Best of Jewish Atlanta: 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards – Vote for AA!

Ahavath Achim has been nominated for Best Simcha/Celebration Venue as part of Best of Jewish Atlanta: 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards (brought to you by the Atlanta Jewish Times)! Vote for your Jewish Atlanta favorites for the next 3 weeks, and you’ll be entered to win one of several prizes through a random drawing on March 30! We hope you’ll keep AA in mind when casting your vote, but hurry! Voting closes on March 15.

MaNishma – Tetzaveh 5779

TETZAVEH 5779

HUMAN FAILURE AND DIVINE GRACIOUSNESS

FEBRUARY 14, 2019

9 Adar 1, 5779

God spoke to the Israelites through Moses; the Israelites spoke to God through Aaron.

These propositions are a prism through which to view the relationship between the previous week’s Torah reading and this week’s. The theme last Shabbat was God’s detailed instruction to Moses to build the mishkan (sanctuary) in which He would “reside” among the people. God was very specific regarding the size of the structure, material to be used and its various units: the special candelabrum, the table for the showbread, and the ark in which the tablets of the Ten Commandments were to be placed. God’s willingness to vest His presence in the mishkan and hence among the people was clearly dependent upon their fulfilling the commandments that He revealed through Moses. It was a one-way conversation; God spoke and ordained; the Israelites were to hear and to obey.

The clear implication was that there would be consequences if and when the commandments were neglected. Sin would be punished. Yet God, following the great flood, had already despaired that the inclination to sin had been embedded within us at an early age. (Genesis 8: 21)  It is the possibility of repentance and divine forgiveness that transitions us to this week’s Torah portion. It is here that we are first introduced to the kohanim (priests) who ministered to the community and were integral to the process of turning to God for forgiveness. Aaron, Mosesolder brother, the designated first kohen gadol (high priest) was vested with the capacity and responsibility to be the People’s spokesman before God.

The Torah portion describes Aaron’s unique vestments, adorned with precious stones  upon which the names of the tribes were engraved. It concludes with instructions regarding the construction of the sacrificial altar upon which the priest could bring the people’s offerings to expiate sins, to implore Divine intervention when faced with crises and to give thanks for blessings in their lives. It was through Aaron and his descendents that the people communicated with God, as the Psalmist assured us in a later era: “God is close to all who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145: 18).

As a society we are currently grappling with the appropriate response to prior racially insensitive acts. Are we to regard current acceptable behavior as a form of repentance? This complex question is at the heart of the controversy swirling around Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. He insists that he has scrubbed the blackface paint from his face; others insist that there are still traces of it testifying to lingering racist attitudes. It’s obvious that despite the great strides to expunge racism from our society, more than traces of it remain in our midst. The existential question with which we must all grapple is whether our own behavior has sufficiently changed and we can honestly claim that we have truly and fully repented?

From the holy city of Jerusalem my best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach, a Shabbat have peace and blessing.

Rabbi Arnold M Goodman

In Case You Missed It

Nearly 200 people helped AAACTS at SOAP UP Super Bowl Atlanta at Ahavath Achim Synagogue on Sunday, January 27. Volunteers participated in DMST (Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking) awareness training by survivor, author and advocate Theresa Flores, founder of SOAP. After labeling soap and makeup remover wipes teams of four delivered them to local hotels and motels. Over 91% of the hotels took the soap and agreed to post materials including a missing children’s poster and materials on how to recognize and report child sex trafficking victims. Almost immediately we saw favorable results, three children were recognized by hotel staff and law enforcement is following up. In addition a missing 16 year old local girl was identified and rescued.

AAACTS has additional exciting plans for the future. Again this year we will provide backpacks and school supplies for Georgia DMST survivors. In the fall we will host a program, Keeping Kids Safe in the Digital Age. This event is for middle school and high school students and their parents.

AA Synagogue is happy to announce the establishment of the Linda Bressler AAACTS Fund through a generous donation from her family. This fund is now available for donations which will enable us to continue and grow our awareness, advocacy and action to abolish child sex trafficking in our community.

If you would like to join AAACTS in this important work please contact the Co-Chairs: Linda Bressler (lindafb@bellsouth.net); Margie Eden (margie.eden22@gmail.com).

MaNishma – Terumah 5779

TERUMAH 5779
HE CONSTRICTS – WE EXPAND

February 7, 2019
2 Adar I, 5779

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts … And let them make me a mishkan (sanctuary) that I may dwell in their midst (Exodus 25:1, 2, 8).

This week’s Torah portion focuses upon holy space. It opens with God’s command that the people are to bring gifts for the creation of the mishkan “that I may dwell in their midst.” The Israelites were charged to create this special space where God would reside in their midst. For this to happen it would require God who has neither body nor form but who nevertheless fills the entire universe with His glory, to constrict Himself to fit into this large earthly structure created in His honor.

The people did bring their gifts and God, in return, did constrict himself to reside in the mishkan. Ultimately the mishkan morphed into the majestic Temple constructed by Solomon and with the destruction of holy temples into synagogues where to this day we, the descendants of the Israelites, strive to experience God’s presence. God’s withdrawal into Himself enables us to become more acutely aware of His presence in our midst.

Three verses cited in a midrashic teaching describes how His focus on the vulnerable and the needy impacts on the divine human relationship.

In the Torah: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords… He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 10: 17, 18).

In Isaiah, “For thus says God I dwell in the high and holy place but also with the contrite and humble spirit” (Isaiah 57:15).

In the Psalms: “God rides upon the skies but is also Father of the fatherless and Protector of widows” (Psalms 68:6).

The thrust of this teaching is that God makes His presence known when we, through our actions, affect His concern for those in need. God is perceived as descending from on high and by virtue of our good deeds we enable Him to be a positive force in our midst. God is thus at our side whenever we extend ourselves to visit the sick, comfort the mourners, and engage in acts of tzedakah or righteousness.

Partnering with humanity may be viewed as God’s way of demonstrating, “It’s not all about Me.” His plans and hopes for humanity are best realized as He channels within us that modicum of divine energy thereby enabling us to be there for one another. God thus dwells in our midst when we create venues where through various social justice programs we are inspired and enabled to share in this holy work.

Parenthetically, God’s willingness to trim the divine ego is an obvious challenge to the human tendency of aggrandizement whether in the political sphere, in our families or in the workplace.

May we continue to build contemporary mishkans where we partner with God and come to truly sense His presence in our midst.

From the holy city of Jerusalem my best wishes for a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach, a Shabbat have peace and blessing.

Rabbi Arnold M Goodman

Welcome Jackie Nix!

Jackie Nix

Jackie grew up in Atlanta, GA at The Temple attending religious school from 1st grade through 10th and then helping as a Madricha from 11th and 12th grade. She was an active member of the NFTY chapter (MAFTY).

She fostered her love of all things Jewish during college through her study for a Jewish Studies and Education degree from the University of Maryland. She participated in Hillel and other Jewish groups on campus, including being on the board of the Jewish Greeks organization.

After graduating, Jackie returned to Atlanta and began working at Congregation Or Hadash as the Assistant to the Executive Director. Here she interacted with members, assisted with everything from set up for Kiddush to planning the Purim Carnival, and so much more. While at Or Hadash, she got to learn more about Conservative Judaism, laws of kashrut and continue to grow her love of all things Jewish. Next, Jackie worked at Jewish Family & Career Services as the Young Adult Program Coordinator. Here she worked to get young adults (20s and 30s) involved in giving back to the Jewish and greater Atlanta communities. She loved being able to volunteer throughout the city and help with Tikkun Olam (Repair the World). Most recently, Jackie spent 10 months as the Volunteer Coordinator at the Atlanta Humane Society where she helped volunteers get involved and find the area of the shelter they wanted to help in. While doing this, she realized how much she missed working in the Jewish community. She missed the common threads that bind all Jews together, the sense of community and camaraderie and, most importantly, she missed being able to share her love of all things Jewish with those around her.

Jackie has also worked as a 4th grade Judaics teacher at The Temple’s religious school and a BBYO advisor for Shorashim BBG in Atlanta.

Being a Jewish Educator offers Jackie the opportunity to help inspire the next generation of Jews. She gets to help children and adults find their way of connecting with Judaism all while continuing to learn and grow herself. Throughout her life, Jackie has grown up in a home where her love of Judaism was fostered and supported at all times. She has a love of all things Jewish and grew up attending services, holiday festivities, school and always wanting to learn more. As a teenager, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Jackie’s answer was “a Jewish Education Director”.