Yom Shlishi, 8 Sivan 5778

From the Temple Beth Am Desk

Message from Rabbi Inna Serebro Litvak

on Monday, 23 May 2016.

Message from Rabbi Inna Serebro Litvak

This past Thursday, May 12, I was ordained as a Rabbi. It was a 

culmination of three years of intensive studies and many years of self search. There are no words to express the joy I experienced during that day, surrounded by my family - my husband Anatoly and daughters Emily and Abigail; and my extended family at Temple Beth Am. I was overwhelmed with happiness and pride to see so many of you come to support me. Thank you so much for coming and sharing this simcha with me! I also appreciate all the good wishes from the whole congregation. For those of you who couldn't make it to the ceremony, I want to share the speech that I gave at the ordination. I am looking forward to sharing with you the knowledge I have gained in school in text, history and general Judaic studies.

"When I look back at the time of my entrance exams at AJR, I remember Rabbi Jeff Hoffman asking me during the interview:  "Inna, how are you going to handle your family, your job and the program in school?" And I clearly remember how I replied:"Rabbi Hoffman - I'll make it work!"

If only I knew then, how hard it really would be I would've collected my application and run before Rabbi Hoffman had a chance to ask me another question!

 But as we studied many rabbinical sources, I came across a teaching that spoke to me the most. It read:  "It is permissible to a student to add two hours a day in order to study."  Well, since I rarely follow the rules, I added another two hours to that, and voila - my days became 28 hours long!

I can tell you, those four hours made a big difference. On any given day I was able to take an hour walk,  send my children off to school all while cleaning the house and doing laundry; completing all my administrative work for Temple Beth Am, reading an audio book and checking on friends - all of this occurred  while spending four hours on average commuting in my car; attending the classes (periodically taking  power naps), tutoring b'nai mitzvah, getting the dinner ready, checking the girls' home work, putting them to bed, preparing my home work, online window shopping, writing a paper, online window shopping, reading for school, online window shopping and finally on the 24th hour of the day - sleeping!

Well, to tell you the truth, there isn't really any Rabbinic teaching, granting students like me the ability to add hours to the day in the pursuit of study! But there is a real truth here - and that truth is something I learned at AJR. It is this:  if you are determined, you can achieve any goal you set through the hard work, persistence and lack of sleep.

During my years at AJR (Academy for Jewish Religion) I was lucky to meet extremely talented and smart people among the students, staff and professors, who all cherish community and exemplify true menches.

 I wouldn't be standing here today if it wouldn't be for the congregational members and my colleagues at Temple Beth Am. Their support and encouragement reaffirmed my decision to become a rabbi. I especially appreciate their instant feedback to my sermons.  I am lucky to be at a temple where all the members act as my extended family.

Thank you to my incredible friends who were the first proof readers of my papers and sermons and my cheerleaders.

And finally I want to thank my husband Anatoly and my daughters, Emily and Abigail, for putting up with my constant absence and attempting to keep the volume down when I tried to study during normal hours of the day. As promised - mommy is back!"

Annual Temple Beth Am Service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

on Monday, 01 February 2016.

Article from NorthJersey.com

Annual Temple Beth Am Service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Temple Beth Am’s annual service honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will be graced by a special guest, Robert Azriel Devine, on Friday, Jan. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Beth Am Temple Beth Am, 879 South Beverwyck Rd. in Parsippany. The talk, "Kol Yisrael," will feature Devine speaking about his unique experience growing up as both a black man and a Jew.

Devine was born and raised in Chicago, Ill, and has practiced Judaism since birth. On Aug. 23, 1969, when Devine celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at the south side’s well-known Congregation Rodfei Zedeck on Hyde Park Avenue, he was the first black child to achieve this milestone in Chicago’s Jewish community.

At the time, the Chicago Tribune headline read "Bar Mitzvah Planned for Negro Boy, 13." The accompanying article went on to share his path to the bima, which included the same four years of study that every young Jewish child undergoes and was quoted by the paper as "not being a stunt."

Devine’s spiritual growth was especially nurtured by his father, who was serving as the Rabbi of the House of Israel Hebrew Cultural Center and was also the chairman of the United Leaders’ Council of Hebrew Israelites, an organization of black Rabbis from Chicago, Illinois, and Gary and Indianapolis, Ind.

Devine studied briefly at Ida Crown Academy and is an alumnus of Camp Ramah. He is attending the Academy of Jewish Religion in Yonkers New York. His goal is to become an ordained Rabbi.

"Everyone at Temple Beth Am is honored to have Azriel join us. He will be sharing his personal journey during our annual Shabbat service honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," noted Cantor Inna Serebro-Litvak, who was instrumental in bringing Azriel to the temple. "Over the years, Temple Beth Am has enjoyed a wide range of distinctive speakers who have shared their extraordinary experiences with us during this special Shabbat and we look forward to this year being equally as moving at a time when we could all use some inspiration."

Azriel will also help attendees understand how black history connects to Judaism, revealing a diversity that is the fabric of modern Israel and Jewry as a whole.

Our School Community: Making a Difference with Tzedekah

Written by Lynn Cutler on Sunday, 01 November 2015.

Tzedekah Fair Highlights Local Organizations

Our School Community: Making a Difference with Tzedekah

Representatives from local charitable organizations visited our Religious School this fall. After they made presentations about what they are doing in the community, students were given the opportunity to choose how to give their 'tzedekah dollars'.  While the money they put into the bowl for each organization was symbolic on Sunday, at the end of the year those symbolic dollars will be donated to each of these organizations. How much each gets will be decided by how much our students gave to each organization.  

Tzedekah donations brought in this year will benefit Israeli Guide Dogs for the Blind, Relay for Life (American Cancer Society), Special Needs Athletic Program, and the Homeless Bus.


Shabbat in Summer

on Wednesday, 02 September 2015.

Reconnecting and Recharging with Summer Worship

Chapel in The Woods on Shabbat morning/URJ Camp Harlam

For many, perhaps especially those of us involved in education, summer is the most wonderful time of the year.  It is a time for changing up our schedules, heading outdoors  (or out of the area), and stepping  out of some of our everyday routines for a while. 

For a number of our Temple families, mine included, summer also means an opportunity for our children to spread their wings at a Jewish camp. Temple Beth Am youth have enjoyed time over the last two months in day camp at Deeny Riback, in short-stay specialty camps at NJY Camps, in session at URJ Camp Harlam, URJ Camp Eisner, Cedar Lake and Surprise Lake, and even in Israel with URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute. Each of these camps does things a little differently. Favorite tunes, camp traditions, amenities, affiliations, specialties, staff and schedules may vary.  But as Jewish camps, one of the things they all share is communal prayer, and the celebration of Shabbat. 

Before I spent time on faculty at Camp Harlam this summer – my first time spending more than a few hours at a Jewish camp – it surprised me a little every time one of our students named “Shabbat services” as one of their favorite things about Jewish camp. I enjoy all sorts of services, especially those filled with music! But when measured up against high ropes, swimming in the pool or the lake, boating, jetskis, trips, campfires, shows, ziplines, robotics, Maccabiah competitions and sports - how does worship, which we offer every week right here at Temple, make a camper’s list of favorite summer experiences? 

A Friday night service, here or at camp, is familiar to our students. While there may be a different tune here or there, or a change in instruments used as accompaniment, we pray the same Hebrew prayers, and they show up in the same order in the service. The keva – the framework and routine of our Jewish worship – ties us together. It is a foundation shared by campers, staff, faculty, and visitors from all over. It enables us to participate even when we are still new to camp. Someone new to our services at Temple might experience our worship the same way. 

But at camp, Shabbat is not just “Friday night” or “Saturday morning” – it is Shabbat.  The distractions of the school year are nonexistent as every soul in camp moves into Shabbat together.  Worship often takes place in beautiful outdoor spaces. It is difficult not to feel a sense of wonder, gratitude, and awe when seated in an outdoor chapel on top of a hill, with majestic views in every direction. It is difficult not to feel like part of something larger than oneself, when the song of several hundred voices lifts through tall branches in a chapel in the woods, where the Torah rests in the crook of the ancient tree that serves as its ark. It is difficult to not feel the depth and breadth of our Jewish community when sharing worship with so many friends, from so many places – America, Europe, Israel.  Sometimes, it can be easier to access the kavanah – the intention, the prayer that comes straight from our hearts – when we get to experience prayer in such a community, in the midst of God’s creations of nature. 

If you have found your way to Temple Beth Am’s Shabbat services this summer, you may have felt something like this this right here in Parsippany. Or Pine Brook. Or Mountain Lakes.  Worship held outside, or poolside, or at the homes of our congregational family, with pets or over barbeque, helps us access our feeling of community, and the intention fueling our prayer, in a whole new way.  It has given us a ‘summer break’ from some of our comfortable routine, and a maybe few new thoughts about how we experience prayer and community. 

It is my hope for all of us, that we will emerge from our summer worship experiences feeling reconnected, recharged, and prepared to head into High Holy Days with a renewed sense of focus and purpose.  We’ve just a few short weeks left of summer. Let’s make the most of them. 


Lynn Anne Cutler 

Thank you for ten years, Rhonda!

Written by Lynn Cutler on Saturday, 09 May 2015.

Thank you for ten years, Rhonda!

Cantor Inna isn't the only person celebration a special 'tenth' at Temple Beth Am this year!  Rhonda Jacoby (Mom of Andrea, Aleph class madricha, and Adam, Confirmed) has served as our dedicated Education Committee Chair for the last ten years.  She will be officially be handing over the reins to our new Co-Chairs, Christine and Dave Weinberg (parents of Hannah, Aleph class). Rhonda, our school, our students and our congregation owe you a huge debt of gratitude for the hours and months and years you dedicated to our children and their Jewish education. THANK YOU for being here for us!

TBA Family Club Kicks Off First Event

Written by Patsy Kreitman on Wednesday, 22 April 2015.

Family Bowling

We are thrilled to share that our first Temple Beth Am Family Club event was a success and a lot of fun for everyone who attended! 

DSC 0718A couple of weeks ago, the  TBA Family Club had a morning of bowling in Madison, New Jersey. With a great deal on bowling for the morning, everyone was able to bowl a couple of games. There were squeals of delight from the youngest who were there when more pins fell than they expected.  Also, som friendly competition between some of the adults.  All in good fun, of course!

Afterward, several families enjoyed going out to lunch together as a spur-of-the-moment idea. This gave everyone more time to get to know each other. 

Everyone who attended had a nice time, and new friends were made as well. Many ideas were shared on other family activities we could plan for the future and even some adult night's out while the kids enjoy time with the Beth Am Youth Group (we'll try to coordinate with them whenever possible!).

 DSC 0727This summer, we are looking into planning a trip to a minor league baseball game and a trip to the Treetop Adventure Ropes at Turtle Back Zoo. Once more details are finalized, we will be sharing that information with all families at Temple Beth Am. We look forward to many more events filled with fun, laughter and new friends!

If you would like more information or have ideas on something you'd like us to include in our planning for the next year, please contact Debbie Lesser or Patsy Kreitman at FamilyClub@tbaparsippany.org.

 DSC 0719DSC 0720


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