Guiding Principles for the Synagogue Community
Wednesdays, 6:30 – 8 p.m.
What does it mean to be a community committed to principles like holiness, courage, kindness, compassion, respect for human dignity, and reverence for God? Are we living on a daily basis by the values we profess to hold dear? The traditional Amidah prayer provides keen insight into Judaism’s guiding principles. During the course of the year, our clergy will lead us in an in-depth exploration of these principles and engage us in honest conversation about who we are and who we want to be – as a congregation, as Jews, and as human beings.

Avot v’Imahot: Know thatWe are Part of SomethingBigger than Ourselves
Taught by: Rabbi Brian Stoller
October 25
Our community is heir to, and part of, a majestic tradition that spans thousands of years. We must honor those who came before us by helping our people find meaning and purpose in Jewish life. We have a sacred duty to think broadly, be respectful of the tradition, and show concern for the Jewish future.

G’vurot: Believe that We Can Achieve Greatness
Taught by: Rabbi Brian Stoller
November 1
With good people, good teamwork, good resources, and a willingness to try, we can not only achieve our goals, but also elevate our community from “good” to “great.” And yet, true greatness is not about numbers, money, power, or prestige. True greatness is about living in a way that embodies our values.

K’dushah: Embody Jewish Values in Everything We Do
Taught by:Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin
November 8
Because we are a synagogue, our community should be different from other communities we might be part of; it should be holy. Jewish principles such as respect for the dignity of every person, justice and fairness, openness to learning from those with different points of view, hospitality, and concern for the vulnerable must guide our work and our conduct, both internally and externally.

Binah: Act and Speak Wisely
Taught by:Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin
November 15
Wisdom is not about how much we know; it is about our ability to be discerning and use good judgment. We must think before we speak and act, and be careful not to be harsh or hurtful toward others. It is better to stay silent than to speak cruelly to another person. 

T’shuvah: Believe that We Can Always Improve
Taught by:Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin
November 29
No one and nothing is perfect; we can always improve – as individuals, as an institution, and as a community. We must have the will and the courage to constantly look at ourselves on all these levels, and to work to become better community members and better human beings. As a holy community, we must lovingly, compassionately, and sincerely support each other in these efforts.

S’lichah: Ask Forgivenessand Be Forgiving
Taught by: Cantor Wendy Shermet
December 6
From time to time, we will say or do things that hurt each other. When we do, we must take responsibility for our actions and ask for forgiveness from the person we have wronged. And we must be forgiving of others, too, and not hold grudges – for “a person who refuses to forgive [after being entreated sincerely to do so] is the one who is in the wrong.” (Rambam, T’shuvah 2:9). 

G’ulah: Be Courageous
Taught by: Rabbi Brian Stoller
December 13
Courage is not the absence of fear; courage is doing what we believe is right or needed even though we are afraid. We must never allow fear or past failures to prevent us from imagining, innovating, creating, proposing ideas, or trying new things. We must create a community in which people are encouraged to show courage.

R’fu’ah: Be Caring and Empathetic
Taught by: Rabbi Brian Stoller
December 20
We must be caring and empathetic toward our fellow congregants, especially when they seem not to be at their best. The people here are good people, and we should give them the benefit of the doubt. And because we strive to be a caring and compassionate community, we ought to reach out to our fellow congregants when they seem to be struggling and offer friendship and support.

Shefa: Believe that there is Plenty for Everyone
Taught by: Cantor Wendy Shermet
January 10
We must strive to see abundance, rather than scarcity, in our lives. There is plenty of credit to go around, so we must avoid turf battles and unhealthy competition. At the same time, we must consciously work to create an environment in which every member has plenty of opportunity to succeed and shine.  We must celebrate each other’s successes, and remember that when one of us succeeds, we all succeed.   

Kibbutz Galuyot: Know that We are Always in God’s Presence
Taught by: Cantor Wendy Shermet
January 17
You are familiar with all my ways; there is not a word on my tongue but that You, Adonai, know it well” (Psalm 139:3-4). To be holy is to understand that, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, God hears what we say and sees what we do. So we must always speak and act in ways that are dignified and honor God – especially in times of anger, frustration, or disappointment, when it is hardest to do so.

Mishpat: Be Fair and Compassionate
Taught by: Cantor Wendy Shermet
January 24
Justice is blind, holding everyone to the same standard; and yet, each person is a unique individual.  Judaism teaches that good leadership is about balancing justice and mercy by applying policies, rules, and expectations equally to everyone, while also being compassionate and understanding of each person’s particular needs and circumstances. 

Al Harish’a: Look for the Good in Others
Taught by: Rabbi Aryeh Azriel
February 7
We all do things from time to time that irritate or anger each other. When that happens, we may have a tendency to let someone’s negative traits dominate our perception of them. But we must resist that tendency. The Torah teaches every human being is made in God’s image, so we must consciously look for the good and emphasize the positive traits in each other.

Tzadikim: Disagree Respectfully
Taught by: Rabbi Aryeh Azriel
February 14
Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai were both proficient in the law, but Beit Hillel prevailed in nearly every debate because, according to the Talmud, they were more respectful in argument. Beit Hillel would speak gently, praise Beit Shammai’s acumen, and acknowledge that, although they disagreed with Beit Shammai’s conclusions, there was truth to be learned from what they had to say. As friends and fellow congregants, we will often disagree, but when we do we must, like Beit Hillel, be kind and respectful to those on the other side.

Y’rushalayim: Help to Create a Friendly and Supportive Environment
Taught by:Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin
February 21
The idea of Jerusalem is a community based on the precept “love your neighbor as yourself.” We must each do our part to make our Temple Israel community one in which every person feels important and appreciated, that their input is valued, and that they are supported by the other members of the community.

Y’shuah: Be Optimistic and Have Faith
Taught by: Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin
March 7
To have faith is to believe, despite all indications to the contrary, that the seemingly impossible is somehow possible. Rather than focusing on all the reasons to say “no we can’t,” we must look for the reasons to say “yes we can.”

Shome’a T’filah: Listen Intentionally
Taught by:Rabbi Deana Sussman Berezin
March 14
Intentional listening is about being open to receiving what another person is saying, rather than judging or formulating a response in our head while they are speaking. When we listen intentionally, our disposition, our body language, and our openness send the signal to the speaker that what they have to say matters to us and that we value them, even if we do not agree with their view.

Avodah: Remember that Our Work is Service
Taught by: Rabbi Brian Stoller
March 28
The work of a synagogue is service – not in the sense of serving customers, but in the sense of serving souls, serving the community, and serving God. It is about putting the spiritual needs of people above our own need for accomplishment, recognition, and glory. This kind of work requires, above all, humility, as it is said: “Moses was exceedingly humble, more so than any other person on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3) and “It has been told to you, O mortal, what is good and what God demands of you: only to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Hoda’ah: Show Gratitude
Taught by: Rabbi Brian Stoller
April 18
Our Sages teach that we should say one hundred blessings every day. We must consciously look for opportunities each day to express gratitude to others – for example, by thanking them for helping or supporting us, or for being a good friend. People love to hear “thank you,” and it is something we can never say too often. We must also work to create a culture of praising one another, so that our fellow congregants, our leaders, and our professional team know that we appreciate them and what they do. 

Shalom: Make Peace
Taught by: Rabbi Brian Stoller
April 25
While conflict in synagogue life is inevitable, letting it fester breeds resentment and takes a toll on our relationships and our well-being. When we have conflict with a fellow congregant, we should proactively try to resolve it by being honest and upfront with each other in respectful manner. Our doors, and our hearts, must always be open to making peace.