9/10 June 2023, 21 Sivan 5783

A quick word from New York. I’ve been here to witness conversations about the challenges facing Progressive Judaism (indeed all paths outside Haredim).

Numbers are apparently down, even here in the relative Mecca of Jewish life. The fight for souls is intense here, the competition with other commitments is fierce, be it soccer, dance or the relatively new pickleball*! Gym membership is infinitely cheaper here than temples’ (the charming name for your local synagogue). NYC congregational membership for a family can be $4000 and apparently, that’s not outlandish. Please enjoy the relatively modest dues to FPS in comparison!

I’m thinking a lot about how, at our best, Judaism can and should speak poetically to what matters to us. I visited Ground Zero and my visit was made more moving by a beautiful D’var Torah I’d heard the night before by Central Synagogue’s Rabbi Angela Buchdahl.

Ayn Mukdam Ume’uchar.
There is no early or late in Torah.

As the deep compression / hole of those memorial pools filled with the water that flowed in and backed up, it made sense. The water flows, time passes, grief continues and new life emerges and none of it is necessarily linear. We take beginnings and endings together.


This Shabbat we’ll be commemorating our Czech scrolls, all three so precious to us at FPS, bringing their past and stories of lost communities of Austerlitz with them, even as our children renew them time and again when they read from them.

I’m looking forward to this and being reminded of this Talmudic verse and its layered meaning for all of us.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Rebecca Birk.

*Pickleball is a fun sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis and is played outdoors on a badminton-sized court and with a slightly modified tennis net. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, over a net.