Rosh Hashanah Message from Rabbi Aft

09/20/2017 09:29:59 AM


Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Preparing For the High Holiday's

09/15/2017 05:49:35 PM


Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Preparing For the High Holiday's

09/15/2017 10:23:34 AM


Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Fascism, Floods, and Eclipses...

09/01/2017 09:51:40 AM


Dear Friends, As we all return to the area and get back into the swing of things some are already back with the beginning of school this past week, I want to be sure that you are aware that we have a major program on Sunday night, Sept. 10 at 7pm

A Special Message from Rabbi Aft - Standing Together

08/17/2017 09:29:46 AM


Dear Friends, I came across this article and wanted to share it with you.We must all stand together to combat hatred and bigotry and we will be keeping you posted about a special program being planned for early September at Adat Reyim.

A Special Message From Rabbi Aft

08/14/2017 12:12:07 PM


Dear Friends, I often think about the words of Rabbi Joachim Prinz, who was a rabbi in Berlin during the early years of the Holocaust before he emigrated to the US. He once said that the greatest sin of the Holocaust was the sin of silence. After

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Friday, July 28th

07/28/2017 09:47:28 AM


Dear Friends, It is always a dilemma for those in the liberal Jewish community... How does one commemorate Tisha B'Av in our world? At Adat Reyim, we have a commemoration that includes adult education, the chanting of Lamentations, and an evenin

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Searching for Meaning

07/21/2017 10:14:33 AM


I wanted to share the following article which appeared last week in the Washington Jewish Week. We continue to watch as our sanctuary is rejuvenated and hope that each of us will be going through a process of rejuvenation in our own lives as the sum

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - July 14, 2017

07/14/2017 01:35:35 PM


Dear Friends, Goose bumps....being there each time always gives me goose bumps... Where is there??? Sue and I joined Arnie Daxe at an Honor Flight last Wednesday where we welcomed veterans of WWII and the Korean War who came to Washington DC to

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message -

07/07/2017 10:05:52 AM


Dear Friends, As I write this note, Sue is in the midwest beginning the process of going through her mother's things. As many of you know, this is a nostalgic and emotional process. While we were at her mom's funeral and sitting shiva in three d

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message -

06/30/2017 03:42:50 PM


Dear Friends, Sue and I returned last night from her mom's funeral, shiva, and family time. We continue to be grateful for the good wishes and support from many of you. Losing a loved one is always challenging and whether one is prepared for the

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message -

06/23/2017 12:17:58 PM


Dear Friends, As Sue and I conclude the week of shiva, we are very grateful for all your kind wishes. Sue's Mom's death was very sudden. Although her health had been deteriorating for awhile and there have been ups and downs for 212 years, her

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - In Memory of Esther Steinberg

06/16/2017 12:23:06 PM


Dear Friends, As you read this column on Friday, Sue and I will be at her mom's funeral. Sue's mom was a very special lady. Sue has two siblings and Sue's mom was blessed with 14 grandchildren including grandchildren through marriage and 8 grea

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Celebrations!

06/09/2017 08:57:32 AM


Dear Friends, Last weekend our opportunity to celebrate milestones was very inspirational. We began with honoring pre school families who had given birth in the past year and our extended pre school family has been blessed with more than 10 newbo

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Milestone Weekend!

06/02/2017 01:30:47 PM


Dear Friends, We have finally reached our weekend of milestones and I hope that we will see you throughout this weekend. I want to wish mazel tov to Michael Josephson and Adam Katz who will become confirmed this evening at services. It is a trib

Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Shavuot

05/30/2017 10:13:30 AM


Dear Friends, As we celebrate Shavuot tonight at 8pm with a service and study session and tomorrow at 930am with services and Yizkor at 1130ish, I hope you will join us. It is customary to light a yahrzeit candle tonight before sundown one light

Special Yom HaShoah Message from Rabbi Aft

04/24/2017 11:33:45 AM


Rabbi's Weekly Message - Yom HaShoah Programming

04/21/2017 09:43:36 AM


Dear Friends, Last Sunday and Monday I had the privilege of speaking to a number of students at Virginia Tech under the auspices of Hillel. I met with some student leaders, fraternity members, and other students at a special luncheon program. I also

Rabbi's Weekly Message - Addendum Link - Please View

04/14/2017 12:37:45 PM


httpsyoutu.be8RZlw-pIzqo Please click on the above link for additional information pertaining to Rabbi's Message. We hope to see you tonight.

Rabbi's Weekly Message - PLEASE READ - Important Information Included -

04/14/2017 12:12:48 PM


Dear Friends, We all are watching the news about the bombing in Afghanistan and the potential testing of another nuclear weapon in North Korea. We hope and pray that sometime soon we will live in a world at peace. What a busy week. You will see two n

Rabbi's Weekly Message - Passover

03/31/2017 10:15:37 AM


Dear Friends, Recently, I had the privilege of naming the granddaughter of a member of our faculty, Glenn Siegel. He teaches sixth grade at Adat Reyim and Beth El. The story he told about the woman after whom his granddaughter was named is an amazing

Rabbi's Weekly Message

03/24/2017 12:55:51 PM


Dear Friends, It is sometimes challenging to share personal family moments but some of you know that we were out of town with one of our children who had surgery. The surgery went well and the recovery will take awhile but everything should be fine.

Rabbi's Weekly Message

03/17/2017 10:01:44 AM


Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Friday, January 6th 2017

01/06/2017 10:19:29 AM


Dear Friends,


As I write this article, there are so many subjects which I could discuss.  First of all, please note that sometime after our congregational trip returns from Israel, we will have at least one adult education forum about the recent UN vote on settlements in Israel and the Palestinian territories which is a complicated political issue.  Our mission will be to inform our congregants about the issues which are influencing the peace process and not to take a political position.  Please look for details in early February.  In the meantime, all of us pray for peace in the Middle East and particularly want to reach out to our friends from the Ezher (Bloom) Mosque-Institute of Islamic-Turkish Studies after the recent terrorist attack in Turkey. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.  Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the Syrian refugees and the victims of the ongoing conflict in Syria.


Secondly, I hope that you will join us for the program on Sunday where a number of us will be discussing issues about how to transmit Jewish heritage in a meaningful and relevant way.  I urge you to read the following article which will be one of the sources for our discussion on Sunday at 9:15am.  (please see the article and the flyer below).


Thirdly, I want to personally thank Russell Rayman and the outgoing board for their dedicated and devoted service to Congregation Adat Reyim.  I remember when we celebrated Russell and the board's installation last January and named Russell's grandson. What a wonderful way to model "v'shinantam l'vanecha, teaching your children and grandchildren diligently.  We are taught in Pirke Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers or Teaching of our Sages, that one should acquire a teacher a friend.  Russell has served as both for me and I treasure our periodic discussions at Paneras over coffee (thanks for treating😊) and our ongoing friendship.  By the way we all wish Russell and his family mazel tov on the recent marriage of his son, David.


I look forward to traveling to Israel with both Russell and our new president, David Berkowitz.  David has been among our most devoted volunteers over the years and we are in for an exciting year.  May you, David, go from strength to strength in your experience as our president.  Please join us tonight at 8pm for our board installation service.


Finally, I hope you will also join us next Friday night for our Sabbath of Solidarity in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at 8pm at Adat Reyim.  Please bring your friends and neighbors for this important service.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Bruce Aft


Special Adult Learning Program:

January 8, 2017 @ 9:15 a.m.

Jewish Family 2017: V'Shinantum L'vanecha...You Shall Teach Your Children

A panel and small group discussion program focusing on the changing lives of our children and the transmission of values, traditions, and Torah and what it means to be a Jewish family in today's world








Nina Badzin photo



On Monday in the New York Times, Michael Paulson reported on the “Pay What You Want” model some synagogues are implementing to reduce the financial barrier to membership. Paulson estimates about 30 synagogues across the United States are trying voluntary dues.

In Paulson’s words, these changes have come from “an acknowledgement that many Jewish communal organizations are suffering the effects of growing secularization, declining affection for institutions, a dispersal of Jewish philanthropy and an end to the era in which membership in a congregation was seen as a social obligation.”

With those realities, a massive change in the dues structure is necessary, but is it sufficient? Changing the financial requirement for membership without addressing the deeper disinterest in attending synagogue is going to yield more of the same long term: low participation and apathy.

I asked on Facebook what keeps people from wanting to be more involved Jewishly in and out of synagogues, and the discussion went on for 12 hours, yielding more than 100 comments from Jews around the country. One friend, Rebecca Kotok, summed up the issue succinctly: “Many [Jewish leaders] are asking ‘How can we get people more involved in our synagogue?’ as opposed to asking ‘How can we get people more involved with Jewish life?’ Perhaps because the answer may be frightening as it may not include synagogues in their current iteration.”

The pressing challenge now for non-Orthodox synagogues is not a financial one. That is not to deny a real need for dollars, but the financial insecurity is a symptom of the deeper problem that members (and potential members) do not see the value in Judaism. They do not see how the Judaism the synagogue offers has anything to do with their lives. If the perception of the product or the way it’s delivered (low rabbi to congregant ratio) doesn’t change, I don’t see how a lower cost or even a free membership will make people want to spend time, their other hard-earned currency, at synagogues or in any aspect of Jewish life.

Paulson’s quick mention of “growing secularization” cannot be understated. If rabbis are sought out mainly for lifecycle events and two holidays a year, rather than for moral, ethical, and spiritual development, then why would a free membership make any difference to the community long term? If rabbis do not have relationships with their members that are personal enough to help those members grow in their Judaism or to introduce members to the idea that Judaism has the potential to improve their lives, then after the lifecycle events or in the long years between them, it’s no wonder the value of a membership becomes a pressing question.

Provide value and people will pay. Show members the joy of Judaism and empower them to bring that joy home. Engage members with discussions on how to be a better person, a better parent, sibling, spouse, friend, and a more ethical business person, and they will come back for more. If Judaism cannot answer the big questions in life and be relevant in our homes and everyday life, then members will go somewhere else and take their dollars with them. Our lives are short and finite and we only have so many lifecycle events for which we need a rabbi to facilitate.

Organizations don’t die because they provide no value; they die because they fail to provide enough value to enough people. As Rabbi Avi Olitzky, co-author with his father Rabbi Kerry Olitzky of the forthcoming book “New Membership & Financial Alternatives for the American Synagogue,” told me, “There has to be harmony between the synagogue’s mission and its agenda. A synagogue cannot just be in the business of being in business.” I told him that so many of us want community, but don’t always know how to define it. I liked his description of community as a circle to which you feel you belong that will miss your presence; it reaches out to you when you’re absent, and you long for it when you’re not there.

The challenge for synagogues will be that members–and those not even considering joining–will find that community (and have found that community) in any number of places from yoga studios to the racquetball court to their careers, or their kids’ schools and sports teams. If we can’t give people a reason to infuse that circle with Judaism (not just with Jews, but with Judaism) then sadly I don’t see a future for synagogues whether they cost money to belong or not.


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Congregation Adat Reyim

6500 Westbury Oaks Court

Springfield, VA 22152







Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Friday, 12/30/2016

12/30/2016 09:01:18 AM


Dear Friends,


Sue and I hope that each of you enjoys a healthy, safe, fulfilling, and happy 2017. Please join us later this afternoon at 4:30pm for a Shabbat service of singing with our folk group, Shir Reyim, and a special story.  This service is open to all ages and I look forward to seeing you later today!


We are excitedly anticipating a very special 2017 at Adat Reyim.


2017 will be the year in which we begin the rejuvenation of the sanctuary after careful planning, lots of hard work on the part of Andrea Cate and her committee, and significant generosity on the part of many who have already donated and many who will be donating to renovate our sacred space.  Thank you to all who are involved in making this happen.


As we rejuvenate the sanctuary, we also will be increasing participation in our ritual life and worship experience. We hope to rejuvenate our spiritual lives as well as our space.   At our final religious practices committee meeting which honored Martin Mould for his devoted service, our new chairperson, Rebecca Gibson, suggested a number of ideas to increase our attendance at worship.  Thank you, Martin for all you have done and thanks for stepping forward again, Rebecca.


Early in 2017 you will be receiving a survey which will ask you what kinds of instruction you would like to receive which will help make your worship experience more meaningful   In addition to classes that will teach trop (the musical notes for chanting Torah and Haftarah), there will be sessions about how to lead and more meaningfully participate in worship, requests for members to speak on Friday nights and give divrei Torah on Shabbat morning, and plans to get our families with children more involved in spiritual activity.  We also are looking forward to a healing service in February, a reunion service for those adults who have become Bar/Bat Mitzvah at Adat Reyim, an Adult Bar/Bat Mitzvah service and a special celebration of the 50th anniversary of my becoming a Bar Mitzvah (I became Bar Mitzvah when I was two years old).


I look forward to a really special year as we continue to celebrate our 36th year as an Adat Reyim, a community of friends.


Once again, please enjoy a wonderful 2017.  


Shabbat Shalom and Happy 2017,


Rabbi Bruce Aft

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Congregation Adat Reyim

6500 Westbury Oaks Court

Springfield, VA 22152







Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Friday, 12/23/2016

12/23/2016 09:01:21 AM


Dear Friends,


As we celebrate Chanukah this weekend, we look forward to Latkes and Lights tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.  Please join us as we begin Chanukah together at Adat Reyim.  As I write this, there are almost 100 people registered to attend and special thanks to Cindy Kahn and Bruce Kaplan for helping coordinate this special event.  As well as Andrea Cate, David Berkowitz, Steve Schwartz, Steve Adleberg, Bill Price, Barry Newman, and Russel Rayman.  They all worked hard to make the wonderful Latkes.


I recently taught an adult education session which dealt with the subject, "What Would Judah Maccabee Do?"  We know that Judah Maccabee fought against religious persecution and with a small group of people was able to change history and help the Jewish people survive.  Recently during a sermon I paraphrased a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's letter from the Birmingham jail.


"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.  Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was "well timed," according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.... We must come to see...that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."


I hope that we learn from the message of Chanukah to work hard to make sure that we live in a society where all of us can enjoy the basic freedoms we have come to take for granted.  I also hope that we will all join together on Jan. 13 for our Sabbath of Solidarity to show once again that it is good and pleasant when we call come together.  Hiney Mah Tovu Mahnayim, Shevet Achim Gam Yachad.


May we all enjoy an empowering and liberating Chanukah where we are inspired to be sure that we keep the light of justice and freedom burning brightly for all members of our community.  In light of the Syrian Refugee Crisis that continues to be devastating to so many people, please follow your conscience and let your public officials know how you feel about the current situation.  Remember as Jews, we say "never again" and although there are always questions about helping those in need, sometimes we need to be sure we make a difference in a way that is meaningful to us.


Shabbat Shalom and Hag Chanukah Sameach,


Rabbi Bruce Aft

8 Inspiring Readings from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

If you didn't see these readings for each night of Chanukah from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, please read them.  I hope they inspire meaningful discussions as you light your Chanukah Menorah.


Click on the link below: 


Link: 8 Short Thoughts for 8 Chanukah Nights - Rabbi Sacks

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Congregation Adat Reyim

6500 Westbury Oaks Court

Springfield, VA 22152







Rabbi Aft's Weekly Message - Friday, 12/16/2016

12/16/2016 01:00:35 PM