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Howard Lev

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Shofar

Speak to the Israelite people thus: In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts. -- Leviticus 23-24

Years ago, I made my own shofar during a program about the history of the shofar at my congregation, Temple B’nai Torah in Wantagh, NY, but I was never able to sound it nearly as well as the young children who coaxed perfect blasts out of theirs with what seemed like little effort.

Last year, when the cantor put out a “casting call” seeking congregants (no experience necessary) to join...

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Simple rams horn against a white background with a slight shadow

While my synagogue has switched to Mishkan T'filah, the Reform siddur (prayer book) used during weekdays, Shabbat, and festivals, we’ve yet to begin using Mishkan HaNefesh, the new Reform machzor (High Holiday prayer book).

On Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, we use an older version of the machzor titled Gates of Repentance, which includes gendered language such as Lord and “He” (when referencing God). This year, our congregational clergy made a concerted effort to locate as many gender-neutral versions of Gates of Repentance as possible, with the goal of collecting more than 1,000...

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During Friday evening services, I use T’filah HaLev (Prayers of the Heart) to reflect on my thoughts about the previous week and the days to come. Lately, my thoughts have turned mostly to what is wrong in America. Though prayer may not provide answers, I find comfort in the sanctuary, where I can talk to God and let the Divine know how I feel, without being judged.

At a recent Friday evening Shabbat service, my rabbi spoke to the congregation and, without singling me out, told me I was indifferent. I wasn’t angry at him for saying so – I was angry at myself because he was correct...

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Until I joined my synagogue, my only knowledge of religiously based choirs was watching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on TV. I had no idea synagogues had choirs!

Earlier this month, Temple Avodah of Oceanside, N.Y., organized and hosted The Long Island Temple Choir Festival, bringing together local synagogues to share the riches of our Jewish music beyond Shabbat.

Promotional information for the festival explained, “During the late 1990s and then in the early 2000s, temple choirs gathered to share their music and their enthusiasm for Reform music performance.” The printed...

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I’ve attended countless bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies throughout the years, including those of family members, my children’s classmates, and adult b’nai mitzvah, for men and women who never had a bar or bat mitzvah growing up.             

My daughter and I recently attended the second bar mitzvah of a member of our synagogue who just turned 83 years old. The custom of a second bar mitzvah, which has begun to become popular, is based on the reading of Psalm 90:10, which says that 70 years is the expected lifespan of most humans. Reaching age 70, then, can be considered a new start...

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