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Keepin' It Kosher 

11/16/2018 10:46:47 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

"People of the Book" is a nickname given to, and later embraced by, the Jewish people. It describes our strict adherence to the written Torah and the oral tradition. Consequently, we take seriously our responsibility to preserve the integrity of the the original message, as much as possible. Only a Torah that is considered "kosher" may be read publicly in the synagogue. A kosher scroll is made using parchment, nerves...Read more...

Concert Against Hate 

11/09/2018 01:53:38 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Last night, I attended the ADL Concert Against Hate, at the Kennedy Center. The event honored seven brave individuals who have overcome hate and spread goodwill, in remarkable ways. They did so despite unthinkable personal circumstances, which might otherwise result in further hate and conflict. Instead, they have become inspiring stories of love conquering hate. Among them were:

Rais Bhuiyan, an American Muslim, who was shot by a...Read more...

The Taming of Mt. Kilimanjaro and Frank Solomon

11/05/2018 07:02:48 PM


Frank Solomon

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain on the African continent and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. It contains almost every kind of ecological system on earth: cultivated land, rain forest, heath, moorland, alpine desert and an arctic summit. At a colossal 19,341 feet, Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the largest volcanoes to ever break through the earth’s crust. Hemingway made the mountain a...Read more...

Solidarity Shabbat  #ShowUpForShabbat 

11/02/2018 10:51:18 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Dear Friends,

This Shabbat we are responding to the worst act of anti-Semitism in North American history with our greatest show of solidarity. A continental Solidarity Shabbat with the Jewish community of Pittsburgh. At synagogues, community centers and homes across North America, we will gather together in prayer and unity. We are one people, and we won’t be intimidated in our places of...Read more...

Security Update, Community Vigil, Pastoral Support

10/27/2018 10:30:47 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

We are in shock over the horrific incident that unfolded during Shabbat services in Pennsylvania this morning, resulting in many lost lives, shattered families, and traumatized communities. Our condolences and prayers go out to the members of the Tree of Life synagogue and the community of Pittsburgh - they and we should know of no further tragedies.

What We Are Doing To Ensure Your Safety

We are in constant...


10/26/2018 10:58:50 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

In the opening verses of Parashat Vayeira, read this week, we witness various acts of hesed, kindness toward fellow human beings.  Just as Abraham is recovering from his circumcision, Hashem Himself comes to pay a visit.  The Talmud describes this as an action bikkur holim, the jewish value of visiting a person to offer comfort when they are not well (Sota 14a).  The Talmud concludes that just as Hashem visited Abraham after...Read more...

Choosing Righteousness

10/12/2018 10:45:16 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

There is a popular Yiddish saying with similar versions in many languages, Der mench tracht un Got lacht, which translates to “Man plans and God laughs." I have never much cared for that adage because it minimizes the burden of responsibility on people to prevail despite unforeseen and sometimes negative or unfair conditions. I don't believe we must always be victims of our circumstances. We do have choices...Read more...

The Hardest Word

09/14/2018 03:57:58 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Every night, before bed, Mara and I read a book together and talk about our day. It is my most treasured time with my daughter, since we are both rushed in the mornings and busy most days. I suspect she enjoys it too because, during this time, she is candid and inquisitive. We sometimes use the stories to open discussions and share our feelings. My favorite book to read with her, this time of year, is The Hardest Word, illustrated...Read more...

Humble Pie Recipe

09/07/2018 10:30:12 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

In recent days, we have been blasting the shofar each morning, offering special Selichot prayers, preparing our tastiest recipes, and sending new years salutations. These, and other rituals, serve to communicate that Rosh Hashanah is coming - the most holy days of the year are upon us - and we have work to do. 

We acknowledge that it takes effort and time to repair relationships and correct bad habits. None of it can be...Read more...

The Month of Elul

08/24/2018 09:24:17 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

This month of Elul is spent preparing for the upcoming new year. Unlike the secular new year which is commonly welcomed with lavish parties and overindulgence, the Jewish method of marking the head of the year is much more reflective and personal. It is not about whom we are kissing at the moment the ball drops in Times Square. It is about taking steps to implement changes in our lives, to make next year better than the last. For that,...Read more...

Shabbat Shalom E-Lites Parashat Vaetchanan 5778

07/27/2018 08:01:40 AM


First Haftarah of Consolation (Shabbat Nachamu)
by Jan Uhrbach, Director of the Center for Spiritual Arts, JTS

This special haftarah, which begins n

Shabbat Hazon, Devarim, Tisha B'Av, Tu B'Av 5778

07/20/2018 12:35:46 PM


The Comfort of DisComfort
by Abigail Leibowitz
Featured in this week's WJW!

If you Google “Jamaica images” you get sparkling beaches, white sRead more...

In Pursuit of Peace

07/06/2018 02:31:20 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

A kosher Torah must be written and maintained with great care. If even one letter is missing or so much as blemished to the point that the meaning of the word has changed, the Torah scroll is not considered kosher for use in a religious service. Yet, in a tiny number of instances, oral tradition conveys small but significant deviations in the writing of a Torah scroll. We find one example of this phenomenon at the beginning of this week’s...Read more...

06/08/2018 12:06:16 PM


Have you ever wondered why a quorum for a minyan consists of 10? Why not 9 or 11? After all, it only took 6 teammates on the ice last night to win the Stanley Cup.

The answer lies in this week’s Torah reading. Each of the 12 tribes selected a chief to perform reconnaissance on the Land of Israel and its inhabitants, ahead of their impending invasion. 2 spies, Caleb and Joshua, reported that the land was “very very good.”...Read more...

Chag Hasemicha

06/01/2018 10:04:53 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

This week, I was very fortunate to attend a Chag Hasemicha, a rabbinical ordination ceremony for a dear friend and study partner, Rabbi Gerry Gilstrop (pictured right).

The event took place in Baltimore at the beautiful Bnai Israel Synagogue. My...Read more...

The Torah reading this week presents a mathematical inconsistency that  seems illogical.  In describing the blessings that will be showered upon those who follow God's laws, the Torah describes the following scenarios

05/11/2018 01:05:32 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

The Torah reading this week presents a mathematical inconsistency that seems illogical. In describing the blessings that will be showered upon those who follow God's laws, the Torah describes the following scenarios: "Five of you will pursue a hundred, and a hundred of you will pursue ten thousand." (Lev. 26:8)

Even middle school math students will notice that if five Jews can chase off one hundred enemies, then one hundred...Read more...

Shabbat Shalom! Brandriss Scholar-in-Residence Weekend 

05/04/2018 10:11:02 AM


Rabbi Steve Suson

This past Tuesday, we counted the 33rd day of the Omer, leading up to the Festival of Shavuot. Lag B’Omer is marked by parties, weddings, BBQs and celebration and is significant because of an incident that occurred early in the 2nd Century.

the Talmud teaches that during the few weeks after Passover, all 24,000 students of the great sage, Rabbi Akiva, died in a plague. A massive blow to the continuity of Torah scholarship, it is...Read more...

Passover 5778

04/02/2018 10:22:55 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Watch my video blog here! Rabbi Suson

Shabbat HaGadol

03/23/2018 12:38:21 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

This Shabbat goes by a special name, Shabbat Hagadol, and precedes the Festial of Passover. It reminds us to go through our checklist to make sure our preparations are complete. Here is some useful information and links to help you out. Many helpful links can be found at . 

Shabbat Zachor

02/23/2018 11:12:50 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

This Shabbat goes by a special name: Shabbat Zachor - the Sabbath of Remembrance. In addition to the regularly scheduled Torah portion of Tetzaveh in the book of Exodus, we take out an additional Torah and read a special selection from Parashat Ki Teitzei in the book of Deuteronomy. This special reading contains the commandment to "remember" what Amalek did to the Children of Israel as we travelled out of Egypt...Read more...

The More You Give, the More You  Get

02/16/2018 11:03:57 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Mishenichnas Adar Marbin B'simcha
"When Adar comes, we increase our happiness!" (Taanit 29a)

Today, we celebrate Rosh Chodesh and joyously welcome the Hebrew month of Adar. When this time comes around, the Talmud instructs us to increase our happiness level. In fact, this is one of the few seasons that we are actually commanded to be in a positive, even happy, mood. Although it seems strange that our tradition...Read more...


02/08/2018 09:00:07 AM


Frank Solomon

Did you know the U.S. government’s first official counterterrorism office was created in response to an attack on Israelis? In fact, many of the components of the U.S. responses to terrorism were prompted by developments affecting Israel.

During his Shabbat morning guest lecture on Jan. 27, Michael Kraft, a 19-year veteran of the U.S. State Department’s counterterrorism office, shared these and many other insights about about...Read more...

Get Involved! 

02/02/2018 11:17:04 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

There is a Midrash, a rabbinic parable, taught on this week's Torah portion, about the place God chose to give the tablets containing the 10 Commandments. All the mountains assembled before God and explained why they should be the chosen place for God to reveal the Torah. The tall mountains contended that they are most deserving because of their height. The beautiful ones argued that their elegance qualifies them. Mount Sinai stood in the...Read more...

Of Darkness and Light

01/19/2018 09:19:37 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

The first acts of God, as described in the opening verses of the Torah, were to create light and to separate the light from the darkness.  Each Saturday night, when darkness falls and Shabbat ebbs away, we light an havdallah candle and praise God for distinguishing between light and dark.

Even in the parlance of our times, when one reveals information or puts a matter into perspective, we say they “shed light” on it, in...Read more...

A Special Shabbat Message From Rabbi Suson

01/12/2018 09:45:56 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

In this week’s Torah portion, the Exodus story is heating up. After a failed negotiation with Pharaoh, God instructs Moses to return to the palace with the demand, ”let my people go.” However, before Moses carries out this command, the Torah interrupts with a puzzling list of genealogies, concluding with Moses and Aaron.

Rashi explains the reason for the mention of their ancestry is to establish that the brothers descend from...Read more...

Blessing the Children

12/29/2017 09:11:11 AM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Before I became a parent, someone explained to me that I could not possibly understand love. Since our daughter was born, I had many conversations with Rachel z”l, questioning whether Mara really is the most beautiful and amazing child in the world or if it is only because we are her parents that we think so. A parent's love for a child is unmatched by any other force in nature and children often thrive when given sufficient support,...Read more...

Sen. Cardin Urges Jews to Speak Up Against Bias and Injustice

12/17/2017 08:10:16 PM


Frank Solomon

To help repair the world is in the DNA of Jews, according to U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin.   "Our upbringing and culture teach us to be concerned about the rest of human beings, to help correct the wrong, and to help repair the world," Maryland's senior senator said on Hanukah Shabbat at Har Tzeon Agudath-Achim. "This is our Jewish value. This is in our DNA as a people."   "We must not be afraid of speaking up when we see evil things....Read more...

Eight  are the Days Before a Bris

12/15/2017 12:10:29 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Hanukkah is the only holiday that lasts 8 days, inside and outside of Israel. Even the holiday of Shemini Atzeret, we are taught, is considered a holiday unto itself and not the eighth day of Sukkoth. Our tradition is replete with explanations for why Hanukkah lasts eight days and what the celebration is all about.

Some say we celebrate the miracle of Rabim b’yad me’atim - “many given over to the few,” recalling the...Read more...

A World View Shaped from a Small Town Jewish Perspective

12/08/2017 02:11:22 PM


Daniel S. Mariaschin, B'nai Brith Executive VP & HTAA Past President

A World View Shaped from a Small Town Jewish Perspective
by Daniel S. Mariaschin, B'nai Brith Executive VP & HTAA Past President

In 1955, just before I entered the first grade, we moved from Englewood, New Jersey, to Swanzey, New...Read more...

Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov

11/24/2017 04:07:58 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

By now, your belly is probably full of hodu (= turkey) and your heart is filled with hodaya (= prayers of thanksgiving) at the delicious meal and the great company that you shared yesterday. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for two reasons. It is the only holiday that, as a rabbi, even I get the day off. But most importantly, Thanksgiving is like every American standing up and reciting the Shehecheyanu (prayer of thanksgiving)...Read more...

Tue, March 31 2020 6 Nisan 5780