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BJ in Brief: On Ukraine, Our Teen Trip, the Diversity of Jews, and More

Given the tragic events unfolding around the world while so much is happening at BJ, we felt it was time to share another edition of BJ in Brief. As we all have seen, last week our fears of a Russian invasion in Ukraine were realized. Our increasingly complex world became ever more complex, yet again.

Here’s what our rabbis have to say about it, and more, in this new issue of BJ in Brief.

March 2022

At Kabbalat Shabbat services on Friday night, Rabbi Roly Matalon reflected on the tragedy of lives being needlessly lost in the attack on a freely democratic country, and further denounced how some people in the U.S. are supporting it: “I can’t believe that we are living in a country where there are such people who are stepping up and doing this shameful thing and being collaborators with the murder, the murder of thousands of people potentially. God forbid that this will continue to escalate,” he said. Watch the clip.

Also on Kabbalat Shabbat, Rabbi Felicia Sol looked to a teaching from the Ohr HaMeir, the 18th-century Hassidic rabbi, that explores why we continue to pray for Shabbat, even at the end of Shabbat, in our liturgy:

“So, too, freedom and democracy, dignity and security, peace, truth, and justice are ideas that require the humanity, our community, laws, the service of those ideals, work and commitment, but above them all, a vision that is divine. That no matter how far we feel we have progressed or how deeply we have faltered, that we continue to ask, please God, please God, let your vision penetrate our hearts.” Watch Felicia’s full D’var Torah.

If you are moved to respond to the crisis in Ukraine, we encourage you to support the JDC’s efforts on the ground. The JDC provides a lifeline to 40,000 vulnerable Jewish elderly and children across Ukraine through its network of care services, Jewish community programs, and Jewish leaders. 

Singing in Solidarity With Our Brothers and Sisters in Ukraine

Listen to Lekha Dodi from this past Shabbat, sung using two melodies originating from Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, which is in present-day Ukraine.

A newfound appreciation of the power of community-based organizing 


Even amidst the heaviness of the situation in Ukraine, we continue to be inspired by the BJ community and all that it stands for, and by the gratitude we have for being able to come together once again. Just last week, our teens returned from an incredibly meaningful service trip to Urban Adamah in California. Click here to see more photos of their amazing experience and to read Sari Bovitz’s reflections on the trip.

Celebrating the Diversity of Jews 

“Up until the last few years, my Chinese identity still felt completely separate from my Jewish identity. Oftentimes it even felt like they contradicted one another, like I could only truly hold one identity at a time.”

In a personal essay written in honor of the Lunar New Year, BJ Program Associate Jade Groobman reflected on her dual Jewish and Chinese identities.

Jade grew up loving being Chinese and was excited to celebrate the Lunar New Year with all its beautiful traditions—while also wanting to embrace her Jewish side. Her article discusses how she attempted to feel comfortable with both at the same time and impels us to be more aware of the beauty of our diverse Jewish community. Read Jade’s story.

Lets Take the Pledge

This 5782 shemita year challenges us to evaluate our regular routines of production and consumption and commit to the spiritual work of environmental stewardship.

As part of our commitment to environmental justice and in honor of this shemita year, BJ’s Community Engagement team developed guidance for how we can protect the land that sustains us all: Planet Earth. Join BJ’s Environmental Pledge and commit to small steps you can take toward that goal. Explore them here.

Quick Tip: Save water by refrigerating drinking water instead of running the faucet until it’s cold.

Shemita Programming: Still More to Come!

“The greatest threat created by ever-widening inequality today is not economic but rather political, it’s the ability of people with unlimited resources to play a role…that undermines what liberal democracy is all about.” – Benjamin M. Friedman

The Shemita Economy: Ancient Ideas Meet Modern Money kicked off with a conversation between BJ’s Rabbi Shuli Passow and Harvard economist Benjamin M. Friedman. The series will continue to explore how the underlying values of shemita, and its vision for economic and social equality, are relevant today.

In a previous session, historian Lila Corwin Berman and visual artist Danielle Durschlag reflected on where the vision and values of shemita align and conflict with the realities of American Jewish wealth and philanthropy.

Don’t miss the full line up of shemita learning opportunities this month:

The Pursuit of Prosperity and Equity in America Today
March 9 | 7:00 – 8:00 PM

Torah of Israel: Einat Kramer—Shemita Yisraelit, A Once-Every-Seven-Years Opportunity
March 20 | 10:30 – 11:45 PM

Reclaiming Your Community: A Conversation with MacArthur “Genius” Majora Carter
March 22 | 7:00 – 8:30 PM

Torah of Shemita with Rabbi Felicia Sol
March 23 | 7:00 – 8:15 PM

March Environmental Pledge Gathering
March 29 | 6:00 – 7:00 PM

Purim Will Be Here Faster Than You Can Say “Ahashverosh


BJ is planning lots of fun events and services for Purim, and you can get more details here and learn about the holiday in depth here. We look forward to being able to celebrate again with our community in person.

Written By Max W. Orenstein

Max comes to BJ after nearly a decade working in the non-profit and political space, having served as creative director for the Clinton Foundation and New York State Governor's Office. Specializing...

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