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03/15/2020 05:19:45 PM


This post includes content from my words to the congregation at the Shabbat service on March 13, 2020.

Uncertainty is unsettling. When we don’t know what’s going on, it’s easy to get nervous, upset, frightened. We are living though such a time right now. We don’t know exactly where this new virus is.  We do know that it is disrupting our routines and claiming lives all around the world. 

These past few days,...

Our teens speak about gun violence, mental health, and reproductive rights

02/14/2020 03:51:42 PM


This week, six of our confirmation (10th grade) students traveled to Washington, D.C. with me, where they wrote and delivered impressive presentations to congressional staff.  They spoke about gun violence prevention, mental health funding in schools, and reproductive rights.  With their permission, I share their presentations with you. 

Delivered to Senator Schumer's aide:  Gun Violence Prevention

My...

Our Teens Go to Washington

02/06/2020 12:26:30 PM


Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

On February 7, 2020 I will travel with the teens from our confirmation class to spend four days in Washington, D.C.  We will join teens from congregations around the nation to learn about how Jewish values intersect with the most important public...Read more...

The Short-lived victory of the Maccabees

12/24/2019 07:57:56 AM


On Hanukkah we tell the story of the Maccabees’ victory.  But ultimately, the victory was short-lived.   Just over two centuries after the Maccabees rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem, the Temple lay in ruins, destroyed by the Romans.  Jews never mounted a serious attempt to rebuild it.  What had been the center of Jewish religious life had become obsolete. 

Why did this happen?  Worship...

"The Reason to Believe" Part two

11/26/2019 02:38:25 PM


Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

In the last blog, I wrote about accepting an invitation to speak at an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service because I assumed that the topic would be about gratitude.  When I discovered that the theme of the service was to be “The Reason to Believe,” I wasn’t sure what I would be able to say.  Here is what I said at the service:

The topic for today’s service is “The Reason to Believe.”   This topic is...Read more...

"The Reason to believe"

11/07/2019 02:36:47 PM


Jennifer Jaech

My cell phone rang as I was waiting for a funeral to begin.  On my way to the cemetery, I returned the call.  One of my colleagues from the Peekskill Area Pastor’s Association called to invite me to speak at PAPA’s Interfaith Thanksgiving service on Sunday, November 24th.   She ended her message with: “Please say yes!”

I said yes.  I admire and appreciate my colleague and wanted to help.  Also, I...Read more...

The Possibilities of one relationship

09/10/2019 01:10:26 PM


The problems of our world seem so large, and we are so small.  Where do we find the hope that the future can be better?  

I felt that hope when, at the end of June, Temple Israel hosted two speakers from an organization called Roots.  Roots is in the West Bank, in the state of Israel. This is an area long marked by distrust and marred by violence.  Jewish communities live in close physical proximity to their...Read more...

speaking up for our homeless neighbors

06/28/2019 01:28:33 PM


I live in Peekskill. In recent months I have watched a controversy about relocating the Jan Peek Shelter to a more suitable location lead to ugly and divisive attacks against the organization that runs both this shelter for homeless individuals and the food banks in Peekskill: CHHOP (Caring for the Hungry and Homeless of Peekskill).

At Temple Israel, we have embraced the Jewish mandate to care for the most vulnerable in our...Read more...

iftar at the mosque

05/30/2019 12:14:15 PM


During the month of Ramadan, observant Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down, refraining from food and drink.  The evening meal that breaks the fast is called “iftar.” Last week, members of the Hudson Valley Islamic Community Center (HVICC) in Mohegan Lake invited me and other interfaith members to join them for iftar. 

The Torah tells a story of Abraham and his abundant hospitality to strangers.  Muslims view...Read more...

Amy Brings her guitar

05/01/2019 01:54:12 PM


“Hi Rabbi, it’s Amy Hersh! How are you? Would you like me to come over and sing a song for you?”

I said yes, of course. I had been in my office, remembering a conversation I had with fifth graders on Sunday. I had been talking with them about Yom HaShoah, and one of the students in the room brought up the synagogue shooting in California. Just thinking about that conversation drained me. Why should fifth graders know about such...Read more...

How Can we laugh?

03/19/2019 07:31:21 PM


As the silly and frivolous festival of Purim approaches, one of our members asked:  How can we laugh with all the terrible things happening in our world?  It is a good question.  How do we laugh after the racist murders in the mosques in New Zealand, the rockets flying towards Tel Aviv, or the floods that are devastating communities in the Midwest and in other areas around the world? 

I wonder if...

Cleaning the Schmutz

01/30/2019 12:04:50 PM


This was originally given at Shabbat services on January 12, 2019.  

In the high desert of eastern Washington where I grew up, we regularly had dust storms. Ferocious winds would lift dirt and sand from the ground and blot out the sun from the sky. 

One afternoon, a dust storm came when I was walking home from school.  The sky turned dark with dust, and the strong wind whipped the stinging dirt into my...Read more...

Happy 2019

12/28/2018 04:40:23 PM


It’s hard for me to wish people a Happy New Year.  It’s not because I don’t want people to be happy.  It’s because it doesn't feel like the right season for a new year. Nights are long, and nature is dormant. There is very little “new” reflected in the natural world. 

Spring is a better time for a new year. Green shoots push through the muddy ground, deer give birth to their fawns, and the peepers in the...Read more...

Is it Safe to celebrate Hanukkah?

12/02/2018 01:31:48 PM


It has been a little over a month since the murders in Pittsburgh.  Now we may wonder whether it is safe to attend public Hanukkah menorah lighting ceremonies with our children.  This question was discussed in a Facebook group for Jewish parents of Northern Westchester.  It is a reasonable question. We live in a time when bigots feel empowered to express their hate and to act on it. Is it safe to publicly proclaim our...Read more...

What will we do?  words from the shabbat after the tree of life murders

11/03/2018 12:44:57 PM


The following is a transcript of the words delivered to our congregation on November 2, 2018:

This past week, family and friends gathered to bury their loved ones murdered in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.  This week’s Torah portion begins with a burial too.  In the Torah’s story, Abraham lovingly buries his wife Sarah in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron.  But this is only the beginning of the Torah...Read more...

Fearing the Homeless

10/23/2018 05:46:49 PM


In Peekskill, where I live, there is a controversy brewing.  The Jan Peek shelter is planning to move to a new location.  Over the years, Temple Israel has supported this shelter for homeless people by sending food and donations.  The shelter must move from its current location by the waterfront.  Its leaders plan to relocate the shelter to a location on Washington Street. In the new facility, residents will be able...Read more...

moments that delighted me during the High Holy Days

09/21/2018 04:10:36 PM


Temple Israel's community made the recent High Holy Days beautiful and uplifting for me.  Here are some of my favorite moments:

It was wonderful to hear high schooler Jack Eisenger talk about the Torah's story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac and his confirmation classmate Jacob Aronson chant the Yom Kippur morning haftarah reading from the book of Isaiah.  We often have our youth chant haftarah blessings (as...Read more...

"Play with me!" Summertime sermon writing

08/17/2018 03:29:05 PM


What will I say in my High Holy Day sermons? This is the question rabbis across the nation tackle during the waning days of summer. I am no exception. However, my sermon-writing process might be different from many of my rabbinic colleagues.

I do not begin writing my sermons with an outline or even a set of topics. Instead, I begin with stories I want to tell. Most of the time the stories are rooted in my own experiences of the past...Read more...

My Cousin, The Bishop

06/21/2018 03:07:16 PM


Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

It’s not every rabbi that gets to have a bishop for a cousin.  I’m lucky that way.  My father’s cousin, Rick Jaech, is the Evangelical Lutheran Bishop of Southwestern Washington State. 

Like me, Bishop Jaech does a lot of interfaith and social justice work.  One of my favorite photos of him was taken in Olympia, the capital of Washington State.  In the photo Bishop Jaech stands with a rabbinic colleague...Read more...

Shabbat Before Shavuot

05/22/2018 04:19:37 PM


Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

As we approach the festival of Shavuot, the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah, I’ve been thinking about the warning issued to the people: The warning to stay outside the boundaries set around Mount Sinai.

In the Torah’s story, only Moses and Aaron could approach the mountain.   Everyone else had to view the divine communication, the revelation, from afar. To approach the mountain was dangerous.[1]

I...

Who has a place in the Sanctuary

05/16/2018 05:55:53 PM


Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

When I have the opportunity to take new or prospective members on a tour of Temple Israel,

I always make sure to show them

The words above our Ark:

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”


The words come from our Torah...

Bechukotai Mothers Day

05/16/2018 05:09:56 PM


Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

If you were the director of a Jewish religious school,
Would you hold a session on Mother’s Day?  (Show of hands)
Many of the synagogues around us close on Mother’s Day–
And not only the Reform synagogues.

Temple Israel never has, as far as I know.
Although some have expressed displeasure at that decision over the years.   
But although we did not close for mother’s day,
We did do...

Swords into plowshares

05/01/2018 03:03:58 PM


Ethan Lewis, TIPSY Co-President

At the end of April, Temple Israel hosted a program created by the Croton Houses of Worship called “Swords into Plowshares: Putting Spirit into Action to Reduce Gun Violence.” My colleagues from the Croton Clergy and I invited teens to speak at this program.  I asked Ethan Lewis, a Croton-Harmon High School senior and co-president of TIPSY (Temple Israel’s Program for Senior Youth) to speak about his experiences learning how to...Read more...

our children and gun violence

02/23/2018 02:24:55 PM


Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

Mon, 02/26/2018 - 12:00am -- Rabbi Jennifer Jaech

Based on a sermon delivered February 23, 2018

This past Monday night, across Florida, people gathered for candlelight vigils.  On the news I saw images of teens shielding delicate candle flames with their hands as they mourned those murdered in yet another incident of gun violence.

A candlelight vigil:  In times of darkness, we seek...

Wed, January 26 2022 24 Sh'vat 5782