Rabbi Michael E. Harvey of the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas, was ordained by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in 2015. He earned a Master’s degree in Hebrew Letters from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion & a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Boston University. Throughout his tenure at HUC-JIR, Rabbi Harvey served congregations, small & large, in Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi, & Texas.
Certified as a Prepare & Enrich marital & pre-marital counselor, Rabbi Harvey served as a chaplain at both Norton Hospital & Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. He is committed to interfaith education & social justice, locally & nationally. His dedication to both these areas can be seen in the work he has done with The Center for Holocaust & Humanity Education, the American Jewish World Service, The Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, & The Chautauqua Institution.
Rabbi Harvey sits as a board member for the United Way of the Virgin Islands, Salvation Army Advisory Board, Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands, Advisory Board of the UVI Center for the Study of Spirituality & Professionalism, & Downtown Revitalization Faith Group. He also serves on the Development Committee for the Family Resource Center & is the founder & president of the newly formed Interfaith Council of the Caribbean. Plus, he proudly serves as a member of The Rotary Club of St. Thomas Sunrise, as part of Rotary International.
Additionally, he is a member of the rabbinic advisory council for the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, “The B’nai Ya’akov Council.” Rabbi Harvey lives happily in St. Thomas with his wife, Barrie, and his son, Asher.
Counting of the Omer, An Important Verbal Counting of 49 Days
Counting of the Omer (Hebrew: Sefirat HaOmer, sometimes abbreviated as Sefira or the Omer) is an important verbal counting of each of the forty-nine days between the Jewish holidays of Passover and Shavuot as stated in the Hebrew Bible: Leviticus 23:15–16.
This mitzvah ("commandment") derives from the Torah commandment to count forty-nine days beginning from the day on which the Omer, a sacrifice containing an omer-measure of barley, was offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, up until the day before an offering of wheat was brought to the Temple on Shavuot. The Counting of the Omer begins on the second day of Passover (the 16th of Nisan) for Rabbinic Jews (Orthodox, Conservative, Reform), and after the weekly Shabbat during Passover for Karaite Jews, and ends the day before the holiday of Shavuot, the 'fiftieth day.'
The idea of counting each day represents spiritual preparation and anticipation for the giving of the Torah which was given by God on Mount Sinai at the beginning of the month of Sivan, around the same time as the holiday of Shavuot. The Sefer HaChinuch (published anonymously in 13th century Spain) states that the Hebrew people were only freed from Egypt at Passover in order to receive the Torah at Sinai, an event which is now celebrated on Shavuot, and to fulfill its laws. Thus, the Counting of the Omer demonstrates how much a Hebrew desires to accept the Torah in his own life.
~ Courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Israel’s Independence Day as Celebrated in the United States
Many Jewish Americans in the US remember Israel’s Independence Day, also known as Yom Ha’Atzmaut (or Yom HaAtzmaut). Celebrations are annually held on or around the 5th day of the month of Iyar, according to the Jewish calendar. Many Jewish organizations, including community centers, university student groups, & some schools, organize events to celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut. Many of these events are open to the general public and include entertainment such as: Kosher pizza dinners, Singing, music & dance performances, Face painting, Flag-making activities, Barbecues, Special rides, including camel rides.
Some Jewish communities also celebrate Israel’s Independence Day with benefit concerts featuring bands from Israel, & local bands. A variety of music is usually offered, ranging from traditional music with a rock twist to modern music from Israel. Various art & craft activities for children & young teenagers are also incorporated into events that celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut, which is not a federal public holiday in the United States.
Yom Ha’Atzmaut commemorates when David Ben-Gurion, who was Israel’s first prime minister, publicly read the Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948. According to the Jewish calendar, this was the 5th day of Iyar, the 8th month of the civil year, in the year 5708.
The most prominent symbol seen at events that celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut is Israel’s flag. This is a white rectangle in the ratio 11:8 with 2 horizontal blue stripes, one at the top and one at the bottom. A regular hexagram, known as the Star of David, or Megan David, is depicted in blue between the stripes.
Courtesy of www.TimeandDate.com
Passover: A Festival of Freedom
What is Passover? Passover is a festival of freedom that commemorates the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, & their transition from slavery to freedom. The main ritual of Passover is the seder, which occurs on the first 2 night of the holiday. It's a festive meal that involves the re-telling of the Exodus through stories & song & the consumption of ritual foods, including matzah & maror (bitter herbs). The seder’s rituals & other readings are outlined in the Haggadah.
What are some Passover practices? The central Passover practice is a set of intense dietary changes, mainly the absence of hametz, or foods with leaven. (Ashkenazi Jews also avoid kitniyot, a category of food that includes legumes.) In recent years, many Jews have compensated for the lack of grain by cooking with quinoa, although not all recognize it as kosher for Passover. The ecstatic cycle of psalms called Hallel is recited both at night & day (during the seder & morning prayers). Additionally, Passover commences a 49-day period called the Omer, which recalls the count between offerings brought to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. This count culminates in the holiday of Shavuot, the anniversary of the receiving of the Torah at Sinai.
What foods do we eat on Passover? Matzah, or unleavened bread, is the main food of Passover. You can purchase it in stores, or make your own. But the holiday has many traditional, popular foods, from haroset (a mixture of fruit, nuts, wine, & cinnamon) to matzah ball soup & the absence of leavening calls upon a cook to employ all of his/her culinary creativity.
View an extensive collection of Passover recipes at: www.MyJewishLearning.com/
Jewish Ethics: Some Basic Concepts and Impressions
Most subsequent Jewish ethical claims may be traced back to the texts, themes, and teachings of the written Torah. In early rabbinic Judaism, the oral Torah both interpreted the Hebrew Bible and engaged in novel topics. Ethics is a key aspect of this legal literature, known as the literature of halakhah.
Jewish ethics is the moral philosophy particular to one or both of the Jewish religion and peoples. Serving as a convergence of Judaism and the Western philosophical tradition of ethics, the diverse literature of Jewish ethics' broad range of moral concern classifies it as a type of normative ethics. For two millennia, Jewish thought has focused on the interplay of ethics with the rule of law. The tradition of rabbinic religious law - Halakhah - addresses several problems associated with ethics, including its semi-permeable relation with duties that are usually not punished under the law.
Jewish ethics may be said to originate with the Hebrew Bible, its broad legal injunctions, advisory narratives, and prophecies.
The best known rabbinic text associated with ethics is the non-legal Mishnah tractate of Avot (“forefathers”), commonly translated as “Ethics of the Fathers”. Similar ethical teachings are found throughout more legally oriented portions of the Mishnah, Talmud, and other rabbinic literature.
Generally, ethics is a key aspect of non-legal rabbinic literature, known as aggadah. This early Rabbinic ethics shows signs of ideological and polemical exchange with the Greek (Western philosophical) ethical tradition. ~ Courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_ethics
Rise of Antisemitism, Bomb Threats at the JCC's, Violations at Cemeteries
A series of coordinated bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) across the United States have threatened children, many of them preschoolers, and their parents, causing repeated evacuations and creating a sense of anxiety some are finding hard to shake. The FBI is investigating at least 54 bomb threats at JCCs in 27 states, with 11 new threats called in Monday, February 6th.
Over the weekend, gravesites at a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri, were vandalized. One JCC in Birmingham, Alabama, has been forced to evacuate its school and preschool twice in the past month. "If the intention was to scare us, these bomb threats have failed," David Posner of the Jewish Community Center Association told NBC News. Some parents, however, are certainly shaken by the continued threatened violence against their children.
The threats started January 9, when the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reported 16 JCCs in the Northeast and Southeast received recorded messages threatening them with bombs. A second round occurred at 30 JCCs across 17 states on January 18. On January 31, at least 13 more threats were called in — this time individually, by a woman. None of the bomb threats were deemed credible.
Though they were not credible, the threats themselves were chilling for anyone, especially a parent, to hear. "In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered," a woman states in a recording from a January 18 threat.
But some parents and JCC administrators are urging others not to let fear keep them from returning to their JCCs. Samantha Taylor, a mother of three near Orlando, Florida, has a three-year-old daughter who attends preschool at the Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando, which has received three bomb threats in just over two weeks. Taylor, a board member at the JCC, was on campus for the first one.
Nobody Wanted to Take Us In: The Story of Jared Kushner’s Family
As Trump bars refugees & Muslim immigrants from coming to this country, it’s worth remembering the Jews who were shut out the last time we closed our borders—like Jared Kushner’s grandmother.
By Lizzy Ratner, a Senior Editor at www.TheNation.com
Oszcar Ratowzer, also known as Osher, was my grandfather. The manifest lists him as being 16, but my family believes he was closer to 19 or 20 when he boarded the Aquitania in Southampton, England, on Oct. 23, 1920, & began his 3rd-class voyage across the Atlantic. The journey took 7 days, finally depositing ? him at Ellis Island, America’s “Golden Door,” the gateway to a world without pogroms or hunger or the horror of world war.
There, he would almost certainly have been met by an assembly line of doctors & inspectors, who would have poked & peered at him, pried & questioned until, content with what they’d found, they would send him on his way with a landing card & a new identity: Harry Ratner.
A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews. The term originally entered the English language in order to describe 19th & 20th-century attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire (mostly within the Pale of Settlement, what would become Ukraine and Belarus).
Three laws in particular stand out, an unholy trinity that, one by one, narrowed the range of immigrants who were allowed entry via Ellis Island. the 1917 Immigration Act, the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924,