Temple Emanuel’s Response to COVID-19

Dear Congregants,

Jewish tradition teaches that every individual’s life is of infinite value, and that we can violate our most sacred ritual obligations to save that life. Transgressing even Shabbat in the interest of pikuach nefesh — the preservation of life — is required by Jewish law. This also applies in cases of doubt or when a potential situation could devolve into one that threatens life.

The values of our tradition are steadfast and our civic responsibility is becoming increasingly clear. We know from the scientific and public health communities that fastidious hand washing, social distancing, and self-quarantine in the event of possible exposure can “flatten the curve,” allowing our healthcare system time to meet the demands of this contagion. It is incumbent upon us to take actions now to support the most vulnerable in our midst, including those which are most difficult.

Effective immediately and lasting through the end of March, Temple Emanuel of South Hills is moving our vibrant, caring community to the virtual space. In doing so, we cast our lot with the growing number of congregations throughout the region and the world that would rather be judged harshly for overreaction in deference to preservation of human life than lack-of-reaction which might further jeopardize those most at-risk.

This decision will impact a number of upcoming programs and events:

Shabbat Services: 

  • Friday night Shabbat services, 7:00pm, will be live-streamed only, accessible on Temple’s website or directly through this link.
  • Saturday morning Shabbat services, 8:30am, will be live-streamed only, accessible on Temple’s website or through this link.

Copies of Mishkan Tefilah are available to borrow through the first set of double doors at Temple’s courtyard entrance.

Torah Study and Adult Education:

  • Saturday morning Torah Study, 9:00am, will be offered exclusively via Zoom video-conference, allowing the same robust participation as our in-person discussion. Video access can be found by clicking here; audio only by calling (646) 876 9923 and using Meeting ID: 368 591 669.
  • Wednesday night Adult Education, 7:00pm, will be offered exclusively via Zoom video-conference, allowing the same robust participation as our in-person discussion. Video access can be found by clicking here; audio only by calling (646) 876 9923 and using Meeting ID: 368 591 669.

Torah Center and J-Line:
Sunday morning and Wednesday evening Torah Center and J-Line classes are suspended. Please watch for emails from Rabbi Locketz, Chris Herman, and your child’s teacher for ways to learn and grow using virtual classrooms and teaching tools.

Sunday Morning Minyan:
Sunday morning minyan will be offered exclusively via Zoom video-confernece, allowing the same participation as our in-person discussion. Video access can be found by clicking here; audio only by calling (646) 876 9923 and using Meeting ID: 230 409 647.

B’nei Mitzvah Tutoring:
Weekly B’nei Mitzvah tutoring appointments will continue via Zoom or Skype at the discretion of your child’s tutor. Please watch for additional communication specific to this issue.

Mission and Vision Congregational Meetings:
The Sunday, March 15 (10:15 AM) meeting to provide feedback on Temple’s proposed Mission and Vision Statements will be offered exclusively via Zoom video-conference, allowing the same robust participation as our in-person discussion. Video access can be found by clicking here; audio only by calling (646) 876 9923 and using Meeting ID: 532 677 4310.

Upcoming Events:
Temple has a number of upcoming events planned for our community, including the Women’s Seder, Congregational 2nd Night Seder, Tribute Concert in Honor of Dr. Cohen, and much more. These events are important to us too, and we will follow up with additional information in the coming days.

Temple’s ECDC program, providing an essential service to many working parents, will remain OPEN. While we reserve the right to make decisions based on the welfare of our school community, our intention is to follow the lead of the Mt. Lebanon School District regarding school closure decisions.

Life Cycle Events:
Religious experiences where the number of people attending can be regulated, including b’nei mitzvah, weddings, and funerals, will continue to be held in close consultation with families.

Pastoral Care:
Temple’s rabbis continue to be available to you as personal, spiritual, and medical needs arise. Please reach out by telephone, text, or email to let us know how we might assist you.

Direct Assistance:
Temple Board Member Mary Cothran, PhD, recommends having an extra 2-3 weeks of essential medications on hand. Start by asking your insurance company for an early refill, but if you are asked to pay out-of-pocket, Mary has initiated a program for Temple to help. Please contact Rabbi Aaron Meyer at [email protected] for confidential assistance or to contribute the funds to help others. JFunds is also an incredible resource for financial assistance.

Temple staff will be making every effort in the coming days to reach out to program planners and individuals directly affected by this decision. Temple’s office will be open during regular hours to answer your questions, receive your concerns, and to help you plan for your virtual participation, but we request that you curtail in-person visits. We so regret the inconvenience and disappointment we will all experience in the coming days and look forward to new ways to connect. Please plan to join Temple’s rabbis for a virtual coffee on Tuesday mornings at 10:00am using the Zoom information above as but one example!

Please be assured that this policy will be reviewed daily by Temple’s staff and lay leadership, in consultation with the best guidance of the public health and scientific communities, and will be rescinded or extended as necessary.

With much appreciation for your understanding as together we navigate this uncertain world,

President David Weisberg
Rabbi Aaron Meyer
Rabbi Jessica Locketz
Executive Director Leslie Hoffman
ECDC Director Iris Harlan


Kulanu is back again for the second year!  Kulanu is Temple Emanuel’s “small groups” program in which Temple Members join together, in small groups around a shared common interest.  And it’s time to sign up to be part of a Kulanu group. We’ve added new groups based on your feedback and requests. We expect that there will be a group for everyone – and if there isn’t, we’ll work to help you create it.  

We expect there are questions about Kulanu; We’ve provided answers to the ones we’ve anticipated. However if we missed your question, feel free to reach out to us – we’re always happy to talk, email or text!

[email protected]

Beth Schwartz 412-877-5996

Kate Louik 412-999-0188


Q: What is Kulanu all about?  What is the purpose?

A: Kulanu is about connecting Temple members with shared interests.  It’s a way to help Temple members get to know each other, either to meet new people who they haven’t met or to develop deeper ties with members they know a little bit. The groups are based on different interests so members all share something in common from the outset.  The focus groups and surveys that were done as part of the Sr. Rabbi Search process revealed that Temple members are looking for opportunities to develop deeper connections with each other. Kulanu is one of the initiatives we developed to respond to this need.

Q: I’m eager to join a Kulanu Group! How do I sign up?  

A: Joining a Kulanu group is easy – simply complete an interest form to let us know which group you (you and your partner, or your family) want to join. Simply click here to complete the sign up form!.  You can also sign up by completing the interest form that is in bulletin.  There will be links to the online form in our weekly Temple Happenings emails. And you can always link to it from the Temple Emanuel website.  Just go to the Community section.  

Q: What kind of a commitment am I making when I join a Kulanu group?

A: Kulanu groups generally meet every 4-6 weeks but the exact frequency is up to each group.  The success of the group depends on the commitment of the participants so we do ask that you be prepared to commit to being an active participant. Generally the groups are designed to stay together for a year.  Some groups may continue beyond a year if the participants so choose. 

Q: My wife and I have different interests.  Are Kulanu Groups designed for couples or individuals?  Or are we supposed to all join as a family?

A:  Kulanu groups are for all of the above.  There will be groups for families, groups that are all couples, and groups that are all adult members (individuals and/or couples or a combination of both).  When you sign up you will specify whether you are doing so as an individual, couple or family. We’ll group you accordingly. And you can join more than one group – so you can join a family Kulanu group and one that just you are interested in.

Q: What are examples of some of the Kulanu groups?

We have a wide variety of offerings.  The actual groups that form will depend on what people are interested in.  Many of the new groups added this year came at the recommendations of our members.  A SAMPLING of this variety includes: Dining, Shabbat/Holiday observance, cycling, walking, dog walking, social action projects, cooking/baking, running and jewish study (combined), family playdates, music jam sessions, clay shooting, theater . . . . . . . . . Check out the sign up forms to see the full listing (on the digital form, you need to start the sign up process to get the list of group offerings.

Q: I have an interest that isn’t listed on the sign up form.  How do I create a Kulanu group for it?

A: Let us know what you want to do – others might have expressed interest. (Fill out the “other” option on your sign up form).  Also, feel free to ask other Temple members if they are interested in your group. We like to say that it takes 3 to Kulanu! If you can find two other people who are interested, you can start your Kulanu group (we’ll help you find them too).  And we’ll include your idea on next year’s sign up sheet.

Q: How do I know I’ll be placed in the group that I want to be in?

A: When you sign up you will rank order your preferred groups 1, 2, and 3.  We will make every effort to place you in your first group, then 2nd, then 3rd.  If we have questions or are having difficulty accommodating your interests, we’ll be in touch!  And if only one group interests you, just sign up for one.

Q: I really like my Kulanu group from last year.  Can we stay together?

A: Your group can stay together.  Or some of the participants can continue and others can “drop out” and others can continue.  Your group can also bring in new participants if some or all of you want to continue but you could also benefit from some new participants.  (If that is the case, let Beth or Kate know that you want some new people).  

Q: I was in a Kulanu Group last year that never took off, how will I know that this year will be better?

A: Many of the Kulanu groups that we formed last year worked very well, but unfortunately some did not. While there is no guarantee that any group will click together perfectly, we learned a lot from how things went last year and have changed the way we are forming the groups this year.  We hope that this year will see greater success for all of the groups.


Summer, Shabbat, S’mores and More!

Last Shabbat we gathered in Bird Park for a “welcome to summer” picnic and service. It was a beautiful evening in a beautiful place, surrounded by friends of all ages. For many of us, it was truly the start of summer break – a perfect way to begin the ‘lazy days of summer.’ Running through the park, sharing a meal, talking to each other as the the evening cooled and the busyness of the week faded… Shabbat, and the sense of calm that it brings descended as we prayed together – led in worship by Rabbi Mahler, Rabbi Locketz and Rebecca Schwartz. We were inspired through singing songs and sharing the spirit of Shabbat with each other. Thank you to Rebecca for a powerful message about the work that needs to be done within a community; and for reminding us that we should all be proud of our contributions to it.

After the service, it was time for s’mores….what could be better than that?!?!?!


Join us for our next Service in Bird Park on Friday, September 7th. We will once again come together for a picnic dinner at 5:45 pm followed by a brief Shabbat service at 6:30 pm. And of course there will be S’mores….yum!

Mark your calendars; be sure not to miss it!

A “Food-Filled” Visit to SHIM

Remember all those bags of food under the stairs that you couldn’t help noticing when you went upstairs?  Thank you to everyone who brought in food during our annual drive for the SHIM food Pantry. On November 6th, after filling ours cars with donations, our 4th grade families brought it all to the food pantry and helped sort it and restock the shelves. What a mitzvah!

It’s the weigh in – did we bring more food than our 4th graders weigh? We did! [Once again, parents did not get on the scale!]


The 4th Graders weighed 710 pounds. The food? 854 pounds!!!! Incredible!

While we were there, we learned how a family “shops” at the Food Pantry and gets much needed assistance. We realized how much we can help and how fortunate we are to be able to support our community through our donations and volunteer time. It was a great morning – a worthwhile experience for all.




Our High Holiday Food Collection may be over…but don’t forget that you can donate year round!


Relating to Abraham

Board member David Rullo gave the following D’var Torah at our November board meeting:

“Go away from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.”

This Torah verse has always been special to me. I’m sure I’m not alone and that Jews across the world feel the same. It’s one of the foundational verses. It speaks to me in a very real way because it is the story of the first convert. As we all know, Abraham was not Jewish when God called him, Abraham wasn’t even his name. Interestingly, there is no mention of why Abram was chosen. We know that Noah “walked with God,” there are no notes about Abram. Instead, we are told his lineage and nothing more. Clearly, at least in my estimation, it is more important to be willing to go away from your land, from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that God will show you than to be a part of a particular bloodline or have special qualifications. The story continues…God creates a covenant with Abraham and gives him the responsibility of creating a nation and enacting the first rituals this new nation uses to distinguish itself from the other cultures surrounding it.

I have never given much merit to coincidence or the idea that things happen for a reason. This week though I may have to reconsider my skepticism. It was almost four years to the day that Kim and I attended our first “Taste of Judaism” course at Temple Emanuel on November 5, 2012. Almost four years ago to the day that I started a journey that would radically change my life and the life of my entire family. Almost four years ago to the day that I literally went away from my “land,” “my birthplace,” the home of my father and like Abraham, began the process of converting to Judaism.

Unlike Abraham however, I was fortunate enough to find a supportive community that helped with my journey. From that first Taste of Judaism course until today, Rabbi Mahler has always been available to answer questions and offer advice. Rabbi Locketz was one of the rabbis on my Bet Din and has been happy to answer question when I’ve approached her. I joined Temple’s Torah Study group shortly after that first of Taste of Judaism class and the weekly attendees became a network of friends who were only too happy to assist or teach when I reached out to them. My Jewish identity was established and cemented here at Temple Emanuel and now, because of what I’ve learned and experienced my Jewish identity reaches far beyond Temple and indeed allows me to influence the lives of Jews throughout Pittsburgh.

It is remarkable to me that in just four short years I have not only found a spiritual home but have also been accepted as a member and indeed, when the situation calls for it, a leader. I look around the room and am able to point to three other converts that sit on this diverse board. Temple is surely an open and welcoming place to allow four strangers to come into their community and rise through the ranks of leadership.

I have been incredibly blessed through my association with both Temple Emanuel and the Judaism I now call my own. I serve on this board as a way to say thanks to the spiritual home I found four years ago. My hope is that I can find connections over the next few years that will make Temple even stronger than it was when I tentatively walked through those doors four years ago unsure that this would even be a direction I wanted to pursue.

Rabbi Rick Jacob, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, speaks of Abraham in his weekly “On the Other Hand” podcast. He notes that Abraham is not perfect and makes mistakes. He is simply an ordinary person who had the courage to do what God asked him to do. In the end he hopes we can all, like Abraham, “Go forth and be a blessing.” It is my sincere hope that in my own way I can fulfill his hope here at Temple.



An Israeli view of the American election

Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh scholar Rabbi Dr. Danny Schiff returned to Temple Emanuel Wednesday, October 26. He presented “An Israeli View of the American Election” before a crowd of 70+ audience members from the South Hills.

Rabbi Schiff started out by speaking of his long history with Temple Emanuel. He made mention of the fact that Temple is the very first synagogue in the South Hills he ever spoke at and that he was very anxious to begin this series of Fall/Winter South Hills engagements back at Temple.

He began the lecture by explaining that Israeli Jews are almost the exact opposite of American Jews. According to a Pew study, 55 percent of Israeli Jews consider themselves to be centrist and 37 percent conservatives while just 19 percent of American Jews label themselves conservative.

schiff-3 Although he left opinions to those in attendance, Rabbi Schiff pointed out that “Israelis want to have predictability, certainty and stability in a very unstable part of the world.” He then cited a CNN poll which stated that 42 percent of Israelis support Clinton; 24 percent support Trump and the rest are undecided. This discrepancy, given the strong conservative leanings in Israel, can be attributed to the fact that most don’t see Trump as predictable or stable.

The rabbi spoke for 45 minutes and then took questions from the audience. At the conclusion, Rabbi Mark Mahler thanked Rabbi Schiff for his presentation and said Temple hoped to bring him back in the Spring to discuss the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.


The next speaker to visit Temple will be Rabbi Gershom Sizomu as part of the South Hills Torah Weekend, November 18-19. Rabbi Sizomu is from Uganda, where he serves the Abayudava community and is a member of the Ugandan parliament. He will speak at Temple Friday night, Beth El Congregation Saturday morning, The South Hills JCC Saturday night, and will return to both Beth El and Temple for programs at the religious schools as part of the Global Day of Jewish Learning. Rabbi Sizomu is being brought to the South Hills through a grant from South Hills Jewish Pittsburgh.

Three Numbers

by President David Weisberg

Yom Kippur 5777

Three numbers I’d like for you to remember – 14 million, 520 and One. So why are these important? And more importantly, why are they significant to you? Keep these numbers in mind, 14 million, 520 and One, as hopefully I will be able to give you something to think about.

First, let me introduce myself to you. I am David Weisberg. I am proud to be the current President for Temple Emanuel. Some of you may know me as the husband of my beautiful wife Rikki. Others of you may be connected to me as the son-in-law of Suzi and Richard. For those long-time Pittsburghers, my parents are Charles and Gail who, as any proud parent would want to do, are here today to listen to their son. Speaking of parenthood, of all the ways that you may be familiar with me, my highlight is being a father to my kids who are busy having fun and learning in today’s children’s program.

Before my current role on the Board of Trustees, some of you may recognize me from my prior roles these past six plus years. I was in a Treasurer role and then Vice President of Finance. So of course, numbers are something with which I am comfortable.

Professionally I am a banker, specifically a lender. I understand finances. My kids ask me what I do when I go to work. I took them to “Take Your Children to Work” day this past Spring, so as far as they know I eat lollipops and donuts, count paperclips, color on Post It notes and play on the computer all day.

As you would expect, that’s not my typical day at work. I tell my kids that I help people and I help them achieve their dreams. Just as I do with my clients, I look to do so with my efforts here at Temple Emanuel. I want to help all of you achieve your and your family’s dreams and ultimately gain fulfillment here at Temple Emanuel. I want you to be connected to each other, to greater Pittsburgh and to our community both inside and outside of this building.

So why these numbers: 14 million, 520 and One?

14 million – this is the estimated world Jewish population as of 2014. The world’s total population is greater than 7 billion so we as Jews are less than 1%. Of that 14 million Jews in this world, the United States has approximately 6 million, only 2% of the total US population.

So why should this be important to you? It is because we as Jews truly have made an impact both in our country and in the world in a magnitude that is far greater than our actual numbers. We are notable actors and actresses, business professionals, artists, musicians, scientists, inventors, intellectuals, medical professionals, legal scholars, politicians, fashion designers, comedians, just to name a few. Most importantly, we are connected to each other. You’ve heard the expression that all people in the world are connected by six degrees of separation. In the Jewish community, my thinking is that it is far less. We’ve all played “Jewish geography”, right? Why? It’s because we’re all connected.

Of the American Jews who describe themselves as “strongly connected” to Judaism, their active engagement with Judaism ranges from attending daily prayer services on one end of the spectrum to as little as attending Passover Seders or lighting Hanukkah candles on the other. Of those “strongly connected” Jews, just under half belong to a synagogue with the largest percentage being in the Reform movement. We at Temple Emanuel are one of the greater than 800 Reform Jewish congregations in North America. As many congregations are struggling, many have lots of positives. This leads me to my next number.

  1. This is number of member families that we have here at Temple Emanuel. Look around. You are this 520. You are Temple Emanuel. You make Temple Emanuel what it is today as well as tomorrow and the next day. You are the current and the future. Why do you belong to Temple Emanuel? Why is being a member of Temple Emanuel important to you?

We at Temple Emanuel should be proud and have centerpieces from which we can build. We are the largest congregation in the South Hills with 520 member families. We have greater than 150 children in our Torah Center which is the largest Jewish religious school in Greater Pittsburgh outside of Community Day, the Jewish Day School in Squirrel Hill. We have 180 children in our ECDC, the largest of any nursery school in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.

Yes we have things with which we can improve but your generosity and connection are what keep this place going. For that, we thank you. $1.8 million keeps this place running on an annual basis and that does not include necessary improvements that are needed like the parking lot patchwork and roof repairs, which have been funded out of our capital campaign.

520 is the number of member families, but the actual number of people in our congregation is well over 1,000. As an example, my family of four is one member family. All of us together make Temple Emanuel. All of us should be proud. You are the 520. We all are the 520.

The most important number is the final number I told you were going to be discussing. The number One. Why? One is you. One is me. One is each of us. Why is One important? It is important because you are here. You are here today. Maybe you are here in this building for more than just today but you all have a reason for being here. You all have a reason for being a One. You all have a reason for being a part of Temple Emanuel. You all have a connection.

You – the One. You are important. You are valued. Your contribution is key. Your connection is paramount. What else can our Board do to make it more meaningful for you? What can we do to develop greater bonds to each other? We are all in this together. We are One. We are a community, we are Temple Emanuel. We together can continue to build and bring connections to Temple and to each other.

In all deference to Three Dog Night, “One is the loneliest number,” I would beg to differ. One makes connections with another. One can link to another. One and One does indeed make two but One plus One is far greater. It connects. It empowers. It compounds. It multiplies. It helps create dreams. Remember, it all starts with One.

Thank you for being the One. I look forward to what lies ahead here at Temple Emanuel. All of us, each of us as individuals, as Ones, can connect to make this an even better place than it is today.

Thank you. L’Shana Tovah!

First SHIM harvest

Learning has come to life for Melinda Freed’s 7th grade Making Meaning From our Food class. Yesterday, they reaped Temple’s first harvest for SHIM (South Hills Interfaith Movement): A large bag of swiss chard and a smaller bag of kale.

A few years in the making, the garden was the brainchild of Social Action Team chair Marty Altschul, who calls it “a dream come true.” When Freed needed a sub for this particular class, she knew Altschul would be perfect.

“I am so glad we have this garden to tie into my curriculum – the mitzvot of feeding the hungry and caring for the earth, knowing where our food comes from,” says Freed. “[The kids] got a hands-on experience picking the vegetables.”

A huge thanks goes out to everyone who made this garden possible. “Its mission goes beyond SHIM — it educates my students, Temple members, and the people who drive past it on Bower Hill Road,” says Freed. “May it ‘grow and grow.'”


Author Dorit Sasson visits Temple

Could you voluntarily sign up for a term in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)? Dorit Sasson left New York City in the early 90s to do just that. She wanted to step out of her comfort zone, escape her fearful mother, and connect more closely with her father’s homeland. Her book, Accidental Soldier, recounts this experience.


This was the Women of Temple Emanuel’s September book selection. The author — who now lives in Squirrel Hill — was kind enough to attend our discussion. She talked about cultural differences, like the wolf-pack mentality that exists in Israel. As a result, she had to leave the country in order to find her voice and be able to write her memoir.

We all enjoyed meeting her and learning more about her experiences. As Sarah Levinthal says, “I admire her courage to put it all out there and be in such a vulnerable position in a lot of ways. That takes guts!”

WTE Book Club meets again Nov. 17 to discuss Aftertaste. Not only does Pittsburgh play a part in the novel, but it’s written by Temple member Meredith Cohen, who will attend and even prepare some delicious food for us to enjoy.


Labor Day Picnic

One of the most popular events at Temple is our annual Labor Day picnic. Here are a few photos highlighting the fun, including Gaga and several new members who joined us for the first time. We look forward to seeing you at our next event!