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“Seeing Light In The Darkness” – Pre-Hanukkah Shabbat Dinner, Festive Services, and Mini-Concert, This Friday Evening, at 5:00 p.m.  

11/27/2023 03:37:10 PM


Dear Haverim,


It’s been difficult to think about anything other than Israel over the past 7 weeks.  We’ve all been glued to our television sets and news online, and almost every service since October 7 has focused on an aspect of this conflict – the hostages, the brutal murders of Israelis by Hamas, the war in Gaza, and anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in America and around the world.


When, on a Zoom White House briefing for Jewish leaders last Wednesday, we heard the words of President Biden, describing himself, as “You don’t have to be Jewish to be a Zionist,” we were all gratefully comforted.


Then, two days later, we rejoiced again, when some of the hostages began to be released, with the goal of releasing 50 by today, along with the hope that Hamas would continue to release at least 10 more each day, fulfilling Israel’s offer to pause the war if hostages would continue to be released.  There are at least 90 more women and children held hostage in Gaza, so it would truly be a Hanukkah blessing to see that group released.  (It will, sadly, take much longer for the men and soldiers to be released.)


There is now some light in the darkness, which, of course, is one of the themes of Hanukkah, along with Jewish courage and determination “to be a free people in our land.”  Hanukkah’s relevance for this moment in history is inspiring, and should give us some measure of joy and hope, even with our continuing anxiety.


Judaism has always stressed the need to celebrate, even in difficult times.  You don’t postpone a wedding because of a death in your family and, even if you are sitting shiva, it becomes cancelled when certain holidays arrive.


We especially need Hanukkah this year, so I hope that all of us, of all ages, will share our Pre-Hanukkah event this Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. with a delicious Latke Shabbat dinner, and at 5:45 p.m., a festive Hanukkah service of songs, dreidels, chocolate gelt and lighting the Hanukkiah, followed by a Mini-Concert with our Cantor and teenage Young Cantors.  What a glorious, fun-filled evening of celebration it will be! (RSVP here).


Making the service even more joyous will be the Hebrew naming of our pianist’s children.  Everyone in our congregation loves Michael Bogomolny’s extraordinary musical talent, so join us at services to show Michael and his family our affection and gratitude for his musical contributions to us each week over the last decade! For someone who grew up in Russia, as Michael did, the ability to give his children Hebrew names, without fear, is a blessing and a gift.  Our sharing that moment with Michael will be a wonderful mitzvah on our part!


There’s also another important mitzvah that we can all do, and that our congregation needs us to do.  Tomorrow is “Giving Tuesday” – the day set aside on the American calendar to be especially generous to charity.  Your gift to University Synagogue will be matched “dollar for dollar” by two wonderfully generous families in our congregation.  In addition to the usual needs of our synagogue, our security expenses have almost TRIPLED since last year!  In just the last two weeks, we’ve spent $9,000 on guards!  No one could have predicted, even a year ago, the profound necessity of providing a feeling of both psychological and physical security for the children and adults of our congregation.  Please help us by donating generously to this crucial expense.   Please celebrate Hanukkah in advance with a meaningful gift to University Synagogue (Click here).

I look forward to celebrating Hanukkah with you this Friday evening, as we refresh our memories of Hanukkah songs and stories, preparing for our own personal and family celebrations.


Chag Hanukkah Sameach,


Rabbi Arnie Rachlis

Wed, February 28 2024 19 Adar I 5784