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Every name is a Human Being - 11/27/23

Every name a human being - Engraved Stainless Steel Bracelets to remember each of the 240 Israeli Hostages taken captive on Oct. 7, 2023

Temple Sinai Message on Antisemitism - 11/6/23

Dear Fellow Congregants:

This Sunday morning, I joined a group of board members at Temple Sinai to welcome children attending our School of Jewish Life and Learning (Hebrew school). We gathered at the front door to assure students and their parents that they are safe at synagogue and to be together joyfully with our Temple youth. Indeed, it was a delight to see kids with big smiles who strode in confidently as well as shy youngsters who buried their faces in parents’ shoulders as they were carried into school.

The sweetness of this gathering helped allay the sadness we have carried these past few weeks. We are despondent about the brutal attack by Hamas and its heinous captivity of hostages. We are in despair over the ensuing war that imperils the lives of Israeli soldiers and citizens, and the lives of Palestinian innocents. And we feel a deep sorrow, a regrettably age-old Jewish sorrow, about intensified antisemitism around the world and in the United States.

This antisemitism is my reason for writing, and I want to share timely resources from Temple Sinai’s Antisemitism Task Force and an invitation for you to respond to its survey.

But first I want to note that the very humanism at the core of my Jewish value system, which prompts me to express concern for Israelis and for innocent Palestinians, is a key factor in contemporary antisemitism. Age-old antisemitism fed on church-based lies and on ethnocentric hatred. But many modern antisemites are also repulsed by the humanistic basis of Jewish theology and culture— its belief that every individual is equally sacred and deserving of grace. Thus the Nazi plan to eliminate not only Jews but also “Jewish thinking” so as to replace their universal vision of human value with a racist ideology of Aryan supremacy. Thus the Hamas pledge to destroy Israel not only as a Jewish state but also as a liberal democracy. Thus the neo-Nazi chant of “the Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville (2017) and the white nationalist terrorist who muttered the same when attacking the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh (2019).

Their fevered, antisemitic delusions are terrifying, but I take pride in the Jewish humanism they find so threatening.

I also draw strength from our Reform Jewish congregation, our clergy, teachers and volunteers who work to educate us about issues like the crisis in the Middle East and intensified antisemitism. The Temple’s Adult Education committee will soon announce a series of workshops on these issues as well as a film series pertaining specifically to antisemitism in America.

A Temple Antisemitism Task Force has worked for months and assembled a list of organizations, with links to websites, that are addressing antisemitism (click HERE to access that list). That Task Force also developed a survey to assess the needs of our Temple community. Please respond to that survey (press ctrl and click on the link below) so that the group can use your input to make programmatic and other recommendations to the Temple Board.

Please know that Temple Sinai is here for you. Feel free to contact me or our clergy with any concerns.

Jamie Spiller
Temple Sinai President

Resources for College Students and Parents - 10/30/23

For concerns on campus, contact:

​​​​In coordination with ADL, the White House has outlined several key actions for the U.S. Department of Education to take – including (please get rid of all the bullets for some reason I could not):  

  • Addressing the backlog of pending civil rights violations based on antisemitism and all forms of bias
  •  Providing resources to colleges and universities experiencing a rise of antisemitism and hate
  • Encouraging efforts on campus to report antisemitic incidents so we can better understand the problem. 

 The Department of Education has started to follow through on some of its commitments, but there is much more work to be done to protect U.S. students from hate. Now is the time.  Join the ADL in urging the Department of Education to fulfill its commitments to make college campuses safe by reaching out:   


Donate to JFNA’s Israel Emergency Campaign
Every gift matters and is needed.  Already $70M of this Campaign is being put to a slew of immediate and urgent needs, such as medical care, emergency services, evacuation, transport, housing, supporting victims of terror, trauma relief, as well as preparing for medium- and long-term needs.

Shine Your Light – Hostages Need Your Voice
This Shabbat, share a photo on social media wearing a blue ribbon, leaving an empty place at your Shabbat table, or taking other meaningful action in support of the hostages’ immediate release. Hashtags you can use: #ShineYourLight #BlueRibbonsforIsrael #BringThemHome.

Urge the Senate to Confirm an Ambassador to Israel
At this critical moment, it is essential that the U.S. Senate confirm an ambassador to provide effective diplomatic representation to the region and help secure the release of hostages, including Americans, held in Gaza. 

Watch the Global Reform Movement's Webinar Recording
On October 25th, the global Reform Movement held a webinar. We heard from family members of the hostages and harrowing stories from escapees from Kibbutzim of Shaar Ha Negev.

More resources and  helpful toolkits can be found here

A Message from the URJ - 10/23/23

Temple Statement on Israel

With Israel under attack, Temple Sinai stands in solidarity with Israel.  During a time when we should be celebrating the peace of Shabbat and joy of Simchat Torah, we are heartbroken and horrified by the attacks by Hamas.  We mourn the lives lost and pray for healing of the wounded and for all of those defending Israel.

עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם בִּמְרוֹמָיו, הוּא יַעֲשֶׂה
שָׁלוֹם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל

May the One who makes peace in the high heavens make peace for us and all Israel.

We know that for many this is a time of tremendous concern and sadness.  Please reach out if you would like to speak with us.

Rabbi Debbi Till, Cantor Renata Braun, Rabbi Emeritus Alan Katz, and Board President

Message from Rabbi Till - 10/9/23

Dear Friends,

This past Saturday morning I awoke looking forward to celebrating the peace and joy that come when Shabbat and Simchat Torah coincide, but like so many of you, I was instead shocked and heartbroken to learn that Israel had been attacked.   Like you, I am struggling to process all the news as it comes with horrifying pictures and stories of people enduring the unimaginable.  Some are our family and friends, some are connected to others we know and love, but all are struggling – because whether they are known to us or not, whether our beliefs and practices are similar or different, we all belong to one Jewish people, klal Yisrael, and we are family.  When a family member is struggling, is in danger, we struggle too.  Perhaps like I am, you are also flooded with emotions as they come unbidden:  fear, sadness, horror, anger, and profound worry.  But so too do I hope you can glean some measure of comfort in knowing that you are not alone.  You are part of the Temple Sinai community that cares deeply and is here for you. 

While the news is indeed bleak, allow me to share some extraordinary words of resilience and encouragement from a friend living in Tel Aviv who in between running to the shelter with her family responded to my message saying, “Please tell your community this:

My social media feeds are brimming with personal stories and groups mobilizing to help the people in the south. There are volunteers who are collecting food and clothing to help the people who lost their homes. And volunteers who are offering free board at their places in the center of the country. There are volunteers who are driving care packages to the south and to people in hospital. And volunteers who are offering to visit people in the hospital if families can’t make it. There are the blood drives – open again today (we will try to go). We will also organize a care package of sheets and clothing.

We made snack packages for soldiers with little notes that say, “Thank you for your service. Please come home safely.” We put instant soup, pasta, cans of soda, chips, sweets, Bamba, granola bars and good vibes into our bags. When we dropped them off at the pickup point, we were happy to see others dropping off their bags, too. Share that Israeli hospitals put out a call for blood donations and asked people to stop coming after an hour. Because 650 people showed up and waited 5 hours for their turn.  At the blood drive yesterday Arab owners of the landmark Abulafia bakery came loaded with food for the people donating blood. It was their way of helping this impossible situation.”

This impossible situation, the already staggering number of people who have been kidnapped, killed, and wounded is unfathomable.  How we as a community, as a loving, active Temple Sinai community respond -- is what is possible, is within our control.  Let us also be resilient and supportive during this terrible time by helping in at least four ways:  We can register here and join together tonight (Monday) at 7:00 pm for the community vigil at Temple B’rith Kodesh to show our unity and solidarity and to be together with one another.

We can donate to our community emergency campaign.  We can check in with family and friends in Israel and here, ensuring that no one is alone during this frightening time.  Last, as always, please feel free to reach out to me or Cantor Braun to talk, pray or sing - we are here are for you.

My broken heart is with all who are hurting and grieving as I pray for safer, just, and more peaceful days ahead. 

Rabbi Debbi Till

A Message from Cantor Braun (10/17/23)

I am deeply saddened by the recent tragic events in Israel. As a clergy member of Temple Sinai, I want you to know that I am here for you and our congregation during these difficult times. If you or anyone you know needs support, a listening ear, or guidance, please don't hesitate to reach out. Together, we can navigate these challenging moments and find strength in our community.  #TogetherForIsrael

If you would like to listen to comfort music please click here:


Message from Security Committee Chair and Executive Director - 10/13/23

Dear Temple Sinai Congregants,
The Secure Community Network is the official safety and security organization of the Jewish community in North America, and we are following their security recommendations for synagogues. You may notice increased security measures at Temple Sinai.
Safety and security are further enhanced when everyone takes an active role using situational awareness, i.e., looking for things that look, sound, or smell different; identifying closest exits; and saying something when you see something.
Additionally, we maintain ongoing communication with our local law enforcement, our professional security company, and Mark Henderson, Director of Regional Security, to ensure that we have updated information in real time.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call the office and ask for, or email Mary.
With hope for peace,
Carla Greenfield                     
VP Administration and Chair, Security Committee
Mary Mansfield
Executive Director         

Message from the Board President - 10/11/23

Dear Temple Sinai Congregants:
It is with a very heavy heart that I am writing to express my grief and outrage for the unfathomable tragedy that has occurred in Israel, and to recognize that deep pain is shared across our congregation.
As I wrote to Temple Sinai Board members, I grew up with a powerful sense of recent history and felt a dark cloud of hatred and authoritarianism lingering and waiting for its historic moment, even as I embraced the brighter trends of inclusion and democracy that washed across the world. This odd mix of vigilance and optimism, of guarding against extremism through community solidarity, and promoting human welfare through community action has been core to my Jewish identity, my love for America, and my love for Israel. Most of all it has motivated me to affiliate with Temple Sinai, participate in this dynamic community, and serve the congregation alongside so many caring and compassionate people.
Your fellowship and commitment to our congregation is a gift at any time, and I feel it especially at this moment of crisis for Israel, for Jewry, and for humanity. I am grateful for that Sukkat Shalom and hope we all find peace in the blessing of our congregation.
Please be assured that Temple Sinai will continue to come together, while working closely with its security partners, so that we can share each other’s sadness and joy through religious services, school and educational programs, and social events.
Please consider supporting Israel in this time of acute need through the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester’s campaign Operation Swords of Fire: Israel in Crisis.
In sadness, and in appreciation,
Temple Sinai Board of Trustees


By Drew Fidler, LCSW-C, Senior Director of the BBYO Center for Adolescent Wellness

As parents, our natural inclination is to safeguard our children. To shield them from harm. To protect them at all costs. Years ago, parents had control over how information about tragic events and terrorist attacks was disseminated to our children. Now, however, our teens are on the information front lines.

Today, information comes quickly, without filters, and with little oversight. While social media is a place for teens to find connections, build community, and share their thoughts and feelings (often without adult interference), it is also a place for 24/7 news and exposure to traumatic material, which can be scary and induce fear among adolescent and teen viewers.

With the horrific situation underway in Israel right now, much of the content being shared on social media is overwhelming and disturbing. So how do we, as parents and caregivers, protect our teens and help them navigate this landscape? Here are five things to think about: 

1. Be Safe Online
Encourage teens to continue to use social media safely. They should never publish any personal information, like their current location, address, or phone number online. Make sure they know how to report any harassment or inappropriate content (explicit videos, etc.). If they ever feel threatened, they can and should report it immediately.

2. Know Who You Follow
There are a lot of people sharing information; it is important to make sure teens are receiving news from credible accounts. On page 2 of this document, you'll find a list of places BBYO recommends as excellent sources of information. You can also visit the ADL's website for their list of people to follow and things to keep in mind.

3. Pick Your Battles
As the ADL has suggested, engage in conversations when and where you are more likely to have an impact. 

4. Empower Your Teen
Talk to your teen about what is happening and the challenges of interacting with certain types of information on social media. Looking to start the conversation but not sure how? There resources can help:
Talking to Children about War (
How to Talk to Children About the Conflict in Israel (Reform Judaism)

Make sure to leave space for teens to process their emotions. We are all hurting, but teens need to be able to share their hurt in their own time, their way, and without worrying about judgment. Be a resource, and let them know they aren’t alone.  

5. Unplug
Taking breaks isn’t just recommended, it’s essential. Encourage teens to put their phone down, disconnect, and recharge their minds and bodies.  

Healing and self-care begin in moments: breathe, move, hydrate, connect, affirm, and unplug. For you and your teens, remember you aren’t alone. And, as always, BBYO staff members, advisors, and mental health professionals are always here for your teens. Additional mental and emotional health resources are available on our website.  

Operation Swords of Iron

Jewish Federations are responding, working with our core partners to support victims of terror and address the unprecedented levels of trauma caused by this horrific attack.

Now, more than ever, they need your support. Israel will prevail and the Jewish people will stand together as we always do. Am Yisrael Chai.

Click here to donate.
Click here for up-to-date information.

Wed, May 22 2024 14 Iyar 5784