Rabbi Leonard Gordon

During this year of transition, we are delighted to welcome Rabbi Leonard Gordon as our interim Rabbi.  Rabbi Gordon is an experienced rabbi and educator, a leader in social justice in the Conservative movement and an activist in interfaith relations.  He is Rabbi Emeritus at the Germantown Jewish Centre in Philadelphia where he was Senior Rabbi for 16 years.  GJC is known as a “community of communities” and pioneered both Synaplex (diverse program options on Shabbat morning) and nurturing multiple prayer communities sharing a single institution.   In 2010 he and his family moved to Newton when his wife, Dr. Lori Lefkovitz, became the Ruderman Professor of Jewish Studies at Northeastern University.  For the next six years he was rabbi at Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Chestnut Hill.  In 2018 he received a Doctor of Ministry degree in Interfaith Studies from the Andover Newton Theological School.  His degree  focused on his work with Rabbis and Ministers exploring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and developing tools for Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Rabbi Gordon has taught comparative religion and rabbinic literature in a variety of settings, including Kenyon College, the Ohio State University, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Hebrew College.  Currently he teaches in Hebrew College’s MEAH program, offering courses in the Biblical and Rabbinic semesters and a MEAH SELECT course in the reception of the Hebrew Bible in Christianity and Islam.  As a volunteer, he has chaired the Social Action committees of both the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.  He has also chaired the committee on Synagogue Transformation and Renewal of the USCJ and currently serves on the Keruv (Outreach) Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly.

At Temple Beth Sholom Rabbi Gordon is focusing his energy on enhancing our lifelong learning opportunities, teaching at the synagogue, in people’s home and in our Religious School.  He is also developing our Shabbat experience though new Sholomplex options and a program to welcome young cantorial students to the congregation.  He and Lori have two daughters, Ronya who works for the Jewish Museum in NYC and Samara who recently moved to Boston for a new positon in finance.

 

December 2018

THE POWER OF MUSIC

Reflecting on my 30+ years as a rabbi, the biggest change in synagogue life I have seen is the growing power of music to transform people’s Jewish lives. In the synagogue of my youth, we were taught that synagogue music was curtailed as an act of mourning for the Temple in Jerusalem. Psalm 150, which we read every Shabbat morning, lists all of the instruments that were part of Temple worship:

Praise God with the call of the shofar … the harp and the lyre … timbral and dance … flute and strings … clashing cymbals … rousing cymbals.

Only years later did I learn that even after the Romans burned the Temple, there were grand traditions of both singing and musical instruments associated with synagogue life. And only in recent years have I experienced the power of group singing to build ruach (spirit) and deepen connections among congregants and between individuals in the congregation and God.

For example, recently at our installation Shabbat, our guest scholar and prayer leader, Rabbi Naami Kelman of Jerusalem created two moments that illustrate the power of communal singing. She handed out the lyrics, in English and Hebrew, to Louis Armstrong’s classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Everyone knew the melody and our voices rang out throughout the sanctuary. A bit later in the service, Rabbi Kelman got out from behind the lectern to turn the congregation into a choir, joining in a two-part harmony for the singing of a verse from Psalms, Mah Gadlu/Halleluyah. People seemed to love the invitation to sing along and create a sacred moment.

In the Hassidic tradition, music is seen as a path to break down barriers and open the heart.

Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav wrote that, “melody and musical instruments have great power with which to draw a person to God. So, it is good to accustom yourself to enliven yourself frequently with some melody, to bring yourself to joy, and through this to cleave to God, especially on Sabbaths and holidays.”

In order to expose more of us at TBS to the power of music, we are inviting guest Cantors to join us for occasional services this winter. On December 15, we will welcome student Cantor Jenn Boyle to lead our service. Among Jenn’s many talents, she plays viola and sings Yiddish songs. She will lead us in song after services during kiddush luncheon. This is also a Torah Yoga day and we will build other programs into the morning.  Please join us.