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Chag Chanukah Sameach!

12/07/2023 01:24:41 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Shalom Chaverim.

Tonight, Thursday, December 7th, marks the first night of Chanukah. Jews around the world will light their chanukiot according to their tradition. Some will use candles while many will use oil. Most will follow the teaching of Hillel by adding light each evening while some might follow that of Shamai, beginning with all 9 candles (including the Shamash) and...Read more...

I have returned. 

11/30/2023 09:54:49 AM


Rabbi Kelly Levy


Friends, just a few weeks ago I wrote a blog about my upcoming trip to Israel. Since then, I went on a powerful and epic journey, returning in time for Thanksgiving with my family. While it will certainly take some time to process the entirety of the trip (and I may never fully process everything I experienced), I am looking at different ways to bring what I learned to our...Read more...

Finding  Gratitude Amidst the Rubble

11/16/2023 08:34:31 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Friends, the weeks that have followed since October 7th have been best described as beyond challenging and on an emotional level the words “it’s just so much” have left my lips more than once. Over 240 Israeli’s are being held by their terrorist captors, specialists continue the heartbreaking work of trying to identify the remains of over 300 of those murdered, and antisemitic, anti-Islamic, and anti-Israel...Read more...

My Trip to Israel 

11/09/2023 02:41:14 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy


This past summer, I received an email from a rabbinic colleague and friend of mine encouraging me to apply to a brand-new rabbinic fellowship. I took a few minutes to check out the website and decided this could be a great opportunity. I applied, had some intense interviews, and after a few weeks, I found out I was accepted into the pilot cohort of the Amplify Israel...Read more...

“We Know These People, and They Know Us”

11/01/2023 04:21:34 PM


Rabbi Steven Folberg


Dear Friends,

The name of the Torah portion this week is Vayera, “God appeared [to Abraham].” This “appearance” refers to the famous story in which three wayfarers, who later turn out to be angels, visit Abraham to announce that he and his elderly wife, Sarah, are destined, at last, to have their long promised child. Sarah will name the child “Isaac,” Yitzhak, from the word meaning “laughter.” Sarah...Read more...

We are not okay.

10/26/2023 07:49:41 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Shalom Chaverim,

This week we read Parashat Lech Lecha – go forth. The opening three verses read:

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־אַבְרָ֔ם לֶךְ־לְךָ֛ מֵאַרְצְךָ֥ וּמִמּֽוֹלַדְתְּךָ֖ וּמִבֵּ֣ית אָבִ֑יךָ אֶל־הָאָ֖רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֥ר...Read more...

More Thoughts on Israel

10/19/2023 02:48:42 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy


In my time at CBI, I don’t think I’ve ever completely articulated my feelings about Israel. I’ve skirted around the topic and offered somewhat parve statements regarding the history and challenges of Israel. I’ve attempted to meet our community where it is with this particular subject, all while keeping my opinions and beliefs somewhat on the sideline. But today, I...Read more...

My Heart is in the East

10/12/2023 01:38:27 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy


For almost a week, my eyes have been glued to the news, waiting with bated breath to know what is going on in my beloved Israel. I have sat in fear, worried about my dear friends across the world. I have wrung my hands, hoping and praying, knowing that there was little else I could do from Austin. Like many of you, I have had conversation after conversation about what is...Read more...

Simchat Torah! The celebrating continues...

10/05/2023 01:26:19 PM


Sarah, Cantorial Soloist

Moadim l’simchah!

Since Yom Kippur I have been approached by many people who have said “aren’t you happy the holidays are over?” or “I bet you have a lot more time to do other things now that the holidays are behind you.”

The truth is, we are still “in” the holidays! They just keep coming!

Two...

And now, Sukkot!

09/28/2023 11:34:29 AM


Rabbi Kelly Levy


It was wonderful to see so many of you these past couple of weeks as we celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in our own beautiful space. The days were truly filled with awe, not just because of the individual introspection and reflection we took upon ourselves, but because of the joy we felt in coming together as a community. During Yom Kippur, I was particularly awed by...Read more...


09/21/2023 11:14:28 AM


Rabbi Steve Folberg

Dear Ones,

As you can imagine, rabbis all over the world do a lot of stressing out over their Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur sermons, for at least two obvious reasons.

First, because the themes of the Days of Awe are so big and important.

Second, because the sanctuary is full! It’s the only time of the year you get to connect in this way with so many members of the community. So, sermon wise, the heat is...Read more...

L'Shanah Tova!

09/14/2023 05:05:22 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

L’Shanah Tova!

This past Tuesday, the remarkable craftsman from Stanton Studios in Waco began and completed the installation of our new ner tamid (eternal flame). In the days immediately following the fire, as we processed what had been done to us, an idea was born: “how do we turn this tragedy into a sign of strength, defiance, that we will NOT be snuffed...Read more...

Selichot: A  Time for Kavannah 

09/06/2023 12:34:34 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

While I am afraid to admit it, the High Holy Days are truly right around the corner. That means we will celebrate Selichot this Saturday, the beginning of this sacred time. The word Selichot translates to “forgiveness,” which is certainly the theme of the High Holy Days. The Selichot service offers penitential prayers, or prayers that ask for forgiveness, as we begin the process of atoning for those moments in...Read more...

Curiosity Hurt The Stranger

08/31/2023 03:16:23 PM


Rabbi Steve Folberg

Dear Friends,

For my blog post this week, I want to build upon the thoughtful entries that Rabbi Levy and Sarah Avner posted two weeks ago and last week, respectively. Rabbi Levy spoke of Cheshbon Hanefesh, the ethical and spiritual self inventory that is the focus of this month of Elul, leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Building on this theme of spiritual inventory, Sarah Avner urged us to acknowledge the ethnic,...Read more...

Building our world through love and kindness

08/24/2023 04:26:39 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Shalom Chaverim,

This afternoon, I picked up a copy of our siddur: Mishkan Halev: Prayer for S’lichot and the Month of Elul and the book naturally fell open to the words of Olam Chesed. Words from Psalm 98:3 “the world is based on kindness.” For those of you who join us at Erev Shabbat services on a regular basis, you are familiar with the beautiful melody gifted to us by...Read more...

“A Time for Every Experience Under Heaven”

08/17/2023 01:45:00 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy


When you read the title of this blog, I’m sure that the well-known song by The Byrds plays in your head. For those of you who have read this passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes, you remember the dichotomy that exists within each verse, the good and the bad, the joy and the sorrow, the challenges and the easy moments of life. As we officially begin the month of Elul, we...Read more...

The Importance of Messing Up

08/10/2023 07:08:50 PM


Rabbi Steve Folberg

Dear Friends,

As I mentioned last year in my Rosh Hashanah Eve sermon, sometimes an upcoming bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah student will express trepidation regarding their impending big day by saying, "What if I mess up?" And then I will tell them that I've been a Rabbi 38 years, and I still get the jitters before every High Holy Day sermon, and that sometimes I make big, obvious mistakes on the bimah, but that's because I'm human, so I...Read more...

The Challenge of Tisha B'Av

07/27/2023 11:52:08 AM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

This week, the Jewish community commemorated Tisha B’Av, or, the 9th day of Av (one of the Hebrew months). Traditionally, this day is remembered as the anniversary of the destruction of the great Temple in Jerusalem, both in 586 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. In addition, it’s often considered the same day for several other terrible events in Jewish history.

For many, this is a day of...

What I am Currently Reading...

07/20/2023 05:34:39 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Shalom Chaverim,

Last week, in synagogues around the world, we finished the book of Numbers by reading the verses of the double portion Matot-Masei. In preparation for Shabbat I was reading through these two parshiot and found myself struck by these words: “The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Instruct the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land of Canaan,...Read more...

How to Connect with God

07/13/2023 05:05:32 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy


Last week, Sarah Avner shared about her time at Greene Family Camp as a member of the faculty. This week (plus a few more days next week), I too have the privilege of serving on the GFC faculty. I grew up coming to Greene each summer, first as a camper, then a counselor, followed by admin (unit head), and now as faculty. In fact, this is my 18th summer at Greene Family Camp....Read more...

Summer time is camp time!

07/06/2023 06:09:09 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Whether it is day camp, overnight sleepaway camp, or being flooded with memories of camp, we are right in the middle of summer camp season here in Central Texas.

On Saturday, June 24th I drove through the gates of URJ Greene Family Camp, in Bruceville, Texas, for the first time since leaving in summer 2019. I was fortunate to be the summer Education Director for three summers:...Read more...

My Favorite Torah Portion!

06/28/2023 03:42:23 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Some of you may recall that I spent 4 years in Rochester, New York before moving to Austin. I loved my time there, especially during the summer months. While the weather during the winter can make it somewhat unbearable to live there, the summer is incredible.

During my years as the assistant and later associate rabbi at Temple B’rith Kodesh, I had the privilege of leading Torah...Read more...

Arguments: Useful and Useless

06/21/2023 04:22:20 PM


Rabbi Steve Folberg

Dear Ones,

Roughly 15 years ago, I enrolled in a seminar for clergy taught by Reverend Doug Hester, a Lutheran pastor from San Antonio. Doug had been a student of Rabbi Edwin Friedman (1932 – 1996), and the months long seminar focused on teaching Friedman's work to the assembled clergy.

Rabbi Friedman's renown among not only rabbis, but clergy of other faiths as well, grew out of his pioneering application of...Read more...

Putting the "Jew" in Juneteenth

06/15/2023 06:19:47 PM


Rabbi Steve Folberg

Dear Ones,

This coming Monday we celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday that did not really begin to penetrate my awareness until moving to Texas in 1991. I’m embarrassed to admit that prior to that time, I knew that Juneteenth had a connection to the civil rights movement, but not much more than that.

The full name of this federal holiday is Juneteenth National Independence Day. It is a date that became associated with President...Read more...


06/08/2023 12:29:17 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Shalom Chaveirim!

For those of you who follow me on Facebook (Sarah Avner Beth Israel) – or read my blog post from a couple of weeks ago - you know that my husband Jonathan and I have just returned from a busy 12-day trip to Israel. The main purpose of our travels was to celebrate our youngest child’s graduation from High School.

This was our...

School's out,  Summer is IN! 

06/01/2023 03:30:04 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

It’s official: School’s out for the summer! The weather is heating up, the pools are open, and the thrill of camp, cook-outs, and casual attire can officially commence. I personally love summer, even though I no longer get to enjoy all the fun offered by my favorite season. As an adult, summer means shuffling children to various camps, trying to find some time to take off of work, relishing the air conditioning,...Read more...

Making Space at CBI to Talk About Israel

05/25/2023 06:15:21 PM


Rabbi Steve Folberg

I know that many of you took the opportunity to participate in the various festivities in honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, held at the JCC on April 30. CBI as an organization was well represented at the Shalom Austin celebration, and by all accounts it was a smashing success.

At the same time, I've been involved in conversations stretching back to well before the...Read more...

Graduation Season

05/18/2023 09:37:10 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

These past few weeks have been full of transitions. In nature, we have experienced our last cold front as spring quickly flows into summer. In Torah we have completed the book of Leviticus by reading the last three verses and exclaiming “חֲזַק חֲזַק וְנִתְּחַזֵּק chazak chazak v’nitchazeik” – be strong and let us strengthen one another. Schools across our area are entering their last days as students look ahead...Read more...

Happy Mother's Day?

05/11/2023 04:56:55 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

If you’re anything like me, you probably didn’t quite realize that this Sunday is Mother’s Day. It always has a tendency to sneak up on me with the end of year chaos and other things happening at this time of year. And, because we do not have any events, programs, classes, or services on that Sunday, it often flies under my personal radar.

I have always watched in awe as my...

 The Season of Yoms - Israel's Holidays

04/27/2023 10:18:33 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Shalom Chaverim,

Outwardly, it might appear that we have entered a quiet season post-Passover. I mean, other than the addition of the counting of the Omer being added to our Erev Shabbat liturgy, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot going on. However, we have just finished a very exciting and meaningful 10 days. Not in our Religious Holiday Calendar but in our Israeli Holiday...Read more...

Mon, December 11 2023 28 Kislev 5784