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I am Tired of Living in Fear: Shabbat HaGadol and the March for Our Lives

Most Saturday mornings there is nowhere I would rather be than here at PJC. I look forward to our Shabbat services, whether we are going to be celebrating a simcha together or just celebrating Shabbat. But today there is someplace I would rather be. Today, I would rather be taking part in the March For Our Lives. There are many reasons I would like to have joined one of the marches today. I admire the spirit of the teenager survivors of the Parkland massacre who have organized the events. They have turned their grief and their trauma into a call to action. If they can stand up in front of our entire country, only a month after seeing their fellow students and teachers gunned down, and demand change, how can we not heed their call? It’s not that I want to take everyone’s guns away from them. But we have to do something. This cycle of mass shooting after mass shooting simply cannot be allowed to go on. I am tired of living in fear. We Jews know a lot about living in fear. Throughout our…
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After Parkland

Not long ago, Parkland, Florida was named one of the safest communities in the United States. This designation is a big deal. The City of Santa Clarita, where I used to live, made the list almost every year and featured that fact prominently in its promotional literature. People move to Parkland because, as their congressional representative Ted Deutsch put it: “it’s an idyllic community…. If you had to describe a perfect place to live and raise a family, this would be it.” Parkland was supposed to be a safe community; a sanctuary from the violence, poverty and social problems that plague some other cities and suburbs. But as Wednesday’s tragic shootings at Margery Steoneman Douglas High School remind us—no place in this country is completely safe any more.       No place is a sanctuary. In our Torah portion this morning, God commands the Israelites to make a sanctuary. וְעָ֥שׂוּ לִ֖י מִקְדָּ֑שׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּ֖י בְּתוֹכָֽם׃ And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. We…

Blindspots: A D'var Torah on Parshat Vaera

We all have our blind spots. For me, one blind spot is that I am always the last to realize that my clothing or shoes are wearing out. My wife kids me that I irrationally expect my clothes to last forever. Another blind spot is that I am the last one to realize I need a haircut. I can look in the mirror a hundred times and not see how unruly my hair is getting. Only after I finally get a haircut do I realize just how overdue I was. Blind spots play an important role in our Torah portion this morning. Our reading tells the story of the beginning of the Israelites’ liberation from Egypt. That liberation turns out to be a long and complicated process; in no small part because both the Israelites and Pharaoh, the Egyptian ruler, have significant blind spots. The Israelites, the Torah tells us, cannot embrace Moses’ message of freedom because “their spirits were crushed by cruel bondage.” Pharaoh cannot grasp the superior power of God because he repeatedly hardens his heart, even in the fac…

Forget Your New Year's Resolution, Do This NOW (A Guest Post by David Frisch)

Forget your New Year’s Resolution, Do this NOW
by: David Frisch, Treasurer

There are four basic paths for making contributions to charitable organizations that let you take tax deductions while pursuing your philanthropic goals. They are: Direct Contributions, Donor Advised Funds, Charitable Trusts, and Charitable Bequests.

1. Direct Contributions: This is the easiest method. You simply write a check or make an online donation. If you're giving appreciated stock, you'll need to transfer to a brokerage account that PJC has at TD Ameritrade.  Feel free to call the office for the account number to facilitate the transfer.

Here’s how it works – Example1

PJC member purchases 1,000 shares of XYZ stock on 1/2/2015 [Note date of purchase is important as the appreciated securities must be owned for more than one (1) year] for $10/share, for a total purchase of $10,000..

On 11/1/2017, XYZ is now worth $30/share, for a Fair Market Value of $30,000. PJC member now has a $20,000 long term…

The Mitzvah of Not Forgetting Vayeshev 5778

One of the routines that first made the comedian Steve Martin famous was “You Can Be A Millionaire and Never Pay Taxes.” (Don't worry, this is not going to be one of those political sermons). The routine went like this: You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. “Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?” First.. get a million dollars. Now.. you say, “Steve.. what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, ‘You.. have never paid taxes’?” Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: ‘I forgot!’ For most of us “I forgot” is something we offer as an excuse on a regular basis. Nobody can remember everything. And it is often true that the things we forget are the small things that do not make a big difference in our lives or can be easily addressed. I forgot to take out the trash on Wednesday night. Fortunately, there is enough room in our trash cans to get us through until the next trash pickup. But sometimes we forget really …

Yom Kippur Yizkor 5778: Our Most Precious Legacy

A few months after my parents died, I received two small boxes in the mail. When I opened the boxes, I saw all kinds of artifacts from my childhood: A 6th grade art project my parents used to have hanging in our family room, box scores from my wrestling meets (even the ones I lost), a challah cover my mother made when we firs began having Shabbat dinner at home. I did not realize my parents saved these things when they made their move across country from Michigan to California. I was really grateful to my sister for taking the time to sort through all of my parents' possessions and finding just those items that she thought would be meaningful to me. It was wonderful to see these things again and share them with Yon and Illyse. I am sure I will pull the boxes out every so often and reconnect with that time in my life when I was closest to my parents and benefited so much from their love and guidance. At some point, once I was done looking through the boxes and fondly remembering m…

Kol Nidre 5778: Changes

While I was away on vacation this summer, our community underwent a major change. Arriving back here in late July, I found everyone in town buzzing about the new Shoprite. (Yes, that is what passes for major change around here.) The buzz was not all good. People were complaining. They were complaining that the new store was too far away. They were complaining that the new store was too big. They were complaining that all the fresh kosher meat and kosher takeout had been moved to the new store. The complaints piled up on social media forums. The complaints followed store managers up and down the aisles. The complaints intensified and did not let up for weeks and weeks. Why did the opening of the new store become such a flash point in our community? The knee-jerk answer, of course, is that we live in “Complainview.” We complain about everything. Maybe there is some truth to that embarrassing stereotype. But I found myself wondering if the explanation for the uproar was really so simple.…