Our JCPodcast for Thanksgiving!

Welcome to the second episode of the JCPodcast! Every few weeks, in lieu of a written D’var Torah, Rabbi Deena and Rabbi Jacob will share a brief discussion about an interesting and relevant Jewish topic. This week, in honor of Thanksgiving, we’re talking about Jewish practices that help us cultivate and express our gratitude. Listen to the podcast here and check out the animated version on our Youtube channel!

If you’re looking to give back during this season of gratitude, we hope you will join us to volunteer. Check out our community service opportunities here! 

We hope that you and your loved ones had a meaningful Thanksgiving. We’re so grateful for our JCP community. 

Shabbat shalom, 

Deena & Jacob

D’var Torah: Parashat Tzav

This week, our D’var Torah has been written by Daphne Logan, Director of the Hebrew School Project. It is a modified version of the letter she sent to HSP families after she returned from a two-week trip to Israel in February.

The Jewish people go by many names: Am Yisrael (the nation of Israel), the Israelites, and the People of the Book, to name a few. This last epithet provides a special insight into the story of the Jewish people. Our story is one of survival and resilience throughout the ages, and our unbroken ability to adapt and thrive is rooted in our storytelling.

In their research on children and families after the attacks of September 11, Drs. Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush found that having a strong family narrative is the key to cultivating resilience. They identified a particular type of narrative—the oscillating family narrative—as the backbone of resilience. In the oscillating narrative, we recount our family’s story as a succession of ups and downs. We acknowledge that our story does not have a “happily ever after” ending; rather, we recount each of the times that we have been able to overcome obstacles and rebuild. By framing our family narrative as such, children learn to expect that crises are a part of life. When faced with catastrophe, they are prepared—they know that just as in the past, they will get through it, and they will be okay, because that is the story of their family.

When I came upon the writing of Drs. Duke and Fivush, I was reminded of the lyrics to Vehi Sheamda, a song that is found in the Passover Haggadah, which we will be reading again very soon.

וְהִיא שֶׁעָמְדָה לַאֲבוֹתֵיֽנוּ וְלָנֽוּ. שֶׁלֹא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד, עָמַד עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. אֶלָּא שֶׁבְּכָל דּוֹר וָדוֹר, עוֹמְדִים עָלֵיֽנוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנֽוּ. וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַצִּילֵנוּ מִיָּדָם.

And this is that which sustained our ancestors and us, that it is not one alone that stood up against us to destroy us, but that in each generation there are those standing up against us to destroy us, and the Holy One saves us from their hand.

This is the story of our family, the Jewish people—a story of overcoming hardship, a story of perseverance, and a story of triumph. We know that we have faced adversity before, and we know that we will come out the other side when we face it again, and that we will thrive.

It has been nearly a month since I returned from Israel, where I was blessed to spend several days with family and friends, and to participate in an 8-day intensive program for leaders in North American Jewish educational institutions. Our group sought to examine Israel post-October 7, which has become a flashbulb memory in the collective Jewish consciousness, and to begin to explore how education should adapt to reflect not only a changed Israel, but a changed Jewish world.

Here are some of the experiences I participated in as a member of this cohort:

  • Visiting the Nova Music Festival grounds, the site of the initial massacre by Hamas on October 7
  • Learning from Adv. Ayelet Razin Bet Or about the gender-based violence that took place on October 7, and that has continued since
  • Visiting the town of Ofakim, which was attacked on October 7, and meeting with school principals, teachers, and high school students – the high schoolers led a tour of the neighborhoods that were attacked, and told the stories of their community heroes
  • Meeting with members of kibbutzim who have been evacuated from the Gaza Envelope, including Kibbutz Nir Am, with whom we shared a hotel in Tel Aviv
  • Visiting a temporary school that has been set up for evacuated children, some of whom were formerly held hostage in Gaza
  • Visiting and volunteering with an Israeli Bedouin community
  • Learning from Mohammed Darawshe about the relationship between Jewish and Muslim Israelis, and the reality of Muslim Israelis today
  • Spending time at Hostage Square and meeting with family members of hostages
  • Visiting the recently dug graves of soldiers at Har Herzl (Israel’s military cemetery), and meeting with Sarit Zussman, the mother of Ben Zussman z”l, a recently fallen soldier (you can read Ben’s final letter to his family here).

Though Israelis are intimately familiar with collective loss and trauma, every individual in Israel is now grappling with a uniquely excruciating sense of loss, shock, and betrayal. There are enduring communal wounds left from the brutal attacks and destruction that took place on October 7, and there is also the searing pain of the ongoing fighting, of the soldiers and civilians who have died in Gaza and throughout Israel, and of the hostages who are still in captivity. At the same time, the Israel that I saw on this trip is as beautiful, creative, unified, resilient, and tireless as before, and this nation prevails.

Even while we hold onto and respond to the array of legitimate reactions that are coming up at this moment—pain, anger, sadness, betrayal, perhaps even utter confusion or disgust—there is one permeating message that I have carried with me. A Jewish identity defined by opposition to others is not only unsustainable, but untransferable. This kind of Judaism will not enrich our lives, nor can it survive the passage from one generation to the next. We need to hold onto and elevate all of the ways that our Jewishness provides a sense of belonging, informs our ethics, nourishes our souls, and cultivates love and unity.

And even in this challenging moment—especially in this challenging moment—we must lead with love and hope. We must continue to tell our family narrative as one in which we rise to the occasion, support each other, and continue to celebrate Jewish life. As I return to life in Tribeca, I feel affirmed in our community’s continued commitment to instilling our learners with a Judaism founded in positive values, and to helping our learners draw strength and resilience from their Jewish identities.

I pray that all of the remaining hostages are returned home immediately, and that peace is speedily restored to the land of Israel and to all of its inhabitants.

Shabbat shalom.

Daphne Logan, HSP Director

Women’s Luncheon

Save the Date for the Women’s Luncheon, in honor of Mother’s Day, on May 8th. Complete details and event registration will be available soon!

JCP Culture Committee Presents: An Evening in the Art Studio

In an exclusive event for JCP, we will meet contemporary artist Andrea Belag at her studio in Tribeca to enjoy viewing her art over drinks and dumplings from RedFarm. Friends and family are welcome to join!

About the artist:
Andrea Belag is a native New Yorker and a third generation artist. In addition to paintings and works on paper she has completed a commission for the MTA and is working on a Public Art commission through the New York Cultural Council. Belag’s work is included in several Museum Collections including the Jewish Museum in New York City.

For questions about this event, including ticket refunds, reach out to

Location will be shared 1-2 days before the event. 

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Reflection on the JCP Solidarity Mission to Israel

This week, our D’var Torah has been written by Jane Grossman Rich, an ECC parent and participant in the JCP Solidarity Mission to Israel.

Throughout my life, I’ve strongly embraced my identity as a Jewish New Yorker, a heritage that I once assumed was ordinary. Raised in a family whose roots trace back to immigrant great-grandparents who fled persecution during pogroms and the early days of the Holocaust, I understood the significance of our Jewishness. My grandparents, all first-generation Americans, instilled in me a deep sense of pride in our cultural and religious traditions. My parents introduced a love of extended family (and their family, and their family, and friends that are like family), the honor of growing up in a culturally Jewish home, and the importance of Israel and the gift of tzedakah and tikkun olam.

I wore my religion and my state as badges of honor, reveling in what felt like a charmed life. The tales of survival passed down from generation to generation seemed remote, distant echoes of a bygone era. As a proud Jewish New Yorker, I felt insulated from the traumas that marked my family’s history and the enduring narrative of our people spanning over 3,500 years.

The morning of October 7th was earth-shattering. The images, the horror, the fear. And little did we know it was only just beginning. At first there was shock. Where is the outrage? The expectation that the world would stand with the people of Israel as the terrorist group governing their neighbor attacked civilians in their homes and at a music festival felt obvious. The quick realization of mass murder, gang rape, and the taking of hostages as young as 10 months and well into their 90’s felt like a bad dream. I knew all of their names. Their stories. Their families. I was obsessed. Why wasn’t the world?

For many weeks it felt like I was drowning. Every time I got my head above water I was hit back down by a wave of antisemitism. A Jewish man murdered at a protest in LA. An airport stormed in Russia. Glued to the news, I felt hopeless and overwhelmed. How could people hold so much hate for such a beautiful minority? And why was it unfolding at a time globally when Israel was in need of our help? The only time I felt secure was when I was helping Jews, talking about Jewish people, or giving back to Israel. I was relentless, posting on Instagram 24/7, depleting resources, finding ways to help strangers in need in our beautiful war-torn country. A beautiful day trip with JCP to D.C. among 300K Jews and allies felt like home but still nothing was enough.

When JCP announced its mission to Israel, a clear set of obstacles presented themselves. As a parent to a three-year-old, juggling a full-time job, and facing the logistical challenges of distance and cost, the decision seemed daunting. The prospect of venturing into a war zone, with no familiar faces and all the global attention, added layers of fear and anxiety. Yet, despite these formidable barriers, there was no alternative: I needed to be there.

I went to Israel with one question: What can I do to help?

Up until the minute I got on the plane I wasn’t sure if I had the courage to follow through. When I landed at Ben Gurion, everything changed. The electricity that pulses through the tapestry of Israeli culture, along with its deep-rooted history, filled my veins with pride and energy. But immediately, a reminder of why we were there: the ramp to customs now covered in familiar faces, 134 hostages still in Gaza 150 days later.

I have not yet been able to fully process a lot of the trip. When I close my eyes, I feel the eeriness and sadness of Kibbutz Nir Oz and the site of Nova. The juxtaposition of the beauty of the locations and the sheer horror of October 7th and the ricochet layers continue to echo. The reality of the events I had been following so closely in real-time were almost too much to handle. Kfir and Ariel Bibas’ high chairs and toys, left unplayed with, will haunt me forever. So what I choose to share is my greatest lesson.

Even in the darkest of times, you can find the helpers and in that you can find the light.

In a country as small as Israel, the lines between individuals blur, creating a sense of crossover where everyone is interconnected. This interconnectedness fosters a culture of compassion and solidarity, where the love and support of one’s fellow citizens know no bounds. It is this sense of collective need to preserve and lift each other that strengthens the fabric of Israeli society, forging bonds that withstand even the most trying of times.

We met Shelly Shem Tov, mother of hostage Omer, who 24 hours after October 7th managed to gather 300+ family members of those assumed hostage to figure out what the next steps were to fight for their loved ones. Her motherly love and strength continues to serve as the foundation for the Hostage Family Forum #bringthemhome, which is a viral global movement. Her strength & resilience in a time of complete heartbreak and agony moved the needle for hundreds of families in her position. Together, they are stronger than one. 

We heard the story of Aner, a fearless attendee at the Nova festival who took it upon himself to guard the entrance to a bomb shelter filled with 30 scared youth. He personally saved the lives of many by grabbing over 8 grenades thrown with intention to kill anyone hidden in this tiny cement box and throwing them back out. He chose courage over fear. Oneness over self. 

We learned stories of the Bedouins, who without trepidation got in their cars and drove towards an active terror attack and managed to save Nova festival attendees trying to flee. Proving once again, the fabric of the Israeli people is so beautiful because it is diverse.

The stories of these helpers resonate with a profound sense of hope and resilience.These acts serve as powerful reminders of the indomitable spirit that thrives within the Israeli community. In the midst of turmoil and uncertainty, these stories stand as beacons of light, illuminating the path forward and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.  

What’s next:

I have always known, but have never understood as intimately as I do now the delicate dichotomy that exists in our world as Jews: when Israel is not safe, none of us are.

Israel is not just a country, but a Jewish project – a collective effort to preserve our culture, our ancestral homeland, but most importantly our people. As Jews around the world, it is our responsibility to stand in solidarity with Israel, to support and defend its right to exist, for the future of our global Jewish community depends on it. The ruach, or spirit, of Israel is one of strength and perseverance, inspiring us all to never give up, no matter the challenges we may face.

As I reflect on my experiences, I am reminded of the importance of coming together as a community, supporting one another through both the good times and the bad. In the midst of tragedy and turmoil, it is our collective humanity that sustains us, offering hope where there is despair and light where there is darkness. In Israel, the goodness of the people shines brightly, serving as a beacon of hope for us all. The spirit of survival is in our bones. 

Although our JCP mission to Israel has come to a close, it is clear that our work at home and our true “mission” is only beginning. It is our birthright to protect and yell our pride in our Jewishness to anyone that will listen. To share our spirit of community and our ruach with the world and to continue to be the light in the absolute darkest of times. To stand with our community both in New York and globally to amplify the good. To be fearless. To be the helpers. I look forward to standing beside you.

Shabbat shalom.

Foundations of Judaism

Rabbi Deena and Rabbi Sam are excited to offer a comprehensive five-week course on Jewish values. Taught in an informal seminar style with a focus on text study, we will explore the resonance of core Jewish values for our lives today in the twenty-first century. Through open conversation and dialogue, we’ll dive into topics including gratitude, generosity, belonging, and more. The course is open to all; no Jewish background necessary. Register here.

Dates: Tuesday, April 16; Tuesday, May 7; Monday, May 13; Monday, May 20; Tuesday, May 28. Class meets from 7:00-8:30pm at 146 Duane Street.

  • Tuesday, April 16 — Jewish Value 1: Gratitude – Hoda’ah
  • Tuesday, May 7 — Jewish Value 2: Giving – Tzedakah 
  • Monday, May 13 — Jewish Value 3: Israel and Belonging to the Jewish People – Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Ba’Zeh 
  • Monday, May 20 — Jewish Value 4: Rest – Shabbat
  • Tuesday, May 28 — Jewish Value 5: Continuing the Conversation – She’eilah 

Foundations of Judaism

Rabbi Deena and Rabbi Sam are excited to offer a comprehensive five-week course on Jewish values. Taught in an informal seminar style with a focus on text study, we will explore the resonance of core Jewish values for our lives today in the twenty-first century. Through open conversation and dialogue, we’ll dive into topics including gratitude, generosity, belonging, and more. The course is open to all; no Jewish background necessary. Register here.

Dates: Tuesday, April 16; Tuesday, May 7; Monday, May 13; Monday, May 20; Tuesday, May 28. Class meets from 7:00-8:30pm at 146 Duane Street.

  • Tuesday, April 16 — Jewish Value 1: Gratitude – Hoda’ah
  • Tuesday, May 7 — Jewish Value 2: Giving – Tzedakah 
  • Monday, May 13 — Jewish Value 3: Israel and Belonging to the Jewish People – Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Ba’Zeh 
  • Monday, May 20 — Jewish Value 4: Rest – Shabbat
  • Tuesday, May 28 — Jewish Value 5: Continuing the Conversation – She’eilah 

I Carry You in my Heart: First Reflections from the JCP Solidarity Mission to Israel

As we close the Book of Shemot (Exodus) with Parashat Pekudei this week, we read about the consecration of the Mishkan, the public place where the Israelites will pray, and the role of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest who will lead worship. 

As he prays, the Kohen Gadol wears elaborate garments, the centerpiece of which is the Choshen Mishpat, the Breastplate of Judgement. This Breastplate contains twelve precious stones, one representing each of the twelve Israelite tribes. These stones remind the Kohen Gadol that he approaches God not on his own behalf, but on behalf of all of his people. The symbolism of the Choshen always reminds me of the first few lines of the famous E.E. Cummings poem: 

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

The Kohen Gadol carries the heart of the people as he encounters the Divine.

As I journeyed with the incredible cohort of the JCP Solidarity Mission to Israel, I felt as though each person I met, each story I heard, was a precious stone—like the one on the Breastplate of the Kohen Gadol—that I will carry in my heart forever. 

The stones on the Breastplate were diverse in color and character. The stones that I gathered, the people we met and the experiences we had, were equally varied, and comprised the rich religious, political, and cultural diversity of Israeli society. Yet they all came together to create a resilient, strong, and robust collective

I want to share some of their stories with you: 

Hostage Square in Tel Aviv

JCP Mission Participants at Hostage Square

On our first evening, we visited the Headquarters of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum to meet with Shelly Shem Tov, mother of Omer Shem Tov (21), who is still being held as a hostage in Gaza. Shelly shared the heartbreaking story of watching Omer’s phone location move into Gaza on October 7. Shelly maintains her strength, even after more than 140 days of her beloved son in captivity. She heard from one of Omer’s friends, who was in captivity with Omer and later released, that Omer tries to keep Shabbat even in Gaza and that he has faith in God. His faith bolsters hers, from afar. Her requests to us? To spread the stories of the hostages, and to keep their plight on the forefront of our minds and hearts so that the world won’t forget them. 

Kibbutz Nir Oz

Kibbutz Nir Oz

Kibbutz Nir Oz

The next day we visited Kibbutz Nir Oz and were guided on a tour by Yiftach Cohen, who grew up on the kibbutz. We walked from house to house, learning the individual stories of devastation and heroism that took place on October 7. We visited the home of Liat and Aviv Atzili, cousins of JCP community member Ilana Fischer. Liat was kidnapped on October 7 and has thankfully been released, while Aviv was tragically killed during the attack. Liat recently wrote a beautiful and moving essay in the New York Times; her courageous perspective is uplifting. While the pain is overwhelming, I was inspired by the community’s desire to rebuild their beautiful sanctuary. The road will be long and uncertain, but they are determined. And we will be there to help. 

While on Kibbutz Nir Oz and the site of the Nova Festival in Re’im, we were only about a mile away from the Gaza border. The devastation wrought upon the communities and cities within Israel that dot the Gaza border was overwhelming to behold. Peace-seeking homes and villages, idyllic places to live and raise families only a few months ago, were now hollow skeletons of houses and piles of wood and ash. While many Israelis we met had different answers about how to ensure that an attack like this will never reoccur (should it be through military means? diplomatic or political ones? some combination?), it was a stark reminder of the impossibility of living with the threat of Hamas terrorism on Israel’s border. And yet, as the earth shook and my heart jumped with the sounds of artillery being launched into Gaza, it was also impossible to escape the knowledge of the fear, hunger, and loss of innocent life that Palestinian civilians have now been facing for so many months. Being so close to the violence was a sobering reminder of the humanitarian and spiritual toll of this dark time in human history.

JCP Mission Participants with Mohammad Darawshe, Director of Strategy at Givat Haviva  

We also met Orly Erez-Likhovski, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC). Orly and her team are committed to making Israel a place where all people—no matter their religion, observance level, or marital or immigration status—are treated with dignity. Though the lives of all Israelis have been impacted by the war, IRAC’s work remains vital in shaping Israeli society and determining what Israel’s character will be after the war is over. 

Rabbi Deena and Orly Erez-Likhovski, Executive Director of the Israel Religious Action Center

These are just a few of the precious stones—stories, people, and places—that I am bringing back with me from Israel, that I carry in my heart. I hope you will talk with more JCP Mission participants—they each have their own stories and experiences that they have brought home. I know they will inspire you. 

Cummings ends his poem with the following lines. To me, it is a powerful prayer: 

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

I hold the people of Israel close to my heart as I pray for a speedy return of the hostages, for a swift end to the crisis in Gaza, and for resilience, strength, and love to grow higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide. 

Shabbat shalom, 


JCP Mission Participants at the Kotel

Family Mitzvah Day with Supplies for Success

Join us in the JCP lobby for a family day of Mitzvah! Children in Pre-K—2nd Grade will help pack backpacks with essential school supplies which will be distributed to NYC students in need by Supplies for Success. Supplies for Success is a non-profit that aims to help ensure equal access to education to all children by providing essential tools for learning and confidence.

This event is generously sponsored by Hanna & Bret Richheimer and Jessica & Todd Jacobs.

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Creating Holiness

This week, I found myself searching and searching for something meaningful to say about the Torah portion, parashat Vayakhel, which details the building of the ancient Tabernacle. How I wished to be inspired by the description of the artistry involved in building a space for God, by the lampstand made of pure gold, by planks of acacia wood, by the cloths of goat hair! Despite the detail, I found it difficult to imagine—much less be inspired by—this place of offering to God. 

Rabbi Rachel Adler explains why the Torah goes, repeatedly, into such painstaking detail about the Tabernacle (a structure whose existence many scholars debate): “How the temple is designed and furnished and where objects are positioned express symbolically what its builders believe about the nature of the cosmos.” 

In other words, when our ancestors designed their sacred space for God, they sought to reflect the glory of the universe. No wonder they furnished it with pure gold, beautiful wood, and luxurious fabrics. How many of us do something similar when creating our own homes, our own personal sanctuaries, evoking elegance and comfort? 

Furthermore, the Torah tells us over and over again that everyone was moved to participate. Women and men donated jewelry, the most talented artisans stepped up to design and decorate —so many things were offered for the building of the sanctuary that Moses eventually had to tell the people to stop bringing gifts: they had brought enough! 

Yet one difference between the Tabernacle and our own homes is that the Tabernacle was meant to be portable: deconstructed and reconstructed as the Israelites camped in new places in the desert. So much effort went into designing and constructing a structure that would only be taken down and recreated. No wonder we need such detailed descriptions!

Another difference between the Tabernacle and our own living spaces, however, is greater than portability. Our homes are personal and private, while the Tabernacle is a space shared by the entire community. The tabernacle is meant to be a place used by all the people: from beloved friends to the irritating nemesis, family members who are sometimes lovely and other times overbearing, the person who always speaks for too long, and so on. 

The Torah portion this week begins with the word Vayakhel, meaning “gather” or “convoke.” The whole community is brought together for a sacred purpose. But what is that sacred purpose? It is defined by its wholeness, its radical inclusion. We are reminded repeatedly in this Torah portion that everyone participated in the building of the Tabernacle, that our sacred spaces are for each of us. 

This Shabbat, whether we are focusing on our own homes or the wider JCP community, we have the opportunity to consider: what can I lovingly bring? How can my words or actions create a space of welcome, inclusion, and holiness?

Shabbat shalom,