In his widely acclaimed book Everyday Holiness, author Alan Morinis tells the story of a wise sage asked how he made such an impact on the world. He responded: “I set out to try to change the world, but failed. So I scaled back my efforts and only try to influence the Jewish community…but I failed again. So I targeted the community in my hometown…but achieved no greater success. Then I gave all my effort to changing my own family, and failed at that as well. Finally, I decided to change myself, and that’s how I had such an impact on the world.”
I think we can all identify with this notion: changing the world through changing ourselves! For as hard as we work at temple to perform Tikkun Olam (“reparation of the world”) we are instructed in Judaism to also do Tikkun within ourselves, our families and our communities. This idea is central to an exciting new initiative we are introducing at Fairmount Temple. Over the coming months, in our programs of lifelong learning, Shabbat and holiday worship services, in our schools and in our caring community activities, we will begin a conversation within our congregational family about middot (“character traits” or “Jewish values.”) Humility, patience, self-awareness, respect, trust, joy…these and other middot all enhance our lives. But they are also truly challenging to fulfill!
Our synagogue is raising this new conversation about middot as part of a national project. We were the only synagogue in Ohio chosen by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality (http://jewishspirituality.org) and the John Templeton Foundation to receive a special grant to implement an exciting new curriculum for adult and family learning focused on spiritual growth and the practice of middot. With these unique new curricula in hand, we are experimenting in an array of settings, bringing teachings of Jewish spirituality alive in our community!
- Later next month, May 30-31, we are delighted to welcome Rabbi Dannel I. Schwartz as scholar-in-residence at Fairmount Temple. A true expert in Jewish spirituality, Rabbi Schwartz is one of the most dynamic rabbis you will ever meet. He in fact- my rabbi- the visionary founder of Temple Shir Shalom in suburban Detroit. Rabbi Schwartz is the author of Finding Joy: A Practical Spiritual Guide to Happiness, a beautiful example of a book devoted to the practicing the middah of joy. He’ll speak at Shabbat Evening services, Shabbat Morning Torah study and at a luncheon with temple leaders.
- Beginning this June, I will personally lead a new once-per-month adult group at temple focused on learning about middot (“character traits”) striving to live with humility, patience, self-awareness, trust and more. We will reflect on these Jewish teachings, one theme each month, discussed in a dynamic interactive way. I can hardly wait to get started with this new group — set to meet on Wednesdays, once per month, at 7:00 pm. The 2014 dates are June 18, July 16, August 20, September 17, October 8, November 19, and December 17. We will continue in 2015 on January 21, February 18, March 18, and April 8. Although you may miss a session or two, I hope you will plan to attend as many as possible. The group will be a mix of adult individuals, couples, and “halves” of couples. So if only one spouse in a couple is interested, they are most welcome! Will you join me? I hope you will say “yes!” RSVP to Hedy Silber at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible to reserve a space.
- Parents of K-6 religious school students should watch out this month for the opportunity to enroll in a pilot program for the fall called Spark: Igniting A Passion for Jewish Learning. Spark will be a new year-long alternative to our more traditional Sunday Hebrew School, a family learning opportunity held largely on Shabbat mornings along with special retreats and activities. I am happy to share that Spark will rely on our new parent-child Jewish values (middot) curriculum we’ve received through Institute for Jewish Spirituality, along with personalized online Hebrew learning easily conducted at home and “drop-in” Hebrew study hours at temple as you need them. If you think you might like to enroll your family in Spark, call the Religious School office right away to reserve one of the limited spaces in this first pilot year!
Looking forward to sharing these exciting new initiative with you,
Rabbi Robert A. Nosanchuk