Cantor’s Column – October 2018

Mar Heshvan (Bitter Month of Heshvan)? I think not!

Cantor Ilan Davidson

In our tradition, the second month of the year, Heshvan, is known as Mar Heshvan, the bitter month of Heshvan, as there are no Jewish holidays in this month. It’s easy to see why this might bring sadness to some in the Jewish world, after the constant celebrations we have just celebrated in the month of Tishrei. But why bitter? I simply don’t understand. In a vibrant Jewish community such as Temple Beth El, there may not be any Jewish holidays in Heshvan, but there is never a lack of exciting things to do in the community — especially for our youth.

In fact, Youth Engagement is on the rise at Temple Beth El, with new leadership, invigorated advisors, and a connection to the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) and our URJ Camp community, linking us to Youth Engagement around the world. It used to be that Youth Engagement at Temple Beth El was defined as Yaldei Shalom (our 6th–8th grade youth group) and SPeTY (our 9th– 12th grade youth group), but no longer. In fact, Mar Heshvan is our month to introduce a broad sweeping revival of Youth Engagement, from the infants through High School, and perhaps even beyond.

At Temple Beth El, we strive to engage ALL of our Youth and their families. We start with our youngest participants, our Half Pint Havurah, represented on our Youth Committee by Mary & David Sramek. These parents/grandparents and children from birth through first grade meet once per month to celebrate being Jewish on Shabbat, our favorite day of the week. Once they enter second grade, our children can join our Youth Choir, represented on the Youth Committee by Laura & Keith Small. Not only does Youth Choir sing together, but they go on outings and engage their parents in supporting Temple events, including our Annual Oscar Party. Oh, and did I mention beginning in second grade, our children are eligible to attend one of our amazing URJ Camps now, too?

And finally, once in High School, our youth join San Pedro Temple Youth (SPeTY) a part of NFTY, under the guidance of our youth advisor, Rachel Fischer, and ably lead by SPeTY board president, Jordan Davidson, who also sits on the Temple Board. Together, they engage in educational, social, and social action programming, engaging not just in their local community, but with national and world Jewry. They are represented on the Youth Committee by Susan Brooks, who joins the other parents and community lay leaders who oversee and support our youth engagement efforts.

Mar Heshvan? Not for our youth, who are just getting back into the swing of things. They have nothing to be bitter about. Temple Beth El is a vibrant community filled with much to engage them, and I am proud to be Youth Engagement coordinator for our Temple. Join us and our growing Youth Committee whenever we can support and celebrate our youth. Hazak, Hazak, v’Nithazek — as these youth become more strongly engaged, our entire community will be strengthened.