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About Dov Gartenberg

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

My daughter alerted me to a New York Times essay by Bari Weiss, "A Dress Rehearsal for our Deaths".  The piece was revelatory for her because she had not understood the holidays in that way. I said to myself, "My daughter is now becoming an adult."

 

The essay is about Yom Kippur, highlighting an observation that has been made by others. I have in mind the original writing of the late Rabbi Alan Lew and his book, This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared.  It is a book you read slowly and absorb over many years of reading.

 

Rabbi Lew sees the months from TishaBaav in the summer through Sukkot in the fall as a time when we rehearse for our deaths. But this sobering experience ends with the joy of Sukkot which begins this year on the evening of 9/23/18. Sukkot is referred to in Jewish tradition as "the season of our joy-zeman simchateinu".  I use the word joy a lot when I describe the type of experience Panim Hadashot-New Faces offers.  I don't use the word flippantly.

 

I offer this passage from This is Real for you which illuminates the feeling of joy.

 

"When we speak of joy here (of the festival of Sukkot), we are not speaking of fun. Joy is a deep release of the soul, and it includes death and pain. Joy is any feeling fully felt, any experience we give our whole being to. (italics mine) We are conditioned to choose pleasure and to reject pain, but the truth is, any moment of our life fully inhabited, any feeling fully felt, any immersion in the full depth of life, can be the source of deep joy.'

 

I feel this joy as I sit in the sukkah drinking soup cooled by the rain. I will wave the lulav and the etrog, the four species we are commanded to take up during Sukkot. In my right hand I will hold the long spine of a palm branch, with two willow sprigs tied to its left and three sprigs of myrtle to its right. And in my left hand I will hold a yellow citron full of pocks and ridges, and I will wave these things twice, once as I sing hymns of joy and praise to God, and once as I march around the synagogue in solemn procession crying, “Save me, please! Save me, please!”

 

The sexual imagery couldn’t be clearer—the palm frond phallus with the myrtle and willow testes; the ridged and speckled yellow fruit—nor could it be more appropriate. What sex and agriculture have in common is that they point simultaneously to both the power and the impotence of the human condition. We have no idea how to form a human life. We can’t make it happen by ourselves, yet we are absolutely indispensable to the process. We have no idea how a seed bears fruit. We can’t make that happen either. Yet if we don’t plant the seed and nurture it and water it and harvest it, no fruit will ever come. These things can’t happen without us, but neither can we make them happen on our own.

 

And here at the core of our life, here at its paradoxical center, there is a mysterious, inexplicable, senseless joy.

 

This is the overwhelming, senseless gratitude we feel when we are finally fully awake. And it makes no difference what we awaken to, whether it is to pain or to pleasure, to life or to death; it is all of a piece, all the ground of a deep joy when fully inhabited, when wholly attended to."

 

I wish for you the openness and the capacity to experience this joy so beautifully describe. Find a Sukkah to meditate in during this coming week and let the joy of the festival sprinkle over you like the rain that falls through the partial openings of a Sukkah roof.

 

Hag Same'ah,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

I an grateful this season for the opportunity this year to take a break from leading High Holiday services. I took the opportunity to leave town to be a regular davener and to be with family members.  I went to Hazon's Rosh Hashannah retreat  in Connecticut and to Mishkan Chicago for Yom Kippur.  Both experiences were very enriching and renewing.

I have used this sabbatical from High Holiday sermons to listen to the words of my colleagues.  My friend, Sally Weber, told me about a marvelous and powerful sermon given by her rabbi on Rosh Hashannah. I have known Rabbi Ed Feinstein since 1976 when we were madrichim-counselors at Camp Ramah. I hope you will take the time to read his sermon. It is eloquent, timely, and inspiring.

"As you drive north along the Eastern slopes of the Sierras, on the way up to Mammoth, just past the town of Lone Pine, you pass a desolate, lonely place called Manzanar. You should stop and visit. Today, Manzanar is a National Historical Site. In 1942, it was an internment site, a concentration camp, one of ten along the West Coast, for more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans who were uprooted from their homes and imprisoned by the United States government following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Japanese Americans were said to be spies, providing information to the Japanese command. With no evidence, they were accused of sabotaging the defenses of the West Coast, and inviting a Japanese invasion. In February, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt succumbed to racist fears and signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing their incarceration. 62% of Manzanar’s internees were citizens of the United States; that didn’t matter. Anyone of 1/16 Japanese origin, one great-grandparent, was forced into the camps. The ACLU challenged the policy, but the Supreme Court upheld the president’s order in the infamous Koramatsu decision"....

To read the full sermon, click POH (Hebrew for Here).

Yom Kippur comes at the end of a spiritual pilgrimage that begins at Rosh Hashanah and some say much earlier in the summer. That pilgrimage, if we choose to walk its path is about Teshuvah-about changing, turning, transforming. Teshuvah for the most part is acted out with other human beings. We try to repair the relationships that have suffered from our neglect or bad intentions, or simply our flailing interactions. But ultimately this primary focus of Teshuvah with others that fills the first nine days from Rosh Hashannah yields to a 10th day. That is a day we turn our attention to God and attempt to apply what we learned from talking to our fellows to the how we can talk to the Maker of All.  READ MORE
There is a subtle turn on the Day of Yom Kippur as we make the journey toward Neilah, the conclusion of this austere day. The mood of awe yields to a hopeful joy. This move which is made real with a rich audible experience of the final blast of the Shofar to end the fast day.
It is an old tradition at the end of Yom Kippur to not rush out mindlessly to end the fast, but to linger one moment to hammer the first nail or to twist the first screw in the building of the Sukkah. In that moment we go from audible blast to physical sensations of construction. We take a first small step toward the joy that awaits with the Festival of Sukkot, the season of our joy.
All I ask of you is this season is to notice this emotional and spiritual shift toward joy. The joy of the end of Yom Kippur will move us along to the festival of Booths. Ask yourself, what is the joy that this festival embraces and represents? What does it teach us about how to live our lives? And who do we share this joy with, since there is no joy without others?
Panim Hadashot-New Faces is dedicated to discovering and finding joy through the act of hospitality. We are asked to share our meals in this shaky, flimsy structure with others. Sukkot is the paradigmatic festival of hospitality and therein lies it's theme of joy. May you discover the incredible depth of that joy by sharing your Sukkah, your table, your bounty in the coming year. Let us help you find this beautiful joy throughout the year.
Shanah Tovah, Gemar Tov, An Easy Fast, and Hag Same'ah,
Rabbi Dov Gartenberg
You can learn more about our initiatives to renew the tradition of Shabbat Hospitality at www.panimhadashot.org.

A source in the Mishnah, one of the most important rabbinic texts in Jewish tradition, sees the major Jewish festivals as times when our fate hangs in the balance.

Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:2

At four times the world is judged: On Pesach, for the crops. On Shavuot, for the fruits of the tree. On Rosh Hashanah, all the world passes before God like sheep, as it says, "He that fashions the hearts of them all, that considers all their doings." (Psalms 33:15) And on Sukkot, they are judged for the water.

This is a fascinating text. For one thing, it lifts the major Jewish festivals beyond their specific Jewish contexts and makes them universal. The fate of crops, trees, water, and sentient beings are judged at these times of the year.

Another fascinating aspect of this text is the omission of Yom Kippur which we ordinarily view as the most important holiday. But it is also true that Yom Kippur is the culmination of what begins on Rosh Hashanah, that is the period during which we are judged by God.

Notice also that the teaching recognizes that these four aspects of the world, crops, trees, sentient beings, and water are all in some way tied to each other for their existence.

My view is that the text seems to suggest that Sukkot is the most important festival, because without water, none of the other three would survive. But water does not need any of the other three to exist. This reinforces my preexisting opinion that Sukkot is the most important festival of our calendar, especially in the age of climate change.

Based on this text which of the four festivals would you say is most important? How do you understand this text?  I would love to read your thought which you can send to me at dov @ panimhadashot.org

The Days of Awe are a time of reflection and renewal. These festivals can serve as a spiritual autopilot, helping us to adjust our course and focus on what is important for us in the coming year.  We do live in extraordinary, confusing, and scary times. These days give us respite to reflect on them and how we live our lives in our new normal.

May you gain clarity from your meditations and prayers in the coming days. I wish you Shanah tovah v’tkikateivu v’tchamteinu basefer hachayim, -May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

Shanah Tovah,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces

Sukkot Hospitality Experience

Sukkot is the festival of hospitality in Jewish tradition. Bring a small team of Panim Hadashot-New Faces to share with guests a Sukkot Hospitality Experience.  Or in case you don't have one, invite your guests to our Sukkah at WeWork Lincoln Square in the skyline in Bellevue's downtown.

The experience will consist of a reflection on the meaning of the festival, a thought provoking teaching on a them from the holiday, and a sharing of some of the beautiful music associated with the holiday. Rabbi Dov Gartenberg will facilitate the experience.

Recommended # of guests: 5 or more.  This special program is free for hosts in honor of Sukkot..  At this writing the only Sukkot dates not available are Thursday, 9/27 and Friday, 9/28. The festival runs from Sunday evening, 9/23 to Sunday evening 9/30.

To setup with us Sukkot Hospitality Experience,  send us a message as soon as possible to :https://panimhadashot.org/contact/


October 2018 Featured Home Shabbat Experiences

Panim Hadashot-New Faces offers two "Featured" Home Shabbat Experiencesin October.  If you would like to host a Home Shabbat Experience with us, see below.

Praying with Your Feet: A.J. Heschel's Teachings on Protest and Resistance

As the election nears, Rabbi Dov Gartenberg, offers a teaching and facilitates discussion on what we can learn from one of the greatest Jewish figures of the 20th century. Recommended # of guests: 6-10. Recommended donation to Panim Hadashot: $50.

Musical Shabbat with the Songs of Leonard Cohen

We observe Leonard Cohen's 2nd Yahrzeit with a special evening of singing  some of his greatest songs and reading his poetry accompanied by the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble.  Recommended # of guests. 6 and up. Recommended donation: $200.

To setup to host one of our Featured October Home Shabbat Experinces, send us a message at https://panimhadashot.org/contact/

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is not a synagogue. We do not function as a traditional congregation such as offering regular worship services and a religious school program. We do not have membership dues, a common feature of most synagogues.

Panim Hadashot-New Faces is also not affiliated with a specific Jewish movement.  We are pluralistic in our outlook.  Our Shabbat hosts come from Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Secular backgrounds.

While Panim Hadashot-New Faces is a very innovative model within the Jewish community, it does have precedent in Jewish tradition.  We see ourselves as a Gemach”.

What is a Gemach?

The Hebrew acronym, Gemach means “gemilut chasidim” (acts of loving kindness).  A Gemach is a Jewish organization that focuses on supporting and spreading  the practice of a particular act of loving kindness in the community. Jewish tradition views hospitality (hachnasat orchim) as one of the most praiseworthy acts of loving kindness. (Other acts of loving kindness in Jewish tradition include, visiting the sick, burying the dead, and dowering the bride among several others).  Many of the people involved in our Gemach share a love for Shabbat and of Jewish traditions of hospitality. We want to see this act of loving kindness become more pervasive in our Jewish community.

Our Gemach, Panim Hadashot-New Faces promotes Shabbat hospitality with a singular passion.  Our work in the community centers around encouraging people to host gatherings at their homes.  We help both hosts and guests to adopt Shabbat hospitality as a “spiritual practice in their lives” by modeling the special activities that can be shared around a table such as music, song, Torah study, timely conversation, and the empathy of hospitality.

Our Philosophy

Panim Hadashot-New Faces’ seeks to renew the tradition of Shabbat Hospitality. We work to facilitate this practice, especially in the liberal and secular Jewish communities. We recognize that the modern era has caused a sharp decline in this practice for several reasons: demography of Jewish households, decline in religious observance, the isolating impact of many new technologies among the most impactful.

However, we believe the home centered practices such as Shabbat hospitality and the fellowship of shared sacred feasts to be a unique part of Jewish tradition and a salve to our social isolation and relentless pace of life. We believe these experiences enhance community and build relationships.  Most people in America understand spiritual as synonymous with an individual quest. Jewish spirituality, is unique, because it emphasizes relationship. Jewish spirituality often occurs in the encounter between two or more people.  Jewish philosophers such as , Abraham Joshua Heschel, Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas emphasized the relationship with the other as central to the Jewish teaching.

We have observed that the fellowship of the sacred feast is a great vehicle for meaningful encounters with others and to fostering empathy, concern, and true fellowship among people.

Our name, Panim Hadashot-New Faces (pronounced Paw-neem Chaw-daw-shote), comes from the Talmudic Jewish practice of inviting persons from the community, new faces, to celebratory feasts of a newly married couple in the week following their wedding ceremony. New Faces-strangers were required by tradition to be invited to these joyful feasts where the couple are feted with joyful singing.   The reason behind this hospitality practice is to share the joy of our personal lives to an ever-widening circle.

In the Jewish mystical tradition, Panim Hadashot became a name for the Jewish Sabbath. Shabbat is imagined as a new face that we graciously meet each week.  But more than that, we see sharing Shabbat as a form of sharing our homes, our food, our Sabbath joy with an ever-widening circle.

 

The other day I attended a morning minyan at a synagogue. At the minyan I used a siddur app that was on my mobile phone. The app makes the letters large and easy to read.  I noticed as I logged on that there was an option on the menu called "Map of Users". When I clicked on it I could see all the places around the earth where people were using the app. There were green dots all over the world.

This online map of daveners intrigued me.  What if there could be a map of people doing Teshuvah during the month of Elul all over the world. While such an app seems unlikely it would have one great benefit. You could find someone attempting to do Teshuvah as well. It takes two to Teshuvah.

Teshuvah for me is not purely internal, but relational. We make Teshuva with an other, whether it is person or God. The key to Teshuvah is finding another person who is participating in doing Teshuvah as well, especially one you are in relationship. May we open the gates of Teshuvah by finding a willing Teshuva partner during this great month of reflection.

 

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Seattle, Washington

 

This piece will appear in the Mussar Institute Blog

A Preview of of Panim Hadashot Home Shabbats in the Web Launch, August 30th.

Shabbat Experiences for Your Affinity Group

At the end of August 2018, we are launching a new website for Panim Hadashot-New Faces. We will be introducing  "Panim Hadashot Home Shabbats" which will include an expanded list of Shabbat experiences we can bring to your home.  Not only do we offer musical and singing Shabbats, but we will offer personalized Shabbat experiences for affinity groups.

I want to share with you a Home Shabbat that I am doing for my own affinity group. It may give you ideas about doing a Shabbat experience for your own affinity group, whatever it is.

I do a lot of volunteer work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, known as NAMI.  NAMI is a national organization facilitating support, education, and advocacy for people living with mental illness and the families that take care of them.  I got involved because members of my family live with mental illness that has deeply impacted their lives and all of us who care for them.  NAMI helped me to learn how to help my loved ones and to better understand their unique challenges. NAMI also made it possible for me  to connect with other family caregivers who were struggling with the difficult issues of supporting a loved one with mental illness.

As a volunteer peer leader/teacher for NAMI, we talk a lot about self-care for people caring for a loved one living with mental illness.   We often talk about mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other techniques.  As a Rabbi I have been thinking in recent years about how Jewish tradition offers relief and self-care for fellow caregivers.  I wanted to create a Shabbat space of rest and joy as a unique spiritual respite for caregivers.

Next month Panim Hadashot will offer a Shabbat experience for family caregivers in my home.  Here are some of the elements of this Shabbat experience that is being planned for September (on a Shabbat near the Holidays).

  • The Shabbat meal which will take place on Friday evening is limited to 18 or so people and will take place in my home.  Jewish and non-Jewish people are welcome.
  • I will reach out to my Jewish friends and acquaintances who are caregivers and invite them personally so we have a core of Jewish participants who have experienced Shabbat.  We are also sending out an invite to members of NAMI Eastside as well.
  • My plan is to hold a veggie potluck. I have found that potlucks create a more participatory mood and a sense of stake-holding for everyone who comes. I use a potluck app to make this easy.
  • Unlike the support groups I lead, we will not talk about our "tzuris", but will spend time getting to meeting the new faces gathered in our living room.
  • The meal will be anchored by a 45 minute singalong of Jewish and American melodies led by members of the Heart of Shabbat Ensemble. Singing together is not only therapeutic, it is spiritually powerful, unifying, and easy for people to participate in.

Are you a participant in an affinity group? Can you think of how a Shabbat experience would enhance your group cohesiveness or create an opportunity for unique discussion?  Let me know if you are interested in having Panim Hadashot bring a beautiful Shabbat experience to you special group.

 

 

Shanah Tovah, Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Dear Friends,

I wish everyone a Rosh Hodesh Tov-a good new month. It is the month of Elul which precedes the onset of the Days of Awe (the real name for the High Holy Days).  It is a time of reflection, renewal, and repentance. May this month be a time of insightful reflection as you prepare for the holidays.

I am using the many hours of preparation that I would have used preparing for High Holiday services to work on major improvements to Panim Hadashot-New Faces for the coming year.  Those improvements will be officially announced in our new website that will come online on August 30th.  The website will feature a redesign and streamlining of our present offerings.

What is Panim Hadashot?

Here is a summary of what Panim Hadashot-New Faces offers.  Our updated tagline, "Renewing the Tradition of Shabbat Hospitality" describes our focus and our program. We serve the entire Jewish community, both affiliated and non affiliated Jews. We are led by a Rabbi Dov Gartenberg who was trained by the Jewish Theological Seminary of the Conservative movement.  We are non denominational Jewish organization committed to pluralism in the Jewish community and in the larger society.  We primarily serve Reform, Conservative, Renewal, Secular, and Cultural Jews including non-Jewish partners.

Our core innovation which we offer to you:  We support hosts and hospitality by bringing a special Shabbat experience to your home or community room if you reside in apartment.  These Home Shabbat experiences include live music, song leading, or discussion around a meal which you host and invite friends, family, and new faces. 

Improvements Reflected in the New Website

Below are key improvements to our program which will be featured in the new website that is coming online at the end of August.

  • The name for our innovative initiative will be Panim Hadashot Home Shabbats.  Prospective hosts can choose from three types of supported Home Shabbats. We want to give hosts an opportunity to shape a Shabbat experience which is meaningful and exciting for them.

Music and Singing Home Shabbats

Study and Conversation Home Shabbats

Home Shabbats for Affinity Groups

  • We have reduced our recommended number of people for supported Home Shabbats to seven including the hosts (It used to be 10 guests not including the hosts.). This number was chosen for several reasons. By reducing the invited guest threshold we wanted to make it easier to host, especially for first timers and people living in smaller places.

 

  • We will continue to offer our Monthly Musical Shabbat Table on the 3rd Friday of the month which is open to everyone in the community, but at a new location.   We will be holding these monthly events at WeWork Co-working Sites in Bellevue and Seattle. WeWork offers us larger spaces and more flexibility.  Rabbi Gartenberg will work and hold classes at WeWork in Bellevue. Our mailing address will remain the same.

We are excited about these improvements and hope you are too. Most of all we hope you will consider hosting or attending in the coming year.  Stay tuned for the website change and more postings about the changes.  Feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions, 206  739-9924 or dov@panimhadashot.org

 

Shavua Tov,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg