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Welcome to Sha’ar

"My success as a rabbi isn't going to be measured by how many people I inspire to live my Jewish life, but by how many people I can inspire to live their own authentic Jewish life."

Rabbi Adina Lewittes

Shabbat Shalom 



The ark in my childhood shul in Montreal was decorated with a Talmudic phrase carved along the top in bold letters: דע לפני מי אתה עומד/Da Lifnei Mi Ata Omed/Know Before Whom You Stand!


Oh I knew whom they meant, alright. And it scared the heck out of me. Because, in truth, I didn’t know. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. And I certainly didn’t want to be frightened into pretending that I did. 


For me, as I shared in our Beit Midrash session on the theological issues raised by the pandemic, being in relationship to God - Whatever or Whomever any of us may mean by that -  is a struggle. A process. A journey. What became and remains most important to me is to stay on that path of exploration and discovery. To learn. To be open. To wrestle. To evolve.


When choosing a Jewish high school for my children after their elementary education in the Solomon Schechter system, I intentionally sought a school that wouldn’t train them to be me, but one that would educate and inspire them to live their own Jewish lives. Enriched by our home and family life, I wanted my kids to learn to stay the path of Jewish study and involvement in the most authentic way that spoke to each of them; for them to stay present to the power and the possibilities of their Jewish identity throughout their lifelong journeys of becoming.


The very first time I toured the Heschel school, where I now serve as a Trustee, my eyes were drawn to the ark in their Beit Midrash where every morning one of a diverse array of minyans/morning services takes place. I didn’t find “Know Before Whom You Stand”. I found a single word embroidered on their parochet/curtain: “איכה/Ayekah/Where are you?-- God’s question to Adam in this week’s opening parasha of the Torah, and the ultimate question to each of us that continues to reverberate. 


That was it; my decision was made. Everyday in that room students are invited not to discover all the answers to their questions; they’re invited to show up and care enough to ask and to explore. Remember, God didn’t inquire after Adam following his stellar show of faith. Quite the opposite. God sought out Adam after he manifested his capacity for failure. Perhaps that’s when our presence is most sacred: when even after we've stumbled we’re able to take our place in the story -- head up and heart open.


So here we are again at Bereishit. We’re starting over. We’re not looking to get everything right this time around. Who can? We’re just listening for the “Ayekah? Where are you?” We’re listening for the invitation to step into the conversation, the wonder, the experience. We’re listening for our cue to take the next step in our never-ending journey of self-discovery.


Rabbi Heschel taught, “…When living true to the wonder of the steadily unfolding wisdom, we feel at times as if the echo of an echo of a voice were piercing the silence, trying in vain to reach our attention. We feel at times called upon, not knowing by whom, against our will, terrified at the power invested in our words, in our deeds, in our thoughts.” (God in Search of Man, p.174)


We may not know exactly from whom the call echoes, but we know that our words, our deeds and our thoughts matter. Ayekah? Where are you? Where do you invest your time and energy? Where is your voice in today’s urgent deliberations around justice and democracy?  How do you respond when people need help? What are you doing to address the climate crises that are threatening our planet and our future?


We are all being called upon. It’s time to be present; it’s time to get involved. Not just with Sha’ar, but with yourself. Ayekah? Where are you? Enter our gates to navigate your way to the singular gate that awaits your personal opening, guided by the most valuable compass of all: knowing who you are, and committing to the ongoing process of becoming.


Shabbat Shalom,









Join us for an hour of lively teaching and melodies and the opportunity to share Shabbat with both new and familiar faces. 

Join Shabbat Tisch Here

Sha'ar Justice Beit Midrash 2020/2021


Justice Beit Midrash: To Learn and to Act
The upcoming U.S. Presidential election is raising fundamental questions about the nature of justice, leadership and democracy in our country. Its aftermath will likely prompt further reflection on these issues and many more. Where do we as Jews and as a Jewish community locate ourselves within this discourse and its attendant civic responsibilities?
Today’s urgent questions include:

  • Have we succumbed to viewing the world through a partisan political lens rather than a moral lens?
  • How do we respond to authoritarian elements in American and Jewish society?
  • Under what circumstances is civil disobedience appropriate?
  • How do we pursue racial justice in the face of antisemitism that appears within elements of some minority communities? 

More broadly we will examine:

  • What is the nature of justice? How do we define what is just? 
  • Where do our notions of and commitments to justice derive from? 
  • What is the connection between justice as a value and justice as action? 
  • How do we prioritize our time and efforts regarding social justice work?

Every Wednesday evening Sha’ar will gather to explore texts and teachings -- ancient and modern, Jewish and general -- that will engage us in these questions and in the moral and ethical foundation for our activism. In the traditional style of a Beit Midrash (House of Study), we’ll combine wrestling with sources together with guided teachings focused on a range of societal issues: civic responsibility, democracy, leadership, race, immigration, healthcare, income inequality, climate, and more. Each unit will be capped by a visit with a leading activist or advocacy organization to build the bridge between learning and doing, and to catalyze the transformational impact of our study.
Series begins Wednesday October 14. 
All sessions will run from 7pm-8:30pm EST.
Until otherwise noted, all sessions will be online, free of charge, and open to everyone. Donations are always appreciated.



Armchair Pilgrim Supper Club with Rav Haim Ovadia and musical guest Dan Nadel Departing for Mumbai on Sunday, November 22, 7PM

As a community that loves to travel, we’re eager to get back on the road. While we wait for the world to open up again, join us on these virtual trips to lesser-travelled and lesser-known Jewish communities. No need to schlep any bags! Just pack an open mind and a sensitive heart. And bring an appetite - we’ll be sharing a recipe for you to prepare and enjoy during each adventure. And of course, a signature cocktail by Dini using special ingredients from that region.

Rav Haim will introduce us to these cities through story, poetry, music and spirituality. We’ll meet figures from the local Jewish community and encounter the larger cultural and historical settings which give these places their unique shape and character.


Ya’alah! Let’s go!


Sunday, October 18, 2020            Baghdad, Iraq          DEPARTED

Sunday, November 22, 2020        Mumbai, India 

Sunday, December 20, 2020        Izmir, Turkey


All trips will run from 7pm-8:30pm EST, are free of charge, and open to everyone. 

Register For Armchair Supper Club Here


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Wed, October 28 2020 10 Cheshvan 5781