Monday, March 24, 2014


As of this summer I will no longer be the Chief Rabbi of the State of Nebraska.

I accepted a job as an assistant Rabbi of Beth Tfiloh in Baltimore, Maryland.  At our last board meeting I officially gave notice to Beth Israel Synagogue, and my family will be moving to Baltimore in June.

The Omaha Jewish community is amazing.  We are blessed with great synagogues, great Rabbis, resources, and of course, warm and friendly people.  There is even a wonderful Jewish day school where Miriam and I would have been proud to send our children.  

But Baltimore offers something to our children that Omaha can never offer - grandparents. 

Miriam's parents live almost within walking distance of Beth Tfiloh, and my parents are a short four hour drive away (as opposed to a four hour flight!)

Leaving Beth Israel is a painful decision.  In many ways we have an ideal life in Omaha, and there is something special to being the Rabbi of the only Orthodox Synagogue in the state.  My job and my life have a unique sense of purpose and meaning that Rabbis in larger communities do not experience in the same way.
There is also something special to raising children in smaller Jewish communities that gives them a sense of pride and joy in being Jewish that is harder to come by in larger Jewish communities.

Nevertheless, I feel so fortunate to have grown up close to my grandparents.  When I was growing up hardly a week went by that I did not see them, and all four of them had a profound impact on who I am today. Those lucky enough to have had that type of experience can easily understand why I would do what ever I could to provide that same blessing to my own children.

The last ten years have been among the most formative years of my life.  When I came here I was only 25 years old.  So much has happened to me since.

I am grateful for all of the experiences that I had here, and all of the friends who made those experiences possible.

I am proud of the many accomplishments that I have been privileged to achieve, especially building an eruv and developing, writing, and hosting the first ever Shabbos Morning Talk Show.  I don't know if I could have done those and other things anywhere else.

I want to thank all the people who gave us so much love and support over the years.  We will never forget you.  We hope to remain in touch and have opportunities to share happy occasions together in the future.

I hope everyone knows how much I truly love this community, and how proud and honored I was to serve as Rabbi here.

Soon Nebraska will have a new Chief Rabbi.

This past week over 200 new Rabbis received their semichah form Yeshiva University.  Perhaps one of those fine young men will be the next chief Rabbi of the state of Nebraska.  Beth Israel is a great shul and Omaha is a great community. I have no doubt that the best Rabbis will compete for this position, and whoever my successor will be, he will build on everything that we accomplished over the last ten years and take this shul and this community to new and higher levels than I could even imagine.  I ask that everyone do all that they can to support the next Rabbi so that he can be successful.

While I am sad to leave, I am excited to start my new position at Beth Tfiloh. We are grateful to Hashem for being good to our family and for giving me the privilege to teach Torah and serve the Jewish people for a living.

I can never thank Omaha enough for the wonderful experience of the last ten years.  I hope to visit many times in the future for happy occasions and to witness the Beth Israel's continued growth and success.

Thanks for everything.  May Hashem bless us all.

Monday, February 17, 2014

GSN S1 E18 -Sephardic Shabbat!

This week is Sephardic Shabbat on Good shabbos Nebraska -America's favorite shabbos morning Talk show - featuring the world famous Sephardi Chazzan Rabbi Moshe Tessone.  

Rabbi Moshe Tessone is Director of The Sephardic Community Program at Yeshiva University and a distinguished faculty member at Yeshiva University where he teaches Jewish Studies. He is also a faculty member at the YU affiliated Belz School of Jewish Music where he is an instructor of Sephardic cantillation and liturgy.  

He also has released two CDs featuring Sephardic music.

Rabbi Tessone has toured extensively throughout North America, South America, Europe and Israel both as a rabbinic speaker on Torah related topics of Sephardic interest, Sephardic history, and Jewish education and as a cantorial concert soloist featuring Judeo Arabic and Judeo Spanish religious music and liturgy.

In addition to appearing on Good Shabbos Nebraska, throughout Shabbat Rabbi Tessone will introduce the Omaha Jewish community to the ancient and modern musical traditions of the Sephardic world through inspiring prayer and Shabbat songs. 

Rabbi Tessone will be joined by his wife Regine Monavar Tessone.  She was born in Tehran and at the age of nine she was forced to flee because of the revolution in 1978.  Her family escaped on the very same day that Khomeini arrived as the mobs were flooding the streets.  She is currently finishing a book about her experience.  Over Shabbat she will share her story and offer a unique perspective on the current situation in Iran.

In Omaha we have a dearth of Sephardic Jews, but according to studies there are anywhere between 500,000 and 800,000 Sephardic Jews in different communities throughout the United States.  They have held fast to the various traditions that they brought with them from North Africa and the Middle East.  Rabbi Tessone has been invited to speak in just about every Sephardic community in the country.  He also is involved in the education of the current and future Rabbinic and lay leadership of these communities as director of the Sephardic communities program at YU. Consequently he is arguably the foremost expert on the landscape and demographics of these unique communities.  

The recent Pew study did not ask participants if they were Ashkenazi or Sephardi.  Taken in isolation, the Sephardic community presents a very different picture of American Judaism - a perspective that could be valuable for a community like Omaha to learn from.  

Like every Shabbos, this will be a great opportunity to learn about something Jewish that is not readily accessible in our Omaha Jewish community - in a format that makes it exciting and engaging. 

So catch Good Shabbos Nebraska, this and every week ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue -  where every Shabbos is a shabbaton!

GSN S1 E17 - NCSY Shabbat with Israel Lashak

This week was one of the most important and serious episodes of Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show!

Our guest was Rabbi Israel Lashak from the NCSY youth organization of the Orthodox Union.

Rabbi Lashak has been in the informal Jewish education business for almost three decades.  He is based in Dallas but he lives in a plane.  He has racked up almost 7 million miles on American Airlines traveling to Jewish communities all over the world, inspiring kids and consulting communities on how they can grow their youth programs.

Rabbi Lashak is originally from Mexico city.  He speaks 7 languages fluently and has traveled to all but 26 of the world's 230 countries for Jewish programming.

Rabbi Lashak is a true professional.  Speaking to him for 10 minutes, anyone could tell that he knows the business of educating Jewish youth.

On the show he told us about the two Torahs.  The Torah of Moshe is the Torah that most of us are familiar with - Jewish texts like the Torah, Talmud, midrash, etc.  Many kids connect with the Torah of Moshe, but many do not.  The kids who do not immediately connect with Jewish texts tend to get left behind Jewishly.

That is where Rabbi Lashak comes in.  He introduces the kids to the Torah of Abraham.  Abraham did not come to the Torah by reading a book.  Abraham discovered God through nature, experience, and acts of kindness.  That is the Torah that Rabbi Lashak specializes in.

Rabbi Lashak organizes trips all over the world so that Jewish kids can see the beauty of Hashem's creations and engage in acts of kindness.  He does service learning projects in south America, historical journey's through Europe, and of course trips to Israel.  Rabbi Lashak has lead almost 70 birthright trips to Israel.

Rabbi Lashak is a serious scholar in the Torah of Moshe.  he spent over 15 years learning Torah in Yeshiva and to this day he continues to learn seriously every day.  It is because of his foundation in the Torah of Moshe that he is able to make the Torah of Abraham come alive.  The kids experience the wonders of the world and connect with Hashem on a deep level - and then Rabbi Lashak introduces them to serious Jewish content that enhances the experience and inspires the kids to follow up after the trip and engage in their unique Jewish heritage.

We got to experience Rabbi Lashak first hand over Shabbat.  Friday Night we had a dinner for NCSY families and Rabbi Lashak showed us how to make a Friday night dinner into an inspiring experience with singing and words of Torah.

Over Shabbos we had serious conversations about the sate of Jewish youth in Omaha.  We discussed it openly on Good Shabbos Nebraska and Rabbi Lashak gave us some candid and honest feedback on what he had observed.  Some of what he had to say was painful to hear, but he also gave us some constructive advice.

He made some really great connections with myself and other Jewish professionals over Shabbos and we plan to follow up with him and see if we can use his advice to turn around our community.

Many thanks to NCSY for making this Shabbos possible and of course to Yaakov Rosenblatt of Dallas who sponsored Rabbi Lashak.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Rabbi Pesach Lerner to Speak about Women of the Wall

Tonight was incredible!  Rabbi Pesach Lerner is in Omaha on business and he ravened maariv at Beth Israel tonight.

I had asked him in advance if he would speak about the Jonathan Pollard case.

It was incredible.  He spoke about the facts of the Jonathan Pollard case.

Rabbi Lerner is very clear, Jonathan Pollard committed a crime.  The point that Rabbi Lerner makes, and is finally joined by many prominent Jewish leaders and American politicians, is that Pollard paid his debt to society and it is now time to let him go.

Rabbi Lerner has been advocating for Pollard for 20 years and he has spoken hundreds, if not thousands of times on this topic.  His presentation is fascinating and Rabbi Lerner's passion for the cause is infectious.  He recommended that for more information we go to

Rabbi Lerner is going to be back at Beth Israel tomorrow night at 6:15 pm.  I asked him if he would talk tomorrow about the women of the wall situation in Israel.  He is somewhat involved with a group called Women for the wall that was established to get out an opposing view point to women of the wall.

Rabbi Lerner has a very interesting perspective to contribute to the issue.

The Reform Synagogue recently had Anat Hoffman of Women of the Wall scheduled to be here.  She was snowed out, but I was hoping to have an opportunity to hear her in person as I always go to hear challenging speakers, especially speakers who are public personalities.

Tomorrow is an opportunity for Omaha Jews to have their ideas challenged.  I really hope that the word gets out in Omaha about this rare opportunity for us to hear words that we may not agree with from a public personality.  That is what Torah is all about.

So be there tomorrow Tuesday, February 11 at 6:15pm!
You will not want to miss it!!!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Monday night at beth Israel - The Facts about Jonathan Pollard!

This Monday we have a special guest at Beth Israel.  Rabbi Pesach Lerner is passing through Omaha and will be davening with us on Monday night at 6:15 PM.

Rabbi Lerner is known for many things, among them he has never stopped advocating on behalf of Jonathan Pollard.

Jonathan Pollard is an historic figure who personifies a host of issues that confront American Jews.

Is there institutionalized antisemitism in America?  Are Jews more loyal to Israel than Amerca?  If the interests of Israel and America ever came into conflict, which side would we choose?

It also brings up the question of how Israel views the American Jewish community.  Does Israel have a responsibility towards all Jews or just towards Israelis?  If Pollard had been Israeli would Israel have done more to try to free him?

In the past Jewish organizations were reluctant to advocate on behalf of Pollard as many Jews saw it as a sign of disloyalty to America.

Rabbi Lerner never stopped advocating for Pollard for a minute.

Over the last couple of years, as Pollard's health has been in decline and as the Israeli government has taken a more active role in advocating for his release, it has become in vogue for mainstream Jewish organizations to speak out on his behalf.

This is a great opportunity for Omaha Jews to learn about this historic case and to ask questions from the man who has been directly involved all along.

So be here at Beth Israel on
February 10th Monday night at 6:15 PM For Rabbi Pesach Lerner.  Everyone is invited!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Episode 16 of GSN - Nebraska meets Iowa!

This week is a special episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska.  We are hosting a shabbaton with the members of Beth El Jacob - the Orthodox Synagogue in Des Moines.

Des Moines is the closest Orthodox shul to Beth Israel, and it is over 2 hours away.

We have always talked about getting together for Shabbos and we are finally making it happen.  This Shabbos we are going to talk about our communities, learn from each other, and give each other encouragement.  It is not easy being isolated communities in the middle of America and it is nice to get together to celebrate our achievements and talk about the challenges together.

The guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska this week will be the Rabbi of Beth El Jacob, Rabbi Elib Bolel.

Born in the UK received his ordination from the Ohr Lagolah Graduate Semicha Program at Ohr Someyach in Jerusalem – Israel. He received a second Semicha from Rosh Av Bet Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council - R' Gedalia Dov Schwartz. In addition to being an ordained Rabbi, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in Judaic Studies, Master of Business Administration and is a certified teacher by the Israel Ministry of Education and member of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and Chicago Rabbinical Council (CRC).
Rabbi Bolel with his warmth, enthusiasm, leadership and knowledge has attracted new families, young and senior to Beth El Jacob. In addition to his dedication and responsibilities at the synagogue, Rabbi Bolel has established outreach programs on three different universities in Iowa catering for the Jewish student, sits on various organization Boards, and is supervising Rabbi for the Mikvah and Chevra Kadisha.Rabbi Bolel is married to Devorah, who hails from Jerusalem – Israel and is a qualified cosmetician. Devorah oversees the running of the Shul Mikvah and arranges cooked meals for new moms, the sick etc in the community. Rabbi and Devorah are the proud parents of their two sons, Eitan and Yair.
Rabbi Bolel and I have known each other for some time and we are excited to spend Shabbos together finally.

So catch us this and every Shabbos at 10am ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue where EVERY SHABBOS is a Shabbaton!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

This week Good Shabbos Nebraska is for the birds!

This week on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning Talk show -  we will feature very special guest, Rabbi Chaim Loike!

Rabbi Loike is the world's leading expert on the study of kosher birds!!!

He speaks to audiences all over the world about birds and other exotic animals mentioned in the Torah and other ancient Jewish texts.  His presentations demonstrate the intersection between Torah, history, biology, zoology, archaeology, and sociology.  

Rabbi Loike has authored dozens of articles on the traditions relating to kosher birds.  He also was instrumental in saving the Philby Partridge from extinction.  I blogged about it here and here, and the Philby logo, designed by my request by a graphic artist at the Omaha JCC, is the banner photo on my facebook page.

On Friday at 2:30 pm he is going to do a special presentation at the Friedel Jewish Academy.  He will be joined by Roberta Barr of the Nebraska Parrot Rescue.  Roberta will bring some of her feathered friends and Rabbi Loike will give an interactive class to the kids.

On Shabbos Rabbi Loike will be our featured guest and he will be joined by a surprise return guest!  

It is going to be an unforgettable Shabbos.  

And it all takes place at 10 am, this and EVERY Shabbos, ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue - Where every Shabbos is a shabbaton!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The First Ever Good Shabbos Nebraska Bat Mitzvah!

Yesterday was an historic Shabbos!  It was the first ever Good Shabbos Nebraska Bat Mitzvah!

Yesterday Eleanor Dunning became a Bat Mitzvah.  The two of us have been studying parshat Mishpatim together for almost a year.  We met once a week in the Kripke Library at the JCC and studied the parshah with commentary.  

The culmination was a special episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska with Eleanor as the SPECIAL GUEST HOST!

She was truly amazing.  

She began the show with her opening monologue that we wrote together.  She gave a short summary of parshat Mishpatim, which is basically a list of 53 seemingly unrelated mitzvot.  She asked the global question, "is there a method to this mitzvah madness?"  Eleanor and I found an answer we like in the commentary of the Abravanel.  She gave a brief bio of the Abravanel and then explained his answer.  Last week was the ten commandments.  The Abravanel explains that the mitzvot of mishpatim are Moshe's commentary to how to observe the ten commandments in detail.  

After the monologue she did a segment about the ten commandments.  When we studied together we developed a mnemonic to remember the ten commandments.  With the help of her little brother, her cousin, and her father they taught the mnemonic so that every one of the hundreds of people there yesterday will easily be able to recite the Big Ten in order forever.

Eleanor has a very close special family friend Wendy, who came in from New York.  Wendy has Usher Syndrome - a genetic illness that causes loss of sight and hearing.  Eleanor interviewed her for the show.  Wendy is an impressive lady.  She is a divorce attorney in New York city, and one of the most inspiring people I have ever met.  She spoke about some of the challenges that she faces being blind and deaf. Eleanor taught us a Rashi form this week's parshah that relates to the extra sensitivity that we are supposed to have towards deaf people.  

Wendy explained that she has a cochlear implant that allows her to hear.  It changed her life.  She was scared to get it at first, but Dr. Edward Cohn, a leading scientist at BoysTown Research hospital in Omaha, convinced her to go through with it.  Eleanor surprised Wendy by inviting Dr. Cohn to join them on the show.

Wendy got to thank Dr. Cohn for changing her life and he told us a bit about the remarkable advances that they are making at BoysTown and at UNMC to reverse sight and hearing loss caused by Usher's syndrome.

As we always do on Good Shabbos Nebraska, Eleanor invited the guests to learn some Torah with her. She chose to focus on a mitzvah from this week's parshah that was particularly meaningful to her.  One of the mitzvot in Mishpatim is the commandment to prevent animals from suffering.  Eleanor loves animals, but she also saw on a tour of a research lab that animals are experimented on.  She and Dr. Cohn had a fascinating discussion on the show about the tension between kindness to animals and the use of animals for research.  

For a few months leading up to her bat mitzvah Eleanor and I had learned some Torah perspectives on the ethics of animal research and we compared them with the works of Peter Singer who is opposed to many types of animal experimentation that are used in research of diseases like Usher Syndrome.  

Eleanor briefly explained the Torah positions on our relationship to animals and how it differs from Dr. Singer's.

Dr. Cohn said that he subscribes to the Torah's view, and we owe many of the most important developments in science to animal research.

In addition to the Torah segments, Eleanor also introduced musical guests AKA Pella - the greatest Jewish a cappella group in the world.  They performed two songs, including a special song that they wrote just for Eleanor.

It may have been the best bat mitzvah in the history of the world!  The show was all about Torah.  Not only did Eleanor learn, everyone who came walked away from that bat mitzvah knowing more Torah then they did before.

At lunch after davening Eleanor's father came over to me and gave me the biggest compliment a Rabbi can receive.  He said, "Thank you Rabbi.  Our whole family learned from this bat mitzvah.  But most of all, Eleanor sees that Judaism is not something outside of her life.  She knows that the Torah can be applied to everything that she does.  That is exactly what we wanted her to take with her.  Thank you."

Good Shabbos Nebraska has created a cultural change in Omaha.  TO many Omaha Jews, it has brought Shabbos into their lives.  GSN makes Torah relevant and exciting and makes people love learning.

But if it did nothing else, the format that it gives kids for their bar and bat mitzvahs would have made the whole program worth it.

So be a part of the Shabbos morning program that is taking Omaha by storm!  Catch Good Shabbos Nebraska every Shabbos at 10 am ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue - Where Every Shabbos is a Shabbaton!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Happy Birthday Rabbi Kripke!

Last night my wife and I had the honor of being at a celebration for Rabbi Myer S. Kripke's 100th birthday.

Over the last 10 years it has been one of the most distinct privileges to have a relationship with this sage of Israel.  Although I joke and call myself the chief Rabbi of the State of Nebraska, the truth is that Rabbi Kripke is the man who really deserves that title.

Rabbi Kripke is famous for a number of reasons.

He is the father of the world famous philosopher Saul Kripke.  According to many, Saul Kripke is among the most important philosophers of the last 100 years.

Also, Rabbi Kripke's late wife, Dorothy Kripke, was the author of the children's book Let's Talk About God.   Dorothy Kripke's book has been translated into over a dozen languages and is still considered a classic book and one of the best books to begin a conversation with children on this very important subject.
In his own right, Rabbi Kripke was a pulpit Rabbi at Beth El Synagogue here in Omaha for 30 years. He was ordained in 1937 at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and is probable one of the last living students of Mordechai Kaplan when he was there.  Rabbi Kripke was a scholar who has authored (and continues to author) countless articles on Torah and a book called Insights and Interpretations.  

What most people know about Rabbi Kripke is that he was the Rabbi who had a relationship with Warren Buffett in the 60s.  Rabbi Kripke invested everything he had with Warren Buffett and became a millionaire many times over.  The New York Times did a write up on Rabbi Kripke a number of years ago.

Purchasing a share of Berkshire Hathaway is like purchasing a diamond.  The shares pay no dividend so as they rise in value the owner does not earn any money unless the shares are sold.

Over the years, as his net worth soared, Rabbi Kripke never boasted about his wise investment.  In fact, I wonder if he told anyone other than his wife.

After 30 years as the Rabbi of Beth El he retired and continued to live with his wife in Omaha.  His life style never changed.

In the mid 90s Rabbi Kripke made his first multi million dollar charitable donation.  It was to the Jewish Theological seminary, where he earned his rabbinic ordination and met his wife.  When he and his wife got married they did not have much money between them.  The seminary hosted their wedding in the courtyard and Rabbi Kripke had said that the gift was to repay them for their kindness.

Since then Rabbi Kripke has given away millions of dollars to dozens of institutions.

After his beloved wife Dorothy passed away he moved into the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home here in Omaha where he lives until this day.

The Talmud teaches that when a person passes through a new place it is proper to seek out and visit the Torah scholars and the righteous people who reside in that town.  Whenever I have guests come to visit Omaha, the very first place I take them is to meet Rabbi Kripke.  He qualifies as both.

Like Avraham's wife Sarah, Rabbi Kripke is 127 years old when it comes to learning.  He is 100 in his vast breadth of knowledge from a century of experience and ceaseless study.  He is like a young 20 year old Yeshiva student with regard to his keen and acute analytical mind, and he is like a boy of seven years old in his excitement and enthusiasm to learn new things.

But Rabbi Kripke is more than an exceptional scholar.  Rabbi Kripke is a true Zaddik.

In life we are all tested.  In Hebrew these kinds of life tests are called nisyonot.  Among whatever other tests God put before Rabbi Kripke, one of them was the nisayon of wealth.

Everyone wants money, but those who have achieved great wealth have learned that it comes with a heavy burden.  And while we all laugh and say, "that is a burden that I would love to have!" - there are certainly worse things to be burdened with - wealth is a burden none the less.

Money, like any great blessing, has the potential to change people.

I think that all who know Rabbi Kripke would attest to the fact that Rabbi Kripke confronted and conquered the nisayon of wealth.  He acted as if he was simply the custodian of money given to him by God with the express purpose of helping others.

A meeting with Rabbi Kripke is a lesson in true humility.  He is a paragon of this most important character trait and his example is one that we can only hope to emulate.

I feel so fortunate that I have the privilege of knowing Rabbi kripke and living near him.  I have the privilege to learn from his wisdom, my children have received blessings from him, and he was the kiseh shel Eliyahu at my son's bris.  

Happy Birthday Rabbi Kripke.  May Hashem continue to grant you health and happiness.  May your family continue to join together for happy occasions.  And may our Omaha Jewish community and the entire Jewish people be blessed to have you as our Rabbi for many years to come!.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Is Good Shabbos Nebraska Kosher?

This past Shabbos on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show, we had the legendary musician Lenny Solomon.  It was a fantastic Shabbos and a great way to take us into the mid winter Hiatus.

For the next two weeks Good Shabbos Nebraska is going to be on break.  We are taking down the stage and davening will just feature a short parshah monologue (I don't think I can ever go back to calling it a sermon).

We will return on January 25th with guest host Elinor Dunning - our first ever Good Shabbos Nebraska Bat Mitzvah.  It will be a historic episode.  In 20 years when the Good Shabbos Nebraska model is the norm in synagogues around the world people will remember that Elinor Dunning was the first ever guest host bat mitzvah!

Good Shabbos Nebraska has been very well received in Omaha, but outside of Omaha the show has met some controversy.  

The latest from the blogger Rabbi Reuvein Spolter.  He writes on the "Chopping Wood" blog about "divrei Torah and community issues."  

On Sunday morning Lenny Solomon was interviewed for the Jewish radio show JM in the AM.  He generously gave a shout out to Good Shabbos Nebraska (100 min)  and told people how much he loved the idea and the program.  

A few minutes later, Rabbi Spolter, in Israel, wrote the following. 
Listening to an interview with Lenny Solomon of Shlock Rock, who mentioned that he was just in Omaha Nebraska, where the rabbi, instead of giving a sermon, turns the entire shul into basically a talk-show set. (You kind of have to see it to get a sense of what he's doing:!about/c10fk. This raises so many questions: (1) What do the regular members think? (2) Is it working to boost the shul's popularity? (3) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, does turning shul into a makeshift TV studio (albeit a Shomer Shabbat one) cheapen the notion of mikdash me'at, and turn what should be a sacred space into yet another symbol of our popular culture? What say you Rabbi Jon Gross?
Lenny Solomon kindly responded with the following
HI Reuven - Just think Avraham Avinu. You are in Israel where people are on board with Judaism or not. Here in Omaha you need to be creative - out of the box. It frankly was the most exciting program I have ever seen. The sermon was given as a monologue a ala Johnny Carson. The Kids were involved. Torah is alive and well in Omaha. Kudos to Rabbi Gross! 
Thanks Lenny!

To answer Rabbi Spolter's questions directly - Thank God, my membership is overall very supportive.  It takes a lot of guts to support a Rabbi in doing something out of the box.  Good Shabbos Nebraska would not exist if it were not for the support of the Beth Israel congregation, and I grateful for their support.

After 13 straight episodes I think everyone would agree that it has been a success.  Regular attendance is up. Our regulars are coming more regularly, and we have seen lots of people who have never come in the past.

20 and 30 years ago most Jews had a bubby and zeidi that were religious.  Davening did not speak to the unaffiliated Jew, but the traditional synagogue still had a nostalgia that spoke to them.

Today, American Jews are 4th and 5th generation assimilated.  Their grandparents were already estranged from the synagogue.  The traditional format is alienating and intimidating to them.  Over the years I have stretched the bounds of my own creativity to make davening more meaningful, but there is only so much that can be done with the traditional format.

And I am not the only Rabbi who struggled with this.  This is a national problem.

Good Shabbos Nebraska maintains the traditional service and does not compromise davening at all.  It simply substitutes the sermon with something that speaks to everyone.

Although I have not yet had a respected halachic authority as a guest on GSN as of yet (stay tuned for season 2!) when I developed the concept of GSN I was in consultation with a number of Rabbinic authorities who all encouraged me to proceed with the program.

Etan G - the Jewish Rapper - really enjoyed the format.  In his words,
usually when a Rabbi gives a sermon, after five minutes you want to blow your head off.  On Good Shabbos Nebraska he had the crowd engaged for almost an entire hour - and 75% of it was Torah.
While I am not in complete agreement with everything he said - the show is usually much less than an hour, and I would say that more than 75% is Torah - but his point is that people are tired of sermons.  The format just doesn't work - even for the best orators.  That is why television features talk shows and not sermon shows.

At one point the sermon was considered a controversial innovation that was meant to engage people in the same way fashion as the non-Jewish culture.  Today it has become the norm in even the most traditional synagogues.  Today the talk show format is an anomaly, but who knows, perhaps one day this will be the new normal for synagogue format.

Just as Lenny Solomon elevates the songs of classic groups the like Beatles by putting words  of Torah to their songs, my goal is to elevate the format of Johnny Carson, Dave Letterman, and Jon Stewart but inserting words of Torah into their format.

While it may be controversial, in my view Good Shabbos Nebraska not only brings sanctity to the synagogue, more importantly it brings people to the synagogue, and it fulfills our primary goal which is to spread words of Torah and to get Jews to love being Jewish.

That is exactly what we do every Shabbos at 10 am ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue - where every shabbos is a shabbaton!