A Weekly Message from Rabbi Sam Levine 11.5.2020

We are living through history. As I write this, what has been perhaps the most contentious election in modern American history remains inconclusive. Yesterday, Wednesday, I was on the Upper East Side at the 24-hour Apple Store on 5th Avenue. At the entrance, I was told they were closing at 4 pm. Businesses around the country are boarding up, bracing for civil unrest. The national mood is troubling, as is the language coming from the president. In key states, votes continue to be counted, one by one. Most people feel uneasy, unsettled, and uncertain.

At times like this, we turn to community, to tradition, to prayer, and to study. From these, we gain strength and wisdom, solace and balance. This coming Shabbat, I will speak about the fundamental Jewish values of tzedakah and mishpat, justice and righteousness. Grounded on those two bedrock principles, the Jewish people have made it through many a crisis. These two particular values serve as a compass of sorts, a source of internal fortitude. Encountering them in our Torah readings (as we often do) is a powerful way of reconnecting with them. It serves as a reminder that they are in our DNA, that we have ever been dedicated to them and must strive to continue to be. At this time, the values of justice and righteousness should be sitting on our shoulders, guiding us through this strange and difficult time, reminding us of what is important.

In last week’s email, I noted that we were commemorating the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. This week, we will have an opportunity to watch and discuss a critically acclaimed docu-drama, Incitement, about the period leading up to Rabin’s assassination. Incitement chronicles the radicalization of the assassin and makes a profound statement about a society’s descent into a hot-zone of dangerous polarization. The film won Israel’s top prize last year and is Israel’s submission to the Academy Awards this year for best foreign film. Please see details below.

It may be particularly poignant to watch the film this week, as we are also celebrating the 103rd anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. The Balfour Declaration was a public statement issued by the British government in 1917 during the First World War announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a small minority Jewish population (Wikipedia). The Balfour Declaration paved the way for the ultimate establishment of the State of Israel. The juxtaposition of this anniversary with the anniversary of Rabin’s murder is jarring – another reminder of the importance of clinging to tzedakah and mishpat, justice and righteousness, in the way we conduct ourselves and our affairs.

I’d also like to announce a wonderful new opportunity for adult learning. EMJC is participating in a program called ScholarStream (an Initiative of the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue, JTS, and the Ziegler School) which offers high quality adult education. As a sponsor of ScholarStream, we’re excited to provide our members with the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s leading scholars and engage deeply with our texts and traditions at no cost. EMJC members have access to all eight sessions for free. See course offerings and sign-up details below.

Let us pray that the coming weeks bring peace, clarity, and ultimately, a renewal of our commitment to tzedakah and mishpat.

Shabbat shalom um’vorach – a peaceful and blessed Shabbat to all,

Rabbi Sam Levine



On Saturday night at 7:30, we will be joining with Park Slope Jewish Center and Beshert – Beth Shalom v’Emeth Reform Temple to discuss the movie. The discussion will be led by Habonim Dror sh’lichah (emissary) Carmi Tint.

Anyone is welcome to join the discussion, but of course you will want to watch the movie first. You may watch the movie in two ways:

1. If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, the movie is available for free at Prime Video and you can watch it anytime you like.

Here’s the link (for Amazon Prime subscribers only):


2. If you do not have Amazon Prime, the producers of the film are making it available to us for a little over 24 hours, from Thursday night at 6pm until Friday night at 8pm (Shabbat starts at 4:27 FYI). You will get a link and a password and you can watch it that way. Click on the following link to sign up:

Incitement link:


The discussion will take place on Zoom (again, at 7:30 pm on Saturday night). Here is the Zoom information:

Incitement movie DISCUSSION:

Saturday Nov 7, 7:30 PM

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 984 5020 4427

Passcode: 310668

Dial by your location

       +1 646 558 8656

Meeting ID: 984 5020 4427

Passcode: 310668


The ScholarStream classes are coming from two places, one on the east coast (JTS) and one on the west coast (Zeigler Scool). Classes are on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, starting next week, the 11th and the 12th.

Please note:

The JTS CLASSES BEGIN AT 8PM and will take place on TUESDAYS.

The ZIEGLER CLASSES START AT 10 PM and will take place on WEDNESDAYS

Below you will find links to register for any and all sessions.

-You must register for all sessions you wish to attend.

-The deadline to sign up will be 11 AM EST on the morning of each session.

A day before each session, you will be sent the Zoom link.

When you go to register, when you get to the “Payment” page, toward the top of the page you will see CONGREGATION CODE.

Our code is: BrooklynFall20

Enter that and there will be NO CHARGE. Please note that the code is case sensitive.

The registration may ask for credit card/billing info but with the coupon code entered and applied, registrants can click through without entering billing information.

PLEASE NOTE: The registration system is very clunky and overly-complicated. If you need help registering, call or email the office or the rabbi for help.

Session times, faculty, and topics are below:

Hidden Histories and Untold Stories

Tuesdays at 8 PM ET / 5 PM PT

JTS Registration Link


Join JTS scholars as they uncover the hidden context around biblical figures and important eras in Jewish history.

11/10: Dr. David Fishman on how religious pre-Holocaust Eastern European Jewry actually was—or wasn’t

11/17: Dr. Alan Cooper on why we stopped caring about Moses’s descendants

12/1: Dr. Sarah Wolf on how foreign the beit midrash would feel to the early Rabbis

12/8: Dr. Amy Kalmanofsky on what the Bible really had against Jezebel

Equity, Forgiveness and Intersectionality

Wednesdays at 10 PM ET / 7 PM PT

Ziegler Registration Link (https://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/civicrm/event/register?reset=1&id=1246)

Join Ziegler faculty as they explore issues related to race, gender equality, intersectionality, and building a democracy of the future. Download the full descriptions for each Ziegler session here.

11/11: Rabbi Cheryl Peretz will examine the centuries old Jewish march towards gender equality and justice

11/18: Rabbi Dr. Elliot Dorff will explore the concept of communal forgiveness

12/2: Rabbi Dr. Gail Labovitz on what Exodus has to teach us about intersectionality

12/9: Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Cohen on building a multiracial democracy