Shabbat Bulletin for

the Temple Sholom Community

15 February 2024 ~ 6 Adar I 5784

Parashat Terumah

Shalom, chaveirim - hello, friends - 

President's Day arrives on Monday.

Beyond special sales - will there be much fanfare?

With debates raging about current presidential candidates, past presidents (recent and long ago), and an overall malaise and overly-critical tone and accompanying judgment over the highest office in the land, it feels like the presidency has taken a significant hit over the last number of years.

And it is our nation's loss.

Presidents are human.

But in their humanity, surely each one has done remarkable things to benefit our nation. It's always easy to criticize and attack and look through the long lens of history with remarkable insight and error.

Perhaps our Hebrew Bible can be a model for us. The Tanakh carries the stories of the men and women to whom we ascribe greatness and yet also readily shows their flaws. Sarah laughed at God about her husband. Abraham handed his wife over to the Pharaoh - as did Isaac. Moses mocked the Israelites. David had a man killed in order to have his wife. Rebecca manipulated her own son to deceive his father.

I could go on. The rabbis perform mental gymnastics both to excuse and call to task our ancestors for their frailties as well as to praise their greatness.

Why? Because people - and eras - are complex and therefore our understanding needs to be measured, nuanced, balanced, and NOT with the lens of our own era.

I remember once hearing about a colleague who said that Maimonides would have been a Democrat and would have voted for President X. I wouldn't even attempt to imagine how a Spanish-born 12th century rabbi-philosopher-physician would choose a party today. And I fail to see how his writings and teachings affirm or are represented by a political party of today's U.S. Projecting our own beliefs on previous greats is not only chutzpadik, it's bad history.

I do believe that the presidents deserve credit for having led our nation - some with better insight, capability, and integrity than others. Some have made daring appointments that brought about important change for our society with, in some cases, global impact and others have made brazen decisions that worsened realities for any number of populations within or beyond our borders.

Quite distinct from American culture that all-too-often wants the perfect hero(ine), our biblical and rabbinic origins created characters who are imperfect but who manage to accomplish great deeds nonetheless. We have examples of leaders who demand our appreciation while also deserving our questioning.

Among my greatest fears in this era is the cheapening and lessening of the role of elected officials: from town councils to the Presidency. Much the way Moses was tasked to find "wise, capable, and discerning" individuals to serve as judges of the community, I pray that our nation will do the same in our era.

May this Shabbat and President's Day weekend provide time to consider and celebrate those presidents who have brought about a better America and one in which we can all live and work to form a more perfect union as the great Thomas Jefferson (one of my personal favorites) penned so long ago...

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Mark Cohn



Sunday, April 7 (3:00 PM) at Temple Emanuel, 1 E. 65h Street, NYC. Join me for an extraordinary opportunity to honor our Czech Torah!! Register soon HERE as seating is limited. I will write more in coming columns about the Czech Torah and why this 60th celebration is so meaningful. To learn more about the Czech Memorial Scroll Trust, go to their website HERE.

Thursday, May 9 (7:00 PM) at Congregation B'nai Israel, 444 Main Street, Southbury. Acclaimed author, journalist, teacher Yossi Klein Halevi will be speaking on "How October 7 Changed Israel and the Jewish World." This evening is hosted by our congregation joined with CBI of Southbury, the Jewish Federation of Western CT, the Greater Washington Coalition for Jewish Life, United Jewish Center of Danbury, and Temple Beth David of Cheshire.

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.


"At Conservative and Reform rabbinical schools, a debate over red-lines on anti-Zionism." Gabby Deutsch writes in Jewish Insider on a topic that is happening in synagogues and in the pipeline of Jewish leadership. It is one thing if individual Jews take an anti-Zionism position. It is quite something different when rabbis (or rabbinic students) do so.

"The New American Judaism." Another important look at the rabbinic pipeline plus changes in American Judaism in our era. Sounds like a theme is developing?

"What happens when you teach at Columbia and reject Hamas." Shai Davidai and Yardenne Greenspan write in Tablet Magazine about the experience of being leftist, liberal Zionists and Israelis during these last four months.


"Israel at War: The Haredi Dilemma," from Rabbi Donniel Hartman & Yossi Klein Halevi of the Shalom Hartman Institute on For Heaven's Sake. They take on - and explain - the genuine dilemma and hardship of the Haredi population in Israel and military service.

"Breathe ... and Breathe Again." Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, Park Avenue Synagogue in NYC, addresses how to speak with family members and friends about Israel during these contentious times. The title of the sermon alone should give you some indication!

The Jewish Experience in New Milford

The New Milford Historical Society & Museum has begun work on a new exhibit entitled The Jewish Experience in New Milford. If anyone has any historical information, photos or other artifacts relevant to this upcoming project or an interest in participating, please contact Sandy Ivler at [email protected] or David Cohen at [email protected].

"Lunch & Learn" with Rabbi Mark Cohn

NOON - 1:00 PM

Bring a friend! Bring lunch if you want (dairy only - no meat)!

Our exploration of Jewish Priorities, (edited by David Hazony) continues!!


February 20, 27

February 20, Hen Mazzig's essay: "An End to Ashkenormativity: Let's put bagels and lox behind us."

And if there is time ...

Izabella Tabarovsky's essay: "How to beat the New Antisemitism: It's Not about Human Rights. It's about Soviet Propaganda."

If you would like that essay - please email the rabbi [email protected]

Turning away for a week from Jewish Priorities ...

February 27, Before and After October 7th. A Before & After October 7th, A Symposium with leading American and Israeli Jewish thinkers, presented in The Jewish Review of Books.



Services & Study

Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday Evenings 6:30PM


February 23

March 8, 22


February 16 - this week!

March 1, 15, 29


Shabbat Morning Torah Study - 9:30am


February 17, 24

Help Needed for the Oneg

The Board of Trustees has cheerfully taken on the responsibility of sponsoring the Onegs in order to foster a sense of togetherness and community building. But we need your help to do so!!

Onegs give us a chance to schmooze, nosh, and enjoy social time with one another after the service.

Just know: It's easy! A challah, some cookies, some wine and juice. That’s it. Challah and wine are supplied by the Temple. The Rabbi will take care of the Kiddush blessings. A quick clean up and your finished with one of the 24 Onegs we will have during the year.

And of course, a Board member is always ready to assist and help you. Call the office (860.354.0273) if you would like to sponsor an Oneg.