The Obligation Of Those Who Recline At The Seder


Passover is a celebration of our freedom. Centuries ago, the Torah teaches us that we escaped from Pharaoh and the oppressive life of slavery. During Passover, we remember the darkness of life in Egypt and give thanks for all of the blessings of freedom that fill our lives today. For many of us Pharaoh and his wicked ways are distant memories that only re-emerge around the seder table. This week, however, we were reminded that the darkness of Egypt is not simply a memory, it is still very much alive. The murders at the JCC and the senior community in Kansas and the announcement that Ukrainian Jews were required to register and pay a fine or be deported were frightening reminders that Pharaoh and his wickedness are still very much alive.

At the Passover seder, we are taught to recline to remind us that we get to live like kings and queens today. While we are indeed lucky to have the luxuries that come with freedom, we must remember that there are still Pharaohs out there that seek to take our freedom away. This is why on Passover, while we celebrate our freedom, we are also instructed to dip our parsley in salt water and eat choroset (horseradish) to remind us of the persecution of Egypt. Sadly, we must never forget this persecution because if we do, we run the risk of becoming complacent. Complacency keeps us from recognizing that Pharaoh is still out there and this makes us vulnerable as a people.

The incidents in Kansas and Ukraine not only remind us that Pharaoh is still out there. They also remind us that those of us who are fortunate enough to truly recline at our seders, enjoying a life of freedom, have an obligation to look out and speak up for our Jewish brothers and sisters who are not as fortunate. We must pay close attention to the rise of anti-semitism in certain parts of the world and the existence of hate groups and extremists here in the U.S. We need to ensure that our government speaks out when Jews are attacked, as Senator Kerry did yesterday in response to the incident in Ukraine and as President Obama did on Monday in response to the attacks in Kansas. We have to do whatever we can support to Jews across the globe by getting involved in organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center AJC, Federation and the ADL. We must not simply recline on our pillows and enjoy our blessings. We must use our blessings to help comfort and protect others for we were once slaves in Egypt.

May the remaining days of Passover be peaceful. May we use the lessons of the holiday to help others less fortunate than we are. And we all have a Shabbat filled with peace.

Chai Tech Launches First Online Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program

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Modern-day innovation meets centuries of tradition and heritage with Chai Tech’s launch of the first online training program for bar/bat mitvah. The program is the first of its kind in that it provides a total learning solution for students that provides flexibility, affordability and outstanding instruction – from any location with an Internet connection.

Chai Tech’s bar/bat mitzvah system was established by Andrew Jacobs, an experienced Rabbi who has worked with more than 500 b’nai mitzvah students over 12 years at Ramat Shalom Synagogue. He saw that there were students and families who struggled to meet the time and financial obligations that traditional study programs demanded. To provide a solution, he paired his knowledge and experience with the education and technical know-how of FYI Online Learning, a premier producer of online curriculum. As some of the most respected colleges and universities have provided online options for students, Rabbi Jacobs and FYI decided to bring those same benefits for bar/bat mitzvah students.

The result is an interactive, engaging system that applies the lessons of bar/bat mitzvah studies with learning techniques that have proven to appeal to today’s students.

Flexibility and adaptability are key components in Chai Tech’s approach. “We wanted to provide a solution that addressed the obstacles that make it difficult or impossible for students to pursue their bar/bat mitzvah,” said Rabbi Jacobs. “Chai Tech will make any synagogue-based training more effective, but it also will help connect those who are not members of a congregation with a pathway for pursuing their Jewish faith. This is about offering more effective options for traditional programs of study as well as providing powerful new access for others.”

The Chai Tech bar/bat mitzvah program will be supervised by a skilled teacher who will monitor each student’s progress and be available online for questions and support. Chai Tech will also offer bar/bat mitzvah tutors who will work with students individually either online or “in person”. In addition, Chai Tech will connect families with rabbis who will officiate at bar/bat mitzvah celebrations.

For more information, the public is invited to visit

Contact info for consumers: Chai Tech – 11301 West Broward Boulevard Plantation, Florida 33325 954.881.8997 Contacts The Vrooman Group Media only: Paul Vrooman, 305-975-6782 (cell)

Make Passover Fun!


My apologies for not posting in a few weeks!  Been wonderfully busy with life at Ramat Shalom!!!

Passover begins Monday night. Cleaning the house, getting ready for the seder and eating as much bread as we can before the holiday begins makes the days that lead up to the holiday exhausting. For those who are not fans of matzah or those who take comfort in their daily breakfast routine which includes a bagel, Passover can be unsettling. While we are supposed to relive our ancestors’ suffering in Egypt, Passover is a festival – a joyful celebration of freedom and renewal. It is a holiday that encourages the involvement of our children (e.g. The Four Questions; The Afikomen). It is a holiday that should encourage families and friends to talk, sing and, yes, laugh around the seder table. Too often, we allow the preparation and some of the rituals of Passover to prevent us from experiencing the joy of freedom – the central theme of Passover.
On Sunday morning at 9:00, I will be teaching a short class for parents that will focus on how to make the seder entertaining and engaging. While the class is part of the 3rd grade family day, I invite all parents and grandparents to join us. Whether you can attend the class or not, I invite you to watch the video below which will get you laughing as it reminds us all that Passover is about telling our story to our children in a way that ensures it will be passed on to the next generation with love, joy and confidence. Consider showing this video at your seder!

Cheryl, Abigail and Jonah join me in wishing you all a Sweet Pesah! May it be filled with people you love, wonderful lessons and, most importantly, happiness!