The Voice of the

Pelham Jewish Center

October/Tishrei-Cheshvan 5784


Learning Center

In This Issue

Leadership Messages

Rabbi Benjamin Resnick

Education Director

Ana Turkienicz

PJC President

Lisa Neubardt

HaKol Editor

Barbara Saunders-Adams

Pelham Mayor

Stands With

Israel & Pelham Neighbors

Congregant News

& Donations

Book Notes

Barbara Saunders-Adams

Meet Two New PJC


Food For Thought

Share a Simcha

Tributes & Donations

Rabbi Benjamin Resnick

Commenting on Parashat Bereshit, an unnamed Roman philosopher once approached Rabban Gamliel and said, “Your God is indeed a great artist, but he found very helpful raw materials with which to work: Emptiness, disorder, and darkness.” 

This is a profound and disquieting observation and before I share Rabban Gamliel’s response I want to take a moment to fully appreciate what the philosopher is saying. The context of the statement is an ongoing debate about creation ex-nihilo–the question of whether or not God truly created the universe from nothing. The Torah and the ancient rabbis held that God did; meanwhile, Aristotle and others held that God (or perhaps the gods) only formed the universe from pre-existing substance. Still, it strikes me that there is something about the philosopher’s quip that reaches beyond some ancient arguments about the eternity or non-eternity of the cosmos. The philosopher seems to be saying that there is an intimate connection between the inception of meaning and beauty on the one hand and the reality of despair on the other–that the material of creation is dark and chaotic. It’s almost like he’s telling Rabban Gamliel, “So you think your God created this glorious world? Don’t you realize that underneath all of it is horrific emptiness and violence." 

I will break no new ground when I say–after a week and a half of sorrow, anxiety, anger, and fear–that the Roman philosopher gives voice to something that feels very real. Like many of you, since the outbreak of the war in Israel I have spent endless hours refreshing news feeds, scrolling through horrific images, losing sleep because I’m not doing enough to help Israel in her moment of need, and worrying about my Israeli friends who are in immediate danger. Since Simchat Torah I have scarcely spoken about any other subject–not with my wife (who is also covering the war as a journalist), not with my children, and not with many of you. And it goes without saying that all of this, difficult though it is, pales in comparison with the experiences of my friends and family in Israel. Emptiness, disorder, and darkness, indeed. 

Rabban Gamliel, in what may be a surprising turn, agrees with the philosopher about fundamental darkness inherent in creation. (It is certainly worth remembering, by the way, that the philosopher's observation is preserved in a Jewish midrash, which means that the Sages, on some level, think we really need to hear it.) But, rather than admit that God uses pre-existent chaos in order to impose order, he argues (even more radically, perhaps) that God made the chaos as well, quoting a famous verse from Isaiah that appears in the siddur just before the Shemah–יוֹצֵ֥ר אוֹר֙ וּבוֹרֵ֣א חֹ֔שֶׁךְ עֹשֶׂ֥ה שָׁל֖וֹם וּב֣וֹרֵא רָ֑ע אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָ֖ה עֹשֶׂ֥ה כׇל־אֵֽלֶּה–Artisan of light and creator of darkness, maker of peace and creator of evil, I YHVH make all of these. 

Like the statement of the anonymous Roman philosopher, it seems to me that Rabban Gamliel’s retort reaches beyond and beneath the entrenched polemics of the time. By ascribing evil to God’s very self, Gamliel (not to mention Isaiah before him) is insisting that there is inexorable potential hidden somewhere within this very broken and violent world and that divine creativity and beauty and peace can somehow survive in the face of unspeakable wickedness. 

I admit that I can’t really make a credible argument about how or why that is the case. But most of the time I believe that it is true. And I believe that it can become manifest when we come together to sing, or give, or to work, or to dance, or to mourn, or to learn a little midrash, or just to be in one another’s presence. I hope you will try to believe it as well, for as long as you can and for as long as it takes. 


R. Benjamin Resnick


Education Director

Ana Turkienicz

“It’s a tree of life for those who hold fast to it”

For all the years I have been working at the PJC, we have always celebrated Simchat Torah on the exact date of the holiday. However, the celebration was generally poorly attended since the timing coincided with dinner and sleeping times for most of the LC kids. It always made me feel as if we were doing a disservice to our kids since this is one holiday celebration I had vivid memories of celebrating when I was growing up in Brazil.

This year, as if in a premonition, Rabbi Resnick insisted that we celebrate the holiday during LC time, even if it meant that we would celebrate it one day before the actual holiday as marked in the Jewish calendar.

So this year we celebrated Simchat Torah on Thursday afternoon, with ALL the LC students. We invited parents to come to the LC earlier than usual- at 5:00 instead of 6:00, and the result was a true hagigah, a joyful and meaningful celebration of Torah. Little did we knew that if we hadn’t moved the date, we wouldn't have celebrated Simchat Torah at the PJC this year; as no Jewish community in the world was able to after Hamas attacked Israel. The date of Simchat Torah 5784 will be forever marked as the day our community was viciously attacked by a barbaric act of terrorism, with violence not seen since the Holocaust ended. Instead of a day of celebration, it was a day of despair, pain and destruction.

On Thursday, October 5, we unrolled the whole Torah around the LC students. They sat inside the circle and were perplexed by the power of what they viewed, as grownups held the whole Torah scroll unwrapped for the first time in front of their eyes.

Rabbi Resnick opened this part of the event with the words: “Look around you and see how the Torah envelops you, how we are all hugged by the words of Torah.” An image that is worth more than a thousand words. I tried to capture the view and the atmosphere of that moment with a photo, but it falls short. The students danced, sang and waived their own self-made Simchat Torah flags. It was one of the most memorable days in all my years at the LC. A powerful and meaningful learning experience, one we hoped our students will treasure for years to come.

Late Friday night, when the first news from Israel started popping up on my WhatsApp feed, those images vanished. Thursday afternoon quickly became a faded memory of a different time in the world, a time when we were sure that Jews would always be able to celebrate days like this forever. 

The news from Israel reminded us once again how fragile and ephemeral life can be. As we watched and learned incredulously of the horrible, vicious acts of evil violence committed against our brothers and sisters in Israel, followed by the eruption of cheering for those acts throughout the world, we needed to reassess our own values and priorities. What matters most? And how are we supposed to educate our students as we face these events?

Luckily, we had the images from Thursday in our minds. A joyful community enveloped by the words of Torah. A rabbi dancing with the children and bringing alive the tradition of our ancestors, as they have celebrated for millennia. Parents holding a Torah scroll while their children spot the words, letters and stories they know, searched for their own names in our Book of Life. It’s a tree of life, we chant. And then we sang: “Am Israel Chai” - The people of Israel Lives!

Last Thursday night, at the opening of our Teen Collab - our Regional High School, I met Rabbi Sitkin, whom many of us know from his time as a fellow at the PJC and now as a rabbi in Bethel New Rochelle. Rabbi Sitkin had tears in his eyes. He said the events of Shabbat in Israel reminded him of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, his childhood synagogue. He was shaken, as we all are. As I heard his words and offered my embrace and support, I thought to myself - this is how we stand together and support each other again - with our communities and our Tree of Life, our Torah. It has been a source of strength for our forefathers and it will continue to keep us strong. I was grateful for the priceless images we have imprinted in our hearts and minds as we danced with the Torah on Thursday.

Meanwhile, my Whatsapp feed started to bring incredible stories of individual and collective heroism and courage: of thousands of hot meals prepared by Israeli citizens and brought to the soldiers stationed near the borders with Lebanon and Gaza; thousands of flower wreaths donated by Israeli florists so no victims of the terror attack will be buried without flowers on their graves. Of thousands of Israelis around the world boarding El Al planes, sitting on the plane floor to join their units in the IDF. Of millions of dollars collected by individuals and organizations in the US and the world to help victims, hospitals receive whatever is needed. The power of Am Israel, the Jewish community around the world, is almost as overwhelming as the events that brought darkness to the world. 

The week after October 7, we started reading the Torah portion of Bereshit, the first chapter in the book of Genesis. On verse 4, we read: “God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.” And we too, created in the image of G-d, must separate the light from the darkness, guided by the strength of our Torah’s words and by our community who fastens together to our Tree of Life so our children can live in a better world.

We mourn the loss of 1400 innocent lives in Israel, and pray for a full and speedy recovery of all the wounded. We stand together with the families and friends of the hostages and send our support to the soldiers of the IDF who fought and are continuing to fight one of the hardest battles in Israel’s bloody war history. We stand with Israel, today and always. We are grateful for our community and our leadership, and continue to educate our children with the words of Torah, may they be sweet as honey even whilst our hearts are sour and bitter.

Wishing you strength in these challenging times,

Am Israel Chai - The People of Israel Live!



Lisa Neubardt

Now What?

It is at this time of year that I think “now what?” The end of summer is about getting ready for the holidays and the beginning of Fall is about celebrating the holidays. When all the looking back, looking ahead, being grateful, repenting, atoning, rejoicing and acknowledging where we are in our lives and asking for grace for the new year is over, and when real life restarts in earnest, I think to myself, “now what?”. What are the takeaways and how will I be sure to appreciate the grace of another year ahead?

Then October 7 happened and “now what?” took on a profoundly different significance. 

My mother passed away many years ago.  As my family was grieving and at the same time prepping our house for shiva, one of my mom’s dearest friends showed up at our door. She came inside and said I just want to sit here. I have nothing to say and nothing to add. I just want to sit here and be around people like me who are sad and bereaved. I need nothing and will not get in your way. Please just let me sit and be. This show of honesty was unfamiliar to me and I admired it immediately. She sat for a long while, got up, gave us all hugs and left. 

I have been thinking about that moment a lot these days; the need to be around people similarly sad and bereaved, scared and vulnerable. I have nothing to say and nothing to add.  I just want to sit and be around others, like we did at the PJC on Monday, October 9, like we do at services and like we do at NYC and local rallies. It is impossible to predict what is to come. We guess and hope, but “now what?” is anybody’s guess. We have community, thoughtful and wise leadership in Rabbi Resnick and Ana Turkienicz and we have resolve. Deeply rooted resolve and faith. This is a really good place to start.


HaKol Editor
Barbara Saunders-Adams

Dear Friends, 

"It will not be over until we talk."

Colum McCann, Apeirogon, 2020

Prescient words by the author Colum McCann. True between observant Jews and secular Jews/Israelis and Palestinians.

McCann recounts an exchange of letters between Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud during the summer of 1932 in which Einstein asks whether there is anything to guide the psychological development of humankind so "it might become resistant to the psychoses of hate and destruction...?" Freud responded, "... anything that creates ties between human beings, inevitably counteracts war".

What can be done? We need to see each other as human, B'tzelem Elohim, created in the image of God, not as monsters. A hard thing to do after the Hamas slaughter. I wrote the following before the horrific Simchat Torah massacre on Shabbat, October 7, 2023. I stand by what I wrote with an added degree of urgency.

The Times of Israel hosted a Zoom discussion on how Jews in the Diaspora can show support for a Jewish and democratic Israel. This is a topic close to my heart. I will share with you a few things that I learned.

The distinguished panel included the writer Yossi Klein HaLevi, writer Daniel Gordis from the Shalom Hartman Institute and journalist and writer Matti Friedman. The title of the seminar was Diaspora Jews: Time to Take a Stand. Klein HaLevi asked, "What does it mean to be part of Jewish Peoplehood?" He sees Israel as the 'center point' of Jewish life. Thus, there is a need for some place at the table for diaspora voices when the Israel we love is taking a wrong turn. Only Israelis can vote, but diaspora voices need to support the work of saving the moral nature of the Jewish democracy. For Daniel Gordis the idea of diaspora Jewry having a say is an about face, but necessary at this moment in time.


Matti Friedman said that judicial overhaul is not the problem. However, it is being used by the Netanyahu government as a tool to overthrow liberal democracy. Liberal, not in the political sense but in terms of responsible treatment of minorities - a core Jewish value. There is a saying in Israel "Don't be right, be responsible." This underscores how important a democratic government is to Israelis. It also underscores the need to exercise restraint even when fighting the barbarism of Hamas.


Yossi Klein HaLevi noted that the destruction of the Second Temple is believed to have been caused by sinat chinam - baseless hatred. He sees an analogous situation with the current Israeli government -- hatred of the secular, hatred of Arabs, hatred of women, hatred of LBGTQ individuals and others. He believes that zealotry and corruption can destroy Israel. When asked why the participants want to bring the diaspora into the discussion, they agree that diaspora support is needed to help protect the moral nature of Israel.


Matti Friedman fears that the current administration's anti-democratic moves caused the breakdown in readiness of the army and stymied the judiciary. Israel is at a critical juncture. A more inclusive, centrist government needs to be formed which has the consent of the majority of Israelis to act in their behalf - with consideration for the opinions of world Jewry.


What can Diaspora Jews do to help? I have contacted my friends in Israel to let them know I am thinking about them. It is comforting for them to know that we are sending them a virtual hug. Klein HaLevi calls for unequivocal defense of Israel's right to exist and unequivocal pushback against BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) and antisemitism. In addition, he believes that we, in the diaspora, need to tell our legislators that we support Israel, start organizing study groups in synagogues and Jewish community centers to understand what Israelis are protesting for and fighting about. We can also donate to organizations that promote the healing of Israeli society and provide trauma care to all who need it.

Do we believe in Jewish Peoplehood? Am Yisrael Chai! We can take a stand. Israelis are asking us to be partners in this fight for democratic values. Their motto is Save Our Shared Home (SOS). Gordis notes that Israel's Declaration of Independence represents the type of Israel we want to support - one that defends the rights of all its people.


Mayor Mullen Calls Hamas Attack

An 'Affront to Humanity'

Dear neighbors,

In a follow-up to the moment of silence we held at Tuesday night’s board meeting, I’d like to express solidarity with my Jewish neighbors here in Pelham and all those who may have family and friends in Israel.

The terrorist attacks last weekend—cruelly timed for Simchat Torah—are an affront to humanity. As new images continue to be released to the public, it’s been difficult for me to fathom the level of hatred that could lead to such heinous acts of violence. There are no words, and there is no justification. Israel has every right to defend itself from such atrocities, and I believe they must.

It must be understood that Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel and the eradication of the Jewish people, not peace. Their actions do not represent the interests of the Palestinian people, nor will they bring resolution to the conflicts in the region. Hamas is a terrorist group that seeks to escalate violence throughout the world. Their actions will lead to extreme suffering and the loss of countless innocent Palestinian lives. I pray for the innocent and those who mourn them.

In the coming weeks, we will likely hear news of potential threats. Just today, statements attributed to Hamas called for a day of violence around the world on Friday. You should know that the Village of Pelham takes these threats seriously. While Pelham has not been named specifically and there is not yet any cause for alarm, we will continue to be in communication with county, state and federal agencies. This is our home. We are ready to respond if needed, and we will do everything we can to make sure all of our residents are safe from harm.

To all my Jewish friends and neighbors, I have to admit that I’m struggling to find much reason for optimism. But I do know what I hope for. I hope our community shows you kindness in the days ahead. I hope you find comfort amid the heartache. I hope you know that we love you and care for you, as neighbors should. And I hope you know that I stand with you, praying for the day when this violence will be no more…

Meet the Bazilis

Meet Lisa and Peter Bazeli and their three children, Desmond 10 years, and the twins, Margot & Nate, age 7. The Bazelis are an active, ourdoors-y family who like hiking, fishing, bike riding, gardening and travel. Lisa Nathan is a high risk obstetrician who is trimming her working hours on Friday to enjoy Shabbat with her family. Peter is a consultant in commercial real estate development. He likes to work with his hands and could be cajoled into helping build our sukkah.

Although not observant, the Bazelis want to pass on Jewish values to their children. The reputation of the Learning Center was a big draw for this family. They hope to give their children a legacy of Jewish culture, history, spirituality and community. Lisa is looking for a workshop on how to prepare for Shabbat.

Let's welcome the Bazelis to our community.


Meet the Liebermans

Meet the Liebermans, Meredith, Seth and their children, Oliver age 10, Casper age 8 and Sadie age 3. The Lieberman's met several people in Pelham who highly recommended the PJC. Their children love the Learning Center. They attended the children's services on Rosh HaShanah and found that the children were reasonably engaged. Meredith feels that a sense of Jewish community and connection is important when living in a non-Jewish community like Pelham.

The Liebermans are both medical professionals - Meredith is an anesthesiologist and Seth is an ENT. They enjoy playing the piano, reading, running and skiing. They are a busy family, but hope to get more involved in PJC activities.

We welcome Meredith & Seth to our community.


Book Notes

The Postcard

by Anne Berest

The Postcard is an autobiographical novel set both in present day France and Vichy France. It begins in the present where Anne, a pregnant young French woman asks her mother to tell her about her Jewish ancestry. Her mother receives a postcard with four scrawled names, Ephraim, Emma, Noemie, Jacques -- her maternal ancestors who perished in Auschwitz. Why and by whom the postcard is sent frames the story. Mother and daughter research, interview and track down evidence of the lives of their lost family. What emerges is a searing portrait of life and death during the Shoah.

Through the eyes of Anne and her young, French daughter, Clara, named for her lost ancestor Noemie Claire, The Postcard tackles what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century--a world of escalating antisemitism.

As a reader you will be tempted to tease out the truth from the fiction. The Postcard resonates long after the book ends.


Food for Thought

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The role of song in spirituality

There is something profoundly spiritual about music.

When language aspires to the transcendent, and the soul longs to break free of the gravitational pull of the earth, it modulates into song.

Jewish history is not so much read as sung. The rabbis enumerated ten songs at key moments in the life of the nation. There was the song of the Israelites in Egypt (see Is. 30:29), the song at the Red Sea (Ex. 15), the song at the well (Num. 21), and Ha’azinu, Moses’ song at the end of his life. Joshua sang a song (Josh. 10:12-13). So did Deborah (Jud. 5), Hannah (1 Sam. 2) and David (2 Sam. 22). There was the Song of Solomon, Shir ha-Shirim, about which Rabbi Akiva said, “All songs are holy but the Song of Songs is the holy of holies.”[1] The tenth song has not yet been sung. It is the song of the Messiah.[2]

Many biblical texts speak of the power of music to restore the soul. When Saul was depressed, David would play for him and his spirit would be restored (1 Sam. 16). David himself was known as the “sweet singer of Israel” (2 Sam. 23:1). Elisha called for a harpist to play so that the prophetic spirit could rest upon him (2 Kings 3:15). The Levites sang in the Temple. Every day, in Judaism, we preface our morning prayers with Pesukei deZimra, the ‘Verses of Song’ with their magnificent crescendo, Psalm 150, in which instruments and the human voice combine to sing God’s praises.

Share a Simcha

"Share a Simcha" allows congregants to share their news with our PJC community. Please submit news about family members -- engagements, births, job updates, kid achievements, community acknowledgements and any other milestones -- to the HaKol Editor, Barbara Saunders-Adams.

. Mazal Tov to Aaron Adams (aka Ronnie Stone) on the release of his new single,

The Diamond by Feeltrip Records The album, Ride Again will be released in January, 2024.

. Mazal Tov to Gary & Evelyn Trachten on the marriage of their daughter,

Sofie Trachten to Trey Hall on October 8, 2023 in Florida at PGA National Hotel & Spa.

Share a Simcha is a regular HaKol feature, so keep your news and updates coming!

Tributes & Donations
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Checks made out to the Pelham Jewish Center can be mailed to Pelham Jewish Center, P.O. Box 418, Montvale, NJ 07645. Credit card payment instructions are on your monthly emailed billing statement, or go to https://thepjc.shulcloud.com/member

If you are interested in paying via appreciated securities or IRA distributions, please email Mitch Cepler.

It is the policy of the Pelham Jewish Center to make every effort to assist members experiencing financial challenges. Financial challenges should never be a barrier to being an active member of the PJC community. You can reach out to President Steve Martin, Treasurer Mitchell Cepler or Rabbi Benjamin Resnick to speak confidentially concerning your ability to pay PJC dues and Learning Center tuition.

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