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About Dov Gartenberg

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg is the Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces.

One of my finest teachers over my rabbinic career is the philosopher, Moshe Halbertal, with whom I studied at the Shalom Hartman Institute. His books on Jewish thought and on Maimonides are among the most respected in contemporary scholarship. He is a keen observer of contemporary events in both Israel and the United States. 

I was happy to see Professor Halbertal quoted in a column by Thomas Friedman today, 2/24/21, in the New York Times. I wanted to share his observation because I believe it applies locally as well as globally. 

‘“For a healthy politics to flourish it needs reference points outside itself — reference points of truth and a conception of the common good,” [underlining is mine] explained the Hebrew University religious philosopher Moshe Halbertal. “When everything becomes political, that is the end of politics.”

“Making everything politics,” added Halbertal, “totally distorts your ability to read reality. And to do that with Mother Nature is particularly reckless, because she is the one major force in our lives that is totally independent of our will. And if you think you can spin her,”Halbertal said, “the slap in the face that she will give you will be heard all across the world.”’

Following Moshe Halbertal, it is important that in our own community we be able to conduct our debates and disagreements with these “reference points of truth and a conception of the common good.”  In a synagogue, Torah serves as a critical source of truth and provides a way for us to understand the common good. My responsibility as a rabbi is to help the congregation access those sources of the common good found in our texts and teachings. We also access the common good from other sources as well: plausible and convincing scientific outlooks, insights from broader ethical traditions, and a careful study of history, to mention a few.

Halbertal warns us that it is not healthy to avoid discussion of critical issues such as climate change, even in a local context. We need to engage in the reality of our lives with purpose and meaning. The Torah summons us to live more fully and to respond to the unique challenges that characterize our lives.   

You should know about Hadar.  Hadar empowers Jews to create and sustain vibrant, practicing, egalitarian communities of TorahAvodah, and Hesed. I get Hadar’s mailings and have taken many of their classes and musical workshops.

This week they sent out a playlist for Purim assembled by their wonderful Rising Song Institute fellows. You must look at their Spotify Purim playlist of 177 songs. (I subscribe to Spotify to hear new Jewish music, and for all my musical interests.) The playlist is called “A Trip to Shushan: Purim Vibes.”  It will completely blow your mind to listen to the variety of Purim music from Israel, the United States, and around the world. The Hadar folks have also added music to their playlist of songs not composed for Purim, but that fits perfectly with the themes of the Megillat Esther. An example is Taj Mahal’s “Keep Your Hands Off Her.”

 Be prepared to be delighted and overwhelmed. Purim will never be the same. I hope to use selections from the list from our online Megillah reading on Thursday night. Here is a link to their Spotify Purim Playlist. A Trip in/to Shushan (Purim Vibes) - playlist by Rising Song Records | Spotify. You may need to be a Spotify subscriber to access this amazing list. 

Kiddush Hashem over Pikuah Nefesh

Highly recommend looking at the visually powerful piece on Covid in the Israeli Haredi community.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/02/17/world/middleeast/israel-orthodox-jews-haredim.html?referringSource=articleShare

Listen to this podcast on very incisive discussion on this crisis from the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. No. 17: Israeli Society and the Haredim - A Turning Point? (hartman.org.il)

I can articulate what makes Congregation B’nai Israel unique. Yes No. Comment:

Thursday, February 18, 2021/ 6 Adar 5781

Dear Members and Friends of CBI,

I want to thank the dozens of CBI members who attended the congregational forum on Tuesday evening. I was happy to join members of the CBI board and leadership in directing our gaze forward after the recent public dispute was resolved. Tuesday evening was an opportunity to listen to members’ thoughts and ideas about our congregational needs going forward. Below are some of the things I heard shared by congregants during the forum.

  1. We were all reminded about the heavy toll the pandemic is wreaking on our lives and on the congregation.  We heard the impact Covid is taking on families with children at home. Parents are exhausted and are overextended. They miss the synagogue, but barely have the time or energy to participate in virtual activity or other forms of volunteerism due to the stress of getting through the pandemic’s impact on their daily life.
  2. There were several calls for the board to find ways and means to hire an ‘executive director’ or assistant to help the congregation and the rabbi with its needs.
  3. Leaders of CBI shared serious needs that are not being met due to a severe shortage of volunteers. The leadership also reminded participants of the financial shortfalls the congregation is facing.
  4. There were calls for more transparency from leadership especially concerning the upcoming rabbinic search after my interim period concludes.

I was happy to hear the input and will continue to listen to input from congregants who could not attend. I believe the congregation is at an important crossroads as we move into a year of this pandemic. The pandemic has exposed real challenges to  the sustainability of our congregation. To meet these challenges, we will require your creative thinking and actions to move the congregation forward even as the pandemic fades.  (May it be soon in our day!)

As we reflect on the future of our congregation, I would like to pose to every congregant and concerned friend of CBI  6 Yes or No statements. I am interested in hearing your responses. Here is how you can respond.   Cut and paste the statements into a separate document.   Answer them and offer your thoughtful commentary. Please put your name on the document and send it to me at dovgartenberg@hotmail.com before the end of February.

  1. I can articulate what makes Congregation B’nai Israel unique. Yes  No.  Comment:
  2. Our congregation is adept at managing change. Yes  No  Comment:
  3. The congregation is committed to innovation. Yes  No  Comment:
  4. When conflicts arise at Congregation B’nai Israel, they are managed constructively. Yes  No Comment:
  5. Congregation B’nai Israel has a process to welcome new members. Yes  No  Comment
  6. I would like to help the congregation address these issues and others with my time or money. Yes   No

I will collect your comments and will share some of them in future messages so we can move this process forward. I will share other ideas with you on strengthening our congregation going forward.   

I want to also point your attention to my personal blog at this link. Panim Hadashot: New Faces Blog – by Rabbi Dov Gartenberg. For the time being I will be using this blog to post messages on a more frequent basis than the once-a-week Thursday CBI message. I will post copies of my regular messages as well.  The advantage of the blog is that you can comment after posts and others can read your comments along with my posts. I will moderate the comments to maintain civility and to advance the conversation. I believe a rabbi’s blog is an important way to maintain an interactive conversation about our community. I hope that the CBI will establish a rabbi’s blog for this purpose in the future. 

In conclusion I quote from Rabbi Larry Kushner’s, “The Teng-Peg Business: Some Truths about Congregations”.

The members of the congregation must nurture one another because they need one another. They simply cannot do it alone. Hermits and monasteries are noticeably absent from Jewish history; we are hopelessly communal people. When the wilderness tabernacle is completed, near the end of the Book of Exodus, we are told, "And it came to pass that the tabernacle was 'one'" (Exodus 36:13). Commenting on this curious expression, Rabbi Mordecai Yosef of Izbica (d. 1854) observes:

In the building of the tabernacle, all Israel were joined in their hearts; no one felt superior to his fellow. At first, each skilled individual did his own part of the construction, and it seemed to each one that his work was extraordinary. Afterwards, once they saw how their several contributions to the "service" of the tabernacle were integrated - all the boards, the sockets, the curtains, and the loops fit together as if one person had done it all, then they realized how each one of them had depended on the other. Then they understood how what all they had accomplished was not by virtue of their own skill alone but that the Holy One had guided the hands of everyone who had worked on the tabernacle. They had only later merely joined in completing its master building plan - so that "it came to pass that the tabernacle was one" (Exodus 36.13). Moreover, the one who made the holy ark itself was unable to feel superior to the one who had only made the courtyard tent pegs.”