Category Archives: Snapshots from Southern Road Trips

Shab-bark Shalom, Y’all!

bop2For over 20 years at my home synagogue, Temple Sinai of New Orleans, Rabbi Edward Cohn has presided over a fun thirty minute program in the spring entitled, “The Blessing of the Pets.”

The rabbi’s rationale for blessing the pets comes straight from Torah, and the Jewish concept of being God’s partner on Earth: If God blessed the fish and the birds and gave us dominion over them as well as the beasts of the earth, and our job is to model “Godlike” behavior, we should also bless the pets!

According to the Torah, the animals were here first. The fish and birds created on the 5th day and the land animals on the 6th day before mankind was created. And our pets bless us every day with love and companionship. For that we should say Dayenu! But some pets also are trained to save lives, make our world safer and to enable the disabled. Plenty to honor.

There’s a Sabbath connection, too – in the Torah, we are commanded to rest on Shabbat and we are also commanded to rest our animals on Shabbat. God has commanded not only to have dominion over the Earth and the life on it, but also to care for His world and bless it. Hence, blessing of the pets.

I’ve had some friends tell me that this isn’t something their community does, so I started wondering: Is it a Southern phenomenon? A small-town practice? I’ve seen several churches in the area do pet blessing services, as well. Have you ever attended a pet blessing service? And while we’re asking questions: When your dog sneezes to you find yourself reflexively saying to him/her, God bless you? (I do!)

It may not happen everywhere, but I love the Blessing of the Pets. I think that anything that brings the community together – two-footed and four footed – is an occasion for blessing! Plus, just look at these happy faces…

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Posted on April 11, 2014

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Labyrinth: Going Green (Hint: It’s Not What You’re Thinking…)

Today’s post was written collaboratively by Education Fellows Elaine Barenblat, Dan Ring, and Allison Poirier

Greenville, MS

Remembering Linda Pinkus in Greenville, MS

This February, the ISJL launched the Linda Pinkus Memorial Labyrinth in not one, but TWO locations!

First, Elaine, Allison, and Rabbi Marshal Klaven took the labyrinth to a launch party in Greenville, Mississippi. There in the heart of the Delta, we celebrated the memory and legacy of Mrs. Pinkus with several generations of her family. In the same weekend, Dan brought our second labyrinth all the way across the South to Greensboro, North Carolina.

A labyrinth is a two dimensional meditative device. Unlike a maze, which twists and turns into dead ends, a labyrinth has a single path to its center and back. Their history goes back at least 3,500 years, and in Judaism they are often connected with the battle of Jericho. Today, we are using our labyrinth (pictured somewhere on this blog post) as a meditative exercise. We walk the paths in silence, concentrating on slow, even, steps, and reflect on spiritual matters. This project is the brainchild of Rabbi Marshal Klaven, created in memory of Mrs. Pinkus as a way to bring new spiritual experiences into the lives of Jews in the South.

Elaine and Allison check in from Greenville:

“We enjoyed seeing how different participants approach this new experience. We expected children to try to race through, but were also pleased to see that they enjoyed it when we encouraged them to slow down. We were surprised to learn that some people saw the labyrinth as a coordination challenge, and feared they were too clumsy to attempt it. Many adults who did try found that walking so slowly and purposefully did, in fact, change their sense of balance. But all who attempted it were pleased to have had this new experience and said they enjoyed learning about a new Jewish spiritual practice.”

Dan checks in from Greensboro:

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Exploring the Labyrinth in Greensboro, NC

“The labyrinth was a huge hit!  I used it as a religious school program on Sunday morning, and thanks to the help of Beth David Synagogue’s religious school director and the religious school teachers, it worked out perfectly.  It was fantastic to see rambunctious, energetic students completely transformed into contemplative, introspective scholars, discussing in detail the intricate differences between a labyrinth and a maze, and bringing these complicated ideas into a larger discussion about our own lives and life decisions.  With the tool of the labyrinth, I believe the students also truly began to understand the power of silence and meditation – a benefit which I’m sure will resonate with most any religious school teacher!”

The two labyrinths will be making the rounds throughout our ISJL region, and we hope you will be excited to bring it to your community soon. In the meantime… did you catch the “Green” connection? Don’t worry – it’s not a community requirement or anything! ;-)

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Posted on February 10, 2014

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Shalom Y’all, Baby!

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There are two words powerfully associated with the Southern Jewish experience: Shalom Y’all.

In just two little words, so much is conveyed. A greeting of peace, a connection with the Jewish people, an instantly-recognizable Southernism, a welcoming, a phrase that is naturally plural and inclusive.

It’s hard to think of any other two words that, when paired together, express so much with so little.

It’s also hard to picture anything cuter than this baby in a Shalom Y’all baby onesie.

This is the niece of Rabbi Marshal Klaven and artist Christina Mattison Klaven. Their adorable niece lives in London, England– obviously, the Shalom Y’all message is spread far and wide!

Here’s to everything our favorite phrase so quickly conveys! Shalom, Y’all!

Posted on February 3, 2014

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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