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Meet Ezra Schwartz.

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Originally posted on Peter Himmelman Musings:


Meet Ezra Schwartz.

He’s eighteen and spending his gap year in Israel, just like my own children did. At least he was until yesterday. Now he’s dead.

Ezra was murdered by fanatics, on the spree of unrelenting bloodlust that’s happening right now in the Jewish State. I am troubled beyond the ability of words to express. Why aren’t the people who changed their Facebook photos to the French flag, changing it today to the Israeli flag? Changing it to Ezra’s picture? But who am I kidding? Israel isn’t France is it? No, it’s just a bunch of Jews over there and maybe, just maybe… they deserve it, right?

Every day for the past several weeks people like Ezra, who by the way, reminds me so much of my youngest son, have been murdered in Israel on an orgy of morbid extremism and spilled Jewish blood. Every time I look at…

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Let the Children Lead us. Mourning together, mourning in isolation

israelrallyLast week, the whole world – rightly so – mourned for France. 

Skyscrapers were lit the color of the French Flag. 

Many  changed their Facebook profile photos to the Eifel Tower in a peace sign. Many of you draped your faces in the French Flag or showed old photos of you perched high atop the Eifel Tower or standing in front of the Lourve

You were horrified at this act of terror. 

You cried for the victims. 

A week later? 

Maybe it is because many of you have no real connection to Israel. 

Maybe it is because you never traveled there. Have family there. Maybe it is because you do not speak the language or simply cannot identify. 

Whatever the case, when Jewish blood spills, unlike last week, you were – for the most part – all silent.

For the most part, you are all demonstrating what most of us already know: we are completely alone. 

And you should feel ashamed of that.  You have no idea how that hurts. Yes, it fucking personally hurts your Jewish friends who are sitting in their houses, stunned, functionless, to learn one of our own, a boy who could have been our own son, friend, boyfriend, brother, was murdered today just because he was Jewish.

There are not many of us. But Israel, I want to tell you what I saw in Detroit last Sunday: some of our own young sons, no more than 16, organizing a pro-peace, pro-Israel rally that was attended by hundreds. They wanted to say: israel – we are here. Our numbers are small but we care, we cry  when you cry.  We are here.

Here is my story about the Israel Rally in this week’s Detroit Jewish News: 

When three local Jewish teens recently witnessed a pro-Palestinian rally on the corner of Maple and Orchard Lake roads, they decided to counter it with their own rally for Israel at the very same spot in the low setting November sun last Sunday, Nov. 9. About 200 Israel supporters capped off a very busy “Fall Fix Up” Sunday by waving Israeli flags, singing and dancing to Israeli music, and visibly showing their support for the Jewish State.

Several weeks ago, Ben Rashty, a student at Frankel Jewish Academy said he was driving to meet some friends for dinner when he passed a “large, well organized anti-Israel rally.”

“From my car I heard them chanting very cruel things about the land of Israel and its people, said Rashty, of West Bloomfield, who has immediate family in Israel and traveled there many times to visit. He pulled into a parking lot and started calling friends to gather on an adjacent corner to counter their protest.  With only minutes to respond, Rashty was only able to get five friends to come out with Israeli flags, stand on an adjacent corner, and sing the Hatikvah.

He decided that was not enough.

“The Arabs were cheering with joy and celebration as if they had ‘won,’” said Rashty.

Rashty realized that planning a counter rally on his own was more easily said than done. So he called on the help of some of his school chums Nisim Nesimov, and Cole Levine. Together, they created a Facebook event, made flyers and spoke to leaders in the Jewish community for publicity. Rashty also contacted the West Bloomfield Police Department to notify them for planning and security, he said.

A big challenge of getting numbers to the rally was it coincided at end of the community-wide “Fall Fix Up” sponsored by Jewish Family Service.  But people came. They traded in work gloves from the day’s work assignments out on Belle Isle, the B’nai David Cemetery, or helping homebound seniors for Israeli and American flags as they pulled into Shops of Old Orchard parking lot.  Passersby in cars honked in support as rally participants waved Israeli and American flags, sang, and danced.

Debbie Szobel Logan, 57, a freelance writer from Bloomfield Hills, came to the rally with her husband Stuart Logan, 59, to “be counted and show their vocal support for Israel.”  She said she did not realize that teens had organized the rally until she arrived.

“It was so heartening and gave me so much hope to learn that teens cared enough about Israel to organize this rally,” said Szobel Logan. “I see and hear so much virulent anti-Israel rhetoric from unsurprising and surprising sources. It was important for me to contribute to the numbers and visibility of pro-Israel supporters, and it was thrilling to see all the smiles and waves from people passing by in their cars.”

Globally and across the country, pro-Israel supporters have rallied throughout the fall to show solidarity with Israel as it faces the latest wave of terror and calls to boycott Israeli products and academics in Europe.  Recently, the European Union announced it would start labeling all products created in Judea and Samaria with a special label.

“Everywhere you look in the media there is a lot of anti-Israel propaganda popping up in an effort to destroy the Jewish people and Israel,” said Rashty.  “I felt it was a vital time to hold this rally to show our community’s support.”





He Pulled the Ben Gurion Card


About two weeks ago I wrote an opinion piece in the Detroit Jewish News about the paucity of the content in Jewish congregational supplemental schools when it comes to learning Jewish history.

My son, quickly approaching his Bar Mitzvah, knows his Hebrew. Has a decent grasp on his prayers. So it is not the Hebrew content I am concerned he is not getting.

It is Jewish History. It is learning the Torah Portion of the Week. And learning about the Prophets. It is learning about Israeli history that I knew he wasn’t getting enough of.

So, I put it upon him and I to get this learning done at home.

It is November.

So how is it going?

We have read about eight stories of the prophets, each chapter making some sort of archeologic connection or finding within Israel in order to validate the prophet’s life.

We read a truncated version of the weekly Torah portion, with a little help in livening up each passage thanks to the Youtube video-making geniuses over at  G-dcast.

Needless to say, we do this in the late afternoon or the early evening. And the kid is ANTSY.

We take turns reading. One page for him, one page for me.

While I read, he spins, he dances, he bounces.

Then, as I am trying to get through a chapter of the Golden Age of Spain, he stands on his head.

Now, I get the whole learning through movement thing, but there comes a time when you just have to show this material the respect it is due. Just as I am at my wit’s end and order him to SIT his bottom down in a chair, besides me on the couch, he reminds me:

“Mom! Really! i can learn and absorb all this stuff while I am standing on my head. Standing on your head is GOOD for you. Why do you think David Ben Gurion did it all the time?? HE was VERY smart.”

How do you argue with that?

This is what Hatred Looks like on a Billboard


It is getting way close to home now. 

This month, Detroiters traveling down the Southfield Freeway around eight mile get treated to this huge billboard: 


Why now? Why now, when Israelis are facing stabbing attacks on the streets of their cities each day? Why now when the world, as represented by the United Nations, is delegitimizing Israel further by considering and even passing resolutions that Judaism’s claims to its holiest sites are bogus and they are Mulsim sites? 

Most will speed by the billboard and only see those big words. They will not pay attention to who sponsored a group: a blatantly anti-Semitic organization that actively denies the Holocaust by refuting the claim that gas chambers existed; seeks to hold Jews in America accountable for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and promotes the lie that American Jews send American troops to their death. (

Here is my article on the topic, including an interview with American Jew Henry Herskovitz, who has asked an Ann Arbor synagogue to remove the Israeli flag from its sanctuary and who protests outside of it each Saturday morning as his fellow Jews go to worship inside. Please sign the petition that asks Lamar Advertising not to take any more money to advertise hatred here

An intensely anti-Israel organization— whose local advisory board member has led Shabbat morning protests outside an Ann Arbor synagogue for the past 12 years — has placed a billboard at Eight Mile and the Southfield Freeway that reads “America First … NOT ISRAEL.”

“This billboard was placed to do one thing: To drive a wedge between Israel and the American people,” said Heidi Budaj,
Michigan regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. “It follows the age-old adage that falsely accuses Jews of not being loyal to the countries in which they live.”

The $3,000-a-month Lamar Advertising billboard is paid for by the advocacy group Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) and will be on display until Nov. 15. The organization is trying to raise funds to keep it up for successive months.

Since 2012, DYR placed similar ads in 12 major cities across the country intended to, according to the ADL’s Budaj,  “unravel the legitimacy of U.S.-Israel ties.”

DYR, with an address in western New York, is headed by Paul Eisen, a pro-Palestinian British Jew who believes Israelis committed slaughter of Arabs to drive them out of their villages during the 1948
War of Independence. He styles himself as a Holocaust denier.

Henry Herskovitz, a Jewish Ann Arborite and a member of DYR’s board of
advisers, said, “While the ADL is accusing us of creating a wedge, we think the wedge
already exists.” Since 2003, he has led an anti-Israel vigil Shabbat mornings outside
Ann Arbor’s Beth Israel Congregation. Herskovitz’s main grievances against
“the Jewish supremacist state” include the lack of separation between church and
state, no voting rights for Palestinians and penalties of the Israeli court system —
including prison time — for questioning the “standard narrative of Holocaust.”
Herskovitz added, “There is no closeness between the U.S. and the State of Israel. The
only reason Americans think this is true is propaganda put out by the Jewish lobby.”

A motorist, Robert Shaw of Oak Park, spotted the ad on a recent drive, pulled
over, snapped a photo and placed it on his Facebook page. The post was shared so
widely on Facebook that it was picked up by national and international media, and
there is now a fundraising campaign to place another ad to counter the original’s
“disturbing” message, he said.

“I fully believe in First Amendment rights because that is what makes America
strong,” Shaw said. “But freedom of expression must be tempered with common
sense and dignity toward others.”

Roni Leibovitch of West Bloomfield felt the ad was not a political statement but
an attack on American Jews. He set up an online petition asking the billboard company
to take it down.

In the first five days, the petition, accessible at, got some 800
signatures. It says, in part, “Please remove this billboard which causes hatred of
American Jews, and feeds off the same kind of dual-loyalty accusations which
were leveled against the Jews by Nazis in the years leading up to the Holocaust.”

DYR, bases its name upon Deir Yassin, one of the most controversial battles during
Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. There are conflicting reports on the circumstances
that left more than 200 Arabs from this village dead.

The New York Times report said more than 40 were captured and 70 women and
children were released. No hint of a massacre appeared in the report. According
to, many of the Arabs who were killed were fighters
disguised as women or civilians. The DYR website says the event was an outright
massacre of innocent Arab civilians. DYR claims it has received support from
far-leftist British Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, according to London’s Jewish
Chronicle. Corbyn is running for British prime minister. *

2 November 5 • 2015

Mother Rachel is Crying Again: Why skimping on teaching Jewish History is a dangerous thing

Though the Hebrew reads "Rachel's Tomb" and Rachel is a Jewish matriarch, UNESCO has deemed this a Muslim holy site. Little by little, Jewish history is being erased, even in the Jewish state.

When I penned this last week for the Detroit Jewish News, Joseph’s Tomb had not been set on fire by Palestinians twice. Yet. The thought of the Palestinians petitioning UNESCO that the Western Wall should be declared a Muslim holy site went beyond the pale of imagination.

But here we are. According to the world authorities, Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Machpelach have no Jewish connection. Will this be enough of a shakedown to shake us out of our complacency?

On Oct. 8, The New York Times published an article that disregarded any Jewish historical claims to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Ask the average pre-bnei mitzvah adolescent attending a supplementary congregational Hebrew school why this is so troubling and you may get some blank stares.

In a 2007 study from the AVI CHAI foundation, one Jewish educator lamented that in the ever-shrinking hours of a child’s Jewish education, “we have lost the battle for time.” The paucity of contact hours spent at Hebrew school means that our Jewish kids are getting a minimal Jewish education. They learn to decode Hebrew enough for Hebrew prayer and bnei mitzvah preparation. Through experiential learning, they get the basics of the Jewish holiday cycle and maybe a sprinkling of Torah stories.  Teachers need to accomplish this within five or less hours of weekly instruction, all the while dealing with the disruption of kids arriving late or leaving early because of extra-curricular activities.

That means teaching Jewish history – from our most ancient beginnings in Judea, through the Roman exile and all the way up to the birth of the modern State of Israel – has mostly met the chopping block. If you need evidence, visit the resource room or library of any temple or synagogue and you will see volumes of history textbooks printed in the last decade languishing on the shelves.

I speak from experience. I have taught Hebrew school in one capacity or another here in Detroit and in Western New York for 13 years. I have been trained on several curricula that attempt to infuse experiential history lessons into the classroom using both traditional and the most up-to-date methods of the Digital Age, only to scrap carefully constructed lessons for the sake of time.

As a parent, a Jewish educator, and a writer who has been observing media coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict since college, I cannot help but notice an ominous connection between the neglect of teaching Jewish history and the rise of the distortion and demonization of Israel and of Jews in Israel, on the American campus and throughout the world.

American Jewish kids with a minimal education, or no Jewish education after their bnei mitzvah, are blindsided when they reach the college campus and do not know how to respond when confronted with organizations on college campuses calling to boycott “apartheid” Israel.

As parents and Jewish professionals, we are doing ourselves a disservice when we let our children’s Jewish education take a back seat to our many other priorities. Our children need to learn Jewish history – to see where we have come from and what past generations endured to maintain their Judaism – to shape their own Jewish identity and destiny.

This year, after much soul searching, I decided to “home Hebrew school” my own child. I do not recommend this for everyone. Ideally, Jewish learning needs to take place in a communal setting and with lively discussion. Believe me, getting your own kid to take you seriously as a teacher is no cakewalk, but with the promise of a treat after a certain amount of studying has been accomplished, we settle down and get to work.

Each time, we get through one chapter from an age-appropriate textbook. Fortunately, there are many educational resources and videos online to make ancient Jewish history come alive. Right now, we are working our way through learning about ancient Judea and the Jewish revolts after the Romans conquered Jerusalem.

Even as Israel works hard to preserve its antiquities, there are some who wish to erase them.  As we sat learning the other night, an online news source reported that Palestinians had destroyed a 1,900-year-old cave in the Gush Etzion region that dated back to the Bar Kochva revolt. If you had never heard of this era in Jewish history, I encourage you to look it up.

Detroit Dreamin’ With Michael Bolton


Detroit Jewish News

October 15 • 2015
arts & life
Michael Bolton’s tribute
to our fair city premiered
with a red-carpet celebration.

Stacy Gittleman | Contributing Writer

It’s hard to believe that Grammy Award winning
recording artist Michael Bolton is from Connecticut — and not from Detroit.

During his 30-year career, Bolton has literally sung the praises of Motown all over the globe.

Now, he is so confident that this city is on the “tipping point of greatness” that he is in the
final phases of releasing a $400,000 full-length documentary he personally financed, which
previewed at an exclusive sneak peek event last week at Detroit’s Fox Theatre and was attended
by some of the city’s most prominent leaders, businesspeople and entertainers.

Bolton, 62, walked the red carpet at the Fox on Friday, Oct. 2, for the premiere of Gotta Keep
Dreamin: Detroit’s 21st Century Renaissance, drawing a crowd of several hundred, including
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Rep. John Conyers, along
with Chris Ilitch and Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert. Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom emceed a panel of the film’s stars before Martha Reeves closed out the night with a surprise performance of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”
with Bolton.

DSCN3037 DSCN3027 DSCN3007

In addition to featuring Gilbert’s contributions to the city’s comeback, the movie
highlights a number of big names, including John Varvatos, Francis Ford Coppola, Alice
Cooper, Jerry Bruckheimer and more, as well as several young Jewish entrepreneurs
— such as Jacob Cohen, partner at Detroit Venture Partners, who participated in Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit’s inaugural Entrepreneurial Mission to Israel last April, and
dPOP CEO Melissa Price.

Price, who designs interior spaces for new businesses within once-decaying buildings
in Detroit’s rapidly growing downtown, spoke onstage about her recent move into a
Downtown Detroit apartment and the “endless” places to dine and explore within walking distance
of where she lives.

“There is an emerging belief system taking hold in Detroit that anything is possible,” Price

Gilbert said Detroit’s history and its comeback “lies in the intersection of muscle and
brains” of its determined youthful population and the willingness of older, established businesses
to embrace and understand the culture of a digitally driven new generation.

“We can no longer operate with the old ways of thinking, that this is the way things have
always been done,” Gilbert said. “We need to build corporate cultures that attract young talent.
It is a culture that is proving that ideas, thoughts and beliefs are greater than money
when it comes to building businesses.”

Bolton, 62, was born and raised in a middle class Jewish home in 1950s New Haven, Conn.,
where he was taught by his family “not to hate,”even though his own family at times faced
discrimination as Jews. His connection to his Jewish heritage lies not in practice but in fond
memories of his Ukrainian-born grandparents, who taught him to believe in the American

“My grandparents came to America with nothing more than the confidence and belief
that they could provide a better life for their children,” Bolton said at a press conference
at the Westin Book Cadillac Detroit the day before the premiere. “That is the American
dream, and that dream is still alive right here in Detroit.”
What truly inspired Bolton to make this documentary was his lifelong love of Motown
music — he opened for Detroit’s own Bob Seger in his early years and, in 2013, he recorded an
album of Motown covers, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Recently, he discovered Hitsville
U.S.A., the nickname given to Motown studios’ first headquarters, and an introduction to
Gilbert by Bedrock Real Estate Services’ Detroit Ambassador Bruce Schwartz helped seal the

Bolton, who has had his share of uncomplimentary press, knows the sting of being
portrayed in a bad light by the media. His film comes on the heels of much negative national
coverage about Detroit, including the 2012 documentary Detropia, the book Detroit: The
American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff (Penguin Books) and national coverage of the city’s 2013

“When the media wants to cover Detroit, they cannot resist the bloodiest part — the
blight and the decay — and I know how painful that can be,” Bolton said. “This film project
represents the greatness and the dignity of the people of Detroit. In the three years since I
started this project, more people with no roots in Detroit are increasingly interested in all the
good that is happening here.”

Bolton is back in Los Angeles making final edits with 2929 Entertainment to meet the
deadline to distribute the film for the 2016 film festival circuit. But this is not his last trip to
Detroit, not by a long shot.

“I do not have a kind of house-flipper, short-term relationship with Detroit,” he said. “The people I have met who helped me make this film are so inspiring. I hope this film has a long-lasting afterlife, and I intend to make it
reach as many people as possible to show off the town that keeps getting better every time I
come back.”

For Every Arab Day of Rage, I declare a Day of Hugging a Jew



Okay folks

These last 18 months or so have been rough for your friends who are Members of the Tribe.

There was last summer. 

And now attacks that stab us in the back and leave us for dead.

We really thought that after the Holocaust and after the State of Israel was formed that the horrid days of the pograms and the persecution were behind us. How wrong we are.

Again we feel persecuted.

Lied about.



Mad as Hell.


And utterly alone.

If you are not Jewish and have a Jewish friend, girfriend, boyfriend or spouse or co-worker, ask us how we are doing today.

If you are in the same town, please give us a hug.

Give us a call.

Send us a text.

An email.


Tell us, without condition, that you cannot believe the barbarism that is going on in Israel, where Jews are supposed to feel safe. Tell us that you stand strong with us and if the hatred comes here, wherever that might be in the Jewish diaspora,  you will speak out for us and protect us.

Please. We need your friendship now.

“Just Another double Murder.” Here is proof that #NPR no longer even tries to hide its anti-Israel bias


Sukkot. The Feast of Booths. In Hebrew, the fall Jewish holiday is also known as “Zman Simchateinu,” the time of our joy.

Sadly, this week has been anything but.

It has been a season of Jewish blood.

It has become a season of terrorizing Jews in their own Jewish homeland.

It has become a time of complete isolation for Israel and the Jewish people, when at the United Nations not even the United States, with Kerry boycotting Netanyahu’s speech, stands strong with Israel.

Last week, I watched in horror as the Palestinian Flag, the same flag that was waved in triumph by throngs of celebrants in Judea and Samaria on 9/11 – was raised in recognition at the United Nations.

I was disgusted yet hardly surprised, at the raising of this flag, when Abbas announced in his speech to the United Nations as Abbas said his people are no longer held to the stipulations to the Oslo accords, as if they ever did have peaceful intentions of co-existence.

A shred of me was hopeful. If these people really want a nation, than perhaps that wavering flag would signal them to show the world that they can indeed conduct themselves with peaceful dignity. That they are ready to do the hard work it takes to create a country. That they are now more concerned with building up a nation of their own rather than destroying another.

In the morning, I woke to the news – on my Facebook feed, that a Jewish couple   driving home from a Sukkot celebration were murdered by Palestinians in cold blood as four of their children sat in the back seat.

So, I turned on #National Public Radio and I waited to hear the coverage. Surely, after they dedicated so much coverage to another senseless death in Jerusalem when Israeli extremists torched an Arab home in Jerusalem, killing a baby and burning other family members.

I waited.

Yes, the news cycle was a crowded one: another mass shooting. Another hurricane barreling towards the East Coast. Th endless war in Syria.

But surely, there must be some time to dedicate 1 minute, 30 seconds to report the murder. Especially since Abbas’ Fatah Wing declared full responsibility immediately following his scathing speech at the UN General Assembly.


So, I called NPR on it.

I questioned them directly in a message on their Facebook page. Here, I screen captured the exchange:


Does this lift any doubt just how blatantly biased NPR is towards Israel?

Are you really still a supporter of NPR?

Leading Prayer in a prayerful time

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With the #Pope visiting the United States, and the Jewish High Holiday season in full swing, I wanted to share with you an article I wrote published in the Detroit Jewish News’ High Holiday edition. 

Two days ago, my wonderful congregation spent 26 hours in intensive prayer, fasting and reflection. Prayer is hard work. It does not come easy. That is why I am thankful to those in the community – in my synagogue, and in yours, or maybe in your church, temple or mosque – who volunteer their time to learn how to lead prayer. 

Have you ever led a prayer service? If so, how did you learn? Why did you decide to lead? Did it feel different than sitting in the pews? I’d love it if you comment below. 

During the Middle Ages, an unknown cantor, humbled at the task of praying on behalf of the entire congregation so that God would inscribe them into the Book of Life, penned the prayer Hineini, meaning “Here I Am.”

Before the invention of the printing press, leaders of tefilot, or Jewish worship, carried the weighty responsibility of keeping an entire congregation engaged and focused.

Fast forward several centuries, and not much has changed. Although the words of the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy are widely available in printed machzorim or even transmitted electronically onto large video screens, it is still the task of the leader to be the shaliach tzibbur (lit. “messenger of the community”) in shepherding today’s Jews through the most prayer-intensive time on the Jewish calendar in an increasingly secular society.

Throughout Metropolitan Detroit, many consider it an honor to volunteer leading services alongside professional clergy as an ultimate expression of contributing to the Jewish community.

Rachel Jacobson, 28, of Silver Spring, Md. each year returns to her hometown congregation of B’nei Israel in West Bloomfield to be with family and to lead various parts of services. Inspired from her years in Jerusalem learning from pioneering women leading tefilot in egalitarian congregations, she was one of the first female prayer leaders for the B’nei Israel during the high holidays.

“I never was formally trained to lead,” said Jacobson. “It is something I picked up over the years in school, at Camp Ramah, and living in many different Jewish communities. It is when I can do my best praying because I am not only responsible for my own davening, but for the congregation before me.”

Jacobson credits her singing ability to her school days performing in musicals, though it is not necessary to be able to carry a tune in order to lead tefilot. But just as in show business, services must go on, even when the prayer leader is sick.

“Sometimes I think God does not want me to daven,” Jacobson jokingly said, thinking about leading Rosh Hashanah services while fighting a cold. “It is moments like that when I really must remind myself that I am not up there (on the bimah) to sound pretty. I am an emissary of all the congregation’s tefilot to deliver them to God. That is what leading prayer is all about.”

When Clergy get sick, congregants step up

Last Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Norman Roman of Temple Kol Ami in West Bloomfield found himself not on the bimah but in the hospital.  It was then that the congregation showed its strength and proudest moments according to congregant Diane Siegel Di Vita of Northville, who helps coordinate monthly lay-led services at Kol Ami throughout the year. She said the entire executive board filled in to lead the services and deliver sermons under the facilitation of Cantor Tiffany Green. Rabbi Roman’s stepson Chad Rochkind delivered the Yom Kippur sermon.

“What happened at Kol Ami last year was very community affirming,” said Green. “It was important for our membership to see fellow members stepping up to the plate at a moment’s notice, and showed how they care for their community through their leadership,” said Green. “Leading prayers shapes and grows our small congregation. It shows that our members care about what happens here.”

In an effort to bring to his fellow congregants the meaningfulness of the season, Bruce Plisner, an active congregant at Temple Beth El in Bloomfield Hills, designed with Rabbi Mark Miller a one-hour text study for Yom Kippur afternoon that will focus on the central themes of the day: the sounds of the shofar, fasting, repentance and forgiveness.

Plisner, 68 of Farmington Hills, said that Jews for generations have recited prayers such as the Ashmamu and the Unetana Tokef but may not know their origin or significance. Through text study and rabbinical and contemporary commentaries, he hopes to enlighten the worshippers by offering them something less passive and more participatory.

“During Yom Kippur, we say certain prayers over and over again which few people understand what or why we are saying them,” said Plisner, who said he tries to get to services during the year as much as he can to usher and lead. “We thought it would be meaningful to take a different approach to reading about the prayers through rabbinical interpretation. We will also examine the tradition of fasting and through various texts, will explore who fasts and who is pardoned from fasting.”

In synagogues and temples that do not have a chazzan, rabbis such as Steven Rubenstein of Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield rely upon a deep core of capable and willing congregants to lead prayers.  This year there will be some new Torah readers joining the ranks of volunteers, he said.

“Leading tefilot is a big part of our congregation’s culture,” Rubenstein said. “Leading gives people the opportunity to be invested and involved in congregational life. It makes services more enjoyable, not only for the High Holidays but throughout the entire year.”


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