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Hineni: “I am ready” and “I am prepared

Shalom! I am so happy to be starting my third year serving BJEP as your Director.


As you might expect, the start of school and High Holiday preparations are always daunting for a Jewish professional and no prayer brings that point home more than the Hineni (הִנֵנִי), which reflects on the ability to pray with humility and sincerity, while fearing that one is unworthy of the task. Hineni ִmeans much more than just the perfunctory “here” some of us may remember from attendance in school. Rather, Hineni ִis “I am ready” or “I am prepared” or, more liberally, “I am present and paying close attention to what is being asked of me.”


In the Torah, Hineni appears eight times, including three times when the phrase is spoken by Abraham during the story of the binding of Isaac – the Akedah – which is traditionally read on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. First, God speaks to Abraham and tells him to take his son, Isaac, to the mountain and to offer him as a sacrifice. Then Isaac, seeing the fire and the wood, asks Abraham where the ram is for the altar. Finally, the angel of God calls to Abraham at the critical climax of the story and prevents him from completing the act. Abraham’s Hineni ִbecomes increasingly important as each occurrence represents an inflection point in the narrative, moments of decision requiring action. Abraham’s Hineni moments ask him to see what is unfolding around him because he is not really ready to confront it.


When Moses is called by God from the Burning Bush, he also says “Hineni.” This is more of the feeling invoked in me by the High Holidays. Although Moses demurs when first asked to serve because he’s not sure he’s worthy, Moses then takes on the mantle of leadership with a sense of responsibility and awe. Similarly, I feel humbled and honored by the opportunity to take on the role of leading the BJEP community. Truth be told, I’m always a little bit nervous about the start of a new school year and want to make sure that I am as prepared as possible. Perhaps all of us, as we approach this season, whether it is our first time in a new place or something more familiar, can explore what a new year means together.


Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan in his D’var entitled “On Being Ready” writes, “May we each have the courage to say “Hineni” when we are called – no matter how afraid we might still be. And may we each eventually see ourselves as part of something greater than ourselves, something that is meant to improve us and the world around us.” I appreciate the opportunity to serve the BJEP community and am grateful to be your Director. Thank you for the trust you place in me to do this sacred work – Hineni!


From my family – my husband, Steve and our children, Corey and Jordan – to yours, may you have a year full of blessings.


Shana tova u’metukah / may you have a good and sweet year,
Cantor Jeri Robins

Shavuot: The Festival Honoring Receiving the Torah

Written by Cantor Jeri Robins


Shavuot is one of my favorite holidays. It is the third of our three festival holidays, so-called because, in Temple times, Jews from all over would travel to Jerusalem to make sacrifices. In fact, in Hebrew, Shavuot, along with Sukkot and Pesach (Passover), are called the Shalosh Regalim ([literally] the three legs or feet), because for each of these three holidays people went walking on a pilgrimage. Just as Passover is associated with freedom and redemption from slavery, Shavuot is associated with receiving the Torah or revelation. To mark the occasion, the Ten Commandments are read on Shavuot. Each of the festivals is also marked by a special reading: on Sukkot, we read from the Book of Ecclesiastes (“for everything there is a season” – as we enter fall and winter); on Pesach, we read from the Song of Songs (love poetry); and, on Shavuot, we read the Book of Ruth.


Ruth is a Moabite woman who is the widow of one of Naomi’s sons. Naomi decides to return to her home and encourages Ruth to return to her family. In a very famous scene, Ruth responds to Naomi, “Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God.” (Ruth 1:16). This quote is considered a statement of conversion for Ruth. Later in the story, she marries Boaz and, in their lineage, is King David.


Today, Shavuot is traditionally celebrated not only with services, but also with study. Some communities hold all-night learning sessions! The other way many observe Shavuot is to eat dairy foods – blintzes and cheesecake are especially popular. Shavuot begins on Saturday night (May 19th) and goes through Monday. Yizkor, a memorial service for those who have lost a direct relative (parent, sibling or child) is recited on Yom Kippur and the three festivals. It is customary to light a yarzheit candle in observance.


Be in touch if you have any questions about Shavuot at director@bjep.comChag Sameach!

Welcome Letter to New Families from the Education Director

Cantor Robins shares her thoughts (pdf) with BJEP families on What makes learning possible and How do we build Jewish identity?

Talking to Our Children About Anti-Semitism

One of our responsibilities as parents and educators is to find ways to respond to our children’s questions.  Cantor Robins shares some thoughts on speaking with our children (pdf) and resources available.

BJEP Alum? Keep in touch!

Seeking former BJEP students, Brandeis students/alumni who were BJEP student teachers, BJEP parents and other Brandeis alum affiliated with BJEP.
Join the ‘BJEP Alumni Association’ on Facebook to hear about 50th anniversary events and re-connect with your BJEP community.

Read all BJEP Blog Posts >> 

Upcoming Events

September 23, 2018
  • BJEP Back in Session!
    Time: 9:30 am - 12:00 pm
  • Open(ing) House
    Time: 9:30 am - 12:00 pm

    The Boston-area Jewish Education Program (BJEP), an independent, vibrant and inclusive Jewish learning community, from pre-K to Grade 7, invites the community to join us for Opening Day/Open House as we begin the 2018-2019 school term.

    Through an interactive curriculum, BJEP (pronounced B-Jep) instills in our students a sense of joy and belonging within the Jewish community, and knowledge of Jewish traditions and the Hebrew language.

    BJEP meets once a week on Sunday mornings on the Brandeis campus, with Brandeis students teaching our dynamic, experiential curriculum. We also engage parents with family programming and festive celebrations throughout the year.

    We look forward to meeting you and your family at our September Open House!

    The best place to park is in the Tower E Lot on the Brandeis Campus. Follow this link for directions: https://goo.gl/maps/imPzmQ87Bcv

    There will be signs directing you from the parking lot.

    Questions? Email info@bjep.com.

    More details...
September 30, 2018
October 7, 2018
October 14, 2018
October 21, 2018
October 28, 2018
November 4, 2018
November 11, 2018
November 18, 2018
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