.  If you have specific security-related questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to bring them to the attention of Gary or Temple President Ellen Baken.   

For those that are interested, I thought I might share just a few resources that might be of interest, in connection with the terrible events in Newtown:

·        Prayers and poetry of comfort, provided by Westchester Jewish Community Services (WJCS), can be found here.

·        A wide range of resources from the Union for Reform Judaism can be found here.  Highlights include suggestions for how to speak to your children about death, and opportunities to make charitable donations to those affected by the Newtown tragedy.

·        Sign the petition to end gun violence, sponsored by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) by clicking here.

·        Extensive news updates, prayer/meditation texts, and comprehensive legislative resources surrounding the question of a liberal Jewish position on gun control, provided by the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center (RAC) can be found here.

Additionally, in the context of our Shabbat Evening Service this Friday December 28 at 6:15 PM (pre-oneg at 5:45 PM), I will lead us in a brief discussion about Judaism and our community’s ongoing response to mental illness.  Please join us if you are in town.

Yet, December 14 was not shrouded entirely in sadness.  That evening, many of us had the chance to celebrate together the occasion of my Rabbinic Installation.  (You can find my words of welcome from that evening here.  And my formal remarks following the Installation can be found here.)  Even as we marked the tragedy that occurred earlier in the day, we also found the strength to celebrate our community’s history, vitality, and unity as we formally marked the beginning of a new chapter in SSTTE’s future.  For everyone that was a part of that evening, Amy and I wanted to thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  It was a night that we shall never forget.  We feel so very blessed to count ourselves as members of this extraordinary synagogue community.  You reminded us that even during the darkest moments of our country’s life, our synagogue can be a source of light and life, and of comfort and courage, as we seek a sense of healing from the traumas of our lives.