Thursday, April 28, 2011

Passover Message, 5771

Nissan 5771
April 2011

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds you and your families well.

We often take for granted Passover’s connection with spring. The holiday always takes place in the spring, and of course the Seder includes spring symbols such as the karpas and the egg. That Passover should take place in the spring is not a forgone conclusion. If we had a pure lunar calendar, Passover would start about ten days earlier each year, and over a few decades, would actually take place in every season of the year. Our sages created a calendar with a lunar foundation, but with the provision of an additional month (Adar sheni) added seven times in a nineteen year cycle. Why all the effort? The Torah states explicitly that God brought us out in chodesh ha-aviv, “the month of spring.” Rashi explains that God treated us with special kindness by bringing us out of Egypt at a time that was “neither hot nor cold nor rainy.” It has been a long and hard winter here in New York. I am grateful, at long last, to feel the warmth of the new season, the trees beginning to the flower and to see the sun finally coming out. As we enjoy spring, we should remember that this too is a kindness from God and we should use it to recall how God rescued us long ago, but ultimately, enabled us to be here today.

We are proud to report that thanks to your generous response to our emergency roof appeal and the help of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, which has agreed to loan us the reminder of the money on favorable terms, the work on the new roof is almost done. We are thrilled that the new roof will protect the shul for the next generation and will allow us to continue restoring the building.  Our next projects are installing emergency exit hardware on all the doors in the sanctuary and repairing and repainting the tin ceiling. After that, we hope to take down the paneling, upgrade the electrical system, rebuild the plaster walls and restore the decorative stenciling.

We have had an impressive array of learning programs this year. Daniel Fridman a rabbinical student at Yeshiva University, continues to give his excellent shiur every Sunday morning, and since the fall, we have been fortunate to have had a series of thoughtful Shabbos lectures given by Wendy Amsellem of the Drisha Institute, Mishael Zion of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Raphy Rosen of Columbia University, and Professor Rabbi David Flatto of Pennsylvania State University.

Under Rhonda Taylor’s leadership, we now have women’s group that meets every month on the Sunday before Rosh Chodesh. Funded by a grant from New York State, and led ably by Dr. Eliott Kahn, we are hosting a phenomenal Jewish music series. The most recent program was a wonderful concert with the Avram Pengas Ensemble, which featured Sephardic and Israeli music. We look forward to future events.

This year is the one hundredth anniversary of our founding, in June 1911. We are organizing a gala anniversary dinner, which will take place, G-d willing, on October 30, 2011. I am proud to announce our honorees: Gloria Landy, Dale Brown, Avi Terry, and myself. Please save the date for the dinner. We hope you will join us.

As you may know, Mrs. Chana Kret passed away in November 2010. She was a wonderful person in her own right – warm, outgoing and optimistic - and also a true ezer kenegdo, a partner with Rabbi Kret in everything that he did. Together Mrs. Kret and Rabbi Kret led our congregation, officially for forty eight years and also informally for many years after Rabbi Kret’s retirement. They are both deeply missed.

Although Rabbi and Mrs. Kret are no longer with us, we are striving to maintain their spirit of welcoming newcomers, warmth, and Torah. We are also working to keep our building safe and usable for generations to come. Please continue to support our efforts, and with your help the Old Broadway Synagogue will continue to be a very special and very holy place for years to come.

Warm regards for a happy and kosher Passover,

Paul Radensky

Hoppin' Harlem Chanukah Simchah, December 4, 2010

Here are some videos from one of our recent shul Chanukah parties. Keyboard by Pete Sokolow, vocals by Dr. Eliott Kahn. Where else but the Old Broadway Synagogue? Filmed by Chris Kahn.

Please stay tuned for more videos from our holiday simchas!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cholent Review - Shabbos Parashas Tazria: What??? Green Cholent???

It is true, the thought of green cholent is hardly appetizing, but if we think of green as being ecologically friendly then this adjective for traditional Jewish rocket fuel does not sound so bad. So, one might hesitatingly ask, how does one make "green" cholent?  Now I must confess, I really don't know, except as a tangent let me say that I once had the cholent that was prepared for another Jewish community that hails from the other side of the world. It really was green, and it did not sit well on this Ashkenazi palate, nor in this Ashkenazi stomach. But I digress... Here is how I made my cholent, "green" or at least, here is how I was trying to be ecologically responsible: Every week we use lots of styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons for the cholent. Couldn't I reduce the trash stream a little by using real bowls and spoons? (There is, of course, a position, that the amount of energy and resources used to wash dishes negates, to some degree, their advantage over disposables, but I am convinced that the non-disposable stuff still is "greener.") I began researching different products. I initially thought about buying melamine bowls and then I learned that melamine in made with urea and formaldehyde, and is generally safe unless it is heated too much or microwaved, so I decided this was too complicated for me. Then I thought about buying some of the bowls with the beautiful Chinese designs on them at the local odd lots store. Then I read that some of the glazes in China are made with lead, and the more colorful they are, the greater likelihood that they will contain lead. In the end, following the suggestion of my student, I  purchased 30 plain ivory bowls and 30 stainless steel spoons at Fishs Eddy, a great place if you are looking for that sort of thing. After shlepping the bowls and spoons home (they were heavy), I brought them to the mikvah to be toiveled. This in itself was an adventure because I brought them in on an afternoon when the mikvah gets a lot of traffic. Finally, I was able to use them on Shabbos. I felt great serving the cholent on something a lot more Shabbosdik and elegant than styrofoam and I was delighted to be able to do something positive for the environment. After kiddush, I collected the bowls in a bin to let them soak, and then cleaned them quickly and easily after Shabbos. I am looking forward to using them next Shabbos.