For the past few years, I have spoken at synagogues, churches, libraries, and Jewish community centers, and to Hadassah, Sisterhood, Brotherhood, civic and senior groups. I am pleased that I have been asked to return for at least a second talk a number of times. Congregations, libraries, JCC’s, and groups have been creative in providing honoraria and/or expenses from budget lines, discretionary funds, sponsorships, and special donations. I am happy to discuss with anyone the best way to get my messages out to your community. Thank you for considering the following topics:
“FINDING HOPE AND FAITH IN THE FACE OF DEATH: INSIGHTS OF A RABBI AND MOURNER” (I have spoken about my book—published in April of 2018—at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook; the North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jeff Station; the Connetquot Library in Bohemia; the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stony Brook; Temple Beth Hillel in South Windsor, CT; Temple Sholom in New Milford, CT; Temple B’nai Jehudah in Overland Park, KS; The Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS; the Stony Brook Hillel “University for a Day;” Farmington Valley Jewish Congregation in Simsbury, CT; Congregation Beth Israel’s 75th Annual Clergy Institute in West Hartford, CT; Garden City Jewish Center in Garden City, NY; The Suffolk Y-JCC in Commack; Temple Israel in Riverhead, Setauket Presbyterian Church in Setauket, NY, Larchmont Temple in Larchmont, NY, Congregation Sha’aray Shalom in Hingham, MA)
My book is about giving hope, faith, comfort, and inspiration when a death occurs. Based on my professional experiences throughout my 43-year career as well as my personal losses over a lifetime, the book contains 16 short sermons that can positively affect the transition from mourning to living our lives. My messages are relevant for Jews and Christians alike, and also for those who don’t identify themselves as believers. The book has a 5-star rating on Amazon, was given to the rabbinical ordinees at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, will be on the required reading list for a graduate course at Hebrew Union College in New York, is being sold in a church bookstore, and is on the shelves of several Temple libraries and public libraries. It is also the subject of my new blog for www.SacredJewishAging.com.
“JUDAISM AND THE AFTERLIFE” (Stony Brook Hillel “University for a Day;” Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, North Shore Reform Synagogue in Mattituck)
In this speech, I trace the development of Jewish beliefs about the afterlife in Biblical times, the Rabbinic era, the Medieval period, the Enlightenment, and Modern-Day Judaism. It answers the many questions Jews have about life after death and the questions Christians ask Jews about what we believe.
“WHAT REFORM JUDAISM AND ORTHODOX MYSTICISM HAVE IN COMMON” (Temple Beth El in Huntington, Suffolk Y-JCC in Commack, The Friedberg JCC in Oceanside)
Believing that you can make a positive difference in the world every day of your life is the most important message taught by Orthodox Mysticism and Reform Judaism. In this talk, I explore how both movements opposed what they saw as the passive approach of Orthodoxy. And, I teach how two extreme viewpoints met in the middle to empower individual Jews to practice “Tikkun Olam” (Repair of the World), and why making the world a better place should be a priority in our lives now.
“WHY JEWS DON’T BELIEVE IN JESUS AND WHAT WE DO BELIEVE” (Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, Temple Beth El in Huntington, the Friedberg JCC in Oceanside)
Judaism differs with Christianity about the role of Jesus, agrees about the importance of a Messiah or Messianic Age, and has much in common with Christianity. This course presents the theories of scholars and historians and various Biblical texts to clarify Judaism’s beliefs.
- Was Jesus the Son of God, a Prophet, a Rabbi, a Revolutionary, a Tzaddik, a Pharisee, or the Messiah?
- Jewish Beliefs about the Messiah and the Messianic Age
- What Beliefs Do Judaism and Christianity Share?
“HOW WOMEN ARE TREATED IN THE HEBREW BIBLE—OUR FOUR FOREMOTHERS: SARAH, REBEKAH, LEAH, AND RACHEL” (Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook; being taught at OLLI Program at Stony Brook University; Temple Beth El in Huntington)
The Hebrew Bible, edited at the end of the First Century of the Common Era, was the product of a patriarchal society and was probably written by men. Although the Four Matriarchs are sometimes overshadowed by the Three Patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—each one is a fascinating person and has her own distinctive story. This topic can be condensed to one presentation if necessary.
- “The Four Foremothers—Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, and Rachel (While Standing on One Foot!)
- How Women Are Treated in the Hebrew Bible and in Prayers
- The Texts about Sarah (The Victim)
- The Midrash about Sarah
- The Texts about Rebekah (The Initiator)
- The MIdrash about Rebekah
- The Texts about Leah (The Mother) and Rachel (The Beauty)
- The Midrash about Leah and Rachel
- The Prominence of Rachel in Jewish Tradition
- The Red Tent by Anita Diamant—A Modern Midrash
“DAVID: FROM SHEPHERD BOY TO KING TO MESSIAH ANCESTOR” (twice in OLLI Program at Stony Brook University; “King-Size Adultery—the Bathsheba Story” at Temple Beth Torah in Overland Park, KS; “Why David Is Still Important,” “King-Size Adultery,” “David as the Ancestor of the Messiah,” “David in Films and on TV”—The Friedberg JCC in Oceanside, NY; “David as the Ancestor of the Messiah”—St. Hugh’s Church in Huntington Station, NY)
Combining text study and discussion as we trace David from his humble beginnings to his eternal greatness, this can be done as a series, multi-session course, or as individual classes or speeches.
- Why David Is Still Important 3,000 Years After He Lived
- From Shepherd Boy to National Hero
- His Enemy Saul, His Friend Jonathan, and His Wife Michal
- Not a “Family Guy”—David’s Wives and Children
- King-Size Adultery: The Bathsheba Story
- Was David A Great King?
- David in Music and Art
- David in Literature, Films, and Television
- David the Psalmist and the Subject of Prayers
- David as the Ancestor of the Messiah
“‘TURN, TURN, TURN’: WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES” (Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook; twice at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute [OLLI] Program at Stony Brook University; Clergy Institute at Congregation Beth Israel in Hartford, CT)
The Book of Ecclesiastes is profound and meaningful as we will discover through selected text study, and its messages about wisdom, values, and perspective can be understood by anyone of any age.
THE AMERICAN JEWISH EXPERIENCE:
“THREE REASONS WHY ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS THE BEST PRESIDENT FOR AMERICAN JEWS” (Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook; Jewish Center of the Moriches; Temple Beth El in Huntington; Temple Israel in Riverhead; Hadassah Sea-Port Chapter; and the Friedberg JCC in Oceanside))
Lincoln promoted and protected the rights of Jews at a time when their status in America was just beginning to rise. This talk is based on books written by historians Gary Zola and Jonathan Sarna, and features primary documents from that era.
“TEN TIPS FOR JEWISH PARENTING AND GRAND-PARENTING” (Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook; Temple Beth El in Huntington; Farmington Valley Jewish Center in Simsbury, CT)
This presentation emphasizes the ways in which adults can set an example of Jewish commitment and involvement for their children and/or grandchildren by how they live, what they do, and what they say. There is a lot of audience participation involved, and I adapt to the location and nature of the audience.
“BOB DYLAN’S ‘JEWISH’ MUSIC” (Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook; Temple Beth El in Huntington; The Suffolk Y-JCC in Commack; Temple Israel of Riverhead; The Jewish Center of the Moriches; Temple Beth Hillel in South Windsor, CT; The Friedberg JCC in Oceanside; Congregation Gates of Heaven in Schenectady; Temple Shir Shalom in Ridgefield, CT; Meadowbrook Women’s Initiative, Massapequa; and The Marlene Meyerson JCC in Manhattan)
Based on Seth Rogovoy’s Bob Dylan; Prophet, Mystic, Poet and other resources, this course involves listening to and discussing some of Dylan’s lyrics that contain Biblical and Jewish references. Included are well-known songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “Forever Young,” “It’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” and “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” I also talk about his Jewish upbringing and knowledge of his heritage as documented by Rogovoy and other authors. There is also a “Part Two” of this topic that includes several other songs with Biblical and Jewish references.
“JEWS IN BASEBALL: ON THE FIELD AND OFF THE FIELD”
(Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook; Temple Israel of Riverhead)
Sandy Koufax, Hank Greenberg, and Ryan Braun are among the names that come to mind immediately for Jewish fans of Major League Baseball. But there are and were other players, managers, coaches, league executives, and club executives whose Jewish heritage is or was part of their identity. This presentation is a source of pride, nostalgia, and a number of surprises.
(NEW) “THE ‘JEW COUP’ AND OTHER ANTI-SEMITIC CLAIMS AND ACTIONS—WHAT WE CAN DO AND WHAT WE SHOULD DO”
The disproportionate involvement of Jews in the congressional impeachment inquiry may be a reason for pride among Jews, but it is also a reason for conspiracy theories among anti-Semites. The rise of hate speech, physical attacks, and vandalism in our country can cause us to give in to despair or to fight back. Which path will we choose?
(NEW) “THE UNEASY ‘MARRIAGE’ OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND POLITICS” (North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station)
As Jews, we are familiar with consulting our religious sources for guidance on modern issues such as abortion, homosexuality, immigration, and Israel. But so are those on the Religious Right, and our values put us in conflict with them. Is there something wrong with approaching such issues based on our religious beliefs and values? How do we avoid being drowned out by those who have larger numbers and louder voices?
“GROWING OLDER GRACEFULLY” (Hadassah Sea-Port Chapter)
This presentation draws on Jewish texts and modern psychology to emphasize how a positive approach to growing older can affect the daily quality of our lives. We are in control of how we react to tragedy, how we establish priorities, and how we can learn to forgive ourselves and others with the power of chesed—true love and grace. We do not have to be the “victims” of the aging process, and we can be the creators of the life ahead of us.
“WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY HEART ATTACK: PRACTICAL LESSONS FOR EVERYDAY LIFE” (Published in the Journal of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1997)
This talk is intended to inform and inspire people about how to deal with stress and how Judaism encourages us to believe and do to enhance the quality and quantity of our days and years.
HIGH HOLY DAYS:
“GUILT!!! WHY DO WE ACCEPT IT? WHY DO WE IMPOSE IT? HOW CAN WE HANDLE IT?” (Yom Kippur Afternoon Discussion at Temple Isaiah)
“Jewish Guilt” is an overblown, mischaracterized cultural phenomenon. “True” Jewish Guilt dates back to the Torah, but there is an inherent commitment to forgiveness. There is good guilt and bad guilt, and it can keep us on the right path of behavior or convince us that we are bad people not worthy of being forgiven. It is up to us to decide if we have no choice but to feel guilty, if we have to use it to get other people to do what we want, and if we can turn it from a liability into an asset.
“DAILY LIFE-LESSONS FROM THE BRILLIANCE OF YOM KIPPUR: SIN AND REPENTANCE, APOLOGIZING AND FORGIVENESS, ATONEMENT AND RECONCILIATION” (Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook, Hadassah SeaPort Chapter, Temple Israel in Riverhead)
Our Yom Kippur liturgy is reinforced by modern psychology in encouraging behavior that can better our lives.
- Turning Wrong into Right: Why Sin is Normal
- I “Apple-gize”: Why “Sorry” Seems to be the Hardest Word
- Letting Go of Your Past and Taking Control of Your Future: Why Forgiveness is Good for You
- Self-Love is not Selfish: Why Atonement and Reconciliation Are So Empowering
“THE ‘AWESOMENESS’ AND ‘SCARINESS’ OF THE HIGH HOLY DAYS” (Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook)
The High Holy Days are called “Yamim Noraim” in Hebrew. The second word can mean “awesome” or “scary.” In this presentation, we will take a look at the prayers that help us to feel awesome and the ones that come across as scary. And, we will share our feelings about whether or not we get a spiritual “high” from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.