Temple Sinai Is A Constant

The world is an ever changing place and change is usually very difficult. I have seen a lot of turmoil in the Jewish community before and after our most recent election in November. I am acutely aware that there are both Republicans and Democrats who are members of Temple Sinai and that makes for a much richer and more interesting environment for me as the Rabbi here. In addition, turmoil or conflict in the Jewish community is mirrored in the globe. The overwhelming winds and forces of change can be frightening.

How do we respond to that? Firstly, Temple Sinai will always aspire to be a place where different views can be exchanged in a safe environment, symbolized by our vision of being “Your Family, Your Home”. Secondly, Temple Sinai’s values will not change whatever the changes there are in the world around her. We will still do everything in our power to be a warm and welcoming community. We will still inspire with worship that touches the soul and connects to the Divine. We will still value taking people from one chapter in their Jewish journey to the next through deep and engaging learning and educating our kids with sound moral values to prepare them for our future. We will never surrender our commitment to social justice in and outside of the Jewish community. We will always rejoice in our connection to and support for Israel and its people.

Those things will never change. Republicans, Democrats, men, women, Israelis, our interfaith partners, the LGBTQ community, mixed faith families and others are all welcome to share in those constants. Whatever the shifts and cycles around us, that is and will be what Temple Sinai stands for. In the meantime, I would appreciate folks from all parts of our membership spectrum taking the time to reach out and continue our never-ending conversation. Hineh tov u’manayim shevet achim v’achot gam yachad. How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together, as the book of Proverbs says. We all live in America together and will strive to do what is best for our country and its future. We must have faith and hope in each other to accomplish that much.

L’shalom/To Peace,

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page

Year of Dialogue

Last month Temple Sinai hosted a panel discussion with Conservative radio host Alan Stock and left-wing pollster Jim Gerstein. It was part of the Year of Dialogue Series by the Board of Rabbis of Southern Nevada. The discussion was actually less combustible than I had predicted, even friendly and respectful, but I was still happy at how it turned out, particularly because everyone on the panel and in the audience did not shout, rant, rave or denigrate.

I firmly believe that our shul is a microcosm of the world out there, a world which is becoming more and more like a bearpit in the political and religious realm. Can we solve all the problems of hatred and polarization that we find out there? Not necessarily, but we can start on our own doorstep. We can shout a message from the rooftops that contempt for other views and truths which are not our own is not acceptable. We can state clearly that bullying, shouting and not truly listening will never convince the other side that we’re right.

I know that people out there are hurting. They have had arguments, strong ones, with family and friends about politics and other topics. Let’s all take a deep breath, remember that we are all “kodesh l’Adonai, holy to G-d” regardless of our views. We all have different upbringings, genetic make-ups and experiences so why should we not have differing views? This is the most important message as we arrive at the High Holy Days. Bring peace and civil dialogue in your corner of the universe at least. You will be surprised how far the influence of that simple step will spread.

L’shana tova tikateivu/may you be inscribed for a good year

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen, Sarah, Elijah & Rachel

Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page

Looking At, Not Through, the Window

Rabbi Alan Lew talks about a time when he was hiking with his friend. They were in a nature preserve on Martha’s Vineyard. The storm came up and they took refuge in a shack with a big picture window. He was looking out the window in the rain at the birds and plants but none of that was really very interesting. His friend said, “Don’t look at the window rather at the window itself”. The world of the window with it smudges and tiny insects and reflections of the light contained a universe in of itself, a place with a life of its own.

When we come to the High Holy Days and think about repenting and examining our lives, we have to shift our gaze from the world itself to the window or lens through which we see it. That window is the filter through which we look at the world – our consciousness or perspective or life philosophy or attitude. Because the lens through which we look at life makes us see the world, differently the first step in examining our lives is to look at that lens itself.

Do we view the world as dark, a place of potential trouble, heartbreak and violence? Or do we see it as the domain of love, peace, kindness and goodwill? Usually, when our perspective on the world is negative it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and brings more bad events. Often, if we can see the universe as, in general, a good place, that attitude affects the world around us positively and brings and allows us to notice love and uplifting moments. We have to work hard on avoiding the former and doing the latter, supported by our friends and loved ones.

From our family to yours, may the window through which you look at the world this year reflect the pure light and all the goodness and kindness that is out there.

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen, Sarah, Elijah & Rachel

Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page

Back To School

I remember my early school days with undisguised glee. Endless days of soccer toScreen Shot 2016-08-01 at 10.49.33 AM the point of exhaustion, easy walks to school around the corner from my house and dressing up in all manner of costumes for larkabout theatrical productions. Mr. Windsor was the head of Broadfields Junior School in North-West London. He seemed, to my ten year old self, about nine feet tall, and spread a feeling of stern but fair, paternalistic education. Mr. King (still teaching there today), ushered into our brains the first scientific thoughts. Mr. Allen was known for doing the Rubix Cube blindfolded, and Mr. and Mrs. Davies (we couldn’t believe two of the teachers were married!) led sumptuous class trips to Switzerland to show us Londoners a bit of the wider world.
Most of these memories can be viewed clearly in my mind’s eye, albeit through rose tinted
spectacles. Traditionally, when a Jewish child attends their first day of school learning, we spread honey on the first page they see. In so doing, we forever associate the activity of learning with beautiful sweetness. At the same time, we acknowledge that kids, as they grow older, don’t always taste that sweetness and we have to work on strategies to change that. As adults, we also need to be reminded.

Learning can be joyful for its own sake, an exciting search for truth, practical to help with real world tasks and frustrating at times until enlightenment arrives. One of our missions as adults is to never forget the original, idealized, sweet early experiences. The other is to imbue the children in our care or mentorship with a love of learning which we can do by modelling it strongly. I know I won’t have all the teachers in the congregation on my side, but I think going back to school at the end of this month can help remind us of the amazing world of opportunities afforded to us by the world of learning.

L’shalom/To Peace
Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page

You Make A Rabbi Happy

If you have seen me with a smile on my face recently, then it is because many of those associated with Temple Sinai have recently visited Israel. Eric and Julie Littmann went on their first ever trip. Les and Barbara Gilbert visited family on their annual voyage. Rickie Orzen finally got to Israel with her son Mike after having planned a trip for years. Ilana Shapiro visited on a Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project tour. Matt Guzman and his fiance Sarah purchased in Jerusalem, among other things, their ketubah. If I have missed anyone, I apologize but this has been just in the last month!


As much as I might preach on Israel and our connection to the land and the people, nothing can compare to the actual experience. As much as I explain how Israelis are our brothers and sisters, even though thousands of miles separate us, it only hits home when you witness what Ilana witnessed at the Kotel, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem: a unit of soldiers singing “Am Yisrael Chai” and dancing with civilians as they engaged in their training. It only becomes real when you are like Les and Barbara, sharing a meal with their children and grandchildren in the house where their family lives as Israeli citizens. It is a concrete experience when, like Matt and Sarah, you plan a Jewish wedding while walking around a Jewish country, like Eric and Julie, when you reflect on years of service to the Jewish People while walking through a living testament to their fortitude.


Many people, particularly in the light of terrible events like the shooting attack in Tel Aviv, ask me about the danger of visits to Israel. I say I can never give them a perfect guarantee but they would still need to have some very bad fortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and the welcome and gratitude they will get from Israelis will be memorable. So, I know it’s expensive and time-consuming to get to Israel but, if you made it, thank you for strengthening your relationship with the mitzvah of ahavat tzion, loving Israel, and thank you, on that basis, for making me very happy.


L’shalom/To Peace


Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page

Music Is What Feelings Sound Like

One of the most fun aspects of this year has been working together to craft various projects. Together, we have sung Jewish songs on the Fremont Street Experience, knocked on doors in a local neighborhood to “sell” the shul and even apdownloadpeared on the same stage as an Arab music band and belly-dancer. Having said all that, our bread and butter is the weekly project of the Shabbat service. It’s incredibly enjoyable to work out what might be meaningful to congregants young and old.

With that in mind, there have been some changes in recent months. You will have noticed the large crowds attending Friday Night Live. These wonderful attendances were secured by many one to one conversations and we appreciate seeing all the different generations in the sanctuary together, side by side. The repertoire of the choir has also changed as that group has grown and developed over time.

Nevertheless, we realize that in the “regular” Shabbat services, the pace of change has been hard to deal with and people have felt uncomfortable with some of it. We have heard comments regarding lack of “traditional” melodies. While traditional can mean different things to different people, we will endeavor to use some of the melodies which we know you like and appreciate, thereby providing a certain element of stability on the two or three Friday nights that might be described as “regular” alongside Friday Night Live and the Choir Shabbat. After all, we know that emotions of meaning, comfort and nostalgia, can be channelled through music.

Thank you so much for caring and feeding back to the Ritual Committee.

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen & Cantorial Soloist Heather Klein

Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page

Join Me On May 9 To Show Community Spirit!


Once in a while we get the chance to come together as a Las Vegas Valley and really show that regular folks like us care. Such an opportunity will come on the evening of Monday, May 9 at the Cashman Center.


As some of you may know, we are members of Nevadans for the Common Good. This is a community organizing coalition of different religious organizations and nonprofits and businesses. We work together by building relationships between all of us and also relationships with those who have power to make changes in our area. In recent times, we have worked on getting harsher anti-human trafficking legislation passed.


We are currently working on helping the vulnerable elderly, particularly around the proposed privatization of Medicaid and we are one of the groups working on finding a solution to the teacher shortage in the local public education system. Some of you might make mention of the fact that you don’t use Medicaid or the public education system, but I promise you that all of the members of this Valley are linked in some way. The most obvious example in terms of education is: who do you want turning up as an EMT in a time of emergency? Do you want someone who came through a struggling public school system or a solid one?


From time to time we get together as Nevadans for the Common Good for a large convention. The next one will happen onMonday, May 9. We will have a bus leaving from Temple Sinai at 5 PM and I encourage you to let me know atrabbi@templesinailv.org if you will be attending and if you will need the bus. We will return by 9 PM from the Cashman Center, having met many of our neighbors around the valley and talked with the public and elected officials regarding the agenda I mentioned above.


Let’s show everyone in our Valley that Temple Sinai members deeply care about our shared future. See you there!


L’shalom/To Peace

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen


Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page

Coming to a Temple Near You

I am really excited about the new Friday Night Live service starting on Friday March 4. Please note that there will not be a 7.30pm service that night.

On March 4, we will start with some light Mediterranean food at 6pm so you don’t go to services hungry, the service itself will begin at 6.30pm, and then at around 7.15pm, any families with school age kids have the option of having dinner together at Jacques Café around the corner. In other words, Friday Night Live will be a very sociable experience.

“What will the service be like?”, I hear you ask. It will be uplifting, dynamic and musical. Some of the melodies you will know already from our regular services. Some of the music we will have taught you on Friday night in the lead-up. Some of you will have come into contact with it at Religious/Hebrew School. Some of it you will have seen on YouTube videos we have sent out. The service will be fun and informal and even feature one of our High School students performing one of her poems about Judaism.

If you don’t have school age kids, you’re still welcome. You will still enjoy the experience. I know what an honor it is for our older members to welcome our younger ones into the same space as them, all the generations sharing and singing. See you on March 4. We’re going to have fun!

L’shalom/To peace

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page

The Best Experience in the Jewish World

Believe it or not, it’s time to think about Summer Camp. Yes, I know it’s chilly outside and there are even grey skies reminiscent of London but Summer will be here before you know it. Back at the end of last Summer many of you will remember me waxing lyrical about my family’s experiences at Camp Newman in Northern California. Rarely have I seen such joy exhibited through Jewish ritual and practice. Now is the time to plunge head-long into applying for camp for the first time or the most recent of many occasions.

If you are a potential participant or you are reading this through the lens of your children or grandchildren, don’t hesitate to find out more from me, not only which camp to go on but how to pay for it. My personal recommendation is Camp Newman (I know, I know, we also have Alonim, JCA Shalom and Hess-Kramer nearby!) simply because I have been there. Anyone who wants to go to Newman, I will provide an extra $100 from my discretionary fund in addition to any other scholarships we give out. You can also go straight to Newman’s website and get more information about financial support: http://campnewman.org/summer-camp/making-camp-affordable/.

Nowhere in the Jewish world is more vibrant, dynamic or creative. If you want a family member to have a life-changing experience where they are surrounded by their holy heritage, make lifelong friends and experience all of the gorgeous privileges of being Jewish, then Summer camp is for you. If you’re not sure, speak to me and/or enjoy our camp style Shabbat service coming soon to Temple Sinai.

L’shalom/to peace

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page

To Paris with Love

Dear Friends,

Paris means a lot to me. It is the place I spent my honeymoon. Also, the summer before last, Sarah and I had four wonderful nights in that city. The Stade de France, one of the places which was attacked in November, hosted the soccer team I love back in 2006 in a very important game (which they lost)! I have friends in Paris and some of my friends in England have close family there. Since the attacks there have also been discussions about attacks in Beirut, Iraq and elsewhere, and they are indeed tragic, but Paris means more to me personally. I have more connections to the city and I can visualize its streets and sights. Moreover, the values of freedom, equality and fellowship, cherut, shivayon, achava, liberte, egalite, fraternite, are values that I hold dear.

Paris represents the world which is built on these values and these are the values that all of us teach to our children. As I presided over Antonia Heilman’s bat mitzvah in November I made it clear that while I was mourning for the victims of Paris, I was rejoicing that another teenager was graduating into adulthood, having been inculcated with the values above and with the values of the holy Torah. Each person who passes through Temple Sinai, I have resolved, will understand these values on a deep level. Freedom of expression and thought to be who we want to be as long as it does not impinge on the rights of others. Equality because we are all made in the image of G-d and deserve to be respected and cherished on that basis. Fellowship because we are stronger together and we know that all real living takes place in meeting, in the full encounter between two people with the divine presence at their shoulder.

By the way, Judaism is not a pacifist religion. If someone comes to kill you, you can kill them without reproach. I don’t like violence but I’m ok with it if it defends those values against those who would take them from us. At the same time, we are exalted to be rodfei shalom, pursuers of peace, with those with whom we can find common ground; A terrible and terrifying balancing act; On the one hand, understanding that our military might will be one of the main tools against ISIS; On the other hand, not giving into hatred of anyone who is not like us, thereby offering terrorism a second victory.

The society which is built on freedom, equality and fellowship, has room for diversity and appreciation of difference while, at the very same time, defending to the hilt, using our armed services, those who inhabit that society. We are stronger than them. Even though many of us have fear tearing at the edge of our existence, we owe it to the victims of terrorism to continue our lives as normally as possible.

Do not pause for a second from teaching freedom, equality and fellowship to your children and fellow Americans. Do not pause for a moment from pursuing peace where it is possible. Do not pause for an instant in rejecting hatred in all its forms.

L’shalom/To Peace

Rabbi Malcolm Cohen

Share this...Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestPrint this page