September 11, 2020
22 Elul 5780
Dear Friends:
Shabbat Shalom!
We are running towards the New Year and 5781 will soon be upon us. Even amidst the pandemic we are rushing to get things done because we know for at least through Simchas Torah things will be a bit slower in our lives while we are participating in the upcoming holiday season. 

Usually, this week I would be worrying about what we are taking to my parent’s house for the Rosh Hashanah meal, or do we have a sitter for Kol Nidre and above all (and perhaps my biggest worry) what would Nora be wearing to synagogue? As I am sure many of you can relate, the Jewish holidays are a wonderful time for reflection and renewal, but even more wonderful is walking into Shul in your High Holiday best and having everyone kvell over your children! And while none of this is happening this year, I still find myself rushing into the holiday season.

I have two speeds – on and off, no in between, and rarely am I off. But lately, it seems I have forgotten how to turn that on switch off. Wednesday I was at a friend’s house telling him about an upcoming trip to the beach we plan to take and he responded in jest, “you haven’t been here long enough to earn vacation”. Little did he know that my motto is “have smart phone and laptop will travel.” But then something wonderful happened on Wednesday night – our power went out.

Usually on any given weeknight you will find me bathing and putting Nora to bed and then powering up the computer to work. However, Wednesday night G-d had other plans. G-d forced me to slow down! No lights, no computer, no internet and it was marvelous! We read stories by flashlight, I snuck a snack in the kitchen and I went to bed early. I had switched from on to off and woke up Thursday more refreshed than I had been in months. I am taking this as a sign, a sign to find a new speed in 5781 – a middle ground.

You may be asking yourself, why is he telling us all of this? The answer is simple, we think we’ve slowed down during the pandemic. We think because we aren’t rushing to the store or going out as we once did that life is simpler and slower. I would argue the opposite. Over the last six months, I have seen us all try to remain busy, signing up for a plethora of programming, walking six miles a day, face timing, cooking and watching a lot of news. But how many of us have taken a day just for us? 

Over the next few weeks, we will slow down, and I am challenging you to keep a slower pace when possible. Do what the power outage did for me and practice some self-care – do something silly and enjoy a moment for yourself (even if it means digging into your hidden chocolate stash).

Life is hard, and these days even harder. We run, lean in and keep busy to keep our minds off of the events that continue to unfold. So this Shabbat I have another request (I know another one!). This week make a list of things you love doing for yourself and actually do them in 5781. Shabbat is supposed to be a day of rest and self-care - make it yours (and maybe even a second day during the week), turn that switch from “on” to “on for me”.  If I can do it (albeit forced by a power outage), you can too. 

Before I close, I want to take a moment to remember those who perished 19 years ago today – a day for many of us the world truly stopped. I would also thank those in our community that continue to serve and protect our country so that I have the freedom to sit here in Birmingham and share my musings with all of you.  

Wishing you a restful shabbat and a week of peace.



A huge YK to Phyllis Weinstein who will be celebrating her 100th Rosh Hashanah next week. A true community leader and a woman of valor. Mazel Tov!
In The News
The Most Important Jewish Philanthropist You’ve Never Heard Of
Harold Grinspoon struggled with reading as a child. Today he’s the man behind the world’s largest Jewish book program, PJ Library.

The signature initiative of Grinspoon’s Agawam, Massachusetts-based foundation, PJ Library, sends more than 650,000 children’s books every month in seven languages to families in 27 countries who are raising Jewish children—from Venezuela to Ukraine to Australia and South Africa.

In North America, books go to children from birth through age 8. At 9 years old, children can join PJOurWay, where they choose from a selection of chapter books, graphic novels, fiction, biographies, and nonfiction until they are bar or bat mitzvah age.

PJ Library distributes the same stories to all Jewish children, no matter where they live, in hopes of establishing common bonds, the program buttresses Grinspoon’s abiding hope: “That we can hold different perspectives and viewpoints, and we can engage with our Judaism differently, but yet remember that we are one people.”

High Holidays at Home:
A PJ Library Family Guide
For the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Making Things Right), many families normally go to synagogue. This year, to stay safe, many are staying home. For this unusual new year, PJ Library is offering you and your family an opportunity to explore ways to connect with the High Holidays at home.

We hope this guide can support your Jewish New Year journey during this year and in the future, as your family continues to grow and celebrate. Let’s begin our new year together!
The JFNA's Communal Kvell
Federations from across North America will be coming together for a program filled with inspiration, storytelling and entertainment.  

Be inspired by how our Jewish community stepped up during the current crisis, at home and around the world. You and countless others have made this day possible. So what are you waiting for? Register for the event here!
PJ Library has this Sept. and Oct. "In the Bag"
Community Programs
Visit the community calendar for more details!
The Federation and Foundation have been having issues with our post office box. Please send all correspondence to our physical address at 3966 Montclair Road, Birmingham, AL 35213
The Birmingham Jewish Federation