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Congregation Brothers of Israel

L'dor Vador - From Generation to Generation since 1883 לדור ודור


The Torah shares the story of Eldad and Medad, two individuals who were prophesying in the Israelite Camp.  Joshua heard them and ran to Moshe demanding that he restrain them from usurping what should be Moshe’s role as leader.  Moshe responded to Joshua, “Are you upset on my account? Were it that all of our people were prophets and that God had put the Divine Ruach (spirit) on them.”

Moshe hoped more people would step up, take on tasks and make efforts not only to do the work but to lead the community in a way that helped them become more than they were since they left Egyptian slavery and Revelation at Mount Sinai.  How much could get done and be created for the whole?

I share this story from last week’s portion to demonstrate how excited and how much gratitude that I feel toward everyone who not only participated in the Year of Torah but took on leadership roles to help us as a community fulfill our goals.  My gratitude to Ellier Russ and Fred Edelman, who served as overall co-chairs and brought their wisdom, experience and enthusiasm to the Year of Torah. To Sharon Segarra, Gina Caplan and Steve Stinus who made sure everything worked behind the scenes (not just this past Sunday but all year long).  Abra Gorby and Mike Dubrow who collaborated on the creation of some early video teasers for our Year of Torah. Eli Kaufman and Paula Raimondo and their volunteers took on the project of setting up the Scribing days. They created a framework that helped us successfully see approximately 160 people scribe a letter in the Torah.  A special thank you to Lauri Preston and Len Rosenfeld who helped to create keepsake photographs of scribing in the Torah. Joan Hersch, Surelle Wind, Jean Ulkloss (and Lillian) and their Education Committee created a wonderful menu of educational events throughout the year for all ages. Some were for kids, others for adults, and others for the entire congregation.  They helped us to reboot Jewish learning. My gratitude to Donna Nowicki and her committee, who with the help of Moishy from Sofer on Site created outstanding materials to advertise each of the events and clearly stake out our goals for the year. She will be my “Go to” person when we need to create amazingly beautiful materials for our congregation.  And finally, my personal and our communal thanks should go to Andrea Kornblum who was the driving force behind helping us to reach our goal of raising $150,000 for our congregation.  The Committee believed that was a “reach” amount and today we just stand just $8,000 short of the goal.  Andrea helped us to exceed all expectations through her determination, her passion and love for CBOI.  In a list such as this, I am sure I have missed someone who volunteered their time and energy. If I did, I am sorry, please know that all of us are glad that you helped to make this happen.

All of you are the Eldads and Medads of our congregation.  God has shared with you the Divine Spirit and you have provided us with leadership that defied all expectations.  Thank you for making the Year of Torah a success. Thank you for your passion for CBOI. If anyone would like to get involved this coming year with CBOI, please volunteer your time, your energy and your efforts in a way that will bring you pleasure and joy as it did for everyone involved with our Year of Torah.

Shabbat Shalom



When Sharon and I were preparing to get married, we could not find a wedding booklet for Birkat Hamazon (Grace after meals) that we loved. Several of our friends felt the same way. As a group, we decided to create a wedding booklet that we would all love. If you have ever written a book, then you know it is a time consuming process and daunting in nature, but as we took each part of the booklet in stride we made progress. I still remember the tension of getting it all done and the joy at seeing it in print at our wedding. More so, over the years since that first printing, a publisher accepted it to be published and has sold thousands of copies. We have used it at each of our kids’ b’nei mitzvah and hope to one day use it as their weddings. It was a great accomplishment which I take pride in to this day.

Please join us this Sunday, June 3rd to celebrate the accomplishments of this past Year of Torah with our closing ceremonies. Like me, you should be proud of our accomplishments this past year. On Rosh Hashanah, I shared a story of a woman encouraged by her daughter to visit the most beautiful field of daffodils. The field is rich in color and creation. Her reluctance to visit teaches us how concerned we can be that we may never accomplish our goals or that something may not meet our expectations. When she finally visited the daffodils, she was overwhelmed by their beauty, felt inadequate by the immense vision of flowers. As she approached a small house at the edge of the fields she found a sign which read “Questions you will ask.” Below the introduction was the information: “50,000 bulbs, planted one at a time by a one woman with two hands, two feet and very little brain.” The sign and the accomplishments of the one woman remind us of what we are capable of doing with determination, enthusiasm and some faith in the process. This year, we have restored six Torah scrolls to beautiful condition, raised over $140,000 for the synagogue, and over 70 families and individuals (more than 250 people) have or will have worked with our Scribe to fill in letters of our Torah scrolls. Many more people were involved in educational programs, our religious school created a Torah Time Capsule, which has captured the thoughts of our students and families and will be opened at a future date. And collectively, we have fulfilled the 613th Mitzvah of writing a Torah scroll, completed in our 135th year as a congregation.

More so, there is a wonderful energy and vibrancy to our congregation. New people are volunteering their time and energy in various leadership roles. CBOI remains connected to its past through the dedication of our new Wall of Torah, as we look to the future with new ways to connect to Judaism through Education, Community and Tradition. In this moment of celebration, I am proud to be the Spiritual Leader of CBOI; more so my family and I are proud to call this our home.

On Rosh Hashanah, I challenged us to reboot Judaism for ourselves, to find new ways to connect to Jewish life and to be involved with community. I am so glad that so many have taken up that challenge and I hope more will do so in the future.

This Sunday morning, we celebrate the end of our Year of Torah and the beginning of a new chapter at CBOI. Please join us Sunday morning as we celebrate with music, a few speeches and a dedication to our future as we express our love of Torah and Jewish life.

Shabbat Shalom


On Shabbat, we read the Priestly blessing: Thus shall you bless the children of Israel, saying unto them: May the Lord bless you and keep you; may God cause God’s face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, may God Shine God’s face upon you and grant you peace.  And they shall put My name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them. (Numbers 6:22-27)

In the Midrash Tanhuma, we have the following response:  The House of Israel said to the Blessed Holy One: God of the Universe, you order the priests to bless us? We need only your blessing. Look down from Your holy habitation and bless your people. The Blessed Holy One replied to them:  Though I ordered the priests to bless you I stand with them together and bless you.

The rabbinic commentary Sifrei asks, how do we know that Israel should not say: Their blessings are dependent on the priests? And the priests should not say: We shall bless Israel? The Torah states, “And I will bless them.

The role of the priests is not to have the authority to withhold or to grant a blessing but rather to serve as a conduit through which God is able to bestow the blessings on the individual and community. They help us recognize that the blessings exist and are there to be celebrated.

We celebrated Yonah’s graduation from The George Washington University. At the very end of a lengthy commencement, the Deans of each school presented the candidates and the GW president declared them to be graduates. The pomp and circumstance help to enhance the blessings but it was my son’s determination, intelligence, and enthusiasm which saw him through to the completion of his degree and the blessing of becoming a college graduate with a job and apartment.

As many of us celebrate graduations, new chapters in life, the beginning of summer and the end of school, take a moment to recognize that with or without the pomp and circumstance, we have blessings to celebrate because God stands with us to celebrate the best in our lives.

Shabbat Shalom


Tue, July 17 2018 5 Av 5778