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Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis Legacy
by Stan Schroeder

At our Shabbat service Saturday, December 16, Congregation Shir Ami paid tribute to the memory of Rabbi Schulweis. Rabbi Vorspan, our special guest Miriam Alperin, and I spoke of our personal memories of one of the preeminent leaders of liberal Judaism in the 20th century on the weekend of his third yahrzeit. I also requested testimonials of Rabbi David Wolpe, Rabbi Stewart Vogel, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, and Rebbetzin Malkah Schulweis that I shared with the congregation. You can read the text of the program via the link Rabbi Schulweis Yahrzeit on our home page.

Rabbi Schulweis left a wealth of articles, poems, and sermons.
The Harold M. Schulweis Institute  contains the world’s largest collection of Rabbi Schulweis’ material legacy and provides capability for an accurate search of the full archive by date. contains tributes from services and shiva minyanim following his death, as well as tributes by well-known and some lesser known people from the Jewish world and beyond.

His published books include:

  • Evil and the Morality of God (1983) (This is the book I bought and discussed with Rabbi Schulweis)
  • In God's Mirror: Reflections and Essays, (1990)
  • For Those Who Can't Believe: Overcoming the Obstacles to Faith, (1994) (I found this book valuable in providing a concept of God for those of us who are uncomfortable with traditional beliefs)
  • Meditations and Prayers for the Renewal of the Body and the Renewal of the Spirit, (2000)
  • Finding Each Other in Judaism: Meditations on the Rites of Passage from Birth to Immortality, (2001)
  • When You Lie Down and When You Rise Up: Nightstand Meditations, (2001)
  • Conscience: The Duty to Obey and the Duty to Disobey, (2008)


Jewish World Watch, the organization that funds and implements projects to support victims of worldwide genocide, was started by Harold and his congregant Janice Kamenir-Reznik.  He also founded the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous to fulfill the traditional Jewish commitment to hakarat hatov, the searching out and recognition of goodness. To this end, the JFR is committed to assisting those Righteous Gentiles who are in need.

Harold Schulweis changed what we now accept as Conservative Judaism. He integrated the havurah and community activities and involvement, ideas adapted from his teacher Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, into our synagogue culture.

And perhaps, most importantly, he provided a role model for personal responsibility and caring for one another in our congregation, our community, and the world.

Please see his poem Touch My Heart in the right hand column.


Yehi Zichro Baruch. May his memory be our blessing. 


Board Meeting Dvar Torah Vayera (November 1, 2017)

By Karen Benson

As you know I am the rookie on the Board of Directors and it seems like I drew the short straw with this week's Torah portion.

Let me just say that this is one of the busiest portions of the year - I will be honest with you that I have only been a Jew for just over half my life since my birth father was Jewish and I converted to Judaism with Rabbi Solomon Rothstein at Temple Ramat Zion in 1986. 

I have gone to several sources for guidance and inspiration with this week's portion.

The best guidance was given to me by one my eldest son's childhood friends who knows my family very well. He said "the problem with this portion is that it has a massive storyline. Perhaps the binding of Isaac is the way to go. Karen you could compare Abraham's struggle to follow God's instruction to kill his son to what you would do if God asked you to sacrifice David or Stephen ... and then he jokingly said well not Stephen".

My eldest son, Stephen has been both a blessing and a curse in my life for his entire 30 years on earth and at the present time I can only say that he is my son and I love him but I don't recommend him to anyone as a good person.

My younger son, David happens to have a second Hebrew name, Yitzchak and I find this connection to the story to be very interesting. My rationale for David's name was first from David and Goliath and secondly from Yitzchak Rabin because he brought peace to the Middle East and I wanted to honor that.

Finally, one of the articles I read while researching the torah portion was titled Questions? or Answers! and it gave a very clear answer and I believe great insight into the Torah portion.

We all have questions. Those who are uninitiated to traditional Judaism have many valid questions. However, those who are knowledgeable are equally if not more puzzled by contradictions. The more one studies, the more answers one finds. Inevitably, with the new answers and growth in understanding, come new questions. There is another expression as well. "You live from a question." The questions are our source of growth and elevation.

Abraham had questions; compelling questions.  At the same time he saw things in perspective. His job was to do what he knew God had told him to do. The answers to his questions would eventually be resolved. Where would we be today if Abraham had not taken that approach?

So that is my personal take on this week's Torah portion and I have also taken this opportunity to share with you a bit of my personal back story so you can understand why I am so happy to be part of the Congregation Shir Ami family.


Ritual Committee Other Functions

Stan Schroeder is our Ritual Vice President and Editor/Publisher of our monthly Shir Notes newsletter. Besides coordinating our regular Shabbat services and High Holy Day services at de Toledo High School we coordinate Rabbi Vorspan’s Thursday night Around the Rabbi’s Tisch education/discussion program and Stan’s monthly Shabbat/Torah study. You can call Stan at (818) 718-7466 for more information on these functions.

Phyllis Schroeder is our Tribute Card chair.  She performs the important function of sending your cards for all occasions. You can call her at (818) 718-7466 to send your personal messages for simchas, get-well wishes, or condolences. Her creative cards are always appreciated. The minimal fee goes into our Shir Ami treasury.

The chair of our Lifeline Committee is Helga Unkeless. She is informed by Rabbi Vorspan when a death occurs in our Shir Ami family. She arranges to prepare the food table at the home of the bereaved family after the funeral. The Committee also helps serve the food and helps with the guests who return from the funeral service. Fran has a list of volunteers to call, usually on a one-day notice.

Naturally we are always in need of more volunteers for this special, kind mitzvah, and you can call Helga at (818) 340-5751 to let her know if she can call on you to help out, even on a one time basis.

Fran Friedman is our Sunshine Lady calling those in our community who are in need of a cheerful volunteer on the other end of the phone line due to illness or other issues. Call her at (818) 514-6994 if you or someone you know is in this situation.


Touch My Heart

Touch my nose, my lips, my eyes
with your small hands.
Then touch my arms and chest.
Feel their shape
how real they are.

Now, touch my love.
No, not my chest or arms or lips.
You are puzzled.
How is one to touch love 
and where is its place?

Love is not here or there
But who would
deny its reality?
Where does love reside
if it cannot be pointed to?

Is it less than my chin?
If anything, love is sharper, harder, softer,
warmer than bodily things, objects I can touch.

There are matters not subject to the senses
taste, sound, smell, sight, touch
Matters elusive to definition
yet known without doubt.
Known to make us cry and laugh
to move us to unimagined heights
to courage and self-sacrifice.

Experiences -- like love or God
Cannot be fingered, placed or poked.
Of such things
it is wiser to ask
not where but when.

Not where is love 
not where is God 
But when is love 
when is God
Recall the meeting
the moment, the time.

Rabbi Harold Schulweis

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