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Rabbi’s Update 2/14/2024

Dear Friends:

Did you watch the TV series Northern Exposure when it was on in the early 1990s? I did, and I enjoyed it, although one particular episode that I remember upset me a little bit -- the episode called Kaddish for Uncle Manny.

Northern Exposure is about Dr. Joel Fleischman, a Flushing-born and Columbia-educated doctor fresh out of his residency. In order to finance his medical school education, he enrolled in a program whereby the State of Alaska paid for his education and in return, he was obligated to practice medicine for four years in Alaska. (By the way, these programs are not uncommon; my stepsister was in a similar program with the Indian Health Service and spent three years practicing on the Navajo Reservation in Chinle, Arizona.) Fleischman assumes he will spend the four years in Anchorage, which is a city of about a quarter million people with all of the amenities one associates with city life. But instead, he is sent to practice in the (fictional) town of Cicely, with a population of less than a thousand people, many or most of them quite eccentric. A large percentage of the population, including his office assistant Marilyn Whirlwind, are Native Alaskans.

While I watched the show when it was originally on, in those days before fast Internet and streaming, a show was on when it was on, and I missed a lot of the episodes. Keleigh and I are now making our way through the show, which is now available on Amazon Prime Video, and I can highly recommend it. There are several episodes that are really profound meditations on the meaning of contemporary Jewish identity, even if I do not always share the conclusions of the show’s writers. I also like the fact that for the most part -- with the exception of Joel’s fiance Elaine towards the beginning of the series -- it avoids cheap laughs based in Jewish stereotypes. In my opinion it’s a series worth watching.

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. 

Additionally, if you know of a Kehilat Shalom congregant who could use a phone call, please let me know.


Rabbi Charles L. Arian

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