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SELICHOT, Saturday September 12 at 6:30 PM in the Vestry

Sisterhood always starts us off with yummy desserts before we celebrate Havdalah. In our learning for the new year we explore Forgive for Good by Dr. Fred Luskin and the Stanford Forgiveness Project.

Based on extensive research, including in the communities of Northern Ireland, Dr. Luskin – in a 73-minute PBS video – will explore aspects of forgiveness and present a path towards forgiveness.  He explains the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation.

In four distinct segments of the video, Dr. Luskin introduces the concept of, benefits from, and steps to forgiveness. He provides dramatic examples from his research in this field, shares results of measurable health benefits of forgiveness, outlines the 9 steps towards forgiving oneself and others, and answers audience questions about the forgiveness process.

We will begin to connect this secular work with Judaism’s centuries-old traditions of forgiveness, personal characteristics (middot) and ethical actions (mitzvot).

You can read more about Forgive for Good by clicking here. A book of the same name provides additional background and learning.

Designed for adults and older teens, we’ll have a chance to nosh, socialize, and watch and discuss the film. We close the evening with the traditional prayers and melodies of Selichot, led by Cantor Burton. We should be heading home by about 9:00 PM


Created as a way to engage adults in a Jewish journey throughout their lives, Chai Mitzvah encourages adults to take some time to reflect on where they are Jewishly and what they would like to achieve. There are five steps to becoming a Chai Mitzvah:

  1. Attend nine study sessions, with a specially designed curriculum.
  2. Identify something Jewish you want to learn.
  3. Take on or deepen an existing Jewish ritual.
  4. Engage in a social action project.
  5. Celebrate your achievement.

For general Chai Mitzvah information visit We’re considering the possibility of using Skype or another video conferencing technology to allow our snowbirds to participate as well. Rabbi Heath will lead the Chai Mitzvah program. Cost for program and materials is $36 for members and $45 for not-yet-members. Contact Lori McCloud in the office – 508-822-3230 – to sign up and pay.

We’ll meet monthly from 7:00 to 8:30 PM at The Jewish Community House, 133 High Street, Taunton.

  • September 29, Tuesday – Adult Rites of Passage
  • October 27, Tuesday – Tzedakah/Philantrhopy
  • November 17, Tuesday – Individual and Community
  • December 15, Tuesday – Interpersonal Relationships
  • January 26, Tuesday – Mindfulness/Conscious Living
  • February 23, Tuesday – Passover Seder: New Insights and Meaning
  • March 21, Monday – Israel and the Jewish Spirit
  • April 14, Thursday – Gratitude: Modim Anachnu Lach
  • May 31 Tuesday – Judaism and the Environment


Every Fall, tens of thousands of Jewish adults gather in hundreds of locations across North America to learn to read Hebrew — the language that unites us all! READ HEBREW AMERICA is the ideal way to learn how to follow synagogue services, to be more involved in your children’s Jewish education, or simply to enhance your own ties to Judaism.

Let us help jump start your Hebrew learning – from scratch or from distant memory – Sunday afternoon October 25, 2016 from 12:00 noon until 6:00 PM at The Jewish Community House, 133 High Street, Taunton.  There is no charge for the program or for materials.  To register, please contact Lori McCloud in the office at 508-822-3230 or send an email to


Dr. Israel (Chick) and Roz Helfand love books and movies and enjoy having company. We appreciate their generous hosting this year of another Sisterhood book discussion and several Congregational book discussions.  We ask that you RSVP at to Chick and Roz at least one week before the scheduled date so that they can prepare adequately for the actual number of participants. They can give you directions to their home on the west side of Taunton.

Most books are available at your library through SAILS Library Network. Various formats also available from Amazon. Please be sure to begin your shopping at our own website.

Currently Scheduled Congregational Book Discussions 2015 – 2016

Monday, November 12, 2015 at 7:00 PM @ The Helfand’s

An Officer and A Spy by Robert Harris (Paperback, Hard Cover, Kindle, Audible, SAILS eBook, CLAMS Large Print. Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction). A whistle-blower.  A witch hunt. A cover-up. Secret tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, and government corruption. Welcome to 1890s Paris. Alfred Dreyfus (a Jewish military officer) has been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment on a far-off island, and publicly stripped of his rank. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, an ambitious military officer who believes in Dreyfus’s guilt as staunchly as any member of the public. But when he is promoted to head of the French counter-espionage agency, Picquart finds evidence that a spy still remains at large in the military—indicating that Dreyfus is innocent. As evidence of the most malignant deceit mounts and spirals inexorably toward the uppermost levels of government, Picquart is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 7:00 PM @ The Helfand’s

The Girl from Foreign: A Memoir by Sadia Shepard (Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, SAILS, CLAMS). Fascinating and intimate, this book is one woman’s search for ancient family secrets that leads to an adventure in far-off lands. Sadia Shepard, the daughter of a white Protestant from Colorado and a Muslim from Pakistan, was shocked to discover that her grandmother was a descendant of the Bene Israel, a tiny Jewish community shipwrecked in India two thousand years ago. After traveling to India to put the pieces of her family’s past together, her quest for identity unlocks a myriad of profound religious and cultural revelations that Shepard gracefully weaves into this touching, eye-opening memoir.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at 7:00 PM @ The Helfand’s

The Collini Case: A Novel by Ferdinand Schirach (Paperback, Hard Cover, SAILS, CLAMS). A bestseller in Germany since its 2011 release—with rights sold in seventeen countries—this book combines the classic courtroom procedural with modern European history in a legal thriller worthy of John Grisham and Scott Turow. Fabrizio Collini is recently retired. He’s a quiet, unassuming man with no indication that he’s capable of hurting anyone. And yet he brutally murders a prominent industrialist in one of Berlin’s most exclusive hotels. Collini ends up in the charge of Caspar Leinen, a rookie defense lawyer eager to launch his career with a not-guilty verdict. Complications soon arise when Collini admits to the murder but refuses to give his motive, much less speak to anyone. As Leinen searches for clues he discovers a personal connection to the victim and unearths a terrible truth at the heart of Germany’s legal system that stretches back to World War II. But how much is he willing to sacrifice to expose the truth?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 7:00 PM @ The Galego’s

Sidonia’s Thread by Hanna Perlstein Marcus (Paperback, Kindle Unlimited, CLAMS). Did you and your parent ever keep a secret that lasted a lifetime? When Hanna Perlstein and her mother Sidonia come to Springfield, Massachusetts, from a displaced persons camp after World War II, they know no one in America. With no family, except each other, they build a world that revolves around Sidonia’s extraordinary talent with a needle and thread to create beautiful garments while Hanna serves as her dutiful model. As Sidonia becomes well-known in western Massachusetts and northern Connecticut for her remarkable sewing talent, she continues to harbor inner secrets about her past, hidden not only from her daughter but from everyone else. Determined to craft a life of pride, self-reliance and perseverance, Sidonia teaches her daughter to “stand up straight” in fashion and in life. Sidonia’s Thread uses sewing metaphors to tell the tale of these two women as though stitched together like a handmade garment. Why did Sidonia keep these significant life secrets, and why was Hanna so afraid to ask about them? When Sidonia moves to elderly housing, Hanna steals some of her mother’s old letters and photographs hoping to find clues to her own paternity, her mother’s reclusive behavior, and her family heritage. Combined with a trip to her mother’s Hungarian homeland and a phone conversation with her father, Hanna’s surprising discoveries inspire a revised view of her life with her mother, replacing her conflicting emotions toward her mother with true reverence.

Thursday, June 9, 2016 at 7:00 PM @ The Helfand’s

The Seven Good Years: A Memoir by Etgar Keret (Hard Cover, Kindle, Audible, Audio CD, SAILS – none yet, CLAMS). A brilliant, life-affirming, and hilarious memoir from a “genius” (The New York Times) and master storyteller. The seven years between the birth of Etgar Keret’s son and the death of his father were good years, though still full of reasons to worry. Lev is born in the midst of a terrorist attack. Etgar’s father gets cancer. The threat of constant war looms over their home and permeates daily life. What emerges from this dark reality is a series of sublimely absurd ruminations on everything, from Etgar’s three-year-old son’s future military service, to the terrorist mind-set behind Angry Birds. There’s Lev’s insistence that he is a cat, releasing him from any human responsibilities or rules. Etgar’s siblings, all very different people, who have chosen radically divergent paths in life, come together after their father’s shivah to experience the grief and love that tie a family together forever. This wise, witty memoir—Etgar’s first nonfiction book published in America, and told in his inimitable style—is full of wonder and life and love, poignant insights, and irrepressible humor.


SAILS—  If you have a library card from one of the southeastern Massachusetts libraries, they are probably a part of SAILS. You can ask your local librarian for assistance or go online, create an account, search for and reserve books for delivery to your local library.

CLAMS— If you live on the Cape you can access information online to search for and reserve books for delivery to your local library.

It is possible to reserve books from outside your regional libraries sharing system. This can sometimes be helpful in the case of large print books or audio books or ebooks which are less frequently available.


On Sunday morning November 15, 2016 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at The Jewish Community House, 133 High Street, Taunton, , all ages study one general topic. Our students of different ages, our teens and all the adults in our community join Jews around the world to learn about Love: Devotion, Desire and Deception.

Available Adult Learning Topics:
**Balancing Love and Obedience: The Curious Case of Nadav and Avihu
**Fathers, Sons and Brothers: A Story of Love and Hate
**Is Love Always Good Enough? Exploring Love in the “Thirteen-Petalled Rose”
**Love and Deception: The Story of Jacob, Rachel and Leah
**Loving and Waiting: A Talmudic Perspective on Relationships
**Loving God and Loving Ourselves
**Loving the “Ger”: Who is the Stranger in Our Midst?

Middle/High School:
The Distance Between Love and Hate: A Story of Brothers

Elementary School:
Playing Favorites: Parents’ Love and Brothers’ Hate

Shalom Kids / PJ Library -Early Childhood:
Explore the Jewish concept of loving parents and grandparents using PJ Library books



Six Saturday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., October 10, 17 and 24 and November 7, 14 and 21. Held at the Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, led by Fr. Rich (The Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch) and Rabbi Heath. Open to all. No course fee. Must purchase own coursebook, approximately $15. Contributions to Our Daily Bread encouraged at close of every evening.

Christians begin their evening with the 5:00 p.m. Holy Communion/Mass service in the chapel at St. Thomas. Others of us will join them after service for coffee hour/social time/collation to become better acquainted as a group before we begin our formal study at 6:30 p.m. Our evening concludes a little before 8:00 p.m. with the Jewish ritual that closes the celebration of Shabbat – Havdalah.

Adults and older teens of any faith background (or none) are welcome to participate at no charge. Additional sections of this series – six weeks with the Old Testament (Tanakh) and six weeks with the New Testament – will be scheduled if there is a demand for them. Here is a synopsis of each of the three programs

What is the Bible? (our six sessions this fall). A broad overview of the Bible, including chapters on how to select a Bible suitable for your needs, how the Bible is organized, how the collection of books that comprise the Bible were chosen, different ways that people approach the text, and what archaeology has to tell us about the text and its stories.

Introducing the Old Testament/Tanakh (six sessions, not yet scheduled). A look at the best-known stories, most influential passages, and unforgettable characters that comprise the Old Testament/Tanakh. What are the primary themes and narratives? What are the characteristics of ancient Hebrew literature and the mindset of people in the ancient Near East? Explore both the writings themselves and the historical contexts that gave them birth.

Introducing the New Testament (six sessions, not yet scheduled). Learn about Jesus as a man, as a Jewish rabbi, and as the Christ of Christian faith. Explore first-century Nazareth, what ancient letter-writing practices can tell us about Paul’s letters and the wild apocalypse of Revelation.

These Bible study materials come from the Massachusetts Bible Society. This series is part of our own effort to promote learning with the “other” in respect and friendship.

FAQ from the www.exploring – “What if I’m not a Christian? Answer: Exploring the Bible: The Dickinson Series was written by a Christian minister and contains information that explains some of the facets of Christian faith. It is an educational resource.  If you are Christian, a Muslim , a Jew, a Buddhist, a Hindu, or if you have no faith at all, your perspective is welcomed.



On the first Saturday of most months, this specially designed family service helps bring contemporary Jewish music alive through both worship and learning.  Everyone gathers in the sanctuary for musical prayer – using our traditional melodies, but expanding them into new territory as well.

As we begin the morning in prayer our students (grades 3 and younger) become a Mini-Minyan, gathering downstairs in the vestry for age-appropriate worship and music. For more details about this Mini-Minyan click here. The Mini-Minyan returns to the sanctuary at the beginning of the Torah service for their full participation and then retires to the vestry for their own Torah learning, movement and music.

This year our Shabbat Rishona learning for older students, teens and adults comes from the Center for Israel Education at Emory University. Our core curriculum for learning is entitled” Israel and the Jewish Nation: Identity Formation, Survival and Modern Zionism”.  Our goal is to convey to our community the complex and changing relationships among the Jewish people, God, the Land of Israel and Torah.

By critically exploring primary sources and analyzing the texts for historical content, learners of all ages can come away with the key concept that “the Land of Israel, from biblical times to the modern era, has always been central to Jewish identity. Judaism’s relationship to the land has evolved over time to help ensure the continuity of the Jewish nation. The land, the bible, and Jewish communal togetherness were core elements of Jewish peoplehood. Conceptually, Jews exercised choice in accepting the belief in one God, and in choosing to maintain their commitments to laws, traditions, and practices. Some Jews, in selecting Zionism as a means of self-expression, chose to recreate a nation-state as a means to secure liberty and freedom. Jews chose to establish and sustain a state to preserve their future, however, diversely they defined it.”

  • October 3 – Jewish National Identity: Biblical Nationhood and Connections to the Land of israel
  • November 7 – Sovereignty in the Land of Israel
  • December 5 – The Crisis of Exile and The Time of an Independent State
  • January 2 – Jewish Life after the Destruction of the Second Temple
  • February 6 – Jews Under Christianity and Islam
  • March 5 – Setting the Stage for Zionism
  • April 2 – Following Rabbi Heath through the Land of Israel 2014 and 2016


On the second Shabbat morning of the month: October 10, November 14, December 12, January 9, February 13, and March 12 – wrapping up on the third Shabbat in April, the 9th, we will learn about Sephardic Jewry in Israel with some diversions into the Sephardic Jewish diaspora to the New World. Our study includes not only Jews from the Iberian Peninsula but also Mizrachim, Jews from Arab and other lands east of Israel, now lumped under the singular title of “Sephardim.” Kiddush on these Shabbat mornings will include food from various Sephardic traditions – then and now.

  • October 10 – The Expulsion from Spain
  • November 14 – The Sephardim in the Ottoman Empire
  • December 12 – The Sephardim and the Zionist Movement
  • January 9 – From the Diaspora to Israel
  • February 13 – The Sephardim in Israel, 1950-1980
  • March 12 – The Sephardim in Israel Today


Our “new beginning” at Rosh Hashanah finds us embarking on a journey into Mussar. As with any journey, before we set out we need a map of the territory we will be exploring. We need to ask: What is Mussar? Mussar is a thousand-year-old Jewish tradition that offers an insightful perspective on life. It is also a discipline for personal change. It provides a distinctively Jewish answer to the sorts of questions any thinking person asks about life.

  • Why do I keep making the same mistakes over and over?
  • Why do I cause pain to myself and others?
  • What steps can I take to bring my life closer to my spiritual potential?
  • Are there templates to learn from the lessons of previous generations?

Mussar is time-tested practical Jewish advice for living. We will focus on cultivating the qualities of our inner life. We will examine a variety of character traits – truth, anger, kindness, gratitude and others – that are the stepping stones on the journey toward holiness. In the words of Rabbi Yechezkel Levenstein (1895-1974), who was the Mussar guide of major yeshivas in Europe and Israel, “A person’s primary mission in this world is to purify and elevate his soul.” That is what Mussar is all about, and this course will guide you into its pathways.

In sermons during the High Holy Days, Rabbi Heath will introduce Mussar – its goals and practices. We will learn about character traits, repairing one’s character traits and working through “Chesbon HaNefesh” – an accounting of the soul.

Beginning in October we will include Mussar learning, usually on the third Shabbat of each month, using the Jewish Pathways class material prepared by Alan Morinis. Material will be available in PDF format in advance as well as online from Jewish Pathways with accompanying videos for further study. More information may be found here.

Services on these mornings will be held downstairs at the synagogue, in the vestry.

  • October 17 – Jewish Pathway #6 – Humility / Anavah
  • November 21 – Jewish Pathway #7 – Gratitude / HaKarat HaTov
  • December 19 – Jewish Pathway #8 – Patience / Savlanut
  • January 16 – Jewish Pathway #9 – Honor / Kavod
  • February 20 – Jewish Pathway #10 – Generosity / Nedivut
  • March 26 – Jewish Pathway #11 – Kindness / Hesed
  • April 23 – Jewish Pathway #12 – Strength / Gevurah
  • June 4 – Jewish Pathway #13 – Tranquility / Menuchat HaNefesh
  • We continue in the fall with Jewish Pathways #14 through #20


In 2015-2016 there three months with five Shabbat mornings. In these months – October, January and April, the last/fifth Shabbat morning finds us experimenting with an alternate format for worship and learning.

We begin in the vestry with reflections on our own study of the Torah portion using the material provided by Rabbi Shefa Gold in her book (and online articles) Torah Journeys. For each portion she provides a blessing, a spiritual challenge and guidance for practice. Visit Rabbi Gold’s website for the Torah Journey for each Parasha.

  • October 31 – Parashat Vayera (click here)
  • January 30 – Parashat Yitro (click here)
  • April 30 – Parashat Re’eh (click here)

Following our Torah reflections we will take about 10 minutes to transition into worship with Jewish meditation, using a different method each Shabbat so as to expand our own practice.

We close with Yoga Shalom, using the DVD provided in the book by Cantor Lisa Levine and led by Jessica Yarman. Yoga Shalom is a unique worship experience that involves music, movement (adjusted to your own abilities) and prayer texts. Service times as usual.  Programming for 4th grade and younger students will be available in the sanctuary on these mornings.