February 26, 2021
Dear Holy Friends,
I hope this correspondence finds you doing well and enjoying your Purim celebration!
Our shul, in conjunction with the JCC of Fort Lee / Congregation Gesher Shalom, continue to do an excellent job in planning and organizing both services and programs for your enjoyment. We are tremendously grateful when you are able to join.
This evening, at 7PM, we will host an extended Kabbalat Shabbat in honor of Shushan Purim and Cantor Zim will lead us in festive song. Additionally, this Monday evening at 8PM, we will be joined by science-fiction writer Marc Hartzman for the last installment of our Author Series. The following week, we will begin a new program called Superstars of Jewish Song. On each of the three Mondays leading up to Passover, we will feature a different performer, who will provide their unique perspective on the Jewish musical landscape. Please add it to your calendar now!
My wife, Rachel, and I raised our three daughters in a traditional Jewish home. We schlepped them to shul every Shabbat (granted, I was the Hazzan, but nonetheless..) and we were blessed to host families almost every Shabbat for dinner and lunch. Our girls grew up with the pulse of Jewish calendar life and surrounded by the melodies of prayer and Zemirot (Hebrew songs).
We also made the decision to send our daughters to Jewish Day School. First, they attended a school in Chicago and then, when we moved to New Jersey, they attended the Solomon Schechter Day Schools in New Milford and Westchester, as well as the Golda Och Academy in West Orange.
Personally, I was always pleased with both the secular and religious studies they received at these schools, but equally important, I believed that the schools offered a nurturing environment founded upon true Torah values.
Over the years, as the kids grew older, they each made their own choices in terms of religious observance and practice. Today, only one of the three practices what may be called a Shomer Shabbat lifestyle, however, they are all still grounded within their personal Jewish identities.
Last night, after Purim services had concluded, Rachel called our two older girls, who were visiting their cousins in the City to celebrate Purim together. It was really heartwarming to see them all together and eating Hamantaschen.
After about fifteen minutes of kibitzing together, I thought the call was about to conclude, but to my surprise, my middle daughter Leor, interjected, “Hey Abba! We are not done yet!” I wasn’t quite sure what she meant, but then she reminded me that one of the first active roles she took in religious services, when she was young, was chanting the last chapter of the Megillah. Leor then asked, “Abba, do you want me to chant the Megilla?”
It was a moment of true Naches for me as Leor flawlessly chanted the chapter of the Megillah with the proper pronunciation and musical cantillation.
Ultimately, it gave me pause to consider the complexity of transmitting tradition. Passing on our rituals is never easy and is certainly not a given in the complex society in which we live today. So, while my children’s observance of Judaism may not look like mine, I can be confident knowing that the sparks of our Jewish heritage and the flames of Torah will continue to burn brightly within their souls.
As we all navigate the religious and secular worlds, each taking our own path, may we all be blessed with determination, strength, and joy, and confidence in knowing that our heritage will continue forever.
Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD