Finding Goldberg: Kol Nidre Sermon 5779

The following sermon was given by Rabbi Ariana Katz at Hinenu on September 18, 2018 at Kol Nidre, erev Yom Kippur.

Gut yontif.

I am about to exercise my rabbinic privilege on this the holiest night of the year, and I am going to do so by telling you a corny joke.

This joke recently came to mind when I was talking with a member of our shul about why we come to shul. The joke goes like this:

A child is talking to her father, and says: Dad, how come you go to shul? Her father says, “What kind of a question is that?” The child says, “ I know you are a non-believer, an atheist, an agnostic, or whatever; so why would you go to shul?”

The child’s father says, “Goldberg goes to shul.” The child says, “So what? What kind of an answer is that?” The father says, “Goldberg goes to shul to talk to God; I go to shul to talk to Goldberg!”

See, I love this joke. I love this joke because its not really even that big a joke. Some of us come to shul to talk to God. Some of us come to shul to talk to Goldberg. As you’ve heard me say by now, hopefully, there is nothing older than a Jewish atheist! There is nothing more Jewish than a Jewish athiest. And I’m not convinced that coming to shul just to talk to Goldberg is much of a problem, honestly.

This is the moment to say that when we are called to pray, called to sing our hearts out and vocalize through ancient words our hearts deepest yearnings, find our stories in the stories of our claimed collective forebears, that we need each other to do so. We do need each other to pray, to really yearn, seek, ask, and allow ourselves to find the answers we so need. Your prayers in the shower, or after near misses from what could have been major traffic accidents, those prayers are just as holy. But there is something we are all getting to know a bit better this year about what it can mean to pray in loving community. It resonates louder off the walls, flows easier from our lips, allows us to spend less energy bobbing and weaving out of fear for what painful message might be said to us, and just be able to show up.

There are so many elements that make up a community, but just one of them is prayer. Many elements that turn us from a group of people into a sanctified, beloved congregation. I love that phrase, “beloved community.” I use it all the time, b’shem, in the name of Dr. MLK Jr. Beloved community, and its connections to the concept of covenantal community, is as Rabbi Sid Schwartz describes is:

A group of people who intentionally enter into a mutual obligatory relationship in which they commit to: a) a common mission; and b) give of their time and psychic energy to support the viability of the group and the material and spiritual needs of the members of the group.

The goal--what we are building toward, is not VICTORY. Is not ABSOLUTE POWER. The end is dwelling in beloved community, supporting the material and spiritual needs of the members of our group. If that is not an image of the world to come…

It is not enough to come to shul to just pray--but oh, the praying can sure be sweeter in beloved community.

But it is not enough to come to shul to pray. Honestly. You could davven at home, or join a minyan and never stay for the oneg, never go to a study session, be an anonymous prayer at the back of the room. It is not enough to come to shul to pray. You may cross off your daily obligation from the list, but you’re not yotzei, complete. What, then does it mean to attend shul?

The answer for us is at the intersection of religious obligation and beloved community. One example:

The kaddish prayer is written in Aramaic, and comes in four forms. You’ve heard it-- yitkadal vyitkadash shmei rabah…The kaddish is said as a doorway between parts of the service. To sanctify the end of learning, the Kaddish d’Rabanan. To sanctify one part of a service and entering into another, the hatzi kaddish. To mark the end of the amidah prayer, kaddish titkabal, that our prayers should be received. To mark the end of a reading of scriptural texts, or to be recited by mourners, the Kaddish Shalem, also known as the Kaddish Yatom, mourner’s kaddish. Almost exactly similar, save a paragraph or two, these prayers are paradoxically identical translations. How could the mourner’s kaddish say the same things as a prayer said to distinguish between parts of a service? A prayer that holds the heartbreak of generations upon generations, to be said at other times and mean other things?

Due to the importance of the words of the kaddish, sanctifying the holiness of God, we must extend extreme care when saying the words the congregation calls in response, yehei shmei rabbah mevorach l’olam v’ed. The Shulchan Aruch, codex of law and practice, tells us it is because of this we must be careful to not let our minds wander or chatter. In the Talmud (Shabbat 119b,) says that anyone who answers "Amen, Yehei Shemei rabba…" with complete concentration, that a harsh decree of seventy years of judgment against them is torn up. Not bad.

Why is that? Perhaps its the merit of declaring “May His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity.” Perhaps, in the context of the mourner’s kaddish, that the communal response comes out of love for the mourner. Where religious obligation and beloved community meet. If you have ever said the mourner’s kaddish, you know what i feels like to stumble, or coast, through the words, and know to wait for the chorus of hearing your community chime in with the right phrase, you know a phrase as simple as one that declares “may His great name be blessed forever and to all eternity” can say a lot more, when you hear your community call it out.

When I was sitting with so many of you for the past 2 years over coffees, asking “what is it you need in a synagogue community,” I heard this one idea over and over again.

“I don’t need anymore friends.”

“I don’t need anymore friends! What I need is people that I can be accountable to. That are accountable to me.”

What I heard from you again and again over countless lattes was this idea that there is friendship, and then there is communityship. Covenantal, beloved community, that not only checks in, but shows up. Shows out. Is present, consistent, and reliable.

What does this mean?

This means when we are missing, we will be noticed.
This means when we are sick, we will be supported with meals, rides to the doctor, listening ears.
This means when we are hurting, we will be surrounded with comfort, understanding.

This means when we are broke, just so, so broke, we will find our community gathering to help pay our bills.
This means when we are stuck out in the cold, we will have more than enough places to rest and sleep.
This means that when we have to move, we will have many hands packing boxes.

Do you do these things for your friends? Sure, I hope so. We help our friends pack, call them when we notice they haven’t been around much lately. Do we do this for near-strangers? Probably not as much.

“I don’t need anymore friends.”

Maybe like me, you’re new year, and actually yes do need friends--but stay with me on this. What is the category beyond friendship, that somehow brings with it a different kind, not better, but holier, value? This spot, where mutual aid and personal practice meet, is where beloved community dwells.

First--some Talmud.

This discussion we land in is in the process of arguing about Moses burial, which is in some tellings done by an anonymous stranger, in some tellings, by God Godsself. So right before the part we’ll play with, Rabbi Chama bar Ḥanina asks this question: how can we truly “walk in God’s ways? God is elsewhere described as a vengeful, firey God!” Unapproachable!

So, Rabbi Chama explains to us:

He explains: Rather, the meaning is that one should follow the attributes of the Holy One, Blessed be He.

He provides several examples. Just as He clothes the naked, as it is written: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21), so too,should you clothe the naked.

Just as the Holy One, Blessed be He, visits the sick, as it is written with regard to God’s appearing to Abraham following his circumcision: “And the Lord appeared unto him by the terebinths of Mamre” (Genesis 18:1), so too, should you visit the sick.

Just as the Holy One, Blessed be He, consoles mourners, as it is written: “And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed Isaac his son” (Genesis 25:11), so too, should you console mourners.

Just as the Holy One, Blessed be He, buried the dead, as it is written: “And he was buried in the valley in the land of Moab” (Deuteronomy 34:6), so too, should you bury the dead.

Through this classic play by play device, Rabbi Chama bar Chanina shows us four instances we can learn about God’s attributes. When Adam and Eve are naked in the garden of Eden, God clothes the naked. When Abraham is recovering from his circumcision, God visits him personally, visits the sick. When Isaac is mourning his father Abraham, God comforts him. And when Moses dies, God buries him. When we behave in these ways, we are behaving like the Divine. When we do these actions, we are Godly beings. When we accept these things, accept care, comfort, we are in a Divine cycle of care.

I stand before you tonight to tell you we have had enough praying. We need to talk to Goldberg more. And more than that--when you go to shul, and see that Goldberg isn’t there, we need to follow up with Goldberg. Find out if he’s ok. Listen deeply for the answers.

It is a fact that within our congregation, even in our first year of convening, we have failed each other. We are soaring and flying and building beyond our wildest dreams, yes. But this year, we must account for the harm we have done. “This is not the fast I desire,” proclaims Isaiah in our haftorah tomorrow morning. “Why, when we fasted, did You not see? When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed?” Because on your fast day You see to your business And oppress all your laborers!” (Isaiah 58:4).

There are members of our congregation who have been ignored, overlooked. Members of our congregation who come to events over and over without being engaged, having their name remembered, asked after. We can talk a big talk, work on our most in-line political values statements, plan amazing parties, study beautiful texts and make sparks fly, but if we are not being KIND, extending lovingkindness and care to one another, if we are not accepting care when it is offered with a full heart, we have failed.

We can repair.

We can repair with those we have hurt. We can prove our teshuvah, complete our teshuvah, by doing better next time. Extending words of welcome. Invitations to join at your small shmoozing circle. Remembering details about the person next to you. “I don’t need anymore friends.” What we do need, what will help us survive, are covenanted relationships. Above my desk hangs a print, “Small Acts Transform the World.” It is, like  Pirkei Avot teaches, that the space between two people that can transform. Sanctify.

This year it is no small act to extend care. To invite someone in our community to a service at Hinenu, or to a meal at your home. To call someone who you haven’t seen for a few weeks to check in. To reach out to a mourner not just the week of shiva, but a random night three months later, just to see how they’re doing. To follow up, to follow up again, to come knocking until you know a dear one is alright. To not just surface level check the box.

This is not straightforward stuff. It is awkward to ask for. Awkward still to offer. We live in a world in which independence is the value, and interdependence is weakness. But all of us know personally of times we have given care, and times we have received it. Over our lifetimes, may they be long, healthy, and blessed, we have and will continue to both give and receive acts of chesed, loving kindness. We are never only one role, no matter what.

If you are not familiar with the language of care work, of the holy white fire on black fire--often invisible, often feminized, always needed, take 5779 to familiarize yourself with it. Who do you expect care from, without realizing? When do niceties, or favors, happen for you without your acknowledgement? How often do you extend the same loving kindness to others, without expectation of praise? How can you care for others as you so generously are extended care?

This year it is no small act to receive care. To ask for a ride to the grocery store. To let people at shul know you’re hurting, and prayers for healing and text messages would go a long way. To ask for childcare support.
If you are not familiar with the swaddling warmth of receiving care, the ease it can bring, the knots it might undo in your chest and shoulders, take 5779 to familiarize yourself with it. How could you open up to trust it when care comes, rapping on the window like an insistent bird? How can you allow others to care for you as you so generously offer care?

This year we have another chance.

To respond with full focus and concentration to the kaddish, say “yehei shmei rabbah mevorach l’olam vaed.” To see the seventy year decree against us torn up.

This year we have another chance.

To weave networks of kinship, interdependence, vulnerability, and strength, and to weave those bonds through acts of loving kindness.

This year we have another chance.

To forgive each other when we mess up. To ask for what we need. To get proud, to get brave. To lift each other up. To behave like God--whoever She may be. To transform the world through our small actions.

May this be a year in which we see the face of God in one another, and act accordingly.


Hayom Harat Olam, This is the Day The World Was Created: Erev Rosh Hashanah Sermon 5779

The following sermon was given by Rabbi Ariana Katz at Hinenu on September 9, 2018 on the eve Rosh HaShanah.

Hayom Harat Olam. This is the day the world was created.

We have made it to a new year, the anniversary of the creation of the world, the commemoration of the Big Bang. Shanah tovah!

It is a blessing to be with you tonight. Truly, an awe inspiring moment.

I am an over-shehecheyanu’er. Some of you may know this, that I can find an opportunity to say the blessing for first moments at any given chance. Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Source of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion. Words of awe, gratitude, noticing, we said them together with Lena just earlier tonight upon lighting the candles.

The Shehecheyanu blessing is said, traditionally:

  • At the new year

  • The beginning of a holiday

  • The first performance of certain mitzvot in a year, like sitting in a sukkah, eating matzah, or lighting the candles on Hanukkah.

  • Eating a new fresh fruit for the first time since Rosh Hashanah!

  • Seeing a friend who has not been seen in thirty days.

  • Acquiring a new home, or new articles of clothing or utensils

  • The birth of a child

  • During a ritual immersion in a mikveh as part of a conversion

  • Generally, when doing or experiencing something that occurs infrequently from which one derives pleasure or benefit.

The Shecheyanu could, and has, also be said:

  • When you have new guests over to your house for the first time, so you say the blessing right after lighting candles even if no one is expecting it and they realize its a prayer of gratitude for their friendship

  • When your candidate for city council wins, and you bless amidst the falling balloons under your breath

  • Under the chuppah

  • When you tie your tichel to cover your hair the morning that you get ordained

  • Leaving the house in gender affirming clothing for the first time

  • Seeing your partner with fresh eyes after a fight, making it through a time of protracted miscommunication

  • Learning a riff on the guitar and getting it right for the first time

  • Figuring out a multiplication table after much work

Our tradition teaches we should say 100 blessings each day. Blessings upon waking up, studying, praying, eating, digesting, using the bathroom, performing mitzvot, seeing wonderous acts of creation like rainbows or the sea. The shehecheyanu, while traditionally less common than every day, is one of those blessings. What an opportunity our tradition gives us, to 100 times a day offer up praise for the world around us, to sanctify our meals, the workings of our bodies, the rhythms of the earth and our year. What an opportunity for gratitude, for constant renewal, a chance to refocus, reflect, recommit. That is a wrench in the plan, an interruption of the everyday slog. That is a trapdoor out of complacency, much like Rosh Hashanah is a trap door out of the neverending each-next-day of our year. We stop time with ritual, with blessing.

The weekday shacharit liturgy proclaims מחדש בטובו כל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית, every day God renews with God’s goodness the acts of creation. Which is to say--every day, creation is renewed. Which is to day--there is always a reason to celebrate a new beginning. Because we are, in each day, each week, each month, each year, renewing ourselves.

Today the world is created. Tonight, right here, in 5779, we celebrate the world we have the opportunity to create at Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebl. We celebrate this amazing moment in the history of our community--the culmination of a year and a half of work exploring what kind of congregation we might want to see, a year and a half of meeting new people, re-meeting each other with new questions, of cramming onto small porches in Govans in the August heat, around tables at Red Emma’s old location to study Sodom and Gomorrah, a year and a half of building. We mark the beginning of a new year, where so many people drawn to this place, at this moment, at this time, declare “we need each other.” “We belong here.”

Today the world is created. And we know it was not created out of nothing. Genesis 1:2 says:

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְהֹ֑ום וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם‬
Now the earth was tohu va’vohu, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

I so love that image, of the quiet quiet world, dark dark waters, and the very spirit of God a breath away from breaking the surface of the water.

Abraham bar Hiyya in the 12th century explains that tohu va’vohu is not “nothingness,” but “matter and form.” The universe was created out of matter and form. The stuff of our community in this moment, has existed already in many different ways already. Our work moving into the new year is to continue to celebrate as we form, to do the hard work of creating and nurturing, and the harder work of dwelling, healing, appreciating, blessing.

We can honor the newness of our congregation while knowing it took a lot of hard won experience to get here, in all our lives. We know the work of creating is messy stuff-and so while we may seem like a finely tuned machine, your rachmunus, compassion, as we learn how to grow to serve each other fully is so appreciated. We know the work of creating is messy stuff, and so, we can give each other permission to bring our messiness to dwell with one another.

Today the world is created. Tonight, in our first breaths of 5779, we celebrate a new year. The first things we’ll do in this year are declare blessings--not go out dancing, though that will come soon enough with Simchat Torah, or to cover ourselves in sequins and revel--though that will come less soon, on Purim. No, we rejoice in the new year with blessing.

So there is much to bless. Each other, for showing up and continuing to show up. Each day, for it brings great opportunity to shape the world around us.  Blessings on all of us, as we move into this new year, this new phase of our life together. Shanah tovah.

Teshuvah and the Great Turning: Rosh Hashanah Sermon 5779

The following sermon was given by Rabbi Ariana Katz at Hinenu on September 10, 2018 on the first day of Rosh HaShanah.

Shanah tovah. In the lineage of our people who speak not first of our own lives, but the lives of those who came before us, I’d like to share with you the story of Herschel Stiefel.

Herschel was my great-great zeide, my mother’s mother’s father. Herschel was born July 15, 1899 in Snitkov, Ukraine, then Russia, 4,795 miles from where we are in this very moment. When Herschel, or Tzvi ben Menachem Mendel as they called him in shul, was a young man, he tried to leave home. Twice.

The first time, Herschel decided to leave because of the increasing anti Jewish violence of pogroms, the sudden quotas and restricted access to education, crushing restrictions to shtetls--the results of the Edict of Expulsion against the Jews in nearby Kiev, just 224 miles way. He left because of the coming forcible “draft”--a knock at the door, into the Cossak army, a guaranteed inevitability. So Herschel left, and traveled to British Mandate Palestine.

But when he arrived at the border, his immigration papers were not in order. So they sent him back to Russia.

But he decided to leave again. This time, he did not have enough money to get from Eastern Europe back to the land about which he prayed and planned his whole young life. So, he walked.

Herschel is reported to have said that he liked walking through Turkey the best, and held a fondness for the country the rest of his life. I wonder if Herschel was terrified when he walked the 2,337 miles, passing through countries whose borders have long since changed. I wonder if he felt sick, bouncing in the back of wagons as he hitchhiked to cover more ground, I wonder if he had enough layers, as he moved through climates and languages and cultures. I wonder if Herschel felt fear when he made it into the Aretz, the land. Because after traversing 2,337 miles, he made it.

I wonder if Herschel ever felt fear’s twin, awe. I wonder if he prayed, what he prayed when he arrived. I wonder if he was so tired, he could barely look up.

Herschel struggled to find work and then ended up working in the port of Haifa for a few years, but reported that it was not what he expected. He loved living there, loved his neighbors, but knew there were political changes he wanted to see, but knew he couldn’t impact. Realized it was not the place he wanted to be. I wonder what the stories he heard from Israel/Palestine were, the promise, the opportunity for a young Jewish man from Russia looking for a chance, for safety. I wonder if he felt disappointed. Or angry. Or embarrassed, that it was not the place for him.

So what did Herschel do, not loving his life as a dock worker in 1920’s Haifa? He kept journeying. He packed up, and left. Herschel left Haifa October 1, 1923 and arrived in the Port of Providence, RI on the 1st of November, 1923 at the age of 24 years old, on a boat called the Asia. He became a citizen of the US on March 19, 1925, where he changed his name from Herschel Stiefelman to Harry Stiefel. In 1926, at the age of 27, he married my great-great bubbie Pessie Gorberg, who immigrated to the US before they would meet, but was born into a rabbinic family just 108 miles away from Snitkov in the great Jewish town of Ostropol. They settled in Philadelphia, they owned a grocery store in Powelton Village, 4,709 miles from Snitkov, and lived above it with their children. Herschel of Snitkov and Pessie of Ostropol. Many times Pessie of Ostropol made milkshakes for her granddaughter, my mother, on Shabbes, when her husband was at shul. Once their grocery store was robbed and Herschel of Snitkov was beaten. Herschel learned how to play chess on a computer in 1987 weeks before he died, davvened every morning at the shtiebl around the corner, filled kiddush cups to overflowing at Passover.

I wonder if Herschel ever felt like he was from a place. Was he from Snitkov, Haifa, Philadelphia? Was Herschel from the Journey, was his origin and his becoming and his destination the Midbar, the wilderness, the path? Was he from the place called Leaving?

I wonder how Herschel expereinced fear. Bone chilling, flee or be consumed, all is lost fear. I wonder if that’s what made him keep working till he found a kind of safety, as complicated as it might be.

Herschel Knew: The Great Turning
A few years ago, I gave a sermon that declared “I don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.” Bold, confident, I declared to the assembled college students in front of me that while it might feel like the world is ending, while our liturgy printed in black ink on white page before us tells us so, we must fight the urge to believe it. “So you tell me, over and over and over again my friend, that you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction” that’s what Barry McGuire sang.

I was wrong. It’s the season for admitting when we’re wrong, and so before you now, I’ll share I was wrong. We are on the eve, indeed.

Over the past year, we have watched this city shake.

Over the past year, we have watched our country wage a violence many of us know all too well personally, and more of us have only feared.

Over the past year, we have watched our world heat, cool, tremble, and change.

And over the past year, we have wondered, where are we amidst it all?

Over the past year, our relationships have changed, failed, soared, morphed.

Over the past year we have become different, or stagnated, or overcome, or grown to unimaginable heights.

Over the past year, we have wondered, where am I, amidst it all?

We are certainly in a time of great turning. The eco-philosopher Dr Joanna Macy, scholar of systems theory, Buddhism, and deep ecology, teaches of the Great Turning. She explains that there have been three major revolutions that have shaped our world--the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and our time now. The Great Turning, when environmental collapse, when the extractionist capitalist death machines has brought us to the very brink. This great turning that Dr. Macy describes is not the falling over the edge into chaos, but rather the great turning of consciousness rising, people rising, power rising. We are in a time of great turning, and that means great change. Transition. The pain of one way of being dying and another beginning. This change is not all good as we know, it is not all bad, but it is all change. Dr. Macy calls on us to see this time of Great Turning as historic as the time of agricultural settlement, industrialization.

In this season in our year of turning, we might be a little more flexible to see how change can be not all bad, not all horror, in as much as it is never all good. “All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you. ” writes Octavia Butler of blessed memory, in the Parable of the Sower. “The only lasting truth is change. This Great Turning is a time of change. Our planet, our country, and our lives are changing and we don’t yet know if it will be l’chayyim, for life, or l’mavet, for death, as our liturgy asks. We see great unrest and the cost of human lives, and wonder, what is it all for? We ask “where am I most of use in this change?” “How can I keep myself and my family safe?” “How can I protect others?” “Where are we headed?”

We are in a season, a 10 day stretch of our own great turning. Tonight, the world is new. The world is changing before our very eyes, and there is  loss. There is a feeling of “oh, but I’m not ready!” So much is left undone in the past year. So many goals not met, so many dishes left dirty, plans yet to be followed through on.

“So you tell me over and over and over again my friend…”

We might be on the eve, on the edge. We might be teetering. It might not be as bad as we thought, if we can begin to find answers by asking one another some of the following:

During times of great turning what tools do we rely on?

How do we find stability in a changing world, how do we find empathy and tenderness in a culture that prefers we be hard to one another?  

How do we survive? How do we change? How do we turn the tides?

What are the best practices for living into the best versions of ourselves and our values that we can?

Ancestors Have the Answers

We are reaching out, over the next 10 days from erev Rosh Hashanah to the end of Yom Kippur, for connection to each other, to ourselves and the parts we have neglected, reaching out to God. And we will begin to find answers to this question, what tools do we have for survival during times such as these?

בכל דור ודור, “In every generation,” we are called to see our ancestors stories in our own time.

Because this is not the first time anyone has ever felt this way. Our collective ancestry have seen this before, truly. And by ancestors, I mean the ones who came before us--connected to us through blood or by choice, known in this lifetime or met only after their death, in family photo albums, names we carry, or stories read. The stories we guess at that were never told because of misplaced shame, or generational trauma. They have travelled on foot, by boat, by wagon, by plane. Border crossers, or those who stay put. Our collective ancestry have survived, war, being kicked out of homes, kicked out of countries. Survived fire, flood, famine, plague. Survived familial dispute, violence between family, changing nations, changing custom, changing languages. Our collective ancestry has survived.”We are a red sea parter, a bridge people,” said the poet Kevin Coval. We can get from one place to another, be it spiritual or physical.

There is much more knowledge we can bring into the conversation.

Our liturgy calls out to our collective claimed ancestry, our mothers and fathers in the Torah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Jacob. We remind, plead, beg God to “zocher chasdei Avot v’Imot,” remember the goodness of our ancestors. In our Amidah prayer, the central prayer of each service, we bless God as the God of our ancestors--the collective Source we pray to now is the same one that Avraham, Sarah….prayed to. Before we say any other blessings, we invoke our lineage, the people who got us to this moment. We rely on credit with God--”remember how much you loved clever Leah? That’s got to count for something!” In our liturgy, and in our lives, our ancestors are not remote concepts that we talk about. No, we pray these words, call on these ancestors to intervene for us, are in deep relationship with those who came before us. And if we call on them, why can we not call on them for some survival strategies?

Join me, close your eyes if you’re comfortable, as we call in our ancestors into this room.

Imagine a beloved grandparent, parent, ancestor you’ve only seen a picture of.

Imagine a historical figure who has been a guide to you. Invite them in to this room, let them sit beside you, fill in the empty seats, the blank places around the wall.

Welcome, you all. Thank you for filling this space.

You know more than ever, we need you here. We need to learn from your wisdom, how you have managed a time of turning. How did you stay connected to tradition? To your neighbors? What foods sustained you during times of great shift? What songs did you sing while marching? How did you learn to go inside yourself to survive?

Take a moment with your beloved guests. Listen to them. Thank them.

Ancestors, stay with us on this journey. Linger here tonight as we sing, accompany your beloveds home. Teach us.

We do not have to come up with new ideas from scratch. The powerhouse organizers and healers in Baltimore Letrice Gant and Erricka Bridgeford from Baltimore Ceasefire teach “don’t ask why isn’t the work happening, ask “who is already doing this, and how can I learn from them and help?” We are calling out for help in this moment in history, and this moment in our year.

Remembering stories from our ancestors, in Torah, in political history, in biological family, reminds us that we are not the first. Affirms that yes, things are bad. That yes, things are as bad as they have ever been, but we are not alone, they are still here to help us and walk alongside us.

Look up.

So we may, in fact, be on the eve. But we hold stories of balance, survival, grace. Let us focus instead on the balance. This is what the Great Turning calls us to notice--not crisis, but the turning in the face of it.

In the Torah reading for the second day of Rosh Hashanah, the story of the Akedah is traditionally read, the binding of Isaac, son of Abraham. In the span of one chapter, we read a story of violence and abuse that takes generations  to heal from, that we still to this day remember. God calls to Abraham by name, and he answers simply “hineni,” here I am. In swift fashion, Abraham is instructed from the very words of God to “take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.” (Breisheet 22:2)

And so he does. He saddles up the donkeys, brings two servants and his son, chops the firewood, and heads out to do one of the two most horrific things this parent will do to his sons over our high holy day readings. Abraham ditches the servants at the base of the mountain, and hands his son the firewood. Abraham carries the knife. The two of them ascend the mountain, verse by verse our horror builds. Crisis is coming, decision and violence, disobedience or pure faith. Abraham and Isaac come to the crest of Mount Moriah, and Isaac asks, Here are the firestone and the wood; but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” And Abraham said, “God will see to the sheep for His burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them walked on together.

It is only once Isaac is tied up, his father’s arm raised over him with knife in hand, the whole world about to change based on what happens, that a voice calls out:

וַיִּקְרָ֨א אֵלָ֜יו מַלְאַ֤ךְ יְהוָה֙ מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אַבְרָהָ֣ם ׀ אַבְרָהָ֑ם וַיֹּ֖אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי׃

Then an angel of the LORD called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham!” And he answered, “Here I am.”

In this moment of great turning, of disaster immanent, of it all about to change forever as we know it, our ancestor Abraham has an out.

And he said, “Do not raise your hand against the boy, or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your favored one, from Me.”

An interruption to his pattern of behavior in this moment, and for the past dozen chapters of his life as written on our Torah. The interruption comes not a moment too late. Abraham is called to look up. Look up from the crisis, his son bound below him, the certain plummet. In Abraham’s case, he is called to look up by a messenger of God, called out of the depths, the muck, the error, and the panic, pulled out of crisis.

Abraham knows he must sacrifice something. Perhaps he is already in the ritual and cannot stop even because of instructions from some heavenly voice. Perhaps because his patterns are so ingrained, because he is so focused on looking down, he is so ready for this crisis, so geared up for the crash, he must do something.

But the solution presents itself, like our solutions will present themselves, when we truly look, listen for the voices that call us to look up from meditating on the crash.

When Abraham looked up, his eye fell upon a ram, caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in place of his son.

It is because of this ram offering, made on the top of Mount Moriah, offered up to a vengeful, tearful God while Isaac weeps covered in a blanket under a tree, that we blow the shofar. The ram’s horn. The cry of the potential crash, the wake up call that demands we look up.

When we hear the shofar blasts, we are awakened by that ram again and again. The sound as old as the entire universe, as infinite as love, and bold as making a new choice and shattering an old pattern. The shofar calls us back to the moment of Abraham’s offering. At a moment of great turning, when crisis might strike, we can look out to find solutions.

When I hear the shofar blasts, I am awakened by the chance to see a way out, again and again. I am awakened by the cries that Herschel heard when he knew it was time to leave. To find a way. When Herschel looked up, what did he see?

Answering the call
In the next 10 days, we reach out to one another. We reach back into history to grab the hands of our ancestors. We reach into ourselves and explore our depths. We stretch out into the fullness of Creation. We dip our toes in the eternality of this time, this liminal in between space between the new year and the closing of the Book. In the next 10 days we will uncover, lift up, exalt, and praise the tools we have to rely on during times of great turning. We will hear the call of the shofar as a reminder that in times of crisis, there have been creative, dynamic, emergent solutions to survive. We will seek the tools we need in our relationships to repair, shift, heal, change. We will ask ourselves about who we are, and what this turning of the year demands from us.

May there be a ram in the thicket. May there be a wedge in the cogs. May there be a blast from a shofar that calls us out of the cycles of harm, the patterns of violence, the seemingly unending march toward destruction and crash. May we be blessed to hear the calls of one another’s hearts, calling us to wake up. May we accompany each other on the path. May we be treated kindly by this lifetime.

When Herschel knew it was time to leave, to change, he went, he shifted, answered the call of his future, his unfolding, his grounding. When Avraham was called, he said HINENI. This year, we respond, we vow to look up, to answer the call that is saving us from the edge, the fall, the brink, the crisis. This year, when we called by brilliant creative dynamic solutions that call us close to ourselves, closer to one another, we answer the call. We say Hinenu.

May we be written and sealed in the Book of Life for goodness, health, connection, safety. Shanah tovah.


Yom Kippur Q+A!

We are so excited for you to join us for Yom Kippur at Hinenu. In this season of new beginnings, we are so glad you will be with us on this journey.

A wonderful team of volunteers has been planning and preparing for months to make this season so special. Please find below information about logistics and some frequently asked questions you may have. With questions about anything at all, please contact highholydays@hinenubaltimore.org. To register (welcome!), click here. To make a donation (thanks!), click here.

Wearing white. Especially for Erev Yom Kippur, the Kol Nidre service, I invite you to wear all white, or a white top. We come clean, ready for another shot. If it is your practice to wear a kittlel, please do. It is in this wearing of shrouds that hover between life and death that we begin to physically engage with the questions of Yom Kippur.

Avoiding leather shoes. On Yom Kippur we abstain from earthly comforts--leather shoes are one of them. As is eating, sex, perfume. It is customary to wear sneakers to synagogue over the holiday in honor of this practice.

Communal Vidui. Over the course of the day we will be offering words of confession for ways we have missed the mark. We take accountability for one another by speaking these words aloud on all our behalf. Sometimes the words of the prayerbook do not reflect all we wish to say. So, I invite you to anonymously answer the following question: "I have missed the mark when..." Your words will be shared amidst the liturgy of our prayers.

Fasting, and a note on fasting.
Many of us will be fasting over Yom Kippur, neither drinking water nor eating food from sundown the night of the 18th to sundown the night of the 19th on the holiday. This continues our exploration of the separations between this world and the next. For some this is a holy practice that helps engage with the holiday. For some this is a harmful practice. Our tradition teaches that if fasting is harmful to your health, you are not only excused from the fast, but forbidden to do so. If abstaining from food will be aggravating to a history of disordered eating, other chronic health conditions, or pregnancy, please know your eating is just as much a service to the day as a fast, your modest meal is just as much a connection to your community through caring for your body. There will be orange juice and granola bars in the sensory relief room, and a blessing you can consider saying to sanctify your eating on Yom Kippur. 

Remembering. The Yizkor memorial service following Yom Kippur morning services on Wednesday September 19th is open to all, and begins at 1:30pm. You are invited to bring a small picture or item that reminds you of beloveds who have died to place on a communal memorial table. You may wish to light a yizkor (memorial) candle for your family and friends at home before coming to Hinenu (please ensure the flame's safety!)

Supplies drive for No More Deaths. Sammy Didonato, A Hinenu members, will be driving to Arizona to volunteer with No More Deaths the third week of September. The organization is humanitarian group based in Southern Arizona dedicated to preventing the deaths of migrants in the desert, an estimated hundred die every year. We are asking members to help donate new socks, underwear, and size 8 (mens) shoes. Those are the items No More Deaths currently is in need of and any donations would be greatly appreciated! To donate please bring supplies to Homewood Friends Tuesday September 18th, or contact Sammy at samjdidonato@gmail.com or 443-534-9514.

Location
All services are at Homewood Friends Meeting (3107 North Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21218). Please enter through the front entrance and checkin at the registration table (folks who have not yet registered can do so there.)

Schedule
Kol Nidre, erev Yom Kippur service
Led by Miriam Avins and Rabbi Ariana
6:30-8:30pm Tuesday, September 18th
Childcare provided 6:30-8:30pm with Liora Ostroff

Yom Kippur morning service
9:30am-1:30pm
Led by David Marcovitz and Rabbi Ariana
Childcare provided 10-12pm with Liora Ostroff

Yizkor memorial service
Led by Rabbi Ariana
1:30-2:30pm

Book of Jonah reading
Led by Jonah Wilcox
5:45pm

Neilah end of Yom Kippur service
6:45pm
Led by Ever Hanna and Rabbi Ariana
Fast ends: 7:52pm

Break Fast
8:00pm
Bagels and spreads, catered by Hinenu

Parking
We do not have a parking lot. There is street parking around Homewood Friends and on the adjacent streets. There are many parking lots nearby where you can pay to park:

SP Parking: 3310 N Calvert St, Baltimore, MD 21218
University Baptist Church Parking Lot: 3501 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21218

There are a few accessible spots in front of the building, but they are public so we cannot ensure their use. If you need to be dropped off while a car is parked, we have wonderful greeters who will wait with you, or will be happy to show you to a seat!

Temperature
The space will be hot! Homewood cannot support air conditioners, so we will have open windows and blasting fans. We suggest that you bring water bottles and we encourage moving about the space as you need! There will be water coolers by the front lobby. As such, please wear clothing you will be comfortable in! There is no dress code, so wear clothing that you won't be too hot in. Many will be dressing up to celebrate the holiday, but expect a much more casual wardrobe at Hinenu High Holy Days!

Accessibility
We ask that everyone coming to services refrain from wearing perfumes or scents to support our fellow community members who are scent sensitive.

The space is accessible by a ramp to the front door.

Ushers will have copies of the rabbi's high holy day sermons, as well as headphone/microphone sets. If those resources are helpful to you, just ask an usher. 

There will be reserved seated close to the center of the room.

The sensory relief room on the second floor will be a quiet space with snacks and drinks and things to fidget with. The room is an opportunity for the kol d'mama daka, the still small voice, a break from the input of the sanctuary! Feel free to linger there whenever you need.

Food
Break fast following Neilah services and the end of Yom Kippur will also be catered by Hinenu. There are no potlucks or meals coordinated by the congregation otherwise, but feel free to use our community Facebook page to find one!

Children
Children are always welcome in every service--their listening, shouting, tears, and chirps will only add to the same sounds coming from the adults! This year at the back of the room you'll find a "Prayground," a space with rugs, books, and toys for children to spend time in while families can still be in the service. We ask that parents stay with children in the Prayground. Bring a favorite story to share! There will be chess and puzzles for older children looking for something more entertaining than 4+ hours of Hebrew liturgy!

Programing for children ages 4 and up will be offered with Liora over Kol Nidre, 6:30-8:30pm on the 18th, and during Yom Kippur morning services from 10-12pm on the 19th.

Tallit + Kippah
We are grateful to Kol Tzedek in Philadelphia for lending us tallitot. It is customary to wear tallit at night just one time a year, on Kol Nidre. You are invited to bring or borrow a tallit to each service if it is your practice.

Nu? Your High Holy Day Questions...Answered!

We are so excited for you to join us for Rosh HaShanah at Hinenu. In this season of new beginnings, we are so glad you will be with us on this journey.

A wonderful team of volunteers has been planning and preparing for months to make this season so special. Please find below information about logistics and some frequently asked questions you may have. With questions about anything at all, please contact highholydays@hinenubaltimore.org. To register (welcome!), click here. To make a donation (thanks!), click here.
 

Location
All services are at Homewood Friends Meeting (3107 North Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21218). Please enter through the front entrance and checkin at the registration table (folks who have not yet registered can do so there.)

Schedule
Erev Rosh HaShanah services:
Sunday, September 9, 6:30pm-8:30pm, dessert oneg following

Rosh HaShanah Day I services:
Monday, September 10, 9:30am-1:30pm

Tashlich:
Monday, September 10, Lake Roland, 4pm

There are no 2nd day services this year!

Parking
We do not have a parking lot. There is street parking around Homewood Friends and on the adjacent streets. There are many parking lots nearby where you can pay to park:

SP Parking: 3310 N Calvert St, Baltimore, MD 21218
University Baptist Church Parking Lot: 3501 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21218

There are a few accessible spots in front of the building, but they are public so we cannot ensure their use. If you need to be dropped off while a car is parked, we have wonderful greeters who will wait with you, or will be happy to show you to a seat!

Temperature
The space will be hot! Homewood cannot support air conditioners, so we will have open windows and blasting fans. We suggest that you bring water bottles and we encourage moving about the space as you need! There will be water coolers by the front lobby. As such, please wear clothing you will be comfortable in! There is no dress code, so wear clothing that you won't be too hot in. Many will be dressing up to celebrate the holiday, but expect a much more casual wardrobe at Hinenu High Holy Days!

Accessibility
We ask that everyone coming to services refrain from wearing perfumes or scents to support our fellow community members who are scent sensitive.

The space is accessible by a ramp to the front door.

Ushers will have copies of the rabbi's high holy day sermons, as well as headphone/microphone sets. If those resources are helpful to you, just ask an usher. 

There will be reserved seated close to the center of the room.

The sensory relief room on the second floor will be a quiet space with snacks and drinks and things to fidget with. The room is an opportunity for the kol d'mama daka, the still small voice, a break from the input of the sanctuary! Feel free to linger there whenever you need.

Food
Following erev Rosh HaShanah services, Hinenu is catering a dairy dessert oneg (not a potluck!) from Atwater's bakery. Please join your community on the 2nd floor for a nosh in the new year!

Break fast following Neilah services and the end of Yom Kippur will also be catered by Hinenu. There are no potlucks or meals coordinated by the congregation otherwise, but feel free to use our community Facebook page to find one!

Children
Children are always welcome in every service--their listening, shouting, tears, and chirps will only add to the same sounds coming from the adults! This year at the back of the room you'll find a "Prayerground," a space with rugs, books, and toys for children to spend time in while families can still be in the service. We ask that parents stay with children in the Prayerground. Bring a favorite story to share! There will be chess and puzzles for older children looking for something more entertaining than 4+ hours of Hebrew liturgy!

Programing for children ages 4 and up will be offered with Leora on Rosh HaShanah day I from 10am-12pm.

Tallit + Kippah
We will have kippot available to wear during services if you are so inclined! However, we do not yet have a collection of tallitot to borrow (interested in joining in our tallit making efforts? Be in touch!) If you have a tallit to share and don't mind it being used over the next 10 days, please feel free to bring it and share with an usher. Pin your name to it, if you can!

Accountable and Forgiven: Parshat Shoftim

Beloved community,

We are deep in this season of preparation for the high holy days, logistically and spiritually. Some of us are preparing to send children back to school, or go back to school ourselves, and the timing of the Jewish new year coming in the fall is such a help with that transition.

This week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, has some of the greatest hits. “Tzedek tzedek tirdof”: Justice, justice, you shall pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20) “ki ha’adam ish hasedeh,” “because man is the tree of the field,” (Deuteronomy 20:19), the establishment of cities of refuge (Deuteronomy 19:2). There is more than lifetimes enough of what to study in our Torah to nourish us.

This year, so deep in thinking about Hinenu’s first High Holy Day season of services together, I’m not thinking about any of those greatest hits. I’m thinking about what our parsha asks us to consider in this season of accountability about washing our hands of responsibility.

Described in depth in chapter 21, after all the encouragement to establish working, just systems of governance and responsibility, we come upon this situation:

כי־ימצא חלל באדמה אשר יהוה אלהיך נתן לך לרשתה נפל בשדה לא נודע מי הכהו
If, in the land that the LORD your God is assigning you to possess, someone slain is found lying in the open, the identity of the slayer not being known… (Deut. 21:1)

So it goes like this: a dead body is found in the land between towns, on the outskirts. This person has been forgotten, missing, quite literally the most vulnerable a being can be. They are found, finally, and the leaders need to figure out who is responsible for them. Who has to deal with the burial, who is going to prosecute to find out how they died, who is going to take on the hassle. The Torah describes a process in which we must measure to find the town closest to where the person was found, and a pure, unworked animal (perfect for an offering) is led down to a moving body of water that has similarly never been worked. There the animal is killed, and the priests lead the elders in a process of formulaic declaration while they literally wash their hands of the responsibility.

וענו ואמרו ידינו לא שפכה [שפכו] את־הדם הזה ועינינו לא ראו
And they shall make this declaration: “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done.

כפר לעמך ישראל אשר־פדית יהוה ואל־תתן דם נקי בקרב עמך ישראל ונכפר להם הדם
Absolve, O LORD, Your people Israel whom You redeemed, and do not let guilt for the blood of the innocent remain among Your people Israel.” And they will be absolved of bloodguilt.

(Deut 21:8-9)

At first blush, this Torah text can read as overly compassionate to the nearby town that is arguably pretty responsible for the death of an unknown, unclaimed person. But think again--our Torah takes a full chapter to explain what we do in a situation like this. A situation that might happen, that DOES happen, every month, every week, and can go by ignored. No, instead, our Torah describes an elaborate ritual where the elders of the nearest town are compelled to sacrifice a perfect unblemished animal reserved for their personal and communal ritual practice, sacrifice it to God seeking absolution.

This is not washing our hands of responsibility, this is trying to embody accountability, and the desire for absolution. This is a reaching ritual--we are not this way now, but may our prayers be accepted, may we be forgiven, may we forgive each other.

Ibn Ezra, 12th century Spanish commentator, explains the reason the elders have to ask God to כפר the nation: “for we were negligent, and we did not guard the dangerous highways.” Ibn Ezra sees these elders not going through the civic responsibilities to absolve the town of any bad reputation. He sees this as a ritual claiming accountability for what the city did to not protect its borders, highways, and accompany the most vulnerable on the way.

How do we ask for forgiveness when the things we are accountable for are still ongoing? How can we find comfort and connection in services together while the world is full of suffering? How dare we declare a new year, a day of rest, a beloved community, when there is so much brokenness?

I am inspired by the message from the ritual described in Devarim 21. Instead of letting moments of grief and guilt go by, swept under the rug, we are challenged to mark, lift up, look at and investigate from every angle how and why what happened could have happened. Instead of leaving the dead unattended, unaccompanied, unnoticed, we care not only for their bodies, but for the circumstances that led us to this moment. Through ritual, we hold ourselves accountable, and more importantly, through ritual we commit to doing better, find forgiveness, so we can move toward the selves we wish to become.

May this season of teshuva, returning, be one where you treat yourself with compassion, to find your mistakes, be accountable to them, and allow them to be forgiven.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Ariana

Chazak vya’ametz libecha: Be strong and courageous

Beloved community,

This weekend brings with it the sweet reward of Shabbat, but it also carries with it palpable and familiar fear, in response to Sunday’s rally in DC, where nazis and white supremacists plan to march. To even write these words brings up waves of fear and electricity in my body, feelings of despair at having to plan for such things in such times, memories of last year’s violence in Charlottesville, memories and fears much older than my lifetime but in my Jewish memory. I fear for the safety of the protestors who will stand in opposition to the rally, I fear for the safety of collective all-of-us: Black, Brown, indigenous, queer, trans, Jewish, Muslim, disabled, undocumented, workers, sex workers, and all other identities that white supremacy seeks to destroy. But I am bolstered by the powerful response from DC organizers, our own organizers in Baltimore, and the collective power and trust in our Hinenu community.

Tonight when we welcome in Shabbat, we’ll also be welcoming in the period of Rosh Hodesh, the start of the new month. Sunday will be the first of the month of Elul, a month dedicated to deep self examination, reflection, and preparation ahead of Rosh Hashanah. The beginning of the month of Elul shouts “hey, there’s a month to go before you have to account for who you are! Get busy!” The month of Elul whispers “did you forget about how you are an agent in your own existence?” We know what work and accounting is ahead of us during the High Holy Days, we’re about to get called out, and called in. Here are two key practices I want to share with you about Elul:

Every morning this month we can hear the call of the shofar. The first time we hear the call of the shofar is not in services on Rosh Hashanah, not a dramatic introduction to the pomp and grandeur of the holiday, but a month earlier. Because Elul reminds us--the risks we take at this time of preparing to account for ourselves are much greater.

The call of the shofar is many things all at once:

A battle cry, of an army ready to attack
An artifact, of the primordial sound of the whole world being created
A call of warning, for incoming danger
A synesthetic reminder, the sound of receiving Torah at Mount Sinai
An announcement, on the arrival of the new moon
An invitation, to go deeper into ourselves

In Elul Jews from Ashkenazi tradition begin reciting Psalm 27 every day. This one may be familiar to you as the psalm recited at funerals, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.” This psalm so fully describes the hemmed in feeling, the no way out feeling, the fear of enemy feeling. The end of Psalm 27 proclaims:

קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְה֫וָ֥ה חֲ֭זַק וְיַאֲמֵ֣ץ לִבֶּ֑ךָ וְ֝קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃
Look to the LORD; be strong and of good courage! O look to the LORD! (Psalm 27:14)

The enemy feels like it is closing in, but we can look to each other, look to God or Godliness in the world, and be made courageous.

There are many ways to stand up to this oncoming threat. On Sunday, Hinenu is co-sponsoring a rally and speakout at Penn Station in response to the Unite the Right nazi rally in DC. Hinenu member Zachary Berger will offer a misheberach blessing. Following the rally, all who are able will take the train to DC together. For more information about marching with the group, contact Jonah or Evan. For more information about the rally and related events, click here.

Opposing and stamping out fascism and white supremacy from our midst does not require marching--many of us cannot physically make the trip, or emotionally withstand the proximity and potential for violence. Many of us might not want to bring children, or cannot find care providers for children or sick family, or have work obligations.

In the season of the high holy days, which we’re now in, some people wish one another “a gut kvitl,” Yiddish for “a good note.” As in, may you be written in the book of life for good. So if you care to offer blessing, your outrage, your protection to those of our community who will be going down, please send me an email with a word or short sentence. I will write these blessings out, and bring them to the rally Sunday morning for the marchers to take with them. There are many, many ways to show up.

May you be blessed with a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbat of peace and wholeness,
Rabbi Ariana

The 36 Righteous Ones!

Dear Hinenu community,

When I was a child, I learned about a group of people that without them, the entire world, all of existence would collapse. They're called the Lamed Vavnikim, a group of people who's name translates roughly to the "36'ers." These 36 humans are first discussed in the Talmud, and they're fundamental to the continued presence of human life on this planet, in every generation.

But--and here's the kicker, we have no idea who they are. And here's the double kicker--they don't even know who they are. Could the person sitting next to you on the bus be a Lamed Vavnik? Could you even be one? 

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I love this teaching about the 36 anonymous beings that hold aloft the world because it tells us of the ultimate cosmic importance of every human being. That we cannot know who holds this role as one of the 36, and so instead we treat every being like the entire future of the world hangs on their well being. The Lamed Vavnikim teach us that we all matter to the whole, that all of us can only exists when each of us are counted.

This is what becoming a member at Hinenu represents to me--the unique importance of each of the members of our community, and the profound power that we have when we come together as a group. 

In our first week of membership we welcomed our first 20 members. Become a member today and help us get to 36 this week!

Since our very beginning it has been clear we are making something special together-- meeting 1-1 in cafes all over the city, cramming together on hot porches in the August heat, or studying Torah about bodies, desire, and fear at Red Emma's. 

I am humbled every day to serve this community as your rabbi, to be graduating from rabbinical school this Sunday and knowing that our community in Baltimore is my calling and work on the other side of that diploma. That as much as I have been dreaming of this shul, so have all of you working and waiting to see our community take shape.

Which is why it is so exciting to watch our first membership drive launch, and formally cement our commitments to one another. In the past week, 20 people have joined as founding members to nurture and shape this fierce community committed to expansive and welcoming Jewish space, creative and passionate ritual, and interdependent community.

Our voluntary dues structure reminds us that every person matters to the well being of this community, regardless of financial contribution. Knowing that there is an abundance in our community, we ask members to pay what they can to support the financial future of Hinenu. I look forward to continuing this work in the years ahead with your support.

Become a founding member of Hinenu as our community grows!

Bivracha, with blessing,
Rabbi Ariana

Why Tyler is Here for Hinenu

Dear Hinenu Community,

My journey with Hinenu starts in the latter half of 2016, when, spellbound by Rabbi Ariana Katz’s podcast Kaddish, I reached out to tell her just how much her words meant to me. As we started talking, she told me about a dream she had for a small shul filled with spiritual reverence and radical compassion that could possibly take root in my hometown of Baltimore. My whole life, I’ve had that same dream. She told me that she was looking for her Jews, and I told her that she’d at least found one.
 
When we first met in person in January of 2017, I felt what could only be described as platonic love at first sight. As our conversation buzzed with hope for the future and brimmed with passion for our faith, our communities, and the issues that we held dear, I said to myself, “This is my rabbi, this is what we’re building together, and we’re in this for the long haul.”

In our first week of membership, we welcomed our first 20 members. Become a member today and help us more than double that number!

 
In the months that followed, I deepened my connections with not only Rabbi Ariana, but other passionate, justice-minded Jewish friends who I’d met throughout the years in Baltimore. In April of 2017, during the week of Passover, I met with a handful of Jewish agitators for good to plan a potluck seder at 2640 Space for the last night of Passover. Leading that seder for a packed house full of Jews and non-Jews of all ages and backgrounds cemented for me my place in a new, vibrant, and hungry community, sometimes a leader, sometimes an organizer, always a nice Jewish girl.
 
The summer of 2017 saw the formation of the provisional board of our yet-to-be-named Baltimore Justice Shtiebel. Rabbi Ariana invited me to join and I enthusiastically accepted. Roughly a year in, I can see that Hinenu is already becoming the shelter that I prayed for trembling under the covers in the abusive household that I grew up in. It’s the spiritual home I yearned for when I felt too disabled, too gay, too transgender, and too outspoken for even the most liberal of synagogues. 
 
Our commitment to financial and physical accessibility means that anyone can become a member and every member counts. As someone living on disability benefits, I know that it’s not about the amount I pay in dues or the hours of work that I’ve put in, it’s about a greater sense of belonging and a culture of mutual aid.
 
 
As we steer the ship of Hinenu forward and prepare to hand over the wheel, I have faith that what started as several separate twinkles in several separate eyes will continue to manifest itself as a cohesive, communal vision and grow to sustain generations of Jews.


Become a founding member of Hinenu as our community grows!

B'shalom,

Tyler Vile
 

Celebrating Rabbi Ariana's ordination on June 10!

Celebrating Rabbi Ariana's ordination on June 10!