Shabbat Bulletin for

the Temple Sholom Community

21 December 2023 ~ 9 Tevet 5784

Parashat Vayiggash

Shalom, chaveirim - hello, friends - 

I used to wonder how Santa knew not to come down our chimney on Christmas. My father explained, "That's why we have a fire on Christmas Eve." He smiled but seemed entirely serious so I dutifully helped him crumple up newspaper for kindling and we put the duraflame log in the fireplace.

I remember always feeling like Christmas was not "for us" and feeling a little guilty for enjoying the Christmas lights around the neighborhood and then my favorite: Charlie Brown's Christmas special that aired somewhere in December.

The truth is: Christmas is not our holiday. How could it be? It (and Easter) are the two major holidays of Christianity. And of course, this time of year presents the strange dichotomy of coming out of Hanukkah into the "origin story" of Christianity. Historical note: Jesus did celebrate Hanukkah - after all, he was a Jew from Judaea in the 1st century CE!! It's all a lot to get your head around ... but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the lights. In fact, my wife, who is also a rabbi and happens to love the Christmas decorations of the season, and I enjoyed a very festive night on the Town Green last Saturday night listening to the carols.

Even though it is not our holiday, Jews have been mightily supportive and creative in helping shape the American experience of the season. We know that some of the greatest Christmas songs (okay, most and certainly most iconic) were written by Jews. You can find a playlist here. You might enjoy a wonderful documentary called, "Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas" or this article about how Jews came upon Chinese food as the chosen menu for dinner on December 24th.

And for many of our families, Christmas is the holiday of a parent, a spouse, a child, a grandparent ... so what to do? Love them and enjoy a festive holiday!

Jews & Judaism are not diminished by other religions and people celebrating their holidays and holding their traditions. We only shrink or assimilate when we fail to hold fast to and make relevant our own customs, traditions, and most importantly: commandments of Torah. Next up for us? Shabbat, of course! And ... Tu BiShvat ... we'll come to that in another month.

So, go listen to some nice music or enjoy a nice drive around to see the lights. For your Christian friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family, they should have a merry Christmas and in the meantime, would you mind passing me the mooshoo?


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.

And now there is another resource to add. Sources Journal has been around for a little while and just released its most recent edition - entirely focused on the Israel and the War with Hamas.


"How US public schools teach antisemitism," by Francesca Block in The Free Press. Yes - the days of showing how Jews have "hooked noses" have returned ... along with declaring Israel as an apartheid state. And this is within the K12 schools.

"5 Reasons why Jews must not bemoan Gaza in public" by Jeffrey Cahn in The Times of Israel. Won't expressing our pain for Gazans make us more compassionate? Won't failing to do so make us morally bereft? No and no. While there is always room for disagreement - leading the charge against Israel hurts Israel AND the Jewish People.


"Israel at War: My Heart is Broken" from Rabbi Donniel Hartman & Yossi Klein Halevi of the Shalom Hartman Institute on For Heaven's Sake. Yossi & Donniel take on the horrific story of the three Israeli hostages who were tragically and accidentally killed by Israeli soldiers. You might also consider their release from today: "Israel at War - When the Guns are Silenced."

"The Israel-Hamas War and the Battle over Free Speech on Campus" on Sapir.

Sapir Institute Director Chanan Weissman hosted a conversation about the conflict over free speech on college campuses with Nadine Strossen, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), and Ilya Shapiro, the director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute. Strossen and Kenneth S. Stern co-authored SJP Still Deserves Freedom of Speech in Sapir's War in Israel special edition, while Shapiro recently published Where Free Speech Ends and Lawbreaking Begins in The Free Press.

Available also on video here. (you may need to scroll back to 0:00)


"New Rule: From the River to the Sea," on Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO). Language: Explicit.


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.


Thursday Evening, January 4th @ 7pm via ZOOM

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.

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



Services & Study

Kabbalat Shabbat

Friday Evening 6:30PM

VIA ZOOM - this week!!

Dec. 22, 29


Meeting ID: 876 2982 2282

Passcode: shabbat


January 5, 19


Shabbat Morning Torah Study - 9:30am


December 23, 30