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Leadership Messages

None Brighter PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 January 2014 12:59

By Glen Gilbert: I confess.  I arrived a bit late for this year’s Hanukkah Hoopla.  Walking into the ballroom, I found the party in full swing.  Most of the 190 celebrants already were, well, celebrating.  As I swung my head around, there was lots to take in.  My eyes nonetheless focused instantly on the following tableau:  a father holding his son, bobbing up and down as Cantor sang “Zoom Gali Gali” accompanied by the house band. The father was singing along. The son was all a-giggle.

That’s all you really need to know about Hanukkah Hoopla.  There was so much more that was wonderful about the evening, including terrific food, seven crafts tables circled by enchanted and engaged kids, catching up with members of the community, an inspiring havdallah service, and the lighting of a “human menorah.” But, for me at least, nothing surpassed this silhouetted father and child enjoying such a moment.

When we’re able to come together for events that are truly intergenerational, then we are doing that which our scripture asks – no, demands – that we do, and we are never more Jewish.  I refer not only to parents and young children.  There’s much that our synagogue elders do to inspire and enlighten those coming up behind them.  I, personally, have been blessed with many “Rabbis” who have done their best to keep me on the straight and narrow as I’ve grappled with various leadership issues over the last several years.  Example: abound of young and old coming together at the JCCH to learn from one another or, as was the case at Hanukkah Hoopla, to simply enjoy each other’s company.

I hesitate to take the chance of thanking those responsible for this wonderful event, for it “took a village,” and I most likely would leave several off of the list.  Nonetheless, I cannot in good conscience complete this message without at least thanking Wendy Levi, Andrea Platte and Bea Goldstein for again producing Hanukkah Hoopla and the Men’s Club, Sisterhood, the Taubin family and an anonymous donor for largely funding it.

As Rabbi (the actual one!) reminds us, the lights of our Jewish values are never so bright as they are during Hanukkah.May they shine as brightly through the coming year.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 January 2014 13:11 )
Favorite Hanukkah Stories PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 27 December 2012 10:19

By Glen Gilbert: With the holiday season all but upon us, we’ve morphed the traditional leadership message into the following compendium of favorite Hanukkah stories from several of our Executive Committee members. Think of them as snapshots in black and white or magenta-infused color, with scalloped edges, the Kodak watermark on the back and perhaps a hint of blue candle wax that was mostly--but not altogether--wiped away with a dish towel in 1973. 

Mark Bronsky

Growing up in Binghamton, New York, I can distinctly remember that it was always a bone chilling cold with long, dark nights during Hanukkah.  This made the power of the light and warmth emanating from the Menorah all the more special.  My mother would always prepare a traditional Hanukkah dinner, replete with Latkes and applesauce.  I also distinctly recall lighting both sets of candles on Shabbat/Hanukkah. The coziness of the kitchen, the smell of chicken soup, the candlelight, and the "homeyness" that my Mother created--are palpable in my mind's eye.  Recalling Hanukkah during early childhood also brings back the memory of having a bath, getting into my PJs and then lining up with my brother and sister with our backs to our parents as they would lay the presents down at our feet.  We were then instructed when to turn around and rip open the packages.  In some ways, we felt like race horses coming out of the blocks.  I had the same excitement in my belly that I had for my birthday or on Halloween. Hanukkah celebrates a miracle and it has always felt like one--thanks to Shirley and Donald Bronsky.

Minna Brown

There is a story that is considered a classic in my husband Ken's family.  His father loved his mother’s potato latkes and could eat them in large quantities.  Before the start of World War II, Ken's father was stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia before going overseas.  (Fort Benning is approximately an hour and a half south of Atlanta.)  In the middle of December 1940, his father was home on furlough for a brief visit with his family.  However, he had to return to his military responsibilities before Hanukkah was to begin.  Ken's father was saddened that he would miss his mother’s Hanukkah latkes, and Ken's grandmother was saddened that she would not be able to make Hanukkah latkes for her son.  Together, they arrived at a simple solution: Ken's grandmother would make her latkes in advance of the holiday, pack them in multiple wax-paper lined shoeboxes for travel, and give them to her son to take back to Fort Benning.  How many latkes did his grandmother make?  She made enough that Ken's father sat by himself on a train and did nothing but eat cold potato latkes for over thirteen hours!  According to the story, he came off of the train in Georgia with the toughest case of heartburn ever presented to an Army physician!  But for Ken's father, it was a wonderful treat and, in some ways, his traditional Hanukkah.

Susan Coby

When my son was a year old, we starting having a Hanukkah dinner with friends of ours and their two children. While planning the dinner, I said that I would be happy to make the latkes, but that I didn’t have a food processor to grate the potatoes (I didn't want to grate them by hand). My friend Jodi said, "Use mine." When it came time to leave, I gave her the food processor back and she said, "Keep it, we'll be back next year!" And so, our Hanukkah dinner tradition began. Twenty years later our family continues to have Hanukkah dinner with Jodi and her husband and their three children, now 25, 22, 18 and our son Daniel, 21 and Rachel, 18.

Andrea Dulberg

Our tradition was not merely to "give" a gift on Hanukkah.  We each had to find our gifts by playing "hot and cold."  After candle lighting each night, the recipient would run around the house following commands of "getting hotter" or "getting colder" until the present was found.  It always made that box of crayons or puzzle so much more exciting and fun.

Glen Gilbert

In high school, we had to complete a project in shop (whatever happened to shop anyhow?) that involved wood or metal work and electricity.  I chose to make a menorah.  I didn’t realize how challenging it would be. My shop teacher, “Seven-chin” Weatherston, and most of the kids in class either didn’t know what a menorah was or didn’t think it was an appropriate project.  I, too, had misgivings.  Perhaps I simply should have gone with a wall sconce instead? Nonetheless, I soldiered on (actually soldered on) and fashioned out of wood, wire and tiny sockets what may have been the ugliest electric menorah ever.  I probably got a “C” for my efforts—if that. But it worked!  What’s more, my parents, G*d bless them, displayed it in our window for all the neighbors to see.  Who needs another wall sconce anyhow? 

Karen Goldstick

When I was a little girl, we celebrated Hanukkah at my Aunt's house who lived in the next town from us. I was one of three kids and we had only one cousin who was six years older than any of us. The Langendorffs would descend upon my aunt, uncle and cousin's home and wreak havoc on their much calmer homestead. The Langendorff kids would get piles of presents that were stacked on their closed-in porch, well away from the rest of the grownups. You can imagine what a mess that porch was after we were done opening gifts. But the strongest memory of those celebrations was my uncle who was tall and slender and always lit a very traditional silver menorah with very tall and slender white candles. To this day my cousin brings that menorah to our family Hanukkah celebration and we remember earlier times as we recite the blessings and sing Moaz Tzur in Hebrew, English and German.

Susan Pearson

As most Jews in Tulsa were transplants, our friends were our family. We celebrated all holidays, simchas and sadness together.  We always spent at least one night of Hanukkah with our friends, the Schoffmans.  We switched off houses, but the nights I remember most were at our house.  We would make latkes, have dinner and light the candles, one dog or another running amok, looking for scraps. I have pictures of the five of us kids spanning close to 15 years - some when it was so obviously freezing, and others where it must have been warm.. Typical Tulsa, you could have 75 degree weather in December, but always, we were together.

Debbie Schiff

My husband started a wonderful tradition for our children, which he named "Daddy Coupons."   With each candle came a "coupon" for all sorts of things. An early favorite was "Put down your newspaper and play with me."  As the kids got older, there were coupons for theater tickets, ball games, etc. I think during their teen years there was probably a "Pick up your newspaper and leave me alone" coupon. Hopefully it taught our kids that the greatest gift is time spent together.   Our kids, now in their 20s, still look forward to those coupons.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 27 December 2012 10:20 )
L'Dor V' Dor PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 02 August 2012 08:02

By Andrea Platte: From the moment each infant is born into a Jewish home, it is the hope that they will provide continuity, perpetuating the rituals and customs that embody our religion and culture. Instilling a sense of identity as a Jew is a complex endeavor. The process of reinforcing values and social beliefs is easier in early childhood education through the pre-teen years as the focus centers on bar or bat mitzvah preparation. But the question we, as parents, struggle with is how to inspire an ongoing connection to Judaism beyond the bar or bat mitzvah?

Hebrew High School is a key ingredient to that ongoing connection.  JCCH’s Hebrew High School curriculum has been redesigned based on our own students’ input.  This is not your “mother’s Hebrew High” any longer.  The key ingredient is “exploration,” igniting a dialogue among the students rather than just transmitting information to them.  Each Tuesday evening of the month has a different format: 

1) monthly guest speakers program, which have included in the past Yair Singer, Cantor Singer’s son, who shared his personal story of becoming an Israeli Air Force pilot, and a Holocaust survivor, who told his story as a child on the Kindertransport;

2) monthly core classes focusing on Jewish culture, traditions, personal and world issues from a Jewish perspective and social action;

3) monthly electives selected by each student; and

4) Rosh Hodesh It’s a Girl Thing and It’s a Guy Thing discussing real and current issues that our teens face and care about.  It is our hope that by empowering our students to select their specific areas of interest, we will motivate them to learn and provide a lasting foundation for a Jewish life.

But we haven’t stopped there.  The JCCH offers many additional opportunities for our teens to stay connected through what we call “informal education.”  Our 8th-12th graders can intern in the Religious School office and classrooms on Sunday mornings for either community service credit or, for those 14 and over who are registered for Hebrew High School, a financial stipend.  Several former interns have commented that their time interning in the Religious School was the most memorable and rewarding experience of their JCCH years.  In addition, we are offering our once per month Rosh Hodesh It’s a Girl Thing and It’s a Guy Thing as a stand-alone offering both to members who might not be ready to commit to the full Hebrew High School program and to non-members who might be connecting with the JCCH for the first time.  Our youth programs are growing in popularity and the JCCH’s USY chapter will kick-off exciting activities in the fall for 8th-12th graders.   JLot (for 11th and 12th graders) offers an opportunity to meet with Rabbi Glazer for informal discussion about hot topics in Judaism four times a year. The JCCH will also be partnering with Jteen for community service programs for our teens next year.

So, while summer has heated up and education likely has taken a back seat to camp and other activities, we are busy readying several outstanding programs for the coming academic year.  Subscribing to the notion that a Bar or Bat Mitzvah should be but a milestone in one’s Jewish journey, we are committed to keeping our younger congregants meaningfully engaged.  Along those lines, we hope that your teen will take advantage of one or more of these programs and enjoy the satisfaction and accomplishment of reaching new and memorable milestones.

For more information, contact Judy Weinberg at 835-2850 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  

Last Updated ( Thursday, 02 August 2012 08:08 )
Looking Backwards and Forwards PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 09:42

By Glen Gilbert and Debbie Schiff: Halfway through our biennial term as co-presidents, we thought it a fitting time to reflect on Year I and discuss what remains to be done as we move headlong into Year II.

First of all, it’s worth noting that our names still appear together as co-authors of this message as well as in countless other synagogue-related contexts.  In fact, we spend a great deal of time collaborating on JCCH business and routinely can be found in the synagogue library or at our “auxiliary office” (at the Rye Starbucks) tackling various issues.  We’ve had nary a cross word between us, agree on mostly everything, respect each other’s sentences and, most important, remain wholly committed to realizing the vision we discussed when we first embarked on this journey.  We hope and trust that our co-presidency will continue to be productive and mutually-rewarding through the balance of our term and that it might serve as a viable model for future leaders.

Many goods things have transpired over the last year, principally due to our engaged and innovative clergy, a committed staff and no shortage of congregants who have stepped up in various capacities.  Mitzvah Day, (brand new this year) the Purim Spiel (becoming a much-anticipated annual event) and most recently, the Men’s Club Shabbat (a long standing tradition) come most quickly to mind.  There has been a steady cadence of events – large and small – captured weekly in our new redesigned e-mail blast.  Work has begun on other programs for upcoming months, some in keeping with the time-tested traditions of the JCCH; others more inventive and groundbreaking.  Stay tuned. 

Under the steady hand of Jerry Lieberman and his committee and thanks to many committed and generous congregants who share in their vision, the Capital Campaign has gained considerable traction in recent months.  While campaign totals won’t be finalized until later this spring or summer, it is very likely that we will be able to implement many, if not most, of the programs and initiatives that you requested as part of last year’s strategic  planning process.  We are listening as best we can and are committed to providing you with that which will make the JCCH more of a destination for cultural, educational, spiritual and even recreational activities.  We, frankly, are happiest when the parking lot is at or near capacity on days other than Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah and family simchas.  We’d rather congregants more regularly venture inside to sample all that the synagogue has to offer. We are committed to furnishing a variety of programs and events appropriately merchandising them so you can “self-select” those that would be most enjoyable and meaningful to you and your families. 

We similarly are committed to bringing the synagogue into the 21st Century relative to building and facilities, teaching tools, security systems and our web-based communications.  Along these lines, a substantial renovation of the main sanctuary that would allow us to worship in a more contemporary, intimate and accessible setting is under close consideration. 

As ever our children remain a top priority. Our ECC and Religious School directors and staff are continuously revitalizing their curriculum and engaging our youth in developing strong Jewish values and identity.  Respectful of your time and eager for you to read about other goings-on at the JCCH, we’ve but skimmed the surface in this article, but nonetheless hope you have a  better sense of what has transpired thus far “on our watch” and what we plan to accomplish through the balance of our term.  We’re blessed to be working with an especially strong Leadership team, several members of which will begin their new roles immediately following the June congregational meeting.  With their able assistance; the “roadmap” embodied by our strategic plan; a set of ambitious, yet attainable objectives; your open-minded willingness to partake of what we have to offer; and, perhaps, some help from on high, we have ample reason to be optimistic as we contemplate Year II of our co-presidency and many years beyond.   

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 May 2012 09:50 )
Remembering Pesachs Past PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 23 March 2012 08:45

With Passover upon us, the more traditional leadership message has morphed into the following compendium of favorite Passover stories from several of our Executive Committee members.  While the stories may not be especially religious, it’s fair to say that they likely have as much spiritual meaning to the authors as the Four Questions.  Therein lies the wonder of Passover.  Think of them as snapshots in black and white or, perhaps, magenta-infused color, with scalloped edges, the Kodak watermark on the back and maybe a hint—just a hint—of the charoset that slipped off of Aunt Norma’s matzoh in 1983.



Minna Brown:We're newlyweds and at my mother's for the seder.  Ken takes a forkful of my mother's homemade gefilte fish, with a hefty dose of my mother's homemade horseradish.  It took but a moment for Ken to start coughing and tears starting streaming down his face.  And what does Ken say when he's finally able to speak: "that horseradish is really good". 

Susan Coby: I have great memories of our seder. Everybody takes part.  My dad and brother dress up as Moses and the Pharoah and act out the ten plagues. It's always an exciting time when all of the plagues surround the table and water is turned into blood right before our eyes.  Our seders are never dull! 

Glen Gilbert: Seders at the Gilbert household were always very musical.  It was of no matter that most of us couldn’t sing that well, least of all our grandfather and family patriarch, Pop.  We belted out such time-tested favorites as “Seder. You With the Stars in Your Eyes,” “I Want Some Red Charoset for a Blue Lady,” and “Afikomen Around the Mountain.”  Then our same tone-deaf Pop would unintelligibly sing—actually shout--Chinese opera with his grandchildren (myself included) providing a steady cadence of “um, pa, pas.”  After Pop died in 1986, my uncle Ronny stepped up and took over the lead role.  With his death last year, my older brother has assumed the mantle.  Some day, I suspect his older son will be pressed into service—l’dor vador. 

Karen Goldstick: From the feminist point of view, I have started a tradition of placing an orange on the seder plate. The saying goes, “An orange belongs on the seder plate the same way as women belong on the bimah.”  In an act of defiance I have always included an orange on the seder plate just to negate this statement. From a more creative point of view, I suggest for those of you who have collections of beanie babies, that you dust them off and arrange them to create Passover table centerpieces signifying the wild beasts plague.  To add some spring color, cut some forsythia stems a couple of weeks before Passover, place them in a vase of water and wait for them to bloom.  You won't be disappointed as they burst into yellow flowers just in time for Seder. 

Abby Mendelsohn: My fondest memories of Passover involve a large gathering at my aunt’s house of about 35 aunts, uncles and cousins, with my father’s older brother (the oldest uncle), leading us through the long seder.  At around midnight, after the first part of the seder and the seder feast (and the search for the afikoman), I would go upstairs with my sisters and other young cousins, and we would go to sleep on a pile of coats in an upstairs bedroom while listening to the adults completing the second half of the seder.   I usually fell asleep before the end of birkat, but I would wake up from the chanting of Chad Gadya, which was always very loud, and I knew my parents would finally take me home.   My other memory was of my mother making sponge cake and all the effort to keep the sponge cake from sinking.  We had to be very quiet during the baking of the sponge cake.  She swore that loud noise would result in a sunken sponge cake.   I remember that one of the big topics of conversation at the seder was all the women discussing whether their sponge cake sunk that year.  I realized though that sponge cake tastes the same whether or not it sinks.  A lot of worry and effort for nothing.  

Susan Pearson:  We always did Passover at one of three families' homes growing up, rotating each year at either the Schoffman's, the Katz's or the Mudd's (almost no one had family in Tulsa, as we were all transplants, so our Jewish friends became our family).  All the years run together, but I remember always being one of the youngest (if not the youngest) and having to sing the Four Questions. I remember trying to say "Who Knows One" entirely in one breath. I also remember ripping apart a house looking for the afikomen. 

 Andrea Platte:  Our house was always busy in the week leading up to Pesach.  I remember my parents would kasher the silverware in a large iron kettle that I would only see brought out on this occasion.  The bathmat would be put on the floor near the stove to catch the boiling water that ran over and our beagle would always immediately lie down on the mat and get in the way.

Tobi Rogowsky:  I have lots of tidbit memories from my seders growing up including my uncle Sam and cousin Bernie appearing at our front door when we opened it for Elijah, wearing Beatle wigs and hoisting blue spritzer seltzer bottles that were delivered by the case.  I also remember my grandmother making gefilte fish from scratch. I think the whitefish and pike were kept in the bathtub.Most especially, our seder table, was set not with beautiful china and crystal, but with gray melmac dinner plates with corresponding yellow salad plates for the gefilte fish.  The wine and water glasses were a matched pattern that were giveaways at our local Food Fair supermarket (a lot of our friends had the same glasses for Passover; they were quite nice).  The salt and pepper shakers were glass with red, yellow, and blue lines that circled around, probably from the local hardware store, and, of course, the Maxwell House hagaddah. While not an elegant table, it was so beautiful to me and is still such a vivid memory.  It represented all of the change that Passover meant--different dishes, oversized pots, unusual foods, clearing out the food pantry, all of the work involved in changing over the kitchen, and then the smells and tumult of getting ready for the seder, including setting the table with those gray and yellow dishes. 

Debbie Schiff: Every Passover was spent with my father's entire family (5 siblings, assorted husbands, wives, kids and even dogs.) My father's elder sister, my beloved Aunt Betty, always hosted and she was a mediocre cook, at best. You all know: the Lipton onion soup and ketchup brisket.  But, boy, did she make the BEST mashed potatoes: with schmaltz and raw onions, mashed so smoothly and then baked so they had a golden crust on top. One year as our favorite potatoes were passed around, one by one each member of my family broke out into fits of coughing, wheezing, grabbing for water, for matzoh, even eating the parsley from the seder plate. Well, apparently that's what happens when one substitutes red PEPPER for PAPRIKA. From that point on, my aunt never argued when told to put on her glasses.  That year, the pepper on the potatoes was part of my family's journey out of Egypt. And the story, told year after year, has become part of my family's personal Haggadah.

Stephen Thurer:  I remember bringing my girlfriend (a.k.a. Elizabeth, my wife), who grew up in a southern reform household, to my orthodox cousins house for a marathon seder.  She survived, as did our relationship. For that I am most thankful.

Laura Urken: Passover has always been my favorite holiday because everyone gathered at my grandparents' house in Chicago.  My Zadie wore a special kippah that stood very high above his head, and it absolutely cracked my brother and me up to no end.  The best part of the meal was at the end--our family was very big on belting out all the songs after the meal.  This was accompanied by serious table-banging, hand-clapping and harmony.  The grand finale for the evening involved my brother and I following Zadie to the refrigerator where he'd pull out the spray bottle full of "two cents plain".  He'd guzzle a glass (with the fridge door still open) and then let loose the largest belch you can imagine.  He did this every year, without fail.  I still miss these dinners with my relatives, the amazing amounts of delicious food that my Bubby could somehow make appear from her little kitchen and the chance to sit around a table together to tell the same Passover story, year after year, over and over.


Glen Wasserman:  Sitting in traffic on either the BQE or the George Washington bridge while driving to either Coney Island or Central New Jersey to spend Passover with family made it feel as though I am participating in my own Exodus.May your current and future Passovers create new memories that are lovingly recalled by you and your loved ones for years to come! 


Last Updated ( Friday, 23 March 2012 09:05 )
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