Temple Jeremiah


Shabbat Re’eh

Dear friends,

As parents of two young children, Ross’ and my lives are filled with a constant dialogue of “dos” and “don’ts.” “Don’t pull your sister’s hair.” “Don’t eat that,” the list goes on and on. Ideally, we would instead use phrases to try an emphasize the positive, such as, “how about making another choice?” or “Why don’t you try this food instead of that one?” etc. I find that if we constantly focus on the “negative” or the “don’ts,” often energetically, the universe hears “no” as “yes” and we get exactly what we did NOT want.

In this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, Moses speaks to the Israelite people as they are about to enter the Land of Israel. There are certain things God expects them to do when they get there. Re’eh literally means, “See,” and Moses begins his instructions to the Israelites with this word by telling them, “See, this day I set before you a blessing and curse: blessing if you obey the commandments of God, and a curse if you do not obey them but instead, turn away from the path that God has set before us and then decide to follow other gods.” Moses then lays out the specifics of these commandments, which are to destroy all the altars, and any remnants of the other gods which were worshipped in the land. God goes on to tell them how to establish a sacred space of worship and specifies that sacrifices are to occur only in that designated space.

What can we learn from this Torah portion? Liberal Judaism, under which Reform Judaism falls, encourages us to take the teachings from both Oral and Written Torah and make them apply to us in the current day and time period, rather than working diligently to obey certain commandments (mitzvot). The holiday of Tisha B’av just passed. Those who observe this holiday acknowledge and fast for the destruction of the Temple which was on the ground of the sacred space that God commanded the Israelites to establish in this Torah portion. Many of us do not feel that it is necessary to mourn the loss the Temple and performing animal sacrifices. However, without that complete tearing down of that once sacred space, we would never have been able to rebuild and reconstruct temples and our sacred spaces of worship, social justice, and community as we know them today. Without the destruction of the Temple, we would likely not have Temple Jeremiah, or personal and liturgical prayer as we know it today.

As we prepare for our “Days of Awe,” our High Holy Days, in the coming weeks, and as we move into the month of Elul, I invite you to reflect on the language with which you make requests both of God, and maybe of other people. I invite you to adopt the “attitude of gratitude” when asking God for something. Perhaps we begin our petition with thanking God for the goodness we have been given. Then, when we make our big petition, whether it is for healing, peace, or whatever our heart’s desire, we change our language from “Please heal…..” to “May You, Holy God bring healing to…..” I am not in any way suggesting that this method will deliver the outcome which we desire. But it will help you to find a greater peace, a better sense of calm, and a more grateful way of walking through the world. Maybe we can do the same with our colleagues, spouses, and children. Maybe instead of saying, “please don’t……” we instead say, “have you ever thought of trying it this way,” which gives everyone, including God, the opportunity to achieve anything asked of them.

On Erev Rosh HaShanah this year, we will introduce a brand-new contemporary setting of the traditional “Hineni” prayer. It was written for Temple Jeremiah by my dear friend and colleague, Cantor Pavel Roytman, in honor of my installation as your cantor last December. It is a petition to God, acknowledging that I as your cantor, have made the promise to obey all of God’s commandments. But that it is often difficult to do so, with such turmoil in the world and in my own life. It is a prayer of gratefulness, acknowledging that God has given me the voice to shout God’s glory from the tops of the hills. Yet still expresses what most of us feel when the “rubber meets the road” in our lives. How do we balance keeping God’s commandments as we read this week in Re’eh, while still managing to deal with a world and life of pain and suffering? In the coming weeks, you will receive a recording and music video of this beautiful setting. I invite you to listen, reflect upon it, and continue to ask yourself, “what commandments am I being asked to keep and how can I continue to do so in gratitude?” It continues to be my honor to serve as your cantor.

Shabbat Shalom.

Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman

About Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman

Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman is thrilled to be the cantor at Temple Jeremiah. She moved to the area from the New York/New Jersey area in 2015 after beginning her tenure at Beth Emet in July of 2015, just after receiving Cantorial Ordination from The Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music of the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion. Previously, she served as cantor at Beth Emet the Free Synagogue in Evanston, IL where, in addition to the many life cycles and other duties of the cantor, she directed the Adult Choir, created and directed a Teen A Capella Choir, Jr. Choir, and Intergenerational Band. Cantor Friedman strives to help all members of the community find their Jewish voice and she regularly invites anyone who is interested to sing with her during Shabbat and High Holy Days services. Cantor Friedman has a wide range of musical styles, and feels at home in almost every style of Jewish music, such as playing her guitar in a small setting where everyone is participating with her, or singing a piece of Chazzanut or liturgical music for a large congregation. Her belief is that nearly all Jewish music has its place in our synagogue, and when done prayerfully and with great intention, can inspire us to hear God’s voice, and can often help us to find prayer within our souls that words alone cannot arouse. Cantor Friedman holds degrees of Bachelor of Music from Illinois State University, Master of Music from Arizona State University, and Master of Sacred Music from the Hebrew Union College. During her time as a student she served as Cantorial Intern at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Short Hills, NJ. There, she founded and directed their 40 member Junior Choir, Keshet, and also served as the cantor of the Barrie H. Greene Early Childhood Center. During her tenure at Jeshurun, she created and implemented the synagogue’s first ever Yom Kippur Family Service for which over 600 families were in attendance. It has since been a staple of their High Holy Days services. Cantor Friedman is a regular soloist with the Kol Zimrah Community Choir right here on the North Shore. She is an active member of the American Conference of Cantors and was asked to be on the leadership committee for the 2018 convention as Co-Chair for all of the Tefilot (Prayer Services) for the convention. She is an active member of the Reform Cantors Chicago, and is frequently invited to collaborate in Cantorial Concerts with colleagues throughout both Chicagoland and all over the U.S at places such as Temple Emanu-El Dallas, Temple Judea in Palm Beach Gardens, and Anshe Emet Synagogue with Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi. One of Cantor Friedman’s biggest passions is helping to sustain and foster the Reform Movement in Israel. From 2010-2011 Susie lived in Israel for the first year of school and volunteered at Congregation Ohel Avraham, part of the Leo Baeck Center in Haifa, where she served as volunteer cantor. She formed strong relationships with Rabbi Gabby Dagan, and the congregants who quickly became her Israeli family, and she decided to become a bat mitzvah with them. Six months later, Susie co-officiated a b’not mitzvah for seven Israeli women, all of whom celebrated with Susie at her ceremony and grew up never knowing that a bat mitzvah existed—only bar mitzvah. That year, Susie also conceived, directed, accompanied, and performed in Broadway on the Carmel, a concert to raise money for families who could not afford to have b’nai mitzvah for their children. While in Israel, she was nominated by her piers and received the Rabbi Jason Huebsch Memorial Prize for all of her work with Ohel Avraham. Prior to becoming a cantor, Susie appeared in the Broadway National Tour of CATS playing the roles of Jennyanydots and Grizabella. She also performed in regional opera, theater, concert, and as a pianist/singer/entertainer in clubs throughout NYC, hosting her own weekly open mic show at The Duplex. She has had the great fortune to perform with Betty Buckley, George S. Irving, and Alberto Mizrahi, and is frequently sought out to sing in various cantorial concerts throughout the U.S. She is a proud member of the American Conference of Cantors, the Reform Cantors of Chicago, and Actors Equity Association. Her love of children and strong desire to inspire b’nai mitzvah students to remain engaged in Jewish life inspired her to be a cantor. It is Susie’s goal that every student who walks through the doors of the synagogue will grow up to become vibrant, participating members of congregations. She is married to the love of her life, Ross Friedman. Her absolute greatest achievements are their daughter, Abigail Hannah Friedman, who was born on May 6, 2013, and their son, Zev Noah Friedman, who was born on Nov. 5, 2014. They are both living examples of her answered prayers.
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