Rabbi's Letter

May 1, 2019
26 Nisan 5779
Dear Friends,

My my how beautifully Passover ushered in Springtime, and not without pageantry, the earth has come alive again in all her glory.
I want to share with you a change that will be forthcoming in the months and years ahead regarding my weekly letter. From here on out I will be sending out only one letter per month, and I will write it during the first week of the month to contain all that is scheduled for the month ahead. 

I have loved writing these letters to you, and please understand that there is definitely a method to my madness, (yes, madness, it takes approximately 4 to 5 hours to compose one of these letters.) This endeavor pretty much wrapped up my Tuesday evenings till bedtime, and heaven help me if I had a function to attend that evening. In that case I’d be scrambling all week long to get it done. I want to share with you why I decided, almost four years ago, to write these letters to you. 

Given my years of experience being a pulpit Rabbi, I knew full well that most of our congregants don’t really get a chance to know their Rabbi unless or until something happens to them personally. Such events traditionally necessitate a call to the clergy. This of course allows the Rabbi to get to know their congregation at a very slow pace. For a rabbi like me who became a rabbi precisely to create deep, meaningful, and loving community, I knew that slow pace was not going to be enough for me.  We only have this one lifetime to live it fully. 

So I decided I wanted you to know who your Rabbi was, and I wanted to know who my congregants were. If there was any chance for a future between us, I wanted you to know what matters to me as a Spiritual leader. As a Rabbi and I wanted to know what matters in the lives of my congregants.

I wanted you to see me as one of you, a mom, a grandmother, a friend, a full human soul as much in need of a connection with you as you are in need of a connection with me. 

And so I began to write. I wanted you to feel the passion of my rabbinate, the dedication of my commitments and the seriousness with which I live my craft as a leader of the Jewish people. I wanted to reach you every week, instead of only once every few years when you might need a ritual to be officiated. The relationship between a Rabbi and their congregation is nothing if it isn’t real, deep, mutually supportive and loving. The studies show that the first sign of a healthy Synagogue can be measured by the success of the rabbi in becoming a part of the community rather than an outsider to the community and so that was my goal, to give us a chance to truly bond as we build for the future. I have wanted to know who you are and what makes your lives tick. I have wanted to become a part of the community, your Rabbi and your friend. That was the goal.

There were many of you who were grateful each week to receive my letter and always let me know how much it meant to you, and there were those who preferred not to receive my letter, and were quite vocal about their disapproval as well, they, thankfully were the minority, yet they also carry emotional weight on my decision. 
So, with this said, today I am listening to both of these voices and I believe that sending out my letter once a month is a perfect compromise.  I do feel for the most part, very close to so many of you, at least to all of you who wanted to know your Rabbi better, I certainly feel as of we have forged beautiful and deeply meaningful relationships and I couldn’t be happier. That was my goal!

I also want to reiterate what I shared publically in my Congregation meeting report this past month, I was hired to bring renewed life and energy to B’nai Israel, and to set the life of this congregation clearly on a strong path towards the future underpinned by our ageless Jewish values and the highest morale ethic. We have done that, we are rooted, though the seedlings need time to dig their roots into the soil, yet for the most part, we are on track, but now,  it is your Board that has taken the wheel and well they should, they need to take the wheel. Our future is now in the hands of the Board leadership.
So here’s what we’ve got on schedule for May.


Thursday May 2 nd , 2019
6:00 pm, B'nai Israel Congregation
Please join us for a sacred memorial in honor of the unspeakable darkness that was the Holocaust.
This year we have two special contributions to our Memorial service that promise to be touching and meaningful:
Larry Zimmerman, the talented composer and pianist has put together a stirring musical performance for us that includes, Larry on the Piano, Jim Boston on bassoon and the world famous opera singer, Paul Plishka, on bass.
Paul Plishka is now retired from the Metropolitan Opera and will grace our sanctuary with a powerful piece entitled, "Survivor's Tribute," a poem by Rabbi Laslo Berkowits.
We will also be honoring the life of Simcha Wojnowich, the beloved father of Rose Zimmer who will, as is our custom at B'nai Israel, share a few words about her father's brave and brilliant life having survived the ravages of the Holocaust. Simcha Wojnowich passed away this year leaving a powerful legacy of strength in overcoming the darkness of the Shoah.
We will also enjoy original music written by Larry Zimmerman specifically for a Holocaust Memorial and hear the words of Yosel as he prepares to take his last breath as the Warsaw ghetto falls.
Please join us for this solemn yet stirring evening. All are welcome from the Wilmington Jewish community to be our guests.
Sunday the 5 th of May is a Parents Night out at the Satellite . Families that play together stay together. Families that come to shul together become family together.  Sunday at 6:30PM
My monthly Lunch and Learn on May 8 th will be our last class of this year’s series and as is our yearly custom, we will bring a picnic lunch to Airlie Gardens for a beautiful Noon time learning under the magnificent Oak Tree. Please join us.

We will be feeding the homeless at the Good Shepherd Center on May 8 th at 4:30 . We have a strong group of volunteers stepping up as many of us will be at the Film Festival. Thank you to all who will keep B’nai Israel going strong in the face of so many competing events to attend in Wilmington. 
The first Israel 2020 trip meeting will be at Rabbi Kozlow's residence on Wednesday June 5th at 6pm. Please RSVP with Rabbi if you will attending!
I am beside myself with excitement to be officiating the wedding of Joseph Burke Friendland and Maddy Van Deeter Carlson in just a few weeks.  They are to be married down by the beach in Wrightsville surrounded by friends and family.  I am so honored to be their Rabbi and to have the joy of bringing these two beautiful souls to the moment of the beginning of their lives together. It takes a village and I welcome both Burke and Maddy to find that village in us.
Mazel Tov Maddy and Burke!!!!
It’s hard to believe that we are getting ready to wrap up this year’s One Room Shul House, we have a few more events together beginning with this coming Sunday’s last day of school. We will also have our yearly pool party at the home of the Mizrachis, (DTBA) followed by our Guest Chef dinner on the 17 th of May, please RSVP . Our families always cook up an amazing Shabbat dinner for us as we celebrate the children and their year of learning. And then to put the cherry on top of the cake, we head for the trampoline park and bounce our way into the summer on Sunday May 19 th

Mark your calendars, first day of school September 15 , 2019.
It has been good to see you all at the Jewish Film Festival, how lucky are we to have this magnificent event here in Wilmington. 

This morning I was invited to offer both the opening benediction as well as the closing remarks of the gathering of Cape Fear Housing Coalition. 
These were my words,

A blessed Good morning to each and everyone of you, I am Rabbi Julie Kozlow and I am honored to offer sacred words intended for God’s ears, that we may frame the intention of this gathering in purpose and dedication to the highest good. 

Holy God, we ask that You bless this gathering, for here are some of Your most caring souls, those who walk everyday through Your world in search of ways to balance the scales of injustice. Bless this endeavor that seeks to secure homes, create shelter and offer comfort to those who find themselves on the margins of society without benefit of a safety net. May the work of their hands be strengthened by Your strength, may their path be guided by Your wisdom and may they find no discouragement as they seek to bring Your will of fairness into an unfair world. 

Help each and every one of us here, who strives to bring this world into moral harmony,  to hold tight to Your ways of compassion, empathy and the light of hope.  May this be God’s will.

And in closing,

Each soul comes into life by invitation. Each soul is asked by her Creator to become a thread of goodness in the tapestry of humanity.

Each soul is to build a home from which humanity, as a whole may draw comfort.

Each soul must strive towards the vision of what can be, in a world we do not yet know. 

Each soul is to add its unique beauty to the expansion of human consciousness.

Every soul deserves a place to begin the journey of building that sacred trust. 

This is the first step, this is the first human right, to live in a house that you may build into a home. 

Radical change must find it’s day, for God awaits our efforts to fix what has been broken. 

Thank you all for your care for those who are marginalized and living on the bitter edge of society. Their numbers increase with each new day. 

May we all remain diligent in the search for justice for our most vulnerable so that all of God’s children my have the chance to build their lives into a home. For if one man is homeless the whole world is homeless. 

May God bless and Keep you,
May Gods light shine upon you and be gracious to you
May God’s grace surround you, May God lift up your face and turn your soul towards peace.
From this meeting I went to luncheon of the Ministerial Round Table, the interfaith gathering of local clergy. The meeting was started by a minister, who, though kind that he was, offered a prayer in Jesus’ name. To be honest with you, I used to attend these meetings during my first year here in Wilmington but stopped going once I expressed my discomfort with any interfaith organization praying in the name of Jesus,  first off and second, I asked the question as to why was a commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King the ONLY activity that this organization engaged? I asked this not because I don’t think it is a worthy endeavor, it absolutely is a worthy endeavor but I believed that interfaith groups of clergy need to be forging strong relationships with one another that model the commonalities of all of our faiths which are most often accomplished by doing social justice work together in the name of GOODNESS!  

Once the meeting began I brought up these two issues and I was so surprised and happy to see that the concerns I had were echoed by everyone sitting around the table. So, things are changing here in Wilmington and because of it, I am happy to join the group now as it creates a vision of a more comprehensive and fair understanding of its mission. 

My goal is to bring differing clergy together to show support, love, respect and a celebration of our differences. I offered to have B’nai Israel host an Ecumenical Thanksgiving service the Sunday before Thanksgiving here at our beautiful Synagogue, where we will ALL participate and share in the uplift the faith community of our beloved Port City. Mark your calendars, it is going to be quite inspiring!

How heavy are our hearts in light of the daily news that has religious houses of God being attacked by soulless and heartless haters? Our security systems are soon to be in place and we do have an armed guard for most of our gatherings. Please do not underestimate the nature of the world that we are living in today, there is too much hate, too many guns and too much denial about what needs to be done to change this world for good. I say that we should do everything we can to be a family for each other and a friend to our neighbors. It isn’t time to live scared, it is time to live strong.

Radical change of the way we structure our world will have to come, it will take time but this old road that the human race has taken has come to a dead end. There is a new way to build up human life and we must begin to look at how we each can begin to shift the world from, what’s in it for me, to what’s in it for all of us! That is the future!

May this beginning of summer, be for you, the Shabbat of the year. Take time to walk the beach, gather with friends, tell your children that you love them, build joyous memories. Its time to laugh, to dream and to hope.

May you each be greatly blessed,
באהבה ושלום

Shabbat Shalom to all!
הרב אלישבע בת דוד ודבורה
Rabbi Julie Kozlow
(910) 762-1117 ~ B'nai Israel phone