Thursday, May 26, 2005

There are Jews in Kentucky?

Just something cool to mention. I think my role in Jewish life in Louisville, KY might be changing yet again. Stay tuned.

Wrapping up a year, Beginning a new one

Who might have guessed that I would be moved to tears at the concluding ceremony for a year of adult Jewish study? On one level, Melton is just lots of adults spending two hours each week with big binders filled with class materials learning with local clergy. But on another level, these adults were there for more. These adults took time from their busy schedules each week because they were taking their first steps exploring what being Jewish means to them today in a serious, rigorous way. I did not realize how much I had come to look forward to and appreciate the over fourty adults for whom I made copies, brewed coffee, laid out cookies and did all sorts of little things to make the experience a good one. But laying out these cookies is not just laying out cookies. Making these copies is not just making copies. Every little thing that I do for Melton is furthering the goal of creating a community of caring learners. Learners who are on a journey together.

I cannot say enough how fulfilling my role is at the Melton Mini-School at the JCC of Louisville, KY. This past December at the Melton Director's conference, I told Betsy Dolgin-Katz that this position was the first one that I had where I truly felt that I was fulfilling my mandate as a rabbi. I think that as I move into summer, I can take the feelings from this year and use them as inspiration for making tons of phone calls to people who I think might welcome the same experience as almost everyone who has gone through the Melton Mini-School.

Now I have to go an wrap up my youth group's year. Won't be easy.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Jewish Way to Enjoy the Kentucky Derby

Even though the Kentucky Derby us on Saturday, which of course if the Jewish Sabbath, there are ways for Sabbath observant Jews to enjoy the Kentucky Derby. This past weekend, my friend Rabbi Michelle Fisher came in to enjoy such a weekend. Most importantly, we did go to Churchill Downs, because, if you did not already know this, there is a whole other race called the Kentucky Oaks which falls on Friday. True, this is not the major event that is the Derby, but it is still fun. Lots of people, lots of cool derby hats, lots of mint julips and lots of horse races. To fully enjoy the experience, we chose to park on a local resident's property for a mere $20. The we followed the long slow line to get into Churchill Downs, which one of my professors calls one of the most sacred spots in all of American culture. Michelle and I met a college friend of her and her husband to walk around on this near-Derby day. As it turns out, we have some friends in common and were able to find them and crash a company Oaks party. Aside form being able to see some good friends, Michelle was able to enjoy a mint julep without paying $8. One of the really cool parts of being at this party was being right over the turf (grass) track during a turf horse race. The pack of horses swept by right under us. I also should mention that Graeter's Ice Cream was for sale there (kosher too!) I had Bourbon Ball, which contains actual Woodford Reserve Bourbon.

The enjoy the actual Kentucky Derby, we took several steps. First, we left the TV for all of Shabbat just to be able to watch the two most exciting minutes in all of sports. The drawback was that Michelle had to endure an entire night of low level background noise from the TV. She woke up full of Derby information which she had absorbed by osmosis. For Shabbat Dinner, I chose recipies which reflected the Derby-ness of the day: Henry Bain sauce over salmon (supposed to be tenderloin), a vegetarian "burgoo" (supposed to contain meat such as beef, chicken, squirrel or badger, etc.), cucumber dill dip, coconut ambrosia salad, spinach and strawberry salad, mint julep iced tea and more. The finishing touch was Derby Pie, which is essentially sugar, chocolate chips and pecans. Like a large chocolate chip cookie, but in the form of a pie. Our friends Michael, Dana and Michelle all enjoyed our Shabbat derby fare.

At synagogue that day, a few people indeed wore traditional derby hats, which are large and often decorated with flowers and ribbons. My wife Paula, the cantor, concluded with Adon Olam sung to the tune of "My Old Kentucky Home." The kiddush luncheon was elaborate and reflected the secular holiness of the day. In the afternoon, we invited over two good friends to enjoy the race. After more derby oriented food, including more derby pie, we watched the race, which was won by a total longshot horse (51-1 odds). The evening ended long after the race finished, and we did havdalah to usher in the new week.

Did I mention that we also attended some of the other Derby Festival events: the Great Bed Race and the Pegasus Parade. And to top it all off, Louisville enjoyed some of its finest weather in years.

So for all of you who know me and would like to enjoy a Derby Shabbat, just give us a call and let's plan for next year!