Rabbi Alicia Harris and musician Keith Hurwitz lead Shir Tikvah’s Sukkot services.
Rabbi Alicia Harris and musician Keith Hurwitz lead Shir Tikvah’s Sukkot services.

Shir Tikvah embarks on another season of educating the community.

The High Holidays bring the reflection and assessment of our lives. Starting the Fall Lifelong Learning program, Shir Tikvah welcomed author Ellen Blum Barish.

Blum Barish is the award-winning author of Seven Springs, an essay collection, and Views from the Home Office Window, a memoir. Blum Barish a teaches writing workshops and coaches authors in their writing. She continues to write and edit for a variety of publications.

She taught a two-part program, “From Brokenness to Healing: Making Meaning through Memoir,” giving participants a way to examine, write about and understand their life experiences.

Ellen Blum Barish
Ellen Blum Barish

The first part “Faith in Writing” offered participants a way to examine their stories with a Jewish view. Writers examined the difficult parts of their lives, looking back to determine what in that situation was essential. Those essentials were examined and ranked in tandem with ideas of spirituality and healing. Blum Barish used memoir selections for examples to help guide the writers.

Congregant Shani Lewins shared her impressions of the program: “She had a wonderful way of connecting to the audience, even over Zoom. She shared really nice stories.”
For those who wonder how to decide what matters, Blum Barish explained, “You have ideas and notes, along with a path to begin. Even the most difficult writing can be done one step at a time.”

Blum Barish helped students on that path with support in structure and focus. At the end with a story, a journal or a psalm, the writer’s voice was heard.

Lewins added, “I’ve been journaling on and off for years, but not regularly. Ms. Blum Barish led us through ranking prioities and from there begin to explore what was important. She gave us incredible ideas about to journaling with intent. I’m going to continue to write with a positive attitude and have a sweet new year”.

Rabbi Alicia Harris teaches Shir Tikvah’s Tikvah Explorers class about the holiday of Sukkot.
Rabbi Alicia Harris teaches Shir Tikvah’s Tikvah Explorers class about the holiday of Sukkot.

The second program “Legacy Letters” supported participants in writing their own letters; ethical wills or legacy letters have a history within Judaism. The letters are a way for people to examine what is important, what they stand for and what is passed on to others. A variety of letter excerpts were read, examining multiple approaches to legacy letters. Participants identified what was important in their own lives, what ideas and beliefs to leave for others. Those ideas helped participants craft their letters. Some writers did not finish during the session but left with a plan for their own legacy letters.

Expanded Adult Education Offerings

Memoir writing was just the beginning this year. Rabbi Alicia Harris and Sarah Chisholm, director of Lifelong Learning, spent their summer expanding the already robust adult education programming at Shir Tikvah. The new programs are a variety of spiritual and secular. All programs are open both to congregants and members of the broader Jewish community.

Sunday mornings, with the building already abuzz with religious school, seemed the perfect time to add new programming. The congregants who have dropped off their children can stay; people who have come for a class can meet new friends and renew old relationships. As Chisholm put it, “We want to pull in those members who are usually primarily in on Sunday mornings with those who come on Friday nights.” For members of the wider community, it is an opportunity to learn and to find that hamish place for a shmooze and a bagel.

“Cooking for the Fall Holidays” a fan favorite, was back from its pandemic break on Oct. 2. Sarah Chisholm, Harriett Silverman, and participants whipped up holiday favorites and new taste sensations.

Two Sundays in October are flipped and offered as evenings of multi-generational programming. A beautiful Sukkot Service and Pizza in the Hut dinner will take place on Oct. 9 at 5:30 p.m. and a lively Simchat Torah-Fest celebration, featuring the Klezmer band Klezundheit, will bring in the holiday at 5 p.m. on Oct. 16.

Mahj-O-Rama is coming Oct. 23. When asked about the program, presenter Carrie Keough explained excitedly, “Mahj-O-Rama will cover what it is, why it’s a game we play and how to play.” She went on to say, “Everyone is welcome, beginners to pros.” Mahj-O-Rama promises to be a click-clacking good time.

Rabbi Emeritus Arnie Sleutelberg
Rabbi Emeritus Arnie Sleutelberg

Rabbi Emeritus Arnie Sleutelberg presents “Five Aspects of Being a Jew” on Oct. 30. The rabbi will present a lecture followed with a Q/A. Describing the lecture, Rabbi Arnie framed it with “being a Jew is more than a religion … There are several portals through which Jews of all kinds can find meaningful connection to our tribe.” Expect a program with intellectual depth and the true welcoming spirit of Rabbi Arnie.

CST’s adult education programs are open to the public. Most are offered at no charge for CST members. Details and registration information can be found at shirtikvah.org. For questions, contact Sarah Chisolm at sarah@shirtikvah.org.

Congregation Shir Tikvah, 3900 Metro Parkway in Troy is a Reform and Renewal synagogue that welcomes new members. www.shirtikvah.org.

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