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Modim anachnu lach...

06/30/2022 11:07:55 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

In our Shabbat morning liturgy, we find this beautiful poem on the theme of gratitude:


worlds known and unknown, galaxies beyond galaxies,

filling us with awe and challenging our imaginations,

מודים אנחנו לך

Modim anachnu lach, (we thank You)


"Speaking Your Truth, Standing Your Ground, Honoring Your True Name"

06/23/2022 05:01:44 PM


Rabbi Steven Folberg

In the anthology of midrash called Koheleth Rabbah ("The Great Midrash on Ecclesiastes") we find a well-known rabbinic proverb about names:

“A person has three names:
one that they are called by their father and mother;
one that people know them by,
and one that they acquire for themselves.
The best of these names is the one we acquire for ourselves.”

The significance of the first two...

Some Thoughts on Juneteenth 

06/16/2022 09:14:55 AM


Guest Blogger: Daniela Weil

Do you know the date that enslaved Africans were legally freed by the Emancipation Proclamation? 

Answer: It was New Year's Day, 1863. 

Now another question: Were enslaved people in the US set free on that date?

Answer: No. Freedom was a process. It started in the North and as you traveled South, the acknowledgement of that new reality was not simple. Making it happen...Read more...

"Summertime, and the livin' is easy"

06/09/2022 04:37:13 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Even though we haven’t quite reached the summer solstice, with the temperature soaring into the 100’s every day this week, it’s safe to say that summer is officially here! And of course, summer brings a plethora of bugs, outdoor activities, and my favorite: the Book of Numbers.

Just last week, we started this new book of Torah. It is my favorite book because of the amazing...Read more...

"I'll Take Jewish Holidays for 500, Alex"

06/02/2022 05:48:54 PM


Rabbi Steven Folberg

Imagine a Jewish person named Charlene. Charlene is a contestant on the classic game show, Jeopardy. Imagine that one of the categories that day is Jewish Religion, and that she decides to go for broke and take "Jewish Holidays for 500."

Alex Trebek (may his memory be a blessing) says, “Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Purim, Yom Hashoah and Shavuot.”

Charlene confidently mashes her buzzer and declares, “What...

Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazeik

05/26/2022 10:39:13 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

This past Tuesday, May 23rd – three years ago - was a monumental day in our family’s history. Our daughter, Rebekah, attended her last day of middle school. Here is what I wrote to go along with a photo of her first day of kindergarten and, of course, a photo from that last morning of middle school:

“In order to have a new beginning there needs to be an ending. Today is not...Read more...

We Will Not Go Back

05/19/2022 09:59:38 AM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Just a few days ago, I had the great honor and privilege of speaking at the Jewish Rally for Abortion Justice in Washington, DC. I was asked to speak because of the work I do to help promote reproductive justice and freedom in this country, but also because I serve as a rabbi in Texas. Along with my friend and colleague, Rabbi Josh Fixler (Congregation Emanu El in Houston), we spoke to thousands of Jews who support...Read more...

Finding Holiness

05/05/2022 03:26:28 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Our Torah portion for this week, Kedoshim, begins with the following words:

“Adonai spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, your God Adonai, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:1-2)

What follows are several verses of commandments...

Challenging Torah Makes for Good Conversation 

04/28/2022 02:54:03 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

We’ve reaching the moment in Torah that I personally dread reading, more than any other verse in the entirety of our sacred text. As I explained last week during Friday night services, we are reading the second half of Parashat Acharei Mot in order to align our weekly Torah reading with the rest of the Jewish world.

This half of the portion is filled with laws and commandments...Read more...

Making Your Teacher Proud

04/20/2022 10:26:54 AM


Rabbi Steven Folberg

Dear Friends,

A Rosh Hashanah sermon that I delivered a number of years ago explored the bonds of mutual respect and mutual affection that – in the best of circumstances, at least – exist between teachers and their students. In that sermon, I retold a story about John Wheeler, of blessed memory, a brilliant physicist who was for many years was on the UT faculty. According to the story, a young person once asked Professor Wheeler...Read more...

Holiday Greetings - when and how to use them

04/15/2022 12:12:02 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Chag Pesach Sameach!

The trip to HEB is behind me. The brisket is in the fridge waiting to get rewarmed before dinner. The charoset has been doing the delicious thing it does while the wine macerates the apples, nuts and dates. The plan is set for rearranging our living/dining space to accommodate the tables and chairs. Its official. We are going to celebrate like it is 2019 and we...Read more...

L'chaim, to life! 

04/07/2022 04:36:25 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Numbers are a funny thing. While they have often given me great anxiety in my life (there is a reason I became a rabbi!), they also have special significance in Judaism. We often see them repeated throughout important texts, suggesting that the number has special meaning. For example, the number 7 shows up multiple times in reference to the days of creation, the number of times a wedding couple circles their...Read more...

Life is a Blessing

03/25/2022 09:16:00 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

I don’t know about you, but just two days into the City of Austin’s lifting of all COVID 19 protocols, I find myself still processing the news. While I had slowly been emerging from behind my mask: going to HEB, Purim rehearsals with our volunteers, leading worship in our sanctuary mask-free – I am surprised by how this announcement continues to feel like a miracle.

In fact,...

Spring- A season of resilience 

03/17/2022 02:49:52 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

One of my favorite things to do each day is take my dog, Frank for walks around our neighborhood. I am fortunate to live in a place with many people who take great care of their lawns, so over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed many plants and flowers beginning to blossom and bloom. And, with the joyous celebration of Purim, I know that spring is definitely in the air!

Purim...

They Think Deeply About Important Things

03/10/2022 10:00:50 AM


Rabbi Steven Folberg


It was a particularly joyful scene in Sunday School this past week. It was the first time that we had been able to meet in person ("in three dimensions," as I like to say) since last fall, before the omicron variant of COVID-19 once again forced a retreat into virtual, online learning.

While our Education Director Carly Cera and her teaching staff brought every ounce of their...Read more...

Welcome Back!

03/03/2022 08:30:26 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Hello March!

As we move into this next month on our Gregorian calendar, I wanted to send a big thank you to our community members who shared their personal stories and experiences as we celebrated both Jewish Disability, Awareness, Acceptance, and Inclusion Month and Black History Month in February. It isn’t always easy to put our own experiences out there on a public forum but...Read more...

Seeing Color in the Jewish Community

02/23/2022 10:20:00 AM


Guest Blogger: Rhyan Jenkins

I began my conversion during the year of 2020 while I was in Ohio. I was in unfamiliar territory, so I researched all the information I could find about converting to Judaism. The first thing I read about converting, was that it was expected for a rabbi to turn away potential converts three times “in part to reflect on whether they’re willing to deal with anti-Semitism.” (Weissman, 2015). As...Read more...

Join our Most Joyful

02/16/2022 02:27:57 PM


Guest Blogger, Cindy Kaplan

You may know our family because of our son, Jadyn, whose presence is noticed most places he goes. Contrary to what you would expect from a guy with Autism, Jadyn is highly social. If he meets you once, he will remember you. When he feels joy, it radiates throughout his whole being. He vocalizes, his hands may flap, his smile beams so large you can see it through his KN95 mask. And there are few places he is more joyful than at CBI, with his...Read more...

"Your Judaism doesn't absolve you from racism."

02/11/2022 10:55:58 AM


Guest Blogger: Lucy Zanker

.When I was in second grade, I switched schools. I went from a private Montessori school to a private Jewish school. I was so excited to learn more about being Jewish and be surrounded by other Jews. But there was something off. Even though I was surrounded by people like me, I still felt like I was out of place. I was. Out of the entire school, I was the only person of color. I was too young to really understand what the problem was, but I...Read more...

Joyful, Diverse, and Inclusive 

02/02/2022 08:02:20 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

February has always been a strange month. It’s pretty short. Sometimes, it has an extra day. Spelling it always requires another moment of thought. And, if you live in the north, it usually has some of the worst weather of the year. But, for the Jewish community, February also gives us the opportunity to celebrate and elevate the voices of those we don’t always hear from.

Over...

Wagon wheel tracks in the snow

01/27/2022 01:56:19 PM


Rabbi Steven Folberg

This week's Torah portion, Mishpatim, provides the "fine print" to the 10 Commandments that we just read in last week's portion. In Saturday’s portion,  Mishpatim, the grand principles of the 10 Commandments are broken down for daily use in the form of all sorts of laws regarding justice, human relations and respectful treatment of your neighbor's property.

In Chapter 23,...

May  we be Strengthened by Love

01/20/2022 10:23:29 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Friends, it is impossible for me to write today and not make any reference to the events of this past Shabbat.

For our Congregation Beth Israel community, it had been a beautiful morning. A meaningful Torah study had been co-led by Rabbis Folberg and Steinman (Congregation Beth Shalom), as part of our MLK weekend program highlighting...Read more...

“The time is always right to do the right thing.”-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

01/13/2022 10:00:41 AM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Time is a funny thing. There are days that seem to creep by so slowly, you’re absolutely sure the clock has stopped working. Then there are the days that go by so quickly you can barely catch your breath. And yet, no matter what, each day is measured in the exact same amount of seconds, minutes, and hours.

But here we are again, approaching the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr....Read more...

"Living by Pikuah Nefesh: The Jewish Imperative To Protect Life and Health"

01/06/2022 01:13:17 PM


Rabbi Steve Folberg


As you've probably learned by now, given that Austin has now entered Stage 5 COVID-19 protocols, our CBI clergy team, staff and volunteer leadership has made the decision to suspend in-person worship, Religious School and other activities until such time as public health officials declare the current surge has abated into a “safe stage.” We will continue to provide as much Jewish content and...Read more...

Farewell 2021, Hello 2022

12/29/2021 12:57:04 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Here we are…just two sleeps away from waking up on January 1st, 2022. Around this time every year I think back to a first-grade memory when I have returned to school after winter break, and I cannot remember to write the new year at the top of my page. I am frustrated by this as I do not enjoy the need to continuously erase and rewrite the year.

This remembrance makes me wonder:...

The Little Latke   That Could

12/21/2021 04:07:33 PM


Guest Blogger: Gaylon Finklea Hecker

 A firebombing at the synagogue’s front door couldn’t do it. Even a worldwide pandemic couldn’t do it. But a shortage of the lowly, frozen, shredded potato almost brought down the Congregation Beth Israel (CBI) Brotherhood’s much-anticipated, long-awaited annual latke-brisket Chanukkah dinner this year. 

Don’t worry kids. Don’t panic grownups. This...

How Good Are Your Tents, Jacob...Even Now

12/17/2021 10:28:25 AM


Rabbi Steven Folberg


On Wednesday night, we held a Service of Healing, a vigil, if you will, in the CBI parking lot. We wanted to provide an opportunity for expressing and validating the intense emotions that we know so many of you have experienced in the wake of the hate crime that has seriously damaged our sanctuary. 

It was quite dark by the time we began to assemble. Some people brought lawn...Read more...

A Trip To Israel

12/09/2021 09:24:24 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

A week ago today I was landing back in Austin from a 10 day adventure with my family in Israel. Putting aside the cold turned Acute Bronchitis that was affecting my physical self, my mind was in a whirlwind as it took some time to process all that we had seen, heard, smelled, and tasted during our time together.

This trip had no real plan or timeline for what we would do while we...Read more...

The Unsung Hero of Chanukah 

12/02/2021 09:56:51 AM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

As the Chanukah candles continue to add more light into our world, and as the latke smell continues to seep through every room in our homes, I want to tell you the story of a real Chanukah hero. You might be thinking of the Maccabees. Or you might be thinking of the oil that lasted for 8 days. But, in fact, I want to tell you all about Judith.

Some of you may have heard about or...

Transgender Awareness Week

11/18/2021 08:47:01 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

In our first book of Torah, the creation story, we read:

וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃

So God created the human beings in [the divine]...

Tue, July 5 2022 6 Tammuz 5782