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The New Year comes as a gift — every new year offers an opportunity to take a deep look at all aspects of our lives, our community, the things we treasure and want to keep close, what needs improvement and polish, and what should be discarded.

We pray. We meditate–for the power of clear thought–so that our deeds and words are in accord.

In my last edition of Minute with Moshe, I spoke about the importance of the Federation being a Bayit Chazak–a strong and courageous “house” as we work towards fulfilling our 2025 Community Vision.

This vision will be my legacy project. What is a legacy project?

This year our Federation’s Community Relations Committee (CRC) is spearheading an outreach initiative to Monroe Elementary School. The school was identified as one of the South Bend public schools most in need of help. We are asking for volunteers from our community to join us in helping Monroe Elementary School as mentor/tutors.

Sukkot is a busy holiday. We have to procure a kosher (ritually fit based on several factors) Lulav and Etrog (citron) and build a sukkah in which we will eat, relax, and sometimes sleep for the entirety of the holiday (7 days, unless it rains or snows). It is the holiday on which we march around the Synagogue with our lulav & etrog, while reciting prayers for rain in the proper season. A lot is going on and every element is full of meaning!

On the weekend of November 11th, our community will be privileged to host a delegation from Western Galilee called, “Women Leading a Dialogue” (WLD). The program is sponsored by Partnership2Gether (P2G) for Western Galilee. Many of you will remember that we hosted a similar group from the program in 2018. Their visit had a major impact on our community. That is why we are excited to host this delegation with a new cohort of women.

The harvest season, what is it all about? Time to reap from the fields, collect our crops and prepare for a harsh winter ahead? Is it the end of the year, or the beginning? With Rosh Hashanah just behind us, we know the answer is a new year. So instead of thinking about what is ending, as the color fades from the leaves, it must be that we think of the new year to come and prepare for its arrival. Speaking of arrivals, Shirlee and I sit now at O’Hare awaiting departure. We will have already returned from the Partnership2Gether with Israel Summit in Budapest by the time you read this. We sat to plan with leaders across the globe for the future of our Jewish communities, and our relationships with each other. What a perfect time for the event to take place.

I just love when someone shares a family Heritage Recipe with me. There is something very special about making a recipe that has deep personal value and rich history attached to it, especially when you know the people involved. With permission, I am going to share one such recipe with you today, gifted to us by the Shemesh Family.

At the end of September, in the month of Tishrei, we dip a slice of apple in honey and awaken anew with the shofar’s blast. Such tradition signals new beginnings each year.

A new beginning for our Jewish community in Michiana is always exciting -- always full of promise.
But how will we ensure a bright future in a world so increasingly challenged by the things that tear us apart – the things that make us different?

Yes! FED TALKS – not the world renowned TED Talks. The purpose of FED TALKS is to welcome curious people and build community. Are you a curious soul? Do you like to engage with ideas and be part of the conversation?

Relationship. As we approach the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, of what should we be in Awe? Should it be days filled with wonder at G-d’s cycle of creation, destruction, and forgiveness? Should we stop in reverence at all that has been, all that is, and all that will become? Sure, that is a big part of these days, but maybe it could be a bit simpler than that. What if it was about astonishment and respect for our relationships. Our relationship with G-d, our relationship with others, or our relationship with the world. That is what I plan to focus on this holiday season through work, family, and personal life.

One of the highlights of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is the prayer “Unetaneh Tokef.” The refrain of this Piyut (liturgical poem) is “It is written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur.” After reciting the ways one can die and one can live (always end on a positive note!) the congregation recites in unison “But teshuva (repentance) tefillah (prayer) and tzedakah (charity) avert the evil decree!”

There’s a saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” That saying was first said in the mid-1800s. This quote really applies to the recipe that I am sharing with you this month. The first two times I attempted to make the recipe I did not succeed in following the directions. Funny thing is, though, we really liked the recipe despite my errors.

During Operation Breaking Dawn in August, we saw Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) - an Iranian proxy force based in Gaza- launch nearly 1,000 rockets at Israeli civilians. In May 2021, we saw Hamas and PIJ launch more than 4,300 rockets at Israel during Operation Guardian of the Walls. To add to the multiple security challenges facing Israel, there is a new and growing threat from Iran and its regional proxies: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s).

“L’shana tova”. These two Hebrew words are well-known by most Jewish people. This expression is usually translated as happy new year. However, this is not a faithful translation of these words. They literally mean “for or to a good year”. You may be asking yourself - so, what does it matter? A happy year, a good year – same thing. But are they really the same thing?

A colleague of mine, Rabbi David Goldfarb, in Israel met his new neighbor on the stairs of his apartment building, a fellow rabbi, and asked him during this month of internal accounting before the Days of Awe, how is your teshuvah going? The neighbor responded that he had heard a lesson by Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook that relates to the word teshuvah, which means not only return and repentance but also answer.  If teshuvah is the answer then what is the question?

On Friday, Israel launched Operation Breaking Dawn to defend Israeli civilians from imminent attacks from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iranian backed terror organization based in Gaza. More than 1,000 rockets were launched at Israeli civilians. As many as 20% of the rockets fell short, landed in Gaza, and some killed Palestinian civilians. A cease-fire is now in effect. In the meantime, below are links to reports and analysis from the Israeli media, Israel Defense Forces and Ministry of Foreign Affairs that provide analysis and context. 

Many of us planned summer trips a long time ago. If you’re like me, you planned a trip to Happiness. No, it’s not on a map. But Happiness is here on our campus all summer long. It’s called Camp Ideal.

Over the period of Covid, Partnership Together (P2G) provided us with many meaningful virtual programs that connected our local Jewish community in northern Indiana with our friends in Western Galilee in Israel. This June, we were so happy to be back live and in person to meet our friends in Western Galilee as part of the Temple Israel tour of Israel led by Rabbi Shoshana Feferman.

In Pirkei Avot-The Ethics of our Fathers, we find the dictum of “Shammai said, “Emor m’at v’aseh harbeh” which means “Say little and do much.” Today’s colloquialism, made famous by Nike, would be “Just do it!”

I’ve been going to Camp Ideal for what feels like my whole life. This is my second summer as a CIT (counselor in training), and my 10th summer overall. The first thing I think of when I think of summer is Camp Ideal and it’s always been like that, which is why it has made this year very bittersweet.

We sang them in, we sang them out. Camp Ideal came to an end last week, and the lack of singing voices and running campers is noticeable to say the least. With the largest camp turnout in recent memory, our Camp Ideal family continues to grow, allowing for bigger and grander programs and a growing Tsevet (camp staff). Speaking of grandeur, did anyone hear about our firework show to conclude our first Maccabia of the summer with a bang? What about our medieval themed Yom Gaga, with an entire day dedicated to a camp sport favorite? But none of this would be possible without the counselors we had these past 8 weeks, and they deserve much more praise than my words can offer.

As I write this article, it is a delightful 83 degrees, the sun is shining brightly, and there is the slightest whisper of a breeze gently caressing the leaves in the garden. I love summer! Some of my favorite summertime memories revolve around family trips to the lake. Every summer, my family, extended family, and even a few close family friends who rotated in on occasion, would spend two sun-drenched, glorious weeks together in South Haven, Michigan. Some owned places, most rented units very nearby—lakefront—the beach just a few short steps from our doors. It was an idyllic way to spend the summer holiday.

After 140 days of fighting, the fighting in Ukraine continues unabated. As the war approaches its fifth month, Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest, including both refugees who have fled as well as those remaining in Ukraine.

Recently, I’ve talked about planting seeds. The symbolism is important. Seeds sprout seedlings. Seedlings grow into trees. Trees become forests. And forests form habitat for other life.

Woodlands are strong because thousands of tree roots intertwine and overlap. When a mature tree falls, there are hundreds of others to take its place.

The formation of groups make trees stronger than any individual tree exposed in a field. It’s this grouping that nurtures other life in their community, and this is true for our Jewish community as well.

During our recent Flea Market, I was having a conversation with one of our vendors about Social Security. I asked her what she expected to receive. The response was “About 75% of my average paycheck.” When I told her that it was only 40% of the average amount over her working years, she was taken aback. But indeed, that is the case, as printed on the form from the Social Security office.

Last week, I was walking the trails of the woods behind the Federation, helping Dan get ready for camp, when I picked a white head of what was once a dandelion. In Israel, this white-headed flower has been given the nickname ‘Saba’ [Grandpa], and kids make a wish before they blow on its seeds. This moment of anticipation for the summer made me realize, it has been a year since I began my work here.

Shirlee, my co-worker, and co-lifer, shared her article with me about the past year we have spent working with the Federation and the growth we have seen since. One place of growth that I am proud to write about this month is our youth leadership programs. SaBaBaH has been around since I was a kid, and at 12 members strong, I already see the potential these young people have in our community or any Jewish community they find themselves in one day. Some of these teens are now staff members at Camp Ideal. Another just finished their Eagle Scout project by blazing a new trail in the forest and building benches for the community to enjoy our little slice of nature.

Living next to the University of Notre Dame, we often take for granted the many amazing academic resources it provides, not only for its students, but for the wider Michiana community. Yet, how many of us knew that amongst the faculty of this very Catholic academic institution are not one or two, but three professors offering courses in Jewish studies in the Department of Theology?

This month I am writing about something controversial. (How’s that for an opening sentence?) If you are wondering how a recipe column can be controversial, just bear with me and you will see. This month’s featured recipe is an amazing recipe for chummus.

At the lightning-like pace of a world in constant flux, the past two years have assured us of one thing – the future is hard to predict.

Even with deliberate and informed community input, knowing what’s on the horizon and being prepared for it, is tricky work. But, as farmers will tell you, there are things we can do.

Springtime greetings, OCN readers. Have your wands at the ready, for what I bring to share with you today is pure magic…kitchen magic! In truth, it’s basic chemistry…but why let all those dull dreary details get in our way?

My Chaplaincy internship took place in a local Nursing/Rehabilitation Home. While it wasn’t the first nursing home that I entered in my Rabbinical career, I learned a great deal about people during my internship, among them, that every person needs to feel independent. That drive to be independent in how we care and think for ourselves is vital to our lives. It’s what makes us individuals, it’s what makes us who we are.

When I had to set the menu for Yom Ha’Atzmaut this year, I had no doubt this cake would be on the menu. Not only is it delicious and easy to make - it sums up the Israeli essence - The ‘Chafif’ culture. The Chafif culture is everything from the “relax! it will be fine” to the lack of thinking things through, rounding of corners and leaving loose ends. We Israelis pay a heavy price for the Chafif culture, at both personal and at the national levels. That being said, the Chafif culture is also the key to unlock Israeli innovation, from the establishment of the state in record time, to the insanely flourishing Israeli startups. The improvisational ability and creativity of the Israeli people, seems like an evolution of a messy, innovative people! This cake is a perfect example of that: a little bit cream, a little bit chocolate and biscuits, Chafif-no-bake, and it is absolutely delicious!

The last week of this April provided examples of two alternative directions for the future of the Middle East. This year, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan happened to coincide with Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. According to their tradition, we saw the leadership of Iran hold their Quds Day event on the last Friday of Ramadan with their traditional calls for the destruction of Israel. By stark contrast, on the occasion of the “March of the Living” in Poland, delegations of Arabs from both Israel and across the Middle East marched in solidarity with over 2,500 Jews from around the world to commemorate the Holocaust at Auschwitz.

We’re racing and pacing and plotting the course, fighting and biting and riding on our horse…

So maybe this “Cake” song doesn’t exactly fit here, but it does describe how we are ‘Going the Distance’ to prepare for Camp Ideal this summer! Camp is on the brain for all of the JFed staff, and I couldn’t be more excited for summer to begin! A few updates about what’s going on at the Federation before I cover some great programs we have coming up.

After more than two months of fighting, the war continues in Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians, including tens of thousands of Jews, have fled the country, many to Israel. Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the neediest.

Over a millennium, the shaping of space into communities has engaged the Jewish people from the Sinai desert to the American Midwest, and in particular, right here in Michiana. Nurturing community is an important and ongoing endeavor in our daily lives.

Today, the Federation has entered into a three-year structured plan to build a greater community right here at home. It is a plan that holds unique, perhaps even historic promise for all of us.

After one-and-a-half months of fighting, the war continues in Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians, including tens of thousands of Jews, have fled the country and millions of others are internally displaced. Jewish Federations and our partners continue to work together to ensure that urgent relief reaches the most needy. Jewish Federations have raised more than $50 million for Ukrainian relief efforts since the fighting began.

Helping those who are in search of a personal relationship with Israel is an honor. Helping those who don’t understand Israel, or don’t take the time to on their own is a duty. The Jewish Federation will hopefully soon be the place that helps our community make those connections for themselves as well.

As I was looking through the materials in my office, I noticed a Self-Care Checklist buried under some papers. It is a colorful sheet which I unearthed and shared on our Friends of JFS group on Facebook (Please join our group). It made me wonder how many of us are really taking care of ourselves.

As I wipe my damp eyes and compose a letter, I’m reminded of something called hope. Hope loiters, almost invisible, patiently waiting for such times as these.

Last month, we announced an effort to raise money for the suffering people of Ukraine. The goal was $18,000 — a lot.

When I was little, my mother often referred to me as being a picky eater. There were a lot of things that I didn’t like. An example would be tomatoes. Tomatoes were on the bad list, which included any tomato product. Even ketchup was something I could only handle in extreme moderation. That’s a very strong dislike, considering that most kids consider ketchup to be tomatoes in their best form.

I am beyond excited for my 9th summer working at camp. As I adjust to my new position here at the Federation, I find myself becoming more appreciative of the community we have cultivated at Camp Ideal. A lot of our camp staff conversations involve the day-to-day, but my favorite ones are when we talk about how to build each relationship with every camper. We work together to ensure each camper relates to all our staff.

Last fall Laura Kovnat and Ruth Kremer led a diaper drive at Temple B’nai Shalom that collected more than 1000 diapers and numerous containers of baby wipes for St. Joseph / Benton Harbor. The total effort collected more than 5000 diapers for the Berrien County Health Department and a convenient Benton Harbor location, the Center for Better Health, an outreach center sponsored by the local hospital.

Jewish Federations are proud to announce that we have allocated some $40 million of the $43.4 million we have raised to 35 NGOs operating on the ground in Ukraine and neighboring countries to support refugees and Jewish communities in their time of need.

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