Sept. 29 – Bring Your Family To Help Your MCJC Family Build a Sukkah!

On Sunday, September 29, MCJCers will gather at 9:00 am, or whenever you can come during the morning, for our Annual Sukkah Raising. In past years, it has been great fun to have everyone out doing their share to make this holiday special.

Not only is it fun to build our sukkah, it’s an important part of your children’s Jewish experience. More than books and lessons, these are the memories that will stay with them forever, as they actively participate in creating a Jewish experience with their family and community.

Our own MCJC Maintenance Men, Steve Boress and Dale Morton, will show you everything you need to know and will have the supplies ready. The Purvins will provide coffee and donuts.

Although we’ll be thrilled if you just stop in to help out, it would also be great to let Dale Morton know you can come so we can plan how to use everyone most effectively – building@mcjconline.org.

Follow up a great Mitzvah Morning with a wonderful Mitzvah Afternoon. The McHenry County CROP Hunger Walk, in which MCJC is participating with 12 local churches, begins around 1:15 pm. Last year we raised $636! Think we can top that this year? If you’d like more information or want to volunteer to participate in the CROP Hunger Walk, contact Bruce Weiss at socialaction@mcjconline.org or Davina Kelly at school@mcjconline.org.

Torah: Nitzavim

Please join us on Saturday morning at 9:30 am for Shabbat worship and Torah study.

NITZAVIM

THE TROPE

Please note: These trope links connect to the beginning of the whole Torah portion / Haftarah. Find a specific reading with the drop-down box at the top, right of the page, and/or by using chapter and verse.

Torah: Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30:20  Click here.

Haftarah: Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 — Click here.

* * *

Another good Torah “helper” is Pocket Torah, available in the Apple App store. Pocket Torah Trope teaches “Trope Phrases,” and Pocket Torah teaches portions.

We can use all the help we can get with High Holy Day Kiddushes

Start the New Year with a Mitzvah for the MCJC Community! Volunteer to coordinate the Rosh HaShanah Community Kiddush and Yom Kippur Break-the-Fast 5780!

The groundwork has been laid, but we need a special someone(s) to assure these food events bring a tasty and Sweet New Year to all.  Please contact Elaine at fredturtle@comcast.net for the particulars.

“Rosh Hashana 5770”by Avital Pinnick is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

MCJC Crop Hunger Walk Team Forms

MCJC will join 12 local churches to participate in the 2019 McHenry County CROP Hunger Walk on Sunday, September 29, 2019, from about 1:15 – 3:15 pm. The WALK distance is one mile. This MCJC undertaking is a partnership project of the MCJC Social Action Committee and the MCJC Religious School faculty and students.

​Twenty-five percent of the money raised from the McHenry County CROP Hunger Walk will go to designated local food pantries.  Seventy-five percent of the proceeds will be used by CWS/CROP to help develop programs that empower people in third world counties to meet their own food needs through agricultural training programs, by providing seeds and farm tools, and by helping to build wells and irrigation systems.

The 2018 MCJC CROP Hunger Walk Team raised $686. This year’s MCJC CROP Hunger Walk Team hopes to raise even more money. The following members of the MCJC community have stepped forward to participate in this year’s McHenry County CROP Hunger Walk: Davina/Jim/Sienna/Andrew Kelly, Dara & Seth Turnball, Brandon & Eli Pacyna, Jonah/Asher/London Markowitz, Carrie/Jason/Briella Bernstein, and Bruce Weiss.

If you would like to become an MCJC CROP Hunger Walk Team member, and if you would like to find out all the details related to participating in this important interfaith fundraising event, please contact either Bruce Weiss (815-338-2721) or Davina Kelly (847-659-8285).

We would also like to ask for the support of those in the MCJC community who cannot walk in this year’s McHenry County CROP Hunger Walk. The suggested donation of support is Chai ($18). Donation checks should be made payable to CWS/CROP and mailed to MCJC CROP Hunger WALK Team, c/o Bruce Weiss, 846 N. Madison Street, Woodstock, IL 60098-2833.

Donations can also be made online at crophungerwalk.org/mchenrycounty. Click “Donate,” click “Team,” write in “McHenry County Jewish Congregation,” fill in donation amount, enter your full name, enter your email, fill in payment information, and click on “Donate now.”

With much appreciation for your kind support of this important MCJC project,

Bruce Weiss, MCJC Social Action Chairperson
Davina Kelly, MCJC Religious School Faculty Member

Corners of Our Fields Reminder

As is our custom at MCJC, the 5780 High Holy Days mark the start of our “Corners of Our Fields” food drive in conjunction with Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.

This year we are collecting food for McHenry High School and personal care items for the Old Firehouse Assistance Center in Woodstock. The “Food for Thought” program at McHenry High School is “providing hope and dignity to children by discreetly supplying additional food to students in need.”

If you haven’t already, please pick up grocery bags in the foyer, and return the bag(s) on or shortly after Yom Kippur. These community agencies will be grateful for all donations. Check to be sure items are not near expiration dates. A list of highest need items will be stapled to the grocery bag, and we’ll update that list, if necessary, in the weekly e-nouncements.

Toddah Rabbah for your donations.

Torah: Ki Tavo

Please join us on Saturday morning at 9:30 am for Shabbat worship and Torah study.

KI TAVO

THE TROPE

Please note: These trope links connect to the beginning of the whole Torah portion / Haftarah. Find a specific reading with the drop-down box at the top, right of the page, and/or by using chapter and verse.

Torah: Deuteronomy 26:1 – 29:8  Click here.

Haftarah: Isaiah 60:1 – 60:22 — Click here.

* * *

Another good Torah “helper” is Pocket Torah, available in the Apple App store. Pocket Torah Trope teaches “Trope Phrases,” and Pocket Torah teaches portions.

Upcoming at MCJC Week of September 17, 2019

For more information about any of these listings, please visit our website, the provided links, or the MCJC Calendar at mcjconline.org/events.

Wednesday, September 18
2:00 pm: Learn with Rabbi Tom (Part II – Preparing for the High Holy Days) at Panera, Crystal Lake
4:30 pm: Religious School for grades 4-7
6:15 pm: Ritual Committee Meeting

Friday, September 20
6:30:  Friday Night Shabbat at Rabbi Tom’s Table. Please visit our website at mcjconline.org, the upper right column, for a beautiful video celebrating Shabbat. Check out our Video Gallery for the entire series!

Saturday, September 21
9:30 am: Shabbat Morning Services and Torah Discussion
7:00 pm: Selichot Program at Cong. Kneseth Israel (330 Division St., Elgin)

Sunday, September 22
8:00 am: Clean-up Day (Set-up for High Holidays)
9:30 am: Religious School for all grades

Monday, September 23
6:00 pm: Communications Committee Meeting at Panera, Crystal Lake

Wednesday, September 25
2:00 pm: Learn with Rabbi Tom (Part III – Preparing for the High Holy Days) at Panera, Crystal Lake
4:30 pm: Religious School grades 4-7
6:30 pm: Learn with Rabbi Tom (Part III – Preparing for the High Holy Days) at Panera, Crystal Lake

Friday, September 27
Community Shabbat Service & Potluck Dinner (If you can bring veggie or dairy food to share, please let us know what you’ll bring at kiddush@mcjconline.org)

Saturday, September 28
9:30 am: Shabbat Morning Services & Torah Discussion. Extended Kiddush following morning service to include light fare, Zemirot, Talmud Torah (If you can bring veggie or dairy food to share, please let us know what you’ll bring at kiddush@mcjconline.org).

Sunday, September 29
9:00 am: Sukkah Building – Join our own Maintenance Men for a fun and educational family event! Stop in any time during the morning to help out.
1:00 pm: MCJC Hunger Crop Walk – Make it a Mitzvah Day – Stay on from the Sukkah Building to join in the Walk.
7:00 pm: Erev Rosh HaShanah Service

Religious School News Week of September 17, 2019

On Sunday, our Religious School had a special treat to get us into the Rosh HaShanah spirit. Ellen and Dale Morton taught us about honey bees and how honey is harvested from them. Students helped separate the wax from the honey, and even got to taste some honey. Many thanks to the Mortons!

Our 2nd/3rd grade class also learned a new Hebrew letter, discussed why and how we celebrate Rosh HaShanah, and started making a cute craft. The 4th/5th graders continued to work on Hebrew reading fluency and Hebrew prayers. They also began to study Rosh HaShanah and made some sparkly shofar magnets. Our 6th/7th graders continued their Hebrew and prayer studies and began their Rosh HaShanah unit.

A big thank you to all the families who have already brought snacks in for the first half of the year! Also, thank you to those who have begun bringing in tzedakah money. Any spare change your children can bring in makes a huge difference. Last year’s tzedakah went to Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County.

Upcoming in September:
Wednesday, September 18 – Religious School for grades 4-7
Sunday, September 22 – Religious School for all grades
Wednesday, September 25 – Religious School for grades 4-7
Sunday, September 29 – No Religious School (Erev Rosh Hashanah)
McHenry County CROP Hunger Walk, 1:15-3:15 pm
Sukkah Building with the MCJC Maintenance Men, beginning at 9:00 am. Stop in with your family any time you can help out!

Even though there is no Religious School September 29, MCJC will still participate in the McHenry County CROP Hunger Walk from about 1:15 to 3:15 pm. If you are interested, please see Davina to sign up and obtain further information. Last year’s participants had a great time and raised $686.

Sunday, September 29 is a very big day at MCJC. In addition to the CROP Hunger Walk, a wonderful opportunity for families to share an important Mitzvah, it’s time to build our MCJC Sukkah. Sukkah-building is also a fun and educational event for families. Join our own MCJC Maintenance Men beginning at 9 am. Coffee and donuts will be provided!

Special Events Coming Up:
Sunday, October 6 – Special interfaith activity for all grades
Sunday, October 13 – Sukkot Celebration with Lulav & Etrog for children and adults, then PIZZA IN THE HUT
Sunday, October 20 – Simchat Torah Celebration for children and adults

Rabbi Tom’s Message: Finding our Lech Lecha Moment

Rabbi Tom Samuels

The traditional American synagogue model is showing signs of age. Over the past two decades, membership has declined across the United States, forcing many synagogues to merge or to close. And yet, most research shows that American Jews are desperately seeking community, spirituality, meaning, and purpose in their lives.

The traditional American synagogue model is showing signs of age. Over the past two decades, membership has declined across the United States, forcing many synagogues to merge or to close. And yet, most research shows that American Jews are desperately seeking community, spirituality, meaning, and purpose in their lives.

How can we reconcile this contradiction? If, as the research concludes, Jews are indeed seeking both spirituality and transcendence … if they feel that they cannot lead a meaningful life without this … then why are they not joining synagogues whose core mission has been to provide these very same ideals of community, spirituality, meaning, and purpose?

What I believe we are in fact witnessing is not a social cognitive dissonance, but rather a paradigm shift from an “institutional” to a “personal” understanding of spirituality. In other words, Jews, and in particular, young Jews, are not finding what they are looking for in the existing buildings and institutions that have defined Jewish life for generations of American Jews. They are looking for and finding it elsewhere. And in an increasingly secular America, all sorts of activities and subcultures provide the meaning that in the past religious communities provided. (Casper ter Kuile and Angie Thurstonand’s 2018 Harvard Divinity School Study, “How We Gather”)

My message is, first and foremost, do not fret! We, as a people, have been down this path many times before. We are not the first generation of Jews, nor will we be the last, to contend with meshing tradition and modernity, the old with the new, the past with the present. In fact, transitions, radical change, an ethos of iconoclasm, is at the very core of the Jewish experience and of our peoplehood. (Douglas Ruskoff’s 2004 book, Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism)

In the Torah portion Lech Lecha, near the beginning of the Book of Genesis, Abraham hears a call:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. “Go to yourself, leave your land, your father’s house, and go to a land that I will show you … and you will be a source of blessing.” 

The language used here is, at first glance, odd and inconsistent with the biblical text’s style up to this point. Abraham is literally told to “go into himself,” rather than to “go out there,” – beyond the familiar, away from your family, and towards somewhere out “there.” The indeterminacy of the journey. (Rabbi Irwin Kula’s 2007 book, Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life)

The great medieval Rabbi and philosopher, Maimonides, suggests that Abraham wandered from place to place until he finally discovered “his” place. Abraham leaves for the desert – a harbinger for the path of the people that will come from him, whose journey from the known to the untamed, unpredictable wilderness is where he and they both encounter God.

The Hebrew word for wilderness is מִדְבָּר, Midbar, from the root .ד.ב.ר, or d-b-r, to speak. The connection between the wilderness and speech, Divine speech, is thus made: When we leave the comfortable, the familiar, when we head into the elemental terrain of the wilderness, we can encounter the voice of God, the Divine within. This is more than geographic or external. This is deeply soul-engaging and experiential. That locale where the Shechina, the Divine Presence, dwells. The “go into” with which God summons Abraham. (Rabbi Danny Gordis’ 1997 book, God Was Not in the Fire: A Search for a Spiritual Judaism)

In truth, Abraham’s final destination isn’t really all that relevant. It is the act of leave-taking itself – that painful, terrifying moment when Abraham leaves behind the known and the predictable for nothing more than a promise.

The Torah of our time is straining in a world where identity and affiliation are voluntary expressions shaped by choice rather than heritage. Communal boundaries are increasingly porous in our flat, networked society defined by access and collaboration, in which religious hierarchies make less and less sense. Individuals personally curate their own Jewish lives, drawing from an array of cultural, intellectual, social, political, ethnic, spiritual, sexual, and gender affiliations within and beyond the Jewish community. Diverse sources of authority and inspiration abound, shaping multifaceted, multi-vocal Jewish expressions in the global conversation about meaning, connection, and faith. (Rabbi Jay Michaelson’s 2007 Forward article, “DIY Judaism”)

Many shudder at the thought of “shattering” any part of the Torah, or at least, the traditions that they are used to, in which they seek comfort.

But we must remember the biblical story of Moses breaking the Torah at the sight of the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf. At the end of this story, after Moses re-ascends Mount Sinai and brings down with him a second set of Torah tablets, the Torah tells us that the shards of the tablets Moses broke were kept in the Holy Ark, right beside the new, intact ones.

Among those shards lie such historic decisions as embracing matrilineal descent, banning polygamy, and requiring a wife’s consent to divorce, as well as more recent “fractures” of tradition initiated for the sake of Jewish peoplehood, like allowing converts to marry Kohanim, seminaries to ordain women, communities to enfranchise LGBTQ Jews, and Jewish cemeteries to bury non-Jewish spouses. (Rabbi Jay Michaelson’s 2004 Forward article, “The Myth of Jewish Authenticity”)

The disassembling and reassembling of Torah in every generation is part of the sacred narrative and destiny of the Jewish people. It’s the source of our continuity, not our dissolution.

The irony is that this is and has always been at the heart of the Jewish Way. It is where we come together, determined to support each other, challenge each other, argue with each other, and compromise for each other. We come together and create a Visionary Community with a Sacred Purpose that infuses all aspects of our lives. (Professor Steve Cohen’s 2010 study, “Sacred Strategies: Transforming Synagogues from Functional to Visionary”)

This is the Judaism that Jews crave and that we all desire. This is a Judaism that engages, integrates, and inspires the whole person. It is the world we inhabit and the world we would like to build.

Our Torah is called the Book of Life, Sefer Ha’Chayim. Judaism is something with which you get intimately involved. It is a relationship, a meeting place. It is where we meet Holiness in our everyday lives. It remains so, once and if we are ready to be serious about Judaism.

With this theology and this history in mind, what are we prepared to dismantle and reconfigure to help more Jews feel at home in Judaism and the Jewish community? To motivate young Jews to stay and to contribute to a shared vision of the future?How will each of us leave the familiarity of our “homes”?Challenge our complacency? Stretch our comfort levels, and thereby find, unravel the Nistar, that hidden strength to dive into the re-patternings, the realignments from which can arise new beginnings, creativity, self-actualization, towards God?

What is our generation’s Lech Lecha moment going to look like?

I leave us all with more questions than answers. After all, this is the Jewish Way.

B’Shalom,

Rabbi Tom, MCJC

Join the fun – Saturday, Nov. 16, 6 PM, when MCJC Celebrates 40 Years

LORDY, LORDY, MCJC’S TURNING 40! Celebrate 40 years of serving as the Jewish heart of McHenry County. We’ll enjoy… 

Havdalah: We’ll bid farewell to Shabbat with prayer and song, and reflect on our history and community-minded spirit. 

Dinner: We’ll provide a dairy entrée if you all bring a side dish and/or dessert to share. 

Swap Auction: This fun and easy fundraiser involves you donating a treasure or two that you no longer need. We’ll have live bidding on some items, and a ‘name your price’ section for others. We’ll also have raffle baskets and other low-cost ways to support MCJC. Prepare to take some treasures home with you! 

Don’t miss it! Saturday, November 16, 6 pm. The event is free to all. MCJC members, past and present, please join us and catch up with old friends and celebrate your ‘Little Shul on the Prairie’!

Questions?  Contact Ellen Morton at mcjcanniversary@mcjconline.org or call 815.353.0819. You can also reservation a space for yourself and your guests through our Events Calendar.

The Jewish Heart of McHenry County