~ SAVE THE DATE!
THOMAS JEFFERSON H.S. 55th REUNION
HONORING THE CLASS OF 1961
~ DATE ~
MAY 22, 2016
BRUNCH: 11 AM - 3 PM
~ PLACE ~
HILTON GARDEN INN
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y.
FREE PICK-UP AND DROP-OFF @ NEWARK AIRPORT
IS A DESIRABLE AMENITY FOR OUT-OF-TOWN AIR TRAVELERS WITH
PRE-PAID HOTEL RESERVATIONS AT THE HILTON GARDEN INN.
SURPRISES AWAIT YOU AS YOU
FEAST ON A SCRUMPTIOUS MENU SELECTION
AND RECONNECT WITH FELLOW JEFFERSONIANS!
FURTHER DETAILS WILL BE AVAILABLE AT A LATER DATE!
~ BROUGHT TO YOU BY COORDINATORS ~
THEA ALPERT & PROF. ASHER J. MATATHIAS
Direct all inquiries to Class Administrator
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PRELUDE TO AN INVITATION
Thomas Jefferson H.S. - Brooklyn, New York
55th Gala Reunion - Class of 1961
by Thea Alpert, Class Administrator/Event Coordinator
The year was 1961. We were teenagers of 16, 17 and 18 at graduation. Who could have known the future and made sense of the concept of 2016. We were young and free in the 60s, pursuing a college education; landing our first job; traveling the world; questioning, searching for inner and world peace; serving our communities; searching for reciprocal love, even starting families. Lives were interrupted and cut short as our country engaged in protested war; assassinations gripped the nation; turmoil on U.S. soil begged for social reform. Much has gone awry in our world in 54 years, but it is because of our individual strengths, humor and good fortune that we have made it to 2015 in what has been a journey of substance.
The year 2016 will be a shining one as we celebrate our 55th year of graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School, the institution that offered us a quality education, the road to maturity, and the place where many lifetime friendships blossomed. 2015 will be an exciting year as we engage in plans for our gala affair. The New York area is the chosen site of celebration in springtime of 2016. Details will follow at a future date.
Snail mail has been discontinued. Invitations and registration forms will be sent to all 1961 students who provide us with their contact details.
Join us in celebration and indulge yourself memorably at our 55th high school reunion.
With best wishes and a good year to all...
NOTICE TO 1961 GRADUATES: THOSE STUDENTS WHO HAVE PROVIDED US WITH CONTACT INFORMATION WILL RECEIVE AN INVITATION TO OUR 55TH REUNION. PLEASE ENTER THIS INFORMATION IN YOUR PROFILE HERE ON CLASSREPORT. CONTACT INFO REMAINS CONFIDENTIAL UNLESS YOU ELECT TO SHARE.
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by Prof. Asher J. Matathias
A MAN OF INTERDENOMINATIONAL UNDERSTANDING
July 11, 2015
A partial recitation of the highlights of this unique rabbinical mission I was privileged to get directly from the estimable Rabbi Sholom Stern, the emeritus spiritual leader of Temple Beth El; earlier, in anticipation of joining the group of rabbis on this excursion, Rabbi Steven Graber of Temple Hillel disclosed to me how eager he was to both participate and witness another concrete manifestation of interdenominational understanding.
The Catholic Church had come along way in viewing the Jewish People not as accursed but their faithful brethren, adherents of different traditions, but able to meet, collaborate, and otherwise shed the residual bigotry --- all the welcoming results emanating from the Vatican Councils convened 50 years ago by the blessed Pope John XXIII.
As a Greek-Jew, I harbor a special wish to see in my lifetime a similar advance in thought, and the adjustment of dogma to also eliminate from the daily catechism the reference to Jews as guilty for the crucifixion from the Greek Orthodox Church (the much smaller Cypriote counterpart has done just that in an agreement entered and signed by then Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonna Metzger and Archbishop Chrysostomos)!
In the rare pessimistic mood that Greek developments there and here induce, I conclude that such overdue reform will not happen soon, as both the Greek, and even more, the Russian Orthodox Churches remain mired in rabid religio-political reaction to Western modernity.
Still, we must not overlook the American rabbis' magnificent experience as guests of Roman Catholic prelates, gathering in the Holy Land for constructive discussions marked by sensitivity, insight, and resolution to bring the ongoing dialogue with Jews to ever-higher levels. Rabbi Stern's description of this happening serves a worthwhile stopover station in this journey! Rabbi Stern, it must be underlined, is the father of Rabbi Eliyahu Syern, a distinguished published author and professor at Yale University; both scholars have developed a recognized virtue to comment on religious and political issues in a winning and persuasive inclusive fashion.
Indeed, my heart fills with joy hearing them, and feeling validated that my own positions, so at variance with the general right-wing tenor that informs intellectual interchanges in our once-vaunted diverse Five Towns, are moderate, mainstream, and in tandem with rational Jewish tenets. Thank you, rabbi, for sharing with a broader public, your valuable impressions of a mission possible for other strands of Judaism, and Christianity, even of Islam to commence. Amen.
Please continue reading:
Rabbi Sholom Stern - Delivered at Temple Beth El June 11, 2015
Engagement at Domus Galileaea
I want to share with you this morning thoughts concerning an extraordinary once in a lifetime experience I recently had in Israel. But before doing so let me briefly comment on the most familiar story of this morning’s Torah portion. We read of a zealot named Pinchas who takes the law into his own hands and kills in the name of God. He sees an Israelite cohabiting with a Moabite woman, clearly a sexual immoral act, and kills both of them to protect the honor of God and the Jewish people. When we go to rabbinic literature, we find a number of rabbis criticizing Pinchas’ zealous act. To capsulate the issue we can say that the zealot ultimately ends of excluding. The path of religious passion should be towards an inclusive rather than exclusive approach to life. The zealot ends up hating those who digress from the teachings of faith. The inclusive approach ends up caring and loving those who do not embrace the teachings of one’s faith.
Now let me tell you of a recent maximum and inclusive religious experience that touched and nourished my soul deeply.
Less than two months ago I received a call from a colleague of mine, Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum, who then sent me a formal letter written by a Catholic leader, Kiko Arguello, inviting me to be his guest at a Conference being held at Domus Galileaea located above and north of Capernaum overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Arguello is the initiator of a branch of Catholicism call The Neocatechumenal Way. The Catholic Church like the Jewish Community is not a monolithic community. This particular group places tremendous emphasis on establishing good relationships with the Jewish people. The conference brought together a hundred twenty rabbis from across the globe and an equal number of cardinals, bishops and priests as well as a number of lay leaders of the Neocatechumenal Way. We had religious leaders from Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Hong Kong, all the European countries from Italy, Russia, Spain, England, Austria and Poland. There was also a significant delegation from America and Israel.
The official language of the conference was Italian and we all were given earphones which enabled us to follow simultaneous translations into any of the spoken languages. The conference took place in early May over a three day period and unlike other interfaith conferences that I participated in the most meaningful parts were not the lectures and papers that were presented. As an act of love and reconciliation towards the Jewish people and the suffering of the Shoah there was a concert comprised of 180 musicians with a full symphonic orchestra entitled “The Suffering of the Innocent, A Symphonic Homage and Prayer.” It was first performed at the Vatican before Pope Benedict XVI, then in Jerusalem and then in the Galilee. This powerful concert was then presented in 2012 in Boston, afterwards at the Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in NY, in Chicago and finally in June 2013 at Auschwitz before the gates of death. Its theme was unmistakenly Christian with Mary weeping over the suffering of her son Jesus. On the front page of the program there was a picture of the railroad tracks leading to Auschwitz and the symphony, the program stated, was dedicated to the million and a half children who perished in the Holocaust. The highlight of the symphony came in the fourth movement when the conductor motioned all of us to stand up from our seats, rabbis, cardinals, bishops and priests and say loudly, SHMA YISRAEL HEAR O ISRAEL THE LORD IS OUR GOD THE LORD IS ONE, four times. It was a singularly unique moment that brought us together as children of the one God who rules the universe.
As electrifying and powerful was the moment of saying the SHMA four times together, equally moving was what took place the next night that happened to be Lag B’Omer thirty third night of counting of the Omer which begins on the second night of Pesach and continues for seven weeks until Shavuot. Traditionally this is a period of semi-mourning commemorating the death of thousands of the students of Rabbi Akivah. Historically this occurred in the second century when the Jews of ERETZ YISRAEL were under the control of the Roman Empire. Bar Kochba, a military leader of the Jewish people sought to emancipate the Jews’ suffering under Roman rule. Initially he achieved some success. Rabbi Akivah actually thought that Bar Kochba was the ‘Mashiach’. Bar Kochba offered the last hope for Jewish independence but eventually was defeated. On Lag B’Omer according to Jewish folklore the plague that resulted in the death of thousands of Akivah’s students came to a halt. Traditionally Meiron, on the outskirts of Safed in the northern section of Israel not far Domus Galileaea is the sight of the burial place of another heroic Jewish figure, Shimon Bar Yochai who also revolted against the Romans. In Meiron on Lag Bomer huge bonfires are lit, picnics are held in a celebratory mood accompanied by singing and dancing. When I was in Meiron for the first time on LAG B’OMER in 1961 I warmly remember the yulating of many Sephardic women and the ‘Opsherin’ – the cutting of the hair – the first haircut given to three year old toddlers. Lag B’Omer celebrations are somewhat similar in spirit to May Day celebrations in Europe. This year on Lag B’Omer my first impulse was to hop into a cab and go celebrate the holiday at Meiron. But I was the guest of this Catholic group so I decided to stay at Domus Galileaea on Lag B’omer night. What then took place surprised me again and nourished my soul. A huge bonfire was lit in front of the entrance of Domus Galileaea. Parenthetically this complex is stunningly beautiful overlooking the Sea of Galilea in one of the most scenic parts of Israel. Then arm to arm, rabbis, cardinals, bishops, and priests danced and sang songs like ‘Ki Mitziyon Tetze Torah’ – from Zion Shall Go Forth Torah, ‘Am Yisrael Chai’ – The Jewish People Live, ‘Torah Tzivah Lanu Moshe’ – The Torah Than Moses Commanded Us and all the other songs that are sung at Jewish celebrations like Simchat Torah. All of a sudden in the midst of all the dancing and singing an Italian song was being sung. I turned to Christopher Schonbron, the Cardinal of Vienna, who was at one time seen as a leading candidate for the papacy and I asked him, “What are they singing?” He said, “It is a song about bringing the first fruits to Jerusalem.” Again it was a moment of unparalleled solidarity.
Go to your computers after Shabbat and Google Domus Galileaea. You will see pictures of breathtaking beauty. In taking a tour around the complex I noticed that every door had a golden handle with the number four on it. When I asked why the number four, I was told that initially when the complex was built in the late nineties all the doors were painted with crosses. But then one of the priests said, “If this place is to be a center for religious dialogue with our Jewish brothers, they why make them feel as if we are proselytizing them. Why not just add one leg and instead of a cross let it be the number 4.” And so it was. Parenthetically the complex was koshered for the conference and even stringent dietary measures for the sabbatical year were upheld.
One humorous note demonstrates similarities of our respective communities. The conference opened up by having everyone introduce themselves. It took over three hours. The Catholic lay people who attended also were given the opportunity to introduce themselves. They spent two million dollars to make the conference possible and so we wanted to know a little more about them. Their introduction always included notes like this. “I am Pierre and my wife is Shirle and we come from France. We have ten children”. “I am Pedro and my wife is Luisa and we come from Mexico. We have nine children”. “I am Sergio and my wife is Maria and we come from Italy. We have eight children”. The thought that ran through my mind is that it was beginning to sound like an international Hasidic conference. They were obviously devout Catholics who did not practice birth control and were proud of it, just as Hasidic Jews are proud that they are giving birth to many Jewish children.
Thank God we are no longer living in an era where we find the Catholic churches as in the past expressing the teaching of contempt for the “perfidious Jews” a provocative description in Christian liturgy that led to persecution and pogroms. Thank God we are not living in times when leaders of the Church see us as blind because of our rejection of Jesus as Lord. The Church no longer holds the Jews responsible for the crime of deicide. In circles like Neo-Cathechumenal Way we are looked upon with respect as older brothers from whom Catholics draw their faith and understand their faith better because the roots of Catholicism are to be found in Judaism. Furthermore, now that Christians are often the target of hate and persecution in Muslim countries, they have begun to empathize more with Jews who in the past as a minority in Christian countries met a similar fate. In the face of the horrors of the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews, the Church can no longer disconnect the realities of the Holocaust from its own teachings.
I am not so naïve as to suggest that what took place at Domus Galileaea is taking place throughout the Catholic world. But a major revolution has indeed taken place. Today we desperately need religious allies because unfortunately we will continue to confront global religious violence that is a product of fear and fear turns people into enemies. So we need a serious global religious response that sees in every human being God’s image.
I started my remarks by speaking of Pinchas the zealot. Zealotry is also the plague of our age and many call it radical Islamic fundamentalism. No I don’t mean by fundamentalism the danger of a literal reading of a sacred text. No fundamentalism doesn’t necessarily mean a hostile attitude toward modernity. Rather I like Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s definition of fundamentalism, an attempt to impose a single truth upon a plural world. Each of us sees truth from his own perspective. We have arrive at a stage of history where Christians and Jews can unite by embracing their individual truths while at the same time seeing the divine image in each and every one of us. There are no quick fixes in this world to radical Islamic fundamentalism. Radicals will not become moderates overnight. My one wish when leaving the conference was that next time when we would meet, the conference would include representatives of Islam, the third monotheistic faith. When the three monotheistic faiths stand together in opposing radical Islamic Fundamentalism will we have a formidable moral arsenal to guide us in making the world a safer and better place for all of God’s children.
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