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Shemini Atzeret & Simhat Torah 2023

In Israel, Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Assembly) and Simhat Torah—the 8th and 9th days of Sukkot—are celebrated as a single holiday. Outside of Israel, the two days are separated, and their moods could not be more different. Shemini Atzeret is a serious moment when we recite Tefillat Geshem, the traditional prayer for rain in Israel, and the Yizkor memorial prayers. And then in the evening, we shift to joyous singing and dancing to celebrate the conclusion of our annual cycle of reading the Torah.

At B’nai Israel, each of these holidays brings hundreds of individuals for reflection and joy. In addition to singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls on Simhat Torah evening, we unroll the entire Torah so that we can visualize every letter and word of our most sacred text—this is always a popular event! On Simhat Torah morning, we honor every member of the congregation with an aliyah, a commitment that requires numerous reading stations to accommodate everyone. We also honor the commitment of two members to the congregation with the honors of Hatan/Kallat Torah and Hatan/Kallat Breishit, the last readings of Deuteronomy and first reading of Genesis respectively.

Hatan Torah & Kallat Breishit

During Simhat Torah services on Sunday, October 8, it is customary for every member of the congregation to receive an aliyah. The honors of Hatan Torah, the last aliyah of the book of Deuteronomy; and Hatan Breishit, the first aliyah in Genesis, are assigned by our Ritual committee to recognize significant contributions to the ritual life of our synagogue. Mazal tov to Larry Fishbein and Deedee Jacobsohn on receiving those honors this year.

Larry Fishbein

More than ten years ago, I walked into the morning minyan to say kaddish for my father. I did not belong to B’nai then, but it was close to my work. Like most new mourners, I felt adrift, lost, and out of sorts. No one approached me for the first few days. It seemed as if my visible kriah (torn ribbon) was keeping people away and just letting me daven and say kaddish, which was fine with me. 

After a few days, Mick Abramowitz, z”l approached me following services and asked who I was mourning. I told him, and he seemed genuinely interested in my situation.  He greeted me each morning, and we chatted. Over time, more conversations were started with the regulars until I knew almost everyone.

A few months into my mourning period, my aunt had a yartzeit, and I asked Mike if I could say the El Malay prayer. Following services that day, Mike asked, “Can you lead the entire service?”  I said I could, and that has led to more than a decade of leading at least one service, and sometimes more, every week. I have also been honored to help serve as a gabbai, shofar blower, and whatever else has been needed.

The warmth I feel and the friendships I have developed over these years at B’nai Israel have genuinely been one of the most special blessings I’ve received. It is an honor to be a member and part of this great synagogue. Whatever I have given by helping with the daily services pales compared to what I have received. 

I am a proud third-generation Washingtonian with deep ties to the Jewish community. My great-grandfather, for whom I’m named, was a founding member of Beth Sholom. I grew up and became a bar mitzvah at Temple Israel under the watchful eye of Rabbi Lewis Weintraub, z”l. After college and time in New England, my fiancé and I returned to the area and became active members at Temple Israel, where I eventually served as a vice president. When we moved to Olney, we became active at B’nai Shalom of Olney, where I served two terms as president. Now, I am happy to be a BSO and B’nai Israel member.    

I have spent my entire professional career in publishing, including time spent as the publisher of Washington Jewish Week. My wife and I have two grown children and two wonderful grandchildren.

Deedee Jacobsohn

Telling stories is a critical part of building relationships and coalitions in advocacy work. 
Last year I told the story of my personal journey to social justice work with Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) at a Yom Kippur break-out session. It is easy to draw on my Jewish values to explain why I find it important to strive to make Montgomery County more just and equitable. However, it was not as easy for me to tell the story of my contributions to the ritual life of B’nai Israel. I struggled until I realized that this is not an epic narrative, but a series of short stories connected by the thread of building a better community.

Like so many others, our involvement with B’nai Israel began with the education department. My husband Jeremy and I joined more than twenty years ago when we enrolled our son Gabe in Talmud Torah as a kindergartener. The following year, Ben started at the Schilit Nursery School. We took the boys to what was then called Mini Minyan and Junior Congregation. There were lots of grade-Shabbat meals! We joined a havurah and went together to family shabbatonim. By the time both boys reached their bar mitzvah and then Confirmation, I had become a (mostly) regular presence at B’nai on Shabbat and Festivals. Now I find services a rejuvenating place: a time for community, for learning, for reflection, and for prayer.

The thread of my synagogue leadership roles also began in the education department. I progressed from Talmud Torah committee co-chair, to the Board of Governors, and ultimately to the role of President. These were public roles (sometimes you could say too public!). Yet in the background I wove another thread that contributed to ritual life at B’nai. Whether as a Shabbat greeter, being on the evening minyan call list, or playing a vital role on the High Holiday seating committee, I volunteer in small ways that help the religious life of the synagogue run smoothly. If you have the time, I urge you to join me!

Perhaps the most lasting contributions I have made to ritual life are linked to the challenging, yet rewarding, search committee processes I have guided that brought us Rabbi Berkowitz, Cantor Bolts, and most recently Rabbi Stone. 

One last thread connecting these stories is how important the B’nai community is to me. I am grateful for our havurah, which has become a second family, and profoundly thankful to have found my place here. I am deeply appreciative of this honor, and I look forward to continuing my B’nai story with you all.

Shemini Atzeret & Simhat Torah service times

Friday, October 6
6:15 PM Shabbat & Festival Evening Service
Saturday, October 7
9:00 AM Shabbat & Festival Morning Service
10:15 AM Family Minyan
10:45 AM Tot Shabbat 
10:45 AM Yizkor (approximately)
12:30 PM Shabbat/Festival Minha
6:30 PM Simhat Torah for Tots
Celebrate Simhat Torah with your Tots friends and families by singing, dancing, and parading around B’nai Israel with the Torah scrolls. Don’t forget to take a special treat on the way out to remind us that Torah is sweet.
7:15 PM Festival Evening Service and Hakafot
Our entire B'nai Israel community is invited to dance with the Torah as we celebrate our completion of its reading. This evening will be joyous and lively, and we encourage all ages to join us!

Sunday, October 8

9:00 AM Festival Morning Service
During Simhat Torah services, it is customary for every member of the congregation to receive an aliyah. We look forward to seeing you at this celebratory service! 
1:00 PM Festival Minha
8:00 PM Ma’ariv


Sat, July 13 2024 7 Tammuz 5784