Click here for Rav Barry’s D’Var Torah.


High Holidays 5778

The Jewish New Year is a time when we focus on self-improvement and on healing damaged relationships. Part of that process is reflecting on the past year, taking stock, considering how to build on whatever we accomplished in the past year.

Last year was a time of significant progress for Temple Beth-El. When I arrived in Birmingham a little over a year ago, there was a lot of pain and discontent in the community. There has been a lot of healing in the past year, and we’ve made a great deal of progress in figuring out how to have a community that serves all its members and that hears divergent voices. Much of the credit for that goes to our president, Jacob Halpern, who makes a point of consulting with people holding diverse opinions on important matters. The board as a whole has worked hard to function in a more transparent fashion.

The visioning process led to the formation of several different task forces which are now in the implementation phase. There’s a spirit in the synagogue community that things are moving in a positive direction. We’ll see more changes in the coming months as some of the task forces complete their work.

Staff, lay leaders, and volunteers have worked together effectively to bring off many excellent programs, including:

  • The Keruv weekend with Rabbi Chuck Simon, which has resulted in several new initiatives to strengthen the welcoming nature of TBE so that all Jews and people in families with Jews feel welcome and that there’s a spiritual home for all at Temple Beth-El.
  • Our Purim program, which was a solid collaboration with Temple Emanu-El and the Levite JCC.
  • The 90 Years of Memories Weekend, which was an incredible experience and a very successful fundraiser. We are fortunate to have so many 90-year-old “gems.”
  • The Religious School’s End of Year program at Red Mountain was both fun and educational – we’re looking to grow on that spirit in the coming year.

Many TBE members were also involved in the JCC Maccabi Games, which was a very impressive accomplishment for a community our size. For a community of a little over 6,000 Jews to host over 1,000 athletes and coaches from all over the world with such a first-rate program is a testimony to the strength and depth of our Birmingham Jewish community.

Our new Music and Youth Director, Sarah Metzger, will bring an infusion of energy to our services, religious school, and youth programming. Our religious school is ready for a new year with a first-rate slate of teachers.

The launch of a Social Action Committee, spearheaded by Dalia Abrams, is a very positive development, as it’s putting our Jewish values into action by engaging in repairing the world around us.

On a personal level, I’m delighted that you asked me to serve as your rabbi for a second year. Over the past year I’ve gotten to know so many of you – in times of joy and in times of sorrow. Temple Beth-El has become my community, even if temporarily. It’s an honor to serve as your rabbi.

May the new year, 5778, be a year of continued growth filled with joy and blessings for both you personally, and for our community as a whole.


Rav Barry