Thank you for attending: Meet The Bens!

Thank you to all our friends and Men's Club Members for attending our Meet The Ben's event on Thursday 12/5/2019.  CSAIR's new rabbinic interns Ben Freed and Ben Perlstein played a fun and informative game with their audience: each would make a true statement and we had to guess which Ben the statement applied to.  And we also had a double chocolate cake (since we had double Bens). 

Mighty Mens Club Brunch of Honor - July 31st

Join us at 9:45am on Sunday July 31st for the Mighty Mens Club Brunch of Honor.  Featuring our Mench of the Year - Tlda Landovitz.

8th Annual Live Musical Celebration and Concert on Saturday Night, January 31th

That's right!  Our 8th Annual Live Musical Celebration and Concert on Saturday Night, January 31th at 7:30pm.

1 - The party will be right here at the CSAIR Synagogue - right in the Social Hall.  So you can just come to Shul to join the party.  (if you need a lift contact us at

2 - Free beer!  With you paid admission you are entitled to two bottle of your choise of lagers and ales.

3 - This year Cantor Stevens and Deborah Gross will have special guest singing performances.

4 - The main attaraction is of course The Traveling Jewburys.  There will be two full sets of live entertainment: Rock and Folk roots music, rockabilly, jams, and more!  The Traveling Jewburys band, frequent performers at Riverfest and SPIN and The West End in Manhatten , features a lineup of seven CSAIR members: Arthur Levy - Kerry Elgarten - Bill Yaggy - Craig Robins - Ron Minkoff - David Whyne - and (Men's Club Co-President) Dave LaDue.

5 - For the band's finale - all local amateur musicians and singers will be invited on stage to join the bend for one all-inclusive musical number.

6 - In addition there will be free kosher snacks.  And we will be offering for sale Kosher Food at the event. But buying food is optional - this is a party – not a dinner – no boring speeches – lots of music and fun.

7 - It's just $15 at the door - or $25 per couple.

Remember - It's good fun for a good cause – to benefit CSAIR and the Mens Club.

Mighty Men's Club Brunch of Honor!

Special event to honor Charlie Schulberg!!!  Sunday July 27th at 10:30am in the Social hall.  Open to everyone.  It's our biggest and best event of the year – our Seventh Annual Mighty Men's Club Brunch of Honor. (Past Honorees have of course included Irving Ladimer, Ivan Benalcazar, Yael Levy, Barbara Rothman, David Cohen and Harry Percal.)

And this time our Man Of The Year is none other than the wonderful and amazing: Charlie Schulberg !!!

For the past fourteen years Charlie has been a vital and involved member of the CSAIR community.  A long–time board member, Charlie has been most recently heading up our Adult Education Committee – arranging for one fascinating guest lecturer after another and adding so much to our synagogue life.  And besides – Charlie is just a great guy - a consummate Mensch - and a wonderful person to know.   Plus – he’s a PHD and he taught at Harvard Medical School (who knew?)

Come join us Sunday July 27th at 10:30 to show Charlie how much we love and appreciate all he does for all of us every day.   The brunch will include a brief program featuring Rabbi Katz, comedy, music, tasty food with delicious desserts, lemonade, our “knights of the round bagel” ceremony and a few surprises – all in our air conditioned social hall. The program is scheduled to run 10:30am to noon.  

And there’s more – our Youth Awards plus one extra special award will be announced shortly and will add to the excitement of the day.

Rock 'N Roll! Men's Club 7th annual event!

That's right!  Our 7th Annual Live Musical Celebration and Concert on Saturday Night, January 11th at 7:30pm.  And there are some Big Changes this year:

1 - The party will be right here at the CSAIR Synagogue - right in the Social Hall.  So you can just come to Shul to join the party.  (if you need a lift contact us at

2 - Free Special beer!  You won't want to miss this.    With you paid admission you are entitled to a bottle of Eric Saidel and Josh Needleman's Special Hand Crafted Human Cannonball Ale.  There are Light and Dark Ales available - (as well as some regular store brand beer if you prefer that). 

3 - This year Rabbi Katz and Deborah Gross will have special guest singing performances.

4 - The main attaraction is of course The Traveling Jewburys.  There will be two full sets of live entertainment: Rock and Folk roots music, rockabilly, jams, and more!  The Traveling Jewburys band, frequent performers at Riverfest and Prospect Bar in Manhatten , features a lineup of seven CSAIR members: Arthur Levy - Kerry Elgarten - Bill Yaggy - Craig Robins - Ron Minkoff - David Whyne - and (Men's Club Co-President) Dave LaDue.

5 - For the band's finale - all local amateur musicians and singers will be invited on stage to join the bend for one all-inclusive musical number. 

6 - In addition there will be free kosher snacks.  And we will be offering for sale Kosher Food at the event. But buying food is optional - this is a party – not a dinner – no boring speeches – lots of music and fun.

7 - It's just $15 at the door - or $25 per couple. 

Remember - It's good fun for a good cause – to benefit CSAIR and the Mens Club.

Men's Club Shabbat - D'Var Torah

Hi folks - the 2013 Men's Club Shabbat was a big success this year thanks to all of you who participated and attended.  Several of you asked for a copy of Dave LaDue's D'Var Torah - so we are attaching it below:

Good morning. Men's Club in the house. I am David LaDue, one of the co-Presidents of the CSAIR mens Organization. The other Co-President is Joel Chaiken – and together we welcome you to Men's Club Shabbat. I am very proud of our Men's Organization- today and every day.

Good news. After all these years we finally got a new Parsha to talk about. Usually Men's Club Shabbat is falls on Vayikra – which in biblical terms was something of a slow news day.

 But – as you all realize by now - this year the Mens Club got bumped to the parsha called Yitro. And this is one of the pivotal moments in the Torah. Because in this Parsha, Moses heads up Mount Sinai, speaks directly to God and heads back down the mountain with this list of ten rules that have become a pretty big deal. Anytime the commentary starts taking up more space on the page than the actual words of the torah – you know there's some important stuff going on.

 The thing is – when I read Yitro – I see the ten commandments. I see the journey up Mount Sinai But I also see something else:

I see someone who I think gets overlooked in this Parsha. Yitro – Jethro -himself. I always imagine Yitro throwing a party in heaven this week for his parsha and then feeling great embarrassment and disappointment that almost every D'Var Torah in every shul talks about the ten commandments and leaves him out entirely.

I can imagine him saying: “Hey folks”, the Parsha is not named the “Ten commandments”, or “Ten Good Rules” or even “He'll be comin down the mountain with some laws”. It's called Yitro. That's the name of the Parsha”. It's supposed to about him.

And if his friends tried to explain to Yitro that Parsha's are not named after the most important part – that they are named after the first word – I think Yitro would have stood on a chair and loudly pointed out that the first word of this parsha is actually “Vay-ish-ma” Which means “And He Heard”. And if you have parshas named Vayehi, Vayigash, Vayeshev, Vayika - then why not Vay-ish-ma? Because Yitro is an important man and this is his Parsha. So today I want to talk about Yitro.

The first thing about Yitro – he's not Jewish, okay? He is a Midian Priest. And Moses is his Son-In-Law. And, by the way, in the ancient world, a wife automatically converted to her husband's religion when they got married. Which worked out really well for Moses and Zipporah.

But what's great about Yitro is that he is a positive – inclusive – friendly, smart and helpful person. And that is a very important point. Because non-Jews are not destined to be our enemies – not in the Torah and not in the modern world. Non-Jews are often our friends – our co-workers – our husbands and wives – our Mothers – or (if you're like me) our fathers. And they can be our in-laws like Yitro was to Moses.

And from what we can see Yitro is a good man. In this parsha he brings Moses his beloved wife and his children through miles of treacherous dessert. When I have a house guest I'm happy if they brings me a box of cookies from Gruenbaums – so Yitro deserves credit for this.

Yitro arrives and he and Moses embrace each other – and the torah says they ask about each other welfare. The last time Yitro saw Moses the Jews were slaves in Egypt- before the plagues and before the exodus. So when Yitro says to his son-in-law: “So, Nu?” - Moses has a lot he can say.

The next morning Moses heads off to work – and here's the weird part: Yitro asks if he can tag along. Imagine if your father-in-law wanted to go sit and watch you work at your desk. Frankly it would freak me out - but Moses says sure thing and off they go.

Okay – so Moses as the appointed one who God himself has spoken to and chosen to lead the Jews – his job the next day is to meet with the people and help them decide disputes. Because when you assemble two or more Jews anywhere throughout history – they are going to argue about things. Whose goat is this? That lady stole my muffins. This guy cut in front of me in line for latkes. And everything in between. And Yitro sat there – all day – and into the evening and watched Moses – using his divine inspiration and his great wisdom and virtue – settle every single dispute for that day.

And what does Yitro say at the end?

Does he say – thank you son-in-law – for including me in your day.

Does he say – You honor me by allowing me to observe your great wisdom being put to good use.

Does he say – Now I know why my daughter married you Moses, you are the wisest man on earth.

Yitro does not say this. What he essentially says is:

Moses – what are you doing? You can't sit here all day deciding whose hat belongs to who and whether merchants can sell goat's milk in 20 ounce containers. What's the matter with you?

It's frankly – a rude remark. And at first Moses does not take it very well. He looks back at his father in law and he has a pretty snappy comeback. He says – and this is an exact quote (verses 15 and 16): “The People Come To me To Seek God. I must make known to them the Statutes of God and his teaching”. So – hey. Good answer, right?

Okay – now – put yourself in Yitro's place. You're the father in law. You're a guest here. Moses is the foremost Jewish man in the world – the leader of a nation. You have just returned Moses hospitality with a little bit of snarky criticism – and your son-in-law has just rebuffed your comments by reminding you that while you spend your Tuesdays walking through the dessert and talking to your camel, he, Moses, has been in communication with God himself.

So – now what happens? Does Yitro show respect for his son-in-law. Does he apologize? Does he back down? Does he change the subject?

Well, if your relatives are anything like my relatives – then you already know the answer to this one. Yitro's response – to the greatest, wisest, and holiest man on the earth is this exact quote:

“What you are doing, is not good”.

And let me paraphrase the rest:

Moses, kiddo, you can't keep up this pace. You're gonna collapse and then where will the people be? You can't get in the middle of every little argument.

Moses - you gotta delegate. Seek out people of ability. Seek out God-fearing men of Truth who hate improper gain – and put them in charge of lower courts. They can decide the minor issues – but the really big tickets items they can still bring to you.

What a statement. With this one rude outburst Yitro is really doing many different interesting and amazing things at the same time:

Number One - When Yitro says of the appointed Judges “they shall bring every great matter to you but they shall judge every small matter.”

In other words Yitro is saying:

“Don't sweat the small stuff”

Good advice. In life – none of us have unlimited time and energy. So we have to pick our battles and try to find a way to use our limited time to do the most good. Don't micro manage – it will drive you nuts.

Number Two: Yitro was an outsider who shows up – observes the process for one day – and then thinks he knows enough to tell the boss a much better way to do things. In other words – Yitro has invented the field of Business Consulting. And like every Business Consultant I've ever dealt with professionally – Yitro leaves town before anyone can tell if his ideas worked or not.

Number Three – Yitro introduces to Moses the concept of Delegating. Yitro is explaining to Moses how to avoid being buried in the minutia. A leader can't be everywhere all the time. He needs to select people to represent him when he isn't there – to delegate his authority so it can do the most good in the most places at the most times. Now for some Jews – the idea of purposely avoiding the opportunity to get involved in an argument seems to run counter to our people's identity and heritage. But thanks to Yitro – this important concept is introduced and Moses is the better for it.

Number Four: Yitro is acting the part of the classic in-law. Moses may be the leader of the Jewish nation – but like so many in-laws, Yitro does not assume that his son-in-law knows anything about anything and lets him know it.

Number Five – Is it possible that Yitro is doing his best to fit in with his new Jewish relatives by adopting the Jewish tradition of butting in to other people's business? Or is the message here that all relatives – Jewish and otherwise – have been butting into their son and daughter-in-law's lives since the beginning of time and that this type of pushy behavior is not an ethnic stereotype?

Number Six. Ethics. Yitro's advice is not to pick the strongest men, the richest men, the most educated men – or the loudest talkers. Yitro advises that Moses pick “men of ability”. “Men of Truth” and men who hate “improper gain”. Yitro is talking about ethical men. This is also an important concept. The best people to decide disputes are not the best educated or the most successful – they are the one's who can best tell right from wrong. Can you imagine what an improvement our world would be if the most ethical people could always be put in position to make the most important positions?

You know, here in shul we make the Prayer for our country and it's leaders each week. This is an easy prayer to make when you like the guy in the white house or the governor or the mayor. But in year's past when I wasn't happy with the US President – it was always hard to read that prayer – until I realized something. I took some comfort from this very interesting phrasing in Prayer for our Country. It says that we bless Our Country – it's leaders AND those who exercise just and Rightful authority. There's an important separation there around that “and”. Because leaders are not always just or rightful.

And this is Yitro's point exactly. So he asks Moses to select men who are ethical and delegate rightful authority to them. This is a big statement Yitro is making. This is not business as usual in government – this is a bold new idea.

And so – with these six ideas all tied up in this one bold statement – this one over the top mix of consulting, of pushiness, of criticism, butting-in and bold notions of change - how does Moses respond?

Moses does two things. He agrees with Yitro and then he sends him home before he can any more suggestions.

And by agreeing with Yitro – Moses changes the way the Jewish people are governed. And he gets his life back. He's not stuck figuring out who pulled who's hair – or why someone is hitting themselves – or if someone's girlfriend is real or imaginary. And so Moses gets time to get his strength back. And sure enough – when the new system was in place – God called Moses up to the mountain for the part of the parsha we all know a little better.

Now if Yitro had not asked to tag along with Moses – if he had not decided that Moses was doing it all wrong – if Yitro had not found the strength to say something – and after Moses rebuffed him - if Yitro had not found the chutzpah to talk back to Moses and get his whole idea out – what would have happened?

It is possible that Moses may have been too exhausted and stressed out to ever get himself up Mount Sinai. Clearly Hashem did not give the Torah to us the moment we exited Egypt. There was a right moment. And without Yitro's help – it is possible that the right moment may never have arrived.

And so I like to think that the parsha is named after Yitro for a reason – not just because his name is in the first sentence. I think that there are important places throughout Jewish history for the important positive actions acts of non-Jews and that Yitro stands tall among them.

In other words – if you have a good idea - sometimes its' good to be a little pushy.

Shabbat Shalom.

Mighty Mens Club Brunch Of Honor

On Sunday August 12th - come to CSAIR at 10am for the 5th Annual Mighty Mens Club Brunch of Honor.  We will be giving our Person Of the Year Award to David Cohen.  And our Youth Award will go to Rebecca Gross.  There will be fun - music - laughter - delicious desserts - great food and more. See you all at 10am!

Our 5th Annual Rock & Roll Party!

That's right!  Our 5th Annual Live Musical Celebration and Concert on Saturday Night, January 28rd at 7:30pm.  Featuring the triumphant return of: The Traveling Jewburys.  There will be two full sets of live entertainment: Rock and Folk roots music, rockabilly, jams, and more!

The Traveling Jewburys band, which has performed to standing room crowds in Manhattan , features a lineup of seven CSAIR members: Arthur Levy - Kerry Elgarten - Bill Yaggy - Craig Robins - Ron Minkoff - David Whyne - and (Men's Club Co-President) Dave LaDue. Just like last year – the party will be right here in Riverdale, in the private event room at: KELLY RYAN'S, 5790 MOSHOLU AVE.

And again this year – in addition to free kosher snacks - we will be offering for sale Kosher Food at the event. But buying food is optional - this is a party – not a dinner – no boring speeches – lots of music and fun – and $12 is all you need to enjoy the show. And once again you are welcome to purchase your favorite beverages from the Kelly Ryan's staff.

It's good fun for a good cause – to benefit CSAIR and the Mens Club.

Mighty Mens Club Brunch Of Honor!

It's our biggest and best event of the year – our Fourth Annual Mighty Men's Club Brunch of Honor. Past Honorees have included Irving Ladimer, Ivan Benalcazar and Yael Levy.

And this year our Person Of The Year is none other than the wonderful leader of our Junior Junior Congregation, the amazing: Barbara Rothman.  It's on Sunday August 14th at 10:30am in the CSAIR Social Hall.

For more than fifteen years Barbara has taught our children, five years old and under, in the Shabbat Shelanu, Young Children's Family Program. She has provided that first taste of synagogue life to the youngsters of CSAIR - introducing them to Torah – the Tree of Life – and the Jewish Experience. Thanks to Barbara – our shul has been a warm and welcoming place for young children and the young families that come with them.

So for all of us who have sung and marched with Barbara and our kids in the Torah Parade – it is time to say thanks and show our gratitude The brunch will include a brief program featuring Rabbi Katz, comedy, music, tasty food with delicious desserts, lemonade, our “knights of the round bagel” ceremony and a few surprises – all in our air conditioned social hall. The program is scheduled to run 10:30am to noon.

And our Youth Award this year goes to a very deserving Elias Elgarten and Megan Goldberg.

Have a Harry (I mean Happy) Pesach!

Yes - The Men's Club wishes you a Happy Pesach - and we have a brand new irreverent article by our own Harry Perkal just in time for the Holidays.

Be sure to read "What Happened To Passover", the latest posting of Harry's Harangues.

We Remember Sam Sobel

On Sunday, December 19th at 10:30am we will be gathering at CSAIR to install a plaque in Sam’s name on the Tree Of Life display in the main upstairs lobby, as Sam himself did in Edith Sobel’s memory last year. Herschel Sobel, Sam and Edith’s son, and many others will be with us and we welcome your participation as well. After the ceremony, we will convene for a breakfast to share our thoughts and remembrances of Sam.

Sam Sobel, a former CSAIR President, Holocaust survivor, trustee, and lifetime haver at CSAIR, together with his wonderful wife Edith, were committed friends to many of us for many years. He devoted much of his life to helping others, in his distinguished career at the United Nations, his activity in the Riverdale Jewish Community Relations Council and B’nai B’rith, and recording for the blind. He was honored numerous times for his leadership on behalf of Israel and Jewish causes and charities. He was also instrumental in caring for our Shoah Garden, as well as organizing various Shoah events. He participated in the HIR Choir and always attended the Israeli Day parade. He was a living connection to our shul’s history on the Grand Concourse. Now we have the opportunity to reflect and honor Sam and his accomplishments.

We hope you will attend on December 19. You have several ways to participate:

You will have the opportunity to speak about your memories of Sam – how he touched our lives – and what he meant to us. Let us know (on the form below) if you would like to say a few words at the breakfast.

Friends of Sam Sobel who wish to sponsor the event, the plaque itself, and the breakfast will be recognized and listed in the commemorative booklet. Sponsorships start at $25.00. All net proceeds will support the synagogue program that Sam and Edith fostered: the CSAIR Learning Disabilities Fund – which has supported and continues to support special education in CSAIR’s Hebrew School.

Happy Chanukah - and a new column by Harry!

Happy Chanukah from the CSAIR Mens Club to you and your family.  In keeping with (or in spite of?) the holiday spirit we present the latest installment of Harry's Harrangues

We hope you enjoy (or at least are not wildy offended by) it. 


On Sunday at Mt. Saint Vincent our good friend Yael Levy has built - from scratch - a huge and wonderful free festival supporting the Hudson River.It'll be a fun day for all ages with activities, events, food, and live music.

And speaking of live music - at 2pm taking the big stage will be our own Traveling Jewburys, featuring Mens Club co-president Dave LaDue... and 6 other CSAIR members: -Arthur Levy - Kerry Elgarten - Bill Yaggy (Amy Leveen's husband) - Craig Robins - David Whyne and Ron Minkoff. The festival starts at 1pm and runs until 5pm at the college of Mount St. Vincent.

The event is to raise awareness for a movement to provide a public park with access to the beautiful Hudson River that gives our town it's name - but which we hardly ever can get close to.So - please - support our friend Yael, our local band, and the Mighty Hudson.

Info at

Mens Club Meeting Thursday Night May 27th at 7:45pm

We're late!

Usually our monthly Mens Club meeting - open to all members - happens on the 3rd Thursday of the month. But last week - Shavuot ended on Thursday night - disrupting our sensitive and highly organized schedule.

Now what?

Well, after much teeth nashing, deliberation and the renting of garments (I got a lime green tuxedo and a pair of bowling shoes) the Men's Organization decided to hold our meeting one week later.

So - with much trepidation - we are scheduling our monthly Men's club meeting for this coming Thursday night - May 27th - at 7:45pm.

Our topic of discussion will be -

The Big Ten (Commandments) - which do you find the most troubling?

All are welcome. See you Thursday.

Gasps and Giggles - And if you haven't taken a moment to read and get offended b y Harry Perkal's latest article you really should head over to and see for yourself what the uproar is about.

Raffle Winner!

Yes, we have a winner!

Our winner for the Simchat CSAIR ticket raffle is David Cohen. The contest entries were all placed in a hat and at 12 noon in the synagogue offices Eric Nussbaum closed his eyes - reached in - and randomly picked the winner.

To our other contest participants - sorry you didn't win and thank you very much for participating. Your entry and donation does count for something - we will list you in our full page ad as a contributor in support of the event.

See you Sunday night! Don't forget about the the Salute to Israel Day Parade this Sunday. Join the CSAIR Hebrew School as they march with JNF in the Salute to Israel Day Parade. A bus will leave CSAIR at 9:30 am and will return after the group has completed marching the parade route. For more information, contact Mason Voit.

Also, just a friendly reminder about the Bone Marrow Registry Drives for Matt Fenster at the Israeli Day Parade this Sunday -- please make sure to stop by one of the stations at the Israeli Day Parade this Sunday, May 23rd. It only takes a little bit of your time -- just a few swabs on the inside of your cheek, and it means so much. The stations will be at the following locations:

Bone Marrow Registry Drives for Matt Fenster this SUNDAY, MAY 23rdTemple
Emanu-EL1 East 65th Street (between 5th and Madison)New York, NY12pm to 5pm AND Central Park Summer StageRumsey Playfield12pm to 7pm(Enter the park from either East 72nd Street or East 69th Street, both off 5th Ave.) If you'd like to volunteer to help out at one of the Bone Marrow Registry locations this Sunday, you can contact Stephanie Minkove at

For more information on how you can help Matt, please contact or visit Thanks, and shabbat shalom.


You want controversy? You want outspoken opinions? Well, ready or not - here comes Harry Perkal and his latest installment of Harry Harangues. This month Harry takes on Conservative Judaism in his unique irreverent and humorous style. We apologise in advance for anyone who is offended. Click here to begin being outraged.

Men's Organization mourns the loss of Joseph Nurnberg

May 17th, 2010 - On behalf of the CSAIR Mens Organization - we wish to express our condolences on the passing of one of the founders of CSAIR and a former president of the shul Joseph Nurnberg. Our thoughts are with Joseph's wife, Rita Nurnberg at this difficult time.

The funeral is tomorrow, Tuesday, May 18, at 12 noon at Plaza Jewish Memorial Chapel, 630 Amsterdam Avenue at 91st Street, Manhattan.

One van, which can carry up to ten passengers, will be leaving CSAIR at 11am sharp. Please contact the shul office as soon as possible if you are interested in traveling in that van to the funeral. The van will return to CSAIR after the service.

In addition, after the memorial service, the funeral procession will be pausing outside CSAIR at approximately 1:15 pm - in recognition of Joseph's contribution to our shul as founder and past president - before continuing on to the cemetery.

The Nurnberg family will be home after the burial. Please note that Shavuot, beginning Tuesday at sundown will conclude the shiva - but the family sill still be home to visitors through Sunday. The address is 445 East 80th Street, New York, NY 10075 through Sunday May 23.

May God comfort the family along with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

Men's Club Message - May 13, 2010

Hello Friends

Today we are thinking about our friend Matt Fenster and his family. This week we attempted to contact all of our Men's Club members by phone to alert you of 2 important ways we can help Matt, who has unfortunately been diagnosed with Leukemia and is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.

1 – On this coming Sunday between 9am and 5pm CSAIR will have kits available to take a simple test to determine if you might be a candidate to save Matt's life. The test is very quick and painless – it is a quick swab of a q-tip inside your cheek. If you are in general good health and between the ages of 18 and 60 – we strongly urge you stop by CSAIR on Sunday for a chance to be a hero and save the life of our dear friend.

2 – If you are unable or not eligible to take the test – you can also be a hero by making a donation to pay for the processing of these tests to see if a life-saving donor match can be found. Each test costs $54 to process. You can make a donation at the following website:

So – please – on behalf of our good friend, his wife Jennifer and their four young children – be a hero and help our friend.

Also – tonight is Thursday night again and we could really use your help to make our Minyan. We'll have a tasty snack for everyone who helps us help each other.
Thank you - David & Joel

The Mens Club and B'nai Brith Present: Movie Night on Thursday April 15th

Kobe, Lebron, and … Ossie Schectman? Yes – in the early days of professional basketball – the first game of the New York Knickerbockers featured several Jewish players – and it was Ossie Schectman who scored the Knicks first basket!

In "The First Basket," a major motion picture release in 2008, writer/producer/director David Vyorst and narrator Peter Riegert explore the little-known, yet very important, Jewish history of the game. Chock full of vivid anecdotes and distinctive characters, the film brings back famous as well as unsung basketball legends such as Red Auerbach, Red Holzman, and many more.

These legendary players of professional basketball became role models and heroes to generations of fans and changed the face and perception, to this very day, of Jews in all athletics.

Join us right after Thursday night Minyan at 7:30pm at CSAIR for a free screening of this wonderful film (contributions are welcome – but not required). There will be kosher food available for purchase.
The event takes place at CSAIR on April 15th – Tax Day (easy to remember). After you’ve finished those taxes and written that IRS check – come on over to CSAIR for a FREE movie. And if your taxes aren’t done yet - We will have free Federal and State Tax Extension forms available for you to use!

Start time: Right After Minyan at 7:30pm

Men's Club Shabbat a big success

It was a great day for the Men's Club. The annual Men's Club Shabbat was a chance for the entire organization to really shine as members from 93 to 11 came up to the Bimah to represent us and contribute to the service.

We want to thank everyone who helped us:

Dr. Ted Phillips for getting us started with the Pesukei D’Zimra.
The amazing and multi-talented Arthur Levy for Shaharit
That force of nature Dr. Irving Ladimer for opening the Ark
Dr Sam Feinberg for his skillful carrying of the Torah
Bob Stein for his well spoken HaTorah Meditation
The Shul President Stuart Newman for introducing the Torah Reading
Our great Shomers on Shabbos: Jack Finkelstein and Ron Wegsman

Our mighty Torah Readers: Sahi Katz, Lester Lenoff, (Men’s Club Co-President) Joel Chaiken, Ephraim Edelman, Matt Fenster, Rabbi Michael Pitkowsky, Ian Hollenberg, and Alex Perkal.

Our Haftarah reader: Gus Scheer
Haftarah Scroll Holders: Murray Milgrim and Benny LaDue

Prayer for the community: Arnold Hyman
Prayer for our country: Mike Lieman
Prayer for the State of Israel: Charles Schulberg
Ashrei: Mitchell LaDue

P’tiha-open Ark: Ralph Strauss
Meditation Hakhnasat HaTorah: Allen Frazer

D’var Torah: David LaDue
Announcements: Joel Chaiken
Musaf: Yoni Schwab
Kiddush: David Maranoff

And we want to thank Rabbi Katz for all his help and assistance.

Several people have requested a copy of David LaDue's D'var Torah. We will attach it below:

Good Shabbos everyone. The Men's Club is surely in the house today and I am proud of each and every one of them. Haven't they done a great job?

You know - dating back to my great grandmother - who attended Adath Israel in the 1930s - five generations of my family have been coming to services here at CSAIR – all of us eating that same herring at Kiddush - but this – other than my son Benny’s speech at his bar mitzvah – is our family’s first D’var Torah. To have this opportunity to be with all of you today – I am deeply honored – and more than a little astounded.

Our parsha this week – is Vayikra. Not an easy one to start with. We are of course not supposed to dislike any of the Parshiyot – but let’s just say Vayikra is not my favorite – probably not your favorite – and may not be anyone’s favorite Parsha. Certainly if you happen to be a turtle dove or a bull – this reading is not for you.

But why is this one of our least favorite Parshiyot? The reasons, I think - are interesting.

Reason One – Where’s the Story?

Everyone likes a good story. And most the story of Moses is a really good story. But not this particular part. There’s just not much action. In Hollywood terms – Vayikra is not peppy. There’s no peppiness.

The Parsha starts off well enough. Let me put this in modern terms - Moses is sitting in his office. He’s just finished up a pretty big project – he’s relocated a nation – delivered the Torah – and now he’s thinking he’ll have an easy week. But his blackberry goes off - he checks it and discovers he has an invite to a meeting.

The time – right now. His presence – mandatory. The location? The Tent of Meeting - in other words – the big conference room. And the Meeting Organizer? Hashem himself will be dialing in to lead this conference call.

Okay - So far - we've got ourselves a real story. What will Hashem say? What will Moses do? Will he remember the conference call pass code? Where will the story go from here?

Well, I hope Moses had a pencil and pad of paper - because what follows - for the rest of the Parsha - is a very long set of instructions. Not exactly the dramatic story we were hoping for.

So – Problem One – there’s no story.

And that brings us to Problem 2: The text is much too specific.

Thousands of years ago, when some people were still running around in the park worshiping idols - throwing people into volcanoes - and beheading each other – I am proud to say that our Jewish ancestors were already modern in two important ways. We were already suing each other in court - and yes – we were already praying in the Tabernacle.

But back then the Torah was much newer – and so – in shul there was a lot more time spent going over the rules. No coveting! No cheeseburgers on Pesach! Don’t marry your camel! Stuff like that.

But today – in general – I think there is a movement in all sectors of Judaism to focus more on the positive instead of the negative. And I think today’s Jewish population is responding to upbeat messages that emphasize spirituality – community – and connection. Because let’s face it – many people get enough rules and regulations from their boss and their spouse these days – we’re not looking forward to getting more rules on Shabbat.

But Vayikra is loaded with rules. It is about as long a list of rules as you are likely to find in the Torah. And they’re not just rules - they are very very specific rules

A lot of us don’t like specifics. We like vagueness. And why? Because vagueness opens the door for us to inject our own opinions into the story - and people - particularly us Jewish people – we love to butt in to everything with our own opinions. We call it commentary – and it is everywhere. And – by the way - if we as a people are butting in with our opinions to the word of Hashem – what chance do I have at Kiddush to state my opinion without getting stampeded by opposing points of view?

The problem is Vayikra is not vague. There are 16 specific commandments in Vayikra. Do I need salt? (Yes). Can I burn the honey? (no) What do I do with the Frankincense? (keep it out of the food) Can I cut off a bird’s head? (not always – but only from the back) And so on.

So there's not a lot of room to get an opinion in edgewise here. Oh - The scholars manage – but they are forced to argue minutia like - how much is a handful.

And - There is an irony here. People spend their lives thinking about Hashem. Who is he? Is He alive and well? Does he know us? Did he really write every word of the Torah? And after producing such a blockbuster best seller - why did he just stop writing at the height of his fame – just like Salinger?

So many of us wonder what exactly Hashem wants us to do. And here - in Vayikra – Hashem is very very specific. And he speaks directly to us at great length.

But – do we listen? Do we hang on every word? For many of us – with this parsha – we don’t. Since we can’t finagle the parsha around to mean something we agree with – we choose to completely ignore it. We dismiss it. We say it applied long ago – but we are much too modern to pay attention to this list of instructions in modern day.

But Some of these instructions are amazing:

Listen to this part – what does it sound like to you:

· If your offering is a meal offering on a griddle, it shall be of choice flour with oil mixed in, unleavened. Break it into bits and pour oil on it.

That, friends, is a recipe. So Vayikra is part Cookbook. You want to know where the cookbook craze got started? Vayikra - that's where. So is this the world's oldest cookbook? It's certainly the Worlds most famous chef.

And get this:

In computer programming we have something called the Nested IF Statement. At this very moment around the world computer programmers – with jobs outsourced from the US - are typing these IF statements into computer code. These IF statements are one of the basic building blocks of all the software that runs everything from your Ipod to a Google Search.

Here’s an example of an IF statement:

· If X=7, then go to row 15. In other words –if this happens, then do that.

That’s an IF statement. Now listen to these sections of Vayikra:

· If he offers of the herd, he shall bring before the Lord one without blemish

· If your offering is a meal offering, it shall be of choice flour

· If his offering is a burnt offering of birds, he shall choose turtledoves or pigeons.

These are IF Statements. In fact, there are Nested If Statements in Vayikra – that is If statements inside other If statements – like at the start of Chapter 3. In all the word IF appears 19 times in the parsha.

So – here in Vayikra - You’ve got the roots of programming code. And these nested IF Statements have been just sitting in the scrolls waiting thousands of years for someone to discover what they are. It’s very cool – and to be honest - It kind of freaks me out.

And now - I want to get to the part of Vayikra that bothers people the most.

Animal Sacrifice.

I just mentioned that the word “If” appears 19 times - well the word “blood” appears 25 times in Vayikra. Imagine if we carried out this Parsha today. Imagine if Rabbi Katz walked in here next Shabbat leading a full grown Bull and proceeded to sacrifice it up here on the Bimah. There would be pandemonium - screaming - fainting - and a mess on the carpet that Ivan would never forgive us for. Rabbi Katz would probably be carted off and would end up in a padded room somewhere - and for what? For doing what the Parsha describes.

This is a key issue with Vayikra. We don't like animal sacrifice. And if we don’t like it – imagine how the animals feel. Of course – if you eat meat – like I do – then you’re not sacrificing animals to please Hashem – you’re sacrificing animals because you’re not in the mood for pizza.

I’m not saying we should all become vegetarian. The way I look at it – it’s not fair the way that those vegetarians pick on poor defenseless broccoli either. At least a chicken can make a run for it – what chance does a Brussels Sprout have of escaping?

In the time of the Torah – if you were going to eat meat – you saw the living animal first – and usually saw – or caused – it’s demise. So you knew exactly how the chicken got in your chicken Nuggets. Today – the way animals end up in our food is hidden from us. We eat them – but we don’t like to think about how they got on our plate. So today - Animal Sacrifice seems barbaric to us – even though today, animals are sacrificed for every hot dog and burger we eat. So, maybe we’re not as sophisticated and removed from the days of Animal Sacrifice as we like to think we are.

If I just made anyone feel guilty about eating meat – sorry – but that’s a good segue to the last topic I want to mention. We said that the word “If” appears 19 times in the parsha. We mentioned that Blood appears 25 times. How about the word Guilt?

“Guilt” or “guilty” appears in this Parsha – 32 times.

32 times. And that is why – in my opinion – Vayikra is the origin of the concept of The Guilty Conscience. It’s right here.

The key section – 5:17 – “when a person, without knowing it, sins”

The concept here is - after the fact - you get the idea that you probably did something wrong in the past – even though at the time you weren’t aware of it. This is the guilty conscience. This is that vague uneasy feeling – that you’ve done something wrong – but you don’t know exactly what it is. A lot of us get that feeling all the time. To be honest – I think I'm feeling it right now.

Now, I’m not supporting the stereotype of guilt and the Jewish Mother. There are plenty of mothers and fathers and other role models of all religions who make their kids feel guilty around the world. My point is that Vayikra is one of the earliest mountain streams that this great river of guilt flows down from.

Sigmund Freud, who founded an entire profession based on guilt - described guilt as the result of a struggle between the Id and the Superego. These are two very powerful forces – sort of like Cablevision fighting against ABC inside your head. It is a clash between what you want to do and what you feel inside you should do.

That feeling inside is first put there at a young age by our parents – and other role models. And so – long after our mothers and fathers and mentors are gone – their criticisms will torment us from beyond the grave – through their imprints on our super-ego – through guilt.

Are we all doomed to feel guilty forever? Maybe not. There are people in this world who do not experience guilt. They live a life free of remorse. Whatever their Mom’s told them is gone – forgotten – and unable to assail them. Who are these lucky people? According to the experts - the clinical term for someone who feels no guilt is: a Psychopath. Yes – according to the psychiatric community – Psychopathic criminals are the way they are because they lack the ability to feel guilt and remorse.

This means – of course – that guilt is not only necessary – it is part of what makes us human. Our moral framework – our emotional bonds with others – many of the best parts of the human experience – all comes from – yes – guilt. So think about it – your mother wasn’t driving you crazy – she was driving you Sane. So the next time your mother nags you – remember to say thank you.

Okay – to sum up - that is what Vayikra means to me. It may lack a peppy story – it may be too specific – it may have too much Blood. But it also has some amazing stuff in there. The Cook book – The nested IF statements – and the sacred origins of Guilt!

So – with all this new information – is Vayikra now still one of your least favorite Parshiyot? Is it now in fact your favorite portion of the Torah?

No? Well, I can’t blame you – but please – don’t feel guilty about it.

Thank you all for listening – and Shabbat Shalom