Temple Jeremiah


Shabbat Sh’lach L’cha

Dear Friends,

In this week’s Torah Portion, Sh’lach L’cha, we witness firsthand how God feels about rumor, racial profiling, racial and physical discrimination, and gossip, which we refer to as “La’shon ha’rah” in Hebrew. We also see the importance of showing gratitude, which is an important theme for many of us as of late. God asked Moses to send one representative from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to scout out the Land of Canaan, which God had promised to them. This was a tremendous gift that God was giving the Israelites. It seems likely that even when God requested this of Moses, God knew of its abundance in agriculture, beauty, and food. Almost like a spouse who has purchased a gorgeous dream home for their partner, hoping that the partner will go and check it out and show gratitude.

Instead, the opposite occurs. The scouts cannot see the “forest from the trees,” if you will. Moses gives them specific instructions of what to look for: Is the soil rich and fertile? Are the inhabitants strong or weak? Are there many inhabitants or very few? The scouts bring back some fruit of the land, grapes and pomegranates, finding that it is fortified, healthy, and delicious. They also report that it is indeed flowing with milk and honey, and that there is a community there, and while they may act and look a bit different from them, they are strong, prosperous, and fortified.

When the emissaries, namely Caleb and Joshua, report back to the Israelites, instead of being excited about all the goodness of this community, they become fearful, ungrateful, and insist on going immediately to Canaan to overthrow its inhabitants and take possession of the land, before God instructs them to do so. The emissaries are also not great at managing the fear of the Israelites. Instead of calming them and refocusing them on the good things, they simply discourage them from attacking, saying that the people inhabiting the land are stronger than the Israelites. Soon, the rumors are spreading full force, the anxiety of the Israelites is through the roof, and they completely lose trust in God. This hurts God a great deal, and God threatens to wipe them out entirely. However, Moses intercedes on their behalf, yet again, and God has mercy on them, but not without setting some pretty strict rules and reminders about how they are to treat strangers and those who are different from them.

Sadly, it seems as though many in this country have not learned anything from this parasha or are deciding to cherry pick things they like and don’t like from our Torah (or in some cases, the Bible) in order to keep people down in today’s society. The month of June is LGBTQ Awareness Month, and this Friday, we will observe this with a special Shabbat service honoring Gay Pride and LGBTQ Individuals. We will hear from Essie Shachar-Hill of Keshet, who had come to teach our Temple Jeremiah staff about LGBTQ awareness. Like the inhabitants of Canaan, many individuals in our society do not fit into the same molds as the Israelites did. Many individuals today find that they do not fit into a strict male or female gender category. We will learn about about how we can welcome people of all gender identities, we will share their story, and will inspire us to be thankful for the many gifts that all individuals bring to our society.

It is my prayer that instead of making judgments based on appearances, rumor, or differences, that we at Temple Jeremiah will be models for celebrating the bounty and beauty that individuals of all genders, identities, sexual orientations, abilities, and races bring to our world. I hope you will join me on Friday, June 21st, for this very special Shabbat.

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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