Rabbi’s Note to TAA Community after Shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue

בָּרוּךְ דַּיַּן הָאֱמֶת

Blessed is the True Judge

עֵץ-חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ, וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר

It is a tree of life to those who grasp onto it, and whoever holds on to it is happy.

(Proverbs 3:18)

First an invitation, and then some reflection.


This Friday night (a musical Kabbalat Shabbat with the Alle Brider Band) is the first time we will join together as a community after the horrific murders at Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburg last Shabbat.  Our service, which will follow the regular form of our Friday evening service, will be an opportunity for prayer, song and healing in response to this horrific event.

We are also reaching out to the wider Gloucester community to join us in solidarity.  Since Shabbat, I have received many expressions of concern and support.  I expect I am not the only one. Today, leaving the synagogue, I saw a car idling in our driveway and did not recognize the man behind the wheel. I approached him to ask why he was there and he said he and his wife, parishioners at Saint Ann Church (“your neighbors”) had come to drop off flowers.  Upon my return to the synagogue, another bouquet was being dropped off from the staff of the Sargent House Museum.  The pain and rage we feel, as well as the commitment to stand against the growing hatred and violence in our country, is shared with many of our neighbors.

I hope you can join us this Friday night, and I encourage you to invite others who you feel would like to participate.  Click here for times and details and to RSVP.


What do we do in the impossible moment when confronted by death, violence and horror?

The traditional Jewish response is to say: Baruch Dayan haEmet.  “Blessed is the true Judge.”  It is a remarkable practice.  Reeling from shock and anguish, words often feel impossible. In that moment, our tradition puts words in our mouths, words affirming the world’s coherence and justice – the opposite of what we are feeling.  Despite chaos, we affirm that reality is fundamentally ordered; despite appalling injustice, we affirm that the ultimate reality is justice;  despite cruelty, we affirm that the ultimate reality is love; despite the twisted lies and distortions, we affirm that the ultimate reality is truth – even if in the moment it is impossible to feel or to believe.

After such a shattering, many of us have the impulse to flee to our own numbness, willful blindnesses, and protective narratives – anything we can do to not have to confront this horror as our new reality.  Self protection is natural and understandable, but from that place of retreat, healing can not happen. There can be no healing for us, and no healing for the brokenness in the world. To repair that brokenness we need each other.

The best thing we can do in the chaos of loss, is to come together for comfort and healing and, eventually, to be able to work to create a kinder world.  This need to join together for healing is reiterated with each death in the practice of shiva — not to flee, but to sit in the new, shattered reality surrounded by comforters.

The name of the synagogue where this atrocity occurred, Tree of Life (עֵץ-חַיִּים), comes from the verse in Proverbs quoted above, “It is a tree of life to those who grasp onto it, and whoever holds on to it is happy.”  This tree-of-life is understood in our tradition to refer to the Torah – our source of wisdom and connection to God.  We sing this verse every time we return the Torah scroll to the ark.  We have a tree of life, the Torah and our tradition, if we can grasp onto it.  We have each other as a source of strength and healing, if we hold onto each other.

May this awful shattering bring our Jewish community closer and strengthen our connections both to our tradition and to our neighbors who stand with us in grief and commitment to a world of greater justice, love and peace.

2018 Baking Workshop with Backyard Growers

Baking workshop

Join us as we explore the joys of storage vegetables and their many uses in baking! Learn how to highlight or hide hardy winter roots like carrots and beets among more traditional items like apples or pumpkins. Participants will be led by community gardeners and Backyard Growers staff, alongside our fabulous guest chef Sarah Wonson. You’ll leave with recipes, tips, and tricks to incorporate these seasonal recipes into your holidays meals! Not an experienced cook? No problem! We’ll go over the basics, so all levels of cooking experience are welcome.

  • When: November 6, 2018, 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: The Open Door, 28 Emerson Ave, Gloucester, MA
  • Tickets: RSVP and purchase tickets here. $20 per family, $15 per individual and FREE for gardeners in Backyard Growers’ programs.

Please notify us in advance of any allergies in your party.


Need Information about the Upcoming Election? Here’s some help!

Tune in to 1623 Studios (formerly Cape Ann TV) for information on the upcoming election on November 6, 2018!
Here are the times and dates that the Register Deeds and Three Ballot Questions Forums that will be airing on 1623 Studios next week:
Monday, October 22, 2018
9:00 am Educational Forum on the Three Massachusetts Ballot Questions
9:00 pm Register of Deeds Candidates Forum
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
9:00 am Register of Deeds Candidates Forum
10:00 am Educational Forum on the Three Massachusetts Ballot Questions
Thursday, October 25, 2018
6:00 pm Register of Deeds Candidates Forum
Saturday, October 27, 2018
1:00 pm Educational Forum on the Three Massachusetts Ballot Questions
6:00 pm Register of Deeds Candidates Forum
Sunday, October 28, 2018
9:00 am Educational Forum on the Three Massachusetts Ballot Questions
9:00 pm Educational Forum on the Three Massachusetts Ballot Questions

Thanks for getting out to vote because Democracy is not a spectator sport!


~The Cape Ann League of Women Voters

Premium, organic compost top-offs for your garden available from Backyard Growers

Compost top offs
We will be making deliveries of Brick Ends Farm’s premium compost/top soil blend on November 15 and 17. Your garden bed must be cleared by then for us to deliver your soil. You do not need to be home to receive your delivery.

How to order: 

1. Go to http://www.backyardgrowers.org/donate/ and pay $30 per 4 x 8’ garden bed.

2. Then, contact Anna Swanson at community@backyardgrowers.org to confirm receipt of payment, number of beds, address, and to review any details. If you prefer to pay by cash or check you can arrange payment at this time. We must have your payment to make the delivery. 

Once you’ve had your compost top-off, you can put your garden to bed for winter! We recommend mulching with straw (not hay – it can have seeds in it that will sprout!), leaves from your yard OR any dead plants you pull up from your garden bed, as long as they don’t have any fruit attached.

Then… get dreaming about what your garden will look like next year!

Are you a Backyard Gardener who joined our program in 2017 or 2018? If so, your top-off is free! Top-offs for our Gardeners will be taking place November 5 – 7. You don’t need to be present to receive your compost top-off – just ensure that your garden bed is clear of all plants. We’ll take care of the rest!