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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Betrayal, Disappointment and Anger in the Wake of the UCC's Anti-Israel Votes

Over the past 28+ years, the many opportunities with which I have been blessed to work in partnership with liberal Christian Clergy have enriched my rabbinate in numerous ways.  The friendships I have forged, the bonds of fellowship and communion we have shared together and the common search for God’s presence through study, prayer and activism have been transforming in multiple arenas.
This past week, I happily rejoiced with men and women of many faith communities as we celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to make Marriage Equality the law of the land.  The week before, I joined with a diverse group of clergy and laity as we came together to grieve and pray in solidarity with the victims of the horrific massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.  I believe strongly in the prophetic tradition of crying out in the face of injustice regardless of whenever and wherever it is found.   I also value and celebrate the vitally important partnerships that liberal Jewish movements have been able to forge over the years with many mainstream Protestant denominations as we have worked hand in hand to expose and erase institutionalized prejudice in our nation.
It is for this reason that I felt a sense of betrayal, disappointment and anger when I learned of the recent decision by the top legislative body of the United Church of Christ (UCC) to divest from companies with business in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.  If that wasn’t enough, a motion to label Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians as Apartheid received a majority of votes, but was defeated on the floor only because it did not garner the requisite two thirds majority required for passage.
As upset as I was over the outcome of these votes, unfortunately I was not surprised.  Increasingly, many liberal Protestant denominations have been moving closer and closer to adopting a one-sided, anti-Zionist position which places blame for all of the problems in Israel and the Territories squarely on the Jewish State.  This is a theology and a political philosophy that focuses exclusively on Palestinian suffering and ignores Israel’s need to defend herself against an enemy bent on her destruction.  It turns a blind eye and, in many cases justifies Palestinian aggression and terror while simplifying and distorting key facts in order to demonize and delegitimize Israel’s actions by utilizing a one-sided and skewed approach towards understanding the conflict. 
Additionally, the fact that Israel has been singled out for perceived injustices when so many other countries and organizations – among them:  Syria, Iran, China, Russia, Pakistan ISIS and others too numerous to mention with far worse records on human rights are ignored by the UCC in their condemnation must cause any rational person to question why this august body is focusing exclusively on Jews.
The truth is, the UCC and other mainstream Christian denominations have been shrinking in both size and influence on the world stage for many years.  As such, their direct impact in minimal.  And yet, other organizations can and will use their vote to reinforce attacks against Israel and the Jewish people.  The fact that a small and vocal group of radical anti-Zionist Jews who do not represent the Jewish people was used to placate and mollify the delegates who cast their votes does not in any way mitigate the damage that this action has caused to relationships between our communities.  The sense of betrayal and anger that I and the vast majority of the mainstream Jewish community feel will not be so easily passed over.
Like most of us, I pray for a day when the State of Israel will be able to live side by side with her Palestinian neighbors in peace. Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) only serves to pit the world against Israel.  It does not promote the cause of peace – it is yet another weapon that is being increasingly effectively wielded by those whose ultimate goal is Israel’s destruction.  By lending their voices to the mob calling for Israel’s demise, the UCC, instead of working for peace, is adding to the conflict.
I pray that those of conscience within the Mainstream Protestant community will rise up in protest against this act of injustice and prejudice. While I will not go so far as to call the UCC anti-Semitic, their embrace of BDS strengthens those who are. I pray that the bonds of partnership that I have so cherished over the years are not irreparably broken and that, in time, we will once again be able to sit in dialogue together. I do not see this on the horizon, I'm sad to say. There is a great deal of healing that needs to be done. May it come soon.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Yet Another Prayer In The Aftermath of Tragedy

Tonight, I will be representing the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council at a Prayer Vigil in response to the tragedy that took place at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC.  This is what I will be saying:

Prayer for the Vigil at Shorter A.M.E. Church
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
President, Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council
Sr. Rabbi – Temple Emanuel – Denver, CO
June 18, 2015

Our God and God of all people.  We come together tonight in solidarity – in grief and in hope.  We feel the pain of loss, O God.  We remember and grieve the murder of nine of your saints - precious souls whose blood flowed in your holy sanctuary for no reason save that they were the in the proximity of a disturbed and poisoned young man who was given a gun for his 21st birthday.
O God – we long for the day when violence and hatred will disappear.  We pray that the worship of weapons that exists in our society will be replaced with the promise of peace.
We long for the vision of the prophet Isaiah who urged us to beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks…..
Our Jewish tradition teaches: "He who takes one life it is as though he has destroyed the universe" (Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5). Today we in the Jewish Community stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in the African Methodist Episcopal community as we pray for those who were murdered and send our thoughts and strength to the families of the victims and those who were wounded. 
May it be your will O Eternal that we might learn from the pain of this tragedy.  May some good come from this evil act. May people of good will of every race and nation find the courage to stand together in solidarity and scream:  “Enough!  Enough hatred.  Enough Violence. Enough mothers grieving the loss of their babies!”
We need Your presence O Blessed One.  We need to feel the comfort of Your love.  May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing – and let us say, AMEN

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Prayer for the End of a Legislative Session

A Prayer for the End of a Legislative Session
April 30, 2015
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
Temple Emanuel - Denver, CO
Colorado House Of Representatives

Our God and God of All creation:
God who inspires fear and God who comforts.
God who can be found in the rubble of the quake, and in the marches for justice in the streets.
All around us we confront the debris of existence.  We, who try to infuse order into the disarray of daily life understand all too well that, at any moment, the calm we take for granted can be plunged into chaos without warning – whether by natural disaster or pent-up anger and frustration.
In this sacred chamber, the tasks of governance seem both insignificant and indispensable at the same time.  When we try to assess our actions in light of the challenges that face us, our attempts to create change can  seem insignificant. And yet, our refusal to succumb to a cynicism bred from hubris is a defining  characteristic of the divinity You have implanted within us all.
As this legislative session draws to a close, we look back at the months that have passed with mixed emotions.  The hours upon hours of negotiation have been both fruitful and frustrating.  How many hopes for meaningful change were left discarded on the cutting floors and backroom deals of the political process?  How many well-intentioned initiatives were defeated in the name of expedience and influence?
But there were also moments when our highest ideals were on display for all to see.  When politics were set aside for the sake of the common good; When men and women of character came together in the name of our shared values of democracy; when both sides of the aisle were united in determination to celebrate the potential for making a difference…it was, is and always will be these acts of humanity that give us hope in the face of our daily challenges. 
Thank you, God for the ability to shine a light on the goodness of humankind – even when we face adversity.  Thank You for reasons to rise above the petty and the political to make a difference.  Thank you for these leaders who share their passion for representing their communities.  May the recess that awaits them bring rest, renewal and a re-ignited hope for all that is good.
We pray for those around the world whose lives are uprooted by natural disaster, perceived injustice, disease and warfare.  We pray for our great state of Colorado- may we always lift our eyes to the mountains to find Your presence.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Invocation for the Colorado House of Representatives - Yom Ha Shoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day

Invocation for the Colorado House of Representatives
Holocaust Memorial Day
April 16, 2015
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
Temple Emanuel – Denver, CO

Our God and God of compassion,
This morning we stand – not merely in prayer – but in remembrance.
We remember the more than 13,000,000 souls destroyed in the nightmare of the Shoah – the Nazi Holocaust.  Among those innocents exterminated by the Nazis were:
  • ·        Intellectuals
  • ·        Communists
  • ·        Socialists
  • ·        Catholics
  • ·        The Mentally and Physically infirm
  • ·        Gypsies/Roma
  • ·        Gays and Lesbians

·      And, of course – 6 million Jews – of whom 1.5 million were children.

These numbers are not new.  I have lived with them all of my life.
My mother was born in Leipzig, Germany.  She lived through Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass that took place on November 9th, 1938.  She and her parents were able to escape to America and begin new lives here – but the shadows of that night and the months and years that followed, never really disappeared from her consciousness.  That she lived and so many others died created a struggled that she has carried with her all of her life.

This year we commemorate not only the tragedy of the Shoah, but also the 70h anniversary of the liberation of the death and Concentration camps created by the Nazi War machine.  70 years ago, the world came face to face with the depths of humanity’s potential to combine technology and brutality and create the machinery of death.  

Bergen Belzen

....these  and so many other names are forever etched into the nightmares of history – these places of pure evil that taught us the depths to which human beings will descend in order to deny the Divine Image implanted within each of us….

In trying to understand the enormity of evil represented by the dark period of the Shoah we must accept the fact that in some cases there can be no understanding.  To state that one and a half million children died for a reason is blasphemy.  In a world where we strive to see God’s presence, the reality of evil can eclipse even the brightest flame of holiness.

Our task, in remembering those precious souls who perished, must be to strengthen our resolve to call out and combat evil wherever and whenever it arises. When we are silent, we are complicit.

Elie Weisel – the great writer and teacher wrote:

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference." 

When we turn our backs to the ugliness in our world – we are desecrating God’s presence in our midst.  Let us remember that with the holiness implanted within us comes the responsibility to shine a light on both good and evil – wherever it may find itself.

I now will chant the El Malei Rachamim – the prayer of remembrance for  those who perished.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Our Budget Reflects Our Values - Opening Prayer for the CO State House - April 9, 2015

Our Budget Reflects Our Values
Invocation for the Colorado State House
Rabbi Joseph R. Black – Temple Emanuel, Denver, CO
April 9, 2015

Our God and God of all people:
On this sacred day – these legislators are focused on the difficult task of approving a $25 Billion budget for our fair State of Colorado.   While many see the budgeting process as a tedious wrangling of numbers from one column to another so that the final results might be balanced, there is another way to approach it.  Instead of seeing columns, figures and numbers, might we also consider the fact that each dollar allocated serves as an opportunity to bring about change and hope in the lives of all too many of our citizens whose capacity for wonder is compromised by the brutal struggle for daily existence?
Our budgets reflect our values.
Our values color our vision of the world around us.
Our vision determines the way we live up to the sacred responsibilities that have been entrusted to us – as legislators, citizens and servants of a God who holds us to high standards of compassion and cooperation.
On this day of deliberation, let us pray that these lawmakers will see the faces of the men, women and children who are  affected by each column in the balance sheet; each line item that has been added or subtracted before the finals are tallied.
At the end of this day, may all of these dedicated public servants be able to find peace in the knowledge they have done all that they could  to make our world, our state, our neighborhoods, our homes – our very selves – just a little bit better.
May politics and pride be no stumbling block to the achievement of the shared goal of working to perfect this all-too imperfect world.
God we thank you for the opportunities You have given us to make a difference.  May we continue to go and grow from strength to strength.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Rabbi's Annual Meeting Report - 2015

Temple Emanuel Denver
Annual Meeting
Rabbi’s Report
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
March 20, 2015
Dear Friends,

In the Jewish mystical tradition, numbers have important significance.  The ancient practice of Gematria involves taking the numerical value of words and phrases and finding hidden meaning in these numbers.  Since tonight is the 140th annual meeting of Temple Emanuel, I thought I would try to find some significance in the number 140.  Looking into the torah, I discovered that the Hebrew word, הקהל (HaKahal) adds up to 140.  הקהל means “The community”

Truly, I can think of no better word to sum up this past year than הקהל.  More than anything else, over the past 12 months, we have been focusing on building our community and preparing for important changes that have already taken place and soon will be upon us.  Building a Kahal is not easy.  It is more than simply offering programs – although we did offer an amazing array of opportunities for involvement.  But to be fully successful, it requires that we open multiple doorways or portals of entry to every part of our community – finding ways to engage everyone in meaningful and important ways.

What follows are some of the key highlights of the past year for me and the staff:

Worship initiatives.
High Holy Days:
This past year we added to our Shema Koleynu service in the sanctuary – integrating more visual tefillah elements and adding considerably to the musicians and music we played

We also created an interactive guide for the holidays to help each member of the temple chart their own course through the holidays – indicating which services and programs were appropriate for differing interests and age-groups

Shabbat Mornings:

Our Weekly Torah Study (Parashat HaShavua) is continuing to grow and flourish.  On any given week, anywhere from 35-50 people come to Temple at 9:00 AM, sit around a table and study the weekly Torah portion.  This class is taught by all of our clergy.  The fact that each of our Clergy members brings their own unique perspective and experience to the table means that every week is different and exciting.  The community of students who gather every week has become very strong.  At the same time, new people are continually joining the group.  This is a vital and exciting part of our Shabbat and Educational vision.

Our Community Shabbat Morning Services is also flourishing.  We have moved into one of the Social Halls.  Cantor Sacks is the coordinator of this service and a constant presence, while Rabbi Immerman, Rabbi Foster, Steve Brodsky and I rotate in and out.  This service has grown exponentially.  Utilizing new music, lay-led divrei torah (short torah commentary) and lots of enthusiastic participation, it is a wonderful addition to the spiritual life of Temple Emanuel.

Young Family Shabbat Programs:

The 2nd Friday and 3rd Saturday of every month we welcome young families with small children to a spirited and spiritual Shabbat experience – filled with dancing, singing, multiple activities.  It has become a great way for young families to come tougher and experience Shabbat  as well as connecting to our clergy, staff and congregation.

Sanctuary sound improvements:  Thanks to a generous gift that will soon be announced, we are in the process of upgrading our sound system in the main Sanctuary.  This will enable us to not only make it easier for everyone to hear what is happening, but it will also allow us to hold special programs like Shabbat and Rosh HaShanah Unplugged, Shema Koleynu and concerts without bringing in extra sound equipment.  We hope to have everything in place this summer.

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Additional Programmatic Innovations (not a complete list):

Hesed (Healing, Empowering and Serving at Emanuel Denver)
Out of last year’s successful work on mental health issues in the community, we created a mental health task force that split away from HESED

HESED is partnering with other congregation and communities to address the issues of gun violence.  they will be co-hosting and important event on march 31 with rabbi Joel Mosbacher entitled “Do not stand idly by” – this program will deal with how we, as a community can come together in unity over ending the plague of gun violence that is engulfing our nation

Expanded Adult Education Offerings:
In order to fulfill our congregational vision of being a community of life-long learners, we have continued to add to our offerings for Adult Education – under the leadership and coordination of Cantor Elizabeth Sacks.  These have ranged from hosting the iEngage program, to weekly Talmud classes, book groups hosted by our Librarian and Assistant Principal, Rita Dahlke, Cantor Heit’s “Lunch and Learn,” and a variety of topical and affinity group discussion groups. 

We have had a special focus on Israel programs this year.  We offered several versions of the iEngage program and followed it up with 4 weeks of discussion around current issues in Israel – culminating in last Tuesday nights Israel election follow-up discussion.  We invited prominent community leaders to help co-facilitate these discussions with our clergy.  We plan to continue these groups as long as there is interest.

Temple Emanuel was proud of house community-wide events sponsored by AIPAC, and J-Street in which the community came together in respectful forums to hear a wide variety of perspectives on how we, as American Jews, can and should show our love of and support for the State of Israel.

We hosted a community-wide Shavuot celebration where we invited community leaders to share their most important verse from the Torah – a very powerful evening

In preparation for the Neshama Carelbach concert, Cantors Heit and Sacks taught a class on “Jewish Gospel”

We brought in several important speakers as teachers and scholars in residence including:
·         Poet and Liturgist Alden Solovy
·         Journalist Uriel Heilman of JTA
·         Rabbi Mark Glickman  - interim rabbi of of Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder will be  speaking about his fascinating book about the Cairo Geniza this coming Thursday night
·         And we will be hosting Rabbi Jonah Pesner – Executive Vice President of the URJ and Director of the RAC in DC the 1st weekend of May.  Rabbi Pesner will speak about what it means to be an Engaged Congregation. We also will be having a very special event on May 3rd – the last Day of Religious school during which we will be inviting religious school families to come together in conversation as we envision the future of our congregation.  You will be learning a lot more about this in the days and weeks to come.
We hosted many Musicians including:
·         Sheldon Lowe
·         Michelle Citrin
·         Ori Naftali Band
·         Neshama Carelbach, Josh Nelson  - their band and the Freedom Project Gospel choir – annual fundraiser honoring Janet Bronitsky
Last Summer’s Israel Trip truly was a powerful experience – 44 of us came together at a difficult time – but we forged bonds – not only with one another, but also with the land and people.

Next year I am excited to announce that Sue and I will be leading trips to Cuba and Israel.

Last Summers’ Interns – Yael Rooks Rapport, Sam Kaye and Josh Fixler all brought energy and excitement to both Shwayder Camp and Temple Emanuel.

Shwayder Gala
We celebrated Shwayder Camp’s 65th anniversary in style with a wonderful Gala event. 

Neshama Carelbach and Josh Nelson Fundraiser
Continuing our tradition of offering a concert of contemporary Jewish music as our main fundraiser of the year, the weekend with Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson was fantastic.  Under the direction of Francie Miran, our Development Manager, and led by lay co-chairs, Phyllis Adler, Susie Cook and Laurie Saltzman, and a very hard-working committee, the weekend was an unqualified success – financially, programmatically and communally.  Not only did Neshama, Josh and their band  - along with the Freedom Project Gospel Choir put on an amazing concert on Saturday night, Josh also led a “Warehouse Shabbat” service at the Mercury Café for our Young Adults and the two of them gave a rousing family concert at Religious School.
We honored our beloved Janet and raised a significant amount of money in her honor.
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BUILDING COMMUNITY with The Temple Leadership
Our President, Ellen Abrams, had a very busy first year in office.  As we will hear at services when she speaks tonight, she has been intimately involved in the Shwayder campaign, the Executive Director search committee and so many other areas.  She is a constant presence here at Temple and we meet together on a regular basis – along with Janet Bronitsky and Sr. Director, Cantor Sacks.  Ellen is a dedicated and hard-working, visionary leader who shares our dream of helping Temple Emanuel enter into a new world of cutting edge leadership and innovation.  She truly is a blessing.

Our trustees and officers have worked tirelessly to ensure that our vision is in line with our deeds and that we will have the resources and resilience to continue to grow.
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Susan Wartchow – Director of our ECC
WOW! What can we say about Susan?  Her incredible energy, enthusiasm, professionalism, wacky sense of humor, visionary leadership has transformed our ECC.  Parents and teachers alike cannot say enough about the many amazing skills and changes she has made.  But it’s not only here at Temple Emanuel – or even in Denver.  National leaders in early childhood have all been put on notice that she is a force to be reckoned with in the field of early childhood.

Robyn Kaplan- Director of Youth Engagement and Commuications
Robyn joined our team this past summer after leading the IST trip.  She had made wonderful connections with our young people and is energetically building our Youth program.  We hosted a regional JYG kallah last month and are looking forward to hosting the National NASHIR songleading workshop next month

Patricia Lackner – Clergy Assistant
Patricia is no stranger to Temple.  She and her family are long-time members of our congregation.  She also teaches in our religious school and Confirmation program. She brings a warmth, generous spirit and calm competence to what is a very difficult and challenging role as she juggles our clergy schedules, works with families and brings a wonderful, positive attitude to the office.

Steve Brodsky – Engagement Director and Artist in Residence
We are blessed to have Steve on our team in a full-time capacity.  Steve has been part of Temple Emanuel longer than almost anybody else on our staff – starting from his days as Youth Director and Shwayder Camp Director, Steve knows tis congregation inside and out.  His musical contributions are too numerous to mention – we are who we are today largely because of his amazing talents as a musician, organizer, teacher and caring soul.  To be able to see him every day in the office is a blessing for me.

Rabbi Foster continues to be good friend, a trusted colleague and an important mentor.  His commitment to my success means the world to me.  I continue to be humbled and honored to be able to follow in his footsteps.  Over the past 5 years we have worked hard to create a paradigm for what we truly feel is a model for other Emeriti/Successors. I appreciate his candor, advice and partnership.  He is a “Rabbi’s Rabbi” and I feel blessed to be able to learn from him and build on his vision for the sacred congregation.

Rabbi Brian Immerman
Rabbi Immerman is not only a wonderful rabbi – he has brought a wide portfolio of skills to our congregation.  His passion for youth, social justice, torah and community has enabled him to bond with our confirmation class and forge strong connections with individuals, families, staff and committees as well.  He has worked to strengthen and grow our Hineyni Project for Young adults. WE are especially excited about the Shabbat at the Merc programs that came out of last years and this years’ Josh Nelson and Neshama Carlebach concerts.

Rabbi Immerman continues to grow the vision of HESED and is becoming increasingly active in our community as a leader for social justice and change.

Cantor Elizabeth Sacks
Cantor Sacks continues to bring so many different skills to our congregation that it is almost impossible to list them all.  Her leadership, organization, calm presence and h9igh expectations of herself and all of those around her have helped to raise the bar for all of us.  She has partnered beautifully with Cantor Heit, Rabbi Immerman, Steve Brodsky and me as we chart new courses of creative and innovative worship.

Ron Leff, our Director of Education, is a wealth of knowledge.  He is committed to creating the best possible educational environment for our students. Our school is bursting at the seams – his integration of new ideas for learning and growing as a school are on the cutting edge of Jewish education nationally. Ron also plays a vital role in our staff by helping all of us see the big picture when, all too often, we get wrapped up in our own arenas. 

Francie Miran – Development Manager
Francie has done an excellent job coordinating multiple projects for our congregation.  This year she has juggeled between the Shwayder 65 Campaign, our annual fundraiser with Neshama Carlebach and Josh Nelson – which raised record – breaking amounts of money, the ECC fundraiser, our Live On Campaign but she is also constantly vigilant in her t search for creative and meaningful ways to support our community.  From leading our 5:30 lay-led service to always being ready and eager to pitch in, her contributions to the overall wellbeing of our congregation go far beyond her fund-raising acumen.  She is a vital part of our staff team.

Jodie Abrams – Camp Director
In her 2nd full year as Camp Director, Jodie has seamlessly integrated herself into the staff team.  She teaches Confirmation on Wednesday nights, helped Chaperone the NY trip and is always ready to be a part of anything we do.  She and her staff have worked tirelessly to bring new programmatic and organizational facets to Shwayder and she continues to be become involved in several national camping initiatives.  Camp enrollment has never been higher and she is working tirelessly on both helping to raise funds and implement physical and programmatic changes into Shwayder for the future.  Along with Assistant Director Simi Adler, we are poised to grow and build on the legacy of excellence that Shwayder Camp has always been known for.

Rayna WandelReligious School Assistant
Rayna brings a wealth of experience to her position.  In addition to her responsibilities with the Religious School, she also is in charge of our Temple Bulletin.  Her bright and cheery disposition have added a wonderful energy to our office.

Julie Lucas, our bookkeeper, keeps us all in line with her laughter and enthusiasm.

Rita Dahlke, our religious school Assistant Principal and Librarian does a wonderful job making sure that everything is in place in our school programs.  Her exciting vision for our Library is quickly coming to fruition and we are very excited about where she is taking us.

Sura Veta, our receptionist, is the voice of Temple Emanuel – her warm welcome makes everyone feel at home the minute they call or step through our doors.

Cairo Lopez and the rest of the maintenance staff do an incredible job of keeping our building spotless and making sure that every service and program is set up.

And now a word about two very special and vitally important members of our team.

Cantor Regina Heit has served our congregation as Cantor and Senior Cantor for the past 19 years.  Her beautiful voice is only matched by her beautiful soul.  Her boundless energy and enthusiasm never cease to amaze me.  She is a passionate teacher of Torah and a wealth of knowledge about everything from Torah to the history of the Monarchy, to Norwegian Vikings.  She is a counselor to many and a dear friend to all.  We all know that this is her last year as our Senior Cantor and her leaving will be very difficult.  Regina – you taught this congregation how to sing and your song will always be a part of our lives.  We will be honoring Cantor Heit in January as she and Matthew begin an exciting new chapter of their lives.  We are all thrilled for her and are especially grateful that Regina will continue as part of the Emanuel Family in her role of Cantor Emerita.

Finally – a word about my co-CEOJanet Bronitsky.  It’s hard to believe that we only have a few short months left to work together.  For 25 years, Janet has nurtured this congregation with love, firmness and absolute dedication.  As many of you know, Janet never minces her words.  She speaks her mind and lets you know what she is thinking – no matter what.  I so appreciate that.  She has helped me learn about this congregation in almost every arena – from finances and budgets, to personalities and potential mine-fields. Together with our congregation leadership, we work to bring our Temple to new heights of program, involvement and spiritual depth. We all have been incredibly fortunate to have her as our Executive Director.  She has created a legacy of excellence that will help propel us firmly and responsibly into the future.  There is no doubt in my mind that she is the best in her field – bar none.  Thank you Janet.

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I cannot possibly speak to you tonight without publicly acknowledging my beloved wife.  Sue has always been my rock and support.  It’s hard to be an introvert married to an extrovert – just ask her – but any successes that I have had – personally, professionally artistically – I must attribute them to my love and my muse.

As we enter into our 140th year as a congregation- there is so much for which we can and should be thankful.  For all of us who are a part of our Kahal – our community – Thank you for entrusting this sacred congregation in our hands.  I know that I speak for the entire staff when I say that we are truly blessed.

Thank you for providing me with this incredible opportunity to serve this sacred community of Temple Emanuel.  May we continue to go and grow from strength to strength.


Rabbi Joseph R. Black

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Prayer For The Mid-Point of a Legislative Session

Our God and God of all people:
You who have implanted within us an urgency to make a difference…
As we come together on this day of deliberation – let us take a moment to reflect on the fact that we have reached the mid-point of our legislative calendar.  As in any endeavor with which we engage ourselves, it is important that we use milestones and measures to reflect on our accomplishments to date. 
Let us look back on the days and weeks that have brought us to this point. Let us acknowledge the fact that, while the end is in sight, the list of tasks that lay unfinished grows increasingly heavy.
Now is a time for taking stock in ourselves and our souls – as a legislative body and as unique individuals created in the image of a loving Creator. 
We ask ourselves these questions that rise up from the depths of our souls:
·        Have I realized the goals that I set for myself?
·        Have I allowed partisanship to muddy the waters of promise?
·        Have my words and my deeds been consistent with my values?
·        Have I done all that I could to represent the men and women who sent me here to do this sacred work?
These are not easy questions to answer. They can keep us awake at night.  And yet they are vitally important - for it is only when our souls are tested that we come to understand both our limits and our strengths.  Throughout history, it has often been the immediacy of urgency that has pushed men and women of greatness to find the strength and courage to work together in harmony for the sake of the common good.
God, we pray that hubris might not triumph over humility.  Help these men and women work together to do the vitally important work of shepherding our great state of Colorado towards paths of compassion and wholeness.  Heal our divisions, God.  Bless the holy work of this chamber so that when they reach the end of their session, they will do so with a sense of satisfaction of a job well done.  AMEN