47,000 people are living homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. The Bible mandates we "give shelter to the homeless" (Isaiah58:7). A Reform Jewish congregation with a long history of taking on troublesome social justice issues. Measure H, a ballot measure designed to end homelessness, is endorsed by both democratic and republican leaders.
Holding signs of support, we Jews gathered at the local Muslim mosque as part of an interfaith group of the faithful and other community leaders.
Why do we spend a Sunday morning just before Chanukah driving all over the San Fernando and Conejo Valleys delivering boxes of sufganiot to every Congregation Or Ami household?
Child spree: They were at-risk youth, searching for something new and not risky, to clothe them and keep them warm.
We were comfortable suburbanites, seeking something meaningful and momentous, to clothe us in compassion and warm us from the chill of indifference.
Adin becomes a Bar Mitzvah by candlelight when the power went out. And the lessons learned were powerful.
Volunteering to pack comfort bags on Mitzvah Day for children entering the foster care system is one step on the path to peace. Show up at Congregation Or Ami on November 6th.
Brad Halpern of Congregation Or Ami, Calabasas, CA reflects on the meaning of holding Torah on Kol Nidre.
Wouldn’t your heart soar too, if children left the High Holy Day children’s program and services kvelling? When older teens lead and mentor younger teen leaders, they felt energized as they passed on the responsibility of Jewish educational leadership to their younger peers?
Lessons learned while taking their last breaths. Reflections on bikkur cholim (visiting the sick) with David and Jerry. A Yom Kippur sermon.
Be Chesed. In the midst of this election, choose unlimited overflowing love as your response. My Rosh Hashanah sermon
The history of Touro Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the United States, offers lessons about social justice and religious tolerance that resonate even today.
Video written & directed by Seth Front: http://sethfront.com
Performed by Nancy Linder: http://nancylinder.com
Music by Jeff Klepper & Dan Freelander
The clergy of Congregation Or Ami (Calabasas) share their vision of the synagogue as a sanctuary of kindness, your second home.
My Shabbat video message: on blessings and curses
On our Shabbat hike, we experienced a different connection with God, a deeper connection that allowed us to experience God as our ancestors did. In the wilderness, without walls, without man-made things, it seemed easier to feel God's presence.
Leading your own synagogue Shabbat Hike is incredibly easy. In just 10 steps – simple but effective – you can embark on a moving spiritual experience. And, as we discovered on Congregation Or Ami’s own Shabbat Hikes, the journey is inspiring and refreshing.
They say that exercise is good for the soul. I think Shabbat in the wilderness is good for the soul too and if you can add in a hike, well – even better! To worship in an environment where you can hear the birds, feel the light breeze and see the beauty of the oak trees… I cannot think of a better way to end the week and begin a new one.
– Marcy Cameron
- Choose a place to hike. We prefer a flat path for our first hikes, so that most people – irregardless of their endurance or hiking ability – can participate. Find a place with ample parking, well marked trails, and double check when the gates/parking lots close so you will not be locked in. Find a gathering spot where, in a circle, you can welcome everyone and set an inspiring tone.
- Publicize widely. We recorded a Shabbat video message on hiking in the wilderness on Shabbat to share with the whole congregation. Create a simple graphic to post on social media (see ours above).
- Bring a portable table so people can fill out name tags (which encourage familiarity and break down barriers) while waiting to begin. Later, this table can hold your post-hike oneg – cookies, a challah, mini-cups and grape juice.
- Make a one page prayer and songsheet. We weave nature-themed songs among an abbreviated order of prayers.
- Bring a guitar for music and a naturalist or park ranger to share outdoor wisdom.
- Break your hike into multiple parts. We focused on five: an opening in a circle at the trailhead with a welcome and songs like Hinei Mah Tov; a closing with Kaddish and camplike Hashkiveinu siyum; and three moments along the hike to stop, sing prayers, and listen to brief spiritual drashes (by the rabbi or congregants) and wisdom about your surroundings by a naturalist or park ranger.
- Take time along the way to look, stop and listen in silence.
- At the end, in the parking lot or somewhere that everyone can gather, make kiddush, sing Hamotzi, and eat cookies.
- Then kvell plenty at how many people, always more than expected, show up with their friends, kids, and dogs on a leash.
- Remember to ask five to six people to send you three to four sentences reflecting upon their experience on the Shabbat hike. Include the post-hike reflections in a blogpost or article, as publicity for the next Shabbat Hike.
The experience will be inspiring. As our congregant Scott Cooper said,
The spiritual feeling created – by the Cantor’s uplifting music and the Rabbi’s spiritual teachings, at sunset in a most beautiful outdoor park setting in the company of fellow congregants and good friends while chanting prayers – was beyond words. As our Jewish tradition reminds us, G-d is around us, and I sensed this Presence and felt grateful for every day.