Welcome to the
Roosevelt Island jewish congregation
Our Temple in the Cultural Center
Over 40 years of prayers, services & more...
High Holiday Childrens Services
One of the many family friendly events
Annual observances of festivals & holidays, including Tu B'Shevat & more...
ROOSEVELT ISLAND JEWISH CONGREGATION
Joel Shaiman, Rabbi. Nina Lublin, President.
We hope all is well with you, your families and friends. Spring is here!! There is much to look forward to with the RIJC!! Hope you & your families & friends will be spending time with us over the next few weeks & months.
Please join Rabbi Joel this Friday, March 24th, at 7:00 pm for Friday night Shabbat services in our Sanctuary in the Cultural Center.
Email reminders will be coming with Zoom and Siddur links, which are also always available on RIJC.org on the Coming Up page.
PASSOVER 5783 / 2023 Begins Wednesday April 5th —
Will you be ready? Join us on Monday evening, April 3 for a little Passover Prep
& April 14 for Shabbat &/dinner — (details on Coming Up Page), and consider Rabbi Joel’s message below ...
Rabbi Joel’s Passover Message & Reminder about selling your Hamietz ...
If you would like to sell your Hameitz, please use this form,
or paste this link into your browser: https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/webform/sale-hameitz-5783
A Passover Message:
An Aramean sought to destroy my father, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number and there he became a nation – great, mighty and populous. (Deut. 26:5)
This verse forms the foundation of the maggid section of our Haggadah. “There” – in Egypt, “he” - Jacob (AKA Israel), “became.. a nation” – the Jewish people. The verse helps to explain how the Passover Seder continues to be the most well-observed Jewish ritual. No matter what we believe, where we live, how we vote, and where we go (or don’t go) to synagogue, Jews the world over continue to be drawn to intimate gatherings where we retell the story of the Exodus, when we “became a nation – great, mighty and populous.”
That said, we are witnessing some major disagreements within our little nation. Just look at the protests in Israel against the government’s plan to reform the country’s judicial system. American Jews are similarly divided about the plan, and about many other things too! For example, should the New York Times be applauded for its top-notch journalism uncovering the many problems within the ultra-Orthodox school community, or is it encouraging anti-semitism (as suggested by a billboard on 8th Avenue that I noticed just the other day?)
Of course, it’s not only the Jewish people. We Americans are also experiencing major disagreements, ones that threaten our core strengths. Are we really “one nation, under God, indivisible”?
The fault lines that exist within our two identities – Jewish and American, got me thinking about the similarities between them. Yes, it’s true that the United States and Israel have a “special relationship”. The US Department of State’s website explains this quite clearly: “The 75-year partnership has been built on mutual interests and shared democratic values from its inception, with Israelis and Americans united by their commitment to democracy, economic prosperity, and regional security.” However, I think it’s more than our shared “Judeo-Christian” values. What is it that binds Jews and Americans together, on similar (if not identical) journeys?
There’s a verse from the original Exodus story that comes to mind, perhaps explaining the unique nature of our identities – Jewish and American. At the climax of the Exodus, as the Israelites are leaving Egypt after 430 years of slavery, the Torah notes this little tidbit: Moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them… (Exodus 12:38)
Ancient commentators understood the “mixed multitude” (erev rav in Hebrew) to be non-Israelites:peoples from other ethnicities and nations. Perhaps it also included some Egyptians. In rabbinic tradition, this group is understood to be converts to Judaism.
Why was the story of this group included in the broader Exodus narrative? Future Jewish commentators weren’t too impressed with them. Several midrashim envision that it was this “mixed multitude” who were the instigators of the Golden Calf fiasco, and were the first to complain to Moses that there was no meat in the desert!
Yet, the p’shat – the plain meaning – of the verse notes their inclusion in a matter-of-fact way. It is likely that this group was marginalized by Egyptian society, and that they chose to join the Israelites in their journey toward freedom, toward a new life in a better place.
Kind of sounds like us Americans too. We are a nation of immigrants. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
We Jews and we Americans do have real challenges that need to be resolved. Yet, at our core, we need to recognize our uniqueness. We are both open societies, optimistic, poised to the future. As we say on Seder night, we are ready to welcome “all who are hungry’, and “all who are needy”. This year, it seems that we are slaves to our passions and to our disagreements. Next year, may we all be free.
Have a wonderful, kosher, zissen Pesach!
Rabbi Joel Shaiman
We look forward to your continued presence and participation, as well as being able to welcome you to the RIJC for the first time over the next few weeks and months.