Synagogue in Summer

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By Rabbi Lizz Goldstein, Congregation Ner Shalom

The days are longer, sundown (and thus, Shabbat) falls later, and many families experience drastic schedule changes this time of year. But we at Ner Shalom continue on our spiritual journeys and mostly stick to the synagogue calendar throughout the summer!

Services

In past years, I have taken vacations in July because things quiet down so much here. This year, I will be working at a Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin in the first two weeks of August, so I am planning to continue to lead services throughout this month. Throughout most of the rest of the year, we have a monthly Tot Shabbat and a monthly Family Service with participation from the religious school, but with students on vacation, at camps, and many families going on out-of-town trips, we pause those special events for the summer. All services in July are more geared toward the adults without young children whose schedules are less changed by the school year break, and they start at 7:30 p. m. each Friday.

It is sometimes difficult to get a minyan (the 10 Jewish adults required to say certain prayers) during the summer months. So if you or someone you know is a Jewish person over the age of 13 and you have been meaning to come check us out, now is a peak time – we’d really love to meet you!

One monthly event from our year that is remaining constant through this summer is our monthly pre-Shabbat sing-a-long on the last Friday of the month at 6:30 p. m.. This is a wonderful time to learn some of our tunes we use in the service, and is an opportunity for Ner Shalom members to share feedback about liturgical music choices.

Adult Ed and Book Club

Most education programs are also on hiatus for the summer. While many churches do vacation Bible schools this time of year, we don’t quite have the numbers to do a Jewish equivalent at Ner Shalom in July. We had some wonderful programs in June after the end of our official Adult Ed program, and are looking forward to kicking off our “school” year again in August, but in the meantime, summer is a great time to catch up on some reading!

Our book club is meeting at the end of the month; July’s pick is Inside, Outside by Herman Wouk. A fictional memoir of of Jewish-American life reaching from New York to Jerusalem and spanning much of the 20th century, the book is sure to elicit a lively discussion from our members about their own childhoods, experiences of growing up Jewish in America, and American relationships with Israel.

Additionally, we are reprising last year’s Ner Shalom Reads event. We have chosen some books for varying age groups and reading levels and encourage anyone and everyone to read these books. At the end of the summer, we will have an ice cream social for a chance for the community to chat and get to know each other, with the helpful icebreaker of knowing that everyone has read the same material.

This summer’s picks are Rashi’s Daughters: Miriam by Maggie Anton or Don’t Ever Get Old by Daniel Friedman for more adult readers, Spinning Silver by Naomi Novick for adolescents, and In God’s Name by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso for our youngest readers.

The adult books are both a part of series, with Miriam being the second of Rashi’s Daughters, and Don’t Ever Get Old the first of the Buck Schatz Mysteries. We read the first Rashi book during last summer’s Ner Shalom Reads campaign. Book II is about his second daughter; you can enjoy it even if you did not read the first book. Rashi is a famous Jewish scholar/writer/teacher from Troyes, France, 11th century, who secretly taught his daughters material traditionally saved for male students. On the other hand, Buck Schatz is a retired police officer from Memphis who still misses the action. He gets a chance to get into trouble when a World War II prisoner-of-war camp buddy tells him of stolen Nazi gold that might be available. The story goes on from there with gruesome murders, Jewish ethics, and lots of fun.

Our young adult book is a fantasy with roots in the old Rumpelstiltskin story, set in an Eastern European Jewish village known as a shtetl, and involving elvish folk and a strong discussion about responsibility.

The children’s option is beautiful picture book for everyone 3 and older about – you guessed it – what we call the Divine Creator.

Join us in reading any and all of these and stay tuned for the announcement of our ice cream social date!

What Else?

That about does it for the Jewish happenings of July! This month is also unusually void of Jewish holy days, other than our weekly Sabbath. Our next social events (Sisterhood programs, Open House picnic, beer tasting, etc.) and our leadership meetings will continue in August. Join us for a quiet Shabbat now, and hear more about our vibrant small community that livens back up at the end of the summer!

Lizz Goldstein is the rabbi at Congregation Ner Shalom in Woodbridge, the only synagogue in Prince William County. She resides in Vienna and also works to build Jewish community among millennial activists in the DC area. She can be reached at [email protected] or through nershalomva.org/.

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