MRT Bulletin – Spring, 2021


MRT Community News
Spring 2021
Hope springs eternal. Rabbi Kline likes to say often that he is a prisoner of hope. I too am hopeful.
I am hopeful that after this pandemic finally subsides, and more of us are vaccinated, we will return to our building at 332 Hance Avenue. Once more, we will join together in prayer, song and laughter in person. We will hold Shabbat dinners in the Social Hall and kibbitz in the kitchen preparing platters for Onegs and Kiddushes.
But all will not be the same as before. Our world has changed and we have changed. Our Nominating Committee is proposing a new Board of Trustees that reflects the changes we adopted this January. This Board aims to be more visionary than managerial, while still providing the representation of all of our congregants with open minds and open hearts. We welcome some newcomers to positions of leadership as they take their rightful place in committees and on the Board.
Our survival as a synagogue depends upon our flexibility and commitment to change for the better. Zoom and Live Stream programming is here to stay for those who cannot drive to synagogue or whose time does not allow for the travel on any given day. We found ways of connection that cannot be lost when we “go back to normal”.
Our Ritual Committee has been working with the Covid Task Force to find ways to allow for a safe and secure return to our building for services and programs. Mitzvah Day on May 2nd will be a hybrid of in-house and virtual deeds that combine the best of what MRT does, giving back to our community.
Please join us at the Annual Meeting on Zoom at 4 pm, Sunday April 25. We will swear in our new Board members, adopt (hopefully) our proposed budget for 2021-22, and talk about the ways we can reconnect in the coming months.
I look forward to the day when I see you all again in person. I am hopeful that day will be very soon.
Stay well, stay safe,
Marjorie Wold
We’re Getting Ready to Welcome You Back!
The past year has brought so many challenges to our congregation, as we all faced an unprecedented pandemic due to the Covid-19 virus. Our building closed in March 2020 to all but staff and later, religious school on a hybrid schedule.
Now were are looking forward to welcoming you back. Click HERE for the letter from our President and clergy regarding our Covid re-entry plan.
Here are just some of our upcoming special events:
Saturday, April 24: Shabbat Morning Services, Bar Mitzvah of Eli Tolchin, 10am
Sunday, April 25: Annual Meeting, 4pm
Sunday, May 2: Mitzvah Day, 9:30am-2pm
Thursday, May 6: The Next Step Conversation from the book “White Fragility”, 7pm
Friday, May 7: Shabbat Schmooze, followed by First Friday Service led by 5th Grade, 6:30pm
Saturday, May 8: Virtual Shabbat Kallah Adult Ed Program with Rabbi Alyssa Stanton, 10:30am-12pm and 12:30pm-2pm
Saturday, May 8: Men’s Club Fundraiser: Last Day to Order Mike’s Crumb Cakes (pickup May 16th after 10:30am)
Friday, May 14: 4th Grade Program, 5:30pm
Friday, May 14: Limited Building Reopening for In-person Services, 7pm
Saturday, May 15: Family Shavuot Program, 6:30pm
Sunday, May 16: Confirmation and Yizkor, 10:00am
Sunday, May 16: Shavuot Virtual Study-Two sessions, 6:30pm & 7:30pm
Friday, May 21: Reception Honoring Life and Legacy & Circle Donors, 6pm
A Message from Rabbi Marc Kline
Passover has come and gone. Shavuot is on the horizon. In between, we experience the days where we “Count the Omer.” According to tradition, we count each of the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, symbolically bringing our “first fruits” to the altar. Biblically, as the Temple stood, people would come to Jerusalem from all over the region with their early summer offering. One of three such festivals throughout the year, the act gives us the regular reminder to be thankful for all the things that we take for granted.
Additionally, the festivals speak to separate ethical values. For Sukkot, the earth is about to sleep for the winter. We should not take for granted that the spring will come and bring with it all the fruits and vegetation. For Passover, we remember the basic sustenance needed for life – freedom. The grains and greens of Spring provide the foundation for delicious meals and a nutritional diet. For Shavuot, as we also celebrate receiving the Torah at Sinai, we celebrate with the early summer harvest. In this celebration of the Torah, though, we realize that feeding our body is only half the battle.
In Pirke Avot (The Ethics of our sages – Mishnah – beginning of the 3rd century), we read, “Eem aen kemach, aen Torah. Eem aen Torah, aen kemach – If there is no sustenance, one cannot study Torah. If one does not study Torah, then there is no sustenance of value.” Effectively, the Rabbis affirm that we need to feed our animal body and our philosophic soul. One without the other leaves us lacking. Traditionally, we spend the night leading into Shavuot studying everything from spiritual and ethical text to music to humor. Everything Jewish of interest. Torah’s instruction runs the gambit. The truth is that it matters less what we study than that we work to expand our minds and our spiritual horizons. Studies on Neural Plasticity demonstrate that 12 minutes of daily focused prayer/meditation/study actually rebuild neural connections that a brain scan can detect. Now, I don’t know if the sages understood the science, but I know that we have always spoken of the spiritual lift one gets from focusing on bettering oneself and the surrounding community.
To that end, we would like to investigate a “Tikkun Lael Shavuot – and evening of study and engagement for Shavuot.” We are looking to plan for an early evening family event and then study to go (for all who would want) to the wee hours of the morning. Stay tuned for details.
In the meantime, as we count the Omer (the days of bringing the new harvest to the Biblical Temple) between Passover and Shavuot – let’s make the days really count. Do some form of recognizable tzedakah each day. Compile a list and share it so that we can all celebrate our increased doing and being.
Rabbi Kline’s Sabbatical
Rabbi Kline will be taking his Sabbatical starting June 1st, and returning on August 8th. Click HERE for the letter that was recently sent out to the Congregation.
Annual Meeting
This year’s Annual meeting will be held on Sunday, April 25th on Zoom. Below is the Annual report, which recaps our year, the Proposed 2021-22 Budget, as well as the Nominating Committee’s proposed slate of the Board of Trustees. We hope you can join us for this important meeting.
This is truly an unbelievable time we live in. Reflecting on the last year (plus) and processing what we have all been dealing with is unfathomable. The global loss of life and the deadly disease scientists are still trying to understand has been terrifying. Then, as a result of isolation, disappointment we felt when seminal events did not happen in a “normal” fashion: B’nai Mitzvahs, weddings, birthdays, graduations, proms, medical appointments, vacations, all truly important events that were cancelled, performed virtually, or didn’t happen at all…our lists are exhaustive. The disappointment that we couldn’t get together to celebrate retirement or a “big” birthday. The crushing sadness we felt when we lost a loved one and could not hug each other or be at the funeral and shiva together in person. The serious psychological effect the quarantine has had upon children and adults are real and will be felt for years. It has truly taken a toll on everyone. Months of isolation and only meeting virtually have impacted all of us.
At the same time, our people have also been resilient! We have developed safe ways to study, pray and support one another. Sometimes by pivoting to a completely virtual approach, creating small ways to actually meet, and ultimately doing whatever we could to make meaningful moments in this difficult time.
Amidst all these crushing challenges and losses there have been unbelievable moments of joy: births, engagements, new jobs, better tech skills, new friendships, and many positive events. Springtime is a time of hope and rebirth. There are so many good things going on at MRT virtually and in-person, and hopefully more and more in the coming months. We need you to read your weekly communication. Please keep coming to worship virtually and in-person when allowed. Please come work in our garden, we really need your help. Please come to our study sessions and be part of our social action work. This is our time to renew, heal and move forward as a holy congregation.  
Mitzvah Day 2021
Sunday, May 2nd is Mitzvah Day – a day of Tikkun Olam – a day of giving to those in need. There are so many who need our help now, more than ever. This is an opportunity to give to our community.
The mitzvah of service to others is a part of our tradition. Historically, we have all gotten together to work on various community projects. Unfortunately, we are unable to get together this year. 
Mitzvah Day 2021 will be hybrid, with a mix of in-person events taking place outdoors and projects that can be done at home. We have a wide range of service activities planned for all ages and interests. There is something for everyone. 
So please join the Social Action/Mitzvah Day committee in making your contribution to the various community projects. 
There are labeled bins outside the front door of MRT and we are asking for donations:
  • Susan St Lifer is collecting bars of soap for crocheted soap sacks.
  • Caryl Sills is collecting blank cards for thank you notes to servicemen and women.
  • Cheryl Gaudette is collecting diapers to be donated to Lunch Break and the Jersey Shore Dream Center.
  • Lyra Seligman is collecting disinfecting wipes, dish and hand soap, latex
  • disposable gloves, granola bars, instant oatmeal packs, cereal, and fruit cups to be donated to Monmouth Day Care Center and the Backpack Crew.
  • Mark Gruensfelder has setup links for financial donations to Fulfill, Lunch Break, Family Promise and Interfaith Neighbors (the link to donate is below).
In addition to these donations, we have many activities planned for Mitzvah Day itself:
  • Larry Kligman will be leading a beach clean up at the North end of Sea Bright.
  • Cheryl Gaudette is heading a food collection to stock the fridge at the Center in Asbury Park. Volunteers will be preparing meals at home to be donated to the Center. 
  • Steve Gaudette and Dean Ross will be leading a group to clean up the Temple basement.
  • David Makow with the Men’s Club will be cleaning up the outside of the Temple and handwashing the podium and benches.
  • Susan St Lifer is heading a group who will be knitting and crocheting soap sacks in their own homes, that will be distributed to food pantries and shelters throughout Monmouth County.
  • Lynn Shapiro will be heading a group who will be knitting hats in their own home, for the following initiatives: Hats for Israeli Soldiers, Hats not Hate and Knit the Rainbow.
  • Judy Rivkin will be heading a group who will be knitting in their own homes. Baby items, hates, afghans and booties will be donated to Madonna House. Afghans and other items will be donated to the Mission in Asbury Park.
  • Eric Nathanson will be leading a group to work on our Mazon Garden, which donates food to the food pantries all over Monmouth County.
  • Mark Gruensfelder will be leading a group to clean up the Henry Hudson trail.
  • Cantor Clissold will be heading a project to call all members of the congregation to check-in on Mitzvah Day.
The Religious School will be sponsoring a number of activities, including: Crafting for the Community, Grounds Cleanup, and a Food and Supply Drive for Backpack Crew and Monmouth Day Care Center. This will be lead by Karen Seligman, Lyra Seligman, Amy Sukinik, Gena Lande, and Magda Reyes.
Mitzvah Day will kick-off at 9:30 am. Rabbi and Cantor will welcome everyone to begin Mitzvah Day with a few words and music of appreciation, to provide a joyful and spiritual send off for the day’s activities. Please attend in person or on Zoom. A link will be provided. Most activities are scheduled to start by 10:00 am, although start times are at the discretion of the project leaders and will be communicated to you after you sign up.
We will be unable to provide a lunch this year due to Covid-19. However, we will be gathering outside of MRT after completing the projects. Please bring your own lunch, chair and reusable water bottle. We will provide individually wrapped snacks and jugs of water to refill your water bottles.
Specific details, as well as the link to sign up to volunteer, can be found below and in the weekly Eblast. We hope you will find something meaningful and fun for your participation.
Attention MRT Knitters and Crocheters
A recent large donation of fine yarn as well as worsted weight yarn is waiting for you! Mitzvah Day is approaching and volunteers are invited to make projects. Also, if you know anyone who might be interested in making items for personal use, high-end yarn is available. Please contact Maddy Kalb @ or call 732-530-9270 for details. 
Religious School News, Spring 2021
With the arrival of longer days and warmer weather this spring, comes also a welcome tweaking to our curriculum in the Religious School. Though necessary, our hybrid model of lower classes in person and upper classes virtually didn’t allow for the same kind of community building that is our goal, and that is possible when the whole school comes together, in person, in one place. Our plan is to bring all the classes back to MRT outdoors, as soon as the weather allows. We will still observe all safety protocols (require mask wearing, maintaining safe distancing and completed health forms), but the benefit of coming back to school in person for all of us is enormous and a giant step towards re-establishing our relationships to each other and to MRT.
The school year will be winding down at the end of May, but there are still plenty of opportunities to engage in our many activities. Don’t forget to sign up to participate in Mitzvah Day activities on May 2nd, tune in to the social Shabbat Schmooze before the family friendly 5th grade led First Friday Shabbat service on May 7th, look for next year’s registration on May 9th, celebrate our Confirmands on May 16th, and join us as we honor our teachers and say goodbye on the last of school on May 23rd.
I cannot adequately express my appreciation and gratitude to the whole MRT community for the support and guidance during this past year. I am honored to be a part of our wonderful teaching staff, who along with our clergy, were challenged to develop meaningful curriculum and effective communication in a new environment. With your encouragement, your flexibility and understanding, we were able to maintain and facilitate Jewish learning and community building that allows our school to thrive.
Thank you again and see you in September!
Congregational Learning
We are thrilled at the response that Seeing Human Through a Jewish Lens series has been getting. This spring, we continued the conversations on racism and social justice. In collaboration with our Sisterhood, we facilitated discussions on topics raised in the NYT’s 1619 Project. The White Fragility reading group is continuing their discussions of racial disparity by conversations with members of Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park. The initial dialog was so successful that we all agreed to meet again and often to continue our relationship. The discussions for families on the same topic were facilitated by the Religious Education Committee and included a speaker on Emotional First Aid and Finding the Words, Speaking about Race with Families and Children. We are looking forward to continuing our conversations over the summer and introducing topics on gender and ageism in the fall.
Temple-wide holiday celebrations continue. While Purim and Passover observances incorporated a series of speakers and discussions on different aspects of the holidays, our Shavuot observance will include a social for families on Saturday, May 15th and an opportunity for Shavuot study on May 16th. More details will follow.
MRT’s Vegan group sponsored a delicious vegan Passover cooking event and a discussion on plant based healthy eating based on the movie Game Changers. More educational opportunities and delicious cooking are being planned for Shavuot.
Virtual Shabbat Kallah Adult Education Program
The Adult Ed Committee has invited Rabbi Alysa Stanton to be their Shabbat Kallah guest rabbi on Saturday May 8, 2021. Her planned topic is “Honing The Lenses of Tikkun Olam: Through The Narratives of Reality and the Prism of Torah”. Due to being held on Zoom, this program will consist of two 1½ hour sessions of text-based study with a brief break in between. RSVP to by May 5th. See flyer below for more information:
This month’s Tzedakah collection is supporting Interfaith Neighbors.
MRT has a long-term partnership with Interfaith Neighbors, having helped create the organization. Rabbi Sally Priesand is its Board President, and we stay active in supporting its mission “To assist those less fortunate among us to meet life’s basic necessities, while seeking to improve the quality of life for individuals and families and the communities in which they live.”
Its community impact includes programs serving all of Monmouth County, including: rental & mortgage assistance, nutrition and meals on wheels, affordable housing, neighborhood revitalization, and individual and community empowerment.
Donations to our virtual Tzedakah box can be made through check payable to MRT, or online by clicking HERE*.
*Please make sure to add a note to your payment specifying that the funds should be directed towards Interfaith Neighbors.
MRT has provided a foundation of Judaism, special memories and supportive relationships for three generations of my family. It is my wish that my legacy will contribute in helping MRT to survive and continue to do the same and more for future generations to come. –Brenda Tuller
In 2015, the Jewish community of Monmouth County, including Monmouth Reform Temple, was invited to participate in a LIFE & LEGACY philanthropy training program sponsored and funded by The Harold Grinspoon Foundation (sponsor of PJ Library). The objective of the program was to develop an after-life giving initiative in which donors would commit to leaving something in their will, trust, life insurance policy, or other financial instrument to help sustain MRT after he or she were gone. Gifts could also be made immediately, if the donor preferred. 
All gifts would be donated to a permanent endowment in which the principal is maintained while the earnings or interest could be used to support the ongoing operations of the Temple or other designated objective.
Since 2015, through the work of the first Life and Legacy Committee and the immediate and after-life gifts of MRT members, we have raised over $400,000 in contributions to MRT permanent endowments that will help sustain the mission of MRT into the future.         
Our goal now is to continue and sustain our sense of philanthropic giving for the synagogue, now in its 60th year, so that in the coming years, new members of the Jewish community can be enriched by MRT as we have been enriched in our time.
Our MRT community is blessed to have several endowments that help sustain us.
Pledges to Life and Legacy can be directed to the following Endowment Funds. 
  1. Rabbi Sally J. Priesand Endowment for the Future focused on providing support for the ongoing well-being of the Temple.
  2. Religious School Endowment Fund to promote and effectively prepare our young people to lead meaningful, engaged Jewish lives.
  3. Scholar-in-Residence Endowment Fund to provide for recognized scholars who will give 3 lectures over the course of a weekend on a particular Biblical/Jewish theme.
  4. Rivkin Summer Camp Endowment Fund to provide subsidies for youngsters in MRT families with financial need to experience Jewish summer camp.
A commitment form provides a means to designate a particular fund.  If the donor gives no direction, the pledge will be deposited into the RSJP Endowment for the Future.
Please reach out to one of our LIFE & LEGACY committee members – Zach Gilstein, Eleanor Rubin, Bob St. Lifer, Margie Wold, Joel Morgovsky – to find out how you can share in the mitzvah.  An immediate or after-life gift can be a special way to honor a loved one or B’nai Mitzvah.
We gratefully acknowledge the growing list of donors who have made a legacy commitment or immediate significant contribution to one of MRT’s permanent endowments. 
Gan Mazon
In her usual creative way, Margie Wold recently sent out her “April Memo,” comparing her responsibilities as Temple President to the many roles she must assume while engaging in her regular daily activities. Margie framed the roles in terms of the hats she wears just interacting with family members. Her recognizable theme includes being a spouse, mom, daughter, child, friend, as well as daughter-in- law. Of course, Margie’s hat closet grows considerably by being our Temple President.
David Levinsky, former Gan Mazon Director, might have added his official Mets and NY Giants hats if he did not spend so much time wearing his MRT Master Gardener hat. The thousands of pounds of produce Gan Mazon donates to the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Monmouth County and other county non-sectarian pantries each season is a social action activity especially meaningful to all garden volunteers. Volunteering in the 2020 season was the most difficult of any previous one because the need was the greatest; unfortunately, Gan Mazon’s harvest recipients may be in demand, this year as well.
A tip of the hat goes to the following temple members who have already spent hours getting our 3,000 square feet garden ready for transplanting: Wayne Hallard – our incoming Temple President, Ellen Goldberg – Sisterhood Co-President, Brett Tuller, Rori Davis, and Ethan Davis. We also have non-members committed to our mission: Gloria Gross – Garden Co-Director, Denise Fredericks, and Israel Mayk. The photo shows the rows of lettuce we already planted. Soon kale and beet seeds will be added. A shout out goes to Brett Tuller for supervising the installation of 12 posts for our new cucumber trellises. 
This summer, we will grow 5 varieties of peppers, 4 varieties of cucumbers, countless tomato cultivars, squash varieties, beans and surprises from Gloria.
My favorite cliché is that ‘many hands make light work.’ I cannot emphasize enough the truth in those words. Between weeding, planting, disease and insect control, harvesting, weighing, and packing produce for delivery, the garden does not have enough volunteers on a consistent basis to ease the work load on the few that we do have. Let me be absolutely clear—-Gan Mazon is not a back breaking activity. A few hours a week would be very helpful. There are jobs for people with bad knees, bad backs and arthritic hands. We will gladly teach you all you need to know about vegetable gardening.
We all know the expression that there is ‘nothing like a Jersey tomato.’ Well, how about tasting 5 organically grown varieties, plus an assortment of sweet and hot peppers?
See you in the garden,
Eric Nathanson
Men’s Club has organized a Mike’s Crumb Cakes fundraiser. Orders will be taken until May 8th. You can place your order online on the MRT website (Click HERE ), or by sending in a check payable to MRT Men’s Club, Attention: Men’s Club, and include a note indicating your flavor(s) and quantities. See flyer below for more information:
Our Mah Jongg continues to be enjoyed weekly on a website called Real Mah Jongg. We have a game on Tuesdays from 1-3. We are still able to play with each other, just via the internet. It is alright as a substitute, but most of us are looking forward to getting back together again. We have many women who are playing at this time. There is no limit. If you pay to join the program, you can play anytime you want. Anyone is welcome to participate with us. 
Throughout this past year we have had monthly book club talks and monthly movie talks. Our members have read the same book or watched the same movie on their own, and then we get together on Zoom to discuss it. We have had such lively and interesting conversations! Some of our participants even research the authors, and sometimes the topics, that are brought up in the book or the movie. We take suggestions from our members for the book or the movie, and usually the person who makes the recommendation leads the discussion for the group. It is a lot of fun.
In February, we dove into a temple program called the 1619 Project. Our temple members were asked to listen to a podcast or read articles from the New York Times magazine entitled 1619, by Nicole Hannah Jones. It had to do with how the first Black Slaves were brought over to this country from Africa that year. What an education we received! Through Rabbi Kline, we were able to get a diverse group of experts who agreed to discuss the different articles that we focused on in each session. It was so well attended, that we went from three sessions to four. We added the additional session because it seemed that there were (and still are) a lot of unanswered questions. We truly believe that even after the fourth and final session, that this was not the end, but actually a continuation of the “conversation”.  
Even though we are still not able to be in the temple, we decided to continue our annual Shalach Manot. It was different this year from the past. No one received actual bags or boxes with items inside. Families were asked to donate $36 and include a personal message to the other members of the temple. We had a respectable number of families who participated and everyone seemed to have enjoyed reading the messages. We are so happy for the support. Thank you to Jill Austin and Cheryl Gaudette for organizing. Jill Austin, Karen Levinsky, and Ellen Goldberg sorted, folded, stuffed and sealed all the envelopes that went out to every family in the congregation. The three of us completed the whole thing in just about 2 hours!
Typically we get together in the MRT kitchen to bake Hamantaschen every year to include in our Shalach Manot bags. As we all know, that did not happen. However, we were able to have a great time on Zoom together baking in our own kitchen. Nancy Zaslowe led our group of women in what we called “Zoomentasch”. Not only was it incredibly fun, the cookies were delicious!
The Sisterhood Seder was very well attended, even though it was on Zoom and in our own homes. Thank you to Cantor Clissold for finding an extremely interesting service that was so meaningful and well done. We learned so much from this presentation and we heard a lot of positive feedback. Once again, it was not the same as being together, but we enjoyed being a part of it and seeing each other’s faces online. Thank you to Linda Burstein for organizing this event.
We are sad to have missed many of our planned events that had to be cancelled due to the fact that we are all staying safe. We are still planning the on-line Bingo, and more book club and movie discussions, a possible hike, and other outdoor get-togethers as the weather warms up.
The student Scholarships that we provide for socially active high school seniors in our temple family will be coming up next month. Students apply for the Scholarship and it is awarded by the Sisterhood to all of the students, if they qualify. This year we are once again awarding these Scholarships in the memory of Dorothy Teitelbaum. In addition to the scholarships, Sisterhood donates to CHHANGE, Family Promise, The Center in Asbury Park, Lunch Break and ACS Making Strides in Breast Cancer annually.  
Sisterhood is continuing to work on improving the kitchen. We have already done a great deal thanks to the direction of Nancy Zaslowe. Currently we are getting prices to do some painting, floors, and replace the closet doors to the pantry in the kitchen. Sisterhood plans to pay all costs.
We will not be having a plant sale this year. Our Judaica shop, run by Karen Kahn, is still open for purchases. Karen set up a table during religious school a few weekends ago and had quite a few customers. Sisterhood also continues to give gifts to our B’nai Mitzvah students. Marci Rachlin has taken on the responsibility of writing personal notes to each individual.
I never tire of thanking our board for all the great things they do! Thanks to Karen Levinsky, our treasurer, and Meryl Smith, our secretary, who jump into action whenever they are needed.
Celebrating 50 Years of Women in the Rabbinate
Sunday, June 06, 2021 5:30 PM ET/ 4:30pm CT/ 3:30PM MT/ 2:30PM PT
The Women’s Rabbinic Network welcomes our friends, supporters, and colleagues to join us for this special celebration of five decades of women in the rabbinate!
Kicking off a year of commemorations, we will honor Rabbi Sally Priesand’s boundary-breaking 1972 ordination and the impact of all women rabbis. We will also mark the numerous ways this historic accomplishment continues to inspire Jewish leaders of all identities. 
Access to the Jubilee Inaugural is $50. 
Please consider supporting WRN and our impactful work through a donation to the 2021 Convention Fund in honor or memory of a rabbi who has touched your life with her leadership.
To make a donation, CLICK HERE and choose to direct your contribution to the “2021 Convention.” Thank you for your consideration