2014-08-20 / Voice at the Shore

Community Selichot program and Scholar’s Weekend set for Sept. 19-21

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore correspondent

Selichot, which falls on Saturday, Sept. 20, is traditionally a time for Jews to come together spiritually, as well as to reflect on events of the past year, in preparation for the High Holidays.

This year, the entire community is invited to participate in a unique Selichot program that uses story and song to set the mood for the High Holidays. “Our program will get people’s hearts and minds ready for entering into the Days of Awe. It will be a performance, but there will also be opportunities for participation. People will sing, people will smile, people will reflect, sometimes deeply. It will be a spiritual gathering that will invite people in,” said Rabbi Cantor Mark Novak, who will be performing along with his wife, storyteller Renee Brachfeld, at the Community Selichot Program and Service at Temple Beth Shalom in Brigantine.

Although bringing the community together at one synagogue for Selichot has long been a local tradition, this is the first year the service will be held at Temple Beth Shalom in Brigantine, said the synagogue’s Rabbi Gerald Fox. In an effort to make the commute as easy as possible for those who live outside of Brigantine, Temple Beth Shalom will be offering a bus that leaves from the JCC in Margate. Community members are also welcome to make their own way to and from the synagogue, which is located at 4419 W. Brigantine Ave.

The program itself will begin with a brief Havdalah service on Saturday evening at 8:45 p.m. followed by the interactive performance by Novak and Brachfeld from 9 p.m. to 10:15 p.m. Refreshments will then be served, followed by the Community Selichot Service from 10:30 to 11:30. Rabbis and Cantors from synagogues in the area will take part in that service along with Rabbi Fox and Temple Beth Shalom’s High Holiday Hazzan, Rabbi Alan LaPayover.

Notably, the Community Selichot Program is part of a larger Kern Family Scholar’s Weekend being held at Temple Beth Shalom that weekend, with Novak and Brachfeld as visiting scholars. The entire community is invited to this event as well, which will feature a musical Shabbat service led by Novak on Friday night starting at 8 p.m., and a day of free workshops (“The Art of Prayer” and “Intergenerational Storytelling”) led by Novak and Brachfeld on Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with lunch in between (reservations required). The Scholar’s Weekend, like the Community Selichot Program, is another first for Temple Beth Shalom, said Fox.

Congregants are very excited to welcome the community into their synagogue for these special events, Fox added. “This is a way to introduce the wider community to our synagogue, give our congregants a sense of pride in what we do by bringing people here.”

According to Fox, the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests), a core Jewish value, is hugely important at his synagogue. “One of the themes of our congregation is to be interested and excited about making connections with others and to be welcoming,” he stressed. “When a new person shows up here, I always see someone reaching out to that person at the Oneg. It always surprises and impresses me to see how interested my congregants are in new people.”

“The Jewish community here is especially close-knit and caring, perhaps because we are so small,” said congregant Frank Kern. “I see the synagogue’s community as very welcoming and very community-involved.”

Kern himself would like to welcome more people to the synagogue more often for educational programs, which is why he chose to sponsor the Kern Family Scholar’s Weekend. “Valuing education is part of Jewish culture,” noted Kern. “We are sponsoring this weekend in the hopes that it will lead to continuing educational opportunities [at the synagogue] for people in Brigantine and nearby communities.”

For more information on the Community Selichot Program (including bus service), or to sign up for the Kern Family Scholar’s Weekend, contact the Temple Beth Shalom office at (609) 266-0403, or go to www.seashul.org. .

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