Shabbat Bulletin for

the Temple Sholom Community

28 December 2023 ~ 16 Tevet 5784

Parashat Vayechi

Shalom, chaveirim - hello, friends - 

My column today consists of a few articles and podcasts to occupy the weekend. As always, I would be very much interested in hearing your reactions and responses.

Just by way of follow-up from last week's email about "Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas," somehow I missed Howard Jacobson's article in Tablet, "A Jewish Christmas in Manchester: Celebrating the Holiday of Schmaltz."

Speaking of Tablet Magazine ... you might want to check out their "Top 10" list of articles from the year. It's hard to say that I have a "favorite" given the weighty realities of which they write. That being said, Tablet is an important Jewish source of journalism, opinion, and research of our day. And if you want to give a listen to their podcasts - you might enjoy them as well! For just five minutes a day, you can even learn a little Talmud on their Take One (Daf Yomi) podcast!

As we close off this year, one of my most recent "favorite" podcasts to dive deeper into Jewish life - particularly as relates to Israel, I recommend Dan Senor's "Call Me Back" where he speaks weekly with Times of Israel journalist, Haviv Rettig Gur. Dan's recent conversation with Rabbi David Wolpe is particularly important in light of antisemitism on campus, the war in Israel, and being Jewish in America. Rabbi Wolpe was the senior rabbi of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles for 25 years and recently retired. He is teaching this year at Harvard and thought he'd have a quiet year ... and then the war hit.

A few of you mentioned how you enjoyed my last column "because it was so light." Yes ... it was a nice deviation from the realities of what we are facing and who doesn't like a little Christmas music? The playlist is still available.

2023 has been a rough year for the Jewish people. In Israel, prior to October 7th, the focus was consistently on the judicial reforms/overhaul. The Israeli population - and many Jews abroad - were deeply divided and upset about where the country was going. When the horrors of Palestinian terror with Iranian backing fused in the Hamas onslaught against Israel at the end of Sukkot, our world literally turned upside down. Among the devastation and difficulties faced by Israel, those of us in the Diaspora are facing markedly increased antisemitism and the worst of all: division among the Jewish community whereby some of our own are fighting to support our enemies. We've heard remarkably disappointing and destructive statements spoken before Congress, at dinner tables, in city streets, and college campuses.

All of that being said, there is a sense of resilience and hope the likes of which we have not seen of late. Check out Joshua Hoffman's post, "Inside the Israeli Psyche: 5 Hebrew Sayings that Say it All." Though unrelated, Hoffman just dropped a fabulous episode reviewing the new musical, Harmony, which I had the good fortune to see recently. The show is an incredible story about a musical phenom of six Berliners (3 Jewish, 3 Gentile). A quick search on Google will yield many great sites to learn more - trust me, I went down more than a few rabbi holes!

Earlier this month, the Jewish world lost one of our "Greats." Rabbi Dr. David Ellenson, who was a teacher of mine and Amy's, died. You can find a beautiful tribute to him: "David Ellenson: A Scholar and a Mentsch," by Joshua Krug in Tablet Magazine. David's scholarship and mentschlekheit made the world a better place and certainly our Jewish community a richer and more complete place.

Lastly, earlier in the war, I shared a post from one of Amy's temple members, Meir Dashevsky, who made aliyah with his family this past summer. His #8 post is linked here. By way of reminder, Meir is an ER doctor, is married and has children. His post is graphic and recounts a terror attack that led to several victims arriving at Shaarei Tzedek Hospital, where he works.

And lastly, lastly ... where do we go in 2024? Have a look at a book that I was so excited to promote and was waiting for its publication in October. The war overshadowed its release but is a reminder of its importance and relevance. Yoram Hazony edited and published sixty-five different writers in a volume called, "Jewish Priorities: 65 Proposals for the Future of the Jewish People." We will start examining some of these essays in January during two "Lunch & Learns" on January 9 & 16 at Noon. Come on by for the conversation - whether or not you have read the essays. And if you ever want to meet one-on-one to share thoughts about one of the topics, I'd be only too happy to meet in-person or via Zoom.

May 2024 bring you and your loved ones, our Temple Sholom and the People and Land of Israel great peace and much blessing, l'shalom,

Rabbi Mark Cohn

Recommended Resources from the Rabbi's Desk(top) for the weekend ...

Constant and important updates, podcasts, blogs, and articles from Times of Israel, Tablet Magazine, and Sapir Journal.


"Our False Partners: Progressives who divide the world into 'oppressors' and 'the oppressed' are not our allies," by Natan Sharansky in Tablet Magazine.

"The Wisdom of Hamas" by Matti Friedman in The Free Press.

"The world's foremost rabbinic authority on declaring death grapples with October 7th" in The Times of Israel.


"Israel at War: Ceasefire" from Rabbi Donniel Hartman & Yossi Klein Halevi of the Shalom Hartman Institute on For Heaven's Sake.


"The Gospel According to Berkeley," on Eretz Nehederet. Note: Eretz Nehederet is somewhat Israel's SNL and is a source of satire and dark comedy on Israel.


Check out this Primer on Decolonization from the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values (JILV) to understand how the term 'decolonization' is damaging and destructive - let alone ahistorical.

VOLUNTEER IN ISRAEL: Check out this list prepared by the Jewish Federations of North America AND see the Jewish National Fund as well. You may also look at Authentic Israel that offers several trips in the coming months. Lastly, see Esra, which is a great organization in Israel for English-speakers.

DONATIONS: Some of you may prefer to donate to Jewish Federations of North America or the Jewish National Fund or an American organization you know and trust. I would never presume to tell you where to give. I will just remind you that it is really important that you do your part in these very dark days to help support and (re)build Israel in ways you feel strongly.

Emergency Fund for Equipment and Urgent Needs of Israeli Soldiers

The Jerusalem Civilian Command Center

The Shiloni Project - Grassroots Volunteer Group for Israel


Thursday Evening, January 4th @ 7pm via ZOOM

Meeting ID: 886 5532 8070

Password: 562077

Talia Khan, who recently testified before Congress, is a graduate student at MIT and leader of the university’s Israel advocacy group. She will speak from firsthand experience about the antisemitism faced by Jewish students on campus. Learn more on the flyer.

Sponsored by Congregation B'nai Israel of Southbury along with the Jewish Federation of Western CT, and Temple Sholom of New Milford.



Sunday Speaker Series at the JCC in Sherman

Sunday, Jan. 7

1:00 - 3:00 pm

“Free Speech and its Limits: Should it protect even antisemitic hate speech, advocacy of terrorism, and social media disinformation?” featuring Nadine Strossen in conversation with Jeffrey Toobin.

Former ACLU president and First Amendment expert Nadine Strossen will discuss her new book, Free Speech: What Everyone Needs to Know®, with best-selling author and TV legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Learn more about this event at the JCC in Sherman website! See this recent interview with Nadine Strossen on John Inazu's Some Assembly Required Substack.



Services & Study

Kabbalat Shabbat

Friday Evening 6:30PM

VIA ZOOM - this week!!

Dec. 29, Jan. 12, 26


Meeting ID: 876 2982 2282

Passcode: shabbat


January 5, 19


Shabbat Morning Torah Study - 9:30am


December 30

Jan. 6*, 13, 20, 27

*led by Rabbi Cohn