Names, and opening our eyes
Three Tu BiShvat Haggadot (Tu BiShvat is on its way!)

Passing the virtual hat for a vandalized shul

Just before this past Shabbat, a small shul in New York City was broken-into and vandalized. The shul is Temple Beth-El of City Island -- "your shul by the sea" -- and its spiritual leader is Rabbi Shohama Wiener, the director of the ALEPH Hashpa'ah (spiritual direction) ordination program through which I was just ordained as a mashpi'ah. Working by her side is rabbinic student David Markus, one of my dearest friends. (Members of CBI, my shul here in the Berkshires, may remember him from his most recent visit to lead davenen with me -- he taught us to sing "Mi Chamocha" to the tune of "The Water is Wide"...)

TBE is unaffiliated with any denomination. It is the only shul in the area, and the community's been around for more than seventy years. They've been in this space since 1957. Reb David reports:

We had broken windows, thefts include all Torah crowns (retailing for thousands in silver, adorning Holocaust-era Torah scrolls), our silver kiddush cups and candleholders, etc. The place is a mess. Burglers tried to take our electronic equipment but dropped them in the sanctuary and fled; we can't use them while the NYPD investigates.

The community is under 100 but growing against substantial odds, reaching out to disaffiliated, young and old, interfaith families; non-Caucasian communities and elderly Jews who have little else. We are egalitarian and spiritual: we did one of the first same-sex marriages after New York legalized, and we mobilized heavily after 9/11 (we could see the Twin Towers from our street). Our dues are virtually nil and our doors are open free of charge during the holidays to ensure that everyone has somewhere to go.

So this vandalism is as much an emotional blow as a financial one, but we hope and pray that the larger community comes to our support in all the ways that we've tried to support the community over the years -- and that we'll emerge stronger and more united behind our values of inclusion and holy community.

May it be so, speedily and soon.

Some of you may have donated last year when I was passing the virtual hat to pay for prayer rug cleaning at a New York city mosque which was desecrated. I'd like to orchestrate a similar drive now. If you have a few bucks to spare, please send them to me via PayPal (rbarenblat at gmail dot com), and indicate in the subject line of your email that this is a donation for TBE. Before next Shabbat, I'll collect whatever has been donated and will send a check to TBE. Your donation won't be tax-deductible (because I'm an individual, not a nonprofit) but let me know whether you want your name to be included on the list of donors or whether you'd prefer to give anonymously and I will honor your wishes either way.

I know these are tough economic times for a lot of us, but if you can spare a few dollars, please send them along. The money will help Temple Beth El of City Island restore their sanctuary and their precious ritual items, and the gesture of making the donation will help them know that they are in our prayers and in our hearts.

Edited to add: Thank you to all who donated; we raised $884 during the week following the break-in, and another $100 came in to my rabbi's discretionary fund earmarked for TBE, so all in all, we raised $984. Thank you, thank you, thank you. If you would like to donate further, there is now a PayPal button on the TBE website.