New Year’s Resolutions?
Greetings, friends, and Happy New Year!
There has been much talk about how 2021 just HAS to be an improvement over 2020.
In many ways, that’s true.
On one hand, there are plenty of toilet paper and paper towels available.
On the other hand, all this time at home has motivated us to do more bathroom and kitchen remodelling.
On one hand, we have spent a lot of time on our own.
On the other hand, I have discovered many of the hiking and biking trails in our region.
On one hand, the vaccines are making their way to every corner of our country.
On the other hand, that’s not an excuse to stop wearing masks, washing our hands and staying away from other people.
On one hand, the economic stimulus payments are on the way to people.
On the other hand, the $600 will not go far for those of our friends who have lost their jobs, can’t buy all the groceries they need, and are facing eviction.
On one hand, Zoom has given us a method for staying together as a Jewish community of worshippers and learners.
On the other hand, our members tell me they miss hugging each other, schmoozing and sharing a nosh.
On one hand, we have been able to continue Friday and Saturday services each week, as well as Sunday School, Tot Shabbat and other events.
On the other hand, some of our members may not be able to join us if we resume in-person services later this year.
On one hand, I haven’t been able to see my new grandchild in Israel, or hug any of my children or grandchildren there or in Chicago.
On the other hand, the lovely Renana Friedman accepted my proposal of marriage on Grandad’s Bluff.
Fortunately for us Jews, our year of 5781 is only 3 months old.
We have plenty of time to check in, to see how we are doing, emotionally, spiritually, Jewishly.
Try not to make too many New Year’s resolutions.
25% of resolutions are forgotten after just two weeks.
If you do make resolutions, be sure to include how much you will love your family, how much you will stay in touch with your friends, and how well you will take care of your health.
Resolve to spend time learning about Judaism, meditation, prayer and finding your spiritual center.
I wish all of our members and friends a very happy, secure and healthy new year.
Norma Deborah Altman (Lebovitz) – Dvorah bat Leah v’Shmuel – passed away peacefully but reluctantly on December 25, 2020, at age 89.
What follows is Norma’s obituary written by herself.
Norma was born in Oak Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, on March 16, 1931 to Samuel and Lily (Contorer) Lebovitz.
Norma lived in Chicago, with the exception of a few years, until her marriage, when she and her husband moved in 1965 to La Crosse, where they spent the rest of their lives together.
She is survived by her husband Burton; sons James (Ellen Von Holtum), and Robert (Devi Segal) all of Minneapolis; a granddaughter Erin Altman of Chicago; and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents Lilian and Sam Lebovitz; mother- and father-in-law Hilda (Plavin) and Jack Altman; sister Phyllis Klapman and brother-in-law Aaron (Nunny) Klapman; sister-in-law Eleanor (Tudy) and brother-in-law Harry Polisky; and brother-in-law Irwin (Buddy) and sister-in-law Dorothy Altman.
Norma graduated from Austin High School (Chicago) where she met her future husband as members of the same freshman homeroom, and learned to admire, respect, and love him for the rest of their lives (even though he used to copy her math homework). She received her S.S. and M.S. degrees at Northwestern University and later attended post graduate courses at UW-L.
Norma taught school for 38 years, 24 of which were in La Crosse, mostly at Central High and Hamilton schools. She retired in 1990 to start a new career as a volunteer. She was a county volunteer guardian, a citizen advocate, a volunteer at the library, and the humane society, and a dedicated worker for Learning in Retirement and several other community organizations. She described her volunteer work as fun and something that kept her from nibbling on her beloved chocolates during the day and away from other sorts of mischief. She loved traveling which, including family trips and group trips planned by her husband, took her to six continents (she felt that if she lived a little longer she might have made it to all seven).
Although she always had a soft spot in her heart for Chicago, where she was raised, she learned to enjoy the life style and the many wonderful friends and good times she had in La Crosse.
Norma will be cremated, and a celebration of her life will take place on a yet to be determined date in 2021.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the Burt and Norma Altman Teacher Education Fund at UW-L, La Crosse Humane Society, or a donation of personal choice.
Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.dickinsonfuneralhomes.com.
Zichronah Livracha – May Norma’s memory be a blessing. זכרונו לברכה
Friends, as this challenging year comes to an end, we can only hope for a better year ahead.
This week’s Torah portion is Vayechi – “And Jacob lived”. Although that’s how the parsha begins, the parsha deals not with Jacob’s life, but his demise. This reminds us of another parsha, Chayei Sarah. Although it was called “the life of Sarah”, it really dealt with the end of her life.
Jacob takes gradual leave of his family in several stages. He gives instructions for his burial and provides spiritual directives for his descendants’ future. Jacob directs that he not be buried in Egypt, but rather back in Hebron, in the cave of Machpelah, where his ancestors are buried.
Jacob also delivers poetic, prophetic blessings for his children. We are reminded of the importance of the parental blessings, much as Isaac bestowed on Jacob, although that was through the deception of Jacob and Rebecca.
At this time last year, as I prepared to leave for my 4th trip to Israel in 40 years, I was on the edge of my chair with anticipation.
My oldest grandson was to become bar mitzvah a week later. My son’s family were living as olim, as recent immigrants, since the previous July in the big modern city of Beth Shemesh, near Jerusalem.
The bar mitzvah celebration stretched from dinner and music for 25 on Thursday night, to Kabbalat services on Friday night, followed by a sumptuous Shabbat dinner for family and friends, to a 4 hour long Shabbat morning service, culminating in my having an Aliyah to Torah, followed by a huge Kiddush luncheon, an afternoon to nap and recover from all the celebrating, followed by Shalosh Seudos – the traditional 3rd meal – followed by services and Havdalah. A veritable feast of food, spirituality, family and prayer.
On that Erev Shabbat, on that Friday evening, just like our forefather Jacob did in this week’s Torah portion, I bestowed my parental blessings on my son, then he in turn blessed each of his four children (now 5!). He gave the identical blessing that our forefather Jacob gives this week, in this Torah portion, to his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe.
“Yesimcha Elohim ke’Ephraim v’che’Menashe / Yesimech Elohim ke’Sarah, Rivka, Rachel, ve’Leah”
May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe /for daughters – May God make you like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah
I was approaching the end of my mourning period for my late mother, zichronah livracha – the 11 months of saying Kaddish which ended while I was in Israel. It was fitting that I said my very last Mourners’ Kaddish for my mother at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It was also a challenge for me as I left this bimah for a long two weeks. Some of you jumped in to lead services and to lein Torah, to keep the doors open while I was gone. I missed being on the bimah for those two long weeks, and I am grateful to all of you.
This also marked a turning point in my rabbinical journey. I was your spiritual leader since the previous July, so I was just six months into my term. You asked me to continue this work for a few more years.
I have been greatly blessed in this calling, doubly blessed that I was able to study rabbinics and Jewish practices, then apply it immediately to our own congregation.
I am so grateful that all of you came on this journey along with me as I realized my life’s dream of becoming a rabbi.
I now want to share with you my rabbinical blessing for all of you:
Yevarechecha Ad-nai veyishmerecha
May G-d bless you and keep you.
Ya’er Ad-nai panav eilecha vichuneka
May G-d shine His light on you and be gracious to you.
Yisa Ad0nai panav eilecha veyasem lecha shalom
May G-d turn his face toward you and grant you peace.
חג אורים שמח!
Happy Chanukah, everyone!
Wow, if there was ever a season when we need some lights to chase away the darkness, this is IT. We were so pleased to see the excellent turnout at our outdoor menorah lighting on Sunday night, December 13, the 4th night of Chanukah. Yes, my fingers and Richard Strauss’s fingers were quite numb, after playing Chanukah blessings and songs for 20 minutes in the cold. But it was worth it! 15 kids and the same number of adults turned out for our first outdoor lighting, all with masks and social distancing.
People remarked to me how happy they were to be able to get together with other CSOA families after being separated for so many months.
The children were especially happy to get their goody bags, containing a tin menorah, a box of candles, dreidels, puzzles and chocolate coins, and candy pop rocks. (I think some grownups also enjoyed!) The kids rushed home to open their bags and to light. Here are Teagan, Eva and Hudson Neuman lighting their menorahs. Yosher koach – good job, Neuman family!
This is also one of the times every year when WXOW interviews me about Chanukah. It was a short interview, but fun: https://wxow.com/2020/05/17/some-local-churches-hesitant-to-reopen/