Notes from Cantor Neil...


"New Beginnings!"
January, 2022


January 17th, 2022 is Tu BiSh'vat, the New Year of the Trees. Because that is the
M.L. King Day weekend, we will share a Tu BiSh'vat Seder on Sunday, January
23rd with the students of our Edward F Rudderman Religious School. This marks
the beginning of Spring in the Land of Israel, giving us an opportunity to consider some Jewish approaches to ecology and environmentalism.


Like the secular New Year of January 1st, our Fall "religious New Year" can be a
period of transition, providing us with new opportunities in our lives. On Rosh Hashanah we review our actions and words of the past year, and on Yom Kippur
we ask forgiveness for our past wrongs, declaring our hope and resolve that we
will do better in the coming year.


In the life of our Temple, we have also experienced an inspiring transition with the beautiful renovation of our Sanctuary. On December 17th, we had a well-attended Potluck Dinner in our Social Hall, and then a Torah Procession from our temporary Ark on the Social Hall stage to the Bimah of our Sanctuary. After some opening prayers, we marched our Torah scrolls around the Sanctuary, and then placed them into our Ark on our Bimah.


Here are some highlights of the Dedication Service which preceded our Shabbat Evening service that night. Our first reading said: "Let us affirm that our synagogue will be a beit t'filah, a House of Prayer, the place we come to examine what we are, in light of what we should be ..." "... will be a beit midrash, a House of Learning, where we learn who we are and from whence we come ..." "... will be a beit k'nesset, a House of Assembly, where we share joy and sorrow ...".


A second reading: "In every generation, a small group of leaders carries the heaviest load ...". Our blessing was: "We offer our community's gratitude to those who have made this beautiful renovation possible ..." followed by the Shehecheynu prayer for special occasions.


There will be a public ceremony in February, involving some community leaders. As the pandemic continues to come under control, we hope more congregants will attend Shabbat services in our beautiful Sanctuary space. We thank all those who planned, organized, and accomplished this renovation – may it inspire and energize us as a congregation!



"Family Dynamics"
December, 2021


Our Torah portions in Genesis have reflected many wonderful human interactions, and some not-so-wonderful interactions. In the category of wonderful interactions, we have had God’s promise to Abraham of descendants as numerous as the stars, the birth of Ismael and Isaac as his sons, Isaac’s marriage to Rebecca, and the birth of Jacob and Esau as Abraham’s grandsons. Then we read of how Jacob established his own family, with his two wives and two concubines giving birth to twelve named sons and their sister Dinah, among other unnamed daughters.


However, there have been some not-so-wonderful sibling interactions in the large family of Abraham’s descendants. Ishmael and Isaac are a pair of his sons who had troubles. Later we studied the rivalry between Jacob and Esau, after which Jacob fled to family relatives back in Syria. There he met his cousins, the sisters Leah and Rachel, who had their own tensions. In the last part of Genesis, we will read of problems between Joseph and most of his eleven brothers, because of overt favoritism towards Joseph on the part of their father Jacob.


What does all of this Genesis family-history have to do with us, here in Temple Emanu-El of Dothan? We have a long, successful history of over 90 years, which has spanned multiple generations of several Jewish families. We are renovating our beautiful sanctuary, and we have upgraded our lighting and HVAC controls so that our building will be functional for generations to come. Our membership is stable, with several new families joining us during my time here with y’all.


Life is not without its challenges, and our Temple Board is considering our path forward in several areas. We all enjoy the camaraderie of gathering at Temple for religious services and social events, and we are continuing to maintain caution until the remnants of Covid mutations are no longer with us.


We are essentially a large family, and we have a responsibility to keep that in our minds as we move forward into our future. Families share joyous moments and events through the years, balanced by being there for each other in the difficult or stressful times. So too do we as a Temple Community share both the “joys” and “oys” of living fulfilling Jewish lives in this wonderful small city of Dothan.


Let us try to follow good examples of how our ancestors interacted in the Book of Genesis, with cooperation and support of each other, and let us avoid quarreling and family jealousies which we encounter among the first four generations of our Jewish ancestors. If we succeed in this approach, then we will have a long and prosperous future as Temple Emanu-El of Dothan.