Rabbi Bach, Rosh Hashanah Morning

The blasts of the shofar, which we’ll hear in just a few minutes, are a key element of the Rosh Hashanah service. To hear the sound of the shofar — lishmo’a kol shofar— is the central commandment of this holiday.It’s worthwhile to reflect for a moment about just why we listen to the shofar blasts. One way of answering the question, “Why,” is with that time-honored response, “because God says so.” The Torah’s account of the festival calendar calls the first day of the month of Tishrei a yom teruah, a “day for blowing the horn.” If the Torah tells us so, perhaps that ought to be enough. it was certainly enough for a certain Rabbi Isaac whose words are remembered in the pages of the Talmud (BT RH 16a): “Why do we blow? God said, ‘Blow!’” Continue reading

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Rabbi Bellush, Erev Rosh Hashanah Sermon

A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein is that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but, expecting different results.” Yet, here we all are again: Another Rosh Hashanah, using the same book, praying the same prayers, maybe even sitting in the same seat. Well, I guess one thing is different; me being here. Still, we’re all here to do the same thing: each year at this time we attempt to acknowledge our faults, repair relationships and return, once again, to God. Teshuvah would be easy if it weren’t for the fact that it requires us to change and most of us, just don’t like change. Continue reading

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Holocaust Survivor David Kaplan, 8/28 at the Holocaust Museum

An important and powerful program from our friends at the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center

The EPHM Book Club will continue its quarterly discussions with the book “I Forgive Them” by Holocaust Survivor David Kaplan. The discussion will be at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 28 at the Museum, 715 N. Oregon. That date also marks Mr. Kaplan’s 83rd birthday.

Darren Hunt, KVIA reporter and host of ABC-7’s “Xtra” will moderate the discussion and will interview Mr. Kaplan about the book and his life as a young victim of the Holocaust. He was only 12 years old when he was first moved to a ghetto with his family in Lithuania and, for the next several years, would experience grueling hardships in several concentration camps throughout Europe. Mr. Kaplan’s strength is evident, not only in his will to survive, but in his ability to forgive, which is detailed in his book.

In 2011, the EPHM Book Club chose to feature books that highlight the lives of Holocaust survivors who made El Paso their home. Already this year, books by Sara Hauptman (“The Lioness of Judah”) and the late Itzhak Kotkowski (“The Wiles of Destiny”) have been featured. In November, the Museum will feature the book “From Darkness to Sunshine” by the late Mark Kupfer.
Please join us as we examine the life of another survivor who made El Paso his home. The book “I Forgive Them” is available at the Museum Bookstore for $15.


  • What: EPHM Book Club presents the book “I Forgive Them” by Holocaust Survivor David Kaplan. KVIA’s Darren Hunt will moderate the discussion and interview Mr. Kaplan.
  • When: 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011
  • Where: El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, 715 N. Oregon
  • Books: Available for purchase at the Museum Bookstore for $15
  • Information: 351-0048 ext. 24

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Rabbi Bellush’s Installation — September 9, 2011

The members and friends of Temple Mount Sinai will celebrate a special milestone in our 113-year history on September 9: the installation of a new spiritual leader for our community. On that evening, Rabbi Sandra Bellush will be formally welcomed as Temple Mount Sinai’s ninth rabbi and first woman rabbi, joining Rabbi Larry Bach in leading our growing congregation. Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran of Cincinnati will join Rabbis Bach and Bellush, and Rabbi Emeritus Ken Weiss, in conducting the historic installation during Friday night services.

Rabbi BellushOrdained in May 2011 at the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, Rabbi Bellush brings a wealth of experience to her new position. After a career in management consulting and investment banking in New York City, she pursued her Jewish studies first in the Sh’liach K’hilah training program in 2003-2004. There she met Ellen Goodman, one of our Temple’s lay leaders, and first heard about our congregation.

Rabbi Bellush went on to earn her Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters in 2010, receiving the Nathan Stern Prize for achieving the graduating class’s highest academic standing. While a student and rabbinic intern, she worked with six congregations, including a university Hillel group and taught at the Cincinnati Reform Jewish High School. At Hebrew Union College, she was awarded the Cora Kahn Prize for outstanding sermon delivery and oratory, a prize also earned by Rabbi Bach during his rabbinical training.

To celebrate the long-anticipated addition of a second rabbi, we will be welcoming Sandra and her husband Arnold with a fiesta: a festive dinner of Mexican specialties catered by The Greenery. El Paso’s entire Jewish community is invited to join us on this landmark occasion in Temple’s Schwartz Hall, following the Kabbalat Shabbat Service of Installation.

The dinner will include a Favorite Desserts Buffet, with our members bringing their own dessert specialty or family favorite. Volunteers are needed to contribute a dessert and to help with table decorations and set-up; please be in touch to offer your help. For payment information, please call the Temple at 532-5959.

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Mitzvah Day!

On Sunday, December 12, we gathered in Krupp Chapel. As students walked into the Chapel, they placed their donated items on the Bimah. Rabbi led us in T’filah, Michelle Blumenfeld thanked the students and faculty for their donations and encouraged all to continue doing Acts of Random Kindness throughout the year. Grace gave an overview of the Mitzvah Day activities for the morning.

After T’filah, students and teaching assistants helped take all the items from the Chapel to the Resource room to be sorted for delivery. Every one then returned to their classrooms for a G’Milut Chasadim lesson from 10:00 – 10:45 am.

This year we decided to honor the elderly with our main mitzvah project. Michelle Blumenfeld volunteered to head this year’s Mitzvah Day projects and Becky Horowitz, with Visiting Nursing Association, helped to identify their clients’ specific needs: baby wipes, new wash cloths, Ensure or Boost drinks, Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash, Carnation Instant Breakfast, fitted and flat sheets for hospital beds (extra long), plus the items that went into the gift bags.

At 10:45 the students started working on their Mitzvah projects: the Pre-kinder through second grade (led by teachers and teaching assistants) worked on “Well Wishes” cards to put in the gift bags. The third through eighth grade students decorated forty cloth bags for the forty patients, assisted by VNA nurses. The bags included a lightweight throw blanket, shampoo, rinse, body cream, toothpaste, toothbrush, notepad and pen, wooden handle bell, M&M’s and two lollipops.

Becky Horowitz, VNA-Hospice representative, visited the classrooms to thank the students for their donations and to talk about Hospice and answer the students’ questions. Our VNA guests were very grateful for all the items donated by our students, parents, faculty and our Religious School. Additionally, we collected items donated by students during this time. Everything we collected will be donated to the children at La Clinica Guadalupana.

At 11:30 am, we all gathered in Schwartz Hall for lunch and socializing. We sold tacos, salsa, drinks and yummy treats and we raised $470. The money collected at this lunch is being saved for a special Religious School Tzedakah Project, “Packages From Home.” Money we raise at the next Taco Lunch Fundraiser (planned for March 6 during our Cultural Celebration), will be added to the $470 to help with this important project.

A very special “THANK YOU” to everyone for their generous donations, to Simon Bir, David Wolfe, Ed Solomon, Elisa Gluck, JoAnn Farley, the Feldt’s, Shana/Carly/Gabe Levin, and Ellen Goodman for all of their help in the kitchen, to Sally Parke, Joyce Davidoff, Ethan Reiter, Meredith Heins, Matthew Bowman, Leah Gluck, Gabe and Carly Levin for helping out during the sale. We also truly appreciate Frank’s assistance during our Religious School projects and events.

On Monday, December 13, Michelle delivered the forty gift bags to VNA. Thank you Michelle!

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Meditation Sits, beginning Tuesday, January 11 at 6 pm

A weekly meditation “sit” will begin in January, 2011, on Tuesday evenings at 6 pm.

Rabbi Bach is joined by co-facilitators Mary McIntyre and Nancy Schwartz. All three have some experience meditating. They share a commitment to a regular meditation practice, and recognize that a group environment provides support for that practice.

Our weekly sits will be held in the Krupp Chapel, and will consist, for the most part of…sitting. We will open with a chant to
center, and one of the facilitators will offer some focus and instruction for practice. There will also be time at the end for ques- tions and sharing.But come prepared to sit in silence, opening heart and mind to what arises.

For more information and to confirm your interest in attending, call Mary at 915-490- 7359 (for those who called last Spring, please call again so we can update our potential attendee list).

Sits begin on January 11 at 6 pm, and continue each Tuesday following.

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Thanks, Sh’lichim!

Rabbi Bach’s January “Messages” Column…

I had the great pleasure to speak with a fifth-year rabbinical student at my alma mater, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, near the end of December. Sandra is currently writing her rabbinical thesis on the phenomenon of “para-rabbinics” in the Reform Movement, and she interviewed me about Temple’s decision to invest in becoming a “multiple-shaliach congregation” several years ago. She was curious to know how Ed Solomon, Ellen Goodman, and Tina Wolfe our sh’lichei kehillah (literally, “emissaries of the community”) functioned, what roles they fill, how they had been accepted by the community, and more.

I think Sandra expected a brief call, but we wound up speaking for just shy of an hour (tip of the day: if you want a good chunk of a rabbi’s time, call him or her on December 23; it’s a very quiet day, he’s lonely, and he won’t let you hang up!). Her very well-structured interview, and her willingness to speak with me about what she’d learned left me feeling very good about the decision we made, and the fruits it has borne.

Ellen went first, in 2003 and 2004. Ten-day sessions at HUC-JIR each summer, retreats during the intervening winter, and ongoing study with her classmates led to her certification as a “Synagogue Associate.” Ed and Tina followed in 2004 and 2005. With three sh’lichim, Temple was well-covered when I left El Paso for several weeks during the summer of 2005 on sabbatical. Leading services, teaching Torah study, providing pastoral support, and (sadly) officiating at several funerals…our sh’lichim did it all.

But Ed, Ellen and Tina are not just “pinch-hitters” for the rabbi when he is away. They have been my partners on the bima for Sabbath and holiday worship. Furthermore, they have each continued to grow in skills and talent, and have taken on leadership in various aspects of Temple’s religious life. Ed has become an outstanding Torah chanter and Hebrew teacher, Ellen a gifted life-cycle officiant, and Tina a sensitive and caring mentor for those choosing to become Jewish. Temple would be a different, and poorer, place without their enthusiasm and dedication.

From my conversation with Sandra, I learned that Temple really hit the “sweet spot” as far as para-rabbinical training is concerned. Shortly after Ed and Tina’s cohort, the program was significantly pared back, and relocated. A much shorter program, without the exposure to the HUC-JIR faculty, took its place, and our movement seems to be poorer for that fact. But our congregation has been blessed, many times over, by the actions we took several years ago. May the blessings only continue, for many years to come.

Thank you, sh’lichim!

Rabbi Bach

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