Temple Jeremiah

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Shabbat V’etchanan

Dear Friends,

I, like many of you, was amazed once again by the American gymnast, Simone Biles. Biles made history this past week with a dismount from the balance beam that no one had ever done before. Even in slow motion I could not believe what this amazing athlete was able to do with her body, sending it spinning and flipping in the air as she gracefully and effortlessly stuck her landing. Even prior to her dismount, the balance beam routine was breathtaking (click here to view it). read more

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Shabbat Mas’ei

Dear Friends,

Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, you shall provide yourselves with places to serve you as cities of refuge to which a manslayer who has killed a person unintentionally may flee. (Numbers 35:1-0-11) Mas’ei’s, two central themes, the importance of fairness and having evidence comes to light. As our ancestors journeyed across the desert, they probably didn’t have much time to think about forming a society. But when they finally settled in the Land, it was time for them to develop the laws and rules that would help them all get along as part of a sacred community. read more

Shabbat Chukat

Dear Friends,

I am not certain if I shared one of my great fears with the congregation–having my blood being drawn. The mere sight of someone getting blood taken makes me queasy and I recoil in utter fear that I’m next. I have gone to such great lengths in my lifetime to avoid having my blood drawn that I have actually locked doctors out of an exam room and forbade temple staff from including pictures of blood drives on the digital signs just in case I get a glimpse of someone’s extended arm with a needle in it. Just writing this drash is causing me to cover my inner elbows. I know that I am not alone in this fear. Fear also played a huge role in the journey of the Israelites during this week’s parasha, Chukat.

In this week’s parasha we read about the famous red heifer, the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, and God punishing the Israelites for their disloyalty by sending “burning snakes” to bite them. I want to focus on the burning snakes. In what seems to be a more regular occurrence in the later books of the Torah, the Israelites are complaining. They don’t have enough food. They don’t have enough water. Why did they ever leave Egypt? So, God does something we have become accustomed to– punishes the people for their transgressions.

And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why did you make us leave Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread and no water, and we have come to loathe this miserable food.” The Eternal sent seraph serpents against the people. They bit the people and many of the Israelites dies. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned by speaking against the Eternal and against you. Intercede with the Eternal to take away the serpents from us!” And Moses interceded for the people. Then the Eternal One said to Moses, “Make a seraph figure and mount it on a standard. And anyone bitten who then looks at it shall recover.” Moses made the copper serpent and mounted it on a standard; and when bitten by a serpent, anyone who looked at the copper serpent would recover. [Numbers 21:5-9] read more

Temple Jeremiah Community Update – Oct. 31, 2018

Dear Friends,

I want to share with you plans for this weekend. Along with congregations throughout the country we are opening our doors to the community and asking people to #ShowUpForShabbat. Please bring your friends and neighbors to worship as one as we draw strength and comfort from one another and welcome our Scholar in Residence, Rabbi Dr. Samuel Joseph (click here for more information) on this Solidarity Shabbat.

Danny Glassman has been in conversation all week with law enforcement and security experts. We have reviewed and upgraded our security with a keen eye towards balancing safety and security with our warm and welcoming approach. We will continue to evaluate and adjust. On the advice of the experts, we will have uniformed police officers at the building throughout Shabbat and on Sunday morning. We feel that this is a sad but necessary step at this time. You can click here for a resource to help talk to children about the attack and anti-Semitism. And, as always, you can call Danny with any questions about our plans.

I want to close with the beautiful lyrics of a song dedicated to the memories of the 11 victims from the Tree of Life Synagogue which we will include as part of our worship on Friday night.

“The Tree of Life” Nefesh Mountian
(Eric Lindberg and Doni Zasloff)

O sweet spirit
Hear my prayer
Help these words
Heal someone, out there
I am but a voice
Just a cry in the air
But I sing nonetheless
Through this pain we share
O sweet friends
Come and dry your eyes
And hold each other
By this tree of life
I am angry, and I am tired
Of this great divide
But I sing nonetheless
With love on our side
O sweet souls
Who feel broken now
We’ll heal together
Somewhere, somehow
Time and again
We have been let down
But we sing nonetheless
Still whole and still proud

I look forward to being with all of you Friday night.

Rabbi Paul F. Cohen, D.Min, D.D.

Talking to Children about Events in Pittsburgh and Anti-Semitism

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
–Elie Wiesel

The recent murders, injuries, and aftermath at the Tree of Life congregation in the Pittsburgh area on International Religious Freedom Day sadly remind us that anti-Semitism, racism, and hatred continue in our country. This event has evoked many emotions including fear, anxiety and worry, confusion, and even anger in many around the country. It shook our ideas about the safety of the world around us. The debate on the issues has brought hatred out of the closet. As Jews, we have uttered the phrase, “Never again” in remembrance of the Holocaust. Yet, the shooting reminds us of how neo-nazi ideas and hatred fester and grow. We need to speak up. We, of all people, know what the price of silence can be. We may be struggling to make sense of what we are seeing and hearing in our country. So, too, are our children. They will be turning to trusted adults for help and guidance. It is imperative that we talk to them about what is happening and what everyone can do.


  • Start the conversation. Talk about the events with your child. Not talking about it can make the event even more threatening in your child’s mind. Silence suggests that what has occurred is too horrible to even speak of or that you may not know about what has happened or even how to cope. With traditional and social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, text messages, and newsbreaks on favorite radio stations, and other avenues), it is highly unlikely that children and teenagers have not heard about the shooting at the synagogue, anti-Semitism and racism, and responses from our leaders around our country. NOTE: For young children (preschool and below), they may not understand the discussions. Please consider the bullet point below.
  • read more

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    A Letter to Our Congregation Following the Tragedy in Pittsburg

    Dear Friends,

    It is Shabbat afternoon and my heart is simultaneously full and broken. This morning I had the privilege of helping a young man become a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Jeremiah. It was a celebration filled with joy, love and hope. This afternoon I had the great honor of naming two boys brought into this world by two couples I married. The husbands are brothers whom I have known for 20 years and their parents are dear friends of Cathy’s and mine. The ceremony was filled with joy, love and hope. My heart is filled to overflowing with the blessings of this day.

    And, my heart is broken…

    This morning at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, PA as the congregation was beginning its own Shabbat morning worship that included a bris, a man armed with an assault rifle screaming that “All Jew must die” murdered (at present count) 11 people and injured many others. My heart is broken, and I pray that the families of the victims are granted the strength that they need to find solace and healing.

    I am grief stricken, horrified and angry. How many people will we see murdered and maimed by individuals armed with assault rifles before we get sensible gun law reform? How high must the rhetoric of hatred soar before we as a country realize that these words lead to horrific acts of violence? I am grief stricken, horrified and angry.

    Please know that we are in conversations with law enforcement and security professionals to make sure that appropriate security measures are in place for Religious School tomorrow, as well as for the coming days. As new information becomes available, we will respond.

    For now, I know that you join me in sending prayers for strength, comfort and healing to our brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh. I share with you, too, that I have received messages from our Muslim and Christian Interfaith partners expressing their love, concern and support for us and our community.


    Shabbat Shalom,

    Rabbi Paul F. Cohen, D.Min, D.D.

    Shabbat Vayeira

    Dear friends,

    It is almost impossible to not have some reaction as we watch the news and see thousands of people, fleeing Guatemala, seeking refuge as they head for the US border. Some may feel uneasy, others may respond to the anguished looks on the faces of the parents holding tired children. read more

    Say Hello

    My name is Barbara Miller and I have the honor to serve as the president of Temple Jeremiah. Last year I spoke to you about the power of saying yes. I told you the story of how I got involved in temple life. Someone asked me to help with the Feed the Hungry program and I said YES. That answer took me on a 24-year journey that has brought me to this day.

    Last year I wished all of you a year of good health, happiness, and a year filled with answering Yes. And you did answer yes. You answered yes to helping with the Eat and Be Well medical food pantry, to the Israel Action Committee, to participating on the board, to developing adult and youth programing. Most of the programing at our temple is run by volunteers. And because that committed group of volunteers answered yes, Temple Jeremiah continues to be a vibrant community dedicated to living Jewish Values. It is a place where congregants of all ages can connect.

    At services last year I asked you to say Yes when the temple’s newly formed Positioning Taskforce came to you and asked you to participate in a focus group. You said Yes. We held multiple focus groups with congregants ranging from those with young children, to empty nesters, to those that would be considered our older and wiser group. The Positioning Taskforce has worked throughout the year to identify our core values and what our temple stands for.

    As you know, I am a big fan of asking questions. This year we have been asking the question Why. Why did you choose Temple Jeremiah? Why do you belong to Temple Jeremiah? Why do you stay?

    Here’s what you said:

    You want to feel a sense of belonging. You want to be connected and part of a vibrant community. You want a physical space where you can worship. You want to educate your children and instill  values in them. You want to participate in Tikkun Olam and welcome everyone to our doors. You want to feel joy in your Jewish experience. You want to belong to a synagogue where Jewish values come alive.

    We heard you, and we know what you value most about your temple. You want to belong — We now have 900 families who belong to our community. You want to be connected — We have over 20 committees and hundreds of programs for you to explore. You want a physical space — Just look around at our beautiful building, lovingly cared for by our staff and Building Committee. You want your children to experience the joy of Jewish learning and Jewish values — We have an accredited Center for Learning led by our beloved Director of Religious Education and our Education Committee. You want to participate in Tikkun Olam — We have dozens of social justice and advocacy programs. You want to feel joy — For 60 years Temple Jeremiah has been providing this experience to congregants and we will most definitely embrace the Joy of Belonging as we celebrate our 60th Birthday this year. You want to belong to a synagogue where Jewish values come alive — Our belief in inclusion, our five advocacy platforms (which include immigration, hunger, inclusion, gun safety, and criminal justice), our Israel Action Committee and our Social Justice Committee, just to name a few efforts that demonstrate the vibrancy of Jewish values at Temple Jeremiah.

    Today I am proud to announce the results of the Positioning Taskforce. I would like to thank the Positioning Taskforce, the Launch Taskforce and the Communications Committee for the incredible work they have done on the new brand. The logo you see below and in the temple foyer is the visual representation of the key values of our temple. This seemingly simple graphic actually tells quite a lot about who we are. It demonstrates that We are joyous, We are a community, We live Jewish values.

    What do you see in our new brand? Here is what some of our clergy and congregants had to say:

    “I see a happy family inside the temple doors.”

    “I see the Ten Commandment tablets.”

    “I see open doors welcoming everyone.”

    And personally, I see “Joy within our Jewish space.”

    We want to know what you feel and see when you look at our new brand. Your responses are important, and every comment, every observation adds new information and interesting layers to this new brand of ours. Please share your thoughts at https://templejeremiah.org/newlook or email office@templejeremiah.org.

    But even though we have a new brand, the temple has not changed. We still have wonderful programs, inspiring services, dedicated clergy and staff. Our new brand just gives us the ability to communicate in a more effective way, with you – our congregation – and also with the outside world.

    Now that we have a new brand, we have a visual theme and common language that unites us all in the Joy of Belonging.  We all share in our brand, and it is the work of all of us, the board, the clergy, the staff, and you to keep our congregation strong for another 60 years– from keeping the roof in one piece to hiring the best clergy and staff, to volunteering to run the programs that keep the temple vibrant.

    So how do we take on the task of keeping Temple Jeremiah a place where you want to belong and brings joy to all who are touched by it? How do we do that? I say we can do it through the power of making personal connections. Last year I asked you to say Yes. This year I am asking you to personally connect with someone within the temple that you have never met, or maybe someone you already know but would like to know better.

    So where do we start? It all starts with Saying Hello.

    Today, I make you this promise. I will slow down and make a personal connection at every social justice project I do. Let’s say I’m helping with the Backpack Blessings program. There is a task at hand. Make 70 backpacks in 30 minutes. My initial reaction is “let’s get to it.” All who know me, know that I like to get stuff done. It would be easy to forget the importance of personal connection and get right to work. I am counting on all of you who volunteer to keep me on the right track. A smile, a hello, even a handshake will be my goal.

    Taking that step to personally connect with someone new might feel a little awkward at first, but I am up to the challenge. And I hope you are too? When you drop your child off at Religious School, when you attend an Adult Learning program or a Brotherhood event, say hello, introduce yourself.

    And in that spirit, let’s start off the New Year right.  Tonight, on this very first day of making connections, please join me, right now, and turn to someone sitting near you. Say hello. Introduce yourself. Wish them a Happy New Year.

    I look forward to getting to know many more of you this year, and I hope you will feel inspired to meet new people too, or maybe reconnect with someone you already know.

    Last year my vision for the temple was to Say Yes.  This year my vision is for everyone to continue what we have started here today. Say Hello, introduce yourself, because, just like last year, you never know where Hello will lead you.

    In this year of 5779, Stephen, Erin, Sam, and I wish you another year of good health, another year of peace, and a year filled with new personal connections.

    Rosh HaShanah Speech, 2018/5779

    Barbara Miller, Board President

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    2018 CEL Art Fair

    Another Wonderful Year of the CEL Art Fair!!


    Art Fair Co-Chair

    Temple Jeremiah and the Center for Enriched Living (CEL) partnered again in a beautiful high-energy art fair showcasing and selling beautiful multi-media pieces of art. 100 works of art were displayed and many of them sold! All proceeds went directly to the artists.

    The Center for Enriched living exists so that people with developmental disabilities can be fully included in the community, achieve personal success and enjoy a good quality of life. Students, teachers, congregants, and parents of the artists were once again stunned at the quality and beauty of the art. Artists proudly posed for pictures with congregants and parents. Artist Rachel, told us, “The art show was really, really fun! The people were really nice. We sold a lot of pieces made by other members and myself.”

    The artists worked on the art all year, and the spirit of getting proximate with our partners, temple congregants Linda Steinhouse and Shelly Cohen volunteered at the art fair and worked all year with the artists in their class. Everyone involved benefited from the collaborative energy of this event. With a huge grin and eyes lit up, artist Chris said, “I went to the art show and enjoyed looking at the art that others and I made.” Even the artists’ parents were happily surprised at their artists’ talent!

    The energy of the morning was amazing! The students and congregants alike have grown to look forward to this event. The art was creative, beautiful, and now can decorate the homes of our congregants and community! Once again, we are grateful for Carey Gelfand’s company, Corporate Artworks, who generously donated all of the mattings and framing for the show, enhancing the event even more.

    We are proud to partner with CEL and look forward to a continued relationship with this great organization!

    To learn how to get more involved with the CEL Art Fair contact Judy Craven at judyabc3@gmail.com.


    Thank You Corporate Artworks!

    Corporate Artworks, once again, generously donated the matting for all of the artwork for the Center for Enriched Living Art Fair. Matting gives the artwork a professional touch that allows the art to be seen in an even more enhanced light, which results in more sales, and more pride for the wonderful artists!

    Carey Gelfand, a Temple Jeremiah congregant, is the VP New Business Development for Corporate Artworks, and has made this connection that has lasted for years! Corporate Artworks, LTD, as well as its sister company, Health Environment Art Services, is an Arlington Heights, Illinois-based provider of fine art consulting services for the corporate sector, including the healthcare, educational, and hospitality industries. The mission of the firm is to delight clients with art programs that not only work in concert with their culture, goals and mission, but also complement the visual design.

    Carey and Corporate Artworks have certainly enhanced this art fair, and we are grateful!



    Feeling Warm Inside


    CEL and Art Fair Volunteer

    While reading through a past issue of The Covenant, I came upon an article regarding an Art Fair hosted at Temple Jeremiah. Volunteers were needed to help hang the show. The artists would be adults of all ages that attend the CEL or, Center for Enriched Living, in Riverwoods.  Not knowing what the CEL was all about, I looked it up online, learning that its members have developmental and physical disabilities. The center offers many different activities for these young adults, one being Art Class. BINGO!!

    Having just retired from teaching art for 38 years, 25 of which had been at Westmoor Elementary School in Northbrook, many of our students with disabilities were mainstreamed into my art classes. I loved connecting with the students and getting them to laugh or smile. To them, it wasn’t about the product, it was about the experience. I wanted each student to feel successful, both socially and artistically. But, because I had 20 other children to also develop, I never really had the chance to dive as deeply as I wanted with our special needs students. Now I saw my opportunity.

    I contacted Lori Kash and Judy Craven to find out more about the Art Fair and the CEL programs. After learning about some of the history behind the CEL, Lori gave me the names of some contacts so I could get on board with teaching art classes. As a result, I now volunteer on Monday afternoons, teaching the REACH Art Class, and I just love it! I have a different group each week, as the members choose their activities on a daily basis. Some come back every Monday, and others venture in when they want.

    We usually do “experiential” or “process” art. This might be painting with shaving cream, bubble wrap, string, or cardboard to name a few. Group projects are always a hit. Some students can work independently, and some need hand over hand assistance. All members make their own color choices. The best part is talking about what we’re doing. How does it make you feel inside? How does it feel on your hands? What shapes do you see? Is it finished? Can you add more? The most important rule is, “There are no mistakes in art.” Just let it go.  We also talk about the Cubs and White Sox and our favorite movies. There is always a member willing to choose our music for the day.

    For some of the members it’s about problem solving. For others it’s working in a group and socializing. Some just need to take a risk. The results are masterpieces, every one of them. We put all our work completed from September through March in this year’s Art Fair on April 22nd. Some of the artists came with their parents and were proud to see children and adults purchasing the artwork.

    Even though the Art Show is over, I’m still on board at the CEL and hope to volunteer as long as they will have me.

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    Meet Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman

    2018 is the year of “Chai” or life. I am thrilled to embrace this year of life with this exciting change in the lives of your congregation and my own family as I become your cantor. I had heard great things about Temple Jeremiah when I arrived here in 2015. It is a synagogue that values and embraces all musical traditions, even celebrating services with the organ. I always felt that it would be a cantor’s dream: to have the opportunity to create worship by incorporating beautiful melodies of our classical tradition right alongside contemporary melodies. This can evoke powerful, meaningful prayer because it gives the space for contemplation and participation. Last March I attended the Inclusion Seminar you hosted. From the moment one enters the building, it was clear that Temple Jeremiah is a congregation that cares deeply about the Jewish values of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world), Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests), and empowering those who are often forgotten in our communities. A few months later, I attended a picnic BBQ at a good friend/colleague’s home, and I found out that one of the kindest people I knew in seminary, Rabbi Rachel Heaps, was your new Assistant Rabbi. Shortly after that, I experienced the wonderful sentiments of your Senior Rabbi, Paul Cohen, as he thoughtfully paid tribute to our beloved Jerry Kaye, who was retiring from his almost 50-year position as Director of Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI). As I listened to Rabbi Cohen, I kept thinking that it would be amazing to work with this team, and to be a part of this community. I must confess that I even said a little prayer in my head, asking for this to happen!

    I love being a cantor so much because I can help children and adults of all ages at the most vulnerable times of their lives, often through music. Last year I had the great honor of “singing someone home.” It began when the husband of a woman who had been on a very tumultuous journey with ovarian cancer called me the day before Rosh Hashanah and asked if I would come and sing to her. She had been in the choir many years ago and he thought that the music would help her. I marveled as her entire family—all the adult children, grandchildren, and even children they had fostered—gathered at her bedside with me and my guitar as we sang songs they grew up with by Debbie Friedman and Jeff Klepper, Peter Paul and Mary, and even some Yiddish songs. For those few moments, the sadness lifted, and her face lit up. Weeks later, her husband called me again, this time, to bring my guitar and “sing her home.” We sang her favorite song, “Lechi Lach.” Shortly after I left, she passed. I will always think of her, and probably fight to hold back tears, every time I sing that song.

    From a young age, I believed that my voice and musical gifts were divinely given to me to be used to help bring out the Divine inside others, because we are all created B’Tzelem Elohim (in the image of God). I am entrusted, as a member of the clergy, with the sacred responsibility to usher my congregation through the most important moments of their lives, from birth to death, weddings, B’nai Mitzvah, and conversions. This is a gift beyond measure.

    Before becoming a cantor, I had a career in musical theater, opera, music, and as an entertainer. One highlight for me was when I was on the Broadway National Tour of CATS. We were actually in Chicago at the Auditorium Theater for a long stint in 2005. I met my husband, Ross Friedman, on a cruise boat where I was working as an entertainer in 2006. But don’t get too excited–it wasn’t the “Love Boat.” It was a floating paddle boat that traveled up and down the Mississippi River. One day in the Officer’s Mess, I met this cute, sweet be-spectacled guy from Long Island, NY who was the Chief Purser. Bonus was that he was Jewish, and I had been looking into converting to Judaism for many months. We fell in love quickly. Ross and I have two little miracle children who have always been very engaged in our synagogues: Abigail who just turned 5, and Zev who is 3 ½. They are super excited to become part of the Jeremiah family.

    In my opinion, one of the most important jobs of a cantor is to help people find and tap into the special light that exists within each and every one of us. It has been exciting to facilitate this in so many ways. In my first congregation, I created a 50 voice Children’s Choir from the ground up, that sang nearly once a month. In my previous congregation, our Adult Choir became a “Kehilah Shirah,” a true singing community, where we rehearsed once a week, each time beginning our rehearsal with a short meditation, good and welfare, and an opportunity to say Kaddish for those in need (though it was not a requirement for everyone to attend every rehearsal—I’m flexible). We began a teen acapella choir; an intergenerational Purim Schpiel written and facilitated entirely by the congregation; and we created an intergenerational volunteer band. Each of these groups actively participated in our worship and it was incredible to see the talent just rise in all of them.

    I have invited anyone who wants to do so to sing a beautiful duet with me: a contemplative setting of “Y’hiyu L’Ratzon,” which occurs at the end of our silent prayer. It is in moments like these that I feel I have truly seen the Divine in each of them because many of the participants are doing something they always wanted to do but never thought they could. And they rise to the occasion in profound ways. What a privilege it has been to be able to facilitate this, and to witness the powerful response of the congregation as their peers are helping them to pray. The naches (joy) I get from this is greater than any expressions of praise that I ever received for my own singing.

    Please know that my door is ALWAYS open to any one of you who would like to sing with me, no matter what your level of ability. I would love to continue this tradition. Who will go first??

    In one of our Chassidic texts, Panim Yafot by R. Pinchas HaLevi Horowitz of Frankfort (1750-1815) we learn that when we teach, in order to achieve the utmost level of righteousness in ourselves, the teacher must always teach with intent to not raise up herself, rather, to enable the student to rise. When this occurs, the teacher will “flourish like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:13). Let us flourish together, learning from one another, empowering one another to rise to our potential, and creating relationships where we can foster our passions, grow from our challenges, and be like the strong cedars in Lebanon, all within our Temple Jeremiah community. I am so honored to be your cantor, and I look forward to getting to know all of you.

    Cantor Susie Friedman