November 19, 2019

Shalom chevre!

I hope everyone’s having a good week so far! Just a few reminders of upcoming awesomeness at Bnai Jacob:

*This Friday for Shabbat Hodu-Gratitude Shabbat we will be joined by the inspiring Reverend Dr J.R. Norwood, an activist for the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation of New Jersey who will speak about the history of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe and how we can support this community right here in Jersey City. And if you haven’t already, please remember to sign up for the potluck (email with what you plan to bring and any ingredients that might be potential allergens). And even if cooking is not your jam (haha), you can come and bring a soda, juice, or just yourself because Shabbat Hodu is about being grateful for community 🙂

*Thursday Lunch & Learns are back in full swing! The remaining 2019 dates are: November 21, December 5, and December 19. Session are from 12-1:30, the lunch is on us but you better come to learn 😉

*Also on December 5th at 7pm is an open pizza dinner for all interested in being a part of the volunteer and visioning core of Bnai Jacob– we’re looking for folks who wants to talk vision and execution, we can do some exciting stuff, especially powered by pizza 🙂 please RSVP to if you’re down!

*And then there’s REUNION SHABBAT: THE MIRACLE OF LIGHTS (The weekend of December 20-22nd). If you grew up at Bnai Jacob, this will be a Hannukah-themed Shabbat and partay to reunite with old friends, and for new Bnai Jacobians and ol’ Bnai Jacobians to celebrate together 🙂 also keep an eye out for December 22nd, the first night of Hannukah, Bnai Jacob will be lighting in style…. more to come….

Looking forward to being with everyone!

​​​​​​​Blessings 🙂 R’B

November 13, 2019

Shalom chevre!

I hope everyone’s staying warm, but if not, what better way to warm you up then with some exciting news?!? (It’s a longer email, but if you read till the end, I promise it’ll feel like you just had the best hot cocoa of your life…or something like that…. 😉

We all know that November contains the holiday of Thanksgiving and the origin narratives around the founding of this amazing country. Part of that history, however, includes the many injustices that have been inflicted upon the various Native American communities in the United States.

As a community which cares about justice, we will be joined by the Reverend Dr J.R. Norwood, an activist for the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation of New Jersey on Shabbat ‘Hodu’ or ‘Gratitude’ Shabbat November 22nd @7pm. This awesome event is in just 10 days, so please remember to sign up for the potluck (email with what you plan to bring and any ingredients that might be potential allergens), and get ready to connect in musical davening, community, and in learning from Reverend Dr. Norwood about the history of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe and how we can support this community in our own state.

About The Rev. J. R. Norwood, PhD:

The Rev. Dr. J.R. Norwood is the Principal Justice of the Tribal Supreme Court of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation, for which he has also served as a Councilman for over fifteen years. He is the Co-Chair of the Task Force on Federal Acknowledgment of the National Congress of American Indians and the General Secretary of the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes. Dr. Norwood is the senior minister to the Nanticoke-Lenape Tribal Christian Prayer Circle Ministry and has served for over twenty-seven years as the pastor of the Ujima Village Christian Church of Ewing, NJ, a non-tribal urban congregation. He has represented his tribe at the national and international level and has written about and lectured on tribal history, culture, religion, and current concerns.

Also keep an eye out for REUNION SHABBAT: THE MIRACLE OF LIGHTS (The weekend of December 20-22nd). If you grew up at Bnai Jacob, this will be a Hannukah-themed Shabbat and partay to reunite with old friends, and for new Bnai Jacobians and ol’ Bnai Jacobians to celebrate together 🙂

Looking forward to being with everyone!

​​​​​​​Blessings 🙂 R’B

November 3, 2019

Shalom Chevre!

I hope it’s been a restful Shabbat and a cool weekend (fall has finally arrived!) And with that, it means that Shabbat Hodu: Gratitude Shabbat is upon us. In honor of the what has become known as the season of gratitude, Bnai Jacob will host Shabbat services this month on Friday, November 22nd and have our first community potluck of the new year! Please keep an eye out for a sign up sheet where you can sign up to bring any vegetarian dish to share or a dessert (special points for homemade, it is also the season of pies after all….). Our service will also feature some musical guests, so be prepared to sing 🙂

Also keep an eye out for REUNION SHABBAT: THE MIRACLE OF LIGHTS (The weekend of December 20-22nd). If you grew up at Bnai Jacob, this will be a Hannukah-themed Shabbat and partay to reunite with old friends, and for new Bnai Jacobians and ol’ Bnai Jacobians to celebrate together 🙂

Looking forward to being with everyone!

​​​​​​​Blessings 🙂 R’B

October 22, 2019

Shalom Chevre!

It was so wonderful, magical, reflective and joyous to spend the high holidays with you. This Friday, 10/25 at 7:30pm (note the special time, 7:30!) will be our first Kabbalat Shabbat together of the season, and it’s particularly special– this coming Shabbat marks the 1 year anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. Synagogues across the country will be gathering together for what has been called ‘Solidarity Shabbat’- a time to connect to in our collective mourning and also in our collective resilience. Please see details below– Bnai Jacob will be collaborating with Temple Beth El, our Reform sister-shut in Jersey City.

SOLIDARITY SHABBAT will be at Bnai Jacob (176 West Side Avenue).

There is no more important time than now to be an Am Yisrael– A Jewish People. Looking forward to being with you this Friday for a lively service and oneg with a wonderful guest speak, our very own Professor Thomas Main.

Have a great rest of your week and see you Friday!
Blessings 🙂

October 7, 2019

Shalom chevre!

I hope you all had a sweet and restful Shabbos, and that you’re feeling ready to return to the sacred, challenging (and admit it, sometimes even fun!) work of looking inward, reflecting on the past year, and preparing to make the changes for a better year ahead. Yom Kippur begins tomorrow night, and I am so looking forward to being with you all, exploring the theme of true connection. Just a reminder that tickets are free, so feel to free to invite friends, mishpacha, the whole works. We will make room 🙂 Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday, October 8th
7:00pm- Kol Nidrei and Learning: Understanding What Blocks Us and What Binds Us
Wednesday, October 9th
10:00am- Yom Kippur Morning Services
11:30am (approx.)- Yizkor I
(afternoon nap, meditation, you do you)
6:30pm-Yizkor II
7:00pm- Neilah
8:30pm- Dairy Break-fast with Bnai Jacob. Come hungry… 😉 😋

Wishing you all a Gmar Chatimah Tovah (A Good Seal in the Book of Life), and may this next chapter for each of you, and our community Bnai Jacob as a whole, be metukah (sweet).

Blessings 🙂 R’B

October 4, 2019

Shalom chevre!

It was such a blessing to be with you all for Rosh HaShanah. Your energy, your voices, the call of the shofar (and that amaaazing avocado blossom honey) have already made this new year a sweet and hopeful one. So looking forward to coming back together for Yom Kippur, a time for each of us to do the challenging work of reflection in order to build true connection. What is ‘true’ connection? Something that many of us have a hard time finding the words for, but we know it when we feel it. True Connection will be the theme of this year’s Yom Kippur at Bnai Jacob. Join us to begin the journey towards a more connected life 🙂

Tuesday, October 8th
7:00pm- Kol Nidrei and Learning: Understanding What Blocks Us and What Binds Us
Wednesday, October 9th
10:00am- Yom Kippur Morning Services
11:30am- Yizkor I
(afternoon nap, meditation, you do you)
6:30pm-Yizkor II
7:00pm- Neilah
8:30pm- Dairy Break-fast with Bnai Jacob. Come hungry… 😉 😋

May this Shabbat, known as Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of Return, feel like a deep and welcomed return, a return for another year of breath, of purpose and the pursuit of joy and a more healed world.

Blessings 🙂 R’B

September 29, 2019

Shalom shalom shalom chevre!

Tomorrow is the big day! Rosh HaShanah services begin at 10:00am, followed by a light kiddush (trust me, this is NOT your grandma’s apples & honey, stay till the end for the big surprise….) and Tashlich downtown by the Korean War Monument at the southern end of Washington Street). Timing tomorrow we will look roughly as follows:

10:00-1:00 Lively services in our beautiful sanctuary
1:15-2:00 Kiddush and Kibbutz 😉
2:30-3:00 Tashlich downtown.

And remember, we have services again Tuesday morning at 10am. Come for more fun, more surprises, and more opportunity to recharged and reinvigorated in community for the upcoming year!

​​​​​​​A L’Shanah Tovah to you all, and see you tomorrow!

Blessings 🙂 R’B

September 26, 2019

Shalom chevre,

Rosh HaShanah is just days away! We will be celebrating together at Bnai Jacob Monday September 30th and Tuesday October 1st beginning at 10am. Everyone– whether this is your first time or you’re an old or new friend of Bnai Jacob, or you’re a long-time member of the family, High Holiday tickets are free for you. We can’t wait to celebrate together and reinvigorate for the new year ahead.

Looking forward to being with you all for this incredibly special season!

Blessings 🙂 R’B

September 11, 2019

Shalom chevre,

I have missed being with you these last 3 weeks– I had the joy of celebrating my marriage to Nicole Fix and also the sorrow of burying my father, Jay Mullin z”l. Never so poignant have the words “Book of Life” and “Book of Death” felt for me this year as we approach the High Holidays. I’m sure many of you know the feeling, and it is the great gift of Jewish life and community that we honor both in their interconnection. Thank you, to all of you, for your support, and I feel blessed to return now and be a support to all of you.

And so the season is upon us! Rosh HaShanah will be celebrated at Bnai Jacob Monday September 30th and Tuesday October 1st beginning at 10am. Everyone– friends & family are welcome! High Holiday tickets are free, but this community is invaluable 🙂

Looking forward to being with you all for this incredibly special season!

Blessings 🙂 R’B

August 12, 2019

Shalom shalom chevre!

I hope everyone’s been having a good week, had an easy fast, and is getting revved up for Kabbalat Shabbat and a home-cooked dinner by yours truly (trust me, rabbis can cook! And of course Nicole will assist too…. 😉

Looking forward to seeing everyone this Friday, August 16th @7:00pm!

Suggested donation- $10, but most importantly, can’t wait to just be with you!

Blessings for a sweet rest of your week 🙂

Rabbi Bronwen Mullin
office: 201-435-5725 (rabbi: 267-475-5181)

August 7, 2019

“Do Not Stand Idly By the Blood of Your Neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16)

Shalom chevre,

This past Shabbat was not an easy or restful one, and this week has begun in shock for some, and for others numbness– 3 more mass shootings have afflicted this nation: in Northern California, 2 children and 1 adult were killed at a community garlic festival; in El Paso, Texas 22 people were killed in a Walmart; and in Dayton, Ohio 9 people were killed walking around the Oregon Disctrict.

I cannot help but think of the verse “Do Not Stand Idly By the Blood of Your Neighbor”. The rabbis of our tradition interpreted this to mean that one should not profit in any way from anything that takes human life. This is not an easy commandment to follow in our day and age, especially when the thing that is taking human life is not just one person, or one weapon, but is an intersection of larger systems and ideologies that contribute to creating cultures in which violence is tolerated and even endorsed. Alll of us are participants in American culture, and it is our duty as Jews to follow this commandment to the best of our ability. The first step is asking ourselves– what can I do? What small thing can I do? Have I been complicit in any way? Have I been ambivalent? These are hard questions, because as I write them to you I’m tearing up, knowing that my own numbness has led me to not be as active as I would like. But the great thing about our religion is that we believe that everyone has the potential to do better, and in community there is the most potential for solidarity. That’s why I’m reminded of another verse, “Do Not Separate Yourself From the Community” (Deuteronomy 14:1). Now is the time to stand together and to move forward together.

Our next Community Shabbat is on Friday, August 16th @7pm. At this service we will honor the memories of those whose lives were cut terribly short as a result of these murders, and we will also lift up their memory in joyful song, prayer, and hope for a more peaceful world. And please stay for dinner after! Nicole and I will be preparing a home-cooked vegetarian meal for the community. And if you want to get together soon, great! We have Lunch & Learn tomorrow, Thursday August 8th from 12-1:30. Looking forward to being together 🙂

Blessings 🙂 R’B

Rabbi Bronwen Mullin
office: 201-435-5725 (rabbi: 267-475-5181)

July 12, 2019

Shabbat Shalom chevre,

Hope you’ve been having a great week! As I’m sure you’ve heard, there have been a number of political actions and protests arising over the cruelty at the ICE detention centers. We as Jews and the children of immigrants know the life-or-death realities of being able to seek freedom in another country. Please be in touch if you would like to see Bnai Jacob participate in any of said actions, or if you would like to be sent resources to become more involved. Our prayers are with those in most need of strength and protection. In fact, that’s what our Torah cycle teaches this week. Parashat Chukkat inclues the famous line of the non-Jewish prophet Bilam, who says of the Jews people “How goodly are your tents, oh Jacob!”. May our tents, those of the Jewish people and the United States, always be goodly to those seeking to dwell under their protection.

So just a reminder– we have lots of events coming up (see below!). Any in addition, please mark Wednesday, July 31st @7:30pm on your calendars. This is our Congregational Meeting and Town Hall. First of all, come for the pizza and ice cream, and secondly- come to be a part of the visioning and strategizing for the future of CBJ as we enter into our 60th year. Amazing things are possible if we come together! This will be both a celebration, and an opportunity for a real conversation about what we need to work on. Real and honest and in the spirit of believing in the possibility for a more vibrant future. Can’t wait to see you there!


So you know how we have that amazing parking lot, right? Did you know that it’s also the only outdoor movie theater in Jersey City?? Well it is now! Come out for a beautiful Havdalah service (the service ending Shabbat, y’know, with the fierce twisted candle) and a late night showing of the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man” (2009). But don’t be so serious that you don’t get out on Saturday night… Saturday July 20th 8:30pm-11:00pm  (Note: this event has been postponed due to weather. Stay tuned for rescheduling information.)

LUNCH & LEARN– Change of Date!
Come for a roudy discussion of the week’s parasha (Torah reading). I promise, no books will be thrown, but we really love to wrestle with our tradition….
Thursday July 25th 12:00pm-1:30pm

We’re back! We’ll bring in Shabbat in poetry and song with Kabbalat Shabbat and a delicious vegetarian dinner to follow. Friday, July 26th @7:00pm, $10/person but no one will be turned away!

Have a sweet Shabbos y’all, and looking forward to seeing you soon!

Blessings 🙂

Rabbi Bronwen Mullin
office: 201-435-5725 (rabbi: 267-475-5181)

July 5, 2019

Shabbat Shalom chevre,

I hope everyone’s been enjoying a happy (if hot) July 4th week! There is much happening in the month of July with Bnai Jacob, so we look forward to seeing you!

What’s Coming Up!

LUNCH & LEARN– Change of Date!
Come for a roudy discussion of the week’s parasha (Torah reading). I promise, no books will be thrown, but we really love to wrestle with our tradition….
Thursday July 11th & July 25th 12:00pm-1:30pm

So you know how we have that amazing parking lot, right? Did you know that it’s also the only outdoor movie theater in Jersey City?? Well it is now! Come out for a beautiful Havdalah service (the service ending Shabbat, y’know, with the fierce twisted candle) and a late night showing of the Coen Brothers’ “A Serious Man” (2009). But don’t be so serious that you don’t get out on Saturday night… Saturday July 20th 8:30pm-11:00pm

We’re back! We’ll bring in Shabbat in poetry and song with Kabbalat Shabbat and a delicious vegetarian dinner to follow. Friday, July 26th @7:00pm, $10/person but no one will be turned away!

While there is so much joy and fun for us to share, community is also about supporting each other, and the world, during difficult times. It was with a heavy report that I inform you that long-time community member Howard LaMell passed away on Monday, July 1st. We held his funeral at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont, NY on Wednesday, July 3rd. He is survived by his beloved wife, Shlomit Geisler, his sister Joan, and beloved children Rachel and Bradley. Howard was a tender and vivacious soul whose memory will always be for a blessing. Notes/calls of condolence may be made to Shlomit. Please be in touch with the office if you would like further contact information. ZIchrono l’Vracha– may our memories of Howard, Tzvi Herschel, always be for a blessing.

Thinking of you all this Shabbos. May it be sweet, comforting, and restful for you all.

Blessings 🙂

Rabbi Bronwen Mullin
office: 201-435-5725 (rabbi: 267-475-5181)

June 7, 2019

Shabbat Shalom chevre,

I hope everyone’s been having a lovely week. Despite some technical problems this week, we are still excited to observe Shavuot! Please come out tomorrow night at 7pm, to Temple Emanu-El of Bayonne (735 John F. Kennedy BLVD in Bayonne, NJ) where Rabbi Jacob and I will teach and co-teach (dueling rabbis, eh? Don’t wanna miss that!) on Art and the 2nd Commandment– does Judaism actually permit and/or even endorse art?!? What about a world where Art simultaneously uplifts the human spirit and portrays the worst aspects of humanity? Where and how does Judaism enter the conversation? There will be teaching, kibbutzing, and plenty of ice cream and cheesecake. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Blessings 🙂
office: 201-435-5725 (rabbi: 267-475-5181)

May 17, 2019

Shabbat ACHLAH! (Shabbat is AWESOME!):
A Kabbalat Shabbat Service Celebrating Israel at 71
WHEN: May 17, 2019 @7pm
WHAT: Israeli food and music, Israeli dancing,
Israel Trivia (with some fierce prizes) and a few more surprises!

office: 201-435-5725 (rabbi: 267-475-5181)

May 10, 2019

Shabbat Shalom chevre,

I’ve been thinking of all of you this week as this week’s parasha (Torah reading), Kedoshim, tells us of God’s command that “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). It’s hard to know how to be holy when so much in our world feels unholy, as this week our country is ravaged yet again by another school shooting in Colorado and our and ancestral home, Israel, is in the midst of more fighting with insurgents in Gaza. The parasha continues by explaining that to be holy means to honor one’s parents, to provide food for the poor, to care for the blind and the deaf and to not oppress any kind of foreigner in our midst. What’s amazing is that the Torah is telling us that– YES– there is A LOT of unholiness in the world– family strife, poverty, illness, pain, economic disparity, and so much more. Holiness, according to our tradition, means being vulnerable enough to see the struggles of the world, and brave enough to do our part, no matter how small. If you are feeling struck by the events of this week and have ideas about how Bnai Jacob could be more involved, or you’re looking around Jersey City and thinking “I may have an idea about how to contribute to making such-and-such better!”, be in touch! We can be a congregation of holy chutzpah!


That’s right! Next Week is our Israel-Themed Celebration Shabbat! There is a suggested donation ($5-$10 for food) but no one will be turned away, it’s not a party without YOU! Can’t wait to see you again for our monthly Shabbat Services!!

Blessings for a sweet Shabbos 🙂
office: 201-435-5725 (rabbi: 267-475-5181)

May 3, 2019

Shabbat Shalom chevre,

I hope you’re all doing well in the midst of what has been a very difficult week. If you haven’t already, please read the beautiful essay in response to the recent violence at the Chabad of Pohway, California by our friend and community member, Carla Main ( Thank you, Carla, for your healing words.

And just a reminder:
This Sunday, May 5th at 2:30pm Bnai Jacob will join together with the United Synagogue of Hoboken and Congregation Beth El to commemorate Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The ceremony with film and guest speaker Ernest Mathias will be held at Congregation Beth El (2419 John F. Kennedy Blvd). Please join us in loving and supportive community, where we can pray together for a day when “war and bloodshed cease, and a deep peace will envelop the whole world.” (Siddur Sim Shalom, A Prayer for Peace)

And a word of Torah—

This week’s parasha, Acharei Mot, begins in the aftermath of a great and terrible loss, the death of the sons of Aaron. How is Aaron to walk in the world, to fulfill his duty as the High Priest, in the midst of so much pain? Only a few verses in, Aaron is instructed about the intricate laws of Yom Kippur, the most important (and volatile) holiday of the Jewish calendar. Aaron is instructed to go back to his duties, to mourn for a day, but then return to life.

But is that true for all of us? Can all of us mourn and return to normal so quickly?

The Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim of Luntschitz, b. 1550) explains that this is why the parasha waits two more chapters for HaShem to instruct the people: “Like that which was done in Egypt you shall not do, nor like that which was done in Canaan, the land in which I am bringing you; you shall not walk according to their laws. Rather, it is My ordinances that you will abide, and My laws which you shall observe and walk with, for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 18:3-4) The Kli Yakar explains that our laws traditions and customs are exactly what help us get through times of pain—they remind us of the uniqueness of our relationship with HaShem, invigorating and infusing our duty to do that which is just in the world with a sense of holiness. Like Aaron the High Priest, we are a nation of priests as well (Exodus 19:5-6). We have always survived the most difficult times by tapping into what makes us unique in the larger world, whether that’s lighting two candles at Shabbat, or the tune we choose for Chad Gadya or our collection of menorahs.

May this Shabbat, and every Shabbat, be a time in which you feel reminded of the uniqueness of being a Jew in this world , and being the unique and treasured spirit that you are. Have a sweet Shabbos, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

Blessings 🙂
office: 201-435-5725 (rabbi: 267-475-5181)

April 28, 2019

Shalom chevre,

It was so lovely being with everyone Friday night for a music, laughter and love filled Shabbat. What a great way to start this new time in the life of our community. For those of you who couldn’t be there, I look forward to connecting to you soon and seeing you at our next Friday night service–

Shabbat ACHLAH! (Shabbat is AWESOME!):
A Kabbalat Shabbat Service Celebrating Israel at 71
WHEN: May 17, 2019 @7pm
WHAT: Israeli food and music, Israeli dancing,
Israel Trivia (with some fierce prizes) and a few more surprises…. Stay tuned 🙂

Community means being together in times of joy and pain, especially seeking each other out for support. As you may have heard, there was another act of domestic terrorism that took the life of one woman and injured three others during services for the last day of Passover at the Chabad of Poway, California. The suspect is believed to be a white supremacist. This news is devastating as hate crimes in our country, and against Jews, have seen dramatic increase in the last two years. This news is also devasting because it seems that around the world religious groups everywhere face great peril, whether you are attending a mosque in New Zealand, or a church in Sri Lanka. We have no choice, as people of faith, to stand together against hate.

Next Sunday, May 5th at 2:30pm, please join in the Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemoration that will be held at our sister congregation, Beth El of Jersey City and in partnership with our fellow congregation, The Conservative Synagogue of Hoboken. Faith leaders from other local communities will also be invited to participate in the commemoration in a show of solidarity. The event will be secured for everyone’s safety, but as our tradition tells us:

“The whole world is a very narrow bridge, but the most important thing of all is to not be afraid.” (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov)

I will be available by email and phone for anyone who would like to process these recent events, and I hope to stand side by side with you next Sunday.

office: 201-435-5725 (rabbi: 267-475-5181)

April 17, 2019

Dear chevre,

What awful images many of us saw yesterday, whether in news reports or from friends and family on the ground— the historic, 865 year old monument, The Cathedral of Notre Dame, burning. Due to the courageous efforts of Paris’s firefighters, the structure of this holy site remains intact, but the damage has been done, and the Cathedral will never be the same.

The loss of a national symbol of religion, culture, and civilization is not unfamiliar to us as Jews, as we have seen many of our sacred structures burn, whether these were the great synagogues and yeshivot (houses of learning) of Eastern Europe during the years before and leading up to the Holocaust, or our very own ancient epicenter, The Beit haMikdash, The Holy Temple in Jerusalem, nearly 2000 years ago. We know all too well the grief of losing these structures, these sanctuaries for God and Humankind alike. We mourn with our Christian siblings, our French and fellow global citizens. We also support our Muslim siblings, who suffered a fire on Monday night in the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a 1300 year-old structure and the 3rd holiest site in Islam. Thankfully that fire was put out very quickly and no significant damage was done.

As Passover approaches, let us remember that what makes a place holy are the people who make it holy. When you make Pesach in your home, your home becomes a sanctuary. May you all be surrounded by people this holiday who give you that sense of the sacred— sacred in time and sacred in connection.

And I look forward to being a part of making Bnai Jacob sacred again with you all next Friday, April 26th, for Shabbat. But until then, happy cleaning (haha), enjoy those last slices of pizza, and have a sweet Pesach!

Blessings 🙂 R’Bronwen

April 5, 2019

Shabbat Shalom B’nai Jacob chevre,

(not the cheese, though it’s delicious. It means something like community of friends)

This Shabbat is known as Shabbat HaGadol, the Big Shabbat, because it is the Shabbat right before Passover. The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement and a brilliant storyteller, asked “Why is it called Shabbat haGadol, the Great Shabbat? Shouldn’t every Shabbat be great? Why should one Shabbat be lifted up above any other?” The answer, he says, is this:

“On every Shabbat every single person is given an extra soul, that is why the Torah tells us that on the 7th day, God ‘rested’- ‘vayinafash’ (nafash is related to the word nefesh which means ‘soul’). But on that last Shabbat in Egypt, it was not only that every individual person was given a new soul, but the Jewish people as a whole were given a new soul because they knew that they would be liberated from the house of bondage. Thus it is not that Shabbat haGadol is greater than any other, but that the Jewish people as a whole are greater because the soul of the entire chevre has been made greater.”

The story of Passover, with its themes of hope in the face of despair and the partnership between God and human beings in struggle to liberate the oppressed, has made us as a chevre greater. In every generation we tell and retell this story, and in every generation Jews around the world have been partners in the struggle against oppression. Not only that, we’ve developed beautiful traditions in music, storytelling, and food to keep the soul of our history alive. As we prepare for this Passover season at B’nai Jacob, we have three special events coming up:

Sunday, April 14th at 10:30am—
Chocolate Model Seder!
in partnership with Temple Emanu-El of Bayonne, NJ. Everybody welcome! Come for the music, the learning, and of course, the chocolate 😉

Tuesday, April 16th from 10am-6pm and Thursday, April 18th from 10am-6pm—
A Chametz Sale That Makes A Difference!
Lend me your pasta! Your rolls! Your waffles! Actually, sell them! We’re “selling” our chametz this year as a donation to the local Sikh Temple’s food pantry & meal delivery program, Let’s Have A Meal. So drop off your chametz at B’nai Jacob anytime during the hours above. To complete the “sale”, our donation is being returned with a personal invite to the B’nai Jacob community to attend a Kirtan chant service. More info on our community Kirtan event coming soon.

And wait for it, wait for it…..

Friday night, April 26th,7pm, @Bnai Jacob—
It’s Liberation Shabbat!
A Welcome-Back and Welcome-In Shabbat Service with music, storytelling, food, and maybe a few more cups of wine, you know, it’s still Passover and all…. 
Hope to see you there!

Have a Sweet Shabbos!

March 28, 2019

Shalom B’nai Jacob!

I’m Rabbi Bronwen Mullin and I am so honored to serve as your new rabbi. While your beautiful sanctuary was awe-inspiring and your president and board members warm and welcoming, it’s the history of this community that makes me really excited to join the team. This is a community that has had the grit to create firm foundations against all odds, the love and commitment to build long-lasting relationships spanning generations, and has stuck together to this very day, saying: we want a thriving community and spiritual home for Conservative Judaism here in Jersey City, here at B’nai Jacob. Well, count me in!

A little about me: I currently live in Brooklyn, NY with my partner Nicole (she’s an amazing shofar blower by the way, so get ready for the High Holidays 2019!). I come from Town & Village Synagogue in NYC where I served as the Rabbinic Artist-in-Residence creating diverse Jewish cultural events, and the Director of the Center for Conversion to Judaism mentoring individuals and couples from all backgrounds in the conversion process. There’s more to say and you can check out my full bio on our newly updated website, but suffice it to say—what I love most about this work is building meaningful connections between people and Judaism.

I feel blessed to now serve B’nai Jacob because together we can build meaningful connections at so many levels— whether through soulful prayer services, thought-provoking classes, social justice partnerships with our community neighbors, sharing in the joy of a couples’ chuppah or providing support for a family sitting shiva. While I feel incredibly honored to serve as your spiritual leader, I hope we will grow together, be creative with our outreach, and have some fun along the way! I’ll soon be reaching out to each of you and will be available regularly at Drop a line, let’s talk! I look forward to building a community with you and for you.

In the meantime, beginning in April—which is also the Hebrew month of Nissan and the holiday of Pesach (Passover), we will be relaunching monthly Friday Night, Kabbalat Shabbat services and hosting a model seder in partnership with Temple Emanu-El of Bayonne, NJ, more information coming soon. Whether you’re a long-time member of CBJ, a new member of CBJ, or you’re just getting acquainted with CBJ, the spirit of the Passover season is one of rebirth and renewal— I hope you’re as excited as I am for new beginnings!

Rabbi Bronwen

And some older messages from Rabbi Aaron Katz:

Dear All

Jewish communities around the world will sit in collective mourning on Tisha B’ Av.

Tisha B’ Av, the ninth of Av, is an annual fast day in Judaism (observed on July 22 this year).

We will mourn for the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem.  For the defeat of the Bar Kochba rebellion.  For the first crusade in 1096.  For the expulsion of Jews from England in 1240, from France in 1306 and Spain in 1492. For the day in which Himmler was given the green light for the “final solution”.  For the AMIA bombing of the Jewish Community in Buenos Aires, July 1994.  And for the Israeli disengagement from Gaza in August 2005.

Why so much suffering for so long?
What does it tell us about the Jewish destiny and fate?

Anti Semitism and Anti Zionism are complex phenomena!

We learn from the history of humanity that the people made two big mistakes:
1) they created freedom without order, and 2) they created order without freedom. The humanity failed!

Jews throughout history have recognized tyranny for what it is, and the Jewish people have refused to be intimidated by power, threat, terror and fear.

We created the State of Israel as an example to the world!  We created a society of freedom and order.  We have a free press, free elections, and an independent judiciary system.

Israel is a constant innovator in the arts, science, medicine, agriculture, technology and more.

We must be different.  The Bible tells us that we need to create a system of freedom with order, a place of respect and dignity for everyone.  A country that respects our neighbors.  To love the stranger as we love God.

Justice and law, grace and mercy are part of our culture. We need to show the world how to create freedom without anarchy and order without tyranny.

Tisha B’ Av is a time of reflection.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All,

With gratitude we would like to recognize the family of Arlene Schor for the sponsorship of our Summer Shabbat Study with an exceptional Oneg.
It means the world to us! Because of you we can continue to provide a lovely Summer Shabbat Study.

Your support is a great vote of confidence in our mission!

We are so lucky to have you as a donor!


Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All,

Judaism is a way of thinking about life, and of course it contains life changing ideas.

In the American Declaration of Independence from 1776, we read: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Thomas Jefferson, when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, was a slave owner.
Eighty-seven years later, when Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, America was fighting a civil war over just this issue.

We know that ideas change the world, and because of that they change us!

Judaism, and we the Jews, must teach the world the idea of equality before the divine and human law, the dignity of human person, for collective conscience and social responsibility, and for love as the foundation of justice.

Howard Sachar wrote: “nowhere did Jews identify themselves more forth rightly with the liberal avant-garde than in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s”.

In 1949 Rabbi Julian Feibelman of New Orleans opened the doors of his Temple Sinai for a lecture by Ralph Bunch, the black UN ambassador, permitting the first major integrated audience in New Orleans history.

The Klan group exploited the integration crisis to launch acts of anti-Semitic violence.
In one year from November 1957 through October 1958, temples and other Jewish communal edifices were bombed in Atlanta, Nashville, Jacksonville and Miami, and undetonated dynamite was found under synagogues in Birmingham, Charlotte and Gastonia in North Carolina.

The idea that Judaism has about humankind is in the term Jefferson used: “self-evident”.

From the stories of the Bible, especially in Genesis, we learn that “in the will to power” is perennial bloodshed.

We need to choose the “Power of Ideas”!

Happy 4th of July.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All,

Immigration crisis:

“Love the stranger because you were once strangers”…

You would have to be less than human not to be moved by the images of the immigrants and children in crisis.

One of the dark moments of our history occurred in July 1938, when representatives from 32 countries gathered in Evian France to discuss the humanitarian disaster that everyone knew. Country after country shut its doors. Every nation said it wasn’t their problem.

The Torah said: “Love your neighbor as yourself“.

The Torah emphasis and uses this concept many times because it is easy to love your neighbor when they are quite like us! But it is hard to love the stranger, one whose color, culture or creed is different from ours.

When we talk about freedom, we need to agree that freedom is about children, education and the distant future.

The Torah teaches us that our great leader Moses had a clear vision about the future. When he took us out from slavery, he fixed his vision on the distant future, not on the adults but on the children. Moses made a fundamental point: to sustain a free society and to defend a civilization you need education, families and communities.

It is true that freedom requires the rule of law and Justice, but we need a judicial system in which the right of some are not secured by the denial of rights to others.

The definition of Family is essential in our religion.
Family is where we find passion, affection and companionship.

We need to put Family in the hearts of our concerns.
Children need stability, to deprive them of the love and nurture of those who brought them into being is irresponsible, cruel, inhuman and unfair.

The book of Bereshit, Genesis, is not about theology or doctrine or even about idolatry. It is about the story of families, couples, brothers, sisters , parents and children. Strong families are essential for a strong society!

…”Children are the world’s most valuable resource and it’s best hope for the future”… JFK.

…”Tomorrow’s world is born in what we teach our children today.
Freedom is won by making space for the people not like us”… Rabbi Lord Sacks.

Freedom begins with what and how we teach our children.

Which example are we showing to the world?
What are we teaching to our next generation?
Where are our values of justice and compassion?

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Father’s Day was first observed in the United States almost a century ago — but Judaism long before commanded Jewish children to honor and fear their parents.

A father once came to the Baal Shem Tov with a problem concerning his son. He complained that the son was forsaking Judaism and morality and asked the rabbi what he could do. The Baal Shem Tov answered: “Love him more.” (Chassidic tale)

On Father’s Day, we honor our fathers not by comparing them to some ideal but by acknowledging them for who they really are. We pause to reflect on their history, remember the challenges they faced, and meditate on what they taught us along the way. In that, we truly live by the words ‘Honor thy Father’…”

Rashi said: “Obeying from love is better than to obey from fear”!

Happy Father’s Day!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear all,

…”For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as we remember them”…

As we pause to remember our fallen soldiers, we are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice so many people have made so we can live with liberty, dignity and freedoms.

Rabbi Lord Sacks said: “A society that has no room for difference has no room for humanity. The hate that begins with Jews never ends with Jews. Wherever you find anti-Semitism, there you also find a threat to liberty. No free society was ever built on hate“…

On Memorial Day or Decoration Day we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation’s Wars.

Our soldiers fight for the principles of our country and for the respect and tolerance we all deserve.

We know that with freedom comes responsibility, and at the same time we need to remember that large hearts change the course of history.

Martin Luther King Jr. said: …”In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our Friends”…

“Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never fully repay.” —President Barack Obama.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

From our last Baby naming…

“Since I have had a child I find I can relate to God much better. Now I know what it feels like to create something you can’t control.”

…”Every child conceived in love is testimony to a profound and moving faith in the future, in human renewal, and in life itself as the supreme blessing. And every parent in his or her heart knows that the real privilege lies less in being loved than in being given the chance to love. Children, says Psalm 127, are “a gift from the Lord”, placed by him into our safekeeping. They are, this side of heaven, our greatest intimation of immortality”…

Our Blessings and Happiness to:

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All,

Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbat befor our Shavuot holiday.

The fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar is about a journey, as the second book of the Bible, Exodus is also about a journey.

The difference between both of them is that Shemot, Exodus, is about a journey “from”, and the book on Numbers, Bamidbar is about a journey “to”.

Rabbi Lord Sacks said that the journey “from” is always easier that the journey “to”.

We all agree that life is a journey.
This journey begins with a “dream about what we will like to do and to achieve “. With our dreams we begin to build our future.

We do a lot of mistakes in our journey, one of the reason is because we focus very much in the present and too little to the future.

The idea of reading this text before the holidays that commemorate the giving of the Torah, tell us that in Judaism the law preceded the land. We receive the Torah in the desert. Our traditions, values and dreams will continue to survive even without a “land”.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Shalom Baby Playgroup Earth Day Celebration at Hamilton House on April 22.

Thank you to all who participated, and thank you to the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Hudson County Regional Council for their help in sponsoring this event.  

Yom Hashoa Holocaust Remembrance (April 15)

Thank you to all who attended and participated!

The service was structured around the lighting of 6 candles. We were honored by the participation of Galit Peleg, Head of the Department for Public Diplomacy and Academic Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York, who spoke to us with passion and emotion.

Cantor David Krasner of Bellerose Jewish Center in Floral Park, NY sang Eli Eli and Mizmor Le David.

With his son in his arms, Sudhan Thomas, President of the Jersey City Board of Education spoke about the importance of education.

Tyler from Manhattan’s Aristo Strings provided beautiful music, as he did during the High Holidays last Fall.

With her husband and son looking on with interest and pride, Keynote Speaker Carla Main gave a passionate and educational talk about the history of Holocaust education (or lack of it) in American schools, and the work her father Albert Post did in the early 1970’s to change that by writing curricula and training teachers.

Special thanks to Rabbi Scheinberg and choir from United Synagogue of Hoboken for inspirational music, Rabbi Leana Morrit of Temple Beth-El, our own Rabbi Aaron Katz, Social Worker Max Laffend, Kevin for his photograpy, Lenore and Marilyn for the Oneg, and all others who made the afternoon special by attending and participating.

Yom Hashoa Holocaust Remembrance
Sunday, April 15 4PM at Congregation B’nai Jacob 176 West Side Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07305

We hope you will attend our afternoon of remembrance, spirituality, music, and learning.

We will be honored by the participation of Galit Peleg, Head of the Department for Public Diplomacy and Academic Affairs at the Consulate General of Israel in New York, as well as Jersey City representatives, Rabbis from Temple Beth-El, United Synagogue of Hoboken, and Congregation B’nai Jacob, Cantor David Krasner of Bellerose Jewish Center in Floral Park, NY, a choir from United Synagogue of Hoboken, and a cellist from Manhattan’s Aristo Strings.

The keynote speaker will be Carla Main, a congregation member and journalist. Ms. Main is the daughter of Albert Post, author of the first curriculum in the U.S. for teaching the Holocaust in secondary schools. Ms. Main will discuss how Holocaust education began in the early 1970s and why it matters now more than ever.

For more information about Ms. Peleg, Cantor Krasner, and Aristo Strings:

Yom Hashoah, the day we in the Jewish community observe our Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The Nazis deliberately timed some of their worst programs of mass murder to take place on Jewish festivals, as a way of killing not only Jews but also our Jewish identity and faith.

After the Shoah, Jews and much of the world vowed: “Never Again”!

In the last year anti-Semitism has returned to Europe and even in our United State of America.

Anti-Semitism matters not because it is an assault on Jews but because it’s on assault on humanity.

Jews were hated because they were a minority and because they were different.

We are all different, and any group may one day find itself as a minority. It wasn’t Jews alone who suffered under Hitler.

When we mourn those who were murdered and comfort those who suffered, we will tell their stories! We will not allow the memory of millions to pass into silence.

We must fight for the right to live!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Pesach is where the past does not die, but lives in our lives and in the stories that we tell to our next generations!

Pictures from our Second night Seder:

Thank you to all who attended and brought food and interesting conversation!

And, thank you to the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey’s Hudson
County Regional Council for their support!

Hello to all of you!

Our programs for Passover look great! I hope to see all of you at least to some of them.

This Friday at 8PM : millennial Shabbat Dinner in our home. Please feel free to come.

Shabbat Pesach Service Saturday 31 at 10:30 at West Side Avenue.

Second Seder Saturday 31 at 6PM in our home.

Lunch and Learn: Monday, April 2 at 12PM at West Side Avenue.

Friday Shabbat Service, April 6 at 6PM at Hamilton House.

Shabbat Yizkor Services, Saturday April 7 at 10:30 AM at Hamilton House.

Sunday movie date, April 8 at 4PM in hour home. A late lunch will be serve at the intermission.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Meaning in life

This Shabbat we begin to read from a new book of the Torah, the book of Vayikra- Leviticus. It is also the beginning of a new month, the month of Nissan.

According to the Torah, the first month of the year is Nissan. This was the month that the earth became dry after the Flood. It was the month that we received the first command as a people. It was the time of our liberation as slaves in Egypt and a year later the Tabernacle was dedicated.

The first Mitzvah given to us as a whole, prior to the Exodus, was the command to sanctify the time.

Time plays an enormous part in Judaism. Time is also an essential medium for our spiritual life.

In the book of Vayikra, we learn how to give God something of ourselves.

We normally talk about how to pursue happiness in our lives. We forget many times, to talk about the meaning of our lives.

Meaning is about how we judge our life, how we create positive impact on others.

Happiness is about the present. Meaning is about our whole life. We need to ask our selves what life wants from us, and not to ask what we want from life!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All,

In Judaism, community is essential to the spiritual life.

The celebration of the Shabbat and the creation of the Mishkan are the two strongest ways of building community. Community is the antidote to individualism. The best way to get people active and involved is to get them to build something together.

Every member of the group must be able to make a unique contribution and then feel that it has been valued. Each must be able to say, with pride: “I helped make this”.

“Community is society with a human face – the place where we know we’re not alone. It is the place where they know my name.”…Rabbi Lord Sacks.

We are so happy to share with you our two newest B’nai Jacob families!

Karla, Ariel and Bella Levit.

Karla, is working in NYC in finance, Ariel is the director in USA for Juventus Football Club, Italy, and Bella is enjoying life!

Carla, Thomas and Joshua Main

Carla is a writer and editor in journalism, Thomas is a writer and professor of politics at New York University, and Joshua is a student and a writer, too.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All,

This coming Thursday we are celebrating the birthday of our Bubbie Bea Rubin!

We are grateful for having all the Rubin family as one of our supporters.

Rabbi Kushner said: …”I would rather think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to come together and make sense”…

We pray your day will be filled with immense joy and that you are surrounded by family and friends. Yom Huledet Sameach!

Your family B’nai Jacob.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

An essay by Carla T. Main:

In Purim Lies an Ancient MeToo Story

This week Jews around the world celebrate Purim, a holiday that honors the triumph of Queen Esther, a Jewish woman of Persia, and her defeat of the evil Haman, a big shot in the King of Persia’s court who plotted to kill the Jews of the Kingdom. As traditionally told, King Ahasuerus of Persia was in such thrall to Queen Esther’s bravery and beauty that he turned against nasty Haman and changed his mind about annihilating the Jews after the bewitching Esther begged for her people.

The truth is more complicated, as I learned this week in study group at Congregation B’nai Jacob in Jersey City, New Jersey. Rabbi Aaron Katz asked us some intriguing questions about Esther. How did she get to be Queen? Could it be, he posited, that the Book of Esther contains a MeToo message?

Esther, it turns out, has a predecessor. Before there is a Queen Esther, there is a Queen Vashti. She is quite a beauty too—and headstrong. Now, Ahasuerus isn’t much for the details of governing. He prefers women and wine. One day, he gets a notion to parade Vashti before his court naked, the better to display his prize possession. Emphasis on possession, for this was how he regards her, Rabbi Katz explained.

For Vashti, this is too much. She says “no” to the King of Persia!

A crisis ensues. Ahasuerus’s advisors counsel that the wives of the Kingdom will run amok; no man will have peace if such disobedience is countenanced. Vashti is banished. (Or executed; no one is sure.) A young beauty named Hadassah is chosen among many candidates to be queen. Hadassah’s Uncle Mordecai –another royal advisor—counsels her to keep her Jewish identity secret and use a Persian name, Esther. Thus, from the start, Esther operates on the down-low. Then Haman, enemy of Mordecai and the Jews, obtains the decree ordering annihilation of the Jews. Mordecai urges Esther to act, reminding her that no Jew—not even the Queen—will be safe from the decree. Though Mordecai has advised Esther in the past, she must now act on own her own. She uses her sex appeal to entice Ahaseurus to a private banquet, and uses Haman’s lust for power to set a trap for him by inviting him as well, knowing he won’t refuse such proximity to the King. She charms the King. Then she repeats the process, inviting both to a second dinner.

At the second dinner, after she charms the King again, she pleads for her own life and the lives of her people. The King, unaware of the details of his own administration, is shocked to learn of her impending doom. Esther then exposes Haman—conveniently in the room—as the genesis of the evil decree. But Ahaseurus doesn’t act; he retreats to the veranda for air. Haman, distressed, flings himself across Esther, as she reclines on a divan, begging her for help. When the King returns and sees this, he immediately thinks—because he is a libertine himself—that Haman is raping his wife—his possession. Now, he’s angry! He orders Haman put to death and issues orders that save the Jews. Esther remains Queen; she and Mordecai prosper.

How fresh Vashti’s and Esther’s story still feels. The two remind me of women who enter male-dominated workplaces and encounter harassment (from Hollywood to Wall Street). Some, like Vashti, draw a line in the sand. Leaving is their only option—a decision to be respected. Others, like Esther, work within a difficult male power structure and learn to maneuver to their own advantage. Neither has an easy path.

Vashti and Esther both experienced a MeToo moment when their value was reduced to that of a sexual possession. Only one of them, Esther, emerged triumphant. Perhaps luck played a role. But we should also give Esther credit. She used the tools available to her and sized up Haman for the sniveling sycophant he really was. Then she cornered him into a compromising—and deadly—position. In the end, the Jewish people of Persia were saved.

Thinking about both Queens of Persia, as Rabbi Katz taught, helps us understand that women who lived long ago faced challenges not so different from those we face today. We can learn and take heart from their examples.

Carla T. Main is a writer and a member of Congregation B’nai Jacob of Jersey City, NJ

Purim and the “Me Too” movement!

…Reveal Yourself…

Women’s voices from the Purim story.

How can we lift up both Vashti and Esther as role models for women today?

How can we celebrate their courage and draw inspiration from their story?

Leadership is about courage and conscience!

Congregation B’nai Jacob Purim celebration:

Wednesday, February 28 @ 6PM.
176 West Side Ave. Jersey City.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All!

Let’s build the home of the Jewish heart together!

This week’s portion describes the construction of the Tabernacle, the portable house of worship the Israelites built and carried with them through the dessert.

When God said: ”Let them build something together”, this command transformed the people from a group of complainers to a community that contributed with gold, silver, bronze, skins, time and skills.

Judaism is a call to responsibility.  Our faith does not want us to rely on miracles.
We need to recognize what we have.  What we make of that is up to us: our choices and our efforts.

Building together will bring us closer as a community and at the same time symbolize the challenge of the future.

One of the greatest challenges of leadership is to give people the chance to give, to contribute and to participate.

Let’s make our people the Co-architects of our own destiny!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All!

Our text of the week, Mishpatim, contains many laws of social justice.

The first and last of these laws is the repeated command against harming a stranger; 36 times!

…”You must not mistreat or oppress the stranger in any way.  Remember, you yourselves were once strangers in the land of Egypt”…(Ex.22:21).

…”You must not oppress strangers.  You know what it feels like to be a stranger, for you yourselves were once stranger in the land of Egypt “…(Ex.23:9).

Those who forget what it feels like to be a stranger eventually come to oppress strangers.
We have to remember that we were once on the other side of the equation.

What makes us human is the fact that we are rational, reflective and we think things through.  We feel empathy and sympathy.  We feel the pain of someone else.  The greatest crimes of humanity have been committed against the stranger, the outsider, the one not like us.

What makes us moral and what makes us capable of being so inhuman?

Knowledge, emotions and reason lead us to be moral.

Dehumanize the other and all the moral forces in the world will not save us from evil.
Knowledge is silenced, emotion anaesthetized and reason perverted.

Rabbi Johanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohi:

…”Verbal wrong-doing is worse than monetary wrongdoing “… because one only affects the other person’s money… and for one, restoration is possible, but not for the other…

Even after apology, the pain and the damage of reputation remains.

When we fear the stranger it brings out the worst in us!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Environmental Responsibility

Global warming: experts have long debated whether it really exists, but the accumulating evidence is hard to deny!

While the creation narrative clearly establishes God as “Master of the Universe “, it is the human being who is appointed “Master of the Earth”.

Rabbi Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel writes: … “ any intelligent person should know that what the Torah said does not mean the domination of a harsh ruler who afflicts his people and servants merely to fulfill his personal whim and desire according to the crookedness of his heart”.  Could God have really created such a complex and magnificent world solely for the caprice of humans?

The two Hebrew verbs used in the Torah are significant:
“Le Ovdah”-“to serve it” and “Le Shomrah”-“to guard it”.

This is the best short definition of humanity’s responsibility for nature.
Respect the integrity of nature!

From the Midrash:
“And God said to Adam: See how beautiful are My works.  All that I have created I have made for you.  But be careful that you do not ruin My world, for if you do, there is no one else to put right what you have destroyed “.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All!

“Let’s build something together”

As Jews we believe that to defend a country we need an army, but to defend a civilization we need education.

In the traditional cultures, the task of the child is to obey! “Children should be seen, not heard”!

Judaism teach us that it is a religious duty to teach our children to ask questions, even deep and difficult ones.

We believe that intelligence is God’s greatest gift to humanity.

It is necessary to pass our memories and ideals to the next generation. We have a culture and we can communicate.  We have a language and we can pass our values to future generations.

This is the reason that the absolutely priority we have in our Judaism is always to place education schools and community even higher than prayer.

We need to teach that “liberty” means freedom of the mind, not just of the body.

The great danger in a democracy, said Tocqueville, is individualism, when people come to care about themselves and not about others.

Community is essential to the spiritual life.

More than 20 years ago, Past President from our congregation, Harold Zwain said:

“Spirit, Energy, Vitality, Dedication are some of the words that one might use to describe our B’nai Jacob. 

However, this is no time to rest on our laurels. What we have achieved is duly recorded in our archives. Looking forward to greater heights, greater goals, greater achievement are the key to the continuance of an even better B’nai Jacob. 

Who would have believed, that today we are in the midst of an economically rejuvenated Jersey City?”

And the same is true today!

This Shabbat we are beginning a new project in downtown Jersey City.  We have instituted our own programs of reaching out to those who have moved into our city.

For the moment, it is good to be able to celebrate this wonderful occasion, to revel in our collective achievement but realize that we must plan together to ensure the continuity of our Congregation B’nai Jacob.

Shabbat Shalom! See you on Shabbat in downtown!
PS: look for our next programs at West Side Avenue and Downtown JC!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Message from Founder and Past President Jane Canter:

Dear Friends:

Good news from B’nai Jacob. Many of us have been thinking about our future and we want you to be the first to hear about our thoughts to continue the legacy we began almost 60 years ago!

Beginning in 2018 we will have a series of monthly Shabbat services, one Friday night and one Saturday morning each month, led by Rabbi Aaron Katz – and always followed by refreshments!

Our congregation is growing. Participation in community needs as well as spiritual needs is our goal, hopefully with you joining us. Help us determine the next 60 years. Join us for our first Shabbat Service in a part of Jersey City that is easily accessible.

We will send a complete list of the dates through June 2018 beginning as follows:

FIRST DATE: Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 10:30 AM.
LOCATION: Hamilton House Community Room
225 Brunswick Street, corner of 10th Street in Downtown Jersey City.

If you need further information call Rabbi Katz at 305-607-9062 or e-mail him at
Looking forward to seeing you on January 20th!

Jane Canter

Dear All!

As a gay Rabbi, I am always deeply grateful for this country!

After my complicated “coming out” America was the nation that open its doors to me. All of this would not have been possible without the support of my dear friends Maggie and Dave Parkhurst, the Community BCC of Los Angeles and meeting my spouse Kevin,

At first, like many new immigrants to this country, life for me was hard and challenging. When I remember those days, I can relate to every single immigrant of today!

I studied from the Talmud: “A prisoner cannot release himself from prison”.

When you take away a person’s freedom, you are taking away our humanity. Freedom to do the right and the good, is not a given! We need to pursue it!

From our text of the Torah, we see how Pharaoh enslaving others. Pharaoh became a prisoner of the values he himself had championed.

Immigration will always be an important part of our political discourse, but we must remain vigilant in the way we frame the issue and the language we use to debate them.

There is no place in the discussion for prejudice, xenophobia and to instill fear in the population. America is a nation of immigrants, and because of that we need to create our own identity by telling the story. The problem begins when we stop telling the story of who we are and why we come here.

Today’s debate is fragile.

The discussion must be beyond economic issues, it must address the fundamental question of what defines America’s identity. There cannot be a place in the immigration debate for xenophobia, bigotry, hate and the appeal to fear.

We will discover that the people not like us are just people like us!!

Shabbat Shalom,

Your Rabbi.

Rabbi Aaron Katz

Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Reflecting on our days…

What would be some Jewish advice for the coming year?

…Love life and you will be blessed!…

Take “If only!” out of your vocabulary.  This phrase is the opposite of love! “If only” is toxic to happiness.  It focuses on what we don’t have instead of what we do have!

Invest in the spirit, and your happiness will increase.

We say “Bruchim Ha Baim” to our new members and friends: “Blessed is the one who has come to us!

And for you, there are a couple of things you should know about us and our B’nai Jacob Community:

1) we are an open, egalitarian traditional Community.

2) we would love you as part of our B’nai Jacob. Our Congregation is like a family!

3) our services are spoken in English and Hebrew. They are uplifting and soulful.

4) we love to be happy, to smile, and we love keeping things simple.

Looking forward to an amazing 365 Days!

Your Rabbi,

Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All!

Parshat Vayechi.

“The future of the past”

…”success is the ability to go from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm “… Winston Churchill.

We live life forwards, but we understand it backwards.

What we become depends on our choices, and we are almost always free to choose this way or the other one.

We see the past in a context as a part of a tale whose end we know now.

The Jewish people are tasked with changing the moral vision of mankind but can only do so if individual Jews are capable of changing themselves.

We believe that the future redeems the past, and this is what we call: Hope!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

…”If we change the way we think, we will change the way we feel “… from the Tanya.

From Victor Frankl (1905-1997):  Logotherapy: the search of meaning for one’s life.

… it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.
The facts don’t change, but the way we perceive them does.

Though we cannot always change the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we can change the way we see them, and this itself changes the way we feel.  It will give us the strength to survive and the courage to persist.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

“Pray as if everything depends on God, but act as if everything depends on you.”  Rabbi Heschel

It happened in 1888. Nobel, the man who invented dynamite, was reading his morning papers when, with a shock, he found himself reading his own obituary.  It turned out that a journalist had made a simple mistake.  It was Nobel’s brother who had died, and the paper just got it wrong.  What horrified Nobel was what he read.  It spoke about the dynamite king who’d made a fortune from explosives.

Nobel suddenly realized that if he didn’t change his life that was all he’d be remembered for.  That was when he decided to dedicate his fortune to creating five annual prizes for those who’d made outstanding contributions in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace.  Nobel chose to be remembered for peace.

There’s a beautiful law in Judaism, and it applies to a day like today, Friday.  On the Friday of Hanukkah we light two kinds of lights, for the festival and for the Sabbath, both of which begin at nightfall.  What if we only have one candle?  Do we light it as a Hanukkah light or a Sabbath light?  It can’t be both.

The answer is: we light it as a Sabbath light, because the Sabbath light symbolizes peace in the home.  And in Judaism, even the smallest fragment of peace takes precedence over even the greatest victory in war. Like Alfred Nobel, Jews prefer to be remembered for peace.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

…”Hanukkah is the festival on which Jews celebrate their victory in the fight for religious freedom more than two thousand years ago. Tragically that fight is no less important today, and not only for Jews, but for people of all faiths”…

Optimism to Hope p. 96
“You can see religion as a battle, a holy war, in which you win a victory for your faith by force or fear. Or you can see it as a candle you light to drive away some of the darkness of the world”…

A new Chanukah miracle! Good wins over evil!

Sometimes ancient rituals can radiate contemporary significance. That’s the case this year with Hanukkah, the Jewish festival that we began last night.

The everlasting light that no power on earth can extinguish.

Optimism to Hope p. 94
“Hanukkah is about the freedom to be true to what we believe without denying the freedom of those who believe otherwise. It’s about lighting our candle, while not being threatened by or threatening anyone else’s candle.”

…”The symbol of Hanukkah is the menorah we light for eight days in memory of the Temple candelabrum, purified and rededicated by the Maccabees all those centuries ago. Faith is like a flame. Properly tended, it gives light and warmth, but let loose, it can burn and destroy. We need, in the twenty-first century, a global Hanukkah: a festival of freedom for all the world’s faiths. For though my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world”…

By Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.

…”What history taught us was that to defend a country you need an army, but to defend a civilization you need schools. In the short run battles are won by weapons, but in the long run they are won by ideas and the way they are handed on from generation to generation. Oddly but appropriately, Chanukkah comes from the same Hebrew root as “education”…

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

…”If you want one simple word to symbolize all of the Jewish history, that word would be: Jerusalem “…. Teddy Kolleek.

Israel is the Jewish home of hope.

No people ever loved a city more . We saw Jerusalem destroyed twice, besieged 23 Times, captured and recaptured 44 Times, and yet in all those years wherever Jews lived they never ceased to pray about Jerusalem, face Jerusalem, remember it at every wedding, in every home they built, and in every celebration.

The name Jerusalem, indicates the city’s function as a “ spiritual center for the entire world” influencing the nations of the world.

Unfortunately the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, has been turned into a political issue.

We pray that Jerusalem stays unified for the benefit of all nations, and the leadership and citizen of Israel will stand tall in the face of adversity.

…”You’re shaking… So am I. It’s because of Jerusalem, isn’t it?
One doesn’t go to Jerusalem, One returns to it!
That’s one of its mysteries”… Elie Wiesel.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

…Community it is where each of us is valued simply for who we are, how we live, and how much we give to others…

It is the place where they know my and your name!

Our Bnai Jacob is the place where we know we’re not alone!

Some pictures of our last Sunday “Schmus, drinks and food” with our new members!



Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

From our weekly text:

…”Jacob was very afraid and distressed “…(Gen.32-7).

Why is Jacob the “father of our people”?

We are the “Congregation of Jacob”!

Jacob is someone with whom we can identify.  Jacob is someone we understand.

We can feel his fear, his pain and the tensions in his family.

Jacob is human, but he is also spiritual!
He is the one who discovers that he is not alone, that God is with him.

Judaism is not an escape from the world, but an engagement with the world!

Judaism is about faith as a journey, as Rabbi Lord Sacks said.
To be a Jew is to move, to travel, to find our place in the world.
Life is a journey, and this means striving each day to be greater than we were the day before!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

…”It is gratefulness that makes the soul great”…
Rabbi Heschel

Thanksgiving is a secular holiday that represents values important in Judaism and in American culture.

It is no longer a celebration affiliated with any particular religion or faith.

Gratitude lies at the heart of who we are as Jews.

Just as gratitude lies at the heart of who we are as Jews, mindfulness lies at the heart of gratitude.

Rabbi Heschel talked about mindfulness in this famous quote: ”Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement “ he said. Get up every morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal, everything is incredible, never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed“.

Thanksgiving is as important to societies as it is to individuals. It protect us from resentment and the arrogance of power.

Thanksgiving must help us to heal the wounds that so divide us in our nation today.

Thanksgiving is essential to happiness and health.

Enjoy it!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Dear All,

…”Time is free, but it’s priceless.
You can’t own it, but you can use it.
You can’t keep it, but you can spend it”…

Jews as a people have been more often connected to time than to places or things.
The Bible, and all other Jewish texts tend to pay greater attention to the nature of events than to the places where they occurred.

Rabbi Herschel spoke about “holiness in time” as a basic characteristic of Jewish practice.
Prayers, the Shabbat, Holidays and festivals gives a sense of spiritual renewal to the passing time.
We have the commandment to remember events and peoples. Time and memory are a pillar in our Jewish identity.

This Shabbat we are announcing the new month of Kislev.
On Kislev the days grow short and night arrives early.
In this month we will celebrate Chanukah.

…”Twenty-two centuries ago, when Israel was under the rule of the empire of Alexander the Great, one particular leader, Antiochus IV, decided to force the pace of Hellenisation, forbidding Jews to practice their religion and setting up in the Temple in Jerusalem a statue of Zeus Olympus.
This was too much to bear, and a group of Jews, the Maccabees, fought for their religious freedom, winning a stunning victory against the most powerful army of the ancient world. After three years they reconquered Jerusalem, rededicated the Temple and relit the menorah with the one cruse of undefiled oil they found among the wreckage.
It was one of the most stunning military achievements of the ancient world. It was, as we say in our prayers, a victory of the few over the many, the weak over the strong. It’s summed up in wonderful line from the prophet Zechariah: not by might nor by strength but by my spirit says the Lord”… from Rabbi Sacks.

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City


From our Text of the week: Parshat Toldot.

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skilful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Gen. 25:27-28)

Parents and leaders must establish a relationship that is basic in a honest, open, respectful communication that involves not just speaking but also listening.

Unconditional love is not uncritical, but it is unbreakable!
That is how we should love our children!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

From our Parsha: Chayei Sarah

On Judaism and Islam:

The Torah is not a history book. The Torah tells us what happened only when events that occurred then have a bearing on what we need to know now.

There is a Midrash: (Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, 30) which tells the story of how Ishmael was twice visited by Abraham.

On both occasions, Ishmael was not at home. On the first , his wife, not knowing Abraham’s identity, refused the stranger bread and water.  Ishmael divorced her and married a woman named Fatimah. This time, when Abraham visited, again not disclosing his identity, the woman gave him food and drink.  The midrash then says ”Abraham stood and prayed before the Holy One, blessed be He, and Ishmael’s house became filled with all good things.  When Ishmael returned, his wife told him about it, and Ishmael know that his father still loved him.”

This story has an immense consequence for our time!  Jews and Muslims both trace their descent from Abraham – Jews though Isaac , Muslims through Ishmael.  Fatimah is an important figure in Islam.  She is the daughter of the prophet.

The rabbis piece together a story of reconciliation between Abraham , Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael.
Yes , there was conflict and separation, but it was at the beginning, not the end.

Between Judaism and Islam there can be friendship and mutual respect.  Abraham loved both his sons, and was laid to rest by both.

There is hope for the future in this story of the past.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

… Some are guilty, but all are responsible…

The early history of humanity is a series of disappointments.

The civilizations failed in taking responsibility.
God gives human beings freedom, which they then misuse.
They lack personal and collective responsibility!  They said: It wasn’t me!

Our faith is built with the principle that we will not defend the human status quo.  We must learn, and we must challenge it.

Our rejection of ideologies that contradict our ethical ideals should not be limited to negative criticism.
We need to open an offensive front by presenting a positive outlook based on true values.

Abraham was the first human being that had the courage to challenge God.
Abraham gave us the basic of challenge human rules!

Judaism and Jews, do not accept the world that is.
We are the first religion of protest. We challenge the world instead of accepting it.

Abraham is the role model of leadership.  He took personal, moral, and collective responsibility.   Abraham acted.

Indifference to evil, indifference to the suffering of human beings, is worse than evil itself!

In a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Parshat Noach.

Leadership begins with taking responsibility!

Hillel said: “…If I am not for myself, who will be?, But if I am only for myself, what am I?…”

This is the argument of our text of the week from Parshat Noach.

Two stories in this parsha: the Flood and the Babel tower.

The flood tell us what happens to civilization when individuals rule and there is no collective.

The second event from our text, the Babel tower tell us what happens when the collective rules and individuals are sacrificed to it.

There are individualistic cultures and there are collectivist ones, and both fail!  The first one because they lead to anarchy and violence, the latter because they lead to oppression and tyranny.

Judaism gives equal weight to individual and collective responsibility.

Judaism is a religion of strong individuals and strong communities.

Shabbat Shalom.

Sent from my iPhone
Rabbi Aaron Katz
Congregation B’nai Jacob Jersey City

Did you know the last of the Jewish holidays is here? Simchat Torah marks the close of the Jewish holiday season and is celebrated in dance by scrolling the torah back to the beginning.

Our Simchat Torah wish for you is that you’ll mark new beginnings with your chosen one in the coming year.

Tomorrow, Thursday October 12 @ 6:30…

See you with Pizza!

Your Rabbi,


…”What matters is not how long we live, but how intensely we feel that life is a gift we repay by giving to others.

Simcha = Joy, in the Torah is never about individuals. It is always about something we share.

Our Shabbat Sukkot gathering was a Simcha for our members and friends!

Sukkot is the time we ask the most profound question of what makes a life worth living.

What makes a hut more beautiful than a home is that when it comes to Sukkot there is no difference between the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor.

On this Sukkot may you be blessed with abundant happiness, health and gratitude!

Judaism places a big emphasis on happiness. In fact, the holiday of Sukkot is centered around the concept of happiness. No wonder it is called “the time of our joy,” a time where we are supposed to be filled with happiness and thanksgiving.

Our first night in this year’s Sukkah:

Please join us for Friday night Shabbat in the Sukkah on October 6!

On Yom Kippur:

To be a Jew is to be creative, and our greatest creation is our self.

It was Judaism, through the concept of teshuvah, that brought into the world the idea that we can change. We are not predestined to continue to be what we are.

Yom Kippur is the time when we ask ourselves where have we gone wrong?  Where have we failed?

When we tell ourselves the answer, that is when we need the courage to change.  If we believe we can’t, we won’t.  If we believe we can, we may.

Never believe we can’t be different, greater, more confident, more generous, more understanding, and more forgiving than we were.

May this year be the start of a new life for each of us. Let us have the courage to grow.

Rabbi Aaron.

Judaism is the story of a love affair between a people and a book, the Book of Books!

One of our commands is the duty to make the Torah new in each generation.  It must speak to us affectively and emotionally.

Music is central to our Jewish experience!  When we pray we sing!

Music is the map of the Jewish spirit!

To make the Torah new in every generation means that the Torah was given once, but it must be received many times, every day; for that requires not only intellect, it requires emotions.

Each of us enters to our Synagogue with a different need.  Our Synagogue is called a House of God because it is the place for the ideals by which we say we live.  It is the home address of kindness.

We make our Sanctuary a house of prayer, of study, and of meeting.

Our Community is a House, and more than that, a home.  It is the home of a family of families.  We are creating a room for You!

See you at our High Holidays services!

Your Rabbi,

…For as long as we live, they too will live, for they are now a part of us as we remember them…

Rabbi Aaron Katz  9/11/2017

As we approach this holiday season:

Dear all,

We’re fast approaching yet another Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and all the blessings and challenges they invite!  As Grace Paley wrote in her marvelous short story Wants, “I don’t understand how time passes.”

It continues to be a wonderful experience for me to serve as your Rabbi.  Now that I’m into my second year at B’nai Jacob I’ve come farther along in getting to know, or at least making the acquaintance of, almost everyone in our Temple community.  I plan to continue to do my best to deepen and expand these relationships in the months and years to come.

We were so privileged that in the last year we increased our membership and created amazing programs, such as: the millennial Shabbat, family Shabbat service, Lunch and Learn, Judaism in Spanish, Hebrew, bar and bat Mitzvah classes, Sunday school, movie nights and even had a scholar in residence!

We celebrated yearly events including Sukkot party, Chanukah latke fest, Shabbat dinners, barbecue, Purim, tree planting, Passover dinner, Yom Ha Shoa Memorial Day, baby namings, adult bat Mitzvah, founding family recognition, and all with great attendance.

Our last High Holidays service was a introduction to our new inspirational view of Judaism. We hope that you will continue to participate this year in all of our programs.

All of this was possible because of you and because of the total support from the board of directors!

I know this commitment is in our bones.  Our community could not exist for a day without its members and our board of directors.  You are the lifeblood of our organizations, we are growing thanks to all of you!

We need your support, economicly, emotionally and spiritually!

The Community we build for tomorrow is born in the stories we tell our children today.

We are making space in our lives for the things that matter, for family and friends, love and generosity, fun, and joy.

Come to Us and enjoy our Community!

Rabbi Aaron

Parshat Ki Tavo

One of my mentors told me that a good rabbi is one who can tell a particular kind of story. The story must explain our collective vision.

The first question that we need to ask is “who we are”, “why are we here” and “what is our purpose “, and the best way to answer this questions is by telling a story.

Our Torah is a book of stories, and the Torah wants us to be part of the stories.

In our text of the week : Deut.26:5-8, we can read:

My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt and lived there, few in number, there becoming a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians ill-treated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to harsh labour. Then we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders.

For the first time the retelling of the nation’s history becomes an obligation for every citizen of the nation.

The injunction to remember felt as a religious imperative to an entire people.

Rabbi Lord Sacks said: There is a fundamental difference between history and memory.

History is “his story”, an account of events that happened sometime else to someone else.

Memory is “my story”. It is the past internalized and made part of my identity.

If we forget the past, we will lose our identity!

Don’t forget Bnai Jacob history!

The community we build for tomorrow is born in the stories we tell our children today!

Remember Bnai Jacob as a part of your identity!

Shabbat Shalom,

Your Rabbi,

We know this in our bones

Our community could not exist for a day without its volunteers. They are the lifeblood of our organizations, we are growing thanks to all of you!

The Community we build for tomorrow is born in the stories we tell our children today..
We are Making space in your life for the things that matter, for family and friends, love and generosity, fun and joy.

Come to Us, enjoy our Community!

Our Days of Awe 5778!

A meaningful Service! Linking our traditions in a innovative way with music, spirituality and friendship!
This year the Rabbi joined by:
Aristo String NYC.
Cantorial Solist: Rebecca Weitman.
Cantor Solist: Simon Ciubotariu.
Shofar Service: Kevin Gleason Katz and Will Trotta.
Opera singer: Isabella Megyeri.
Yoga teacher; Garrett Steagall.

Hello and shalom to all of you!

News for the month of September….

Saturday, September 2, at 7PM.
Movie Night: Doubt: a film by: John Shapley.
The film takes place in St. Nicholas school led by Sister Aloysius(Meryl Streep) Sister James(Amy Adams) tells Aloysius that Father Flynn(Philip Seymour Hoffman) might have too much personal attention with the school’s only black student Donald Miller(.Joseph Foster), thus leading thus Aloysius starting a crusade against Flynn. The film also stars Viola Davis as Donald Miller’s mother.
Soda and popcorn:$5 donation.

Monday, September 4, 12-1:30PM.
Lunch and Learn.
Take a break during the day, come for a light lunch, discuss ideas and share opinion with friends.

Saturday, September 9: 10:15-11:30AM.
Ruach Shabbat: A Family Shabbat Service.
Family Shabbat is a kid-friendly oriented and encourage children’s participation. All are welcome and this service is specially popular with families with children.
Ruach Shabbat have a shorter service and a nice Kiddush.
Family Shabbat Service is a great way to connect with Shabbat and with other families with young children….

Tuesday, September 12: 7-8:15PM.
Hebrew Classes!
Hebrew for Adults: a innovative Ulpan style teaching method using associative learning to teach Hebrew in Hebrew. We will use basic vocabulary revolving around Jewish holidays, traditions, modern day Israeli culture and current affairs.
The classes focus on speaking, reading and some writing.
Cost: Member: free
Non Member:$10 per class.

Monday, September 18: 12-1:30PM.
Lunch and Learn.
Our topic: Honey from the Heart.

Days of Awe 5778 with Bnai Jacob Jersey City.
5778 Schedule:
Saturday, September 16: Selichot Service, 6:30PM.

Wednesday, September 20: Erev Rosh Hashana Catered dinner, 7PM. Cost: $36. Please RSVP.

Thursday, September 21: Rosh Hashana I.
9:45AM-12:15PM: a innovative service linking the past to the future includes: morning service, Torah service, and Shofar service .
Tashlich service: 4PM.

Friday, September 22: Rosh Hashana II.
9:45-12PM: a traditional service.

Saturday, September 23: Shabbat Service:

Sunday, September 24: 3-6PM
Celebrating the New Year with Friends in the Rabbi’s home.

Friday, September 29: 6:30PM.
Kol Nidrei Service.

Saturday, September 30: 10AM-7:15PM
Yom Kippur Service.
Keep an eye out for the great and exciting details of the High Holidays services and activities!

Wednesday, October 4: 6:30-9:30PM
Erev Sukkot BBQ dinner in the Sukkah .
Cost: $18 donation.

Friday, October 6: 7-9:30 PM
Millennial Shabbat in the Sukkah.

Saturday, October 7: 7-9PM.
Movie night.
Soda and popcorn:$5.

Sunday, October 8: 10:15-11:30.

Sunday School in the Sukkah.

Monday,October 9: 12-1:30PM.
Lunch and Learn.
Take a pause from work, enjoy a lunch in the Sukkah with friends and celebrate the time with community!

Tuesday, October 10: 7-8.15PM.
Hebrew Class.

Thursday, October 12: 5:15PM.
Yizkor service.

Thursday, October 12: 6:15PM.
Simchat Torah Celebrations.

Keep an eye out for great and exciting details!!!

See you soon!!!
Rabbi Aaron

Hello and Shalom to all of you! How we respond to what happens to us!

In the aftermath of violent demonstration by white supremacist, neo nazis and their sympathizer in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in 3 deaths and many injures, we see and hear that Racism is still with us!
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel said:”Racism is man’s gravest threat to man- the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason”…
The repeated failure from the President and his Attorney General, to condemn the supremacists, neo nazis and their sympathizer is a threat to all American and civilization.

It is up to us to prepare our next generation for what they have to meet, we should place great emphasis on the idea that it is all right to be different.

Racism it is not automatic, is taught in our society.

“Racism oppresses its victims, but also binds the oppressors, who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become prisoners of those lies. They cannot face the truth of human equality because it reveals the horror of the injustice they commit”. Alveda King.

From our Parsha:
…”If only you would listen to these laws”… Deut.7:12.
Our Torah contains 613 commands, but it does not contain a word that means “to obey”!
The verb used by the Torah in place of “to obey” is “Shma”- means: to hear, to listen, to heed, to pay attention, to understand.
In Judaism, God want us to understand the laws, to reflect, to listen.
To listen it means to be open. It is a spiritual act. To be a leader and leadership begins with taking responsibility!
Leadership is about the future!

We believe that we are God’s image. Free as God is free, creative as God is creative!
“No human race is superior, no religious faith is inferior. All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them”.Elie Wiesel.


As Moses begins his great closing addresses to the next generation, he turns to a subject that dominates the last of the Mosaic books, namely justice:

I instructed your judges at that time as follows: “Listen to your fellow men, and decide justly [tzedek] between each man and his brother or a stranger. You shall not be partial in judgment. Listen to great and small alike. Fear no one, for judgment belongs to God. Any matter that is too difficult for you, bring to me and I will hear it.”

Tzedek, “justice”, is a key word in the book of Devarim – most famously in the verse:

Justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Deut. 16:20)

Freedom and justice cannot be parceled out in pieces to suit political convenience. I don’t believe you can stand for freedom for one group of people and deny it to others.

I believe all Americans who believe in freedom, tolerance and human rights have a responsibility to oppose bigotry and prejudice based on sexual orientation.

Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood. Coretta Scott King

Rabbi Lord Sacks said:

“Why then is justice so central to Judaism? Because it is impartial. Law as envisaged by the Torah makes no distinction between rich and poor, powerful and powerless, home born or stranger. Equality before the law is the translation into human terms of equality before God. Time and again the Torah insists that justice is not a human artefact: “Fear no one, for judgment belongs to God.” Because it belongs to God, it must never be compromised – by fear, bribery, or favouritism. It is an inescapable duty, an inalienable right.

Judaism is a religion of love: You shall love the Lord your God; you shall love your neighbour as yourself; you shall love the stranger. But it is also a religion of justice, for without justice, love corrupts (who would not bend the rules, if he could, to favour those he loves?). It is also a religion of compassion, for without compassion law itself can generate inequity. Justice plus compassion equalstzedek, the first precondition of a decent society.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tisha Be Av, the day of Jewish tears

Dear all!,

In a couple of days, Monday July 31 at sunset, Jewish communities around the world will commemorate together Tisha Be Av, the day of Jewish tears.

Tisha B'Av

We will collectively mourning for the destruction of the First and Second Temples, for the loss of the Jewish state. For the defeat of the Bar Kochba rebellion. For the first crusade 1096. For Jews were expelled from England in 1290, for the expulsion of Jews in France 1306 and from Spain in 1492. For the day in which Himmler was given the go-ahead for the “final solution”.

On July 1942 began the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw ghetto. The AMIA bombing of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires.

Why so much suffering for so long? What does it tell us about the Jewish destiny and fate?

Antisemitism and Antizionism are a complex phenomena!

From our past we learn that Jews throughout history have recognized tyranny for what it is, and have refused to be intimidated by power, threat, terror and fear!

Dr. Robert Gordis, after an extensive discussion of the question, concludes that the fast must be retained. “In sum,” he writes, “Tisha B’av can perform these basic functions for Jews living in the middle of the twentieth century, with the state of Israel before them as a reality. It can keep Jews mindful of the tasks which lie ahead in the areas of Jewish religious rebirth and of ethical living, both in the state of Israel and throughout the world. It can focus attention upon the universal aspects of the Messianic hope, which have long been integral to Judaism. Finally, it can help to remind Jews of the long record of sacrifices and sufferings of past generations, and thus prevent the cultural degeneracy which would follow from the ignoring of the achievements of Galut or Diaspora”

On Tisha Be Av, we mourn not only what happened to us then, but, perhaps more importantly, we mourn what it symbolizes for us now.


Parshat Pinchas
The Parsha of the week always occurs at the heart of the three weeks.

The three weeks or Bein Ha-Metzarim in hebrew (from the 17 of Tammuz to the 9 of Av), is a period of mourning commemorating the destruction of the first and second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It happened twice, once in the sixth century BCE, the second time in the first century of CE. In both cases it happened because of poor leadership! When there is no effective leadership, divisions open up whithin the group. There is internal conflict, the energy is wasted and no coherent strategy emerges.

Abraham Lincoln said:”A house divided against itself cannot stand”! Leadership is not a luxury! Leadership is a necessity! A leader is a prophet of Hope! Rabbi Lord Sacks said that optimism is the belief that things will get better. Hope is the belief that if we work hard together we can makes things better! We need courage, wisdom, understanding of history and possibility, and ability of communicate to create a civilization that values the young! If we value the young, we stay young! A leader must love the people he lead!

We must invest in the future! If we invest in the future- we have a future! A leader needs to give the possibility to widen our horizons! To embrace humanity as a whole! The prophet Jeremiah said:”Seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its prosperity you shall prosper”! Jeremiah:29-7. This is the first statement in history of what it is to be a creative minority!

The leader who cares only for their own people are chauvinist! They create false expectations and bravado rather than real courage! Great leaders, are great not just because they care for their own people! They are great because they care for humanity!

Moses was worried. Who would lead the Israelites after his death?

…”Moses spoke to God, saying: Let God…appoint a man over the community… Let God’s community not be like sheep that have no shepherd. God told Moses: Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man of spirit, and lay your hand on him”…
Moses did as God ordered him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Elazar the kohen and before the entire community. He then laid his hands on him and commissioned him”… (Num:27:15-22).

…”And lay your hand on him – this is like lighting one candle with another. Give him some of your authority – this is like emptying one vessel into another”…(Bamidbar Rabbah 21:15).

Joshua’s appointment to replace Moses was clearly a critical point in the spiritual and political development of the Jewish people.
Every aspect of this sensitive transition was significant!

We read that God commanded Moses to :1) “lay your hand” on Joshua. 2) have him stand before Eleazar and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence.3) give him “some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.
The Torah testifies that Moses did as he was commanded. But in fact , Moses placed BOTH of his hands on Joshua. What is the significance of this change?

What does it tell us about the nature of leadership in Judaism?

This is what we call: “separation of powers” into three branches: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.
The Torah is concern for the future of freedom if power were concentrated in a single source.

Rabbi Lord Sacks said:” Liberty does not flourish because men have natural rights, or because they revolt if their leaders push them too far. It flourish because power is so distributed and so organized that whoever is tempted to abuse it finds legal restraints in his way.

The world require two types of
leaderships . We need leadership in worldly matters: economic, societal, political and military. In addition we require spiritual guidance.
Capable leadership will lead to success in both areas!

Rashi, comments on this: …”when they are about to leave this world, they put aside their personal needs and become preoccupied with the needs of the community “…

Great leaders think about the long term future! They are concerned with succession and continuity. So it was with Moses.

And what’s happen with our leaders?