President’s Message February 2023

February. Still cold. But it feels like spring is right around the corner. Passover comes early this year. April 5th. CBT is hosting a second night seder on April 6th. Passover is my favorite. Spring. Freedom. Songs. Every year I sing, “Go Down Moses.” I love all the commentary around the Seder. I don’t know how old I was when I heard the reason the water in the river became blood was because Pharoah passed himself off as a god. He went into the river every morning, hiding his human bodily functions from the rest of the world. No one ever saw him do his business, until the river turned to blood, and he wouldn’t go in, thus exposing himself as a mere mortal.

These are the stories that have told of our survival through the centuries.

In December I went to LA to narrate a play called, “Escape from Tehran,” a reality-based love story written by Stephanie A. Liss. A Persian Jewish couple must escape with their lives when the Shah is deposed, and the extremist Ayatollah Khomeini comes into power. Some Jews ran for their lives with only the clothes on their backs. I met many Mizrachi Jews in Israel who escaped Middle eastern countries where their ancestors had lived for centuries. It’s estimated that at least 850k Jews have been displaced from Middle Eastern countries since Israel became a nation. This year that will be 75 years. The synagogues in Santa Fe have decided to come together and celebrate Israel’s Independence Day.

We’re screening “Escape from Tehran” here in Santa Fe in April. Stephanie Liss, the playwright, will join us. She’ll not only speak about the play, but her risking her life to go underground for interviews with Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Assad. She’s got some great tales to share.

“Escape From Tehran” will air on Jewish Life Television (JLTV). That’s right. Your very own President is going to be on JLTV, the only station in North America that airs Servant of the People, the television series that became a reality when its star, Volodymyr Zelensky became the President of Ukraine. I visited JLTV studios and yes, there is a hard candy dish in every room. The executive, Brad Pomerance, asked me to urge all my friends in Santa Fe to get Comcast to offer JLTV here.

Being Jewish means different things to different people. Lately I’ve noticed some folks I meet for the first time are shy to claim their heritage. They might say things like, “I have Jewish blood” or “we stopped being Jewish when my folks moved here from Europe in the 40’s.” I heard both of those things from the same person recently. I’m not sure it’s ever been popular to be Jewish, but the antisemitism in our country and this world has some people thinking twice about claiming their identity, and that is sad.

Judaism is a religion, an ethnicity, a culture and more. The depth of what binds us as Jews is often difficult to explain to non-Jews. I had a Catholic acquaintance try to convince me they were born Catholic and therefore its in their blood, so they understood what it was like to be Jewish. Uh…no. Not the same thing. They can leave Catholicism whenever they want. It’s not a bloodline thing. They haven’t been chased out of nearly every country they set foot in. We Jews have history and ancestry that binds us. We have stories of survival through the ages, regardless of how observant we or our ancestors have been. Secular Jews are often the greatest volunteers and humanists. It’s as if the whole making the world a better place (Tikkun Olam) looms large in our DNA. 

There are many Jews in Santa Fe who are not affiliated with any synagogue. Maybe they don’t want to engage in the religion and see a synagogue as merely a place for religious practices. Some are putting their Jewish past behind them to assimilate. In the spirit of our founding rabbi, Rabbi Hellman, we would like to welcome the secular and the non-affiliated Jews into our community. We are offering classes at the CBT Education Center in the Rabbi Hellman Library to attract such folks.

Congregants Rob and Barbara Reider and I have been working on a curriculum that would engage the community. “Food for Recovering Jews” is a class (gathering) where we eat and talk about our Jewish identity. It will be a fun community gathering to break the ice, be nurtured in more ways than one, and connect with each other. We will tell our own stories of what it means to be Jewish. As of this writing, the first meeting is titled, “So You Were Born a Jew, Now What? Pass the Latkes.”

There have been requests for a conversational Hebrew class. We have a mixture of folks who can read Hebrew and could go straight to a Conversational Hebrew class and folks who need a beginning class. Rabbi Levy has decided to offer a beginning class for folks who don’t read Hebrew. That will begin the week after Passover, April 12th, 5 pm in the library. After 3-4 weeks, all will be ready for a conversational Hebrew class. Email Rabbi Levy to enroll in this class.

Please come to our events and invite your Jewish friends who are looking for community. Look for these classes on the calendar at our brand new website, which by the way, I spent many grueling hours crafting with our web designer. The Rebbetzin, Kaycee Canter Levy was a big help at the end. Have you seen it? Click “Watch Video” on the Home Page to see Rabbi Martin joined by special guest, Chimichanga. Hover over the Education tab to read about the background of our CBT Education Center. Check out Our History.

We could always use more help on the board, or with these individual events. Be a part of the legacy.

Kol Tuv and Happy Freedom,


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