Parade Day!

The Ithaca festival parade is a unique cultural institution.

Join the TBE contingent parading with the I heart Jewish Holidays theme!


The USY’ers (high school students) will prepare bagged meals as part of USY SATO fundraiser for parade participants.



Image credit: Olga Zelzburg



Adon Olam אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם

Who doesn’t love a fun tune for Adon Olam? This is one of the funnest tunes I have heard recently; the kind of zesty tune that puts you in a good mood and gets you energized.

Click here to listen

I am very grateful to my friend Esther R. for teaching us this tune, for making this wonderful recording and allowing me to share it here. Esther is a true star (אסתר).

Text of Adon Olam (from



Learn Hebrew when you get the chance

I say this to kids, because they don’t realize that when they get to 35-40, 45-50 years old, they’ll be on their knees crying that they didn’t learn Hebrew when they had the chance, that they didn’t learn Jewish history when they had the chance because [knowing these things allows one] to address the questions of meaning that will come back and be the most important questions in your life

David Solomon

David Solomon picture

David Solomon: “I am a Jew”
still image from YouTube (click on picture for link)

Eloquently stated, I could not agree with this educational philosophy more. However, my conundrum is that although I recognize this responsibility for my children, learning Hebrew is not a responsibility that this parent can personally discharge.

Can the TBE religious school that my kids have been attending since before formal schooling discharge this responsibility?

Should I even expect our synagogue school to take on this challenge?

If not, why not and what should I do about it anyway?

I do not have the answers and these questions are challenging. What is the minimum level of Hebrew and halachic literacy we should be expecting (knowing both that the maximum level is infinite and that our children are in the secular educational system)? How can we facilitate our children reaching this level?


Mental health and the Jewish community

This issue of Newsweek has a very powerful article on the rise of suicide in industrial and post-industrial societies and summarizes the latest thinking from experts who have studied suicide.

It is not possible to see the graphic conveying the interrelationship of the three biggest risk factors leading to suicide and not think about:

(1) how common each of these risk factors are, and

(2) the roles that religious communities can play in mitigating these factors.

suicide graphic

Source: Kimberly A. Van Orden et al., “The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide,” Psychol Rev. 117(2) (2010): 575

Religious communities and religious practice have the POTENTIAL to be particularly impactful on feelings of “Thwarted Belongingness” and “Perceived Burdensomeness”. The data appear to bear this out; communities warmly bonded together with ties of faith have lower suicide rates.

The authors point out that the nature of online interactions can exacerbate these factors as the quantity and quality of face-to-face interactions decline and are replaced by the demands of electronic communication. This point underscores the value of being shomer Shabbat (if for no other reason!).

The third factor, “Capability for Suicide” is described as something that develops over time, which may explain the distinct rise in suicide rates in the middle-aged population (45-64 year olds). Interestingly, here the data are very clear that this capability trends with exposure to indirect violence . To quote the article:

““The strength of the association between media violence and aggressive behavior,” the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded in 2009, “is greater than the association between calcium intake and bone mass, lead ingestion and lower IQ, and condom nonuse and sexually acquired HIV infection, and is nearly as strong as the association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.”

I was pretty shocked reading this as I did not realize that the data supporting these correlations were so concrete.

I recently learned of an organization that is addressing issues of suicide awareness and prevention in the Jewish community.

Elijah’s journey, named for the prophet Elijah who at one point in his journey was so burnt out he wished for an end to his own life, is a young organization (founded in 2009) and is doing some terrific education and outreach in the Jewish community. As far as I am aware it is the only Jewish organization that is tackling these difficult issues explicitly (please correct me if this impression is incorrect).

It is important for us to remember that we will not be aware of those of us who are the most vulnerable amongst us at any single moment and there is undoubtedly a major stumbling block against asking for “help” if not an outright stigma.

BUT – everything we do to reach out and build genuine direct connections between people will strengthen our community overall and protect individuals from falling into the mid-point of the Venn diagram. Even a simple smile and a considerate question that you stick around long enough to hear the answer to can make a difference.

Can you move outside your comfort zone and invite somebody new to your dinner table?

If you have experience can you share your hard-gotten wisdom and help guide another person who is busy reinventing the wheel?

We are all capable of these actions and often this is the “help” that is most needed.