This week’s Torah portion is Zachor or Remembrance. It is the portion that is always read the Shabbat preceding Purim when we are commanded to remember the evil of Amalek and to eradicate it from the face of the earth. Haman was thought to be a descendant of Amalek and the holiday of Purim celebrates Queen Esther’s bravery and wisdom as she saves the Jewish people from Haman’s evil decree.
Sometimes the rituals and holidays we celebrate can feel like they are connected to something out-of-date, ancient and archaic. But this Shabbat Zachor and Purim, I think that the lessons we learned from the Book of Esther are as relevant as if they happened yesterday. It is hard to imagine that globally and in the United States in 2017 Jews are experiencing the kind of anti-Semitism that we are witnessing. I do not need to go into the specifics. We all hear about the destruction, violence and threats on a daily basis. If ever there was a need for a wise and brave Queen Esther, this is it. Who can we count on to save the Jewish people and to assure our future? To whom can we turn to for guidance and wisdom?
The answer is clear. We turn to our Religious School teachers. They are our protectors and they will insure that our future is strong. These dedicated and passionate Jewish educators are building the foundation that future generations will stand upon. Our children have role models to help them learn and appreciate the beauty of our prayers, rituals, holidays and love of Israel. They are able to ask questions and get answers and to continue to question. Our teachers guide our children to discover their own spiritual path and to be proud and secure in their Jewish identity and when our children feel threatened or concerned about things that are happening in our world, they turn to their teachers for understanding and solutions. Knowledge is power. And our beloved Jewish teachers work tirelessly to make sure that our children become powerful, educated, compassionate, generous, and loving Jews. It is fitting that this weekend of Shabbat Zachor is also Arthur Tirsun Education and Teacher Appreciation Shabbat.
On Friday, March 10th, Temple Beth El and Temple Israel will join together as we celebrate Shabbat and remember to thank the Jewish and secular educators in our community. From our youngest preschoolers through our teens and beyond we owe these dedicated individuals our gratitude for the hard work they do to teach our community both formally and informally. Among those, none is more deserving than Roz Cooper, Director of the Consolidated High School of Jewish Studies, a partnership of Temple Beth El and Temple Israel. We will honor Roz for her many years of service at Hebrew High as well as every other educational institution on Shalom Park. Roz is beloved by her students and is respected and esteemed by her colleagues. She is a teacher of teachers. This joint service is unprecedented in our community and will be held at Temple Beth El at 7:00pm.
Dan Nichols, beloved and renowned Jewish musician, will be leading services along with the clergy of both Temple Beth El and Temple Israel. This will truly be a unique and meaningful Shabbat worship experience and I strongly encourage everyone to attend. Not only will you have the opportunity to thank our teachers, hear beautiful music, and be inspired by meaningful worship, you will also be able to eat! There will also be a delicious preneg prior to the 7:00pm service and a celebratory oneg to follow.
The fun will continue as we celebrate Purim together with Temple Israel on Saturday night, March 11th. Dan Nichols will lead a beautiful Havdalah service followed by a Beatles Purim Shpiel and Megillah reading. We will rock out the rest of the evening with a Dan Nichols concert and dessert reception. All Purim events will be at Temple Israel at 7:00pm.
This is an important weekend. I hope you will join us.