I am excited to share with you that we have an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of understanding how Judaism functions at the beginning of the 21st century. Because of my fellowship with Clal’s Rabbis Without Borders (http://www.rabbiswithoutborders.org), Ramat Shalom has been one of a handful of synagogues invited to participate in the first ever, national study of the impact that the High Holidays have on our lives. Do we get something from the High Holiday experience? Is there some aspect of the experience that improves our lives? No one has ever asked these questions before. Our answers could shape the Jewish future.

Here at Ramat Shalom, the upcoming High Holidays will mirror what Rabbis Without Borders is creating nationally: a Judaism that helps us flourish as human beings. This year, Cantor Debbie and I are determined to put the “Happy” back into “Happy New Year”. We will be focusing upon three truly positive themes that run throughout the High Holidays: Belonging, Gratitude and Hope. Interactive, multi-generational programming and activities will be part of our High Holiday experience in a way that will enrich the traditional aspects of the High Holiday services. It is my plan that email, projects, social media and learning opportunities before services will get us all thinking about the three themes before we walk into the sanctuary for services. The services themselves will center around the themes in a manner that will be transformative, dynamic and thought provoking. I plan to have you leave services talking deeply about Belonging, Gratitude and Hope – even with your kids. And following services, I will insure that the discussion about the themes will be strengthened by meaningful projects that get everyone involved in creative, exciting ways.

To determine the impact of our High Holiday experience, we will all receive a survey via email both before and after the High Holidays. The survey will measure how we were affected by the holidays. The survey will be anonymous. The information we provide will be a novel contribution to the fields of positive and social psychology as well as to the Jewish world as a whole. Furthermore, the most significant part of this process will be that we, as a community, will learn how the High Holidays impact our sense of Belonging, Gratitude and Hope, three qualities that are essential to living a meaningful and joyful life.

I want to remind you that our High Holiday experience begins well before Rosh HaShanah. Special programs, classes and activities begin in late August. We will share dates, times and other relevant information with you via regular mailbox, your email inbox, Facebook, and our website (ramatshalom.org). Be on the lookout!

Please let me know if you have any questions about our special High Holiday experience. I look forward to sharing more about it with you in the months ahead.

I wish you all a fun and safe July 4th! Remember to fly your flags with pride!!

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