Monday, October 28, 2013

Polygamy Shabbos on Good Shabbos Nebraska!

This Shabbos is going to be an unforgettable episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show!

Our guest is going to be Rabbi Dr. Moshe Goldfeder who will be talking about the subject of his doctoral dissertation - polygamy!

He will be going through the myths and facts of polygamy in the Jewish tradition.

  • Was there a time that polygamy was legal according to Jewish law?  
  • Who practiced it?  
  • Why did Rabbeinu Gershon pass the enactment that forbid polygamy?  
  • Has the enactment of Rabbeinu Gershon expired?

Rabbi Goldfeder will also be talking about the growing movement to legalize polygamy in America today.

  • Are these movements gaining traction?
  • What are the legal and societal ramifications?
We are right in the middle of the Torah portions that discuss the households of the founding patriarchs of the Jewish people, and 2 of the 3 forefathers had multiple wives.  We are going to see some of those passages inside and what the Torah has to say.

Good Shabbos Nebraska begins at 10 am this and every Shabbos at Beth Israel Synagogue - where every Shabbos is a shabbaton!

Numerology, Magic, and Jewish Kids attending Hogwarts

This past Shabbos on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show - we had special guest Professor Meir Bar Ilan from Bar Ilan university in Israel.

Professor Bar Ilan was named after his distinguished grandfather whom Bar Ilan University is also named for. He is also the great grandson of the great Rabbi known as the Netziv, as well as nephew of Rabbi Baruch Halevi Epstein - the author of the famous commentary known as the Torah Temimah.

In his own right, professor Bar Ilan is an incredible scholar who has written on a variety of interesting topics.  One of his main subjects is numerology in the Torah.  He explained to us that his understanding of numerology is not mystical at all.  Rather numerology is a a literary device that he claims is pervasive in the Torah.

Numbers have many meanings.  Take the number ten.  On the one hand it has a quantitative meaning - I have ten fingers.  On the other hand, it can have qualitative meanings as well - as in, "the performance was a ten!"
He contends that may numbers listed in the Torah are there to give us qualitative descriptions rather than accurate quantitative ones.

For instance, in this week's parshah the Torah says that Sara lived 127 years.  The basic question is, why on earth do we care how old she was when she died?  When we think about it, her precise age serves no purpose.  He contends that she may or may not have been 127 years old when she died - but as far as the Torah is concerned her actual age is irrelevant.  She was very old when she died.  That is important.  Also, the number 127 has numerological significance.

In the ancient world they were already aware of something that Euclid later called perfect numbers. According to historians, the largest perfect number that they knew of was 8128.  127 was also the largest prime number calculated by hand and was the largest known Marsene prime number until the 1950s.   So clearly there is some great significance to the number 127, and Professor Bar Ilan claims that the number was less Sara's exact age and more of a description of this extraordinary woman.

He also discussed with us the concept of magic in Judaism and the ancient world.  In the ancient world, without exception, magic was performed by adjuring the assistance of strange pagan deities to perform supernatural acts.  Magic was always connected to idolatry, and that is the magic that is prohibited by the Torah.

According to Professor Bar Ilan, J. K. Rowling knows a great deal about writing popular fiction, but she knows absolutely nothing about magic.  The magic depicted in Harry Potter is something that a person can go to school for and learn.  In a way, the magic of Harry Potter is no different than chemistry.  The children learn that reciting a particular incantation or mixing certain potions will produce certain predictable results.  This is completely different than ancient magic where the practitioner had to adjure the gods and hope that the gods grant his requests.

So if the magic of Harry Potter would actually work, it would be permissible according to the Torah just as chemistry is permissible.  Therefore, a Jewish child could go to Hogwarts to become a wizard.  The kids at Beth Israel were very happy to learn that.

It was a fascinating Shabbos.  After Kiddush Professor Bar Ilan spoke about his current project, deciphering a manuscript that was discovered in Kochi, India.  We could have listened to him all day.  Everything that he said was fascinating and the crowd was captivated.

Another great episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska.  Next week, polygamy Shabbos!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Surprise Guest for this Week's Episode of GSN!

Sunday begins the The 26th Annual Klutnizk-Harris Symposium at Creighton University.  
Every year Creighton University brings in scholars from around the world to discuss assorted topics in Jewish culture.  This year the theme is Wealth and Poverty in Judaism.

The Klutznik symposium is always a great event for our Jewish community.  And every year Beth Israel has an added benefit as if there are any Shabbos observant scholars they usually stay with us for the shabbos before the symposium.  
This year we are honored to host the renowned scholar Meir Bar Ilan from Bar Ilan University.  

Professor Bar Ilan is a veteran of the 1982 Lebanon War lost a limb in battle.  He has an incredibly illustrious academic career and has published well over 100 scholarly articles for major Jewish publications.  

He has graciously agreed to be a guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's Favorite Shabbos morning talk show - and he will give a lecture after kiddush.

He is a wealth of information on so many different topics including:
  • Witches in the Bible and in the Talmud
  • Magic in Judaism
  • Astrology in Ancient Judaism
  • Prayers to Angels and other intermediaries
  • Numerology in Judaism
  • Children's Games in Antiquity (I wonder if they had hungry hungry hippos)
  • Fabulous Creatures in Ancient Jewish Traditions
  • Exorcism by Rabbis
  • Monsters and Other Mythological Creatures in Jewish Folklore
  • Chess in Judaism
And over 100 other interesting topics!  Reading his resume was like reading a book.  This is really going to be an incredible Shabbos.  The hardest part is going to be deciding what topics he should speak about.  

I am taking requests.  Any suggestions?

Simchat Torah in Edmonton

This is a guest post by my dear friend, Rabbi Daniel Freidman of Edmonton, Alberta.  Dan is my drasha chevrusa, which means that we speak every week and prepare our sermons together. He has posted before on Amerabbica on the topic of women Rabbis. He is a truly inspirational Rabbi, and the way that he has brought the entire Edmonton Jewish community together is something that the rest of us should observe and strive to emulate.

Simchat Torah in Edmonton - A Model of Community Unity
How will our children remember Simchat Torah?   While the dancing and merriment are important factors to ensure they recall their Jewish upbringing with pride, joy and passion, the Jewish community of Edmonton had a very special experience this year.
At the conclusion of Simchat Torah services in the various shuls around town, rabbis and laypeople from across the denominational spectrum converged on Beth Israel to celebrate together as a community. 
Orthodox Rabbi Daniel Friedman welcomed everyone and expressed his gratitude to all for coming.  “On Simchat Torah, we don’t learn the Torah.  We dance with the Torah, because when it comes to dancing we all dance on the same two feet.  For one day a year, we can put our intellectual differences aside and celebrate our heritage together.”
Conservative Rabbi Kliel Rose of Beth Shalom Synagogue told the story of watching his father one Simchat Torah. “My father was in his year of aveilut [mourning] and he rose and danced with the Torah.  I said ‘Aba, but you’re an avel!’ He replied something that changed me forever, ‘Son, today is Simchat Torah and we must rejoice.’  I am honoured to be here today, friends, celebrating with the entire community on Simchat Torah, our most joyous day of the year.”
Chabad Rabbi Mendy Blachman, director of adult education at Chabad of Edmonton, spoke about continuing the impact of Simchat Torah into the year ahead.  He suggested that everyone present choose something positive that they could add to their Jewish observance.  Rabbi Mendy was so inspired by the day’s events that he became the most active bidder for next year’s Simchat Torah honours at the shul!

The gathering culminated in a joyous dance as members and rabbis of all the congregations locked arms in celebrations.  May every Jewish community share our simcha – the simcha of achdus, Jewish unity!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This Week on GSN - Pink Shabbos

This week is season 1 episode 4 of the hit Shabbos morning talk show - Good Shabbos Nebbraska!  Being October, this week's episode is called Pink Shabbos - in honor of breast cancer awareness month!

Having a pink shabbos in October is already a long standing tradition at Beth Israel - we are now in our second year.

I was inspired to add it to our annual calendar after meeting Rochelle Shoretz at a conference two years ago. She is the founder and director of Sharsheret - an organization supporting Jewish women and their families facing breast cancer.  

Since the discovery of the BRCA genes that are linked to breast cancer, it has been shown that 1 in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women is at risk of breast cancer - as opposed to 1 in 800 for the general population. This alarming statistic makes it imperative for Ashkenazi synagogues to raise awareness and educate women on how they can detect or prevent breast cancer.

This Shabbos on GSN we will feature special guest Bright Pink - a national organization that focuses on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women, while providing support for high-risk individuals.
Bright Pink was founded by a Jewish woman by the name of Lindsay Avner.  She started a movement that has chapters around the country, including Omaha!  At 10 am Shabbos morning Bright Pink is going to talk about what they do and give some important information that is especially relevant for the Jewish community.  
In the evening, my wife Miriam is hosting a women's Seudat Shlishi at Beth Israel and after havdallah a representative from bright pink will give a more extended presentation just for women.

Please God, may this be the last year we need to have Pink Shabbos!  May this coming year see the discovery of the cure for cancer of  every variety, and next October we will throw a big kiddush after shul to Thank God and to honor the scientists who found the cure.  Please call the office if you wish to sponsor the Kiddush for the Cure!

And we will see you all this shabbos on Good Shabbos Nebraska - every Shabbos at 10 am ONLY at Beth Israel Syangogue - where every Shabbos is a Shabbaton!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

GSN is Giving away a free trip to AIPAC!

Anything can happen on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show!!!

This week on GSN we will be giving away a trip to the AIPAC policy conference in Washington DC on March 2-4, 2014!

The AIPAC policy conference is the largest gathering of the American pro Israel community.  Over 12,000 delegates and student advocates from all over the country will converge on Washington.  The best speakers from around the world deliver riveting speeches and lectures on everything Israel!  It is the largest gathering of the Senate and House of Representatives outside of Congress.  

It is an unforgettable experience.


Enter your name and email address and be at Beth Israel Synagogue in Omaha, Nebraska at 10 am for Good Shabbos Nebraska this Shabbos, October 19, 2013.  

(Must be a member of the Omaha Jewish community to win, terms and conditions apply.)

This week on Good Shabbos Nebraska we are proud to host special guest Dr. Jonathan Adelman.  (Click here to learn more.)

Join us every Shabbos at 10 am for Good Shabbos Nebraska with exciting guests, great Torah learning, and opportunities to make a difference and play an active role in Jewish history.

ONLY at Beth Israel Syangogue - where every shabbos is a shabbaton!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

AIPAC Shabbos on GSN - Featuring Dr. Jonathan Adelman

This week is AIPAC Shabbos on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's Favorite Shabbos morning talk show!
Our guest this week is Dr. Jonathan Adelman.
Dr. Adelman is no stranger to Omaha or Beth Israel.  He has been a featured speaker here many times in the past for AIPAC, and last year he was the keynote speaker at Beth Israel's annual AIPAC Shabbos.
Dr.Adelman, a full professor at the Josef Korbel School of International studies at the University of Denver, has written or edited 12 books on Russia, China and the Middle East, with specialty in security studies, foreign policy and revolutions.  He was the doctoral dissertation supervisor for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and he worked for the US State Department in India, China, Russia, Japan, Mongolia, England, France and Germany.

Dr. Adelman has lectured at the American Embassy in Beijing and Shanghai to think-tanks of the Chinese government. He taught at the Diplomatic Academy in Moscow, Central European University in Budapest and People’s University in Beijing. He founded and ran both the China Center and the Israel Center at the University of Denver for four years.
He briefed the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel on northeast Asia security issues, he was sent by the US State department on international speaking tours to countries ranging from Japan, China, and India to Russia, Germany and Spain, and he has lectured at universities ranging from Harvard, Columbia and Cambridge, to the Air War College and Chinese National Defense University (Beijing).
Having been around the world, it was an exceptional compliment when Dr. Adelman personally expressed that his Shabbos in Nebraska was one of the most memorable Shabboses that he can remember.
Every episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska features exciting speakers who bring their knowledge and expertise to the subjects of the weekly Torah portion.  This week we will read about God's decision to bomb the wicked city of Sodom and Abraham's objection to the use of force as innocent civilians may be put in harms way.  This is the exact same conversation that is taking place today regarding Syria and it will be interesting to hear Dr. Adelman's expert opinion on the Torah and on current events.

Every year Beth Israel leads a delegation to the AIPAC policy conference in Washington DC, this year on March 2 through March 4.  AIPAC representative Jessica Millstein will also be joining us for Shabbos and she will tell everyone how they can get a significant discount on the price of policy conference.
So join us this and every week on Good Shabbos Nebraska, every Shabbos at 10 am ONLY at Beth Israel where every shabbos is a shabbton!

November 2 Polygamy Shabbos on Good Shabbos Nebraska

About 6 months ago I signed Rabbi Dr. Moshe Goldfeder on as a guest for an episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show.

Rabbi Dr. Goldfeder is an extraordinary scholar.  He has his semicha from Yeshiva University and then received a higher form of semichah called Yadin Yadin that makes him qualified to be a judge on a Jewish court.  He has a law degree from NYU -one of the top law schools in the country - and then received a masters and a PhD in the intersection between law and religion from Emory university.  

His doctoral dissertation is titled Chains of Love in Law; Re-Imagining American Polygamy in Light of Recent Developments in Family Law.

He is going to talk to us about modern movements in America to gain acceptance for polygamous relationships.  People think that polygamy is an archaic practice, something found only in ancient times, or perhaps among fringe groups in America.  

Dr. Goldfeder is going to discuss polygamy in the weekly Torah portion, and how the Torah and the Jewish community has viewed polygamous relationships from Biblical times, through the ages, and in modern times.

Every Shabbos Good Shabbos Nebraska confronts contemporary issues - bringing in leading experts to discuss front page stories.  

Every week Good Shabbos Nebraska features exciting guests, always something different, bringing viewers an engaging and contemporary Torah learning experience.  

So join us every week at 10 am for Good Shabbos Nebraska, ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue, where every shabbos is a shabbaton!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Synopsis of Good Shabbos Nebraska Season 1 Episode 2 - Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Rosenbaum

Season 1 of Good Shabbos Nebraska is so far a big hit.  The network (aka my synagogue board) has given the green light to go ahead with the popular talk show indefinitely!

Episode 2 of GSN featured the renowned scholar Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Rosenbaum.

We began by talking a bit about the devastating Pew report.  Rabbi Rosenbaum has a unique perspective as he has been a Rabbi of an Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform congregation.  There are not many people alive today who have that type of perspective.

I asked Rabbi Rosenbaum if he could tell us a bit about his education at Harvard.  He was a student of some of the most influential scholars of the 20th century, including Frank Cross, G. E. Wright, and William Moran.
He was a classmate of the famous scholar Jon Levinson and of Omaha's own Leonard Greenspoon.

Then we jumped right into the parshah.  This past week's parshah was lech licha - the origin story of Abraham.  Chapter 14 tells the story of Abraham's battle against 4 kings who teamed up to wreak havoc on the ancient middle east.  This chapter is unique as it gives us a clear understanding of the time period at which Abraham lived and some details about the rest of the ancient world at that time.

The chapter begins:
It happened in the days of Amraphel king of shinaar, Aryoch king of Elasar, Kidarlaomer king of Elam, and Tidaal king of Goyim.  
Rabbi Rosenbaum brought out a map of the ancient world and proceeded to show us which lands these scholars believe are being referred to and what evidence we have to the existence of these four kings.
This has always been one of my favorite chapters of the Torah and it was so enlightening to finally get some of the background story about what was going on at that time.  

Rabbi Rosenbaum stressed that the Torah is a sacred book but we should never forget that it informs us about history as well.  It is a reliable historical document that does not give us the whole picture, but no historical document ever does.  But just as scholars use the works of Homer and the Epic of Gilgamesh to find clues about the ancient world that can then be reinforced with archaeological evidence, the Torah is an invaluable document that sheds light on the time period of which it speaks.  

After every episode of GSN we have a kiddush lunch which the entire community is invited to.

After the kiddush he spoke about the dark underbelly of modern archaeology.  Apparently there are forgeries circulating that are so authentic that they can fool some of the top experts on the ancient world.  The reason for this is that these forgeries are being manufactured by people who have extensive academic archaeological training themselves.  Apparently, there is more money in selling forgeries of priceless antiquities than there is in being an associate professor at of ancient history. 

This is a big problem for many reasons, not the least of which being that by manufacturing false antiquities people can reconstruct or construct false histories that are now backed up by "evidence."  

It was a great episode of GSN.  

Next week our annual AIPAC Shabbos.  Our guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska is Dr. Jonathan Adelman of the University of Denver.  Dr. Adelman was the dissertation adviser of Condalisa Rise, and he has written about and lectured extensively about the Middle East, China, Russia, and just about everything.  It is a pleasure to welcome him back to Omaha again.  It is going to be a great Shabbos!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Rabbi Rosenbaum and the Legacy of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky

Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky was a great Rabbinic figure who lived in Omaha, Nebraska from 1891 until his death in 1947.  Rabbi Grodzinsky was a prolific author of Jewish law and considered at the time to be one of the greatest Torah scholars in America.  He was a cousin of the famed Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, who was considered to be the greatest Rabbi in the world before the Holocaust.

In the 1980s Rabbi Jonathan Rosenbaum researched the life of Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky and wrote a scholarly paper that is until today considered to be the authoritative essay on the life of this Torah scholar.  

This Shabbos Rabbi Rosenbaum is the guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show. 

Today we were at the Rose Blumkin Jewish home and we ran into Melvin Tatelman and his son Mark Tatelman.  Melvin is married to Rabbi Grodzinsky's granddaughter and Mark is Rabbi Grodzinsky's great grandson.  

I introduced Rabbi Rosenbaum to the Tatelman's and we sat down and learned some Torah together.
Rabbi Rosenbaum learning Torah with 
the descendants of Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky

This was a great honor for Rabbi Rosenbaum to learn with them and they were so grateful that Rabbi Rosenbaum ensured that the legacy of Rabbi Grodzinsky will live on.  

Tomorrow Rabbi Rosenbaum will talk a little about Rabbi Grodzinsky, but mostly about his expertize in Biblical archaeology, having studied at Harvard under some of the most influential scholars in the field and having been the deputy director of the Ein Gedi excavation in Israel.

It is going to be a great Shabbos.  It all begins at 10am every Shabbos ONLY at Beth Israel.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Episode 2 of Good Shabbos Nebraska to air this week! Special Guest Dr. Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Guest post by the Beth Israel office manager Jeannie Nickels.
Episode 2 of Good Shabbos Nebraska (GSN) airs on Shabbos, October 12, 2013.  Rabbi Gross will be talking with special guest , Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Rosenbaum. 
Rabbi Rosenbaum is a specialist in Biblical history, the paleography and epigraphy of ancient Semitic languages, and American Jewish history. 
He was  the University of Hartford's first Maurice Greenberg Professor of Judaic Studies and director of its Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies from 1986 to 1998. He conceived and helped guide the Henry Luce Forum in Abrahamic Religions, a program jointly sponsored by the University of Hartford devoted to advancing scholarship concerning and mutual understanding among American Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
From 1995 to 1998 Rosenbaum served as a deputy director of the Ein Gedi Archaeological Expedition in Israel. 
He was president of Gratz College from 1998-2009, and he now serves as president emeritus. 
A rarity in the contemporary Jewish world, Rabbi Rosenbaum has served as a rabbi in Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox congregations. During his student years at HUC-JIR, he held a student rabbi position at Congregation Israel (Reform), Galesburg, IL (1970-1972). While at Harvard he was assistant rabbi, Temple Israel (Conservative), Swampscott, MA, (1972–76), and then a part-time rabbi of Congregation Israel (Conservative), Danville, IL (1976–84). From 1994 to 1998 he was rabbi of Congregation Agudas Achim, a mainstream Orthodox, century-old congregation in West Hartford, CT.
Dr. Rosenbaum has a strong connection to Omaha which formed when he taught in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska from 1978 to 1986.  During that time he was an active member of the Jewish community, a member of Beth Israel synagogue, and he was the study partner of Beth Israel's Rabbi Isaac Nadoff.
“My wife Susan, my children, and I consider Omaha our home, of all of the many communities that we have lived in we never found one that was more welcoming and committed to the ideals of Jewish life and living,” said Dr. Rosenbaum.
Dr. Rosenbaum is excited to be part of Good Shabbos Nebraska. In a recent interview Dr. Rosenbaum said, “GSN is indicative of the classic approach at Beth Israel. The openness to community and utilizing shabbos as an opportunity to engage and immerse in Torah.  The program is not called Good Shabbos Beth Israel - it is Good Shabbos Nebraska demonstrating how it is for everyone in the Jewish community.”
In an interview, Rabbi Gross said, “It is a great honor to be hosting a scholar of Rabbi Dr. Rosenbaum’s credentials and reputation.  I look forward to having a chance to interview him and learn Torah together with him.  It is especially nice to have something with deep ties to Omaha.  He made a great impact on our community that is still felt 30 years later.”
Every episode of GSN engages viewers with fascinating discussions on Jewish topics ranging from current events, history, philosophy, and of course the weekly Torah portion.  Say farewell to the pulpit and say hello to the contemporary synagogue experience featuring discussions that talk with you and not at you. 
Good Shabbos Nebraska airs every Shabbos at 10 am ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue.  For more information visit www.goodshabbosnebraka com, on Facebook at, and on twitter @GoodShabbosNeb.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Sex in the Synagogue

The first episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska turned out to be a bit controversial.

As a guest we had America's Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.  Shmuley is used to being on Talk Shows, and he knows what to say to get the audience excited.

I asked him about the book that he wrote about one of the most famous people in history, who billions of people around the world consider to be God!  So he spoke about his book "The Michael Jackson Tapes." He also spoke about his book "Kosher Jesus."
With every guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska the main topic of conversation is always the weekly Torah portion.  So we spent some time talking about The global destruction that occurred in parshat Noach.  God told Noach that he was going to bring about a flood that would destroy the entire world, millions of people, and Noach does not voice a single word of protest.  Noach seems to accept the oncoming disaster as God's will and only wants to know what he can do to save himself and his family.

Shmuley said this is why Noach is not chosen to be the father of the Jewish people.  Our father is Avraham.  When he was told that the wicked people of Sodom would be killed he challenged God's decision and demanded justice.  This concept of the Jewish view of challenging God is the subject of Shmuley's latest book "Fed Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering."  (after Shabbat he did a book signing and we still have a few autographed copies on sale at the Shul.  Call the shul and order yours today. This offer expiers October 15, 2013)

The parshah also discusses Noach's aftermath.  The Torah says that he got drunk and was involved in some type of sexual misconduct.  Shmuley used this as an opportunity to talk about his books on Sex, particularly his 1999 international best seller "Kosher Sex" and a preview of his upcoming book "Kosher Lust."
Shmuley had a lot to say about the sex stuff, and the conversation got pretty graphic.  The audience loved it, but I could tell that there were some in the audience who were getting uncomfortable.  When Shmuley finished I made a point.
"There are many Rabbis who would be squirming in their seats during that discussion.  Some people might feel that the synagogue is not an appropriate venue to discuss sex.  But the Torah tells us differently.  In the parshah we just read, there was a graphic nude scene, and the midrash on that episode speaks about Noach being raped by his son.  On Yom Kippur we read all about illicit sexual relationships.  Everyone here is constantly exposed to unkosher sex outside of shul through movies and television.  It is about time we had an open discussion about kosher sex from a Rabbi inside shul."
Good Shabbos Nebraska received a lot of positive feedback, but for me the most important feedback was from parents who thanked me for bringing Shmuley because they felt that their kids benefited from hearing a Rabbi speak so openly about the Jewish perspective on sex.

The first week was great, but the real barometer for success will be how many people come back this week, and next week, and the week after, and a month from now, and a year from now.  We are trying to change the culture of shul and ensure that when the next Pew study comes out the American Jewish community gets an A+ on our report card.

Every week on GSN will be a fresh and engaging discussion with contemporary Judaism's most exciting personalities.  This week we are hosting Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Rosenbaum, renowned scholar and archaeologist.  The Torah portion talks about Abraham and we are going to discuss exactly how much evidence is there that there even was an Abraham?

Good Shabbos Nebraska is every week at 10am ONLY at Beth Israel Synagogue.  Where every Shabbos is  Shabbaton!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Good Shabbos Nebraska premier receives high ratings!

This past Shabbos was the premier of Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's favorite Shabbos morning talk show.

Good Shabbos Nebraska is a radical experiment in Synagogue format.  It is an attempt to make services more engaging to Jews who are unfamiliar (or sometimes too familiar) with traditional services without compromising the integrity of our beautiful and meaningful tradition.  This is not an easy task, but after months of thought and planning we have come up with something that so far seems to be testing well with the Omaha audience.

Every week on Good Shabbos Nebraska we have new and exciting guests.  Our first guest was Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.  Rabbi Shmuley was perfect.  He loved the idea of Good Shabbos Nebraska and he really rolled with it.

The show begins with my opening monologue which is a short intro to the parshah.  I give over a few parshah bullet points and some quick insights into each point.

The show features a number of different segments.  Some are humor and others are educational.  The segments are conceived by, written by, and feature Beth Israel kids (with some help from the Rabbi of course).

This week we had a cute sketch by Elinor Dunning and Leora MacNamara that introduced the show and how the audience will participate.

The next segment was a 2 minute segment on prayer by Ilana MacNamara and Zoey Berman - otherwise known as Imac and the Zoester!  People from all over the world send them a meaningful line from any where in davening and one sentence as to why that line is meaningful.  Imac and the Zoester read two submissions every Shabbos to help people learn from each other and make davening more meaningful.  ANYONE can submit a line to Imac and the Zoester by going to

After Imac and the Zoester, Becca Denninberg came up on to the stage and we told everyone in the audience that this week was a special edition of GSN because it was RABBI'S FAVORITE THINGS - a parody of Oprah's favorite things.  While Oprah gives away gold watches and cars, we gave away the new Beth Israel coffee mugs.

The kids were great, the sketches worked and everyone had a great time.

Then we brought out our guest - Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.  And Rabbi Shmuley was awesome!!!

We spoke about his new book Fed Up Man of Faith which talks about challenging God in the face of human suffering.  It was perfect for Parshat Noach as we examined together the differences between Noach's reaction to a global disaster verses the reaction of Avraham that we will see in a two weeks when he learns that the wicked people of Sodom will be destroyed.

We also spoke about some of Shmuley's other books.  He talked about his relationship with Michael Jackson which he recently spoke about on Nancy Grace on CNN.

And of course he spoke about Kosher Sex and his upcoming book Kosher Lust.

Shmuley was absolutely phenomenal.  We had a huge crowd and everyone walked away with a new appreciation for Shul.  The true test will be how many people show up for Good Shabbos Nebraska Next week.  I am optimistic.  I think that the first show was a big hit, not only because of Shmuley, but because people want to come to shul.  They want to learn Torah.  They are looking for a format that speaks to them and I believe that Good Shabbos Nebraska is what people are looking for.

I hope to see everyone in shul again next week for another great episode of Good Shabbos Nebraska.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Goal of Good Shabbos Nebraska

This week at 10am is the world premier of Good Shabbos Nebraska (GSN), America's favorite Shabbos morning Talk show.

The headliner this week is America's Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.  Shmuley has an incredible following in Omaha and many people are excited that they will have a chance to hear him in person at Beth Israel this week.

But there are also many people who expressed interest in coming this week who are attracted to the novelty of the talk show format of Good Shabbos Nebraska.

I have even been contacted by other shuls throughout the country who are interested in throwing away their own pulpits and swapping them for a talk show of their own.

People have asked me what is the goal of GSN..

As I have written in an earlier post, Omaha's Jewish community does not have a culture of Synagogue attendance.  Since my article, the Pew research center has released a study about American Jews and the future looks bleak.

I know that hundreds of people are going to come this Shabbos to hear Shmuley.  (We are probably going to have to cut off the crowd if it exceeds 350 - so come early to ensure a seat!)

But my target audience is not the "one and done crowd".  I am hoping to catch a pool of 75 to 100 Omaha Jews who see the program and say, "this was fun.  This is something that I would come to again in the future."  I don't expect that they will come every week, but if 100 people decided that they will come once a month, or when they see an interesting speaker advertised on the GSN Facebook page - even if that speaker is not an international celebrity - that would be a great victory for Jewish Omaha.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Funny thing happened to Kevin Nealon on the way to Nebraska

Former SNL cast member Kevin Nealon is coming to Omaha in November performing at the Funny Bone Comedy Club.  It so happens, the very same weekend my cousin - Sheba Mason - will also be performing at the Funny Bone!

That same Shabbos Sheba will be my guest on Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's Favorite Shabbos Morning Talk Show!  Sheba is the daughter of comedian Jackie Mason - who is my grandfather's brother.  

About an hour ago Sheba called me from NYC to tell me the most incredible thing.  She was on line at a Starbucks and - of all people - Kevin Nealon got on line behind her!  She turned around and introduced herself and as they waited for their lattes she told him that they are going to be performing at the same club on the same weekend in Omaha, Nebraska!

It turns out Nealon is a big fan of Jackie Mason (he did his Jackie Mason impression for Sheba) and hopefully they will have a chance to get together in Omaha before his show.  Maybe he will even show up at Beth Israel to check out Good Shabbos Nebraska - America's Favorite Shabbos Morning Talk Show!

What a crazy coincidence!

This Shabbos we have America's Rabbi Shmuley Boteach!  It is going to be a great Shabbos.  But then again at Beth Israel every Shabbos is a shabbaton!