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03/25/2015 11:10:14 AM



Shalom Chaverim, 

Spring is a time of youth and vitality, Lag B'Omer marks the spiritual change of seasons from morning to joy, 

and these will all come together this Shabbat at the House of Friends as we host the first annual Jewish High School of CT Westport Shabbaton.


The Jewish High School, under the leadership of Rabbi Elisha Paul, has made a mark on our community. It is great pride that we invite this year's freshman class, the largest in the school's history, led by president Ben Marcus (like father, like son!) to join us for a special shabbaton the week. Students, faculty, and Rabbi Paul and his family will join us and help infuse our spring shabbat with the the youthful energy of the next generation of Jewish leaders.


Speaking of Jewish leaders, I am writing this from the RCA convention in Stamford, the annual meeting of Rabbis from across North America and abroad, including England, France, Turkey, and of course, Eretz Yisrael.


















Fascinating presentations by top leaders in rabbinic thought, wonderful networking opportunities, and a chance to make new and enjoy olds friends.

Beit Chaverim is already known around here (oh, you're from the shul that has services on the beach and learn talmud on the boat?), and you never know just who is going to show up.



Rosh Chodesh Nissan

03/20/2015 10:15:43 AM


Shalom Chaverim,
What a month of simcha! After a joyous Purim we were blessed to maintain the exalted level all the way to this week's simcha- the weddimng of Martha Wall to Yehudah Meyers. 
Martha and Yehudah
Mazel Tov to Martha and Yehudah, and their families and friends, and yashar koach to all the members of the Beit Chaverim family who added so much to the simcha!
Please call Patrice if you have not yet reserved for this Sunday's evening of comedy at Westport Town Hall.
Second Seder is coming! You work so hard making the first seder- this one's for you! Relax, leave the cooking to us, and have a meaningful and spiritually uplifting second seder at Beit Chaverim. Reserve here.
This Sunday we once again welcome the Bridgeport Kollel to join us for Lox 'N Learn. The last one was a great success, please come by for a pre pesach tuneup mit a shmear. All are invited, Shacharit at 8:30AM.
We will also focus on Pesach this Wednesday and next at Lunch N' Learn.
Sunday March 29 we will be kashering utensils (bring anything from home to be kashered, and do not use for 24 hours prior for Pesach after the 8:30AM service, and getting the shul kitchen kosher for pesach.Volunteers needed! Please drop me a line if you can help out for an hour or two.
Finally, we have the equivalent of an NHL Hat Trick- this shabbat we will take out three (count 'em!) Torah scrolls as we begin sefer Vayikra and observe observe Rosh Chodesh. That's two...
This Shabbat is also Parashat HaChodesh, one of the special pre Passover maftir readings- Torah scroll number three. Read all about the significance of this special Shabbat  right here.
As always, as we approach our Festival of Freedom, we take a moment to reflect on our good fortune, and on our commitment to help others who are less fortunate. Please, please, do not forget about those in our community who cannot even afford the basic necessities to make a seder this Pesach.
Send a check to the shul marked 'Maot Chittim" made out to my discretionary fund, or call or email Patrice in the office, and I will make sure that we can ensure that everyone will be able to have a wonderful Pesach.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Greg

Raison D'etre

02/04/2015 03:40:58 PM


With mixed emotions I returned from Israel this week. My first Beit Chaverim congregational trip to the Holy Land was a huge success. The five of us grew immensely in ruchniut (spirituality), praying at the Kotel and in our hotel synagogue ( very friendly- just like Beit Chaverim!) studying together, and connecting to the magical feeling that emanates from every inch of Israel.  The gashmiut (physicality) was pretty amazing, too. After burning many calories in our successful Israman Triathlon performance, we recovered with great food, with the taste of the Land in every bite.
We are already planning a return trip next winter, and would like to have more of you join us! Stay tuned for dates and details.
As I mentioned in last week's shabbat update, a few of us decided to go into the Sinai for a few moments just so we could relive the exodus from Egypt. The Sinai and it's famous mountain are the setting for this weeks dramatic Torah portion, where we experience the raison d'être of the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt- receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai.
Don't miss it! Services start at 9AM....
No less important, but a lot closer is the AIPAC policy conference in Washington three weeks from now.
This is great to chance to join the Beit Chaverim contingent and help influence the decision makers in Washington to support the legislation that guarantees that Israel will remain to be the sole democratic voice in the Middle East, and a strong, vital ally of the US.
Save the dates! Purim at Beit Chaverim isWednesday night March 4, and Thursday March 5th during the day. We need a few people to join our Purim committee to ensure that this year's chag is the best yet! Please contact Andrew Marcus or Rabbi Greg if you can lend a hand.
Pesach will be here before you know it, and we will be hosting our famous Second Seder on Sat. Night April 4. Be sure to put all the date sin your calendar, details to follow.
Coming up in two weeks on Feb 27-28  Marriage/Relationship Shabbaton featuring Rabbi Mat and Dr. Brachi Hoffman
Read about it here.
If I must leave Israel, then the next best spot is right here at the House of Friends. Hope to see you here this week.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Greg

Giving Thanks

11/26/2014 01:22:42 PM


Shalom Chaverim,
I hope everyone reading this is home safe and warm, having survived the weather challenges of the busiest travel day of the year. Thanksgiving, the first American holiday going back to Pilgrim days, is a national treasure. When William Bradford called for a special day in 1621 to celebrate the bountiful harvest of the first corn crop (Sound familiar? Think about it in the sukka next year!) he had no idea he would be creating a model for family values in American life. Abraham Lincoln signed it into law in 1863, and despite the commercial attempts to turn the day from a day of reflection on our good fortune to a day of anticipation of materialistic conquests, we still have an opportunity to sit with our loved ones and acknowledge the source of our bounty.
The Jewish people celebrate thanksgiving a minimum of once a week, sitting down on Shabbat and expressing gratitude to our Creator for delivering us from slavery to freedom. In fact the very words "Jewish People" (in HebrewYehudim יהודים) mean "those that will thank"! Is it a coincidence that our Torah reading this week tells us about the birth of Jacob and Leah's fourth son, whom Leah names Yehuda (I will thank)? And, the ubiquitous bird served up on just about every table is called in HebrewTarnegol Hodu. Hodu means India, as many thought that the New World bird came from India (remember Columbus, the East Indies etc..) But, Hodu also means "Give Thanks"! "Hodu L'Ado-Shem Ki Tov"!
In reality we Yehudim celebrate thanksgiving every day. In our Amidah, recited several times a day, we say "Modimanachnu lach-we offer thanks to you". But, that is only the tip of the iceberg. We thank our creator continuously throughout the day, before and after eating, performing rituals, even after taking care of our most basic bodily functions. It's no wonder that the gematria (numerical value)of the word modim מודים is 100, which is the number of times we should try to thank our Creator every day.
We all know about Birkat Hamazon, a Torah mitzvah obligating us to thank G!d after satiating ourselves with a meal over bread, based on the verse V'achalta v'savata u'vayrachta et Hashem Elokecha, you will eat and be satisfied, and thank G!d.... But, how often do busy people, aside from Shabbat and holidays, have an opportunity to have a meal like that.
In recognition of that, our sages instituted the practice of saying very short blessings (less than 10 words!) beforepartaking of our physical needs. Unlike animals, we can take the must mundane activity and elevate it.
In fact, taking literally a second or two to express our gratitude before eating or drinking, or after using the facilities can change your entire spiritual life almost overnight! Gratitude is the mindset that enables us to rise up against the perils of the anti spiritual, materialistic lifestyle that is continually and aggressively marketed to us, celebrated on screen and played out in the schoolyard and workplace. 
It is with great pleasure that we announce a synagogue wide effort to inspire and educate our members of all ages and backgrounds to seize the moment, and develop a mindful gratitude that can be expressed throughout the day.
Our talented youth directors Binyomin and Naomi have already started teaching the children the words to the traditional blessings, and we encourage all the adults as well. 
To make this into a fun process we will be having a game show/ contest, the first Beit Chaverim Bracha Bee (BCBB) to be held on December 21 at our community wide Hanuka party/brunch for families, empty nesters, seniors and singles. We will be passing out booklets in shul to our youth, and asking them to learn them with their parents. (the BCBB is for all ages!) learn the berachot/blessings. Meanwhile, click here to get started.
Watch this space and your inbox for more info on this fun, intergenerational activity.
This week we will celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of Sam Parks- Mazel Tov to Sam and the entire Parks family. Join us Friday night at 5:30PM, and Sat morning at 9AM.
We will have services Thursday and Friday morning at 8:30AM, and a co-ed all ages touch football game (The Turkey Bowl) is scheduled for Thursday morning, immediately after services. Snow or shine...
Wishing every one a Happy Yom Hodu, and an even happier Shabbat! 
Rabbi Greg

Shabbat Ki Teitzei

09/02/2014 10:51:43 PM


Shalom Chaverim,
Although the guns are silent for the moment, Israel is still at war. 
Despite the best efforts by her detractors to paint Israel as a brutal conquering force, TzH"L is an extremely moral army. In this week's parasha we learn about the moral conduct of soldiers during battle. Come check it out on Shabbat! 
This Shabbat we are proud to present scholar in residenceRabbi Dr. Lewis Glinert, from Dartmouth College. He will speak on "What's so funny about being Jewish: An insider's look at Jewish humor". 
An accomplished linguist, Rabbi Glinert will also speak at seudat shlishit on some unknown secrets of the Hebrew language. Maybe we can get him to share one of his many hasidic stories, too!
Come to Fairfield this Sunday to cheer on Beit Chaverim's own Holy Smokes BBQ Team 
Scroll down for info on our visit by Rabbi Avi Orlow from the Foundation for Jewish Camp,   Rosh Hashana classes, and our first Rosh Hashana Shofar Jam. Our next community Shabbat Dinner will be Friday night, Sep 26. After 2 days of Rosh Hashana, leave the driving to us!
See you soon at the House Of Friends!
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Greg
The High Holidays are coming!
We are looking for a few good men (and women!) to serve as ushers (different shifts available) for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Let's make sure that all who come to Beit Chaverim, especially first timers, immediately feel the warmth we are famous for! Please contact Flo Danzer if you are interested. 
Click here to make a donation to the OU Israel Emergency Fund- 100% of funds go directly to people in need.
The Friends of the IDF supports the soldiers directly- you can donate here.
A refuah shlaima to our friend AJ, who is on the mend. If you are interested in joining the Bikkur Cholim team to support the sick and their families, newborn Moms, shut ins,  or anyone in our community who could use some TLC, please contactRona Wall.
Finally- please join us for our mincha and Seudat Shlishit at6:30PM PM this Shabbat afternoon (note earlier time). We have been having a wonderful time with spirited singing, abon mot or two, a nosh, and great company as we try to keep the Shabbat from slipping away.

Shabbat Nachamu

08/06/2014 02:02:50 PM


Shalom Chaverim-
נַחֲמוּ נַחֲמוּ, עַמִּי--יֹאמַר, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם.
Be comforted, be comforted my people, says the L-rd.

The Shabbat after Tisha B'Av is know as Shabbat Nachamu, the Sabbath of consolation, and our nation mood changes from mourning Jerusalem to joy in anticipation of the pending Redemption.
As of this writing, things are calm in Israel, and we pray that those whose lives have been turned upside down by the events of the past month find nechama as well.
One of the only positives to emerge from the horrors of this war, and the terror of global antisemitic outbursts, is the incredible feeling of Jewish Unity.
We need to move forward with this feeling of Unity nationally, and locally. The same G-d we poured out our hearts to when we learned of the tragic death of our three teenage students, the same G-d we cried out to in our beautifully poignant Tisha B'Av service is still open for business, and ready to receive our prayer.
Communal prayer is key nutrient in our spiritual spiritual health, and I want to make sure people are getting the full effects of its benefits.
Our sages, in their wisdom, created a deeply meaningful structure of our prayers, with each component flowing sequentially into the next, culminating in the Amidah, the silent prayer said standing, which represents the daily offering at the Holy Temple.  When one arrives in the middle of that sequence, it is very challenging to get the full spiritual benefit of the experience, and one can possibly feel unfulfilled from the experience.
I urge everyone to try to come on time for the service, and take advantage of the spiritual symphony our sages have composed for us.
This Shabbat I will be offering a short (15 minute class) on the structure of the Shabbat prayers, and would like to have a quorum by 9:15AM. This will enable more people to feel they are getting the most out of davening, and ensure we finish the service with plenty of time for eating and socializing.
Mazel Tov to founding members  Rhonda and Judd Love,who have become grandparents. Caryn Love Schiller gave birth last week to Jacob Eli. 
The fighting has died down, but the damage has been done.  Click here to make a donation to the OU Israel Emergency Fund- 100% of funds go directly to people in need.
The Friends of the IDF supports the soldiers directly- you can donate here.
Please continue to pray for the speedy recovery of Kaila Nechama bat Esther. Thanks to all who have supported her and her family with donations for meals, and hospital visits. The congregational response was impressive, and a proud moment for me personally. If you are interested in joining the Bikkur Cholim team to support the sick and their families please contact Rona Wall.
The new Yizkor book is in the works. If you have names to add please send email to Patrice, or call her at the office.
Finally- please join us for our mincha and Seudat Shlishit at 7:30PM on Shabbat afternoon (note earlier time). We have been having a wonderful time with spirited singing, a bon mot or two, a nosh, and great company as we try to keep the Shabbat from slipping away.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Greg

Fireworks at Beit Chaverim!

07/02/2014 10:27:26 AM


Shalom Chaverim-

It has been a week of mixed emotions. The joyful shabbat with the extended Kurtz family gave way to the horrible news from Israel. These senseless killings deeply affected the Jewish people around the world, and left us all numb, angry, and distraught.

I am very encouraged by the large turnout we had last night at the memorial service for Gilad, Naftali and Eyal, and the fact that our synagogue is here to offer solace and comfort to everyone in our community, not just our members. May we only come together in the future to celebrate life!

Now for some positive news: This week, after many, many years of hard work, we finally obtained our zoning permit to begin developing our property on Ludlow Rd, and build our new synagogue building! It has been a long time coming, and we look forward to continuing to grow together, inside and outside of the new shul. 

Our most sincere appreciation for the hard work of Alan Benjamin in completing the final phase of the permit process, to our co-presidents Louis Parks and Andrew Marcus for refusing to give up the dream, and to the board for their support.The new building committee is in formation, and we welcome everyone to get involved. Help us build the permanent home on Ludlow Rd. we can enjoy now, and leave as a legacy to our children, grandchildren and the entire community.

Big kiddush this shabbat to celebrate, sponsored by the Board of Directors- see you there!

Mazel Tov to Jean and George Sichel on the wedding of their son Jonathan to Elana Hagler, to take place Thursday night. May we continue to share in each other's s'machot!
 A new class has set sail- "Adrift in a Sea of Talmud". The class is held on Friday mornings at 10AM... on a sailboat! We sail into the Sound, and take out our volumes of Talmud (Masechet Yoma) and go to work! Some Hebrew text skills helpful, but not required.
Contact Rabbi Wall for more info
Finally- please join us for our mincha and Seudat Shlishit at 8PM on Shabbat afternoon. We have been having a wonderful time with spirited singing, a bon mot or two, a nosh, and great company as we try to keep the Shabbat from slipping away.
 Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Greg
Enjoy this preview of my new CD!

What a Gala!

06/24/2014 11:14:47 PM


Shalom Chaverim-
What a wonderful Gala last Sunday at the Cobb's Mill! Mazel Tov to our honoree Barbara Halpern, and thanks to all the folks who worked with the dinner committee to organize a truly enjoyable evening. 
This week many of our young people head off to camp, and in light of that we will have our first Jewish Writers Shabbat installment. Kicking off the series will be Ari Goldman, long time NY Times Religion reporter and professor at Columbia University's School of Journalism.
Ari will speak Saturday morning about his new book, "The Late Starters Orchestra", an inspirational story of not letting life pass you by without a chance to fulfill your dreams. 
This Shabbat (as well as Sunday) is Rosh Chodesh, so come early so as not to miss a lively Hallel in honor of the day. For more info on Hallel click here.
A new class has set sail- "Adrift in a Sea of Talmud". The class is held on Friday mornings at 10AM... on a sailboat! We sail into the Sound, and take out our volumes of Talmud (Masechet Yoma) and go to work! Some Hebrew text skills helpful, but not required.
Contact Rabbi Wall for more info.
Finally- please join us for our mincha and Seudat Shlishit at 8PM on Shabbat afternoon. We have been having a wonderful time with spirited singing, a bon mot or two, a nosh, and great company as we try to keep the Shabbat from slipping away.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Greg

Post Shavuot Wrap-up

06/08/2014 01:25:03 AM


Shalom Chaverim, 
What a delightful Chag Shavuot at the House of Friends!
It was great to see such a fine turnout for our dinner at late night learning session. Thanks to our wonderful presenters, and special thanks to Chef Andrew Marcus for his culinary creations Tuesday night, and grilling finesse Thursday afternoon.
In Judaism, there is a special significance to an event that happens three times in a row- it is called a chazaka (something strong) and is given special status. For the past three weeks we have been meeting at the shul on Saturday just before the sun goes down, to spend to some special time together, and holding on to the shabbat as it slips away. After a short mincha, where we get a taste of next week's parsha, we hold onto the taste of Shabbat itself by sharing a light meal together, seudat shlishit, the "Third Meal", which is said to be the taste of the world to come. We sing, learn a bit, and enjoy each other's company before relinquishing the day to the night. If you have not experienced seudat shlishit at Beit Chaverim, I urge you to come by and see for yourself! We are in and out in a little more than an hour.
Starting a week from today we will introduce a 45 min. Friday morning coffee and parsha shmooze, at 9AM, preceded by shacharit at 8AM. All  are welcome- come to either, or both!
We are working on the new website, and it is live please take a visit, and let us what you think.
Thanks to Guy Gola for his help in getting us up and running.
Don't forget- the annual shul meeting is June 18th, at 8PM, and there is still time to get your ad in for the June 22 dinner journal, honoring Barbara Halpern.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Greg

Fresh Ink! (ok, celluloid..)

06/03/2014 06:50:39 PM


Great piece on News12 CT by Kathryn Hauser and Dan Renzetti- thanks, guys!

05/30/2014 01:17:44 PM


Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5774

Shalom Chaverim, 

Yesterday I stopped by a synagogue in Westchester on my way home, to pray the afternoon mincha service. I was number 6, so I was there a while as they hastily assembled a minyan so several men and one woman could say kaddish. I was probably there about fifteen or twenty minutes before the service started, and not one person said hello, introduced themselves, or did anything to make a guest feel comfortable. Those few moments were all it took for me to form an opinion about that synagogue, and I will not be returning soon. Too bad- a nice new building, and lavishly appointed public spaces. Lots of plaques with the names of the big donors...

As we read about the dedication of the Mishkan in this week's parsha, and the gifts each tribe brought, we realize that no attention is paid to unique contributions. The Torah describes the identical gift each brought, downplaying the larger individual contributions that some must have been able to give. What counts is that everybody gave of themselves.

Yes, we are the House of Friends, and we enjoy each other's company. But, anyone walking through our doors immediately senses the contribution we all make here- a warm, welcoming, and accepting attitude that says more about this congregation than any furnishings possibly could.

A gift of ones self is sometime the dearest of all. To take time out to visit a shut in, bring food to a shiva house, or make a minyan, is the highest form of giving, and here we shine. 

From last Friday afternoon through Monday night we conducted every synagogue service, (including a delightful Shabbat Mincha with Seudat Shlishit, and a wonderful shiur from Rabbi Schindler) and the response from our community was inspiring. With mourners in the community our ability to provide a community for prayer is essential. In particular I would like to send a shout out to 13 year old Jacob Cohen, who was the tenth for minyan two mornings in a row, and showed us just what it means to be a bar mitzvah. May he grow and be able to help bestow blessings upon the entire Jewish people, as we see in the Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessings taught in this week parasha, given only by a Kohane. Jacob- you make us all proud.

In less than a week the counting of the omer will conclude, as we usher in the most historically significant of our shalosh regalim, our three festivals, Chag Shavuot, which commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. Unlike Pesach and Sukkot, there are no symbolic rituals or mitzvot (cheesecake is not a mitzvah, although it feels like one!) to make the holiday more accessible. We observe Shavuot by studying Torah, the living legacy of the original revelation that created the Jewish people thirty three hundred years ago. More on Shavuot here and here. We read the Book of Ruth in the synagogue- more on Ruth here.

Save the date! June 3rd- Shavuot feast, and Learn-a-thon! This shavuot we will celebrate our Torah by studying into the wee hours (and all night for the young and young at here for background on the tikkun leil/all night learning custom) following a yom tov dairy meal. Save the date, Tuesday night June 3, and stay tuned for details. Also, don't miss the next shul BBQ kiddush on June 5, following morning holiday services.

The next installment of the Berson/Ziskin congregational learning and kiddush luncheon will take place this week, Sat May 31, in memory of Louis Berson.

And the final installment of Perek in the Park will be this Sat at 5:30PM (note later time).

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Greg

our Sages taught, "Whether one does a lot, or whether one does a little, the main thing is to direct ones heart to Heaven"

Fri, June 9 2023 20 Sivan 5783