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Rabbi's Update 11/29/2023

Dear Friends:

With the rise of antisemitic and anti-Israel incidents on college campuses, the staff of the University of Maryland Hillel has invited area rabbis to meet with students over lunch next Wednesday, Dec. 6. If you have a child or grandchild who is a current student (undergraduate or graduate) at UMD College Park, please send me their contact info ASAP so I can contact them and invite them to lunch.

Over the last several days we have rejoiced at the videos and still pictures of Israeli hostages, especially children, being reunited with their families as they have been released in accordance with the truce arrangement between Israel and Hamas. Sadly, as of this writing nine children still remain in captivity including 10 month old Kfir Bibas. Today may be the last day of the current truce although negotiations in Qatar continue and may result in an extension of the truce or even a broader agreement that might result in the release of all the hostages. Until this morning I had thought of the truce mostly in terms of release of hostages in exchange for Israel releasing Palestinian security prisoners, cessation of Israeli military activity in Gaza, and the entrance of badly-needed humanitarian assistance. But as I was listening to Israeli radio this morning while writing this message, it occurred to me that I was not hearing the incessant emergency notifications telling residents of various localities in Israel to head to their bomb shelters. Friends of mine who live in southern Israel close to Gaza have finally been able to return home. The question of whether to enter into a permanent ceasefire strikes me as complicated and at any rate will be decided by Israel and Hamas with the assistance of the US, Egypt, and Qatar, not by American rabbis. There are clear benefits to both sides but I also understand that after October 7, Israel probably cannot accept an agreement that leaves Hamas in control of Gaza. In the meantime, we will continue to say the special prayer for those held captive and maintain a seat of honor on our bimah for the hostages until all of them are freed.

Next Shabbat, December 9, morning services will be followed by a Volunteer Appreciation Kiddush Luncheon and then a Kiddush Konversation. My topic will be “Will the Real Chanukah Please Stand Up?” I will share with you some texts, from the Talmud to the United States of the previous century that will shed light on how different communities have perceived the true meaning of Chanukah.

As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoons from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.

As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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