Sunday, May 6, 2012


Welcome to Temple Beth Emeth
306 North Rusk
Sherman, Texas

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Rabbi Jordan Parr will conduct services
Friday, August 11, 2017 at 7:30 p.m.
 
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Rabbi Jordan Parr
 
 
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Our 5777 High Holy Days services were conducted by
Rabbi Robert A. Jacobs
Jacobs retired from Bet David Progressive Synagogue, in Sandton (Johannesburg) South Africa at the end of 2014, returning to live in his New York City birthplace. During his seven year tenure in South Africa, he actively led Progressive Jewry including chairing of the rabbinic association, SAAPR, representing the Movement in public media, development of a funding Foundation and founding SACRED—the South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity. Rabbi Jacobs guided a student to Ordination, and hosted another for an internship; both those students from the Berlin-based Abraham Geiger College were called as a successor team.

Earlier in his career, in addition to serving congregations in the USA, serving on national and regional arms of the URJ, and as Executive Director of the Leo Baeck Institute (Library and Archive of German-speaking Jewry), Rabbi Jacobs presented at scholarly meetings and international conferences on Jewish heritage, life and preservation of Jewish heritage after the Holocaust. His intellectual concerns remain inclusion and barrier-removal, the Jewish experience and living a more meaningful life through Jewish practice.


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Rosh Hashanah BY RABBI ANA BONNHEIM
Guest Contributor to The Herald Democrat, Sherman, Texas


Rosh Hashanah (which begins today at sundown) literally means “head of the year” in Hebrew and celebrates the Jewish new year. The Jewish year is calculated on a mixture of a lunar/solar calendar. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a new year. The new year will be the Jewish year, 5772. Jewish lore teaches that these are the years since creation.

Jews mark Rosh Hashanah as a community. We gather together for prayer in both the evening and the morning. Jewish holidays begin at sundown (specifically, after three stars are visible in the sky), as Jewish days are calculated from sundown to sundown. During the services on Rosh Hashanah, we welcome the new year by joining together in ancient prayers, read in both Hebrew and English, and also include more modern poems and contemplations. The highlight of the Rosh Hashanah service is the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn. Jews have been blowing the shofar since the days of the ancient temples in Jerusalem. Historically, it was a call to worship, a call to bring people together.

Today, we blow it symbolically to welcome the new year. On Rosh Hashanah morning, the shofar service includes traditional calls, culminating in the tekia gedolah, a single long blow. I am proud that we are using my great-great-grandfather, Rabbi Benjamin Bonnheim’s shofar, continuing this age-old Jewish tradition.

Another meaningful Rosh Hashanah ritual includes festive food. Apples and honey are the most well-known food for the holiday. Jews eat apples as a symbol of fall bounty and the cycle of life. Apples are dipped in honey which symbolizes sweetness. Together, they symbolize our hopes for a sweet, healthy and full new year. Honey also appears in other traditional foods for Rosh Hashanah, like honey cake, meant as a festive dessert.

Welcome to Temple Beth Emeth
306 North Rusk
Sherman, Texas
 

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Rabbi Jordon Parr
will conduct our Shabbat services
Friday December 2nd, 2016,

and January 20th, 2017 at 7:30 pm

 
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Our 5777 High Holy Days services
were conducted by
Rabbi Robert A. Jacobs

(From a 10/10/2016 Herald Democrat article by Future Brown)

Temple of Beth Emeth in Sherman began its celebration at sundown Sunday with the help of guest Rabbi Robert Jacobs.

Jacobs most recently spent time working as a rabbi in Johannesburg, South Africa. He used his experience in Johannesburg to help him with the Rosh Hashanah services in Sherman.

“From about 2007 to 2014, I was the rabbi of a congregation called Beth David,” he said. “So I spent seven years working with them in South Africa in an under-served community. It was quite an interesting experience.”

Members of the Temple of Beth Emeth are a part of the Reform Jewish community
. 


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High Holy Days 5776

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Rosh Hashanah BY RABBI ANA BONNHEIM
Guest Contributor to The Herald Democrat, Sherman, Texas


Rosh Hashanah (which begins today at sundown) literally means “head of the year” in Hebrew and celebrates the Jewish new year. The Jewish year is calculated on a mixture of a lunar/solar calendar. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a new year. The new year will be the Jewish year, 5772. Jewish lore teaches that these are the years since creation.

Jews mark Rosh Hashanah as a community. We gather together for prayer in both the evening and the morning. Jewish holidays begin at sundown (specifically, after three stars are visible in the sky), as Jewish days are calculated from sundown to sundown. During the services on Rosh Hashanah, we welcome the new year by joining together in ancient prayers, read in both Hebrew and English, and also include more modern poems and contemplations. The highlight of the Rosh Hashanah service is the blowing of the shofar, a ram’s horn. Jews have been blowing the shofar since the days of the ancient temples in Jerusalem. Historically, it was a call to worship, a call to bring people together.

Today, we blow it symbolically to welcome the new year. On Rosh Hashanah morning, the shofar service includes traditional calls, culminating in the tekia gedolah, a single long blow. I am proud that we are using my great-great-grandfather, Rabbi Benjamin Bonnheim’s shofar, continuing this age-old Jewish tradition.

Another meaningful Rosh Hashanah ritual includes festive food. Apples and honey are the most well-known food for the holiday. Jews eat apples as a symbol of fall bounty and the cycle of life. Apples are dipped in honey which symbolizes sweetness. Together, they symbolize our hopes for a sweet, healthy and full new year. Honey also appears in other traditional foods for Rosh Hashanah, like honey cake, meant as a festive dessert.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Chanukah 2011 at Temple Beth Emeth


Rabbi Ana Bonnheim led our family service for Shabbat and the last night of Hanukkah in 2011 in our newly refurbished sanctuary. 

Click HERE for the 
traditional Chanukah blessings 
for your celebrations at home.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Temple Beth Emeth dedicates new Torah
BY KATHY WILLIAMS of the HERALD DEMOCRAT 

In a ceremony extending millennia into history and freshly interpreted for their dedication Friday, each member of Sherman's Temple Beth Emeth cradled the Torah, faced the Ark, and welcomed the sacred text to its new home.


Rabbi Ana Bonnheim began the dedication with a shortened version of the traditional Jewish Shabbat (Sabbath) ceremony, explaining to the congregation that it would not be a re-enactment of the first Shabbat because they could not begin by opening the Ark -- no Torah was inside the Ark.


Temple Beth Emeth's Ark was empty before Friday night's service because vandals had desecrated the temple, trashing and burning the interior and stealing the Torah in 2009. The two men convicted and sentenced for stealing the Torah said they put it into a trash bin. The Torah, which came to Temple Beth Emeth at the synagogue's inception, was created before World War II. The stolen Torah was never found and surely went to a landfill, where the congregation held a ceremony to bury it according to Judaic custom.


But the rabbi nor any member of the congregation directly referred to that dark incident during Friday's dedication and celebration. The ceremonies focused on the joy of being whole as a congregation and having the Torah, which is also called "The Tree of Life," back again in Temple Beth Emeth's Ark.


Adding to the significance of the moment, a member of the congregation said she had read in the newspaper's history column that Temple Beth Emeth was dedicated April 1, 1951, exactly 60 years earlier. The congregation had not planned the coincidence of the two dedications. Congregation member Herman Ringler said he was there on that day and remembered it well.
"Shabbat is the end of a busy week and this is the end of many weeks when our synagogue didn't feel complete," Bonnheim said. "Tonight we meet in celebration of the return of our sacred Torah back into our Holy Ark. The Torah reminds us of our values and of the values of those who came before us and the values we hope to have continue in generations upon generations to come."


After a member of the congregation lighted the Shabbat candle, Bonnheim offered a Shabbat prayer, "We offer thanks, Oh God, for the Shabbat which unites us in faith and hope ... a celebration of freedom and redemption."


As she moved through the Shabbat ceremony of prayers, songs and chants, Bonnheim explained the meanings of the Hebrew words, the customs and history they embodied so guests could understand.


After the shortened Shabbat, Bonnheim invited all the members of the congregation to the fron
t for the sacred, private moment when each of them held the Torah. Then she asked everyone to form two solid lines down the central aisle of the temple. Each person held out his or her hands and supported the leaves of the Torah as Bonnheim unrolled a portion of it.


The Torah is the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Each Torah is handwritten by a scribe in Hebrew on goat skin pages sewn together into a scroll. The faith's sacred text can be written only by those specially trained in the art. Each letter must be perfectly crafted. If the scribe makes a mistake, the entire section must be rewritten.


Temple Beth Emeth's new Torah came as a gift from a congregation in Dumas, Arkansas. Congregation member Jesse Heiman's mother is a member of that congregation and he served as the bridge to bring the Torah to Sherman. It is an old Torah and the local congregation sent it to a scribe five months ago to repair and preserve it.


As the congregation supported the 20 feet of scroll, far less than half the full length of the document, Bonnheim pointed out features of the Torah. The excitement of holding something so ancient and sacred was almost palpable. The scribe had first laid down lines to guide his script. Each line is precisely justified, every margin exact. She showed the newer, shinier text that the scribe had entered during the repair. The group held the Torah only by lifting it from underneath to prevent oil from their hands of spoiling the lettering.


Bonnheim explained that Hebrew writing has no capital letters or punctuation, so the scribe used space to indicate where sentences begin. The portion of the Torah unrolled contained the Ten Commandments and again the scribes used space to indicate the importance of each commandment. Even larger spacing indicates the beginning of a new book.


The congregation participated in rolling the Torah back together and Bonnheim redressed it in its ornately embroidered cover and ceremoniously placed it in the Ark.


Summing up the congregation's journey since the night when criminals struck, congregation President Andy Faber said, "In October 2009, we knew we were going to be thrilled to death when this day came and we can put this behind us. But the experience has not been all bad.


"We found we have a lot of friends in this community. A lot of non-Jewish congregations have reached out to us. All kinds of people and groups came forward to help, Boy Scout Troops ... and a funeral home offered us a place to hold our services. It let a lot of people know we were here who had never heard of us before. And we have grown so much closer as a congregation."


Of the many prayers, chants and songs Congregation Beth Emeth sang during the evening, one seemed particularly to capture the moment.


"That there is no way to get from here to there except by joining hands and marching together."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Torah, the birds and the nature of sacred moments

Some of you may remember reading in the press about the terrible act of vandalism that occurred at Temple Beth Emeth just a few months ago. The building was broken into, furniture vandalized and the Torah scroll stolen. The outpouring of support from the entire Sherman and Dallas community was outstanding. Despite the sense of violation and loss, the Jewish community felt truly embraced. But, sadly, when the guilty parties were found, they had already disposed of the Torah and it was now many feet below ground, in a county landfill the size of a football stadium.

Andy Faber, the congregation's president, spent hours agonizing over what to do next. But, after the two of us consulted with other rabbis, it became clear there was no chance of finding the Torah, let alone saving it. We decided to turn the landfill location into its own geniza, a sacred final resting place for a very sacred scroll.

This is how it came to be that on a chilly, windy, rainy morning, the Jewish community of Sherman gathered with me for a private ceremony of psalms and reflections as we said goodbye to the Torah scroll.  I was honored to be part of this special but sad moment as temple members shared memories of b'nai mitzvah, baby namings and holidays that had taken place in the presence of the Torah.

As each person shared a memory, we were frequently distracted by hundreds of black birds circling the area of the landfill. They clearly smelled the waste that was underneath and were eager to find it. They flew in a circle over the landfill, flapping their wings with a singular purpose and making quite a bit of noise. It was time for all of us to join together in some Hebrew prayers and psalms.  As I looked up toward the area where the Torah scroll lay buried somewhere below, I noticed that not one bird moved. Every single one had stopped flying and was on the landfill sitting very still for the first time since we had arrived.

I am not suggesting that this was a divine response to our prayers, nor that the birds understood what we were saying or even that we were suddenly a part of some cosmic plan. All I know is that from the moment we prayed as a group and poured out our hearts to God with ancient and holy words, the birds stopped flying.

In just a week and a half, we will celebrate Shavuot, the holiday marking the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. As we reflect on this moment of revelation that changed our history forever, it is an appropriate time to think about the nature of this sacred moment and ask questions that other Jews have contemplated for centuries.  Did God physically give us the Torah? Were our people inspired by a communal moment to put down their feelings of sacred connection? Were we divinely inspired to write these words?  What was God's role in the writing of this book?  What is the nature and essence of our historic and religious relationship with God? How are our prayers heard? Are they heard?

Jews have struggled with these questions for centuries.  God's actual role in revelation and therefore our own lives has been contemplated by Jewish teachers as diverse as the doctor and philosopher Maimonides, the biblical commentator Rashi and the post-Holocaust writers Elie Wiesel and Richard Rubenstein.  They and many others have struggled and found their own very different, but all Jewish, answers.

Each year I return to their struggles and writings and many others as I ask my own questions about divine revelation, sacred myth and historical accuracy.  And yet, each time that I think I have found some clarity in my quest, I experience something that makes me wonder.

On a chilly and rainy day, I gathered with the small Jewish community in Sherman to say goodbye to a Torah.  We prayed and mourned and reminisced. Suddenly the sadness gave way to a glimpse of holiness.  Then the birds stopped flying. Not one, not many, but all.  I am not suggesting that I know what this meant or that it was more than a coincidence.  But, it is a reminder.

For Jews, the answers are never easy.  holy moments can take place suddenly and anywhere and the searching never ends.  Soon it will be Shavuot. Many will stay up late or even all night reflecting on the nature of Torah and God's role in our own lives.  I hope you will be one of them.  Good luck on your own journey.  Don't stop considering, debating, reflecting and searching the skies.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sherman Temple plans rededication ceremony
BY MARY JANE FARMER
HERALD DEMOCRAT

In late October, Temple Beth Emeth President Andy Faber went to the synagogue to make it ready for an upcoming service. He discovered that someone had broken in, caused considerable damage to the worship center, and left with the community's most sacred possession -- it's Torah. Sherman police worked until they identified two suspects who they arrested and who remain in jail. The Torah has yet to be recovered, but now it is learned that police did find some of its attachments behind the fence around a nearby children's daycare. Faber described those items as the Torah's yad, or a pointing finger used by Torah readers, a portion of the silver breastplate which encased the Torah, and the cord which held the breastplate in place to protect the scroll.
A Torah, Faber explained earlier, consists of the first five books of the Bible -- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This particular scroll had been created by hand in the original Hebrew language, which Faber said reads exactly the same as Jesus would have read it in his lifetime. It originated in Poland and was brought to America before World War II, in the late 1930s during the time that the Nazi government was destroying European Jewish synagogues and all they held. It was donated to the Beth Emeth Temple when the Sherman synagogue was built decades ago. Since then, Faber explained, the Torah has been used at every worship service and involved in such ceremonies as Bar Mitzahs, Bat Mitzahs, and weddings.
If it had been found but damaged, he explained, it could not be used in the future.
The burial ceremony
Friday, Rabbi Brian Zimmerman joined about two dozen of the Beth Emeth Temple members at a special ceremony to lay the Torah to rest. The place wasn't known to those in attendance until they arrived, Faber said. They showed up at the synagogue Friday morning and followed him and the rabbi to the Texoma Area Solid Waste Authority landfill, where police had said that is where the Torah had probably ultimately ended up.
Zimmerman said it was a challenge, creating a burial ceremony for such an unusual location and "since the scroll is sacred it just can't be thrown out. Usually, when one cannot be used, we put it to rest in a genizah, or a sacred space used just for burying old books and scrolls." Using the TASWA landfill as a genizah was a special circumstance, one that, if the ceremony were not handled correctly, it all could have been deemed as having added more disrespect to the situation.
"I spoke with a number of rabbis across the country," Zimmerman said. The private ceremony was based on the advice and information he gleaned from those other sources.
Next, Faber began working with Dale Sissney, TASWA director. Sissney, Faber said, determined which was the most probable area of the landfill in which the Torah could have been discarded. But, that area was at least 18 feet deep and two football fields long, and so it was hopeless to dig for it. In addition, Zimmerman said, if it were under that pile of rubbish, it was most definitely desecrated.
The solution was the ceremony to sanctify the specific TASWA site as a genizah.
When the assembly arrived, Zimmerman said, they noticed hundreds of birds flying over the landfill. The mourners drove through the gate and to the specific spot selected for this ceremony. When they got out of their vehicles, they saw that the swarms of birds had sat on the side of a bank, where they remained silent and still throughout the ceremony.
"We read Psalm 23 and the Rabbi's Kabbish, a special version of a prayer said when people die, but also during times of study. It sanctifies God's name, and acknowledges our prayer and teachings," Zimmerman said.
Then, several family members spoke of their celebrations and how the Torah had played various roles in their various family lives. "It was a good way to say good-bye. It was best to leave it where it lay."
As quiet and sad members ambled back to their parked cars, tissues came out to wipe eyes dry. Faber was especially grateful for Sissney's and TASWA's accommodations. "While we were there, about 15 minutes, they stopped all other traffic from entering or leaving, and all the bull dozers and dump trunks stayed still for us. We know it messed up some working people's timetables," he said, adding how much everyone appreciated their consideration.
"But it was all more closure than sadness," Faber said. "This is the last sad thing we are going to have to talk about. From now on, it will all be positive and moving onward."
The Synagogue
The synagogue was left secured and locked up for a while after the crime, so that Sherman police could complete their investigation. Since then, the congregation has cleaned everything out, painted the walls, laid new carpet, and even worked to refurbish the rooms extending from the sanctuary.
"A lot of projects which we were considering are now done," Faber said. "Even the old chipped dishes in the kitchen are gone. It wasn't all necessary." But, since so much of it was damaged by the vandals and thieves, such as the pews which had to be removed to be cleaned, it just made good sense to complete the renovation. The Temple had insurance, and many people, churches, and other synagogues have pitched in to help with manpower and finances. "We're all a bit more thankful for what we have and now people (in the congregation) are calling each other a little more often, it's gotten us ever closer," Faber said.
Hanukkah
The work on the synagogue's interior is expected to be completed by Dec. 11, Hanukkah, and "How right to use the Hanukkah rededication ceremony to also rededicate the (Beth Emeth) Temple." Zimmerman explained that Hanukkah originates from the 167 BC rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem.
"The sadness is over, and the joy is now," Rabbi Zimmerman said. He will return to conduct the Friday night Hanukkah celebration. The Torah to be used then will probably be the one donated by the Ardmore temple which closed down a while ago. "We will bring one and have it until a new one is purchased," Faber said, adding that should the local temple choose to purchase a new one, rather than to use a borrowed one, it will take some time for a scribe to write it down on the scroll.
Faber was especially grateful, he said, for the people of Sherman. "Different people have done different things in different ways to help us, and we've got congregations who have sent us money to help, and e-mails and phone calls and an outpouring of support. The temple wants to have everybody be a part of the Hanukkah rededication in December, which will begin at 8 p.m.
"We are going to have some folks in who have never been in a synagogue before," Faber said. "People have even driven up when I've been working at the temple with condolences and offers of help. It's been amazing how much support we have received." Temple Beth Emeth is located at 306 N. Rusk in Sherman.
About the two men charged with the theft and vandalism, Zimmerman and Faber said they hope that they will take a long look at what they have done and can make some positive changes in their lives.
The recovered yad will be attached to whichever new Torah Temple Beth Emeth selects for use.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

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903-892-9326