MCJC Book Club Makes Its Picks

Following a Jewish thread yet mixing up the genres, MCJC’s Book Club will tackle an Israeli novella series, a split-screen work of historical fiction, and an autobiographical account of what it means to be Jewish in modern day New York.

The group will meet at MCJC on Thursday, Jan. 10 at 7 pm to discuss Three Floors Up by Israeli writer Eshkol Nevo. This compilation of three novellas explores the interconnected lives of the residents of an upper middle-class Tel Aviv apartment building, people whose turmoils, secrets, confessions, and decisions reveal the ills of a society with an identity crisis.  

Next, on Thursday, March 14, the group will gather to discuss The Cloister by James Carroll. A priest and a Holocaust survivor find their perspectives and senses of identity reshaped by their shared investigation into the classic romance between discredited religious scholar Peter Abelard and his intellectual paramour, Heloise.

Finally, on Thursday, May 30, the group will discuss My Jewish Year by Abigail Pogrebin. Although she grew up following some holiday rituals, Pogrebin realized how little she knew about their foundational purpose and contemporary relevance. She wanted to understand what had kept these holidays alive and vibrant and chronicles her journey into the spiritual heart of Judaism in this captivating, educational, and inspiring memoir.  

All are welcome to participate in the Book Club at any time. Rachel Kamin, director of the cultural and learning center at North Suburban Synagogue Beth-El, facilitates all discussions.

We encourage participants to make a donation of $36 to MCJC to help cover the cost of the facilitator. For more information, contact Rita Janowitz at  

Upcoming at MCJC Week of November 6

For more information about any of these listings, please visit our website, either the provided links or the MCJC Calendar at

Wednesday, November 7
1:00 pm: Lunch and Learn with Rabbi Tom
4:30 pm: Religious School

Friday, November 9
6:30 pm: Community Shabbat Potluck Dinner

Saturday, November 10
9:30 am: Shabbat Morning Services & Torah Discussion

Sunday, November 11
9:30 am: Religious School
11:00 am:  Adult Education with Rabbi Tom

Wednesday, November 14
1:00 pm: Lunch and Learn with Rabbi Tom
4:30 pm: Religious School

Friday, November 16
Community Shabbat Potluck Dinner back next week. For this week, see Saturday, November 17 Havdalah Program (below)

Saturday, November 17
9:30 am: Shabbat Morning Services & Torah Discussion 
5:00 pm: Community Havdalah and Hanukkah Crafts Project at MCJC – Dinner provided, potluck dessert

Sunday, November 18
No Religious School: Teacher In-service Day at CKI
No Adult Education 
7:00 pm: Faithbridge’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 5603 Bull Valley Road, McHenry, IL

Thank you MCJC & our friends and neighbors! What a beautiful Shabbat we shared

“This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears” ~ (Lamentations 1:16).

We are all still in mourning for our murdered brothers and sisters from Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. But in the words of Matthew Arnold, we will continue “…to keep pushing on one’s posts into the darkness, and to establish no post that is not perfectly in light, and firm.”

I want to express how proud I am of the MCJC community’s response in organizing last Shabbat’s vigil, done with unmitigated love and inspiration. A special shout out to Jill Purvin, Elaine Steinberg, Dara Turnball, Ellen Levy, Robb Tadelman, Gene Lindow, George Sachs, Leslie Cook, Linda Blatchford, Dale Morton, Muriel Pick, Bruce Weiss, and so many others, too many to mention.

May those grieving be comforted, and may MCJC continue to be a sacred space of peace, consolation and rebuilding.

Rabbi Tom, MCJC

From the McHenry Chronicle:

And a video:

McHenry County Jewish Congregation to host vigil honoring Pittsburgh shooting victims

In the Northwest Herald, October 30, 2018:

By Daniel Gaitan

In response to what is believed to be the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, the McHenry County Jewish Congregation, 8617 Ridgefield Road, Crystal Lake, will host a community Shabbat and vigil at 7 p.m. Friday.

“All faiths are welcome to join us in lighting candles and coming together in prayer for our Jewish family in Pittsburgh, and for all those who have experienced violence,” congregation membership chairwoman Linda Blatchford said in a statement. “May God grant our people both the strength to help each other during this time of mourning and the fortitude to rebuild together. May decent people the world over join together with us to foster kindness and love between communities.”

Attendees will gather to honor the men and women slain Saturday at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh.

On Nov. 3, the McHenry County Jewish Congregation will participate in a solidarity Shabbat, an initiative of Jewish United Fund’s Rabbinic Action Committee. It’s part of a national effort “to pray, to mourn and to strengthen one another,” according to the congregation’s website. The event will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon at the center.

“Shabbat was taken from us in the name of hate; we must reclaim Shabbat in the name of love. We hope you will find it meaningful to participate with local congregations,” Blatchford said.

The man accused of the massacre appeared in federal court Monday to face charges in connection with killing 11 people. Robert Gregory Bowers, 46, was ordered held without bail before a preliminary hearing Thursday, when prosecutors will outline their case against him.

Federal prosecutors set in motion plans to seek the death penalty against him. Authorities said he expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told police, “I just want to kill Jews.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

4 Steps for Talking to Kids About the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting (from Kveller)

For our MCJC Religious School Parents from Kveller

By Sivan Zakai

As a mother of three children in elementary school, I want to make my home into a fortress of safety. I dream of barricading the doors, shuttering the windows, and cuddling beneath the blankets, my arms tightly wrapped around my kids. I’d like to shield them from all harm — including the pain of being an American Jew at the time of the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of this country.

But as a scholar who studies how American Jewish children understand and process the world around them, I know that’s not the right approach. In fact, when tragedy strikes is exactly the time when children most need loving adults to help them make sense of the senseless. After years of studying other people’s children, and practicing with my own children, here are four tips for speaking with your kids about the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

1. Acknowledge the tragic reality

Many parents worry that talking to their kids about the rising tide of anti-Semitism or the specter of gun violence will shatter the beautiful innocence of childhood. Yet educational scholars have shown that learning about difficult current events only enhances children’s ability to cope with the world.

Especially as our kids are growing up in an age of easily accessible information, they are adept at stumbling upon or searching for the latest news. If your children are in elementary school, at any grade level, chances are very high they already have a sense that a terrible tragedy has befallen our community and our country, or that they’ll soon hear about it from other children or by overhearing adults.

My own kids’ experience provides an example of why parents need to be prepared to speak with their children. My eldest, age 11, came home from spending Saturday at a friend’s house already knowing many disturbing details about the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, including the death toll. My 8-year-old, by contrast, had been home all day and hadn’t seen or heard the news. But he did have exposure to the shaken adults in our family, and by the afternoon, he turned to me and asked, “When are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Kids are savvy, and they are perceptive. Even when they don’t rely on adults to tell them what has happened, they do count on us to help them understand the troubling world in which we all live.

2. Respond to your child’s needs

Kids of different ages need different framing. Children as young as kindergarten know when the adults in their lives are upset or worried about current events; they rely on those adults to model how to talk about sad and difficult things.

By second grade, most children begin to piece together discrete bits of information from a variety of sources in their lives. Each overheard conversation or online excursion becomes a chance for them to find another piece of the puzzle they are trying to construct. Second and third graders desperately want to understand what’s happening in the world, and they need adults to help them see the bigger picture.

By fourth grade, many children are able to see current events, even tragic ones, as part of a larger political and historical framework. They, too, need adult guidance to understand the world around them, though they’re often more focused on the why than on understanding the whowhat, and how of events like younger children.

Kindergarteners and first graders may be like the Passover child who doesn’t know to ask. To them, offer a basic frame, keeping in mind that if you don’t provide a narrative it is likely another child will. You may say something like, “it is a sad time for the Jewish people and the United States of America because many people were killed while attending synagogue.”

Second and third graders are likely to want to know specific information about what happened in Pittsburgh. Answer their questions as straightforwardly as possible, being conscious to offer only the details they request.

Children fourth grade and up will likely be searching for an answer to the question, why? An age-appropriate response is to remind children that there are no good reasons to commit murder, even you explain the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter’s anti-Semitic and anti-immigrantmotivation.

3. Assure kids of their immediate safety, without making promises you can’t keep

As a mother, I want to be able to promise my children that I will be able to keep them safe, always and everywhere. But I know that’s a pledge beyond any parent’s control, and in the age of school lockdown drills, young children know it, too. Even so, children need to feel safe, and they often need reminders of the safety precautions that are already in place (or soon to be implemented) in order to protect them.

With my own children, I revisited the safety protocol at our synagogue, explaining why there are armed guards and regular emergency drills. I reminded them of a beloved and well-qualified community leader who chairs the safety committee, and the children themselves generated a list of other people whom they trust who are working to make the synagogues, schools, and other places they frequent as safe and secure as possible.

4. Keep talking

An initial conversation is necessary, but that’s just the beginning. In order for kids to process terrifying events, they need to know that they can talk with their trusted adults on an ongoing basis. Circle back to your children, asking them, “How are you feeling?” The goal is to leave them the choice of whether to pivot to another topic or revisit your earlier conversation.

When I did this with my own children, each had a response that exemplified his own personality and developmental stage. My 5-year-old hugged me tightly and said simply, “I’m sad and I’m OK.” My 8-year-old — always the biggest worrier in our house — admitted that he was concerned, but he’d realized that he was no more worried than any other day in a country persistently threatened with gun violence. My preteen had no desire to reopen the conversation at all, and he didn’t need to.

No parent wants to engage children in conversations about violence, hatred, and profound grief. Yet sometimes doing just that is what children most need to feel safe in a broken world. Unfortunately, this shattering week is one of those times. So, hold your children close — and keep talking.

Torah: Chayei Sarah

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

On this Solidarity Shabbat, Rabbi Tom will speak and lead a discussion on Jewish resilience in the face of anti-Semitism.


Torah: Genesis 23:1 – 25:18  Click here.
Haftarah: I Kings 1:1 – 1:31 – Click here.

This week our readings and Torah discussion focus on:


  1. Gen. 23:1-5, p. 127
  2. Gen. 23:6-11, p. 128
  3. Gen. 23:12-16, p. 129


1 Kings 1:1-31, p. 143

Upcoming at MCJC Week of October 30

For more information about any of these listings, please visit our website, either the provided links or the MCJC Calendar at

Wednesday, October 31
1:00 pm: Lunch and Learn with Rabbi Tom
No Religious School

Friday, November 2
6:30 pm: Solidarity Shabbat, community is welcome: Community Shabbat and Vigil for the victims and families of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting

Saturday, November 3
9:30 am: Solidarity Shabbat, community is welcome: Shabbat Morning Services & Torah Discussion (Jewish Resilience in the Face of Anti-Semitism)
7:30 pm: Jewish Theatre of Elgin “Rosenstrasse” production at CKI

Sunday, November 4
9:30 am: Religious School
11:00 am: Adult Education with Rabbi Tom
3:00 pm & 7:30 pm: Jewish Theatre of Elgin “Rosenstrasse” production at CKI

Wednesday, November 7
1:00 pm: Lunch and Learn with Rabbi Tom
4:30 pm: Religious School

The Jewish Heart of McHenry County

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