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A Preventable Death? Torah reading Parashat Shemini

04/17/2020 02:52:39 PM


Shamai Leibowitz

Let the Light In - Parashat Noach 5780

11/01/2019 01:14:25 PM


Rabbi Suson

Yom Kippur 5780

10/08/2019 11:38:21 AM


Rabbi Suson

The Kitchener Camp: When Britain Welcomed 4,000 German Jews

07/02/2019 12:42:53 PM


Linda Topping Streitfeld

Irmgard Brill was pregnant with her first child, and she was terrified. Nazis had burned down the synagogue, violence reigned in the streets, and she and her husband Walter had been forced to hide in the home of a friend. After years of increasing abuse and discrimination against Jews in Germany, this horrific night focused their dilemma. Irmgard must have wondered if they should stay in their hometown of Munich, Germany. And if not, how could they manage to get out?

Nov. 9, 1938 became known as Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when Nazis looted and destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses across the country. Dozens of Jews were killed, and thousands of Jewish men were arrested and imprisoned.

A short time later, Nazi police came for Walter Brill. He was sent to Dachau, one of Hitler’s German internment camps, where prisoners were starved, humiliated, tortured and literally worked to death.

This story might have ended there, one more tragedy among the 6 million, but for an extraordinary effort that was taking shape across the English Channel. A resourceful and well-connected group was working feverishly to create a safe space near the town of Sandwich, England, for Jewish men who were at risk from the Nazi regime — men like Walter.

The fascinating tale of the Kitchener Camp has remained almost unknown for eight decades.

But now, another resourceful group has revived its memory and engaged dozens of descendants. In cluttered attics, dusty boxes and German postcards, “Kitchener kids” are finding their own connections to a spare collection of wooden huts near the southeast coast of England, where, in less than two years, 4,000 men were rescued.

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Rabbi and Kids Prepare for Passover Seder

04/19/2019 11:01:58 AM


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 legend in his book “The Snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro.” In Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro is known as the House of God.

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, ten people from various parts of the world, under the auspices of Shalva, the Center for Disabled Children in Jerusalem, attempted to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. The group comprised four Americans; four Israelis (Two women had made aliyah from New York; one woman made aliyah from Toronto; and one man made aliyah from South Africa); one Briton, and one Australian.

Among the four Americans was Kemp Mill resident Frank Solomon, the first member to sign up for Shalva’s third Mt. Kilimanjaro climb in 15 years.

Accompanied by a British physician, the lead guide and more than 50 porters and sherpas, the group began at midnight, climbing the steep slopes to Stella Point at 18,975 feet. The climb turned out to be more tumultuous and dangerous than all the climbs the veteran Tanzanian tour guide, nicknamed A.J., could recall. The previous evening, A.J. had predicted snow and strong wind. By the time the group started, a blizzard descended, with gale-force wind whipping up to 75 miles per hour. The climbers found it difficult to balance themselves, let alone stand straight.

The climbers inched their way up on the rocky slope. They were battered by icy sleet and thunderous wind and tripping over frozen rocks. The muddy trail became solid, intractable ice blocks. Temperature was 10 degrees below zero Celsius. The wind-chill factor plunged to minus 25 degrees. At that attitude, the oxygen level was half the amount at sea level. Exhaustion hit fast with each step. Still, no one decided to pull out. Not yet.


The summit challenge was the accumulation of 10 days of trekking and climbing put together by London-based Charity Challenge, whose motto is “Never a Backward Step.” Charity Challenge runs charitable outdoor events all over the world. It typically lists these events as extreme in the sports world. The Mt. Kilimanjaro challenge is at the top of the “extreme” in physical endurance and climbing difficulty.

Shalva, which has offices in London and New York, had conducted two climbs before, the first drawing more than 50 climbers, and the second more than 25. Solomon was the first one to sign up for the third climb challenge, in 2017, months before Shalva had finalized its plans on the climb.

Solomon had visited Shalva in Jerusalem in early 2017. He was impressed by the scope and depth of Shalva’s work with disabled children in Israel regardless of their national, ethnic and religious background. He decided to raise the awareness of the need to bring disabled children and their families into the normal functioning society. 

Meanwhile, he had heard about the story of Dr. Amram Cohen, a pediatric surgeon from the D.C. area who had made aliyah and founded the Save a Child’s Heart in Israel. Save a Child’s Heart is a humanitarian organization with a mission to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease and who cannot get adequate medical care in their home countries. Dr. Cohen grew up at Har Tzeon Agudath Achim in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Dr. Cohen died on August 16, 2001, while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. He was 47. He still has family living in the Kemp Mill area. In April 2018, the UN Population Fund presented its 2018 Population Award to Save a Child’s Heart. To date, SACH has saved the lives of more than 4,500 children with congenital heart defects.

Solomon decided to finish Dr. Cohen’s climb while helping Shalva.

The Kilimanjaro summit challenge at first also drew a British rabbi, his wife, an American woman who had made aliyah, and another British physician. The first three had to withdraw due to personal reasons. The physician did not make the climb after he raised the minimum donation of the equivalent of $10,000. The group eventually mushroomed 12 members. One, a man from New York who had raised the equivalent of $23,000—the most raised by anyone within the group—did not get clearance from his physician at the last minute to join the climb. His college-age daughter, however, went ahead with the group. With the absence of the British physician and the New Yorker, the actual number of climbers stood at 10 the day of the climb, plus the Charity Challenge-sent British physician as a staff member.

Shalva hired Charity Challenge to take on the climb’s planning and logistics because Charity Challenge had done the previous two summit challenges for the Israeli charity. Due to the Jewish nature of the group membership, Shalva sought out the challenge operator that is knowledgeable about kashrut diet law and Shabbat requirements. Charity Challenge had managed the previous two climbs, and used local operator Tanzanian Travel Company under the tour guide of A.J. 

Both of the two previous challenges ran daily minyans and had certified kosher food and cooking utensils. Both groups rested on Shabbat, complete with an eruv on the mountain. This time the third group had the same vegetarian food and Shabbat regimen. Because there were only six men and four women, there was no daily minyan. Instead, individual members davened on their own each day.

The climbers flew into Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday morning, Oct. 15, from various parts of the world and then onto into Arusha, Tanzania, a 3-hour drive from Arusha, the town closest to Mt. Kilimanjaro. They spent the first night at the Arusha Planet Lodge, another 2.5-hour drive from the gate to Mt. Kilimanjaro, meeting one another and A.J. and checking their equipment.

Supported by a company of 56 drivers, chef, porters and assistants and accompanied by the Charity Challenge physician, Dr. Ross, the group began its journey on Tuesday morning, Oct. 16, trekking 7 to 12 hours a day uphill to reach the next base camp. The group climbed to higher ground each day before descending to lower altitude to camp to acclimatize to the thinning oxygen supply. The scene changed from rainforest or Moorland to Alpine as they moved along. The temperature plunged as the group ascended. Each night the group arrived at a designated camp site, where many other groups from around the world had already camped out, all with the same goal of taking on the summit. Most of the climbers shared a tent with another. The days were hot. The nights were frigid. The climbers woke up each morning to find their tents' ground cover sheets soaking wet and their tents covered with ice.

Throughout the trek, Solomon couldn’t help noticing the discrepancy between the all-white climbing group of 11 and the all-black support crew of nearly 60. As each of these guides and sherpas raced past the climbers with 33 pounds of supply, tents, chairs, cooking utensils, food and water, he noticed that most of the support staff lacked basic equipment, warm clothing, and hiking shoes. The picture of porters without gloves and proper hiking boots trudging up the mountain against the backdrop of a nation and a continent that seemed forgotten by the modern world reminded him of E.M. Forster’s “A Passage to India.”

Before sunset on Friday, Oct. 19, the group arrived at the mountain’s most spectacular spot, the Barranco Wall, a cliff dropping hundreds of feet to that day’s base camp with views over Mount Meru and the expansive valleys below. Shabbat began at this mountain camp site. Porters set up an eruv around the group’s tents before the climbers arrived. Lights were mounted outside the two make-shift toilets so that none of the climbers had to switch on electricity to use the facilities. That evening the group had a kabbalat Shabbat service at 12,870 feet. They spent the next day resting within the eruv. The group sang Havadallah and danced outside under a clear sky above the clouds. The porters and sherpas joined the dance.

The next day, the group summed up all its energy and scaled up the steep Barranco Wall, a surge of more than 600 feet. They continued their ascent for two more days, ending at 15,180 feet at Barafu Ridge toward the ice fields before the summit night.


The group ascended amid the 75-mile gale-force wind, pitch darkness, minus 25 degree Celsius temperature, and half of the amount of oxygen available at sea level. Ice hardened their clothes. Sleet battered them with blinding whiteness. The decreasing oxygen supply made it impossible to move fast without great exhaustion. One misstep could plunge a climber to death nearly 20,000 feet down the cliff. Two women talked about halting their climb and being carried downhill. Along the way, no fewer than 12 climbers—11 women and one man—were escorted down by a guide each because they could not continue to climb.

The ascent to Stella Point, one of the three summit points, at 18,975 feet was supposed to take 6 to 7 hours. It took 8 hours for the group to reach that point. Each time someone lost balance or was falling backward, a porter behind would pop him or her up. After several hours and midway toward the summit, the group split into several different sections, each scaling for the best spot to land the next step so as not to fall into the dark abyss below. Icicles and sleet covered their clothing, effectively turning each person into a moving ice bar in slow motion. 

Blinded by the snow and caked in icicles, Solomon counted his average speed: one step for 12 seconds. Each breath became harder. Each step pushed the edge of his physical and psychological limits. In contrast, he noticed the strength and quiet resilience of the porters and sherpas in front and behind him. The contrast between the climbers' modern, layered winter clothes and the tattered grab of their porters did not escape him. Many of them did not use headlamp or gloves. They relied on the moonlight to see. The moon was nowhere to be seen.

After about two hours, Solomon became so exhausted that he could not stand up. For about 20 minutes, he crawled uphill on his frozen gloves and boots like a giant lizard moving at a snail’s pace. His sweat froze underneath his thermal underwear.  The blinding whiteness and howling wind could have blown a 2-ton boulder down his path. Sleet hit his face like bullets. His face and eyelashes turned into ice.

The chill and wind storm continued without a break. The expected breath-taking sunrise didn’t arrive at 5:30 a.m. Eventually, the climbers arrived at the summit in groups of two or three at Stella Point at different times. It took another hour to reach Uhuru Point at 19,453 feet, a mere 400 feet higher than Stella Point. Solomon was the last one to reach Stella Point. He took 1.5 hours to reach Uhuru. 

The summit was too cold for anyone to stay for more than a few minutes. By the time Solomon reached Uhuru Point, the rest of the group had already begun their 3-hour descent to the Barafu Ridge base camp. For some unknown reason, Solomon was among the first ones to get back to the base camp even though he had a 2-hour delay in reaching the summit. 

After a quick lunch, the group took three hours to descend to Millennium camp, at 12,375 feet, to gain more oxygen for the night. Altogether, the summit day took 15 hours to go up and down. The next day, the group trekked downhill for 8 hours to the Mweka Gate.  Two men from the group had to be evacuated by ambulance at the last stretch of the 8-hour descent, where the ambulance raced up the one-lane, muddy path toward Kweka Gate. After lunch at a village shop, drivers picked up the climbers and took them back to the lodge in Arusha to spend the night. All the climbers, with the exception of the physician, went on a safari in the morning before flying back home.

As of Oct. 28, the 12 members (10 went on the climb) of the group had raised $139,220 for Shalva.  Solomon was grateful for the amount of $10,000-plus he raised from the Kemp Mill community—KMS, Maayan Chaddash, Silver Spring Chabbad, Young Israel Emunah, Har Tzeon Agudath Achim, Tifereth Israel and Tikvat Israel, neighbors and friends. If you wish to sponsor Kemp Mill resident Frank Solomon, please click on this link:

Climb 1: Frank Solomon, far right. Dr. Ross, the Charity Challenge physician, is the third on the left in the blue T shirt.
Climb 2: at the Starting Gate before the climb. Solomon is on the far left.
Climb 3: Members of the group and porters caked in ice before the Uhuru point at the summit
Climb 4: Summit night, half way up the hill in pitch darkness, below freezing temperature and gale-force wind. All clothes and sweat froze.
Climb 5: At Karanka Camp, one of the camps along the trek. Solomon is on the far right.
Climb 6: Solomon scaling the Baranco Wall, a cliff-like dropping 600 feet.
Climb 7: Slow climb up the summit. Solomon with green day pack and second from the last.
Unamed picture DSCF4556: Solomon prays for the late Dr. Amram Cohen, founder of Save a Child's Heart, against the backdrop of the snow-capped Mt. Kilimanjaro.

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

07/20/2018 12:35:46 PM


Kol Ish in Concert

05/15/2018 03:18:19 AM


Passover 5778

04/02/2018 10:22:55 PM


Rabbi Steven Suson

Kol Ish Live in Concert - Beatbox

02/08/2018 11:45:49 PM



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 American cooperation with Israel and other allies in combating terrorism. Kraft spoke at Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim in Silver Spring, Maryland.

In 1972, Palestinian terrorists kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. This attack prompted the U.S. to establish a formalized counterterrorism effort. “In reaction to the killings and the botched German rescue operation, President Nixon established the first U.S. government interagency counterterrorism organization,” Kraft said. That effort led to the creation of the Office for Combating Terrorism, which is now known as the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, in the State Department.

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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. There are many bad things that are happening around us, it's our responsibility to speak up against evil and bad things." Cardin was particularly vocal about human rights violations across the world and vowed that he would always be on the forefront condemning human rights abuse.
The senator quoted Elie Wiesel in emphasizing the importance of not be silent when we see injustice. "Elie Wiesel understood the terrible power of silence, the danger of not speaking out against evil," Cardin said.
Cardin was the Shabbat scholar at the Traditional synagogue on University Boulevard in Silver Spring, Maryland. He and his wife, Myrna, participated in the entire Shabbat service with about 150 members of the congregation on Dec. 16. The senator gave a short speech, and took part in a lengthy Q&A session, moderated by the synagogue's Rabbi Steven Suson. 
In his speech, Cardin, the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, affirmed the close relationship between the United States and Israel. He urged both the Jewish community and those who support Israel not to be distracted by other issues agitated by both the ultra-right and the ultra-left. "We have to be singularly focused on keeping the close relationship between the United States and the state of Israel. For we know that the United States is the only friend Israel can count on ultimately on in the world."
Rabbi Suson asked questions on the U.S.-Iran nuclear treaty that the Obama administration implemented, the recent U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and the rising anti-Semitism in the United States and the world. He then fielded questions from high school and college students as well as members of the congregation. Many congregants asked questions about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and why Israel seems to be doing a poor job in public relations on the world stage.
Iran nuclear treaty: Cardin said that despite the fact that he voted against the treaty, he would not support backing out of the treaty at this time. He said, however, he would want to make sure that everything Iran does is "verifiable." "If we walk away from the treaty, we will lost our leverage," he said. "And Iran will most likely continue to develop its nuclear capability and, in a few years, have nuclear weapons without our being able to check on the.."
Recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital: Cardin said that Jerusalem "is the capital of Israel." "It has been for decades. So what is new here?" The senator, however, said the Trump administration did not use the occasion to advance the peace efforts. "It would have been much better had the administration used this opportunity to move the peace negotiations forward, but it didn't."
The BDS movement: Cardin said the movement has been co-opted by anti-Semitic movements with anti-Israeli activities. "Instead of being a forum for discussion the Middle East process, it has been turned into an anti-Israeli movement," Cardin said. "There is no place for anti-Semitism anywhere. We must not allow people to turn international events into anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli activities."
Israel's "poor" public relations job: One congregant asked why, despite the many things that Israel does to benefit the rest of the world---being always among the first to help other nations and children in need, regardless of politics, ethnicity and national origin, Israel seems to be always the bad guy on the world stage. Cardin said Israel lacks the resources to do an excellent public relations job. He said the United States must help publicize its ally's many actions that help the rest of the world. "Israel can't do it alone. We must help them."
Israel and the United Nations: Another congregant asked, given the bias of the United Nations against Israel, why the United States doesn't just walk away from the world body. Cardin said the United Nations does "many good things remarkably well," especially on humanitarian and nutritional fronts. He said that the bias situation actually has become "much better" in the last decade. "Under U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, things have improved tremendously along the anti-Israel front at the United Nations." He said Israel wants to be in the world body in order "to have a voice."
Sen. Cardin's appearance is the latest of a series of Shabbat scholar events at Har Tzeon. On Jan. 27, terrorism expert Mike Kraft will speak about U.S.-Israeli cooperation on counter-terrorism, especially in the United States and the Middle East.
*Frank Solomon is a member of Har Tzeon and lives in Kemp Mill.

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 Hampshire.

To go from the center of the Jewish universe–the New York metropolitan area–to a region with some 25 Jewish families, represented a major transition.

In New Jersey, we had Jewish neighbors on our block; in New Hampshire, there were but four Jewish families in our semi-rural town of about 3,000 people, just outside the small city of Keene. Kosher food? Readily accessible before we moved; but when we were in New England, my uncle in Boston sent a box of meat once a month on the bus from Boston, 85 miles away. Organized Jewish life? In New Jersey, the Jewish Community Center was a 15-minute walk from our house; in Keene, the small synagogue, housed in a grand, former house on a tree-lined street, was the center of activity for everything Jewish.

So why the move? My parents had an opportunity to purchase a women’s clothing store and a chance to run their own business. My mother, an immigrant from Lithuania in the early years of the last century, was raised in Maine, so the return to New England was not so difficult. My father, who emigrated from Russia, was raised in Brooklyn and always loved to vacation in Maine, with its rocky coastline and fresh air. And we had relatives in Boston, close enough to reach if need be.

To call our Jewish community a minority, would be an understatement. There were other small ethnic communities in our area, but they were all bound, in one way or another, religiously with the rest of the population. I was, for a time, the only Jewish student in my school, later to be joined by several others a bit younger than me.

School would no sooner open in September than I would be out for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Christmas/Chanukah season always presented the same dilemma: how to explain to my friends that I didn’t receive gifts under a decorated tree but around a menorah, which we lit for eight nights. In the third grade, my teacher asked me to present the story of the Maccabees to our class, which I did, notwithstanding my uneasiness at being front and center different than all my classmates.


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11/16/2017 04:44:58 PM


Kami Troy - Kol HaBirah News

Silver Spring historian Professor David Rotenstein was the latest lecturer in Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim’s adult education series.

Today we think of Silver Spring, Maryland, as a very Jewish area, but this wasn’t always the case. In reality, Jews were banned from living in Silver Spring for decades as a result of restrictive residency covenants and land-use laws explicitly prohibiting the sale of property to specific groups.

Professor David Rotenstein has extensively studied the history of Silver Spring and its strict land-use laws dating back to the first half of the 20th century. His research gives us insight into how Jews have thrived and built strong communities not just in Silver Spring but in suburbs across America.

On Sunday, Nov. 5, Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim (HTAA) in Silver Spring hosted Dr. Rotenstein as part of its adult education lecture series. Dr. Rotenstein, who holds a doctorate in folklore and folklife from the University of Pennsylvania, gave a lecture entitled “The Arc of the Covenant: the Jews of the DC Area and the Jews in Silver Spring.”

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Congressman Jaime Raskin's visit to HTAA!

10/18/2017 03:12:19 PM


Frank Solomon

Mazal Tov to Frank Solomon  for his recent write-up in Kol HaBirah on Congressman Jaime Raskin's visit to HTAA! 

Click Here To Read The Article! 


09/28/2017 01:35:01 PM


Frank Solomon - Kol HaBirah News

Jews may be “People of the Book,” but Congressman Jamie Raskin (D – Md.) believes in putting words into action to help make the world a better place. That was one of the messages the new representative for Maryland’s 8th District had for the packed audience at Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Sept. 23, Shabbat Shuva.

The former American University law professor and veteran Maryland state legislator said he could have chosen to become a rabbi, but chose a different road of public service.

And he never looked back: Raskin was elected as a Maryland state senator for District 20 in November 2006, representing parts of Silver Spring and Takoma Park. In 2012, he was named the majority whip for the Maryland State Senate and chairman of the Montgomery County Senate Delegation. For the past nine months since his election to Congress, he has applied his 25 years of academic teaching expertise to teach his colleagues about the U.S. Constitution.

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09/14/2017 01:37:02 PM


Ira Brandriss - Kol HaBirah News

My mother, Perla Brandriss, often mentioned to us as children that it was Erev Rosh Hashanah, 1942, that the Nazis came to take her parents. They and their two youngest children were rounded up and taken to the railway station in their home town of Lille, France, together with many of the city’s other Polish Jews, to be sent to their deaths at Auschwitz.

Erev Rosh Hashanah that year fell on September 11, the date on which, 59 years later, another enemy of the Jews (and of enlightened mankind) sent airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a Pennsylvania field, murdering thousands.

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The Untold Story of the Jewish Effort to Pass the G.I. Bill.  By our newest congregant,  Anna Selman

07/15/2017 01:00:33 AM


On June 22nd, we celebrated the anniversary of the G.I. Bill, a historic act that was the first major piece of legislation dealing with the postwar era challenges to come.  With veterans coming home to already fully staffed factories, the G.I. Bill, officially known as the Service Member Readjustment Act of 1944, helped stop another recession by providing education and housing opportunities to veterans - allowing them to create new jobs and businesses in America’s new booming economy.  However, the Jewish effort behind the G.I. Bill is little known to the public.

In 1944, there were large groups of World War II veterans already living in the United States– discharged for either disability or family reasons.  A column in The Jewish Veteran explained, “Vets are being discharged more than 8,000 a week.  More than a million have been honorably discharged since Pearl Harbor.”  Many of these veterans brought with them unique postwar challenges similar to those war-related disabilities we see in today’s veterans. 

With over 50,000 Jewish World War II veterans discharged in 1944, the Jewish War Veterans of the United States (JWV) was one of the first veteran’s organizations to anticipate the needs of the returning soldiers.  Their national headquarters already had staff working on job placement, vocational training and treatment for disabled veterans.   It was no surprise when the American Legion announced their “GI Bill of Rights”, JWV was one of the first organizations to join on in support of the legislation. 

JWV was most effective in its campaigning and behind the scene work with Congressional members.  Not only did JWV leadership meet with Congressional leaders, the organization also started a vigorous phone and letter-writing campaign after their National Commander Archie Greenberg called their membership to action – “JWV favors S. 1767, the so-called GI Bill of Rights, for World War II Veterans sponsored by the American Legion and VFW.  Contact your local congressman immediately and urge them to support this vital bill for veterans.  Send National copies of all congressional letters.”

Chag Kasher V'Sameach!

04/07/2017 05:16:51 PM


Visit to:

Sell your Chametz

Contribute to Maot Chittim

Check Holiday times for Services, Candle Lighting, & Yizkor

Kitchen Cleaning Guide

A White Shabbos!

01/22/2016 01:28:33 PM


A message from our congregants,Carmi Kobren & Abbé Levin

01/08/2016 12:49:39 PM


A message from our congregants,
Carmi Kobren & Abbé Levin

This story begins while I was siting in Shul during Shmeni Atzeret of this year.  The congregation was getting ready to begin Yizkor.  I was sitting with my parents thinking about my brother Ami.  Abbé was there to say Kaddish for, among others, her brother Robert.  Abbé approached me, and to my surprise asked to see if Save a Child's Heart could set up a meeting between her and Yulitha, a child the Levin family had sponsored for heart surgery in 2014 in memory of their brother Robert during Har Tzeon's yearly campaign.

Abbé explained that she would be traveling to Tanzania in January and if the family of Yulitha would be willing, she would love to meet the child that her family sponsored.  "My only hope was that a young child would have a chance at a full life. It would have thrilled Robert. To actually meet Yulitha would mean so much.”

So we got to work. People at Save A Child's Heart in Israel began to try, through their contacts in Tanzania, to find the Mcunguzi family to see if they would agree to meet Abbé. Two months later Abbé received an email from Save A Child’s Heart.  This is what it said:

I am glad to introduce you to Dr. Antke-Zuechner,  Dr. Emmanuela and Dr. Neema – our partners in Mwanza.  I have told them all about you and your trip to Tanzania, and they will be happy to assist with meeting Yulitha and her family during your visit in Mwanza.  They already spoke with the family and they are ready to meet with you at Malaika Beach Hotel. Dr. Emmanuela and/or Dr. Neema would escort the family and translate.

On January 2, Abbé met Yulitha and her family. With stuffed animals and other gifts in hand, Abbé and Tom meet Yulitha her sisters, brother and parents.

You have all been so generous in helping keep my bother Ami's dream alive.  Our Shul has been a major sponsor of Save A Child’s Heart and its work in mending the hearts of indigent children from around the world.  I look forward to this year’s campaign as we add more children to the 33, Yulitha among them, who have been saved thanks to Har Tzeon.

Shabbat Shalom,

Carmi Kobren

I made it to Tanzania and met This beautiful young, happy, HEALTHY girl, Yulitha, W/her family last Saturday in Mwanza.  I thought you might like to see what HTAA has made possible w/SAVE A CHILD'S HEART.  For me, it was a very special day in my life, and how better to start 2016 (or should I say 5776?).  Lions are roaring now and baboons making themselves known.  No longer in the city and moving on.
Abbé Levin


A Message From Cantor Ben Bazian

12/29/2015 09:19:55 AM


Dear Friends,
As Eva and I are in the final preparations for the wedding of our son and future daughter, Sam & Jessica, this weekend, I was tasked to prepare a D’var Torah for the Shabbat meals.  How wonderful that I have a son who made it so easy for me to connect the this week's torah reading with our Simcha.
Parashat Vayechi culminates the story of our Patriarchs with the passing of Jacob and Joseph.   It starts with Joseph and his sons approaching Jacob and he asks, “Mi Eila who are they?  There are various commentaries as to why Jacob did not recognize his grandchildren.  Some say it was because of his old age, others argue that G-d removed his inspiration due to their unworthiness to receive a blessing from Jacob.
Joseph responds to his father, “these are the sons that G-d has given to me with this” (asher natan li Elohim bazeh).  Rashi states that the term bazeh refers to his engagement document and marriage contract, the Ketubah.  This was Joseph’s way of showing Jacob that the boys were indeed worthy of his blessing and that they were not the product of the lecherous proclivities of the Egyptians.  Joseph showed his father that even in the midst of depravity he maintained the family's high standards of morality and faith.  Although Joseph was highly immersed in Egyptian culture, his Israelite identity and relationship with the Almighty never wavered.
Many years ago, I read a beautiful but highly technical commentary that unfortunately I cannot properly attribute to its author.  The question is asked, why is the marriage contract called a Ketubah?  The document should be referred to as a Ketav, writing.  There are seemingly 2 extraneous letters.  Ketav is spelled כתב while Ketubah is spelled כתובה.  Why the extra Vav ו and Heh ה ?
The Ketubah is used to unite a man and a women in the bonds of holy matrimony.  It outlines the obligations assumed as part of this bond and its standardized text has been used for many centuries.  The Hebrew words for man and woman are איש and אשה respectively.  Both words have two letters in common - the Aleph א and the Shin ש.  However, there are two unique letters, the Yud ' in man and the Heh ה in woman.  If we combine the man and woman and the Ketubah, the sacred marriage contract, the four letter name of Hashem is revealed. We have the Yud and Heh from man and woman and combined with the extra Vav and Heh from the Ketubah thus we construct the name of Hashem.  In a loving Jewish marriage, Hashem is ever present.
When a couple marries we pray that they build a Bayit Neeman B’Yisroel, a faithful Jewish home.  They do this by including Jewish values, rituals, love of God and each other in their household. 
Eva and I would love for you to share in our Simcha on Shabbat January 2, 2016 as we will host a Sheva Brachot luncheon for the newlyweds after services.
Shabbat Shalom,

Cantor Ben Bazian


Shana Tova 5776

09/11/2015 01:10:16 PM


Will we ever see justice in the AMIA bombing case? by Dan Mariaschin

07/21/2015 10:35:35 AM


Did the best chance for justice in the AMIA bombing case die with Alberto Nisman?


On July 18, 1994, terrorists bombed the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires killing 85 and wounding 300. Twenty-one years later, no one has been brought to justice.


In fact, years of efforts to solve the case could be characterized as farcical. The original judge on the case was even removed and charges were brought against him. Things finally changed 11 years after the attack. That is when then-Argentine President Nestor Kirchner created a Special Investigative Unit and named Alberto Nisman as its prosecutor.


For years, Nisman heroically followed evidence in the terror attack wherever it led. And it led to some dangerous places.


Nisman’s investigation uncovered deep involvement in the attack by top levels of the Tehran government, often through its terror proxy—Hezbollah. Based on Nisman’s dogged research, Interpol issued arrest warrants for the attack, but no arrests have ever been made.


Nisman had been bravely gathering evidence in the case for a decade. Until his body was found Jan. 19, on the eve of a scheduled appearance before the Argentine Congress to expand on the complaint he made against the president and other members and allies of the government.


His mysterious death came soon after he filed a complaint against Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman alleging they offered Iran impunity in the 1994 terror attack, just before teaming up with Iran to create the “Commission of Truth,” designed, incredulously, to find those responsible for the attack.


It was easy to be skeptical of the “Commission of Truth” from the start. The stated goal was to form a partnership between Iran and Argentina what would “independently” investigate the bombing.What essentially occured was the Commission of Truth put the chief suspects in the case in charge of finding the attackers and interviewing them in Tehran.


An Argentine federal court recognized the absurdity of this relationship, calling it unconstitutional, and struck down the deal that basically would have shielded Iran from culpability in the attack. The Argentine government appealed this ruling though, and a Cassation Court will soon decide the matter.


Twenty-one years does not diminish the need for justice, or sooth the pain for the families of the victims, and the community as a whole.


Last month, I met with Jewish community leaders in Buenos Aires, along with representatives of families who lost loved ones in the attack. They are not giving up on justice. And neither are we.


Active in more than 20 countries in the Western Hemisphere, B’nai B’rith established our first Latin American branch in Argentina 85 years ago. Argentina is the home of the largest Jewish community in Latin America, the third largest in the Americas (after the United States and Canada), and the sixth largest in the world, with approximately 250,000 Jews.


Justice is not just an ephemeral idea to strive for. It’s a concrete embodiment of living in a civilized society. Having the perpetrators face charges for their vicious attack demonstrates to would be attackers that the world is watching, and there is a price for your barbarity.


In some ways, the AMIA bombing demonstrates how justice denied has lingering and deadly repercussions. The AMIA bombing was actually the second terrorist attack on the Argentine Jewish community. In April of 1992, 32 people were killed when the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed. Two years later, the AMIA bombing would become the worst terrorist attack ever committed against a Latin American country, and the worst anti-Semitic event since World War II.


Alberto Nisman’s death means the AMIA case has lost its most dogged, fearless and thorough champion. But it doesn’t mean the pursuit of justice should stop. 

It can’t. Because never forgetting, holding terrorists responsible for their actions, showing the civilized global community that chaos and lawlessness will not be rewarded, is a fundamental right and responsibility we share.


Daniel S. Mariaschin is Executive Vice President of B'nai B'rith International.

This article appeared on Fox News Opinion Page, 7/16/2015

Not Just Numbers - The Sanctity of Speech - by Charles Shenitz

07/08/2015 10:27:45 AM


This past Monday, June 29 the 12th of Tammuz was the first yahrzeit for my father George Abraham Shenitz, Yosef Avraham ben Binyamin Halevi z"l. I presented a Torah learning session in memory of my father after daily morning services. I chose to focus on my father's ability to carefully choose his words on all occasions as the inspiration for the following lessons.

We note that the Hebrew name for the book of Numbers in which we find ourselves now for Torah reading is Bamidbar. The Hebrew noun midbar meaning desert or wilderness can be reassigned vowels for the consonants mdbr, and we arrive at midaber, simply meaning, speaking. It is interesting to note what the book of Bamidbar has to offer on the subject of speech, both proper speech and very much improper speech. We will highlight a few examples here. Most of the discussion to follow was taken from the book of Torah commentary by Rabbi Pinchas Winston, Perceptions.

The second Torah portion of the book of Bamidbar, Naso, offers three clear-cut examples of the use or misuse of speech. That portion contains the Priestly blessings, illustrating possibly the best example of the use of human speech, namely, to ask for a blessing from G-d for others. The portion also contains the strange and lapsed ritual for dealing with the suspected adulteress, the Sota. Classical rabbinical commentary links this situation of a confirmed adulterous to the misuse of speech to entice others into adultery. Finally, there is the segment about the Nazir, one who takes a vow to abstain from wine and to not cut his hair, ostensibly for the purpose of attaining greater spiritual heights. This last example in Naso can be deemed a positive use of speech.
It pays to pause in our survey of the Torah portions to state the following about human speech. The rabbis in both ancient and modern times view human speech as a special gift from G-d. After all, it separates us from the animals and makes human life potentially sacred whereas we cannot say the same at all for the rest of the animal kingdom. Therefore, misuse of speech is seen as a very grave sin. We will see this very clearly shortly and repeatedly.

In the portion of Shelach Lecha, Moses sends the 12 spies to scout ahead in the Land of Israel. Ten of the spies come back with a basically true report but a distorted, slanderous assessment of the Promised Land - only Joshua and Caleb give the proper, positive assessment and encouragement for the children of Israel. The slanderous report from the group of 10 leads the children of Israel to anguish and despair concerning the prospects for continuing on towards Israel. The Torah reports that it was a night of weeping. From the Rashi comment that says that G-d told the children of Israel that "you are weeping now so you shall continue to weep on this day for the many coming years", that day being the ninth of Av, we see that the ill use of speech to slander and to foment rebellion resulted in later tragedy throughout our history. This is of course in addition to the punishment immediately proclaimed, that all of the adults who came out of Egypt would die in the desert and not see the Promised Land, all of course except for Joshua and Caleb.  This punishment of continued traveling in the desert for a total of 40 years is well known.

The portion of Korach of course features the uprising instigated by Korach against Moses and Aaron, and thus against G-d. The Midrash adds many taunting and demeaning questions that Korach challenged Moses with regarding particular commandments of the Torah. For Korach's egregious misuse of speech, he was punished when "the Earth opened its mouth and swallowed" him and his followers, truly a punishment measure for measure, midah kineged midah, for sinning with one's mouth, for poor use of the human faculty of speech.

In Chukat, there is the well-known episode where Moses is commanded by Hashem to speak to the rock to draw water for the children of Israel who were complaining about the lack of such. Moses hits the rock in anger after castigating the children of Israel for their prolonged complaining. Water does come out, the mission of sensors fulfilled, but Moses and Aaron, who was by Moses’ side all along, are then punished. The two leaders are informed by Hashem that they will not be permitted to enter the land of Israel for failing to obey the Divine command. The usual lesson was well explained this past Shabbat at services at Har Tzeon, where the punishment for this seemingly slight offense is considered appropriate for exalted leaders of the people of Israel.  (It should also be noted that there are other explanations in rabbinic literature as to why Moses in particular was barred from entering the land of Israel.) A possible, deeper explanation of what transpired here was offered by Rabbi Winston, namely, that the use of speech in drawing water from the rock would have achieved a higher spiritual level and thus brought an increase in faith in Hashem to the Children of Israel. Alas, hitting the rock was a prosaic display of physicality and thus did not go towards increasing the people's faith or spirituality. (Compare this with the similar situation in the Book of Exodus 14:6 where Moses was commanded to hit the rock to draw water, and the mission was successfully carried out.  The physical action there was appropriate because the Children of Israel were on a lower spiritual plane then, being "the new kids in the desert!").

Let us skip for the moment to the last portion of Bamidbar, namely, Maasei. One has to say that there is not anything that immediately jumps out in this portion that would appear to pertain to speech. If we look closely at the very end of the portion, that is, the very end of the book, chapter 36 of Numbers, we see something interesting. Briefly, the daughters of Zelophchad do not get to inherit their father's land. Circumstances there motivate the other members of the tribe of Manasseh to speak up on behalf of the five daughters of the deceased Zelophchad, who left no male children (a male child inherits the family (father's) portion of land, and a female child inherits nothing according to the law as proclaimed up to that point).

If one reads that chapter carefully, one sees that the plea for some relief for modification in the law was carried out in a very orderly way, with tribe members approaching Moses and the chieftains (princes) with their case without recrimination or accusations, as happened in earlier events in Bamidbar. Moses then apparently seeks an answer to the difficult question from Hashem (explicit dialogue between Moses and Hashem is not recorded here). The answer from G-d (Numbers 36:5) is, "The plea of the Josephite tribe is just" (Etz Hayim, recent JPS year 2000 corrected translation). The unambiguous term of approval, expressed in the translation as "just" in the message handed down from Moses. This is the Divine message for this situation, for otherwise we might have anticipated simply a command such as, "speak to the children of Joseph (Manasseh) and instruct them ..." Our conclusion here is that this passage illustrates that the proper way of raising issues and engaging in discussion of Jewish law or other matters where there appears to be a conflict is to go to and through the proper authorities to discuss, and not to antagonize or foment rebellion or 'machlotet', divisiveness. (A further note on translation leading to "just" in 32:5 is presented below. In addition, we can appreciate an allowance for woman to inherit and own property under particular circumstances, although this salutary outcome of the situation is not part of our survey of the use of speech.).

May we all try to observe rules and principles of good speech to make sure that our precious human capability, the gift of speech from G-d, is properly used. 

Shabbat Shalom.


 Endnotes for further investigation

The interested reader may continue here to see other excerpts and topics that were not dealt with above. Some of these items are somewhat obscure relative to the main subject, the proper use of speech, and would have distracted from the flow of the main exposition above. In one famous case to be approached here, some surrounding issues would have been too distracting.
The first portion of the book of Bamidbar, itself named Bamidbar, was skipped in the survey of topics of speech because there is very little directly related to that subject of interest here. One claim is that the census taken in the portion  Bamidbar requires and implies speech to some extent but that seems to be a rather tenuous connection.
The portion of Behaalotcha of course includes the famous incident of Miriam and Aaron speaking in less than flattering terms about their brother Moses and his wife. There are different interpretations of what was said and why it was defamatory speech, other than the two siblings brazenly comparing their relationship to Hashem with Moses' relationship to Hashem. The upshot was that Miriam was struck with the plague of leprosy and had to be isolated outside the camp for seven days. This incident does seem to serve as the paradigm for the later rabbinical attribution of leprosy as a punishment for lashon hara, evil speech. Also, Moses' succinct, impassioned plea to G-d to heal Miriam is certainly worthy of note (Num. 12:13).
In the portion of Balak, in addition to the speeches of Bilaam, we find the quick, decisive action of Pinchas to a public display of immorality at the very end of the portion. The aftermath of this action, the high praise of Pinchas, takes place immediately following in the next portion, which bears his name. Of course, the immediate analysis of this event says that Pinchas is a man of action but no apparent significant use of speech is present in the text. The Midrash adds that Pinchas quickly consulted with Moses about the Law when the public, reprehensible, immoral act was taking place. Moses did confirm that the man and woman taking part in this act deserved to die, and thus Pinchas then acted decisively and effectively. In addition, along the lines of acts of speech and delving into some arcane analysis, Rabbi S. R. Hirsch pointed out that the first two letters in the Hebrew name Pinchas form the words "My mouth". The remaining letters of name, with a switch of sibilants at the end from samech to tsade, then read as the root of the word meaning drive or impel. Those we can read this in a more expanded form as, “G-d's command drove me to do this.”

The next to last portion, Matot, of the book of Numbers contains laws of upholding or on occasions nullifying oaths and vows. In other words, this portion clearly is included in our survey of the theme of speech within the book of Numbers. The final portion of Numbers, Maasei, was included above with the questions of inheritance for the daughters of Zelophchad. A fine-grained detail of the language will be looked at now.

We note that the Hebrew word kayn, just simply meaning 'yes' in today's modern idiom, is  a form of the root meaning just, upright, correct in Hebrew. (Other derived forms are kaynim and kaynut.) This appears to be part of the justification for the word ‘just’ appearing in the translation of what Moses brought back to those pleading the case.

In addition, to borrow one of the techniques of investigation and exposition of great commentators such as Rashi, we can look at Targum Onkelos, the ancient Aramaic translation that accompanies the text of the Torah in many printed editions. The rationale of course is that this ancient translation was much closer in time than our modern age to the writing of the original text of the Torah. The Aramaic word there corresponding to the Hebrew, kayn, and English 'correctly', is yaut (yaus, Ashkenazic, two syllables in either case). According to the authoritative dictionary of Marcus Jastrow on the ancient Aramaic language, the words 'yaut' has the meaning of 'propriety' (and right and correct, merely confirming most modern translations of that verse).

Finally it should be mentioned that the children of Israel complained and provoked Moses and Hashem on several occasions throughout the book of Bamidbar. Two of the six things to remember daily according to the Torah are the ways that the children of Israel "angered Hashem in 'the wilderness'" and what Hashem did to Miriam "when you departed from Egypt". These six remembrances are sometimes added at the end of the morning service, such as can be found in the Art Scroll Siddur.

The JCRC of Greater Washington Stands with the Community of Charleston at This Time of Tragedy

06/19/2015 02:57:06 PM



The murders committed in Charleston at the historic Emanuel AME Church and the desecration of the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the unity of all of G-d's creation. We issue the following statements in response to these heinous crimes:

The JCRC of Greater Washington Stands with the Community of Charleston at This Time of Tragedy

We stand with the people of Charleston, the city's faith community, and the congregants of the Emanuel AME Church today as they confront the most horrific of acts - the hateful slaughter in a holy sanctuary.

We remember the victims of this senseless violence: Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Daniel L. Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton, and Susie Jackson. May their memories be for a blessing.

The long history of churches as the site of violence against the black community attests to the evil nature of racist extremism. We affirm the sanctity of every life and our commitment to building a just society where every individual is valued and cherished. We affirm our responsibility to pursue justice, work with our coalition partners, and support our law enforcement and justice system to build a better society.

On September 15, 1963, Klu Klux Klan terrorists killed four girls when they bombed the 16th Street Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The Reverend Martin Luther King said: “They died between the sacred walls of the church of God, and they were discussing the eternal meaning of love.” May we all strive to fulfill the commandment of our creator: “To love our neighbor as ourselves.”


The JCRC of Greater Washington Deplores Attack on Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha

The JCRC of Greater Washington strongly deplores the despicable attack on the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha. We join representatives of the government of Israel

and Israeli religious officials in calling for a swift and thorough investigation leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. Setting fire to a house of worship is in direct opposition to the Israeli commitment to religious tolerance and the Jewish values of honoring the dignity and rights of all. This is an act of “Hillul HaShem” a desecration of G-d’s name and an affront to the entire Jewish community, as well as to civilized people everywhere.

This is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to the struggle against extremism, and to reach out to build coalitions with all communities who struggle with their own extremists and to promote tolerance and understanding.

Who Is A God-Fearing Person? 

06/04/2015 05:04:20 PM


In our Shavuot inter-generational Torah study we divided into pairs, and attempted to answer the following question:

Who is a "God-fearing" person? 

By looking at the 4 stories in the Torah where the term "God-fearing" is mentioned, we found a common denominator: 

A "God-fearing" person is one who treats the stranger and the underprivileged with compassion!

How did we arrive at that conclusion?  

See for yourself and participate in our Torah study by printing the following table, analyzing the relevant text,  and filling out the columns: 

Happy Mother's Day

05/09/2015 11:59:30 PM


Someone once asked if the idea of observing Mother's Day is consistent with Jewish law and tradition. Not because he was bemoaning having to pay inflated prices for flowers but, as a traditionalist, the concept did not sit well with him. He suspected that identifying a single day to honor our mothers would be inconsistent with our biblical obligation to honor our parents - an obligation which applies, as the Sefer HaChinukh explains, at all times. He argued that people should strive to honor their parents each and every day and that to designate a particular day would be incongruous with our tradition.


Following this line of reasoning, I answered him, we should also not observe Passover or Yom Kippur. Passover since never a week goes by, especially on Shabbat, that we do not recall the Exodus from Egypt as part of our liturgy. This is just the beginning of our frequent recollection of the Exodus. According to our annual Torah reading cycle, four weeks per year are dedicated to retelling our collective experience of being taken forth from slavery to freedom and ultimately to the Promised Land. Still, it is incumbent upon us gather around the table on Seder night and stay up late telling the dramatic story of the miracle of the Exodus and the birth of our People.


On Yom Kippur, we ask forgiveness from one another and atonement from God. This activity, too, is not limited specifically to the 10th of Tishrei or even the preceding months. We are taught that we should constantly be involved in doing teshuva, introspection and repentance. We do not wait until next Yom Kippur to analyze our thoughts or alter our actions. Yet, on Yom Kippur, we do teshuva in a much more grand way than usual. We wear white, abstain from nourishment and focus solely on reconciling our relationships with God and man. Although it is our goal to constantly be involved in teshuva, if every day were Yom Kippur, nothing would ever get done.


While we indeed show gratitude and respect to our most important women every day, on Mother's Day we do so on a different scale. This weekend, we show our appreciation in a more notable way than usual as we celebrate the women who are significant to us as mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. You are essential to our people as givers and teachers of life. Happy Mother's Day to all.


Rabbi Steve Suson


The Magic Omer Formula: How to Figure Out the Correct Count without A Calendar or Internet!

04/22/2015 02:22:22 PM


By Shamai Leibowitz

If you were stranded on an island without a Jewish calendar and no internet connection (oy gevalt!), how would you know what number to count in the Omer?

Every year, on the second night of Passover, we begin a special 49-day period in the Jewish calendar known as Sefirat Ha’omer, the counting of the Omer.

Counting the Omer is a Biblical mitzvah, mentioned in Leviticus 23:15, and it is performed consecutively for 49 nights by reciting a blessing followed by the correct count of that particular night. On the first night – “Today is one day to the Omer”, on the second night – “Today is two days to the Omer” and so on, until the 49th night – which is always the night before Shavuot.

Rabbi Soloveitchik interprets this mitzvah as a sign that we control our own time – which is the mark of free people, while other commentators offer interesting and profound explanations for this mitzvah. The problem, however, is how to remember the correct count for any particular night, especially now that we’re past the first week. This Friday, for example, is it 14 or 15 or 16 to the Omer?

Sure, you can look up a Jewish calendar or go online and find websites, but what if you don’t have access to calendars or to the web? Imagine you are in an army operation where no electronics are allowed? Or what if you’re hiking on the Appalachian Trail?

Magic Formula: G.S.S–7

Every year there is a magic formula to figure out the correct Omer count on any given night. It can be summarized with the acronym G.S.S – 7 which means:

  1. GUESS a number
  2. SUBTRACT the day of the week (Sunday=1, Monday=2, etc).
  3. SUBTRACT magic number 1
  4. If your result is DIVISIBLE BY 7 (or it’s 0), your guess is right. If not – make another guess and repeat the process.


Let’s see how this formula saves the day by following the story of the Amars who went on a vacation to the Pago Pago Islands.

Yaakov and Rachel Amar felt they needed quality time together, so they left all their smartphones and tablets back home, and traveled to the romantic Pago Pago Islands. They arrived there on Friday April 24, and immediately relished the amazing landscape and inviting beaches of these American Samoa islands.

On Friday night, as they were about to begin a Shabbos meal, the Amars remembered that they haven’t counted the Omer. Just as they were about to begin the blessing, they realized, to their chagrin, that they forgot what’s the correct count! Because they were so excited about the trip – they couldn't remember what’s the Omer count tonight. They had no calendar, and it's Shabbos (so they couldn't call anyone), and anyway, there is no wireless service on this island. 

Both of them knew the Halakhic rule that if you forget to count one night, it irreparably disrupts the count, and you are not allowed to continue counting the Omer with a blessing on any of the following nights. The Amars became crestfallen, deeply concerned because they were about to lose the privilege to perform this special mitzvah. An otherwise magical vacation was about to be ruined. 

Just when they thought all is lost, Rachel remembered the magic formula. Excitedly, she exclaimed: “Guess, subtract day, subtract magic number 1, divisible by 7?”

She proceeded to make a reasonable guess. “Let’s try 22 for tonight’s Omer number. After all, we started counting about 3 weeks ago so it must be in this range.”
Applying the formula, from her guess of 22 she subtracted the day of the week, Friday:

22 – 6 = 16

She then subtracted magic number 1:

16 – 1 = 15

The result, 15, is not divisible by 7. That means her original guess (22) is wrong. 

Catching on quickly, Yaakov realized they need to refine their original guess so he suggested “Let’s try 21 and see what happens.”

They reapplied the magic formula:

21 – 6 – 1 = 14


The result, 14, is divisible by 7, showing that the refined guess of Omer count 21 is the correct count for this Friday night!

They did it! Without any connection to the outside world, our couple figured out that this Friday night, April 24, we count 21 in the Omer.

They high-fived each other, drank a L’chayim, and made the blessing over the Omer, joyous that they were able to perform this mitzvah and count the Omer properly.

This formula will work for any night of the Omer this year, with a small caveat that your guess has to be within a range of 7 of the correct count. That should not be a problem because most people know the approximate range we’re in so their guess is not completely wild.

The formula is good for every year, but the magic number changes. You'll need to come back to our website to get next year's magic number. But for the current Omer season, this formula will ensure that even if you find yourself on the amazing Pago Pago Islands or simply got stuck without your smartphone, you’ll never forget the correct Omer count. 

Shabbat Shalom

04/17/2015 03:42:06 PM


28 Nisan 5775 / 17 April, 2015

Parashat Shemini

Shabbat Shalom! 

Freedom is a value to which we can relate both as Jews and as Americans. It means that we respect others' rights to live and believe as they please. Freedom is not anarchy, in order for all to truly be free, one's actions must not infringe on the freedom of others. The theme of Passover, celebrated last week, was about celebrating freedom and liberation from oppression.


It is no wonder that, merely six days after Passover, we observe Yom Hashoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day). More than seventy years have passed and we still cannot grasp the enormity of the evil that was perpetrated upon six million of our brothers and sisters and upon millions of other victims of the Nazi reign of terror and death. Freedom is on our minds because we are committed to never allowing atrocities that plagued our past to recur in the future.


That is why I am proud that our synagogue is home to so many survivors who are committed to educating the next generation. This year, in our community, Martin Finkelstein, Harvey Goldfarb, and Josie Traum shared their stories of survival with our Religious School students and Nesse Godin addressed the congregation last Shabbat. Outside our walls, too, our members were working double time to do their part in ensuring that the world never forgets. Isaac Gendelman will share reflections on his experience as a Polish survivor at the Kemp Mill Synagogue on Sunday, 4/19. Gil Waganheim (pictured below) shared his experience with Leisure World residents. Gil was an American soldier who fought at the Battle of the Bulge and his company liberated the Mauthausen Concentration Camp in Austria. Click here to view more photos of our members' activities on Yom Hashoa.


We pray that the divine will that all people should live in freedom, safety, and mutual respect be realized quickly and in our lifetimes. May we enjoy a Shabbat of shalom in our own households and may the world, one day, enjoy the blessing of shalom - peace among all peoples.


Shabbat Shalom & Chag Sameach!


Rabbi Steven Suson


Gil Waganheim (HTAA Trustee) speaks at Leisure World

!מזל טוב

Vivana Labarca will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah at HTAA this Shabbat. Please join us for Shabbat Services on her special day! Mazal tov to Vivi and the entire family!


!יום הולדת שמח

Happy Birthday to:

Marta Ressin, Felipe Kohn, Ilana Barris, Daniel Fox, Eileen Curreri, Iris Cooper, Ruth Seemann, Joshua Schmidt, Claire Windsor, Brent Polkes, Isaiah Kohn


המקום ינחם

Condolences to:

Sidney Coplon on the loss of his sister, Margaret "Jimmie" Evelyn Coplon Semel, z"l. May her memory forever be a source of blessing and inspiration.


Wed, February 8 2023 17 Shevat 5783