John Simon Talks on Finnish Jews

Tuesday, October 22nd at 7:30 pm at Temple Ahavat Achim

John Simon took over seven years to research the untold history of Jews in Finland. Newly published in English, “Strangers in a Stranger Land” is a creative combination of history and fiction.

The event is free and open to the public.


Simon will share a brief talk and readings of portions of his book, as well as stand by for questions. His presentation is sponsored by the Temple, the Cape Ann Finns, St. Paul Lutheran Church, and Gloucester Office of Veterans Services.

“How the Jews came to Finland forms a unique chapter of the Diaspora,” Simon concluded. He tracked their original, involuntary resettlement from other parts of Tsarist Russia to one of the coldest, darkest and most isolated parts of Europe.

“They were then caught — along with the rest of the population of Finland — in the cross-fire of great European powers at war in the twentieth century,” Simon said. Simon, an American Jew who married a Finn and lives in Finland, thought that it was up to him to tell the story. In order to dramatize the evolving history text, Simon alternates chronological history with the saga of a fictional family of Finnish Jews, whose lives and experiences reflect those of their tiny community.According to Simon, Finland stands alone historically. “Despite its military alliance with Germany, Finland never turned over any of its Jewish citizens to the Nazis’ concentration or death camps. This is a record unmatched by any other country.” Also, in no other country did an army including Jews who openly proclaimed their religious affiliation fight alongside the Germans (Finland was fighting the Soviet Union to preserve its independence).


Dear TAA Members and Guests,

This year the High Holidays fall on the following dates*:

Rosh Hashanah – Monday-Tuesday, September 30-October 1

Kol Nidre – Tuesday, October 8

Yom Kippur (with Break-the-Fast) – Wednesday, October 9

In the past years, to accommodate Temple Ahavat Achim congregants attending High Holiday services, the city has allowed parking in legal parking spaces without charge and ticketing.

If you place a temporary parking permit on your dashboard, you won’t be ticketed. PARKING PERMITS WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD on

Handmade parking signs will not be recognized by the police!


Any vehicles parked in these locations will be ticketed and the tickets will NOT be eligible for abatement by the City.

BABYSITTING services will be available on the First Day of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur from 10:30 am to 1 pm.

TAA parking lot will be reserved for handicapped parking only. The hashed parking area will be needed for unloading and loading of wheelchairs.

St. John’s Episcopal Church has graciously allowed us to use their parking lot during the High Holidays for parking overflow. (First come – first serve.)

If you haven’t ordered our smoked salmon for your High Holiday dinner table but would like to, there’s still time – just click here to place your order!

For more information on the 5780 High Holidays at our Temple, please CLICK HERE.

L’Shanah Tovah!


Thursday, October 17th at 5:30 pm
(86 Middle St, Gloucester, MA)
5:30 pm – Registration, welcome & snacks
6:30 pm – Dinner & movie
The Tiles that Bind” – a 32-min entertaining film on the history of Mah Jongg in America
7-9 pm – Play Mah Jongg!
Don’t know how to play? Come and learn!
Bring your own mah jongg set (one per table)!
Don’t forget your cards!
Groups and single players welcome!

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.

High Holidays at Temple Ahavat Achim

As always, our services are open to all, and we welcome guests and newcomers to be with us. Please extend this invitation to anyone you know who may be interested to share the High Holiday season with our congregation.
Temple Ahavat Achim | 86 Middle Street, Gloucester, MA | 978-281-0739

Sunday, September 9th EREV ROSH HASHANAH
7 pm Evening Service

Monday, September 10th FIRST DAY ROSH HASHANAH
9 am Services Begin
10 am Children’s Service
5 pm Tashlich – Meet at Pavilion Beach in front of 33 Commercial St

Tuesday, September 11th SECOND DAY ROSH HASHANAH
9 am Services Begin

Tuesday, September 18th KOL NIDRE
6:30 pm Services Begin

Wednesday, September 19th YOM KIPPUR
9 am Services Begin
10 am Children’s Service
10:45 am Yizkor
5:15 pm Mincha, Neila Service
7:30 pm Shofar, Ma’ariv, Havdallah, and Community Break-Fast

Monday, September 24th SUKKOT
9 am Services Begin

Sunday, September 30th SUKKOT DAY VII
9 am Minyan
5:30 pm Simchat Torah Celebration

9 am Morning Service with Yizkor