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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...

Let's Talk About Israel

04/20/2023 07:02:12 PM


An old journalistic aphorism holds that "Jews are news." Whether that is still broadly true today might be open to debate, but it is undeniably true that "Israel is (constantly in the) news." Whether the frame of reference is the Israel-Palestine conflict in its military, diplomatic and philosophical/moral dimensions, or the status of non-Orthodox converts to Judaism in...Read more...

Counting the numbers 

04/13/2023 04:42:10 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

As a mom of two small children, you can imagine (and perhaps relate) to the repetition that occurs when kids are learning to count. They love saying the numbers over and over, sometimes correctly, most of the time, not. They enjoy practicing by counting their toys, food, people, while walking up steps, or counting anything! Even though this immerging skill can be frustrating and hilarious to observe, it’s an...Read more...

Chag Pesach Sameach!

04/04/2023 05:03:11 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Shalom Chaverim and Chag Pesach Sameach!

In just a few hours we will gather around our dining room tables and retell the story of how our ancestors left their life of slavery in Egypt and began their journey to freedom.

Maybe, like at my house, the out-of-town relatives have arrived and the fridge seems to be bursting with food – even though...Read more...

To  sacrifice or not to sacrifice? 

03/30/2023 03:29:04 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

We’ve reaching the time of year I typically dread; we just started reading from Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus. Why the dread? Well, if you’ve ever read through this book, you know it’s full of bloody and gory details about sacrifice, graphic images associated with skin afflictions, commandments regarding the purity and impurity of people (specifically women), and more. It’s a complex, multi-layered,...Read more...

How is your Shabbat observance going?

03/16/2023 03:44:20 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

This week’s Torah portion begins with the following:

Exodus 35:1-2

וַיַּקְהֵ֣ל מֹשֶׁ֗ה אֶֽת־כׇּל־עֲדַ֛ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֑ם אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה...Read more...

Finding Joy in the Dark

03/09/2023 04:33:04 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Like many of you, I grew up singing the songs and musical settings Debbie Friedman wrote throughout much of the second half of the 20th century. Her music has an ability to speak to almost every moment in life, whether joyful, full of sorrow, or even the most mundane. As a rabbinical student, I was fortunate to learn melodies Debbie wrote that I never knew as a young kid. When I was in my second year of school,...Read more...

Passing the Torch

02/14/2023 03:09:27 PM


Guest Blogger, Ellen Sable


I’m known around CBI primarily as the B’nei Mitzvah tutor. But I also had a past life as an environmental engineer. As one would think, that required a lot of math. And because I have an aptitude for math, I tutor every week at AISD’s Gonzalo Garza Independence High School. Just last week, as I was settling into the classroom with my math tutee, I noticed a bumper sticker on a student’s laptop with words of...Read more...

Safe Community for our Mixed Race Daughter

02/09/2023 12:24:44 PM


Guest Blogger, Ashley Holladay


Marrying later in life, Scot and I talked a lot about how we wanted to fill our home with love, charity and faith. We knew forming an interfaith family would bring challenges.  When Daisy became a part of our family, we started thinking of the challenges of finding the right faith community for her. We wanted a community to love and accept people of color, but so much more than just acceptance.  

We...

They Are Coming And We Need You!

02/02/2023 03:22:36 PM


Guest Blogger, Cathy Campbell

What a year it has been for refugees finding a new home in Austin.  What a year it has been for the Jewish community assisting these refugee families!    And, what a year it has been for interfaith and community partnerships.

When a group of us from the Jewish Community learned that thousands of Afghan refugees were being airlifted to the United States as the Afghan government fell to the Taliban, we knew we had...Read more...

Let My People Go

01/25/2023 04:43:04 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

I’ll begin this week’s blog with a joke: “Hey Siri, do you have free will?” Siri responds, “I have been programmed to say yes.”

While this may not be the joke of the century, I do hope it made you smile a little bit. And, perhaps, maybe it made you think more deeply about the concept of free will?

So, why bring up this big and...

"What Do You Stand For? How Far Would You Go?"

01/18/2023 04:17:26 PM


Rabbi Steve Folberg

Dear Ones,

This past Sunday, I asked our Confirmation (10th grade) students a rather unusual question. "Is there a righteous cause that is so important to you that you would consider engaging in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience to further that cause? Is there any principal or civil right so important to you that you could imagine peacefully protesting, even if it got you briefly arrested, let's say, for...Read more...

Hineni, Here I am

01/12/2023 01:09:22 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

For the past several weeks we have been reading the story of Joseph as the book of Genesis finally comes to its end. The story of Jacob, his favorite son Joseph, and the band of brothers is so exciting that Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber crafted a musical based on the tale in 1968: “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”.

Fast-forward to 1985, three years after the...

The End and The Beginning

01/05/2023 12:31:37 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Happy 2023! We are nearly one week into the new year, and I can feel a buzz of excitement in the air. People are ready for something different, something fresh, something new. Of course, many have made resolutions and commitments for the year to come or turned over a new leaf for a fresh start. But, just as we begin something new, we recognize that something else had to end.

As we begin another lap around the sun, I can’t help but...Read more...

Miracle on 38 1/2 Street

12/21/2022 12:22:16 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Even though we are halfway through Chanukah, the smell of latkes still lingers in the air (and most likely will continue to for weeks at this rate). My fingers are sore from spinning dreidels, the wax continues to collect in layer upon layer on our Chanukiah, but the joy and excitement for this holiday remains.

Personally, I felt extremely uplifted seeing so many smiling and...Read more...

Hanukkah 2022

12/15/2022 08:06:22 PM


Rabbi Steven Folberg

Unlike many other Jewish holidays, Hanukkah doesn't have its own section in the Talmud, as does, for example, the festival of Pesach. Instead, it is touched upon in the section on Shabbat. The rabbis are talking about what kinds of wicks and what kinds of oils make good candles for Shabbat. And the conversation eventually meanders into talking about Hanukkah lights.

When the passage gets around to...

The December Dilemma 

12/08/2022 04:09:41 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

“Oh, the weather outside is muggy,

And sadly, it’s still buggy.

But as long as you re-member

It’s December, it’s December, it’s December.”


Well, I may not be a great song writer, but I do know that it’s the time of year...Read more...

Hebrew School, it is awesome.

12/01/2022 03:48:51 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

Shalom Chaverim,

One of the absolute privileges of my work here at CBI is the opportunity to teach a Dalet (6th grade) Hebrew class on Wednesday afternoons. Some of you might remember your own Hebrew school experiences as young children. Some of you might be experiencing this phenomenon through your children, for the first time and some of you might have all of this behind you as...Read more...

“Being a Great Ancestor (Like Abraham)”

11/17/2022 10:13:13 AM


Rabbi Steven Folberg


One of my favorite wise sayings is this: "The finest achievement to which one can aspire is that of being a good ancestor." That's not an exact quotation, and it grieves me that I can no longer remember where I first heard it, but it reflects a deep and uplifting truth, whatever the original source might be.

At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Hayei Sarah (the Hebrew means, The Life of Sarah), the...Read more...

The Gift of Life 

11/10/2022 09:20:59 AM


Guest Blogger: Adam Sadovsky

This week marks the annual Organ Donor Shabbat, a time to honor those who have given the gift of life to others with their own body. To celebrate those who have given this gift, Adam Sadovsky, CBI past president shares his experience with donating stem cells. Please consider participating in the Jewish value of P’kuach Nefesh, “preserving a life” by joining an organ donor or living donor registry.

So, this journey begins in...

Have a little faith

11/03/2022 07:55:46 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

What would you do if someone told you to pack up all of your things, get in your car, start driving, and just keep going until you’ve reached an unknown destination? Would you do it? Would you stop and think for a moment about whether it’s a good idea? Would you refuse?

In this week’s Torah portion, we meet Abram and Sarai, Judaism’s first ancestors. Abram, who later...Read more...

Parking Lot Shabbat - Friday, November 4 @ 6:30 p.m.

10/27/2022 01:35:47 PM


Sarah Avner, Cantorial Soloist

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

In just four days it will be Monday, October 31st. The one-year anniversary of the evening when an arsonist, full of hate for us, attempted to burn down our synagogue. I will forever feel gratitude towards...Read more...

Sleepovers and Radical Amazement

10/20/2022 06:34:48 PM


I saw a post somewhere on social media a couple of weeks ago relating to our just-concluded festival of Sukkot. It pointed out that in our tradition, the ten days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are ones in which God says to us, “Get your act together! Do teshuvah!” Then comes Sukkot, the post continued, when God says to us, “Enough of that! Now… Step outside!”


As I pointed out on Tuesday night to our Living...Read more...

Becoming Ushpizin 

10/12/2022 03:24:49 PM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Moadim L’Simchah! It’s hard to believe that we’re halfway through the wonderful celebration of Sukkot and just days away from Simchat Torah. Time has flown by these past few weeks. They’ve been a whirlwind of prayer, joy, community, and gratitude. As we continue to experience the wonder of Sukkot, I’m reminded of the lovely tradition of inviting ushpizin into our midst.

What, or rather who are ushpizin? This Aramaic word for “guests” refers to the people we welcome into our Sukkah in order to provide them with hospitality, a meal, shelter, a place to celebrate the joy of the holiday. In some traditions, ushpizin are spiritual guests, such as our matriarchs, patriarchs, and other ancestors we wish to bring into our Sukkah. Read more...

Wed, February 21 2024 12 Adar I 5784