By Michael Jacobs / email@example.com
Tisha B’Av marks the destruction of both Jewish Temples, the expulsion from Spain and other catastrophes in Jewish history, each caused in part by internal Jewish dissension.
Atlanta’s two oldest congregations, however, will come together to start the day of fasting, mourning and studying Saturday night, July 25.
The first religious collaboration between The Temple and Ahavath Achim Synagogue has grown out of their increasing cooperation on social justice, particularly the issue of human trafficking, and the past few years they have discussed Tisha B’Av for their first joint service, AA Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal said.
“All of us have heard war stories of the rivalry that existed between the two congregations over 50 years ago,” Temple Rabbi Peter Berg said. “But we want to set a tone of shared community. We have more that unites us than separates us.”
They finally started planning early enough, beginning in November, to make it happen, Rabbi Rosenthal said. The event, running from 7:30 to about 10:30 p.m., is not simply an example of the Reform Temple traveling to Buckhead to join Conservative AA’s service; it’s an equal mix of the religiosity and tone of each congregation.
A third congregation, Reform Temple Beth Tikvah, is joining the service at the request of new Rabbi Alexandria Shuval-Weiner.
Tisha B’Av works for a multidenominational service because, although it is a full fast day, it is not a holiday with Shabbat-type restrictions. People can drive, carry and play instruments.
More important, Rabbi Rosenthal said, is the rabbinic understanding that Tisha B’Av’s disasters resulted from “baseless hatred toward each other.”
“This is an opportunity to put our theology into action,” he said. “It’s a really important statement to make.”
Rabbi Rosenthal said he is impressed at how seriously the Reform congregations are taking Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av. It’s the day in the Torah when the wandering Israelites accepted the report from all of the spies except Joshua and Caleb that they had no chance to defeat the gigantic Canaanites.
The Romans destroyed the Second Temple on Tisha B’Av in 70 C.E. and drove the Jewish people out of Jerusalem. It is also the day when the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. and when Spain expelled its Jews in 1492. Other catastrophes are linked to the day, including the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
The 9th of Av actually falls on Shabbat this year, but the fast and other mourning practices are postponed until after Shabbat.
“We were grateful to receive the generous invitation from AA to collaborate,” Rabbi Berg said. “We hope this is one of many opportunities to learn and grow with other Jewish congregations in the future.”
habbat this year, but the fast and other mourning practices are postponed until after Shabbat.
Rabbi Rosenthal said the free observance at AA will begin with an afternoon Shabbat service at 7:30 p.m., followed by a seudah shelishit (third meal) that will also serve as the pre-fast meal at 8 p.m.
The Temple’s Rabbi Berg and Cantor Deborah Hartman and AA’s Rabbi Neil Sandler will offer Tisha B’Av-themed teachings during the meal, to be followed by the end of Shabbat.
The Tisha B’Av service itself will begin at 9:15 and will include a musical quintet, the reading of the Book of Lamentations, rabbinical reflections on the themes between the chapters, and songs by Cantor Hartman on the ideas of despair, destruction and hope.
The service will end around 10:30, Rabbi Rosenthal said, and it will send people home with a mindset of introspection. He expects people to share “an element of real sadness for what damage we could do to each other” but “also a sense of hope of what we really can accomplish if we work together.”
Congregation Beth Shalom in Dunwoody, among others, also will hold an Erev Tisha B’Av service Saturday night. The Beth Shalom service will start at 9 and will feature songs recalling Jerusalem’s ancient glory in addition to Lamentations.
In Sandy Springs, the pre-fast study at Congregation B’nai Torah will address the topic “Our Enemies, Ourselves?” at 8:30 p.m.
During the fast the next day in Toco Hills, Rabbis Michael Broyde, Don Seeman and Shlomo Pill will offer insights during the morning service and readings, starting at 9:30 a.m., at the New Toco Shul, 2003 LaVista Road. Rabbi Seeman will lead a discussion on “The Death of Sarah: Reflections From the Warsaw Ghetto” at 11:15.
Rabbi Broyde will discuss converts at 1:45 p.m., and Rabbi Seeman will tackle the topic of redemption at 6:45.
Congregation Beth Jacob at 1855 LaVista Road will host a series of video presentations on Jewish history, heritage and current events starting at 1 p.m., with a suggested donation of $10.
The presentations will include the 50-minute “The Tenth Man: A New Beginning” from Aish.com’s Project Inspire and “The Power to Yield,” a worldwide video learning session with renowned scholars presented by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.
Young Israel of Toco Hills at 2056 LaVista Road will offer a strong closing event that is free and open to the community: the annual Tisha B’Av lecture by Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt at 7 p.m. Sunday. Lipstadt will speak on the topic “America After the Shoah 1945-1978: A Time for Talk or a Time for a Silence?”
The fast should start before 8:44 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta and continue until at least 9:11 p.m. Sunday, according to Chabad.org.