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High Holidays 5782 Highlights

Here, we are sharing moving moments from our High Holidays observance. You will find videos and transcripts below.  Also, be sure to read the lengthy list of our volunteers and staff who helped create our High Holidays observance.

* Co-President's High Holidays Speech

D'var Torah Given by Kerri Garbis on Rosh Hashanah Day 2

Cantor Sarra's Hineni Interpretation and Kol Nidre

* Rabbi Mike's High Holidays Sermons

* Choir Selections

Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei featuring Edwin Barker, Principal Bass of the Boston Symphony

* Thank you to the High Holiday Volunteers and Staff!


Co-President's High Holidays Speech Video & Transcript - Jaymi Formaggio & Chuck Pollak


Here is an introductory paragraph from Jaymi and Chuck.  Read the full co-president's High Holidays speech HERE
Dear Fellow Congregants,
We thought it appropriate to publish our remarks from Yom Kippur. Whether you're receiving this for the first time or whether you heard it on Yom Kippur, we hope that you can relate to this in some way and find inspiration to give back to our wonderful community in any way that speaks to you.
There is no shortage of pathways to volunteer and support all of the great things at CBE. Even though we say it below, we want to reiterate our enormous appreciation to everyone who made this year's High Holidays so special -- despite the deep challenges of the pandemic. We identify many of them below and we hope that you will take any opportunity you can to thank them and show your appreciation.
Of course, we welcome any feedback you have for us as we move into 5782 with great hope and inspiration fueled by those around us at CBE. Please feel free to email us at
-Jaymi Formaggio & Chuck Pollak, CBE Co-Presidents


D'var Torah Given by Kerri Garbis on Rosh Hashanah Day 2

We continued a tradition of a congregant offering the D'var Torah on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.  This year we heard a dramatic and engaging talk by Kerri Garbis.  If you missed it and even if you saw her "performance", it is a must see!

Here are the first three paragraphs.   Read the full D'var Torah HERE.

The Sacrifice of Isaac. The story about the time Abraham follows God's orders and takes his son, Isaac, to be sacrificed. And, just before Abraham is about to slaughter his own son, an Angel calls to him and tells him not to do it, because now Abraham has proven himself to God. Then, miraculously, a ram appears captured and immediately available for said slaughter.

Cool. It's a good story: action, adventure, danger, and one small horned miracle to wrap it all up. 
If I were a movie producer, I'd be interested in producing this film. But the title is a misnomer. It's not the sacrifice of Isaac, it should be called the "test of Abraham" or “the Abraham experiment" if you want something edgier.

If this were a movie, Isaac's role would be what we, members of the screen actor's guild, call "a five and under." Meaning, Isaac has less than 5 lines in the whole movie, or in this case, Torah portion. Isaac's only lines are "my father" and "Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?". That's it. And yet, we're set up see this as Isaac's story and his slaughter. It's not.



Cantor Sarra's Hineni Interpretation and Kol Nidre

Hineni Interpretation

The Hineni prayer, a meditation traditionally recited by the cantor prior to the Musaf (or “additional") service on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is unusual in that it is worded in the first person singular. The cantor engages in a one-on-one dialogue with God, asking for his or her prayers to be received favorably, despite any personal shortcomings.

Cantor Sarra describes:
One of the reasons I wrote this prayer is to remove the idea, and reconsider the (conscious or unconscious) assumption, that we need to be perfect or free of mistakes in order to feel “worthy” of approaching God.

This Hineni interpretation raises up a heartfelt request for a real personal connection with God - and for the courage to be honest with oneself. Then, we can see (and know) God as a friend and an unwavering ally to help us in our lives.

Cantor Sarra wrote:

Hineni, here I am.  My Lord, my Friend, come through me, use me in every way possible - I’m here.  Hineyni.    Bring me Joy, Forgiveness, Love, Clarity, and Compassion, to share with all who are around me. Help me let go of all fear of seeing what’s really happening inside me  and around me.  Help me see and speak the truth.  I love You and I thank You for every gift you give me.

Thank you too for answering the prayers in each and every one of our hearts and for bringing solutions into our lives - for each one of us here today, our families and all those we love, and our community.  Help us gather together and be part of something brand new:  For all the people of the world to have the good of the whole in their hearts, and their minds, their hands, and their mouths, in their cells - they are free to express the good and give it a home, a place here on Earth.  For Protection, Safety, Love, Respect, and Cooperation for All. 
It’s time to Call for a new Friendship, unlike we’ve seen or known before, between all of humanity, and the purging of old stories and prejudices and beliefs and hurts and mistruths. For hatred to be dissolved and self-destructive behavior to be dissolved and for disconnection to be dissolved and for Love to be placed in the hearts of the leaders and the people.

Kol Nidre - Yom Kippur Evening




Rabbi Mike's High Holidays 5782 Sermons

Erev Rosh Hashanah - "The Torah of Challah"


Here are the first few paragraphs.  Read the full sermon transcript HERE.

It started out, to be honest, a complete mess.  Sloppy.  Wet.  It smelled a bit.  It got all over everything.  

It quickly became clear that I had a ways to go.

Stuck inside our houses for days at a time during the worst of the Covid pandemic, many of us found hobbies or pastimes that we’d never tried before.  Woodworking, gardening, binge-watching Real Housewives — New York, Beverly Hills, Potomac.  Lots of options on the table.  Most of them, of course, were solitary.

But what if you could pursue a hobby, on your own, that allowed you to engage with a living organism — right on your kitchen counter?

And so it was that I found myself, for the first time ever, in my house, covered in gloppy, yeasty dough, making challah.


Rosh Hashanah Day 1 - "“The Torah in Your Backyard”


Here are the first few paragraphs.  Read the full sermon transcript HERE.

There’s an email I still have in my files.  Lori in the office sent it on March 12, 2020, copying then-president David Leers and me.  The subject line is, “B’nai Mitzvah Parent Meeting this Sunday.”  It reads:
Good morning parents.  Rabbi Mike would like to have a meeting this Sunday with the parents of the Spring B'nai Mitzvah children. No decisions have been made; this meeting is to talk about getting everyone to feel safe, and be on the same page.
Two days later, there’s another email, this time from me:
As much as we wanted to have our meeting in person tomorrow, David and I think it wisest to meet by Zoom.  We will send out instructions this evening.



Kol Nidre - "What's So Funny About a Face Mask?"


Here are the first few paragraphs.  Read the full sermon transcript HERE.

It’s Thanksgiving weekend.  2019.  I’m in a 7-11, laughing.

Not just any 7-11.  Or, I should say, not just any American 7-11.  This 7-11 is in Tokyo.  Anthony and I have just landed, a trip to celebrate his birthday.

If you’ve ever been to Japan, you know that a Japanese 7-11 is not like an American 7-11.  It’s so much better.  You can get amazing things in a Japanese 7-11.  Gourmet-quality pastries?  Yup. Onigiri rice balls?  Sure — what filling?  Kabuki theater tickets?  You betcha.

So why am I laughing?  One aisle over from the pastries is an enormous display of facemasks.  So many facemasks.  Simple facemasks, sporty facemasks, stylish facemasks, Louis Vuitton facemasks.  I’m not kidding.  We saw them.


Yom Kippur Morning - “Justice as Holiness”


Here are the first few paragraphs.  Read the full sermon transcript HERE.

When I was 15, I went on a trip with my shul to Manhattan.  It wasn’t to a museum or a baseball game.  Early on a Spring Sunday morning in 1987, a shaggy group of groggy Jewish teens piled into a yellow school bus in Spring Valley NY.  We arrived in midtown to a remarkable sight — a mass of people, larger than I had ever seen, waving signs and banners.

The gathering had a name: “Solidarity Sunday.”  Maybe you heard about it.  Maybe you were there.  It was a public demonstration, on behalf of Jews oppressed in the Soviet Union.  All around us, Jews held posters with slogans, hoisting portraits of Jews tortured or detained while in Soviet custody.  


Choir Selections

May the Words


Hashkiveinu (Steve Dropkin)


Yom Kippur

Eili Eili (lyrics by Hannah Senesh, music by David Zehavi)



Yeish Kochavim (Jeff Klepper, arr. Jeff Klepper and Andrea Jill Higgins)


Adonai Li (Bruce Benson and Don Rossoff, arr. Andrea Jill Higgins)




Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei featuring Edwin Barker, Principal Bass of the Boston Symphony


Edwin Barker is Principal Bass of the BSO. He and his wife Pam Paikin were long-time members of CBE until moving closer to the city. In past years, Ed played Kol Nidre with great neshamah (soul) during our Erev Yom Kippur services.  Just before the holidays this year he surprised us with the gift of this lovely video, along with the following message: 

Greetings Congregation Beth Elohim,

This performance of Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei was recorded live in the home studio of Deborah DeWolf Emery, who is  my accompanist in this performance. This recording was done in September of 2020 during the height of the COVID Pandemic shutdown when no live audience performance opportunities were possible. It is a “living room” video performance captured on a couple of iPhones that was, of necessity, so typical of those difficult times. 

Bruch’s KOL NIDREI is the well known complete realization and variation of the ancient melody. Bruch originally wrote it for cello, but I perform it on double bass, which I think has a very noble and “cantorial” voice. It is my honor to dedicate our interpretation of this most meaningful prayer to Sarra and the entire congregation of Beth Elohim. 

Pam and I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year!  


Thank you to the High Holiday Volunteers and Staff!


As Rabbi Mike said "This year’s High Holidays at CBE were so remarkable.  Countless hours of creativity and labor from dedicated staff and volunteers brought together services that were deeply meaningful and transformative."

Please do CLICK HERE to see the long list of volunteers and staff so that you can thank them when you see them.  Volunteers played so many roles throughout the days including ushers, greeters, parking assistants, ZOOM hosts, cuing the Active Communications Team, Torah Readers, shofar blowers, leading Children's Services and programming, were part of our choir who brought such beautiful music to our services, or worked behind the scenes on facilities set up,  communications of High Holiday services and events, and landscape beautification.  Leslie Knight, VP of Programming, deserves all of our thanks for pulling it all together with her volunteer and staff teams.

We as a congregation want to thank all volunteers and staff and recognize them on this page.  If we left anyone out, please do let us know by emailing Leslie Knight at

Wed, November 30 2022 6 Kislev 5783