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Henry Adams, a 19th century American historian and author, distinguished between a politician and a statesman. A politician is someone who listens to what people are saying, and then molds his/her agenda accordingly. A statesman is someone who thinks carefully and arrives at intelligent conclusions—and then works to persuade the public to adopt his/her policies.

It is a pity that Presidents' Day is simply treated as a day off from school or work; or a day for special sales. Wouldn't it be far more valuable for children to stay in school and learn about Washington and Lincoln? Wouldn't it be more sensible for all Americans to use the day to learn about the Presidents who helped make the United States a bastion of liberty?

Many of our children and grandchildren spend a year or more studying in yeshivot in Israel. This is a wonderful phenomenon...as a rule. But it is becoming more common for students to be drawn into studying for shana bet and beyond. There's a tendency to glorify lifelong Torah study even if that means forgoing college or developing skills necessary for long term employment.

As Rosh Hashana approaches, synagogues are eager to attract worshippers and new members. Jewish publications have included ads by area synagogues that promise “inspiring” services and sermons, talented cantors, special programs for children etc. Hotels have placed ads attempting to lure customers to spend the holy days in their “luxurious and chic” facilities.

Hanukkah reminds us that the Jewish People have long faced enemies of all kinds…but that we have been able to prevail! With the help of the Almighty, and with our own personal commitment, we will continue to bring light, love and kindness to our world.

The Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting took place on October 27, 2018, at the Tree of Life – Or L'Simcha Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The congregation was attacked during Shabbat morning services. The shooter killed eleven people and wounded six. Three years later, we cannot forget this tragedy and its implications for our community...and society at large.

From time to time, we read about polls taken among Israelis, asking if they are religious or secular. These polls reflect a popular Israeli division of its population into "dati" (religious) or "hiloni" (secular).

The State of Israel faces attacks on many fronts. Its enemies are relentless in striving to hurt Israel in every possible way. One area of attack is in the area of economics. There are concerted efforts to boycott companies that do business with and in Israel, and to boycott Israeli products.

In reading the Haggadah, we envision the vast crowd of Israelites who experienced the Exodus first hand. We identify with them and feel part of their peoplehood. At the same time, though, we envision the unique talents and aspirations of each member of the family and community. The goal is to raise all of us to a high level of understanding, solidarity and love.

The Talmud (Berakhot 31a) provides guidelines for how we are to approach prayer: “Our sages taught: One must not stand in prayer in sadness or in laziness, or in laughter, or in conversation, or in light-headedness, or in idle matters; but [one should pray] in happiness [of a mitzvah].”