Events in Our Community–Cantor Visit, Israel360 and Yom HaShoah

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, April 21, 2017 / 25 Nisan 5777

Summary of this week’s Oasis Songs

  1. Cantor Sharon Grainer–Cantorial Candidate Visit
  2. Israel360 with Professor Loren Spielman on Thursday, April 27th
  3. Yom HaShoah Events

 Cantorial Candidate Visit

Cantor Sharon Grainer, our first cantorial candidate is here! She currently serves in Philadelphia at the venerable Temple BZBI, which can trace its roots back to 1840. Before cantorial school, she studied Yiddish and literature at the University of Toronto, spent a year at the Pardes Institute of Jewish studies in Jerusalem and overall has had an interesting Jewish path.

I had several opportunities yesterday to spend some time with Ms. Grainer. Some of that was dedicated to reviewing details for this exciting weekend. We also enjoyed a tête-à-tête and got to know one another a little bit more. This is essential not just for me, but for all of us at Neveh Shalom.

As we decide about our next cantor, we want to consider some obvious functional criteria, such as the quality of a person’s voice, whether they are a mensch, a solid human being and how they will interact with our b’nei mitzvah students. We also want to ask ourselves some deeper questions. Can this person can raise us up spiritually, both as individuals and as a community? Do they have a musical vision for our kehilla? Is the person’s soul palpable in their music and does it beckon you to enter heartfelt prayer?

I urge you to attend as many events with Cantor Grainer this weekend as you can so you can form your own impressions. Services tonight are at 6:15 pm and tomorrow at 9:00 am. Please check the weekly email for a full list of opportunities to spend time with and support our visiting cantor. Finally, when our dedicated search committee sends out the electronic survey, please carefully consider each question. As we approach the 150th anniversary of our synagogue, it is essential that we have a cantor who will help us build on and enhance our storied history. Your input is crucial.

Israel360 with Professor Loren Spielman on Thursday, April 27th

Our second Israel360 event is this coming Thursday at 7pm in the Stampfer Chapel. The topic is “Understanding Israeli Borders from Antiquity to Modernity.”

As always, the goals of Israel360 are to provide important, engaging and ongoing programming on Israel in an atmosphere of mutual respect and curiosity. Israel360 does not advocate for positions on Israeli politics. We intend to remain a rare forum dedicated to dialogue and education on Israel free from rhetoric and divisiveness even as participants have their own commitments. Indeed, our planning committee is represented by people whose views on Israel range from left to right.

Our main presenter next week is Dr. Loren Spielman, professor of Judaic Studies at Portland State University. His scholastic expertise covers ancient Judaism and we look forward to his discussion of historical boundaries of ancient Israel. The later sections of the evening will feature some videos and discussion, bring us up to the modern period and will describe different border configurations considered in peace talks. Understanding how fluid Israel’s borders have been, and what is at stake in the history of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians is critical background for anyone interested in understanding the news and developing an informed opinion.

While we strengthen our culture of dialogue and respect around Israel internally, these events are for members of Congregation Neveh Shalom. We look forward to opening the series to a wider audience at some point in the future.

Yom HaShoah Events

This year’s communal observance of Yom HaShoah takes place on Sunday April 23rd at Congregation Shaarie Torah. The observance begins promptly at 7 pm, so please intend on arriving early. That will also assure you a more convenient parking spot. We will mark the occasion with the lighting of six candles as some of our community’s survivors give witness to all that was lost.

On Monday, Portland’s annual reading of the names (Unto Every Person There is a Name is organized by OJMCHE) will take place at Director Park, 815 SW Park Avenue. From 10 am to 5 pm, our larger community will recite 5000 names. Around the world, similar gatherings will take place as we provide the last dignity to those whose lives-and deaths-were marked by brutal indignity. We will let their names catch breath again and by doing so allow their lives to make a claim on ours.

This year, I have been asked to represent our Neveh Shalom community and will open the day’s memorial at 10 am. It is a stark yet necessary honor. Although my heart will be focused primarily on these past victims of genocide, it will be impossible to stand before Portland without also bringing quietly to mind the ongoing horrors of war and tyranny that continue to plague our world and our human species.

May this Shabbat, filled with excitement for CNS, spread a bit of peace to the earth’s four corners.

Sending you my blessings,

Rav D