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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]...

"This too shall pass"

11/10/2021 03:31:51 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

During my first year of rabbinical school in Jerusalem, a group of friends and I bought rings engraved with Hebrew phrases. My best friend selected “Gam Zeh Ya’avor,” “This too shall pass.” I remember looking at her ring each day thinking, “What exactly does she want to pass?” It wasn’t until a few years later that I started to understand what this phrase meant.

For...

Be  Remembered for  Kindness

10/28/2021 09:15:23 AM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

In this week’s verses of Torah, Chayei Sarah (Life of Sarah), Abraham mourns the death of his beloved:

“Sarah's lifetime-the span of Sarah's life-came to one hundred and twenty-seven years. Sarah died in Kiriath-Arba-now Hebron-in the land of Canaan; and Abraham proceeded to mourn for Sarah and to bewail her.” (Genesis...Read more...

"A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted"   -Charlie Chaplin 

10/20/2021 04:35:44 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

“…so Sarah laughed inwardly…” (Genesis 18:12).

In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Vayeira, Abraham and Sarah learn that they will soon become parents. At the ages of 90 and 95. Honestly, if I was Sarah, I would have laughed, too! It’s hard to imagine doing anything strenuous at the age of 90, let alone have a baby.

And so, Sarah...

"Gosh, I don't know, I'll have to think about that..."

10/14/2021 09:43:08 AM


Rabbi Steven Folberg

Happy Thursday, Everyone,

In Saturday morning's Torah portion, Lech Lecha, meaning, "go forth," God famously instructs Abram and his wife, Sarai, "Go forth from your land, your birthplace and your ancestral home (literally, "your father's house") to the land that I will show you."

We experience many kinds of leave-taking in the course of a lifetime. And as it was for Abram and Sarai, so it is for us. The destination – "the...Read more...

"Fill Your Words With Radiance"

10/07/2021 02:33:55 PM


Rabbi Steven Folberg

Some of the most beautiful and interesting Jewish commentaries on verses of Torah grow out of the fact that the meaning of certain Hebrew words has changed over time. For example, the Hebrew word Nefesh means "life, person, breath or individual" in the Torah, but by the time Rashi and the other greats are explaining the deeper meanings of the text in the middle ages, the word Nefesh has come to mean "soul." This opens the door to a lot of...Read more...

Creation and Creativity

09/29/2021 05:40:47 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

When God began to create (or “In the beginning God created.”) heaven and earth— Genesis 1:1

Here we stand at the beginning of a new cycle of Torah. On Monday evening Rabbi Folberg read the end of Devarim (Deuteronomy) and Rabbi Levy read from the beginning of...Read more...

Sukkot- A Time For Joy 

09/22/2021 12:50:56 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Zaman Simchateinu, Moadim L’Simcha, Chag Sameach, Happy Sukkot! We have so many ways of greeting one another during this holiday, and all express the joy we find during the “Feast of Booths.” Sukkot, one of the Shalosh Regalim (the pilgrimage festivals) celebrates the fall harvest and reminds us of our ancestors’ travels through the desert.

There is something sweet and...

Bring the Children

09/09/2021 06:06:17 PM


Ken Davidson

Several years ago, Jerry Seinfeld related what he called “the greatest Jew joke” he had ever heard: “Two gentile businessman meet on the street. One of them says, ‘How’s business?’ The other one says, ‘Great!'” The point of Seinfeld’s joke is if the businessmen had been Jews, they would have found something to complain about.

In my line of work it is not unusual for me to find myself the recipient of complaints by...Read more...

Hin'ni - Here I Am

09/01/2021 04:28:16 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Today is September 1st. In just 5 days we will officially bid farewell to 5781 and welcome in 5782.

We have been taking time, during the month of Elul, to prepare ourselves for the holy weeks ahead. The work of Cheshbon Hanefesh, the “accounting of our souls” is serious and important work. According to the article linked in the words above we human beings come equipped with the...Read more...

The Beginning of the Chagim 

08/24/2021 02:00:11 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

I have a distinct memory from childhood of sitting in the sanctuary of my synagogue very late at night, with the lights dimmed low, holding a melting candle in my hand. I listened to the haunting music, and I watched the rabbis, wearing long, white robes, carrying the white Torah covers onto the Bimah. I observed the flame from my candle glinting across the stain glass windows, and I wondered what we were doing in...Read more...

Al shlosha d’varim ha-olam omed.  “On three things the world stands…” 

08/17/2021 10:09:10 PM


Ken Davidson

Our Torah portion for this week, Ki Teitzei, contains 74 commandments, more than any other parashah. These commandments in this parashah deal with a variety of subjects including family, treatment of animals, and business ethics, concluding with the commandment to remember Amalek’s killing of the old, weak, and infirm during the Israelites’ travels in the desert. The specific subjects of these commandments are diverse, but a common theme...Read more...

Tue, December 6 2022 12 Kislev 5783