Montebello Jewish Center   34 Montebello Road, Montebello, N.Y. 10901   (845) 357-2430   www.Montebellojc.org facebook twitter

 

 

 

 

 

   Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

    Phone:  (845) 357-2430  Extension 402
    E-Mail: rabbi@montebellojc.org

 

  

 

 

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein joined Montebello Jewish Center with over twenty years of pulpit experience within the Conservative Movement serving congregations in New York and New Jersey. He received his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary and his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Columbia College of Columbia University in New York. Rabbi Finkelstein was a Visiting Lecturer at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he taught the first-year seminar required of all rabbinical students guiding them to recognize and communicate the meaning and vitality of Jewish rituals and texts.

A past president of the New Jersey Rabbinical Assembly, Rabbi Finkelstein also served as the Chair of the Intergroup Relations Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the UJA of Northern New Jersey. He was on the editorial board of the Community Faith and Values section of The Record. He is married to Elana Gershen Finkelstein. They have three children, Sarah, Eli, and Becky.  

Rabbi Finkelstein looks forward to speaking with you about Montebello Jewish Center and your Jewish journey. He can be reached at MJC or by email at RabbiJSF@gmail.com.

 

From the Rabbi's Study

    

Ceasefire?

 

While much of the country was focusing on Washington this week, I kept an eye on the events in Israel.  In a predawn raid, Tuesday morning, the Israel Defense Forces launched a targeted attack on the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.  The operation was a success and Abu al-Ata, who Israel said was the "prime instigator" of terrorism from Gaza this past year, was assassinated. In response to this attack, Islamic Jihad launched 450 rockets and mortar shells into Southern and Central Israel over a 48 hour period.  Israel responded with precision attacks on Islamic Jihad strongholds, weapons facilities, and rocket launching teams in the Gaza Strip.  The attacks on Israel seemed to escalate and no one was sure how and when it would end, but with the help of Egypt, a ceasefire was brokered.

As I write this piece, the ceasefire seems to be holding, in spite of some sporadic rocket launchings against Israel this morning. Even with this ceasefire, schools in southern Israel will remain shuttered an additional day, on Friday, as a precaution. 

The past years have seemed like a series of ceasefires punctuated by attacks from and incursions into Gaza.  I do not think that any of us in America can even imagine what life is like for Israeli communities near Gaza and Palestinian communities in Gaza. 

It seems like ages ago, people talked of a peace process and peace talks, but it was a generation ago that Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty on the White House lawn, followed a few years later by a handshake and agreement signed by Prime Minister Rabin and Yasser Arafat. Over the past two decades, Intifadas and terror attacks, followed by reprisals, seem to have dashed talks about peace.  But as the saying goes, "it is always darkest before the dawn..."

In spite of what is happening, some are seeing rays of hope through the darkness.  In the current situation, it has not gone unnoticed that Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza, did not join in or sanction the attacks on Israel. Also, Israel was careful not to attack Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip. Some are wondering if there is some cooperation between Hamas and Israel, or just mutual distrust for Islamic Jihad?  The real question is, is there anything that can be built on this current lack of hostility between Hamas and Israel?

Also, over the past years, Israel has increased its contacts with the Gulf States.  While Israel and its Arab neighbors have been at war for decades, there have been opportunities and moments of cooperation that raise hopes.   Earlier this week, an Israeli teen robotics team returned from the unofficial "Robotics Olympics" held in the United Arab Emirates.  Just two days ago, Israel announced it will be opening a pavilion and participating in the upcoming world's fair, Expo 2020 to be held in Dubai.

Is peace at hand? Clearly not, but the current situation, though not sustainable, can lead to a better solution and a peaceful coexistence in Israel and the Middle East. Hopefully, this ceasefire will hold, but the real hope is that something sustainable will be built on this ceasefire or the next.  In a country whose national anthem is Hatikvah, which literally means the hope, there must always be hope.

With prayers and wishes for a Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful Shabbat,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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Broken Glass

 

On the night of November 9 through November 10, 1938, synagogues throughout Germany, Austria, and Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia were burned down, Jewish businesses were vandalized, and Jewish homes were attacked in a daylong pogrom that became known as "Kristallnacht?, or the "Night of Broken Glass." This pogrom signaled a new phase in the anti-Semitic policies of the Nazis and became known to many as the beginning of the Holocaust.

The name Kristallnacht comes from the pieces of broken glass that were strewn over the streets of Germany, remnants of windows of Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues that were ransacked and destroyed by the mobs organized and encouraged by Josef Goebels and the Nazi party. German firefighters were instructed not to put out the fires of Jewish owned buildings and police forces were not to come to the protection of German Jews. Thirty thousand men were rounded up and brought to concentration camps in Germany, and Jewish life in Germany would never be the same. 

In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, the Nazi government held the Jewish community of Germany responsible for the riots and they were forced to pay a fine of one billion Reichsmark (about 400 million US dollars at 1938 rates) for the damages done during the attacks on them. Though there was world wide condemnation, the lack of response and action both inside and outside Germany, convinced the Nazis that they could proceed with their anti-Jewish program. In the following months, even more stringent anti-Jewish legislation was passed and policies were implemented, which would lead to the "Final Solution" and atrocities of the Holocaust. 

As a Jewish community, we mark Yom HaShoah as the day we remember the Holocaust, but in truth the Holocaust cannot be remembered on just one day. On the anniversary of Kristallnacht, we should pause, remember the atrocities that happened on this day, and rededicate our efforts to perpetuate Jewish life now and in the future.

We do that in a variety of ways.

This Shabbat at MJC, we will celebrate a bar mitzvah. More than an individual simcha, a bar/bat mitzvah is a statement of affirmation for the Jewish community. Each bar and bat mitzvah is a moment of continuity for our people. While the Nazis wanted to destroy us and end our people, we celebrate our survival and the perpetuation of our people.

On a personal note, I will be celebrating the wedding of my niece on Sunday, the granddaughter of two Holocaust survivors. The breaking of the glass under the huppah on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, will be a fitting tribute to the resiliency of our people to survive and thrive after the Holocaust.

On a communal level, I encourage those who can to join our community commemoration sponsored by the Holocaust Museum and Center for Tolerance and Education, on Sunday November 10th, 5 PM, at the New City Jewish Center. As in the past, our community will mark this day and remind the world of what happened as we are committed to never letting such horror occur in the future.

Wherever we find ourselves this weekend, let us each take a moment to remember Kristallnacht, reflect on the atrocities that occurred and rededicate our resolve to our future.

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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Turning the Clock Back 

 

I always look forward to this weekend, when we turn the clocks back, with mixed emotions. On one hand, I know I will get  back the hour of sleep I lost when the clocks were set forward in the spring, but the downside is that it is a signal that we are entering the darker, colder days of winter. As we get closer to the actual beginning of winter, the hours of daylight are receding, while the weather is getting colder and wetter. I feel that I would give back the hour of sleep, for some more hours of daylight and warmth.

I do not understand why we still change the clocks.  I am sure that some still have great reasons for what seems to me to be an anachronistic tradition, but for most of us, it is a source of confusion and uncertainty.   

The history of changing the clocks began in Germany during World War I as an effort to save fuel and energy during the war.  It spread to England and then to the United States with mixed receptions. Though many think that "Summer Time" was an accommodation for agricultural needs, farmers seemed to be as conflicted as everyone else by the change of the clocks.   

So why are clocks changed?   

First and foremost, the reason for the clock change was economic, especially during times of war. The origin of the concept, though, was to maximize daylight during waking hours of the summer. That may have a benefit during the summer, but why would we ever change back in the fall?  Why not just adjust the clocks permanently and enjoy as much daylight as possible all year round? 

We live in a time of endless light.  With the advent of electric lights, we are no longer as tied to sunlight as our ancestors, yet for all our scientific and technological advances, we haven't been able to replace sunlight. But we try with electricity, and our ancestors tried with spirit. 

There is a legend about our Temple in Jerusalem that describes the windows of the Temple. Our rabbis taught that most window frames in the ancient world had wider openings on the outside to maximize the sunlight coming into the home. The Temple window frames had larger openings on the inside, because the light that flowed from inside the Temple, illuminated the world.  

MJC is not the Temple in Jerusalem, but like the Temple of old, the light emanates from our windows and warmth from our community.  In these cold dark, dank days, our shul is not just a sanctuary from the winter, but a place to nourish our souls, bask in the light of our tradition, and feel the warmth of our community at our services, our classes, and our many programs. I urge you to come in from the cold, dark world and feel our warmth and enjoy our light. 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Joshua S. Finkelstein

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